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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ginger-bird house

By Jennifer

My extended family has a holiday tradition of decorating gingerbread houses at grandma's with all of the cousins. It's always a fun -- if messy -- afternoon of visiting as we whip up royal icing and add pounds of candy to the big wooden houses my father-in-law built for annual use. Oh, the candy. The colorful, beautiful, teeth-wrecking, tantrum-inducing candy. I hate having so much candy around. I hate having to monitor my children's candy consumption once we bring our finished house home. Sure I love to gather with relatives, but the candy is one part of this tradition I could do without. 

But how do you do gingerbread houses otherwise?

You make a bird feeder, that's how. 

While cousins dabbled in sugar, my children and I used popcorn, pretzels, peanuts, sunflower seeds, crackers, dried fruit and a colorful variety of bird seed. The best part is most of my materials were already in my pantry and I didn't have to shell out a lot of money. I experimented with two types of mortar: vegetable shortening and peanut butter, both mixed with equal parts cornmeal. The cornmeal makes the mixture easier to spread. It also makes the peanut butter safer for birds to consume. (Ever got peanut butter stuck on the roof of your mouth? Try that with a beak!) I preferred the shortening, but the fact that my peanut butter variety was crunchy may have been a factor in why it was clumpier and harder to use.

I placed our finished house on our sheltered patio where we could see it from the window. Within a half hour, this is what it looked like:

The peanuts in the shell were a clear favorite. We have since remodeled that side of the house with more.

As mentioned my gingerbread house here is wood, but this bird feeder idea could be used with crackers, stale bread or even empty cardboard boxes. As long as it won't be placed where rain or snow will make it wet and soggy, the house base can be made out of anything. 

I thought the candy-less house would be a hard sell for my children, but they loved it, too. My 4-year-old son enjoys watching the birds eat what he helped create. We're making this type of gingerbread house a new tradition.

How do you like to feed the birds?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

An Early Christmas Present

Life isn't fair. I hate this saying, but had to use it when my kids whined and complained that I got to open one of my Christmas presents BEFORE Christmas. I HAD to, it was a living thing and could die or be seriously damaged if I didn't open it. It was no consolation to the kids, and I still haven't heard the end of it. But, it was worth it, I love my cute little citrus trees!

The climate here in Utah isn't optimal for citrus trees, so I chose to get dwarf trees that I will be able to plant in a large pot. In the spring I will harden them off and let them be outside, in the fall we will bring them back into the house.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Merry Christmas

Reenacting the Nativity is our favorite Christmas tradition each year. Enjoy. 

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Backyard Farming Gift Guide

We want to wish you all a happy holidays. As we try to teach our children, we stress the importance of giving and serving rather than receiving. Here are a few ideas for what to give your favorite backyard farmer. Today's ideas revolve around garden statues. We do not own these things, nor are we getting paid for showing them. We just think they are cool. Click on the names to see where they are sold.


Terra Cotta Pot Man (make it yourself)

Zombie Garden Statue (my favorite)

 Which one would you choose?


Sunday, December 11, 2011


We hope you are having a peaceful Sunday and find some serenity this Christmas season. Isn't this greenhouse bedroom overlooking a lake dreamy? I think I could forget about all the holiday hustle and bustle if I had a room like this. 


Friday, December 9, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Like many of you, while others may be spring cleaning their homes, I have other plans. My spring consists of planing my garden, tilling the earth, starting seeds, transplanting plants, cleaning out the chicken coop, fixing hoses, etc.  It isn't until fall when the garden has been harvested and is hibernating, and the chickens are cozy and hunkering down for the cold weather, that I finally get the spring cleaning itch.

I got my hands on a label maker, and Whoa Nellie, I've gone crazy. The kids have started asking if they need to be labeled. If you don't have a label maker, I highly suggest one. Just check out some of the areas I have been cleaning and organizing.

When do you get your spring cleaning done?  


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Essential Oils Webinar-Tonight 7:00pm

Don't forget, our Free Essential Oils Webinar will be tonight at 7:00 pm Mountain Time.

