Up With the Chickens

Raising children and chickens on a little buffalo farm


It has been a while since I’ve done one of these 7 QUICK TAKES, but today is a snow day, so I’m taking advantage of the extra time…

1.  SNOW DAY!!! 

One of the great things about living in Arkansas is the way we handle (or don’t handle) snow.  Here in Northern Arkansas, we get just enough snow that everyone owns a sled and a decent pair of snow (or farm) boots.  But we don’t get enough snow to be really equipped for it.  In other words, at the first sign of a flake, we all rush to the grocery store to stock up on batteries, bottled water, and junk food.  And when it hits, whether its 1/2 an inch or a foot, school is closed, businesses shut down, church services are cancelled, and we all get an unplanned staycation.  When the snow started Wednesday during school, chaos ensued.  Parents showed up at the school in droves to extract their children lest they be stranded.  Those children (and teenagers) who remained could not be restrained from jumping up to look out the window every 30 seconds to check accumulation amounts.  The excitement was electric.  In the end, school was dismissed at 12:45, the roads remained clear, and we received little to no accumulation.  However, by the next morning it had sleeted just enough to give us the rest of the week off!  Here’s the way things look at our place…


We are expecting a litter of rabbits on Sunday.  This is particularly exciting because this doe, Penelope,  is a first-time mother, and this will be our first litter of Flemish Giants.  We are also a little nervous because this is our first time to breed a doe that has never kindled (had babies) before.  I’ve heard horror stories of first-time rabbit mothers eating their babies. What a ghastly surprise that would be down at the barn.


Okay, not really.  For my mother’s birthday this year, I bought us a class at a place called Painting with a Twist.  We attended a Paint Your Pet workshop.  I sent them photos of our dogs, and when we arrived, they had sketched each of them onto a canvas for us to paint.  It was a lot harder than I thought, and the instruction was minimal, but it was incredibly fun.  However, in retrospect, as much as I love our French Bulldog, Lily, I wish I had painted my rooster or a buffalo.  How cool would that have been!  Still, for someone who can’t even draw a straight line, I was pretty proud of my finished product.



I write for another blog called What Kids Are Reading that reviews popular YA books.  This blog is not about what we wish kids were reading.  Otherwise, I would be reviewing Anne of Green Gables and Oliver Twist. As a 9th grade English teacher, I wanted to at least be able to enter into a conversation with my students about their books choices.  But recently when I tried to read Beautiful Creature.  I just couldn’t do it.  Why isn’t the cool new teen genre Historical Fiction?


I am reading Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Father Michael Gaitley, and I cannot recommend it enough.  Fr. Gaitlely combines the Divine Mercy with Ignatian spirituality and the teachings of Saint. Therese of Lisieux.  The result is life altering.  (If these Quick Takes were in order of importance this would be #1.)


Maybe it’s time I accept the fact that I can’t combine all new healthy food obsessions with chocolate.  I have spent untold hours concocting coconut oil chocolate smoothies, coconut oil chocolate bars, coconut oil chocolate ice-cream topping… you get the idea.  Truth is, most of these experiments have been delicious.  Quinoa is proving to be much more difficult to disguise with chocolate.


And for the rest of the youth in our parish.  I’m hoping this will be a good way to enhance our religious education program.  My goal is to post prayers, Catholic trivia and teachings, reminders, and links.  I would appreciate any suggestions – especially good websites and blogs for Catholic teens.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.  God Bless!

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Souped Up Recipe…



I know it’s obnoxious and a bit pretentious, but every time I share a recipe that is not totally from scratch, I feel I have to preface it by saying something like, “I don’t usually use canned soup, but…”

I don’t know why I do this. Well, yes I do. Pride. I take inordinate pride in not using canned soups or box mixes. But I do use them. Not often – but sometimes. And when I do, I try to hide it. Or I apologize for it . Or I make an excuse for it. Or I offer too much explanation as to why I broke down and used the canned stuff just this once. Well, this time will be no exception. Here’s what happened:

We joined a CSA this summer. Perhaps you remember CSAs from my earlier post ten-baby-steps-to-natural-living . Anyway, one of our selections this week was kale. Hmmmm? What to do with kale? I tried kale chips a few months ago – back when they were all the rage. Blech! Contrary to numerous Facebooks posts, kale chips are NOT the new Pringle.   Anyway, I googled kale recipes, but  I didn’t have the right ingredients for any of the recipes I found, so in the end, I did what I often do – I made up my own.

