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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Grass Fed Beef

In order to be healthier and more environmentally friendly, Marisa and I have decided that we want to start eating meat that is grass fed as opposed to meat from mass feedlots. This is a sacrifice for us since grass fed meat is more expensive. However, we also decided that our meat portions are too large so maybe if we eat smaller portions it will offset the higher cost of meat. It is also worth spending a little more since there are many benefits to those who are willing to pay extra for

Grass Fed Beef is Healthier

In 2009 researchers at Clemson University did a comprehensive comparison of grass fed beef to grain fed beef and made the following conclusions. Grass fed beef is:

  1. Lower in total fat
  2. Higher in beta-carotene
  3. Higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
  4. Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin
  5. Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium
  6. Higher in total omega-3s
  7. A healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (1.65 vs 4.84)
  8. Higher in CLA (cis-9 trans-11), a potential cancer fighter
  9. Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA)
  10. Lower in the saturated fats linked with heart disease

Keep in mind that these benefits don’t even take into account the benefits that grass fed beef has on the environment or the increased quality of life for the animals themselves.

For those of you that are interested in buying grass fed meat it can be economical to buy in bulk. There are many small farms and ranches that will allow you to buy one fourth ore on half of a cow. I found this great website that you can use to find local farmers that are willing to sell you their grass fed products. Click on the link and then click on your state and you will find local farmers that you can support. This website also has some great literature on the benefits of pasture based farms.

Mike Johnson

Friday, December 18, 2009

Michael Pollan

I wanted to post this this summer, but we had so many other articles it got lost in the shuffle. It is a funny little clip of the famous Michael Pollan being interviewed by Stephen Colbert.


How feasible do you all think it is to try to eat foods with five ingredients or less?


Sunday, December 13, 2009

December Harvest

Even December yields a feast from the backyard farm. Today’s breakfast is broccoli quiche.

I love Fall broccoli. Maturing as the weather gets cold gives it a milder taste than spring broccoli that matures as the weather gets hot. Fall broccoli also has fewer pest problems. And I enjoy harvesting fresh vegetables from the garden in December.
Fresh eggs taste best on winter mornings.

1 frozen piecrust
4 eggs and 4 egg whites
1 cup chopped broccoli steamed for 5 minutes
Medium size onion or 2 scallions, slivered
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Hold back ¼ cup of the cheddar cheese and whisk together all other ingredients. Pour into the pie crust and sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese on top. Bake on lower rack in oven for 35 minutes or until set. You can substitute spinach for broccoli and add ham if you want." I am convinced that "REAL SALT" from Redmond, Utah that you can order online (www.realsalt.com) has a delicate sweeter taste than other table salts. Try a blind taste test.
Zoom in for a mouthwatering look. Maybe we'll leave a quiche for Santa instead of cookies.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

King Corn Movie Review

This movie has been in my Netflix watch it now queue for months but I just haven’t had the time to watch it. Marisa and I finally set some time aside for a date last week and watched this documentary. I thought it was really good but I would recommend forgoing the popcorn while watching it.

If you have read the book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma “by Michael Pollan the overall feel of this movie will be very familiar. The makers of the film show that a vast quantity of what we eat in America is corn, mainly from corn syrup and corn fed animals. It is an entertaining journey that gives us a view of small town America, farming, and where our food comes from.

Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis are two friends from Boston that decide to farm an acre of corn in Iowa and then track how the corn is disseminated through our food supply. They show that the corn they grow is essentially inedible and can only be made into a food-like product through extensive processing. A discussion is made into the evils of corn syrup and it’s empty calories, as well as the evils of the feedlots that feed their animal a diet of mainly corn which is then passed on to us when we eat meat.

In my opinion, this movie was more educational entertainment than propaganda. I consider this to be a good thing. Some might consider the movie makers to be biased against modern food practices, but I feel that this bias is presented with facts and numbers, and less on emotional hype.

Like “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” I don’t feel that a thorough discussion is made about the economics behind our food supply. I think most of us would agree that we would like to be healthier, but there is an economic impact made by this decision. Changing our food supply is a lot more complicated than just wanting it to be different. We need it to make economical sense.