Click here to pre-register.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Our New Coop

So, remember the mysterious boxes we got? You guys all had some great guesses! But, everyone was wrong. It is the cutest chicken coop ever! It took me 15 mins. to assemble, but don't worry the video is only about 2 mins. long. Check it out!

Red Barn Coop is having a holiday sale right now, so you can get a coop for just $399, plus shipping!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Goats vs. Cows

Winter is our favorite time to think about the plans for our backyard farm for the upcoming year. As Michael and I talk, we just can't decide if we want a couple goats or if it would be better to have a cow.  We are on an acre, so a cow is actually feasible on our property.

Let's let the great cow vs. goat debate begin!
Leave a comment to weigh in on the debate.

Essential Oils Webinar-Thursday 7:00pm

The next essential oils webinar will be Thursday December 1 at 7:00 pm Mountain Time! Mark your calendars.

Pre-register for the class here

Monday, November 28, 2011

Raw Milk Freedom Riders

Mothers, Acting As ‘Agents,’ To Defy FDA Warning
Against FDA Prohibitions, Freedom Riders Will Publicly
Distribute over 100 gallons Raw Milk to Waiting Mothers

Chicago, IL—On December 8, a group of mothers and others will defy the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ban on “distributing” fresh milk across state lines by transporting 100 gallons of raw milk from Wisconsin to Chicago’s Independence Park and distributing it to customers waiting at the park.

Federal law 21 CFR § 1240.61 prohibits interstate movement and distribution of raw milk for human consumption. The FDA regulation applies to individuals, or “agents” acting on their behalf.

Over the past year, the FDA and state authorities have conducted undercover sting operations on, raided and prosecuted farmers, buying clubs, and individuals who help distribute raw milk and other farm fresh foods. Over a dozen people and businesses currently face charges, orders, and other enforcement actions; some are under “federal criminal investigation” and face possible indictment by a grand jury. Several small cheese producing dairies with no history of making anyone sick have been put out of business by the FDA’s actions.

“It is a God-given, inalienable right to engage in direct, private transactions with our food producers,” says Max Kane, director of a Chicago area local-food-buying club. “Americans deserve to know that the FDA is using their tax dollars to target and prosecute independent, peaceful, farmers and their customers.”

Mothers from around the country, determined to protect their families’ food supply, launched the Raw Milk Freedom Riders with an inaugural ride on November 1 when they transported raw milk from Pennsylvania to the FDA’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, and distributed the milk to crowds gathered for a protest. In response the FDA issued a statement saying it does not “intend” to take “enforcement action against an individual who purchased and transported raw milk across state lines solely for his or her own personal consumption.”

The Freedom Riders say that the FDA’s statement leaves the door open for FDA to pursue farmers, buying clubs and individuals acting as “distribution agents.” The Wisconsin to Chicago Raw Milk Freedom ride will challenge the FDA’s use of force against raw milk distribution.

Media are invited to ride along as embedded reporters to witness the FDA’s reaction to the Freedom Riders’ standing up for their rights. 

(Image Credit)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dinosaur for Thanksgiving Dinner

Are you eating one of Tyrannosaurus Rex's ancestors for Thanksgiving dinner? According to an article from wired.com most scientists now agree that birds actually are dinosaurs. The article talks about a paleontologist named Jack Horner that believes that we can reverse engineer chickens to become dinosaurs. I know it sounds like the beginning of a terrible nature gone wrong horror movie but Jack Horner is a well respected scientist in his field.

The idea of reverse engineering chickens by messing with their DNA raises a lot of ethical questions for many. It is an interesting idea but haven't scientists watched enough movies that show the terrible things that happen when they try to play God?

Following is a video from ted.com of Jack Horner talking about his dream of making Dinosaurs into chickens.

Whether  you agree with his ideas or not, it's still kind of cool to think about the fact that you are biting into T Rex's ancestor when you take an extra large helping of dark meat.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sneak Peak

We just got something new and fun for our backyard farm. I'm so excited about it. Can you guess what it may be?


