The Egg Switch

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Most people are missing out when it comes to eggs. Farm raised, free range eggs are like gold, precious and incomparable to their store bought counterparts. Though usually smaller, the farm egg makes up for it’s size with big flavor. When we moved to the farm it was still warm out and the chickens were laying 4-5 eggs per day. It was wonderful. Now that it stays under 40 degrees consistently we get maybe one egg per day. That isn’t nearly enough, breakfast alone Amelia and I share 3 eggs. So I resorted to buying the tasteless store bought until today when I passed this sign on the way to the post office.

IMG_0389This little shop behind a house off the highway sold guns and eggs, yes guns and eggs. I really wanted to look around, they had huge chickens and geese or ducks (I didn’t look close enough). I would have loved to peek at her cute baby blue chicken coop but unfortunately the lady there was rude and very short with me. I bought my eggs at $2 per dozen which is worth the unpleasantness until we can amp up our own production. We have plans get a few more chickens to build a small coop to keep the them safe at night and give them a place to roost. Right now the hens take turns laying in this make shift bucket nest on the wall inside the barn.

Chicken roosting in make shift bucket nest | Chic Sustainability Blog

I don’t know why I this its so funny to me but I seriously crack up every time I see a chicken in there. I am looking forward to having a coop maybe like this on I found on Pinterest. Isn’t it dreamy? The plans are on Heather Bulllard’s website.

Heather Bullard's Chicken Coop-500wi

I know its a bit fancy but I really love it. I’m sure ours will be a little more practical but I’m determined to throw in that little bit of style. Maybe paint it a cute color like the gun/egg store’s baby blue coop. Either way I am glad to say we have switched to only local eggs and this spring when the sale barns start selling chicks we will build our coop and buy a few more egg chickens. Hopefully, also some bigger meat chickens so I can stop buying that dreadful Tyson chicken.

One step at a time we are reaching our goals!

Seeds, Seeds, Seeds!

 

 

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In my mind, a successful garden is the foundation of our new lifestyle. Growing our own food fulfills our need to cut cost, eat better, and be independent. So it makes perfect sense that I am over the moon excited about ordering our seeds. In my opinion, Logan is a little over ambitions with 30+  varieties of fruit, veggies, herbs and grains but what do we have to lose? I have almost no experience gardening, just a small herb garden back in Florida. Logan, on the other hand, grew up with a salsa garden so I will be totally depending on his expertise. Strangely, I am excited about pulling weeds with Amelia. Probably because the cold weather has kept us cooped up in the house.

After reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle we learned about the differences between hybrid and heirloom seeds and decided to plant heirloom. Plants grown from heirloom seeds produce stable, viable seeds meaning they after pollination, the cycle continues like nature intended. Plants from hybrid and genetically modified seeds produce a next generation of seeds that are sometimes sterile and nearly always unstable meaning you are not guaranteed to produce the same quality or variety of plant that the original seeds produced. Hybrid and genetically modified seeds are unreliable for continued food production. This means for us we would have to buy seeds every year and although the yearly cost of seeds is about a quarter of our monthly grocery budget heirloom is still most cost effective.

Then there is the question of organic vs. non-organic. The organic seeds are about 50% more expensive but we figured if we are going to do this we should do it right. This was a decision for our health but we hope that in the long run it will pay our pockets back too. Some day, maybe even this year, we hope to sell our excess crops and dairy products  at our local farmers market. We know that organic sells better. Its as simple as that. We bought everything we could organic a few thing were not available.

Logan did some digging around on the inter-webs and found this little site Sustainable Seeds Co. Its not the best web design but we were impressed with the selection and the little back stories of the seeds where and when they originated are super neat. We ordered on Tuesday and our seeds shipped today, Friday. I’d say thats pretty fast service for a 30 item order.

OK, ready for the unveiling of the list?!? DRUM ROLL!!

