Up With the Chickens

Raising children and chickens on a little buffalo farm

Bee Not Afraid…

      We have a new addition to the farm.  Bees!  I’ve actually had them a while, but I got sidelined writing about it because I could not land on just the right bee pun for my title. Here were some of the ones I came up with:

It’s Unbeelievable!

A Beeutiful New Addition…

Well, I’ll Bee…

Okay, you get the idea.  Bee Not Afraid is somewhat of an ironic title  – because I am.  So, for now, I’m leaving the bee feeding up to Big Hal.  A few years ago when I was nursing babies, I decided that all potentially harmful or life threatening tasks (like tasting the chicken salad to see if it’s still good or dealing with thousands of angry stinging bees) should default to Big Hal.  That might seem harsh, but did I mention that I was pregnant and/or nursing for over 10 years and two of the babies were 10 pounds?  So, I think I’ve earned a free pass. Anyway, He wears protective gear – not a real bee suit, but some sort of turkey hunting garb he has that includes a veil.  If the hive (and Hal) survive through the winter, we will invest in a bee keeper’s suit this spring.

Most of the real bee keeping is actually being taken care of by  a friend of ours who has years of experience.  We hope to learn a lot from him and be able to tend to them all by ourselves someday.  We also hope to have a honey by fall.  I’m already planning a honey themed harvesting party!

In the meantime, we are already seeing positive results from having bees on the farm.  A peach tree which has never yielded fruit, did this year. With the bee population on the decline, I hope that our bee keeping will contribute positively to the local environment, and I hope to see more people raising their own hives in the future.  My father says that when he was growing up, everyone had a hive or two.

As a bee keeping newbie, I don’t have any advice to offer, but I do want to share some links.   It might seem strange for a big scaredy cat like me to be encouraging others to raise bees, but keep in mind my fears are mostly irrational and stem from a wasp in my hair incident in 2nd grade.  Yes, my bees scare me, but I will overcome my fear, and learn to feed the bees myself – someday.   Perhaps some of you other farmers and farmer wannabees, might like to give bee keeping a try too!






Ten (Baby) Steps to Natural Living…

Like all wise mothers, I choose my battles.  That’s why when Cat was four, I let her wear fairy wings, a tutu and snow boots all summer. It was weird, but in the big scheme of things, it didn’t really matter.   With four kids I’ve had to weigh the importance of hundreds of conundrums over the years.  Should I let Jack wear his dinosaur t-shirt again today?  Should I let Mary Michael get her ears pierced at seven or make her wait until she’s ten, like I had to?  Does Chet really have to wear clothes?  (He was only two when we faced that battle of wills.) But even now that they are older, still everyday it’s something.

When it comes to living naturally, the battle is sometimes with my kids – what I think they should eat versus what they want.  Sometimes it’s with my budget – is organic milk really worth $8 a gallon?  Sometimes I struggle with convenience issues – do I have time to make my own laundry soap, baby wipes, or taco seasoning?  I admit it. I sometimes find that happy children, a balanced grocery budget, and a little extra time outweigh the healthier alternative.  Still, I do what I can.  Of course if I could live in a perfect world, we would eat only locally grown, organic food, nothing artificial would ever touch our skin, and our carbon footprint would be negligible.   As it is, I’m just looking for ways to live more naturally that won’t make my family or me crazy.  Here are a few that I have found:

1.  If you must have sugar (and I must) choose wisely.   Here are 10-healthy-sugars-you-can-enjoy-today

2. Replace at least one commercial beauty product with a homemade, natural alternative.  If you saw my earlier posts, you know that I’m using egg yolks for a facial mask and cleanser and coconut oil as a moisturizer.  Here is a great article on why you should make your own beauty products.  This site  also has loads of great recipes for making your own beauty products.