Monday, November 21, 2011

Essential Oils Recap

Thank you to everyone that joined us Thursday night for the essential oils webinar! Sorry about the technical difficulties. I will be reteaching the class Tuesday November 29th, with a DIFFERENT webinar service!

Here is a quick overview on what we went over:

  • Essential oils are really powerful, 50-70 times stronger than herbs
  • 1 drop of peppermint essential oil is equivalent to 28 cups of peppermint tea
  • There is little government regulation on essential oils, so it is VERY important that you do your research on the company you are using
  • A bottle of E.O. can be labeled 100% pure, but be 100% synthetic
  • Most E.O.'s have weeds, pesticides, synthetics, and fillers in them
  • I have chosen to use Doterra because it is the only company that uses 3rd party testing on EVERY SINGLE BATCH of oils to check for purity and potency. They will not have any pesticides, fillers, synthetics, or weeds. They are organic!
  • You only need to use about 3 drops of essential oils for each application
  • You can reapply essential oils every 20 mins if needed, you won't overdose on them!
Lemon- For freshening and cleaning
  •  Put a few drops in your homemade kitchen and bath cleaners
  • Put a few drops in your water for as an antioxidant and detoxifier for the body and a refreshing drink (use only Doterra oils for this, they are labeled and checked for safe consumption) Most oils state on the label that they are not for internal use
  • Add a drop to honey to soothe a dry or sore throat
  • Diffuse in a room to neutralize odors and elevate mood
Lavender- All things Calming
  • Diffuse in a room or apply topically to calm anxiety and soothe emotions
  • Apply topically to soothe irritated skin and lips
  • Massage on the back or bottom of feet and apply a drop to pillow at bedtime for peaceful sleep
  • Apply immediately to help calm reaction to a bee sting or bug bite
Peppermint- Cooling and Invigorating
  • Use with lemon in water for a healthy, refreshing mouth rinse
  • Inhale deeply to invigorate lungs and increase alertness
  • Add to water in a spray bottle and mist body when overheated
  • Apply to neck and forehead with Lavender to calm headaches
Melaleuca- First Aid for the Skin
  • Apply to skin blemishes and rashes as part of a daily cleansing program
  • Use with shampoo or conditioner for healthy scalp and hair
  • Apply to feet for athletes foot
  • Apply topically for yeast infections
  • Use with Lavender in a lotion for diaper rash
  • Put a few drops on a cotton ball and keep in the ear overnight for ear infections
Oregano - Natural Immune Support
  • Take several drops in an empty gelatin capsule for periodic immune support
  • Dilute and apply to bottom of feet as a natural defense 
  • Use internally as part of a monthly cleansing regiment for GI health
  • Apply carefully to skin tags and warts
Deep Blue- Muscle and Joint Support (Exclusive Doterra Blend of Oils)
  • Apply directly to tired, aching joints
  • Rub on muscles before and after exercise to reduce discomfort
  • Use with a carrier oil for a theraputic deep-tissue massage
Breathe- Respiratory Support  (Exclusive Doterra Blend of Oils)
  • Apply topically to chest and neck to help clear lungs and sinuses
  • Diffuse or add to humidifier at bedtime for more restful sleep
  • Apply to chest or bottom of feet for seasonal respiratory discomfort
  • I no longer have use for my asthma rescue inhaler or my asthma perscription because of this blend!!! 
Digestzen- Digestive Support (Exclusive Doterra Blend of Oils)
  • Rub on stomach to ease digestive discomfort, nausea, or motion sickness
  • Take internally at meal times to support healthy, comfortable, digestion
  • Apply to bottom of feet of children to help ease digestive issues
On Guard- Protective Blend (Exclusive Doterra Blend of Oils)
  • Dilute and gargle morning and night as a protective mouth rinse
  • Take several drops in an empty gelatin capsule for added immune support
  • Dilute in spray bottle to clean doorknobs, telephones, and other community surfaces
  • Diffuse in a room to eliminate airbourne pathogens

I would love to chat with you about your particular issues or problems, feel free to email me at

If you would like to order any of these essential oils, go to this link
You can also get to the link by clicking on "my herb store" at the top left of the blog. 