I think this movie is a great movie and I hope more people watch it. It has instilled in me a stronger desire to eat healthier and to take a stand against some of the unhealthy practices in our food supply. How do we take a stand? Make it economical. Stop buying non-food products that are disguised as food. Sacrifice a little of your income to buy grass fed beef or natural foods. In addition to this, and even more importantly, do what you can to create your own food supply. Whether it’s a small garden or a large property with grass fed cows, anything we do will make a difference. This movie increased my desire to have a bigger property where I can raise my own livestock the right way. In the mean time I am trying to find other ideas to eat better and to change our purchasing habits. There are a lot of ideas on our website on becoming more self-sufficient.

What are you doing to create your own food supply?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Save Energy and Money

So my husband was browsing websites looking for some ways that we could save energy, thus save some money. He stumbled across one website that suggested you not open your fridge until you have a few things to get out as opposed to opening the fridge for each item. By doing this you could save a whopping 50 cents per week!!! Hmmm.....we have a long way to go to get to that point. Kids are just drawn to that fridge, as soon as it is opened, they are mesmerize, and could gaze into it for hours if allowed.
Even worse than the fridge is the front door. It was 19 degrees here today, you would think that my kids would remember to shut the door, nope. You know how they have cards that sing a song or give you a message each time it is opened? I'm thinking I need some sort of device like that installed on my front door. Each time it is opened, a recording of my voice saying "Please shut the door!" would play. Now that is a money saving tip right there.

So, what are your REALISTIC energy saving/money saving tips?


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Deodorant, To Use or Not to Use, That is the Question

Last year, in my baby step attempts to keep chemicals out of my home, out of my body, as well as off of my body, I bought a "rock" or "crystal" type deodorant. Otherwise known as "imaginary deodorant" by my husband.It seems to work really well if applied right after a shower, but isn't good for slathering on after a run or workout so you don't stink while you run to the store. I have great phobias of stinking, so I chose not to use it over the summer, just in case. Now that the weather has cooled off, my "imaginary deodorant" has re-emerged. Like I said...baby steps. Maybe next year I will use it through the summer as well.

Why do you ask, would one use this type of deodorant?

Recently I was looking around for some other options to a "rock" or "crystal" type deodorant and found, Simple Mom's blog has a homemade deodorant recipe.

She lists some reasons she has made the switch, which include:

Store bought antiperspirants contain aluminum which may cause:

1. Aluminum may impact breast cancer risks.
2. Antiperspirants block sweat glands. Is that a good idea?
3. Aluminum mimics estrogen. (technical term: “hormone disruptor”)
4. Aluminum is linked to Alzheimer’s.

Check out her blog for more reasons to make the switch.

Leave a comment on what you think. Store bought vs. all natural vs. homemade.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We Are Sowing

We are sowing, daily sowing
Countless seeds of good and ill ...

Seeds that lie unchanged, unquickened,
Lifeless on the teeming mold;
Seeds that live and grow and flourish
When the sower's hand is cold.

selected passages of the poem "Pure Diamonds," anonymous

When my 8-year-old daughter giggled with confusion that we were planting bulbs in November -- a time, she pointed out, that's really the harvest -- I was again glad that gardening provides a unique classroom for so many life lessons. You reap what you sow. We won't have tulips in spring unless we plant bulbs now, I explained. Though you may not see the outcome for many years, dear girl, the choices you make now will affect the rest of your life.

This Thanksgiving I'm grateful for new insight into the law of the harvest. I'm thankful to know that If I keep sowing, even when my hand is cold or my heart troubled, my Maker understands and makes up for my deficits.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

God Giveth the Increase


So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God giveth the increase.
1 Corinthians 3:7

This Thanksgiving I pay homage to Heavenly Father, who provided the sun, rain, air, and soil which are the source of all we have. We fool ourselves into believing that we create what we have, that it is of our own doing. But we simply transform the elements that God has given us through intelligence and dominion he bestowed upon the human race. No matter what your culture, I hope you make room in your life for our Lord, particularly during this Holiday season. I am afraid that so many in this world ignore God or even disbelieve. But on a backyard farm through the seasons of the year, it is difficult, if not impossible to deny his higher power.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

The gift of the seasons.