3.  Buy an eco friendly dish soap, or better yet, make your own.  The benefits of eco-friendly dish soap are two-fold.  Obviously soaps free of phosphates are better for the environment, but my sister-in-law pointed out to me that many soaps, especially the ones for dishwashers, are harmful if ingested.  While most of the soap is rinsed off in the rinse cycle, surely residual amounts remain on our plates and glasses.  A lifetime of continually ingesting trace amounts of these harmful chemicals can’t be good.   Check out this recipe for homemade dish detergent.

4.  Ditch the plastic water bottle.  From what I’ve read, the jury is still out on whether or not the plastic from water bottles leeches into the water, but why take chances?  Besides, why fill up landfills with any more plastic than we have to?  Instead, invest in a stainless steel water bottle like one of these Klean Kanteens,  or my personal favorite the Life Factory glass water with bottle with the silicon sleeve.

5.  Control pests the natural way.  I have used diatomaceous earth on my chickens to prevent mites, and Big Hal has used it for the buffalo. I’m not sure what’s in it, but it’s all natural and safe for people and animals. Check

6.  Go Feingold.   A few years ago my girls had eczema that kept them up nights and made our days miserable.  I tried a program called the Feingold diet.  When you purchase a membership, you receive your choice of  a paper or PDF list of foods sold in your area grocery stores and menu items for area restaurants that are free from artificial additives, preservatives, and dyes.  It’s not a cake walk adhering to the Feingold Program – it takes discipline.  But you might be surprised how many brands you are already using that are artificial additive free and how many aren’t – apparently the label does not tell the whole story.  The easiest part about this program is that following it does not require you to shop at a natural foods store. It might not be for everyone, but if someone in your family has special needs, the Feingold Program claims to relieve symptoms of a multitude of problems including ADHD, depression, headaches, seizures, and asthma.  Check it out at www.feingold.org

7.  Reap the fruits of other people’s labor.  I love my chickens, and raising my own eggs gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction.  Thanks to Big Hal, we’ve got buffalo meat too.  So we’ve got protein covered.  But, unlike Jill, I am a hopeless gardener.  I haven’t thrown in the trowel yet, but in the meantime I have to rely on the skills of others.  When the children were little, I made weekly trips to the Farmer’s Market, but now soccer, sleep overs, and laundry keep me tied up most Saturday mornings.  Fortunately in our area we have Community Sustained Agriculture (CSA).  Last year was our first year to subscribe, and it was thrillng to have fresh, locally grown vegetables delivered each week.  Here’s a link to find a CSA near you.

8.  Use some scents.  For years, I’ve been on a quest to find my signature scent.  I’ve tried perfume after perfume.  Recently I found one I really like and was tickled to find it also came in a roller ball.  I kept it in my desk at school so I could re-apply throughout the day – then one day I dropped it on my floor.  It literally ate the wax off the linoleum.  Yikes!  I don’t think I want that seeping into my skin day after day.  I’ve ordered some roller balls online, and I’m going to try to make my own perfume using lavender oil and vanilla.  Or maybe I should try out some of these cool perfume recipes. Just be sure to read up on essential oils, not all of them are suitable for direct application or for pregnant women.

9.  Use (or make) a natural sunscreen.  I thought I was doing the right thing dutifully applying sunscreen to my children every hour on the hour – then I read some scary stuff about sunscreen. (Google it for yourself.)  Who knows? There’s a lot of conflicting information out there.  But again, better safe than sorry.  Here’s a list of affordable, natural sunscreens.

10.  Stock up.  Start small.  I try to use baking soda and vinegar to clean my kitchen naturally, but this summer when I have some free time, I plan to get serious about natural cleaning. However, I know myself, and I tend to jump into things with both feet and then get in over my head.  Instead I will try only one new homemade cleaning product at a time.  Once I’ve got the recipe down, and I’m using it regularly, I’ll add another natural cleaner to my arsenal.  There are a lot of websites with easy recipes for homemade natural cleaning products.  Here is a list of thing to have on hand to get started.


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!