If you order a kit by Friday November 25, I have a free oil to give you as well! Contact me before ordering so I can explain how to get it. 

I recommend ordering a kit, because with the kit you get a free wholesale membership, so for the next year you get to buy the oils at wholesale cost! 


Celebrating with Chickens

Have you ever been so excited and the only way you could think to celebrate was with your chicken?  
Apparently this guy thought it was a good idea.

 Baghdad, Iraq: A local man celebrates with a chicken after the national football team beat Jordan 3-1 in a World Cup qualifying match 

Thank you Michael A. for sending this to us.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Essential Oils Webinar- Thursday

Don't forget, the essential oils webinar is this Thursday at 7:30 pm Mountain Time!

Link to the webinar:

Password: healing 

Monday, November 14, 2011


We love up-cycling, recycling, reusing, and  cutting back, so we love the blog Unconsumption which is dedicated to just that. Go check it out. Here is some of what you will see:

More: Creative Prize Winner – Dog. « Material Realizations

Via pratt:

Use old/unplayable records as charger plates. 

Old mail sacks repurposed as iPad cases.
via @itscolossaluncommon goods

Friday, November 11, 2011

Chicken and Beef

by Uncle Dale

We grow 50-100 broilers each year for our table. It’s not economical. It costs us over $1.50 per pound and that doesn’t account for our labor. http://backyardfarming.blogspot.com/2010/06/cornish-cross-versus-freedom-rangers.html But it’s my hobby and I enjoy producing some of my own meat. They are pasture raised and I know what goes into them although I am not opposed to industrial produced broilers. I know the broiler industry well and I have friends who own contract broiler houses. Their mortality is less than mine. My palette is not discerning enough to tell if my chicken taste any better than industrial produced chicken. I am opposed to caged layers which is why I keep my own layers. http://backyardfarming.blogspot.com/2008/09/liberate-layers.html

So we eat a lot of chicken in our home. Chicken is less fattening and supposedly a healthier option than pork or beef. But boy do I like beef! Every few years we buy a side or quarter of beef but usually we just buy what is on the reduced rack. Beef on the reduced rack is one of the best deals in the grocery store. Beef industry marketing campaigns have convinced people that fresh beef is the best. But years ago people paid premium prices for “aged” beef. The carcass was allowed to hang much longer in the cooler. This process allows moisture to evaporate from the muscle concentrating the flavor and the beef’s natural enzymes break down the connective tissue in the muscle, which leads to more tender beef. But aging beef is expensive because of the extra time spent in the cooler and loss of moisture means less weight to sell to the customer. So the industry convinced consumers that fresh beef is better. Beef on the reduced rack has had a little more time for the enzymes to start working and it costs less! So I go for the premium aged, reduced rack beef at a bargain price. 

We haven’t purchased a side of beef for several years. The other day one of my students in my course at the University came up and asked if I wanted part of beef that she raised this past summer. Well she has heard my lecture on growing your food, knowing your food, buying local, and buying directly from farmers. So I was trapped. But that is okay. We are buying a mixed quarter from her. We will get about 125 pounds of steaks, roasts, hamburger, soup bones, etc. for about $3.50 per pound. So move over chicken. We have to make room for beef.

 Move over chicken, the beef is coming.

 The guy on the right side of the photo is named Filet. He will be in our freezer in a few weeks. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Getting Chickens Ready for Winter Part Deux

Yesterday we talked about getting chickens ready for winter by making sure the structure is sound and there aren't any leaks letting water into the coop. We also discussed getting some bedding that they can use for insulation. This article will cover a few more ideas to get Mr and Mrs ( insert chicken name here) Featherbottom ready for the cold winter season.


I am the science teacher in our homeschool. One of the things we learned about is the 3 states of matter; solid, liquid, and gas. An interesting thing happens to water as it gets cold. It goes from a liquid to a solid state. Chickens can't drink ice so you need to do something to keep the water warm.

One choice is to bring the water into a warm building every night and then take it back out every morning. This will work but you can't forgot to take the water out every morning. If the idea of hauling water in and out does not appeal to you, then you need to get a waterer that keeps it warm, or find a device to keep it warm. Dale did a great job talking about waterers in this article and video.