1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

This Thanksgiving I am grateful for the gift of seasons. I am grateful for the renewal they bring. For the glorious summer and all her sweet berries, for the crisp fall and her warm apple cobblers, for the furious winter storms and the potatoes in dark cabinets, and the return of spring with it's gift of tender seedlings. What wisdom to give everything it's place, it's short time - to remind us of temperance, wisdom, and the chance to begin again.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Wheelbarrow musings

My 12th grade English class studied William Carlos Williams’ famous brief poem:

so much depends


a red wheel


glazed with rain


beside the white


We seasoned teenagers scoffed. This is an American masterpiece? You’ve got to be kidding. What a joke! We could write something better ourselves.

We always thought Mrs. Parker (the teacher who, the rumors said, postponed her planned retirement to the next year because she didn’t want our disappointing class to be connected with her legacy) was a bit … odd. But this? Cuckoo!

One of the student body officers even typed the poem into the electronic message board in the lobby for comic relief.

The poem's simple beauty? We didn’t get it.

Whether it was the red dots of the quickly advancing text, or Mrs. Parker’s misunderstood passion that has helped me remember this poem all these years, I can’t say. Just a month ago I thought about the poem as I used my own rusty red-orange wheelbarrow to haul the last of the gourds and squashes out of the garden.

I thought about it again as I worked in my kitchen and heard a snippet of radio news. Somehow, the crisp British voice rose above the usual cacophony that is lunch and dishes, and I heard declarations of a catastrophic food crisis if current population patterns and food production methods don’t change. Further, with Ethiopia noticeably hit, the United Nations warns there are more hungry people on the world and less food aid than ever before. (Here's the link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8319166.stm.) While not exactly new news, it hit me that day.

It’s a lot to process, even more than trying to understand Williams’ celebrated use of meter and imagery (or why it was celebrated!). Knowing that government and agricultural researchers don’t have all the answers – at least right now -- could make me feel defeated, but I won’t let it.

Instead, I want to do my part in taking care of the land and learning all I can to grow a garden and feed my family.

So much does depend upon a red wheelbarrow, but more so upon someone grateful to push it


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Backyard Farming Disaster - Layer Apocalypse

It seems that we have more than our share of backyard farming disasters. But then we have been at it for 11 years and our backyard farm is bigger than urban farms. So maybe our disasters are relatively average.

It has been one year since our old dog Cinder succumbed to cancer. We decided it was time for a new dog. It wasn’t easy finding one. We agreed that everyone in the family had to like whatever dog we chose. After weeks of scouring the animal shelters and want ads, we found Dixie, a beautiful 11-month-old Golden Retriever cross. Her personality was nice and we thought she was perfect.

For several days there was someone home to watch her. We finally thought she was ready to be left alone for a day. We set up a 100 foot zip line and halter for her with her food, water, and shelter within reach. All was well when we left. We returned to an absolute massacre. The halter was not on her tight enough and during the day she got her mouth under the neck strap and chewed it off. She got into our layer pen and killed every one of our 19 layers. Our two boys got home from school as she was finishing off the last one. There were dead chickens and feathers everywhere. It was shocking.

We were anguished not only by our chickens, but that maybe Dixie was spoiled. When I was young, a dog got in to the neighbors sheep and killed a hundred of them. They said it made the dog crazy so they euthanized it. After talking to several people, we concluded that Dixie might be okay. She is just a puppy who thought she was playing. But we will be extra careful in the future. If anyone has advice for us, please comment below.

My wife, LeAnn, knew I was taking the death of the chickens pretty hard. So while I was at work the next day, she went to a neighbor and bought six adult layers for me. So at least I don’t have to eat eggs from the store.

