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Archive for February, 2010

“Though food is basic, it has become just another service. Shopping at a supermarket, the buyer is dependent upon the limitations of modern agriculture. Supermarket produce is often mediocre – bland and travel worn. The airplane, the truck, and the train have made it possible to soothe cosmopolitan palates with almost any food, regardless of the season.”

-Robert Kourick

Today we thought we’d kick-off the Real Food Challenge by sharing some photos of our refrigerators. A bit scary – YES!

Here at Chiot’s Run my fridge is full of raw milk, homemade canned items and made-from scratch items. You’ll rarely find something with any printing on it, unless it’s a bottle I’ve saved and am reusing. As I start the Real Food Challenge I’ll be trying to eat more seasonal items, so I think during the month of March it will be full of butternut squash ravioli, pumpkin soup, fresh local mushrooms and winter greens, eggs from the farm and hopefully some other interesting things I can find at the market.

If you click on the photo above it will take you to my Flickr page, I have notes on the photo so when you mouse over it you can see what all the items are.

I thought about the quote above when I was cleaning out my fridge a while ago. I noticed that just about everything inside was sourced locally. Even my milk comes from only a few miles away, fresh from the cow the day after it’s milked. The last couple years our diets have gone from: a healthy diet, full of lots of supermarket veggies and fruits to a diet full of organic veggies and fruits mostly local sources. We’ve learning to love seasonal eating, not relying on broccoli for our vegetable of the week.

It’s been a wonderful adventure and I can’t imagine not eating this way. It is a bit of challenge in the beginning and can seem a bit overwhelming, but it gets easier as you find local sources for more things. I actually feel like I spend less time shopping and acquiring my food now that I do it locally and grow some of of my own.

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Susy’s refrigerator amazes me. Down here at Unearthing This Life I was petrified at the aspect of showing off my cold storage. After a good cleaning and a lot of expiration dates I decided that I had things in shape for a few photos. While my view isn’t as impressive, I’m still proud to show off the steps we’re taking toward Real Foods. Anyone can do it by taking little steps.
The Fridge (no, not Perry)
Right now the box is a little more empty than usual. I’ll be doing some shopping on Monday to stock up on local milks and cream for cheeses and butter as well as some fresh local foods if I can locate some. That top right shelf will be off limits during this upcoming month.
Preserves
If worse comes to worst I know I can rely on my sourdough starter, homemade jams, some local milk and eggs. The freezers chock full of last year’s bounty and I’m a leisurely drive away from my favorite butcher and processor.

dairy and bread collage

buttermilk and starters

 Kim here and frankly after seeing the two frigs above I almost turned and ran…you see I didn’t clean my frig for this.  I also have 5 kids so my frig is ALWAYS a wreck.

So I made a little collage to give you a small sampling of what is in there…I left the messy parts off!

 Things that we won’t be giving up. Oranges…my husband has 4+ a day.  My organic not from concentrate lemon juice that I use in my 5+ daily cups of tea…sorry can’t do it!

What’s inside your fridge?

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My daughter is obsessed with the Little House on the Prairie books and dvd’s.  So naturally for Christmas she got the cookbook (and the craft book) to go along with her Little House books.  She wanted to make hasty pudding just like Laura’s grandma did in Little House in the Big Woods.  This is basically cornmeal added to boiling water gradually and cooked forever…

Here is a modification of the recipe I found in the Little House cookbook and ones I found on the internet…the cooking time has been cut way back from the hour it took Laura’s grandma!

Basically all you need is cornmeal, liquid (water and/or milk) and a little salt.

I use a ratio of 4 to 1 liquid to cornmeal

Bring 2 cups water and 1 cup milk and salt to taste to a boil in a saucepan

Just before it boils whisk 1 cup cold milk into 1 cup of rough ground cornmeal.

