Garbage Disposal Deodorizers

I didn’t grow up with a disposal, so having one as an adult means I am learning everything about them now. I honestly had no idea why someone would want one unless they were in a horror movie. They just didn’t seem that necessary.

But, then I got one…..and now I can’t live without it and wonder how others do. My kids are taught to scrape their plates into the trash can and put compostable materials in the compost bin, and yet…..there are still chunks in the bottom of my sink.

Ya know those pet peeves that drive you crazy, but just aren’t worth creating a stink about? Mine is a dirty sink. We are a busy family and dishes stack up sometimes. I don’t expect perfection (not even close). But I will admit that it drives me nuts when I find an oatmeal bowl next to the sink that was actually rinsed but the oatmeal has now created a cement like substance all over my sink basin. Grrrrr.

My poor sink. But, it’s a sturdy one.

What I have discovered is when you have chunks of food in your sink, you have them in your disposal too. There is nothing worse than walking into your house and smelling that nasty, moldy, stinky, rotten smell and not knowing where it comes from (and hoping your best friend can’t smell it when she comes over to visit). Masking smells with candles and scents is just not healthy, so I need to find a way to keep that disposal clean without using chemicals or toxins.

In the past, I have taken the citrus rinds from oranges, lemons and limes I have eaten or used in a recipe and frozen them. I just throw the frozen rinds in the disposal when I think it needs a refresh and the citrus smell is lovely while the frozen pieces helps to scrub away grime.

But, lately, I am in need of a little more and as you know, I prefer to make my own CLEAN products.

So, let’s do this! I found recipes to make little tabs to drop in your disposal, but let’s be real here, a couple sprinkles of a powder is just as effective, just as easy to use and MUCH easier to make. So, here are both recipes that I found from Living Well Mom.

TABS:

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup fine salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups liquid castile soap (Dr. Bronners is my fave!)
  • 30 drops total of essential oils – I use 10 of lemon, 10 of orange and 10 of tangerine

Mix baking soda and salt in a bowl. Mix water and castile soap in another bowl. Add liquid mix to dry mix slowly while stirring. You want to get the best consistency in order to be able to hold it’s shape, so not too liquidy. If you add too much liquid, just put a bit more baking soda in the mix. Add your oils! Now, take a spoon and make flatish spoonfuls and place them on a sheet of parchment paper to dry. They take 1-2 days to air dry or you can pop in 175° oven for 1-2 hours.

But, this is waaaaay easier so this is what I made…

POWDER:

  • 5 oz citric acid
  • 8 oz baking soda
  • 30 drops total of essential oils – I use 10 of lemon, 10 of orange and 10 of tangerine

Mix the powders and then add the oils and mix! I mixed everything right in the glass jar (repurposed jelly jar) I was using to store it – use glass as the citric acid can mess with plastic – and then put the cap on and shook it up to mix. Easy.

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I tried it right away…..and yes, I totally cleaned my sink of the dishes and stuck on food before taking these pics….I think.

To use the tabs or powder, just run some hot water for a little in your sink and then add your tab or 2 Tbsp of powder. Check out that citric acid bubbling. Let the disposal rip!

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Ahhhh enjoy the clean, citrusy smell of your sink and repeat again next month (or week depending on how good your family it as cleaning out your sink).

English Breakfast

After I graduated from college, I spent 2 months backpacking around England, Scotland and Ireland. That time is so precious because it is the only time you have between school and a career and other responsibilities that are never ending. It was one of those experiences in life that I NEVER forget or regret. In fact, I suggest to all graduating students to take a few months off to explore. You will never have this moment ever again…

I have so many incredible memories from this adventure. The history, the landscape, the people, the experiences and even the food. I fully believe in immersing yourself in the local flavor of each town you visit. I love a good challenge and am very curious about other cultures. I even ate haggis.

I stayed in a few bed and breakfasts, during my travels, and with some lovely families and friends I came to know. I have so many fond memories. I tell stories from my travels all the time….I am sure my kids are sooooo tired of it. Out of all my different stories from the female mason working on restoring an old stone church, the buildings that got wider as they got taller, the hostels and the rail trail pass, the Cavern Club where the Beatles played, trying to make phone calls to the US from those bright red boxes, birds stealing my scones from Lands End, riding a bike through the purple heather in western Ireland, castles, castles, castles and even the Loch Ness monster – I think my favorite is talking about the food.