Goodbye, little hens, may you rest in peace… and thank you for all the eggs.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Eat the Seasons: Spicy Yams and Kale

This past week when making my grocery list I scoured my cookbooks for some more vegetable based meals with things that are actually in season right now. I found several recipes including one for "Spicy Yams and Kale". I had made it a few years ago and remembered it being good so I added it to the list. Then each afternoon as I looked at my options for what to make I kept skipping this meal and using the others until last night when we had made everything else, our kitchen was bare and all we had left was the yams. So what did we do? We went out and got mexican. Sad, I know, but we were really unsure of the meal. But I finally got around to it and my memory served me correctly - it was excellent! Even my family had to admit it! If you're a little unsure of how you and yours will take this meal - serve it as a side to some roast chicken or the like!

Spicy Yams & Kale (recipe taken from "Becoming Vegetarian")

4 cups yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and diced in 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
1 tsp curry powder
1/8 tsp each: cloves, cinnamon, cardamon and cayenne
1 cup kale or parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice
1 Tbsp olive oil(optional)
2 Tbsp hazelnuts or almonds, sliced or chopped(optional - I never use these)
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, combine the yams, stock and ground spices, and bring to a boil. Stir, cover and simmer 3 to 4 minutes until the yams are fork tender. Add the rest of the ingredients, and toss to blend flavors. Serve hot or chilled as a salad.

Quick and yummy - makes a GREAT lunch.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Don't throw away those pumpkins!

We had loads of pumpkins decorating our porch for last night's holiday - several of which were carved the day of Halloween. Did you know that if you don't carve your pumpkins too early you can bring them back in and cook them into puree instead of buying the canned version later on? So this year instead of letting them rot on our porch we're going to cook up the largest of our jack-o-lanterns to reuse in pies, breads, and dinners for a long long time.

This guy is over 20 lbs so I'm glad to not let all that goodness go to waste. Cutting him up felt like I was cutting up a huge block of cheese. I felt so culinary. And I ended up with tons of pumpkin - I'm going to have to cook it in several batches.

There are many ways to cook a pumpkin but I am going to boil mine for 25-30 minutes and then scrape out the flesh into containers to stick in the fridge and freezer for later use. Today we're going to use it for Mexican Braised Pork with Pumpkin!

So if you've got some freshly carved pumpkins bring em in and cook em up! And if not, next year remember to wait until the day before or the day of Halloween to carve those jack-o-lanterns!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Meat processing

One of my coworkers at the University of Maryland research farm is a sheep and goat specialist. Last week I used my horse trailer to help her transport her research goats to the abattoir (processing plant) to have them slaughtered and the meat evaluated. Watching the first goat killed is rather gut-wrenching but you get use to it very quickly. A stun gun is used to desensitize them. It is humane and the animals do not suffer. The throat is then cut and the animal bleeds out. Then in about twenty minutes the animal is skinned and the entrails removed. The workers are very skilled. The carcasses are chilled down in a cooler and then later reduced to cuts of meat. Watching the goats processed from live animal to a carcass of meat was not pleasant but is was an educational experience that I would encourage others to take if the opportunity arises. I once heard Paul McCartney say that he became a vegetarian when he associated a lamb chop he was eating with a live animal. While I accept his viewpoint, I feel differently. Having experimented as a vegetarian for one year of my life and seeing my own chickens processed simply gives me a better appreciation for my food. I would encourage others to experiment likewise as you develop your own food philosophy.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Goodbye, little hen, may you rest in peace...

It's been a while since I've had a hen die and I'd forgotten how hard it can be. The other morning my son went out to feed the chickens and get them fresh water when I heard him say, "Mom, this is really strange, come look." My stomach immediately got a knot in it because even though it's been a long time since a chicken has died, I am constantly scared it will happen again. So I went out and found Marshmallow lying in a heap inside the coop. Her head was completely curled underneath her and she was as still as a rock. You can see her at the bottom of this image.

I don't know what killed her. Maybe a raccoon reached through and held onto her until she died of a heart attack or perhaps she was sick - I wish I knew. They've been molting which I know can be hard on the little gals but our other hen Cracker seems fine. Since I only had two hens and am left with just one I don't now what I'll do know but I am leaning towards letting Cracker go to a friend's coop and just going without chickens over the winter. We'll see.

