Looking for Something?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tick Tock

So, nothing new has come on the market, and time is ticking by here in the apartment.  October will be our 5th month here. We HAD a closing date on the orphan house, and that closing date has been pushed back to who knows when. Sigh. We have all of our ducks in a row on our end, we are just waiting on the sellers end.  But, just as I start to feel sorry for myself because we are crammed in here, I'm reminded how fortunate we are. Our apartment is much larger and nicer than some larger families have. Just as I think that we are never going to have a house, there are fires near-by and 4 homes get burnt to the ground along with all of their things. Just as I think that I'm never going to get land, a friend of mine is in a dispute over 17 feet of their backyard, where they are going to have to move sprinklers and fencing. I feel like this is a trial, but when I look around, I realize how truly blessed I am to have a generally happy and healthy family,  a safe place to live, wonderful supportive family, and great friends.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Those Bugs are Fowl......Food

I was horrified to read Dale's article about Asian Stink Bugs. I am not positive, but I don't think that they have infiltrated Utah......yet. It sounds like that a stinkbug invasion is inevitable though so I thought it best to prepare. I have been doing some research on how to get rid of them and Dale's experience seems to indicate that they are very hard to control. I did find one method that might reduce the amount of stink bugs in a home garden. I wanted to mention it and see if anyone can confirm that it is a viable method.

It has come to my attention that Guinea Fowl are willing to eat and seek out stink bugs. Guinea Fowl are becoming a popular animal to have on small and large farms for a variety of reasons. They are a good meat producing bird and their meat is considered a delicacy in many countries. They also lay eggs which can be harvested. In addition to their food production, guinea fowl have gained a reputation as farm watchdogs. They alert farm owners quickly of any large predators that are threatening them and other animals on the farm. They also alert owners when new people show up, with the ability to distinguish between strangers and family members.

Perhaps the biggest feature of guinea fowl that has made them popular in the recent past is their ability to eradicate pests. Guinea fowl eat most insects. They are also known to eat mice, rats, and snakes, while at the same time leaving garden greens and vegetables alone. Most importantly, I have seen on a few Guinea Fowl message boards that they do a good job at getting rid of stink bugs as well. Can any of you vouch for this?

It seems that there are a lot of good reasons to have a few guinea fowl in any backyard farm, but if they actually do eliminate stink bugs, I might have to get some to prepare for the coming invasion.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cooking Acorn Squash

I got some acorn squash in my bountiful basket last week, when we ate them for dinner, my kids were fighting over them. So, when we got more in the bountiful basket today, I decided to share how I made them, and maybe your kids will fight over them too.
I first cut the top and the bottom off so that they would have a flat surface to sit on while they cooked. 

Next, I cut it in half....like so, and scoop out the seeds, like you would a pumpkin.

 Brush on olive oil and sprinkle with some sea salt.

If you need it quick, microwave on high for about 7-10 mins, you know when it's done when it will squish a little bit (technical....I know.)

Most things are better when baked, so if you have the time, bake at 350 degrees for an hour to an hour and a half.



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Homemade Yogurt- Easy Shmeasy

I admit, I was a little bit..... okay, a lot bit naive when it came to yogurt making.  I had these dreamy ideas of making my own yogurt that was just as creamy and delicious as the Dannon vanilla yogurt I buy at the store. Talk about major disappointment after taking my first bite of my homemade yogurt!!! Because it isn't full of sugars- natural and artificial, preservatives, gelatin, or artificial colors.... it tastes nothing like Dannon. BUT, don't let that deter you from making it because let me tell you a few of the health benefits of yogurt.  Then, I will tell you a few ways you can enjoy it.

  • Yogurt is full of helpful bacteria (probiotics) that help kill harmful viruses
  • The longer the yogurt sits on a store shelf, the less probiotics it has
  • It is a good source of protein, B complex, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and folic acid
  • Yogurt can help with all sorts of stomach issues-bloating, diarrhea, and constipation
  • You get to control what is in it, no need to worry about additives,  preservatives, or....corn syrup!
With the health benefits, I have peaked your interested and you are saying, "okay Marisa, I'm convinced, now how do I make myself some yogurt?" Funny that you would ask because I'm going to tell you.