My own kale soup recipe relies on a Campbell’s 100% natural, no MSG, no preservatives, two servings of vegetables in every can, tomato soup. (See how I did that – I can’t just say “canned soup” I have to clarify that I at least use healthy, 100% natural canned soup).  I happened to have this canned soup on hand, because I recently discovered The Littles like tomato soup.  Since I’ve never made tomato soup, I bought the canned stuff to tide them over until I learned to make it from scratch (eventually someday). I also keep emergency chicken noodle soup on hand even though I do make a really delicious chicken noodle soup.  This is in case I get sick and need chicken noodle soup but I’m too sick to make it.  Anyway, that’s beside the point, but I’m just pointing out that there is some justification for having canned soup in one’s pantry.  Anyway….

  • Sautee 2 cups kale and one chopped onion in bacon grease and/or olive oil.
  • Add about a cup of chick stock. Cook until the liquid in nearly gone.
  • Add 3 or so cloves of minced garlic
  • Puree this mixture with 2 cans Northern white beans (drained and rinsed)
  • Add the kale/bean mixture to four large cans of Campbell’s Select Harvest Tomato Basil Soup
  • Heat thoroughly
  • Enjoy with a gooey grilled cheese sandwich on crunchy bread!
Easy and Delicious and Very Healthy!  No apologies.

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Peanut Butter Power Balls…

I promise. I do make lots of things that do not involve peanut butter, coconut oil, or flaxseed. And I will post some of those recipes eventually. But this morning Chet and I are making our Peanut Butter Power Balls, and I wanted to share the recipe. These little babies are delicious and packed with nutrition and protein. Also, they are super quick and easy.

Obviously, the key ingredient is peanut butter. For years, my family has been engaged in what I consider The Great Peanut Butter Battle.  I want them to eat natural peanut butter. They act like I’m trying to spread poison on a slice of bread and disguise it with jelly. To be fair, their suspicions are not entirely unfounded- not the poison part but the disguising part. I have, over the years, tried to trick them into eating healthy foods. I’ve baked spinach into brownies, poured healthy cereal into a Frosted Flakes box, and tried to pass off Not Dogs at a cookout.  I’ve also saved empty Jiff jars and refilled them with natural PB on numerous occasions.  Still, they resist.  Finally, I discovered Skippy Natural, and ding ding ding we have a winner. It’s not organic, but Skippy is an Arkansas company, so I’m pretending it’s local produce.  It’s a small victory, but I’ll take it.

Anyway, this is one of those recipes that is unencumbered by exact measurements. You simply combine the ingredients below until your mixture can be formed into balls.

  • Start with about 2 cups of  PB.
  • Add 1-2 cups old fashion oats.
  • Go with 1/3- 1/2 cup ground flaxseed.
  •  Add one or two glugs of raw honey.
  • Plop in 2 or so Tbs of coconut oil.
  • And for an added touch of health and deliciousness throw in your desired amount of dark chocolate chips (a.k.a the new broccoli ).

Mix it all up adding more of whatever it needs to be the right consistecy. Roll into balls and refridgerate for a couple of hours. On busy mornings, my kids will grab three or four of these power balls on our way out and eat them on the way to school.  If the weather is warm, and you want to pack these in a lunch or in your on-the-go snack pack, you might leave out the coconut oil. And if you are watching your weight, don’t make these at all. They are too yummy to eat just one.



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Super Lazy Sunday Mornings and Guilty Pleasures…

We went to Mass last night which means we have a whole beautiful day stretching before us with no place to go, and I don’t plan to get off the farm.  Also, Hal and Jack are out of town, so I’m feeling particularly lazy and a little self-indulgent.  I’m not sure why it is that when Hal is gone, I relax my “rules”.  They are, after all, my rules.  Well, we both strive to eat healthy and live naturally, but I think I’m more of a stickler. (Don’t tell him I said that)

I have no real explanation for why we eat more junk, watch more T.V., and leave more dishes in the sink  when Daddy is away, but we do.  I also know he does the same thing when I’m gone.  In any case, on the way home from church last night I stopped to get some natural peanut butter so I can make a batch of my very healthy Peanut Butter Power Balls (recipe to come).  On a whim, I picked up a couple of packages of canned crescent rolls – well, not really a whim.  I agonized (briefly) because canned crescent rolls represent all that is wrong with America’s eating habits.  They are loaded with fat and preservatives and are void of nutrition.  However thanks to Pinterest, I now know they are also delicious when slathered with butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar then doused with a powdered sugar icing.  I mean YUMMO.  Include a side helping of bacon, and you have a breakfast fit for a Queen – a lazy, unhealthy queen.