Eat the Seasons - Rustic Potato-Leek Soup

With the changes in the air, nothing - and I mean NOTHING sounds better than a good hearty bowl of soup. So, this past week I made a healthy, simple, and yummy Potato & Leek soup. And here's the recipe(taken from The New Best Recipe):

Serves 6-8

4-5 pounds leeks(clean them well!)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
5 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 3/4 pounds red potatoes(about 5 medium) - peeled and cut into 3/4 inch dice
salt & ground pepper

1. Cut off the roots and tough dark green portions of the leeks, leaving the white portions and about 3 inches of the light green portion. Slice the leeks in half lengthwise and chop into 1-inch pieces.
2. Heat the butter in a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium low heat until foaming. Stir in the leeks, increase the heat to medium, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are tender but not mushy, 15-20 minutes; do not brown the leeks. Sprinkle the flour over the leeks and stir to coat evenly. Cook until the flour dissolves, about 2 minutes.
3. Increase the heat to high; whisking constantly, gradually add the broth. Add the bay leaf and potatoes, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to med-low and simmer, covered, until the potatoes are tender and the flavors meld, 10-15 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. (The soup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for a day or two. Warm over low heat until hot; do not boil.)

This made a good amount of soup so it was able to warm us up for a few days. I also added a sprinkle of cheese on top.

What's in season? Potatoes & Leeks

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Backyard Chickens: Molting

We usually get an egg from each of our two hens a day but about a week ago we stopped getting eggs altogether. And they became completely silent which was quite a change since my little hens are usually talking from sun up to sun down. I didn't know what could be wrong - were they spooked? Were they sick? Not getting enough feed? I gave them extra food and water and made sure everything else was ok. A few days passed and when I checked on them I realized what the problem was. There were feathers EVERYWHERE! Aha, my ladies are molting. Molting is a process chickens go through once a year to shed their feathers and replace them with new ones. Many of you may be experiencing the same thing since decreased daylight times and temperatures will induce molting.

Here's some information I found on another site about molting:

Molting is the shedding and renewal of feathers and occurs about once a year. The order in which the different sections of the bird lose their feathers is fairly defined: head, neck, body, wings and tail. Molting is a difficult time for birds, since it involves hormonal fluctuations and increased energy requirements. Eliminate stress during this time: keep temperature in a narrow range (70-80o F), provide a high quality diet, and each day mist the birds with a fine spray or provide a pan for bathing. It takes about seven weeks for new feathers to complete their growth cycle. Domesticated chickens bred for high egg production have a definite molting pattern. A natural molt does not normally occur until the end of an extended, intensive laying period. Chickens that have been laying heavily for one year or longer molt easily in the fall since this is the natural molting season. If they finish their intensive year in the spring, they do not molt easily and may wait until the fall. A chicken loses feathers from various sections of its body in a definite pattern. The order is: head; neck; feather tracks of the breast, thighs and back; wing and tail feathers. Some birds molt more slowly than others; some molt earlier. A good high producing flock tends to molt late and rapidly. Decreasing day-length is the normal trigger for molting. Therefore, lighting programs for egg production flocks should provide either constant or increasing day-length. Stresses caused by temporary feed or water shortage, disease, cold temperatures, or sudden changes in the lighting program can cause a partial or premature molt.

*Did you know that when you have questions about your chickens you can go to this great forum and people will start posting replies almost immediately? I have used it for many reasons asking things like, "What breed do you think this pullet is?" to "Can chickens get fleas?" It's been a great resource. You should check it out!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Autumn Decor!

Nature gives us wonderful decorations in each season! Autumn is ushered in with chrysanthemums and cornstalks but the ornaments are pumpkins and gourds. I love them in all their varieties. I especially like moonshine pumpkins. These white pumpkins are a perfect representation of the harvest moon. I look at them and my mind conjures up a witch with her black cat riding her broom stick across the moonlit Halloween while my children below scurry door-to-door in their scary trick-or-treat costumes.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Today's Harvest-34 lbs.

Here is todays harvest. A whopping 34 lbs! All grown on our .11 lot in the suburbs.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Eat the Season Friday

Thanks Kristi for guest writing our "Eat the Season" this week!