Don't make the mistake I did when I first ordered my yogurt starter. I tend to get excited and just jump right into things without reading instructions thoroughly. So my first yogurt starter required a yogurt maker, which I don't have. It required the temperature to stay consistent for hours and hours. I tried using my crockpot, but failed big time. So, Read the requirements before ordering!

I ordered my yogurt starter from Cultures for Health.  On the second try I bought the Viili starter because there is no need for the yogurt maker, and it is the closest thing to my dearly beloved Dannon yogurt.

It is really quite simple to make.

First Batch:

The first time you make it, you will mix your dry yogurt starter with 1/2 cup of milk. Cover it with a coffee filter or napkin. Set it on your counter for about 24-48 hours until it is thick (it won't run up the sides of the jar when tipped). Place it in your fridge for 6-8 more hours to finish culturing.

Subsequent Batches:

After the first batch, you will then take 1 TBS  of your already made yogurt, add it to one cup of milk and stir. You can make larger batches as long as you keep the same ratio, I like to make a quart of yogurt at a time, so I use 4 cups of milk and 4 TBS of yogurt.  Then you will let it sit, covered, on your counter for about 12 hours (until it doesn't run up the sides of the jar). 

You just need to make sure that you start making your next batch of yogurt before everyone eats the last batch!!!

And for those of you that are bad at reading directions (like me). Here is a picture tutorial:

Like I said, it isn't going to come out tasting like your store bought yogurt, but that is good because that yogurt isn't good for you, and this yogurt actually is!!!

So here are a few ideas of how to use it.

  • We LOVE to add it to our fruit smoothies
  • Add a touch of honey or stevia to sweeten it up a bit
  • Sweeten with honey or stevia and add fruit or granola (or both)
  • Use in place of sour cream
Now it is your turn, tell us how you use your yogurt!!!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Bitter Homeschoolers Wish List

We are now in the full swing of homeschool, a friend of mine sent this to me and I couldn't stop laughing. I thought maybe some of you homeschoolers out there might enjoy this.

by Deborah Markus, from Secular Homeschooling, Issue #1, Fall 2007

1. Please stop asking us if it's legal. If it is — and it is — it's insulting to imply that we're criminals. And if we were criminals, would we admit it?

2. Learn what the words "socialize" and "socialization" mean, and use the one you really mean instead of mixing them up the way you do now. Socializing means hanging out with other people for fun. Socialization means having acquired the skills necessary to do so successfully and pleasantly. If you're talking to me and my kids, that means that we do in fact go outside now and then to visit the other human beings on the planet, and you can safely assume that we've got a decent grasp of both concepts.

3. Quit interrupting my kid at her dance lesson, scout meeting, choir practice, baseball game, art class, field trip, park day, music class, 4H club, or soccer lesson to ask her if as a homeschooler she ever gets to socialize.

4. Don't assume that every homeschooler you meet is homeschooling for the same reasons and in the same way as that one homeschooler you know.

5. If that homeschooler you know is actually someone you saw on TV, either on the news or on a "reality" show, the above goes double.

6. Please stop telling us horror stories about the homeschoolers you know, know of, or think you might know who ruined their lives by homeschooling. You're probably the same little bluebird of happiness whose hobby is running up to pregnant women and inducing premature labor by telling them every ghastly birth story you've ever heard. We all hate you, so please go away.

7. We don't look horrified and start quizzing your kids when we hear they're in public school. Please stop drilling our children like potential oil fields to see if we're doing what you consider an adequate job of homeschooling.

8. Stop assuming all homeschoolers are religious.

9. Stop assuming that if we're religious, we must be homeschooling for religious reasons.

10. We didn't go through all the reading, learning, thinking, weighing of options, experimenting, and worrying that goes into homeschooling just to annoy you. Really. This was a deeply personal decision, tailored to the specifics of our family. Stop taking the bare fact of our being homeschoolers as either an affront or a judgment about your own educational decisions.

11. Please stop questioning my competency and demanding to see my credentials. I didn't have to complete a course in catering to successfully cook dinner for my family; I don't need a degree in teaching to educate my children. If spending at least twelve years in the kind of chew-it-up-and-spit-it-out educational facility we call public school left me with so little information in my memory banks that I can't teach the basics of an elementary education to my nearest and dearest, maybe there's a reason I'm so reluctant to send my child to school.

12. If my kid's only six and you ask me with a straight face how I can possibly teach him what he'd learn in school, please understand that you're calling me an idiot. Don't act shocked if I decide to respond in kind.