When the liquid in the saucepan boils pour the cold milk/cornmeal into the boiling liquid (this prevents those irritating lumps you get sometimes if you add the cornmeal dry to boiling water)

Bring back to a boil and then reduce to simmer.  Cook gently stirring until it is nicely thickened (10 minutes or so)

We eat ours with maple syrup and berries…or molasses and milk.  You can also serve it savory with something like cheese and green onions.

With any leftover you can put it into a small loaf pan to mold it, refrigerate and then later slice and fry the polenta.

Try it with a little cinnamon and sugar…oh my!

This is a super easy and very inexpensive breakfast idea…or any time you want something filling, warm, and simple!

So do you do mush?

 

Kim can also be found at the inadvertent farmer where she raises organic fruits, veggies, critters, kids and…a camel.

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Making changes for a month will not be easy, I am not going to kid myself…

But making changes for life is my ultimate goal

Yes when I have pondered the last few weeks about the challenge I have been caught up in the nitty-gritty of food.  What to replace what with, how to find a source for that, can I live without this…do I want to.

Today I am talking about not the nuts and bolts but my goals with this challenge.

My Goal is to make meaningful and lifelong changes in my and my families eating habits.

I personally am not very interested in eating real for just a month

I want to eat real, healthy, unprocessed foods for the rest of my life.  I want my kids to know what real food is and seek it out all of their lives.  I want real food to be the real norm here on the farm, for this month and for all time.

I am so excited that I will be starting this journey not alone floundering in the dark but with like-minded people who can share my triumphs and commiserate with my failures.

Those more knowledgable than I that are willing to share their expertise and their experience.

Those less knowledgable than I that give me a reason to share and explore the process.

I guess what I’m really about my wanting to say is…

THANK YOU!

Thank you for joining me on this little adventure that we have titled  the REAL FOOD challenge!

Can’t wait to see you all Monday when we start what could be a life changing challenge!  Let’s Get REAL!

 

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Because I’m stubborn and maybe a little bit of a control freak.

That is why I’ve chosen to take the steps toward a more sustainable lifestyle. Well that and I have a huge appreciation for farmers, nature, and people who think about their actions and how they affect those around them. Perhaps there’s a bit of repentance in there too, for all the stuff I’ve accumulated over the years, or purchased without care that it would be garbage soon enough; for all the 99 cent junk and sale items I picked up just because it was cheap. Real food is so very appealing because of all of my family and friends that have suffered illnesses brought about because of others’ irresponsibility and carelessness. I’ve lost trust in many of our food and care suppliers, because they are Big Businesses looking at the bottom line…but that’s another post.

More than anything I want to prove to myself that I’m capable of getting that much closer to a responsible and more sustainable lifestyle. Will it ever be perfect? Probably not, but that’s the challenge: inching as close as possible without sacrificing too much happiness for our household.

So, you ask, what will we be sacrificing for said happiness?

Dec 16 project

sourdough english muffins

Grains:

  • Packaged bread products – I’ve been baking our own.
  • Premade pasta – I’ll keep a backup supply just in case my experiments don’t turn out well.
  • Boxed cereals – I’ll substitute homemade pancakes and English muffins (both freeze well), eggs, toast, and whole grains.
  • Premade tortillas and wraps – I still need to find a good replacement recipe.
mung sprouts

mung bean sprouts

harvest collage

 Fruits and Vegetables:

  • Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and other out-of-season produce not grown locally in greenhouses.
  • Store bought canned items – we’ll rely on last year’s crops that I froze and canned with the exception of tomato paste.
  • Bananas, avocados, kiwi, and other imported items – unless it comes down to scurvy, we’ll be avoiding imported produce.
  • Juice boxes – I will keep one pitcher of juice on hand for the Kid, otherwise we’ll do without.

 
Milk:

  • Cheeses not made within the state of TN – we’ll make our own mozzarella and spreading cheeses.
  • Butter, buttermilk, and yogurt – I’ve been making our own with local milk for some time.

 Meat:

  • All meat products will be sourced from a local butcher/processor.
  • Eggs will come from local sources.
  • Imported nuts – we’ll stick to bulk nuts grown in the Southeast or skip them all together. (Peanut butter will be a challenge)
  • Imported seafood – seafood only caught in USA, avoiding farmed when possible.