Dehydrated Apples


Peel and core, cut into slices or rings one-eighth to one-quarter inch thick. Peelings may be left on, however they tend to toughen during dehydration.

Fruits that are to be dehydrated are pretreated to prevent discoloration by oxidation, to keep a fresher color, to have a more pliable texture, and to help retain vitamin A and C.

Each of the following pretreatments perform a useful part of the dehydrating process and each has merit. Personal preference should be your guide.

Sodium Bisulfite:
Dissolve 2 teaspoons of sodium bisulfite in one quart of water and add cut fruit. Slices of fruit should be soaked for no more than 10 minutes. Drain and dehydrate. (CAUTION: Sodium Bisulfite can affect anyone with asthma, allergies or other respiratory problems.)

Ascorbic Acid:
Dissolve one tablespoon of pure crystalline ascorbic acid in one quart of cold water. Add cut fruit and soak for a few minutes; remove with a slotted spoon; drain well and dehydrate.

Lemon Juice:
Use one cup lemon juice to one quart water. Soak the fruit for no more than ten minutes. Drain and dehydrate. (Lemon juice is only one-sixth as effective as ascorbic acid.)

NOTE: After pretreating, the apple slices may be sprinkled with cinnamon or flavored gelatin crystals.


Sun Drying.
This method takes 3-4 hot days (98-100 degrees F). Be sure to cover fruit with screen or cheese cloth to keep away insects. Bring in or cover at night to keep moisture from collecting. To "pasteurize" sun dried fruit in order to prevent contamination from insects, freeze for 28-72 hours.

Oven Drying.
This is generally the fastest method. The temperature should be no higher than 140 degrees, leave the door ajar; place a fan so it blows across the opening and carries the moisture away.

Dehydrator Method. The temperature should be 150 degrees for 2-3 hours, then reduce to 130 degrees until dry.

Fruit is dry when it is soft and pliable with no moist area in the center when cut.

From: http://www.seasonalchef.com/appledehyd.htm

Beef & Sausage Pot Pie (You can also use chicken)

2 cans Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken (10.5 oz)
1/4 cup Water
1 pound ground beef
1 pound sausage (or use 1-2 pounds diced chicken)
1-2 scallions or very small onions (optional)

Options for veggies
Green Beans
Spinach (diced really small)
Lima Beans
Or anything else that sounds good to you
Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix 4 servings worth of Bisquick with 1/4 less cup water than the recipe calls for. (You could also use your favorite biscuit recipe instead. Buttermilk biscuits are also really good.

Brown meat that you are using (Beef & Sausage or Chicken). If you like onions and 1-2 scallions or small onions. Mix meat with Cream of mushroom or chicken.
When adding veggies, things like green beans, lima beans, carrots, and potatoes need to be precooked. Cook them until they are almost as soft as you would normally eat them. If you cook them until they are "done," they will be mush by the time you cook the whole pot pie. Mix veggies with meat mixture and put in the bottom of a pan or dish. Mix Topping and spread evenly over filling.

Cook for about 45 minutes (or until top is golden brown)

Hint* Most times I will only put on half the topping, cook it until that is done, and then add another layer of topping. This makes a thick crust and ensures that it is not still gooey in the middle.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Off Da Grid Janice's

Going Off Da Grid Janice posts her monthly food harvest, she harvested 100 lbs. of food in her own backyard in August. Even more inspiring is the variety of her harvest.

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Waste is Getting Smaller

We went to Red Butte Gardens here as a family for memorial day and it inspired me to write another article about composting. Red Butte Gardens is a non-profit botanical and ecological center provided by University of Utah. It is a good place to go to learn about growing both flowers and vegetables in the Utah area.

While we were there we were able to check out a couple of the compost methods that they are using. You might recall that I showed you how to build a simple backyard composter for a small garden. Here are some additional methods that they were using.

The first composter was a very simple and functional bin made out of wood. You can see in the picture the list of things that are allowed and not allowed in the compost bin. This seems like a great method as it is open and I believe it would be easy to sift and mix the compost. My personal opinion is this is more for a larger garden area as opposed to the garden we have on our .11 acre plot of land in the city.