Fruits

Organic Allsweet Watermelon

Honey Rock Melon

Organic Brandywine Pink Tomato

Organic Large Red Cherry Tomato

Organic Roma Tomato

Vegetables 

Organic Bush Blue Lake 274 Bean (Green Bean)

Organic Golden Acre Cabbage

Organic Tendersweet Carrot

OrganicHomemade Pickle Cucumbers

Original 8-row Golden Bantam Corn

Blue Curled Scotch Dwarf Kale

Organic Buttercrunch Lettuce

Super Red Romaine Lettuce

Organic Cow’s Horn Okra

Organic Red Cipollini Onion

Organic Wala Wala Onion

Organic Green Arrow Pea

Organic Jalepeno M Pepper

Organic Sweet Sunset Italian Pepper Mix

Organic Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach

Organic Cocozelle Zucchini Squash

Early Prolific Straightneck Squach

Connecticut Field Pumpkin

Herbs

Pennsylvania Red Tobacco (apparently Logan is going to grow and dry his own tobacco)

Basil

Dill

Oregano

Organic Cilantro

Organic Forest Green Parsley

Grain 

Bere Barley

Our seed shopping extravaganza totaled $86.73 with shipping.

This garden is going to be huge or split, not sure yet.  Maybe next post will be our garden plan.

Image courtesy of mypatriotsupply.com

the bread switch

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Last weekend Logan got the itch to make bread. We were out of sugar (I know, I know, how did I let that happen?). He found a recipe for white bread that used honey instead. You see, we are never out of honey. Logan’s dad raises a few hives of bees so honey is always on hand. At 7 PM last Saturday my husband starts making bread, he didn’t finish till after midnight. This recipe was found on reddit.com (when we went back to link to it, the recipe was gone).

White Bread

Ingredients

• 3 ½ cups hot water

• 2 Packets yeast

• 2 Farm Eggs

• ½ stick butter

• 1/3 cup honey

• 2 tablespoons salt

• 2 cups whole-wheat bread flour

• 6 to 7 cups white bread flour (preferably unbleached and stone-ground)

• four 8½X4½X2¾ bread pans, or 3 9X5X3 loaf pans, lightly greased

Procedure

  1. Place the butter, honey, salt, egg and whole wheat flour in a large bowl or bucket. Add hot water (just hot enough that you wouldn’t want to wash your hands under it–about 125°F for those of you who don’t like ambiguity) and stir until the butter is melted.
  2. Add yeast and allow to proof until the mixture is slightly frothy (it should sound like rice krispies when you stir it).
  3. Slowly work in some of the white flour, about ½ cup at a time, using a wooden spoon to stir. Once all the flour has been integrated, cover the dough and allow to rise until doubled in size (about an hour in a warm kitchen).
  4. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead until pliable and no longer sticky.
  5. Divide the dough into enough equal pieces to fill your loaf pans. Roll out with a lightly floured rolling pin until about ½ inch thick. Roll up tightly like a jelly roll, then return to the loaf pan, seam side down, and tuck the ends under, pinching to seal. Repeat with the remaining dough. Cover the loaves again and let rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  6. During the last 15 minutes of rising, heat the oven to 350°. Bake the loves for about 45 minutes. Turn out the loaves from the pans onto wire racks. Allow to cool completely before freezing or cutting.

Note: You can substitute bread flour for all purpose flour (Logan did).

While I always like fresh bread. I was especially impressed with this recipe. It yields 4 loaves which is perfect for our bread loving family. Between our morning toast, Logan’s packed lunch sandwiches and the occasional sopping up of gravy at dinner those four loaves will last us a week. I stumbled upon this site for all things bread, thefreshloaf.com. There I found good tips for keeping bread. I choose this freezing method.

Slice in sandwich bread size slices.

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Group in 2-4 slices. Place in zip locking freezer bags in a staggered fashion.

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Now I wanted there to be as little air in it as possible. So I zipped the bag almost closed, left just a half of an inch open and sucked the air out. Sounds silly but it helps keep the bread fresh. (Alternately, you could use a vacuum sealer but the bags are so expensive I reserve them for keeping meat and other things that will be stored for longer than a week.) According to the website, you should be able to keep the bread this way for 2-3 months but like I said it never lasts that long in our house.

Place in freezer. Make sure they aren’t stuffed in they will squish. Once frozen, you can stick them anywhere.

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To eat: remove from bag and let thaw on the counter or toast.