 Oils:

  • Canola, peanut, imported olive oil, corn, fancy nut oils – we’ll be sticking with butter, coconut, and California olive oil.

 
IMG_4235

Seasonings, Spices, Sweeteners, Condiments, Leavening products, and Beverages:

  • Vanilla extract, garlic and onion powders, and anything not in whole form – I’ll do as much seasoning with herbs that I dried last year or prepare seasonings from whole product. Chocolate may be the exception here.
  • White sugar, brown sugar, Splenda – molasses, sorghum, demerara sugar, honey (local only)
  • Anything in a plastic bottle – This one will be tough and may have to be withdrawn for Kid and Hubby. I’ll attempt to refine my mayonnaise, make our own salad dressings and mustard.
  • Instant yeast – only if I can master true sourdough bread. I’ll keep baking soda and powder because my baking skills are not the best.
  • Tea – I can brew my own from my mint, lemongrass and ginger (purchased).
  • Coffee – Fair trade if in the budget, non-negotiable; I will have coffee.
  • Wine – Locally made (ran out of homemade last month)

 We don’t keep Kool-aid or sodas, so no sacrifice there. We don’t often buy chips, however we do keep crackers (I will sample several recipes). I can pick up local popcorn as snack item. Desserts will be homemade and restricted to the same measures listed above.

 Okay, don’t panic! I know this list sounds like a lot to give up. There may be things I fall back on. My family may boycott and take emergency hamburger runs into town on occasion. While I have more time than a working parent, if made in larger portions most of the food we’ll rely on will store well. It may take part of my weekend to prepare foods in advance, but it will become a family affair. The Kid will happily assist me with cooking and baking as long as she gets dirty and has the first taste. And is there anything much better that can I teach her than how to feed herself and those she loves and all while being more responsible to Nature?

proof is in the cupcake

Well, what will we get out of it? A sense of pride and accomplishment, knowing that we did it ourselves while snubbing a few Big Businesses along the way. Perhaps we’ll also reduce our footprint a little (and our waistbands). More than anything, I hope that we’ll have a greater appreciation for the food we eat, learn some and teach some, and gain a greater respect for those that keep it Real.

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I’ve always been a cook from scratch kind of girl. I grew up in South America where convenience food was not available. We were excited to get a box of cornflakes several times a year as a “treat”. My mom made just about everything from scratch, so I learned to cook this way. Cakes and brownies never came from a box, cookies never came from a bag, doughnuts were made the night before and raised overnight (and were so delicious), and pizza came from our own oven. I loved oatmeal made from oats in a big tin, never the instant single serve packs, they are too sweet and taste kind of raw to me when I had them. All of our birthday cakes were homemade and decorated lovingly by my mom (and they were AWESOME!).

My mom was also an adventurous cook, she kind of had to be. The grocery store was filled with tropical produce like yucca, plantains, mangoes and guanabanas. She was also fearless, not batting a eye when we had to make paella for a group of 20 coming for a meeting. When someone would bring us a freshly caught 20 lb catfish, my mom would cut it up, send some to the neighbors and cook up the rest. As a result of this, I never was a convenience/processed food kind of a person. This isn’t to say we never bought chips and candy, we ate our share of Pringles and drank a serious amount of Coke. We had a huge garden whenever we were living in the United States growing tons of veggie and spending all summer canning & freezing for winter eating. My dad’s always been a big hunter, so our freezer was always full of venison and other wild game. Part of the reason my parents did is because they couldn’t afford to buy processed food. It was much cheaper to grow your own and make things from scratch.

Mr Chiots on the other hand grew up with in a household where nothing was made from scratch. He ate toaster pastries for breakfast, mac n cheese for lunch, and pizza from the delivery guy for dinner and a vegetable rarely crossed his plate. He had a bit of a hard time switching to the made from scratch healthy lifestyle when we got married. We had an adjustment period, merging our two tastes. For a few years we ate a mix of processed food and from scratch (and from scratch made from processed ingredients). Every year we would delete a few more processed foods from his palate. Now he proudly says he can’t handle the taste of processed foods because they taste “chemically”, we were even able to nix the Heinz ketchup from our pantry (except a bottle of organic kept for visitors), which was the last stronghold for him.