As I said, I agonized over my decision last night and again this morning.  I almost made banana bread instead, but that takes time and creates a bigger mess, and I just wanted to sit with my coffee and enjoy having no place to go. In the end, my laziness won out, and the kiddos were thrilled.

I hesitated to write about this.  After all, I recently posted  ten-baby-steps-to-natural-living .  I didn’t really want to out myself.  But if you haven’t read my article on natural living, please do.  Perhaps it will redeem me a bit, but take note that I mention I choose my battles.  In the article, I’m referring to choosing my battles with the kids, but the truth is I have to battle myself too.  I like to think that as I’ve gotten older and become more aware, my tastes have changed.  I choose healthier foods not only because they are good for me, but because, unlike so much of the junk that is marketed as food today, healthy foods are real foods.  And it’s true.  As a rule, I do prefer real food to the plastic, boxed alternatives….most of the time.  Unfortunately, there are (and I’m not proud of this) junk foods and convenience foods that I have not outgrown – that I still crave.  In my estimation these foods are, on occasion, worth the fat and worthless calories.  Below is my list:

1. Velveeta cheese – Maybe it’s just a southern thing. I have a friend from Canada who married into this culture, and was initially horrified by our love of Rotel dip.   She, of course, has come around to our way of thinking.  It is delicious.  

2. Pop Tarts  – Again, I’m not proud, but I love them.  I’d take I couple of brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts and a cup of coffee over a fresh egg omelet any day (but I don’t).  And I’m a chicken farmer.

3.  Hog Dogs – Seriously, who doesn’t love a hot dog especially with…

4.  Nacho Cheese Doritos – Really, yummo.

5. Coke – In fact, I hardly even count Coke as a junk food.  Of course it is loaded with sugar and empty calories, but at least it’s all natural.  It’s Fiengold (ten-baby-steps-to-natural-living ) approved.

6. Captain Crunch, Frosted Flakes, and several other varieties of sugar coated cereal – My mother didn’t let us have these when we were little, and I still long for them.  I guess that’s an argument for all things in moderation.  Maybe.

7.  Frozen Pizza –  Any brand  – I think I can eat a whole one by myself although I’ve never tested this hypothesis.

Okay, I went there.  Of course I’m not suggesting that these are the only “treats” I ever indulge in, but they are the worst of the worst, the junkiest of the junky. Now I hope some of you will share your list of favorite guilty pleasures.  Seriously, please share. I need to know I’m not the only healthy eater with a dark side.