I never expected the food to be as different as it was. It was very eye opening to how processed and cheap our American food habits are. I tried the haggis, ate lots of “take-away” fish and chips, had some shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash and lived on “toasties” (grilled cheese sandwiches) with tomato and onion. The trip changed many of my eating patterns for the rest of my life. The most fascinating to me was breakfast. A typical English breakfast almost always included eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, toast, mushrooms and grilled tomatoes (and sometimes black pudding – look it up). As an American, beans were what I ate at a picnic with a hotdog and mushrooms were served with a steak, so seeing them on my breakfast plate was so odd. But, I have always been a brave eater and love my food to mingle on the plate.

The breakfast is usually called a “Full English” or “Fry Up” and can be found pretty much in any restaurant or pub you stumble into while abroad. But, it’s also extremely simple and you can make it at home too! I highly recommend giving it a try. Here is a simple and delicious recipe from The Culinary Ginger.

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The Culinary Ginger

It’s a big meal! So, sometimes, I like to mix up a smaller lighter version of the beans to eat with just toast and an egg. But, best of all, I can freeze it in small portions to grab in a pinch. It’s super easy, perfect for freezing and gives you some good protein for your busy day.

I learned this from a lovely British Instagram friend – just take a couple cans of cannellini beans or butter beans, a can of crushed tomatoes with italian herbs and some sliced red onions. Start with the onion and than add the tomatoes and beans. Cook it all together in a frying pan until it’s heated through and saucy delicious. You can add crumbled bacon, different herbs or some mushrooms too! Play with it so it fits your needs. Portion out and freeze if you want or serve with toast and a fried egg for breakfast – add an avocado too! MMmmm….

 

 

 

Reducing Paper Trash

Our family has been tackling the plastic reducing with much frustration. Plastic is everywhere and in so many unnecessary places. Some stores that brag about their fresh and organic foods tend to have more plastic than others. Very frustrating!

At least with paper, I have actions in MY OWN control for reducing our use. Reducing paper use may not seem like it would make a huge impact, but consider this:

When 40% of the world’s industrial logging goes to paper, (and that percentage is rising) you have to take a deeper look. Producing paper is the third most energy-intensive of all manufacturing industries and the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases. The production uses chemicals and toxins that can cause major and persistent health issues. It uses up natural resources and ruins habitats. Paper plantations aren’t offering any wildlife habitats at all with their perfect rows of pesticide ridden trees. It’s so sad.

Time to rethink your daily paper use. Is ease of use really worth the price we are ultimately paying?

I highly suggest doing another trash audit on your household (and also at work!) just to get a good picture of what you are using daily. Paper products include plates, napkins, towels, tissues, notepads, writing/printing paper, mail, receipts, anything that comes in boxes at the store, etc, etc, etc. It can be overwhelming.

The best ways to reduce your paper:

  • cloth napkins
  • cloth towel wipes for the countertops
  • use an e-reader, phone app or whiteboard for reading, list making and notes
  • handkerchiefs
  • washable pads/liners or diva cups
  • change bill paying to entirely online
  • cloth diapers
  • washable coffee filters
  • request an e-receipt
  • washable dishware – and to go
  • use 100% recycled paper/toilet paper
  • if you must print something, use both sides

Recycling is excellent, but it is not the ultimate answer. REDUCE and REUSE FIRST!

If we all try to use less, we can reduce the impact we have on our forests, cut down on energy use and toxic emissions, lessen pollution and ultimately produce less waste – and let’s not forget the human rights abuses that go hand in hand with this industry.

I’m no tree hugger (well, maybe I am) and I am definitely not much of an activist leader, but I do know when things need to change and right now, we ALL need to make some changes. If it all seems like too much, just start with one idea and see where it takes you.

Today, my family started using cloth napkins for everyday meals. I purchased a pile of old, unmatching linens at an antique store for a tiny cost just for this purpose (reuse and repurpose!) They were all a bit confused about the funny old napkins with cross stitching, lace and scalloped edges, but hopped right onboard my crazy train because they know that what I am doing at our dinner table is good for our world and their future.

Quiet Pastimes

It’s Sunday night and I am reflecting on a weekend full of sunshine, warm weather and lots of outdoor activity. We spent many hours both days tackling a very adventurous backyard project that we have been working on for weeks.