In the past few years we’ve been focusing on taking our diet to the next level. We switched to a mostly organic, mostly produced at home or locally food chain. We have successfully deleted just about everything made in a factory from our diets. We try to buy things in their least processed forms and use those to cook at home. We now buy wheat berries, grind them and use sourdough starter for our bread. We make ketchup and various chutneys, sauces and vinaigrettes at home. Our butter is made weekly from raw milk cream we get at a local farm. I no longer go the grocery store, I go to the farm each week for milk, eggs, chicken, I hit the farmer’s market several times a month, the garden out back produces veggies in the spring/summer/fall, the pantry is chocked full of tomatoes, fruit and pickles for the winter, I use the co-op for bulk grains, sugar and other staples, and occasionally the internet, the local health food store or a Whole Foods for items like fresh ginger and coffee which I can’t purchase locally or grow myself. We even tap our maple trees and keep bees.

You may wonder what exactly I’m going to do for the Real Food Challenge since we already eat a mostly unprocessed diet (I know what you’re thinking, these people make their own maple syrup & keep bees, what more could they do?). I’ve been trying to transition to a more seasonal diet for the past couple years, and haven’t been doing super well so I figured this would be a great chance to really work on it. The main reason I want to try to eat more seasonally is to reduce the amount of processing on our food even more. I’m sure fresh winter greens are much healthy than the home canned green beans from my pantry. Not only will our diets be healthier if we can eat more seasonally, but I’ll save tons of time and energy in the summer by not doing a lot of canning.

Instead of my winter diet being basically the same as our summer diet, I’d really love to get to a point where our diet is different each season. Because we’re still in winter here in Northeastern Ohio, it looks like we’ll be eating more bitter winter greens (which we’re not super fond of yet) and those veggies that store well without processing, like squash (which we’re also not super fond of). I think the big challenge for us during the month of March will be trying to find ways to prepare foods we don’t particularly like. The good thing is that it includes onions, potatoes, mushrooms and other things we really love!

I’ll be blogging about our challenges at learning to love new foods (they say you have to eat something 10 times before you can rule it out as a dislike). I’ll also be posting about taking it to the next level. For those of you that eat a fairly homemade lifestyle already, I’ll be talking about switching to the least processed options of foods you already eat. Perhaps switching out your morning oatmeal or granola with some soaked oat groats or barley. I’ll talk about using wild yeast (sourdough) instead of quick yeast in breads and pancakes. I’ll talk about finding places to buy the least processed options of staples like wheat berries, nuts, seeds and spices. I’ll also talk about learning cooking from scratch without spending all your time in the kitchen!

How seasonal is your diet?

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We have been discussing this Real Food Challenge here at the Roost. The main thing I keep hearing from my gang is “Why?” “We already do most of this.” “We already know this stuff.” etc.

My first reaction was “I’m the DAD and I say we are doing this, so just deal with it!” Not very effective, I know. Next I tried the “save the world, be a good example” guilt approach. Didn’t work either. They are willing to do lots of good work to make the world a better place, but giving up Cheetos doesn’t seem to fit. So then I had to really ask myself “Why?” What’s the point of making this the focus for a month. Do I really think it will change the world? Or even change our lives? Probably not. At least not in any grand way. So, why bother?

I’m reading a book right now by Jack Kornfield. It’s called After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. That pretty much sums up why I’m doing this challenge and why I’m dragging my family, somewhat unwillingly, into it too. The Laundry, the mundane daily grind of life that makes a mockery of Ecstasy, Ideals, Philosophy. It is a hard thing to sustain change in your life when you are surrounded by forces prodding you to move/live in another way. After a week of scrambling around trying to find Real Food in a market where it doesn’t exist, and making meals that your family eats grudgingly, the shine goes off the project and you start to slide (maybe you don’t, but some of us do…) So, we are participating mostly to get and give support. To share the frustration, the successes, the challenge with others. I hope to learn some new things along the way, and share some of the things we have figured out for ourselves. That will make it really fun. But mostly, it’s laundry, and knowing others are doing laundry too will help.