13. Stop assuming that because the word "home" is right there in "homeschool," we never leave the house. We're the ones who go to the amusement parks, museums, and zoos in the middle of the week and in the off-season and laugh at you because you have to go on weekends and holidays when it's crowded and icky.

14. Stop assuming that because the word "school" is right there in homeschool, we must sit around at a desk for six or eight hours every day, just like your kid does. Even if we're into the "school" side of education — and many of us prefer a more organic approach — we can burn through a lot of material a lot more efficiently, because we don't have to gear our lessons to the lowest common denominator.

15. Stop asking, "But what about the Prom?" Even if the idea that my kid might not be able to indulge in a night of over-hyped, over-priced revelry was enough to break my heart, plenty of kids who do go to school don't get to go to the Prom. For all you know, I'm one of them. I might still be bitter about it. So go be shallow somewhere else.

16. Don't ask my kid if she wouldn't rather go to school unless you don't mind if I ask your kid if he wouldn't rather stay home and get some sleep now and then.

17. Stop saying, "Oh, I could never homeschool!" Even if you think it's some kind of compliment, it sounds more like you're horrified. One of these days, I won't bother disagreeing with you any more.

18. If you can remember anything from chemistry or calculus class, you're allowed to ask how we'll teach these subjects to our kids. If you can't, thank you for the reassurance that we couldn't possibly do a worse job than your teachers did, and might even do a better one.

19. Stop asking about how hard it must be to be my child's teacher as well as her parent. I don't see much difference between bossing my kid around academically and bossing him around the way I do about everything else.

20. Stop saying that my kid is shy, outgoing, aggressive, anxious, quiet, boisterous, argumentative, pouty, fidgety, chatty, whiny, or loud because he's homeschooled. It's not fair that all the kids who go to school can be as annoying as they want to without being branded as representative of anything but childhood.

21. Quit assuming that my kid must be some kind of prodigy because she's homeschooled.

22. Quit assuming that I must be some kind of prodigy because I homeschool my kids.

23. Quit assuming that I must be some kind of saint because I homeschool my kids.

24. Stop talking about all the great childhood memories my kids won't get because they don't go to school, unless you want me to start asking about all the not-so-great childhood memories you have because you went to school.

25. Here's a thought: If you can't say something nice about homeschooling, shut up!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner!

We have a winner of the $60 credit to CSN.....

Dree over at 'a lotta bit fun'.
Thanks for entering the contest Dree. I can't wait to hear what you decide to get!!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Boy Named Sue

One of my favorite Johnny Cash songs is "A Boy Named Sue." In the song the dad names his son Sue with the idea that everyone will mock him and he will learn how to fight and be tough.

What is in a name? As I thought about what to name my children I took it very serious. I sincerely believe that a name has the potential to make or break you. I know there are a lot of factors besides a name, and you can overcome a bad name, but why make your child overcome a bad one. Give your kids a good one to begin with.

Just like the boy named Sue, the Corn Refiners Association has realized that the name of one of their "children" has a bad connotation. Thanks to books like "The Omnivore's Dilemna" and movies like FOOD INC and King Corn many people have started to understand the negative connotations of all of the corn syrup and other sweeteners that we are eating. The Corn Refiner's Association has petitioned the FDA to let them change the name of Corn Syrup to Corn Sugar. I suppose they think that by doing this the health benefits of corn syrup will increase and everyone will be willing to eat the ingredient that is found in everything from "healthy" juice, to tomato sauce, to yogurt, to "nutrition bars." They claim the reason they want to change the name is to "eliminate consumer confusion." I doubt that this is their goal, to help us. They want to get rid of the negative view of their product.

Good luck on your campaign Corn Refiners Association. I have a feeling that not all consumers are as dumb as you think. If we look at a label of canned fruit and see added sugars of any kind and a lot of ingredients we can't pronounce, we will probably just go buy some real fruit at the farmer's market or pick it out of a tree.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Naughty Naughty Girls!

My husband doesn't like the chickens free ranging our property. They poop on the porch, eat all the tomatoes, and eat all the pears - and that is just more than he can take. How much space should they have per hen? 