Exhausted from yesterday’s grueling work, we both fell asleep on the sofa. So, when my husband woke this morning and said he was going to go fishing, my first thought was that I would sleep in while he was gone. But instead, I got dressed.

Nature is grounding……refreshing……connecting.

Even though we were outside in the yard for maybe 10 hours working the day before, when your yard is a fenced in box and you are shovelling never-ending piles of clay, it isn’t exactly calming. That real peaceful connection with nature is what you get from being in the woods, on the top of a mountain or near a babbling brook. So, I am going fishing too.

Fishing is a tranquil hobby (for me). You have to be quiet so as not to scare away the fish especially when standing on the bank of a river. But, something magical happens when you whisper, move intentionally and watch that lure flit across the river. A connection occurs between you and your surroundings which can actually HEAL you:

“Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.” ~ How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing

The outdoors have such an impact on us that they can actually reduce our stress which impacts your physical health! It makes so much sense to me because I understand my need to be outdoors, but not everyone may recognize it. Maybe for others they recognize that a view of the park out your window instead of a busy highway is stress reducing. Or maybe it’s the houseplants you have scattered around the home.

Whether it be pictures of mountain ranges or actually being barefoot in the park, find what heals, restores and refreshes you. Reducing stress is something we all need to manage for our mental and physical health.

Having that hour of being outdoors fishing meant that we were refreshed, focused and ready to tackle the next day of grueling work in the backyard. Progress and success.

Find your nature connection. It’s important to your health.

Adventures in Cheesemaking

Mmmmm cheese. I LOVE cheese…all kinds – extra sharp cheddars, nutty bries, soft goat, slices of provolone, bleu, smoky, dilly, stinky, fruity, crumbly, moldy, give it all to me. There are so many amazing cheeses and so many different ways to enjoy them. I cannot imagine life without cheese. Nope.

Not too long ago, I thought brownies only came from a box. The idea of making anything from scratch was such a foreign concept, I didn’t even try to figure it out. I would just buy the brownie mix, buy the pancake mix, buy the macaroni and cheese box, buy the pizza dough, buy the cake mix, buy the soup can, etc etc etc. But recently, I have been venturing out of my comfort zone and baking my own bread, making my own shampoo, melting my own candles and so much more. Knowing EXACTLY what is going into the foods you eat and products you use on your skin and in your home is rewarding. It’s time to combine my newly found confidence with my love for cheese.

Let’s try making it….I am starting with the easiest cheese first: mozzarella. From what I have read in several recipes, I should be able to make a ball of mozzarella in less than 1 hour, including cleanup. Then I can enjoy with my well stored fresh bread from yesterday.

Making mozzarella isn’t a ton of ingredients, but requires some special ones. First of all, you need whole milk that is not ultra pasteurized. The organic whole milk I buy for my family to eat the 28,000 boxes of cereal we go through each month is not gonna cut it. Good for cereal, but not for cheese. I just ran over to our local dairy farm and bought what I needed there.

The next special ingredient is called rennet. Rennet is an enzyme specifically for making cheese and comes in a tablet form (isn’t that odd?). According to Wikipedia, “rennet is a complex set of enzymes produced in the stomachs of ruminant mammals. Chymosin, its key component, is a protease enzyme that curdles the casein in milk. This helps young mammals digest their mothers’ milk. Rennet can be used to separate milk into solid curds for cheesemaking and liquid whey.

Say Whaaaaaat? Alright – this is wildly interesting. Check out this super odd video about how to extract rennet from a calf’s stomach….I have no idea why she is wearing old timey clothes….. but it’s fascinating. Just take a peek.

You also need citric acid (powder that makes sour candies taste sour) and salt and water, but those are all things I had in my pantry already. Rubber gloves and a candy thermometer are handy as hitting the right temperature is very specific.

<<This cheesemaking post contains affiliate links so you can get some supplies and make cheese too! No extra cost to you and a kickback to me so I can keep making fun stuff to share with you all. Cheers!>>

Alright, let’s just do this:

I followed this recipe video from Felicia at the Starving Chef blog which is very simple once you do it one time. Yes, it is simple. As long as you have the proper ingredients and proper tools and understand why you are doing what you are doing, it will be easily repeated. The mess I made to get this tiny little, maybe 1 pound ball of cheese is astronomical but I made flipping cheese, y’all! CHEESE. I. MADE. CHEESE. In an hour, nonetheless. I told my son that I was gonna make cheese and he asked me why and then walked away laughing. But, once I started squealing with delight from the kitchen when my curds and whey started to separate, he was all in with me.