I don’t have a shopping list like Kim’s.

We will struggle with fresh produce. We will be pushing our spring production schedule forward as fast as we can, but it won’t be enough. Getting to focus on food will help spur some of these projects along.

We will learn to use more whole grains, and try making our own flour.

We will be giving up all the crackers and chips unless we make them ourselves. We have experimented with this a couple of times and haven’t had much success. Most of the things we have made in this category have been very time consuming and somewhat unsatisfactory. Looking forward to hearing how others deal with this.

We have made pasta before. We like it and will be making as much of our own as possible. It takes a lot of eggs, so we will have to see how productive our chickens are this next month. I’m not sure we will improve our lot or impact the system if we buy eggs to make our pasta. I’d rather close down the big egg producers. I do know some local people who sell eggs, so I should be able to get them if needed.

We will be making lots of cheese. Right now we have both cows milk and goats milk in good quantities so we should be able to do some new things. We make some of our own cheese, and all of our yogurt and other dairy products. There are some hard cheeses that we haven’t had much luck with, but we use them in very small quantities, and will probably do without. We have a couple of small cheese houses in the area. They are large enough to be commercial but small enough to still be local independent producers. We’ll use them for any cheese we can’t make our selves.

Tea, coffee, wine, beer, are all on the list of things to grapple with. I don’t know what answers we will find.

We are also going to try to create a local network of Real Food people. I think that is key if we want to change the system. Sharing, supporting, creating alternatives at a local level are things that will keep this going beyond a month of Ecstasy.

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This is the week where the rubber meets the road in my challenge preparations.  My grocery list for this week is in some ways the same as every week…some ways are profoundly different.

Still on the list…

Fresh Organic Fruits and Veggies (locally grown as much as possible)

Bulk nuts and grains

Spices

Sugar

Yeast

Vegetable oil

Dried beans

Organic Eggs (my chickens haven’t started laying yet this year)

Honey (we lost our last hive in the fall)

*****

Missing from the list…

Tortilla chips

Tortillas

Frozen Juice

Rice Milk

Dried Pasta

Bagels

Veggie meats (Garden Burgers, hot dogs, and bologna)

Ketchup, Mayo, Mustard

Cereal

Main meals will not be too much of a stretch for me but the convenience of things like granola bars and cereal will be more challenging.  Trail mix will replace chips, homemade granola and grains cooked overnight will replace boxed cereals.  Homemade nut milk will replace purchased Rice Milk.

I am searching for ways of buying from local farmers instead of the supermarket…although March is not a high time for farmer’s markets.  We do have a grocery store that carries local produce, I will be asking my produce manager to point to in that direction.

I have also started greens in my sunroom with the hopes of maybe harvesting at least a small amount of fresh baby greens next month.

I am excited, the kids don’t care one way or the other, hubby is skeptical…we will see if a modern family can really eat ‘real foods’ for a month!

There are two things that I have me worried…pasta and ketchup.

Can I make my own pasta and live without Heinz Ketchup?

We will see…

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Sunday Photos…Childhood Photos

Once upon a time, we were all little munchkins. Today we thought we’d share photos of us as kids to prove we were cute at one time.

I (Susy from Chiot’s Run) grew up in Colombia, South America, so I had quite a few fun and exotic pets, birds, snakes, monkeys, etc. This was a coati that my sister and I were looking at, it wasn’t our pet, but it was fascinating.

This was one of my favorite dresses as a girl. I’m wearing it just about every photo of me during this age. I remember always looking through my closet to find this dress. I’m a pretty ornery looking little girl.