After eating only fresh, homemade bread for a week we decided this is the everyday bread for us. The crust is just a little crunchy and the inside is oh-so-soft. We are making the switch to homemade bread. Look! We have already reached our first goal and crossed it off the list!

big plans

Chic Sustainability has moved to its new and improved location- chicsusatianbilty.com!
we have big plans. lots of big plans. will we do everything we list here? probably not. something may end up too hard, somethings may end up unnecessary. they are just plans.
short term: starting in the next weeks
  • build a small green house
  • start herb garden
  • plant large veggie garden
  • build chicken coup
  • start using only our eggs
  • purchase and raise meat chickens
  • get serious about composting
  • find and use local Dairy source
  • make butter
  • switch to homemade bread
  • switch to natural homemade cleansers
near-ish future: in the next months
  • become totally independent of store bought meat (buy from local butcher or family)
  • build pig pin
  • purchase a goat for milk
  • learn to “put up” (canning, freezing, drying, ect.)
  • try to make cheeses
  • make homemade soda syrups for SodaStream
  • homemade soap
long term: in the coming years
  • grow grains for bread and beer
  • grow potatoes and corn al though they are easy they are also very cheap and accessible so no need to grow them
  • plant berry bushes
  • plant fruit trees
  • learn to grow mushrooms
  • learn to cultivate yeast
  • solar panels for new house water pump and water heater
  • raise our own calf, pig, occasional lamb

we have already started on some of these things. next post will be about the sustainable things we already do.

sustainability, why?

With my hubby by my side, my kids underfoot, Jesus in my heart and our very own soil between my toes I feel like I have everything I need. In reality, you can’t live off of good vibes and Eskimo kisses. You need actual sustenance. Like nearly all Americans, our family depend almost completely on others to provide this sustenance. Other people grow it. Other people deliver it to our community. Other people provide a central place for us to access it (for a price of course). This system bothers me for several reasons; mainly the sustenance provided is, by in large, terrible for your health, very costly compared to cultivating it yourself, lastly (and most seemingly far fetched), that system may not always be there to depend on. We want to learn to sustain ourselves.

Eating better. Living better.

After reading Barbara Kingolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I was inspired to eventually cut out store bought food all together. One of the most profound concepts in her book happened to be the simplest: if you do not recognize an ingredient then don’t eat it. Our foods and everyday products are so full of chemicals, antibiotics, and pesticides it’s really absurd. I only want to eat naturally occurring foods. I only want natural oils and soaps to touch my skin. I simply want my family to be healthy and feel great.

Cutting Cost.

We are a one income family with a mountain of student loan debt. We strive to live as simple and economical as possible. Our appetites require variety, we eat fresh and make from scratch whenever possible. In result, our grocery bill racks up fast. I go to the store with a very strict budget, I rarely stray from the list and we make do. But I dream of the day when we only buy a handful of things at the store nut because we can’t afford it but because we can sustain ourselves. This will not just cutting down on food cost but cleaning supplies, and personal care too. There are natural, healthier, cost effective alternatives if we just put in the effort.

Becoming Independent.

You could say I’m a bit if a ‘Prepper”. Yes, like the TV show full of crazy people. We don’t have a huge capsule dug in the side of a remote mountain nor do we have a hidden room with enough to feed ourselves for years. Nothing that extreme. I have, however, given some thought to the possibility of another Great Depression type of collapse in our economy. If you haven’t noticed there is a large amount of economic instability worldwide. A total break down of our society really not as far fetched as we’d like to think. I’m not going to go into all the factors at play here (maybe I’ll have my hubby write a little synopsis on this topic later) but lets say the American economy does crash. Our dollar inflates and our money is next to worthless. Those other people that produce our goods cant afford to keep producing. Those other people that drive our goods cant afford to gas up. Those places that sell the goods cant afford to staff their stores. Makes no difference because, we, the consumer can’t afford the goods anyhow. In this dark scenario, how are you going to feed your family? What is your plan? We decided to move to a farm with a good amount of land and start providing for ourselves, just in case.

So we are making plans to change our lifestyle, to live off the land and sustain ourselves. I began to research becoming a ‘sustainable’ family and what I found was a bunch of weirdos. Seriously, there’s a lot of pot-smoking, soda can collecting, mud house building, hippies out there living sustainable lifestyles ‘off the grid’. We are changing it up. We are doing this for us not to spare the poorly treated animals or to save the earth from Global Warming. I am using sustainability more for the ‘ability to sustain or endure’ definition, while, as a general rule, ‘sustainability’ refers to cutting down overuse of finite resources, striving to using more renewable, and reducing the overall human impact on the earth. Saving planet Earth is worthy cause but we are making this change for purely selfish reasons it is only by happenstance we also become ‘sustainable’ in the typical sense. I think, by and large, the sustainability scene is changing. Big city dwellers are planing rooftop gardens, canning is making a comeback, living ‘green’ is in. Those people, like us, are doing it for more reason than saving the earth. Sustainability is becoming chic. I am determined to start living it. Chic Sustainability.