Curds and whey, Lil’ Miss Muffet!

Making this cheese was easy. I am not saying all cheese is easy to make, because it definitely is NOT. But if you want to give cheesemaking a try, this is a great video to watch and follow. When the tomatoes start to ripen from the garden, I will be making lots of this cheese because nothing is better than fresh tomato, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and a drizzle of fig balsamic vinegar…..NOTHING.

Give it a try. I promise you will feel damn good about yourself and want to tell all your friends….maybe even write a blog about it. Hmmmm

Storing Bread

I have always bought my bread from the store. Occasionally a loaf gets baked and eaten within an hour by my ravenous family but it was never a weekly event. I have never been much of a baker, but bread is something I am interested in getting more experience with. Give me warm fresh bread and some creamy butter and I am just as ravenous as my family. Mmmm…

My kids love toast and sandwiches (and just warm bread with butter, surprise!) and we can easily go through a loaf of bread in just a few days. All those plastic bread bags don’t work with my less plastic lifestyle now and paper bags turn my bread rock hard. The cost of the bread and the “extra” ingredients and the constant trips to the store make me cringe too.

I need a better way.

To solve my issues, I started to bake my own bread more often (as you may have read about in a previous blog post), but am still in the process of perfecting that easy ‘cut and come again dough in the fridge’ option. So far, I have made a bunch of artisan loaves which are very easy to do, but I am working towards a slicing loaf too. It has to fit the family’s needs or else what is the point? I am confident that I will get there soon enough…

When you bake a loaf of bread or two and want to keep it for sandwiches and toast for the week, what do you store it in? In the past, we would just eat the whole loaf while it was still warm, but I need an option that is good for keeping the bread fresh. I want the center to stay soft while keeping the crust crisp as well. No stale bread allowed.

Apparently, linen bags seem to be my answer as the Europeans have known forever. Why don’t we listen? Linen is:

  • Breathable
  • Keeps the bread in the dark
  • Washable
  • Keeps bread from drying out
  • Linen naturally attracts moisture
  • Looks way cuter on my countertop than a plastic bag!
  • Reusable & safe for the environment

I ordered some heavy linen to make some bags from scratch, but the easiest thing that ANYONE can do is upcycle some linen tea towels or napkins. Just ask grandma…. I have tons of tea towels – you can never have too many! I chose a 50% linen check towel to make my bag (because it is what I have on hand right now) and made sure it was washed and ironed inside out. If you need help figuring out if something is actually linen, check out this post….

So many options!

<<This post may have affiliate links at no extra cost to you – thank you!>>

I pulled out the sewing machine and set up my thread to match (sorta…..the stitches won’t be seen). Fold the tea towel in half length wise and inside out,then a quick pin around the 2 edges being sewn and we are ready to roll. Zip zip. Done.

You can make it more complicated by adding a drawstring top for some twine, string or roping, but I just went ahead and made it the easiest way of all…..

Look how cute this is gonna be on my countertop! A simple twine ribbon. See you at  breakfast! Sitting pretty.

Living Frugally AND Environmentally

Saving money is pretty much on all of our minds these days. Life is expensive, kids aren’t cheap and retirement planning is nothing to be taken lightly.

When my kids were babies, I tried to use coupons on so many occasions, but they just aren’t for me. I had a coupon wallet and it was always forgotten or never had what I needed. The coupons that were available never coincided with my needs. Purchasing products that I don’t normally use just because they have a coupon just seems wasteful to me. I also hate deadlines. #procrastinator

I tried just not going anywhere in hopes that I would simply spend less. Sure, that works for awhile…but then you find yourself on Amazon dreaming of all the things you want to do while at home and the supplies you need to do them. Oh, and isn’t that wrap skirt adorable? #Imasucker

I tried making more money, but let’s face it, I am a mama and the amount of time needed to turn a profit in my home sewing business was taking away from my family, making me depressed and stressed and wasn’t producing enough money to make any difference. #dowhatmakesyouhappy

It wasn’t until I started making my own products and focusing on less waste that I realized that being eco-conscious was also frugal! Many people associate clean living with expense. But there is so much more to clean and simple living that is helpful to our planet AND to your wallet. I am not saying we should all strive to be on an episode of Extreme Cheapskates, but there are quite a few ways to live frugally, environmentally and with less waste and they are available to everyone…

  • Purchase a high quality reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic water bottles. Carry it everywhere with you. Once you get used to carrying it, it won’t seem like a big deal.  You save money by not buying single use plastic water bottles and you save the planet by not buying all that plastic that ends up in landfills or killing our ocean animals. This is my favorite water bottle.