I loved these little footed sleepers as a kid, so comfy cozy! I probably still look like this when I get up in the morning.

Growing up with a sibling you don’t end up with a ton of photos of just you, that older sibling is always in there. I had an older sister and we had tons of fun together. My mom always made matching clothes for us. I have a younger brother as well, but somehow he must have been a little camera shy, he’s not in too many photos. My dad loved taking photos of us, so we have a lot of great ones of our childhood.

Kim, the inadvertent farmer here

OK…confession here.  These are all pictures of pictures, my scanner is on the blink!  And there is no way any of mine are gonna be as cute as the one of Susy in those sleeper pajamas!

Here I am at two…not exactly sure what my mom was thinking with that haircut!

I went to a tiny Christian school and this was my 8th grade graduation…I was with my dad.  I don’t have any pictures of my classmates.  There were none…nope I was it!

Oh…and I made the dress.

Me and my dog Benji…he was a a Bouvier Des Flanderes…my mom was into big dogs.  We had a Great Pyrenees next!

This is what is private boarding school will do to you…dork!

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Lebanese Lentil with Greens Soup

This is what we had for dinner last night with fresh bread…it was delicious.

In fact I also had it for breakfast too!

Ingredients

1 Large Onion Chopped

4 Cloves Garlic minced

1 Tbsp Salt

1 Cup Lentils (I used a combo or red and brown)

6 Cups Water

1 Bunch Greens (I used Swiss Chard) stemmed and thinly sliced

1 Tbsp Cumin

1 tsp Cinnamon (yes, really!)

1/3 Cup Lemon Juice

Olive Oil

Saute Onion and Garlic in Olive Oil in the bottom of a large saucepan until slightly soft.  Add lentils and cook for 1 minute.  Add Water and salt.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a gentle simmer.  Cook until the lentils are tender (15 minutes or so)

While the lentils are simmering.  In a large skillet saute the greens in olive oil until they are wilted.

When the lentils are tender add the greens, the cumin and cinnamon.  Simmer 10 minutes.

Add lemon juice before serving.

This was a great quick soup for a chilly February night.  The flavor was so fresh and unusual with the cinnamon.  My kids loved it.  My hubby liked the flavor but hates greens so he picked his out, lol!

Great change of pace…will definately add this to my ‘go to’ list of soups!

Recipe modified from a recipe found on All Recipes

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Chickens in the Burbs

We have a guest writer today.  Nathan and his family keep chickens in their backyard in the suburbs of Portland OR.  They have been at it for about 9 months now, and were willing to share some of what they have learned.  You can see more of their adventures with chickens, urban gardening, raising bilingual children, and xerascaping on their blog Five Chickens.

When you think about backyard chickens it is easy to imagine horrors. A pervasive stench, angry neighbors, rats, and the mess of a bird killed by raccoons come to mind. We have been chicken owners for 6 months now and have managed to avoid or at least minimize these problems. For the most part chicken ownership has been a fun adventure. We love watching our curious birds turn kitchen scraps into eggs and garden compost. The keys for us are, 1) prepare, 2) set up a system, and 3) enjoy.

1) Prepare

Ahead of getting our birds our aim was to over prepare. We didn’t even come close but we were super glad for every bit of preparation we did do.
Here is what worked for us:

Talking to friends and acquaintances. We discovered that there are chicken owners and former owners everywhere. As we have traveled this journey we have sought advice from friends many, many, times.

Reading all the chicken books in the local library. There are a lot of books out there. We got a nice foundation from them. Building the coop and tractor (more on tractors later) before the chickens arrived. Technically our tractor wasn’t done until the day after they arrived and the whole coop/tractor system evolved over the next two months, but having a place for them to go upon arrival was essential.

Getting chicks that were already a month old. I don’t think this was essential but it was nice to avoid the whole tiny baby phase. By the time we got them they were big enough to be outside in the June air. We didn’t have to mess with heat lamps or keeping them in the house.