You can find waterers that plug in like the one we have in our coop. It looks like a dog bowl with a plug. I don't love it because it isn't enclosed but it is cheap and works OK.

If you already have a metal water heater you can get a heated plate that sits under the water can. I like using metal as much as possible in the coop as it inhibits mildew and other growth in the water.

There are also a lot of products that you plug in and then submerse in your water. The benefit of these is that you can find one to fit in almost any waterer that has an opening at the top. Any of these waterers or heaters should be available at your local feed store, or you can even order them on line through tractor supply company or amazon.com.

 Heat Lamps

The first year we had chickens, the egg production went down to almost zero once the nights started getting cold. We didn't know what to do. Uncle Dale told us they needed to be warmer so we got a heat lamp. Within a few days of getting a lamp, we started seeing eggs in the coop. I think that heat lamps are the best things to keep your chickens warm enough so they can use some energy for egg laying. Most of the heat lamps use infrared lights. They won't bother the chickens at night. They don't need to heat the whole coop. You want to place the lamp where the chickens roost so they will be warm at night.

 Good luck with your chickens. If  you make sure to keep moisture out of the coop, allow for ventilation to let moisture out, use good bedding, keep water warm, and employ the use of heat lamps you should be able to get eggs all winter.

What suggestion do the rest of you have for getting the chickens ready for winter?


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Getting Chickens Ready for Winter Part 1

It's that time of the year. Zombies and vampires have been roaming the streets. Turkeys have lost most of their hope and have reached the "acceptance" step of the 5 stages of grief as they approach their demise. Santa is gaining weight getting ready for his 2011 Holiday tour. It's also time to consider what you are going to do to get your chickens ready for winter.

First things first. Most chickens will be OK in the cold winter. My Swedish ancestors had chickens and I think it gets cold there. Chickens have been raised and bred to withstand cold. You don't need to do a lot to protect them. If you wonder whether or not your chickens are going to survive check out your breeds and their hardiness here.

So why do we need to help them during the winter. It takes energy to stay warm and survive. We have found that by taking a few measures we can help them stay warm, which in turn gives them more energy to make eggs. It doesn't take much to keep your egg production decent throughout the winter wonderland. The next two articles will cover some of the things to keep your chickens laying.

Check Your Chicken Coop

Your chicken coop needs to keep your chickens dry. When it rains in the fall I go out to the chicken coop to see if there is any water leaking into the coop. If there is, I note where it is and then fix the roof on a dry fall day. Her I am replacing shingles on the roof last weekend. Check the walls for openings or weakness. Essentially you want to batten down the hatches.
reshingling the roof
Another coop issue that a lot of people don't think of is ventilation. You need to keep moisture out of your coop, but at the same time let moisture escape. Chickens create moisture. Your chicken coop can't be an airtight box. Make sure you allow for some airflow in the coop through windows or natural openings. We cover all of our openings with chicken wire.


Bedding is important during the winter. It helps your chickens insulate themselves when they nest, and it absorbs moisture and smells. We prefer to use pine shavings for our chicken nesting boxes. We can get a huge bale of pine shavings at the local feed store for about $12. We spread it out in the lay boxes and on the ground of the coop.

Nesting box with pine shavings
You can also use hay or straw as bedding. This is another cheap way to line your coop. In our previous home, Marisa and I noticed that a lot of the neighbors would decorate their porch with straw bales during the fall. Since we lived in suburbia, they had no use for the bales once they were done using them for decorations. We were able to get them for free and rarely had to buy any. Both the shavings and hay break down through the winter. As they decompose they will add some heat to your coop to keep the chickens more comfortable.

We also shred our junk mail, and bills that don't have a lot of ink in them and put it in the coop mixed with the straw and shavings. Its is additional insulation, and it breaks down enough once we put it in our compost pile that we are able to use the junk mail to grow vegetables.

Our next article will talk about additional things to do for your chickens, including what we have found to be the most important in helping chickens deal with the cold, a heat lamp.