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  • Go with a cloth napkin and washable plate and stop using paper napkins and paper plates. For everyday use, pick a color for each member of the family so they can determine when the napkin is in need of washing (it may not need washing after each meal). Super simple swap here!
  • Use a clothesline or drying rack. Dryers use a ton of energy and not everything needs to be tumbled. Set up an area in your home to hang towels, cloth napkins, socks, pants, etc during the winter (in front of the wood burning stove?) and then set up that clothesline when the sun comes out in late spring. I am excited to set up mine this year!

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  • Buy goods in bulk or refillable options whenever you can to save money and save the planet from all the plastic containers that smaller items use. Save jars from items you have already purchased and reuse!
  • Use microfiber cleaning cloths for your house cleaning instead of buying single use wipes or dusters that create more waste and many use unhealthy chemicals. (baking soda and vinegar is all you need to clean) I grew up using an old tshirt to dust…..why did we stop doing that? I am back at it now….and love to use microfiber cloths for dusting, scrubbing and floor cleaning!
  • Use a coffeemaker with a timer. Make the coffee set up part of your evening routine and soon you will realize just how much money you were wasting at coffee shops and how much waste you were contributing to our planet with all those single use cups with plastic lids and stirrers, etc….
  • Try the trendy beeswax wraps instead of using plastic wrap on your leftovers. Or try some glass containers with lids made from sustainable materials. You end up purchasing less wrap and help mother earth. I love these but I am going to try to make my own soon!!

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Some other small items that can save you money and save our planet:

<<This life-changing post contains affiliate links at no extra cost to you. Thank you so much for your support!>>

It’s eye opening what you will figure out when you decide to live a cleaner, simpler, less waste life. I am definitely buying less, saving more and making less waste. And that is what it’s all about, right? Do what you can.

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Pallet Recycle – Garden Crate

Pallets are a great source of weathered wood slats for rustic DIY projects. Thankfully, most pallets are free if you just ask (behind strip malls is a great place to check – but always ask, because some stores reuse their pallets). I will warn you, however, that taking them apart is not always easy, so do your research. I spent hours breaking my back to tear them apart so it’s time to get something in return for all my labor.

I have a habit of taking walks around my garden in the evenings to say hello to the plants and I inevitably pick some veggies. Cherry tomatoes and herb bundles drop from my arms all the way back to the house because I always forget to bring a basket out with me. So I figured it would be perfect if I had a container that could withstand the elements so I can leave it outside indefinitely.

A wooden crate is super easy and a laid back rustic style to fit perfectly in the garden. It can’t be difficult, right? I mean, I can figure out how to build it just by looking at one. I seriously thought it would take me 30 minutes to get one cranked out…..so I dropped off the boys at soccer practice and drove home to start cutting and building.

I had no plans – no measurements – no specifics. All I wanted was something capable of holding some squash, lettuce and tomatoes – not asking for much. So, I started by cutting my 4 corner posts. I picked those up at Home Depot for 87¢ each and cut them in half….there is my height for the crate.

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My plan was to build two sides and then attach the other two sides and then, the bottom and some handes. BOOM! Seems simple, right?

Sure. In theory.

The first problem I came across was that not all pallet wood is equal. Some of them are thicker and some of them are thinner. Some of them are soft and some of them are hard. I couldn’t even drill through one board it was such hard wood. I bent 5 nails trying to hammer through it. I was flabbergasted. I yelled at the board and at myself and then I had to go get the boys at soccer practice. I am not going to finish this tonight. Dangit.