The second composter was one that they purchased called a can o worms vermicomposter. This was a fun one for me to look at as it uses worms to help with the breakdown of your household waste into beautiful soil for your garden. I also like the feature on this composter that allowed the compost tea to drain out of the bottom of the unit into a bucket. This tea can then be used as a liquid fertilizer for your garden. There are many worm composters available out there and maybe next spring I will make a homemade worm composter to share with you.

So how has our composter done for us? Here is a picture of our compost. This is what comes from some of our table scraps, a little chicken poop, hay, grass clippings, yard waste, and shredded newspaper. It’s very fulfilling to know we are reducing our household waste and at the same time helping to improve our garden’s output.

There are many ways to compost and these are just a few of the methods. Send us some pictures of your composters and let us know how they are working out.

Mike Johnson

Drying For Freedom

A Film About Clotheslines

Due to be released in 2010, Drying For Freedom is a film about communities and freedom; with 50 million clotheslines banned in the U.S alone, are we hanging our planet out to dry?

Visit their site at www.dryingforfreedom.com

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Dismal Science

I got my Bachelor’s in Economics and as such I like to keep spreadsheets and numbers to try and understand what is happening in the world around me. One of the things that I was concerned about when we started gardening was whether it was a good decision economically. Mainly I was concerned if it was worth my time based on the money I saved. I calculated our expenses (including the cost of time) the first year of gardening and was dismayed to find out that it didn’t save us money to garden. It was actually more expensive for me to produce a carrot than it was to buy one at the store. This made sense to me because of the whole economies of scale idea. Of course a farmer with a huge farm can produce a carrot cheaper than I can. I about quit gardening but luckily my wife kept us in the game.

Over the years I have realized that there are hidden benefits from gardening that I can’t put a price on that make having a garden a profitable endeavor. You can’t put a price on the lowering of my blood pressure because of the enjoyment I have from working in the garden, and the benefits of eating healthier. You can’t put a price on the work ethic your children and you receive as they get their hands dirty. You can’t put a price on the benefits of time spent together as a family working towards a common goal. You can’t put a price on the better tasting vegetables that you get to eat fresh from your backyard. You can’t put a price on the reduction of your carbon footprint from getting food from your back yard. All in all, I think gardening is profitable for all of us.

All that said, I still enjoy keeping track of my garden with numbers. I decided to weigh everything that we harvest from our garden this year so I can form a baseline for us to improve upon. We wanted to share our results with you. Just to give you an idea of the size of our garden we have on plot that is 27 ft by 9 ft and 4 plots that are 4 ft by 4 ft. I don’t consider this a lot of room at all and I am pleased with what we have produced so far. None of this includes the more than 2 dozen eggs that we get each week and all of this on a .11 acre lot.

I already reported on our June harvest here in which harvested a paltry 9 lbs of food. Following you will find our harvest for July and August.


Green Beans: 2 oz

Sugar Snap Peas: 8 oz

Carrots: 14 oz

Strawberries: 4oz

Lettuce: 2 lbs 6 oz

Raspberries: 6 oz

Yellow Squash: 3 lbs 10 oz

Zucchini: 12 lbs 6 oz

Beets: 13 oz

Tomatoes: 6 oz

Cucumbers: 6 lbs 4 oz

July Total 27 lbs 12 oz


Carrots: 6 lbs 2 oz

Zucchini: 38 lbs 9 oz

Beets: 5 lbs 6 oz

Tomatoes: 29 lbs 4 oz

Cucumbers: 20 lbs

Eggplant: 1 lb

August total 100 lbs 4 oz

So far we have grown about 137 pounds of food and I expect we will have a lot more in September. Think about bringing home 137 lbs of food from the grocery store. Gardening is a very satisfying and fulfilling hobby. If you already garden, keep it up. If you don’t, start out small but get started now.

Mike Johnson

Monday, September 21, 2009

Question from a Reader- Turkeys

One of our readers, Patricia, had a question about her turkeys. I personally couldn't answer her question and thought that I would open it up to all of our knowledgeable readers. Leave a comment if you have any insight to her problem.