The minimum for chickens is this:

coop 4 square feet per chicken
run 8 square feet per chicken

bantam (smaller breed)
coop 2 square feet per chicken
run 6 square feet per chicken

I really wanted to have truly free range chickens as well, but like yours they would poop on the porch, they dug up a bunch of my strawberries, were digging up brand new plants in my garden etc. We had to make some changes as well. It was a hard transition for them, so to make it easier, we would let them out in the yard in the evenings (somewhat supervised) for an hour or two, then back to the coop for sleeping.


Please leave a comment if you have any other input!

Monday, September 13, 2010


I just love doing giveaways! Our good friends at CSN are sponsoring our giveaway this month, and it is a great one! If you win, you will receive a $60 gift card to any one of their stores. Yes, I said SIXTY DOLLARS. Now, all you have to do for a chance to win is to leave a comment, easy as that! For a second entry, become a follower of backyard farming, then leave a second comment. There is just one rule if you win, I want to hear back about what you bought with it. If I were you, I would use it toward one of these dutch ovens, but that is just me.

Isn't this one cute?

This contest will close Friday September 17th at midnight (MST)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Backyard Farming Disasters – Stink Bug Apocalypse

 We have an apocalypse now - the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. It is a plague of biblical proportions here in western Maryland. This bug is an invasive species that is native to China and accidentally introduced here. It is called a stink bug because when irritated or excited it releases a foul smelling chemical reminiscent of cilantro (no one eats cilantro here anymore). It inserts its rostrum (tube like beak) into plants and sucks out the juice or sap. It leaves fruit with a mottled appearance and the fruit quickly spoils. Here is the kicker – it has no natural predator, it is resistant to pesticides and since it loves all types of plants, there are no effective decoy plants.
We have a fruit industry here, primarily apples and peaches. This bug is destroying the crops and may drive our farmers out of business. Our local vegetable farms are suffering too. There has been a big meeting of farmers, USDA scientists and Extension specialists to discuss the problem. The problem extends beyond the farms to everyone. Our garden is pretty much finished for the year because of stinkbugs. And soon the plague will move indoors. The outdoor surface of the sunny side of the house appears to move as thousands of bugs congregate. These bugs then get through the tiniest cracks to infest a house for the winter. There are no effective pesticides for home use. You can’t vacuum them because the smell is intolerable and attracts more stink bugs. You caulk and seal them out the best you can and then it turns into a pitched one-on-one battle indoors. You take a jar half full of water with detergent added to sequester the smell. You go around and knock them into the jar. I am lucky because I am tall and can reach the ceiling. I click the jar on the ceiling around the bug and it drops in. I click the jar under the bug on a wall and it drops in. When an inch of dead bugs accumulates in the jar, I dump them outside and then start over. After I have eliminated one army of bugs, I wait awhile until another army appears and the battle resumes. 

I can only assume that this plague will spread nationwide. It is humbling to realize that after we do all we can to develop and deploy our production methods, whether they be organic, conventional, sustainable, industrial, or integrated pest management, in the end we are at the mercy of nature and may not have solutions to serious problems.

Here are some pictures from the University of Maryland  Extension Home and Garden Information Center


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun-Readers Questions

I have two hens. They making loud garble and I want to rip my hair out when they do it in the morning! Sometimes they do it for no reason at all, sometimes they do it after they just laid an egg. bock, bock, bock, bock, BAAAWK! 1. Is there anything I can do to fix this? they don't seem too trainable :) 2. For t...he next batch we get... are there any quiet hens out there? please oh please advise.



Please leave a comment if you have any solutions for Laura. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Natural Sweetener: Stevia

A few months ago Marisa and I had the opportunity to go to a Holistic conference and learn about a variety of different subjects from raw food cooking, to how to use natural sweeteners, to natural pain management techniques and herbal cures. I wanted to discuss one of the natural sweeteners that I learned about.

My Dad was a farmer while I was growing up. During the winter he would work in a gas station to supplement his farm income. My Mom worked in some of the country gas stations as well while I grew up. Needless to say, when I would visit them they would let me pick out some candy at the store. I have loved candy and sweets ever since. 5th Avenues and chewy sweet tarts are my favorite. It might surprise most of you to know (sarcasm intended) that these types of treats are full of unnatural ingredients and empty calories. I still eat them once in a while but I have tried to find other ways to get my sweet tooth fix.

Stevia is a natural sweetener found in the leaf of the Stevia herb. Stevia originates in Paraguay and Brazil where the natives call it sweet herb or honey leaf. The leaves of a Stevia plant are about 15 times as sweet as sugar, and the extract is 250 to 300 times as sweet as an equivalent amount of sugar.