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Continued later… I picked a different board and a different drill bit. FYI: my crate was made with a hammer and nails because I got impatient. But, I honestly suggest the screws and will be doing that for the next one. Moving on. This is how you make a crate:

TOOLS AND SUPPLIES:

  • measuring tape
  • power drill & drill bits & screws
  • 1-2 pallets for the wood slats
  • circular saw or miter saw
  • 4 “corner” pieces – I used 2 87¢ balusters that I cut in half so I got 4 corners

STEPS:

  • Decide the height, length and width of your crate. cut the short sides first (width) and the corners (height)
  • Attach the slats to the corner pieces by laying them out on the driveway or a solid table – I placed the top slat flush against the top of the corner piece and the bottom slat flush against the bottom of the corner piece then I lined up the third slat so that it was equally spaced between the top and bottom slats. Drill pilots holes and then screw them all in. Do again for other side. You should have two sides now.
  • Take those two sides and set them up so you can attach the long sides to them. Drill Pilot holes and screw together. Repeat on other side. I did my best to line up the slats on the corners, but because my pallets slats were varying sizes, it wasn’t perfect and just added to the charm of the rustic crate. #creativeexcuses

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  • You should now have 4 sides and no bottom! Congratulations! I hope you didn’t run into any weird hardwood slats like I did.

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  • Now it’s time to add the bottom – measure the length first and then cut the slats. This is where I came into more trouble…..because I didn’t really have much to screw into since my slats were pretty narrow. So, if you have narrow slats as well (if they are thick, you won’t have this issue) you may need to add a small piece of baluster running across the bottom between each short end of the crate. It’s basically just something for you to screw into. But, you will also need to screw that small piece in too.

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  • See what I mean about it not being as easy as I thought?
  • After the bottom was completed, I used a large drill bit and drilled 2 holes on the sides and wove the roping through and tied knots of the ends to create handles. Make sure they are both the same length.

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In the end, I have a functioning crate and it’s pretty damn adorable. Did I learn something? Absolutely: Never try to get projects done while your kids are at soccer practice. Now bring on the veggies!

Chicken Toddlers

It’s been a couple weeks since we brought home our baby chicks and I wanted to give you an update and share what I have learned so far as a new “suburban chicken lady”. I would definitely call the chicks ‘toddlers’ now since they are clumsy, knock stuff over, get into things they shouldn’t and poop everywhere…

Chickens grow fast. Holy cow….it does not seem possible that it’s only been a couple weeks since they came to our home (or actually, I giddily brought them home without talking to my family about it). Chicks are shipped to stores when they are only 1 day old because that is the only safe time to ship a chick because they have enough energy from the egg they just hatched from. After that, they may not survive the journey. So, it is safe to say that when my chicks arrived at the supply store that morning, they were probably just 1-2 days old. We will certainly celebrate that…..cuz, who wouldn’t want to see a chicken in a birthday hat?

Everyone stayed close to me when I took them on their first outdoor field trip…
Getting braver…

Chickens are fascinating to watch. OK, so it’s not a binge-worthy Netflix series, but it’s easy to spend an hour just watching them peck around and peep. I started to take them outside this week since they have some actual feathers now and the weather has gotten warmer. Man, they love to peck and scratch and flit about.

Moooooooommmmm, stop following us….

Chickens aren’t that messy. I’m not a neat freak….I have 3 kids and have succumbed to the chaos. Since I can’t really put the chickens outside permanently until nighttime temps are over 70°F, they are living in our home inside a large wired dog crate. (we have 2 instinctive cats) I am not bothered by the chickens poop and that is pretty much the messiest part about having chickens (because they let it rip anywhere….even on your shoulder). Of course, when they are moved outdoors, that same poop will be a great fertilizer for my yard and coop cleanup doesn’t scare me. A well maintained coop will be low to no-odor – especially when compared to our indoor kitty litter box….ugh (that’s my daughter’s chore).

It’s not every day a chick climbs into your hand and takes a nap…

Chickens have personalities. I specifically chose the Plymouth Barred Rock breed because of these few traits – they are good egg layers, do well in cold climates, are a heritage breed, fairly quiet and make good pets. But, let’s be honest….I didn’t just get these chicks for eggs. This may be my “the kids don’t really need me anymore” phase. I definitely want them as pets. We have already named them all and I can honestly say that I have a couple favorites that are also the bravest ladies in the flock. I talk to them all day long just like I do to my cats. #crazycatANDchickenlady

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My sweet boy with his favorite chick…..

It’s only been 2 weeks and I have been sucked into the vortex of suburban chicken ladyship. I’m proud to wear this badge! I live in a boxed up neighborhood and dream about owning 10 acres away from all society. (maybe when the kids go to college) Owning chickens does NOT have to be only for farmers.