I wonder if you have had the problem of your male turkeys (2 and one naked neck rooster) fighting it out like machos in a bar? It's distressing, and they just started it. I have considered clipping the upper beak, which seems cruel, but not as cruel as what they're doing! I had three guineas in the pen who were also adding to the problem, but I separated them. Unfortunately, I can't let them free range here because each time I let them out, I lose two to coyotes or bobcats (haven't seen the predator, but have seen the missing chickens),

Thanks for any help you can give me.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pamper Yourself to Celebrate National Honey Month

Stimulating Camphor & Eucalyptus Honey Foot Soak

- Makes 1 application -


  • 8 cups hot water
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 cups Epsom salt
  • 2 Tablespoons almond oil, optional
  • 6 drops eucalyptus oil
  • 4 drops camphor oil, or 2 teaspoons camphor gel/cream
  • 4 drops arnica oil, optional


Combine ingredients in blender and mix completely. Transfer to large container or spa foot bath. Soak feet for 20 minutes, towel dry and apply your favorite moisturizer.

Recipe Found at www.honey.com

Saturday, September 19, 2009

It's National Honey Month

Interesting Facts About Honeybees
1. Honeybees are one of science's great mysteries because they have remained unchanged for 20 million years, even though the world changed around them.
2. Bees have been producing honey for at least 150 million years.
3. The true honeybee was not known in the Americas until Spanish, Dutch, and English settlers introduced it near the end of the 17th century.
4. Did you know that bees have 4 wings?
5. The honeybee's wings stroke 11,400 times per minute, thus making their distinctive buzz.
6. A bee flies at a rate of about 12 miles per hour.
7. How many eyes does a honeybee have? Five.
8. Honeybees communicate with one another by "dancing".
9. The queen bee is the busiest in the summer months, when the hive needs to be at its maximum strength. She will lay about 1,000 to 1,500 eggs per day.
10. In the cold winter months, bees will leave the hive only to take a short cleansing flight. They are fastidious about the cleanliness of their hive.
11. Honeybees do not die out over the winter. They feed on the honey they collected during the warmer months and patiently wait for spring. They form a tight cluster in their hive to keep the queen and themselves warm.
12. It takes 35 pounds of honey to provide enough energy for a small colony of bees to survive the winter.
13. Honeybee colonies have unique odors that members flash like identification cards at the hive's front door. All the individual bees in a colony smell enough alike so that the guard bees can identify them.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fruity Frozen Honey Yogurt Pops-Eat the Seasons Friday

To celebrate National Honey Month, make a yummy frozen treat.

  • 1 cup fresh, ripe nectarines, pineapple, or strawberries, chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 paper cups (3 oz.) and popsicle sticks or plastic spoons

In a blender, combine all ingredients; mix well. Pour into eight (3 oz.) paper cups; insert popsicle sticks or plastic spoon in center of each. Freeze 4 hours or until solidly frozen.

Recipe found on www.honey.com


Thursday, September 17, 2009

More Of Mine

Here is our butternut squash. Like most squashes, they are very profic. They store well without much labor in preservation and so they become a staple for our autumn and early winter diet. The deep orange and slightly sweet flesh is just a taste sensation roasted with butter, salt, and pepper. They make great pies and we add them to pumpkin in our pumpkin pies to increase the orange color. I take a little one to work and cook it in the microwave for lunch. I believe that squashes are the staff of life and every backyard farm need a variety of them.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

You'll catch more friends with honey...

Because I love honey, tonight at the local farmer's market I met Lee Knight of Knight Family Honey. He sells some pretty popular honey and honey butter and invited us out to see him harvest some honey from a few of his nearly 500 hives. We're so excited to check it out. We'll definitely post the pics/story when we do!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Leaving On a Jetplane

As we speak...ugh type, Megan, Marisa, and Dale are all on a plane to Springfield, Illinois for the Small Farm Conference. There they will be presenting about this very blog, exciting stuff, huh? They are most excited about the farm tours and that they will be eating all fresh produce from local farms.

You can count on pictures and stories to come!