If we were to do it again there are some things we would do differently. Here is where our preparation didn’t work:

·
We did not locate a feed store before we got our birds. We didn’t anticipate how difficult
this would be in our area. The feed stores all seem to be way out in the country. Imagine that. We didn’t have food for our chicks before they came home and with no feed store close it ended up being FIVE days before we got proper food for them. They ate dry instant oatmeal in the interim (I am not sure whether this is a recommended practice for one month old chicks but it got us through).

·
Get a chick waterer. We put their first water in a pie tin on the floor of the coop. They immediately soiled it and tipped it over.

·
Our original coop design had the chicken door at floor level with no threshold. There was
no way to keep the wood chips we used for bedding in. The chickens tracked them out as fast as I could put them in.

2) Set up a system

We have worked hard to set things up so we can get the most out of our chickens with a reasonable amount of work. Our system now requires 15 to 20 minutes of daily attention and a little more on weekends. Not bad by my way of thinking. The main thing we wanted from our chickens is eggs which they are producing nicely. Also important to us was healthy, clean chickens and a way to use their poop in enhance our garden soil. Here are the highlights of our system:

We use a combination coop and tractor. The tractor is a light wood frame covered top and sides with chicken wire and an open bottom. The tractor can be moved anywhere in the yard that we want the chickens to scratch.

In our system the coop is for sleeping and laying and the tractor is for eating and exercise. We keep the tractor up against the coop with doors matched up so the chickens have free access to both most of the time.

On sunny afternoons if we are home we move the tractor over a patch of weeds. The chickens get greens and we get weeding done. We use deep litter in the coop. So far this has worked to keep the smell minimal and makes clean up a snap. We brush off the roosts and either fluff up the litter or add a little new each day. The poop and litter slowly build up over time. We reworked our original coop so that it can accommodate up to 10 inches of deep litter. If things continue as they are we will need to dig the whole thing out about four times a year. The plan is to compost it when it comes out.

 Semi-permanently we keep the tractor over a garden bed with the coop just off the bed. The plan is to rotate to a new bed about every three months. We hope the chicken poop will help us grow nice big vegetables down the road. We have just made one move so far as of October and haven’t tried to plant anything yet. We will this spring. We keep a container in the kitchen to capture all the food scraps that otherwise would have been thrown out. The chickens eat everything; vegetable peels, scrapings off of the dinner plates, leftovers that aren’t being eating by us. We find that we need to rinse our container off each time we empty it. It has
not worked to wash it with the dishes because it is usually full at that time. We supplement the kitchen scraps with pellets form the feed store. I put out food/water and do the cleaning in the evening when I get home from work (10 minutes or so).

 I would gather eggs at this time too except my kids have usually already done it. Then once the birds are bedded down I come back out and put out the food/water for the morning (another 5 minutes). We use a light on a Christmas timer to keep the chickens laying. I guess chickens stop laying when the days get short in the winter. A light keeps them laying. The timer we use automatically senses when it is dusk and turns on the lights. It says on for a set number of hours. We have gradually increased the hours through the fall. We have tried to keep a total of 15 hours of light for them. We have added all our time in the evening and not bothered with light in the early morning. We use spring loaded rat traps. Yes, we have attracted rats. We have killed three so far. It seems this will be an ongoing part of raising chickens. Once I catch one it goes in the trash, trap and all. We hope that regular trapping will keep the number low and keep them out of the house.

3) Enjoy

We got into chickens for the eggs. We have stayed with them because they are very enjoyable. Here are some highlights:

Fresh eggs every day.

Satisfaction knowing that what was trash is now being turned into eggs and garden compost.

Great fun for kids. Chickens love bugs and kids love finding them.

Weeding done with no effort.

Hours of fun watching them scratch and chase and generally act like chickens.

With a little preparation and a thoughtful system you too can enjoy backyard chickens.

The book I would recommend is, Chicken Tractor: The Permaculture Guide to Happy Hens and Healthy Soil, by Andy W Lee & Patricia L Foreman

We’d love to hear about your chicken raising adventures too.  Especially if you live in the city.

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