I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts…

Today I am featuring a guest blogger – my mother.  She has recently discovered the wonders of coconut oil and wrote an essay about it for her writing club.  While I realize she’s being a bit hyperbolic (how’s that for a fancy English teacher word!), I do think this stuff is amazing.  Since reading her essay, I’ve been using coconut oil as a face cream, body lotion, lip balm, and as an added ingredient in my morning smoothie (recipe to come).  I love having this all natural, all purpose moisturize. I can’t wait to see what else this miracle goo will do. Another step toward clean living!  Yes!
And now the wonders of coconut oil….
Last week I talked my friend, Sharon, into buying coconut oil.  I had received one of those know-it-all emails about how coconut oil lubricates the brain allowing better cognitive thinking.  It has even been known to slow down Alziemers.  It doesn’t really lubricate the brain, but I can’t remember the clinical description of what it actually does.
Yesterday Sharon called to ask how much coconut oil is recommended daily.  She was a bit concerned when she opened the jar and found some goo with the consistency of Crisco.  It looked neither appetizing or particularly lubricating.  It looked like you could caulk around a bath tub with it.
So I googled it.  Low and behold, we have stumbled on a miracle product.  We need to go back for more.  We should keep it in our kitchen, in the bathroom or utility room, and even in the car.
Sharon need not worry about her arteries getting clogged up with the stuff.  It will have her blood sailing though her arteries like the flood waters of Osage Creek.  But that is not all.  It is an anti-inflammatory, so toss that Ibupropen.  It is an antifungal.  Athletes foot or toe fungus will clear up in no time with a few applications.  It improves nutrient absorbtion.  Who couldn’t use a little more absorbtion?  And to top it off, it is antiviral.  The next time the tummy bug comes knocking, he will be turned away before your tummy can even growl if you have loaded it with coconut oil.
Those are the just some of the health benefits of coconut oil.  But there are many more.  At the risk of sounding like a snake oil salesman, let me extol the benefits of ingesting coconut oil and the miracle cures possible by just rubbing it on your person or anything else that might need curing.
Do you have head lice, thrush, gall bladder pain, hemorrhoids?   Or how about canker sores, flaky skin, even cellulite?  Got cold feet?  Slather on some coconut oil. Swimmer’s ear?  Add a little garlic and drop it in.  Coconut oil will calm that tick bite in a flash, and smother those little chiggers all while softening your skin.
And what about beauty aids?  You can pitch out all of your high dollar creams and serums.  Coconut oil reduces puffiness around the eyes, and moisturizes your face and neck.  Wrinkles be gone!  Have you ever gotten a good look at the women of the Phillipines? They feast on coconut daily and live in the sun, and nary a wrinkle.  And when you do get your lovely toned face all done up, coconut oil will remove eye make-up in a jiffy.  Combine it with baking soda and you can throw your deodorant away too.
Hikers?  Forget about those chemical repellants.  Mix a little coconut oil with peppermint extract and rub it on.  Those skeeters will quickly buzz away for a less fragrant target.  And how many of us have to bother with that annoying chewing gum in the hair?  Roll in the oil, leave it 30 minutes, the roll the gum between your fingertips, and Voila!  Its out!  And for all you trappers and hunters, it will season your animal hides.
If you apply coconut oil to your head in a circular, massaging motion, the natural aroma of coconuts will lower your stress level.  And the saturated fats in coconut oil have anti-bacterial properties that help with digestion problems, including irritable bowel.  It will stimulate your metabolism, improve thyroid function, and boost your energy and that my friends, will decrease fat and increase muscle.  This stuff is a miracle food.
There is an article in Health Impact News Daily about how coconut oil can change your life.  It called.  Holy Smokes!  I’m healthy!  This guy heard it would cure his mononucleosis quicker and it did.  Then he decided to apply it on his “trouble spots”.  It has cured his acne and the ringworm on his back, his oily skin, a cyst on his backside, and bleeding gums.  He is no longer losing hair, and his irritable bowel is under control. And it even got rid of his jock itch!  Need I say more?
I am amazed.  Coconut oil is the answer to so many mysteries and complexities of life.   I am ready to start buying it in 5 gallon increments.  So when the health food store has a run on coconut oil, I will be secure in that fact that I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconut oil.


Egg on My Face…

About an hour ago I had egg all over my face, literally. Why? Vanity. Here’s the story: I have a friend, Alexandra, who is as vain as I am, but at the same time as practical. She’s also very knowledgable about things like natural alternatives to bad stuff. Naturally she was the first person I called when my dermatologist recommended a high-power, high-dollar anti-aging cream. I knew she could help me weigh flawless skin against the considerable expense and exposure to harsh chemicals offered by this miracle cream. Her suggested alternative – egg yolks! One of the key ingredients in this prescription cream is Vitamin A – which is also found in egg yolks. In fact, egg yolks are loaded with it! And on top of that, I’m a chicken farmer! How perfect is that?
So, tonight I slathered on some egg yolk. After about ten minutes, I scrubbed it off with warm water – and my face feels Amazing!  I checked in out online, and egg yolks, when mixed with a little water, can also be used daily as a anti-aging face wash (rather than a mask) and egg whites can be used as a skin softening, puffiness reducing wash. Seriously, my skin feels like velvet. I can’t wait to wash my face again in the morning. Thanks, Alexandra!


Farm Fresh?

Another GoodEgg Tip

We’re getting so many eggs now that I wanted to be able to tell which ones are the freshest. What did we ever do before the days of google?  According to southernfood.about.com , This is how to tell:

  • Fill a deep bowl or pan with enough cold tap water to cover an egg.
  • Place the egg in the water.
  • If the egg lies on its side on the bottom, the air cell within is small and it’s very fresh.
  • If the egg stands up and bobs on the bottom, the air cell is larger and it isn’t quite as fresh.
  • If the egg floats on the surface, it it should be discarded.
  • A very fresh egg out of the shell will have an overall thick white which doesn’t spread much and the yolk will stand up.

Farm on!

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