We are relatively new to Stevia in our household but we use it in two different ways. We bought a stevia plant at the farmer's market. It is growing on the patio and when we make green smoothies for breakfast, we throw some of the leaves in to act as a sweetener.

I also bought a bottle of the Now Foods Stevia extract that you see pictured to the right. It is in powder form and stevia is the only ingredient. I bought it at my local health food store. When looking at the stevia products check the ingredients because there are still quite a few that have additives and ingredients that I don't recognize. We add it to herbal tea, oatmeal, some of the herbal sodas that we make, and even some of the sauces I use to put on my meat when grilling. We haven't figured out how to use it as a sugar substitute in baking.

Do you use Stevia in your recipes? If so let us know how you use it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day

I was talking to one of my backyard farming mentors yesterday and I asked him if he was looking forward to a day off for Labor Day. He said he was looking forward to a day off from his paid career but as a backyard farmer there is no such thing as a day off.

Yesterday he was planning on having a nice relaxing Sunday. He went out to feed his Turkeys and one of his Tom's had killed a hen so he unexpectedly had to pluck some feathers and clean it so the meat wouldn't go to waste. So much for relaxing.

For Labor day he plans on harvesting his Honey and starting to get his bees ready for the winter. He also told me he wants to plant some of his fall beets and greens. He also needs to harvest a bunch of his tomatoes and if there is time, start bottling them.

A part of me was jealous since I would like to have bees and turkeys. Another part of me was glad that I don't have to do all of those chores tomorrow.

It's kind of a bittersweet position to be a backyard farmer. Think of all the work of having animals and a garden. It makes it much more difficult to leave on vacation or just take a day off. It means getting up earlier than most, and spending the evening after work in the dirt instead of watching college football.

There are positives as well. There is a lot of satisfaction in harvesting and seeing the fruits of your labors. The health benefits of having fresh food are great as well. I also appreciate the fact that it teaches my children how to work. In addition, I am more self sufficient and better prepared if my income is reduced or we have some type of disaster.

So what do you all think? Is it worth all of the work to be a backyard farmer? Do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks? Leave a comment and let me know what benefits or drawbacks you find in being more self sufficient and why it is worth it.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sweet Potato Fries and Garlic Aioli

I wrote an article about planting garlic the other day and I started thinking about garlic and then I started craving one of the favorite snacks/appetizer that Marisa and I love.

I love sweet potatoes in any form, baked, mashed, but one of my favorite ways to cook them is by making homemade fries and eating it with garlic Aioli. The first time Marisa and I had this we were in Jackson Hole at a hoity toity restaurant and we loved them. Here is the recipe.

Sweet Potato Fries

2 medium sweet potatoes cut in to 1/2 to 1/4 inch strips.
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Rock Salt

Preheat oven to 450
Toss Sweet Potatoes in a bowl with oil and salt
Line baking sheet with aluminum foil and line it with Sweet potatoes in a single layer
Bake for 20 minutes on lower rack of oven.
Turn potatoes with spatula
Bake for 10 more minutes on top rack in oven or until crispy

Garlic Aioli

6 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 egg
1/2 cup olive oil
pinch of salt

Heat olive oil in saute pan over medium heat
Add garlic cloves to oil and cook until light brown and soft
Allow garlic and oil to cool down
Add garlic cloves, egg, lemon juice and salt to food processor or blender and puree
Add cooled olive oil to food processor in a slow steady stream and blend until emulsified.

Hint: make sure you allow olive oil to cool to room temperature before adding to food processor so you don't cook the egg.

The sweet salty potatoes and the rich garlic aioli go together perfectly. You might think that you died and went to heaven.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My nerdy husband

My husband Michael is a nerd...and he knows it. He loves just about anything science fiction, books movies, and other nerdy science fiction stuff. Lately he has been obsessed with The Coming Singularity. If you don't know what that is, pat yourself on the back, maybe you aren't a nerd. It is the theory that eventually machines/robots are going to be so intelligent that they are going to take over the world.  If you DO know what it is, maybe you could check out his nerdy little blog that he has just started with his nerdy little friend from work and leave a nerdy little comment. THEN, maybe Michael and I can get back to having a normal conversation around here!

Love you honey!