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Learning how to plan the garden space, plant the seedlings and care for their individual needs.

With the need to feel more in touch with our food and where it comes from and also to create a simpler life, chickens are an easy way to take that step. Teaching and sharing with my children about the herbs and vegetables that we grow in our garden and the eggs that we will be collecting from our ladies will bring more awareness to the impact we have on this world. My hope is that it will create an understanding and desire in my kids to keep their footprint small as they grow to adults.

Today is Mother’s Day (well, when I wrote this) and the amount of love and support that my lady-friends all show to each other today with kind “Happy Mother’s Day” greetings is matched in their love and support in raising kind and thoughtful children. Raising these chickens is for me and for my kids because I take my lifelong “job” as Mama of Kind and Conscious Kids very seriously.

I hope all you Mamas had an amazing day!

Everything Herbs: 101

Herbs don’t always get the attention they deserve. We forget to sprinkle fresh rosemary on our baked potato, put cilantro in our guacamole and basil is only eaten on restaurant-made margherita pizzas. How sad is that? That tiny little sprinkle of fresh herbs can change an entire dish into something miraculous and yet…..we often overlook it.

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I admit that I often forget to add that final touch…(and then my herbs rot in the fridge crisper, sigh) But that is essentially the issue with purchasing cut herbs….you may not eat them all and it seems so wasteful that you just don’t bother with them anymore. But, what if you had your own herb plants to be able to cut and come back again whenever you need their freshness? No more waste and constantly fresh herbs to take your dishes from blah to wow!

Not everyone thinks they have a green thumb (I don’t believe in this at all, btw) so I want to simplify the way you think of herbs. You can grow them, harvest them and use them yourself whether you have a black thumb, no backyard or live with little space. I promise.

Let’s talk about space for your herb garden:

Whether you have an apartment window, a brick patio or a 10 acre farm, you can ALL have an herb garden. For the indoor gardener, herbs gardens are easy! (growing carrots, not so much) Pick your favorites, your containers and make sure you provide your pots with proper drainage. If your pot is something like a mason jar which has no drainage, make sure to add a thick layer of decorative rocks to the bottom of your pot to help keep the plant out of direct standing water. Whenever you have standing water like this, I like to add charcoal to the pot as well to help deter smells. For the patio or container gardener you have a little more space to grow your herbs but still need to provide enough drainage and make sure that if they are outside in a container, that they get the proper amount of watering. Containers will dry out faster than gardens. For the full size garden, just go buck wild……grow a whole row of lavender. If you are also growing vegetables, consider companion planting (we will talk about that next)… As with any plant, providing it with the proper amount of sunlight is important to the health of your herbs. Do your research on what each herb plant needs before picking your spot. Here are some gorgeous ideas for indoor and container gardening ideas:

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Let’s talk about what herbs grow well together:

Growing certain herbs together can promote a healthy and happy growing garden. Some plants will even help deter insects from their plant companions, provide them with rich soils and even enhance the flavor of their garden buddies. When figuring out what herbs make good companions, you must consider each individual plants requirements first. If one herb needs moist, fertile soil and another needs sandy soil, they clearly won’t make good companions. You also need to consider space as some plants tend to take over their space and spread wildly (mint family!) which would steal space and nutrients from other plants. Some plants just don’t get along too! Here are some great plants to group together:

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Let’s talk about how to harvest and use your herbs:

If you are growing your herbs in containers, they will most likely stay pretty small and will need regular pruning to encourage healthy growth. If you are growing in a garden, you have more play with how much you harvest, but it’s still a great idea to encourage growth with regular pruning. Each herb has a specific way to prune, so make sure you are aware of how to care for each type. Harvesting fresh herbs means you can use them for cooking, baking and for drying, freezing and oils as well. The typical way to dry a bunch of herbs is to hang them, but it can take 6 weeks. You can also speed up the process by using the microwave – just clean and pat dry your herbs and put them in the microwave on a paper towel and dry in 30 sec intervals. Herbs are also very easy to freeze – my favorite method is to chop and freeze them in ice cube trays of oil or water. Another method is to use them to infuse your cooking oils – just place the dry herbs in the oil and let it steep for 6 weeks then strain and enjoy.

I adore growing fresh herbs in my garden even though I haven’t utilized them as much as I should have in the past. This year will be different for me and I hope it will be for you too!

Happy Herb Gardening!