Chicken Coop Update: We Have Walls!

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Ed has been working so hard on this chicken coop!  Check out my first post here about this amazing news!  We are still gathering and soaking in as much information as possible.  Over the last few Saturdays, Ed dug trenches (with a little help from those hard-working guys outside of Home Depot), installed framing, cement blocks, part of the wood siding, the base of the coop interior, frame and installed 2 of our vintage windows, and installed 1 vintage screen door.

Here are some chicken related questions with been wondering about, as well as some things we are learning (PLEASE SHARE YOUR CHICKEN KNOWLEDGE BELOW!):

Do we want to throw a Thanksgiving turkey in the coop and will he get along with the chickens? Not sure if we would be taking on too much with that one.

Where to buy our chickens? I’ve found some local hatcheries here in San Diego.  It’s really important to me that they eat good food from the minute they’re born.  Why else would we be raising them, right?

What should we feed them? After looking at loads and loads of websites and local store options for feed, I’ve concluded that I will be making my chicken feed and scratch, among other things.  Sheesh.  I don’t know why I’m surprised.  Chicken feed, even organic, is FULL of corn and fillers.  What’s the point?  Everything I’ve read says feed chickens corn as a treat and yet it’s the first ingredient on every bag I look at.  This is not ok therefore I am searching for balanced recipes.  This one looks perfect and well researched. Recipes?

How to keep pests away?  I am searching for the right kind of containers to store food in to keep rats and moths away.  HELP!

How do I take care of these little ladies?  Right now, we are reading, having the kids read, and are reading to the kids, “A Chicken In Every Yard”, “The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals”, and “Farm Anotomy” to gather information! Favorite books?

What is the best way to reap the benefits of chicken poop?  I currently have to buy chicken fertilizer for my garden so I’m searching for the right kinds of cleanup methods that are best for getting the most out of chicken droppings.  Hey.  Nothing wasted, right?

Names!!  I think it’s safe to say that every one of us is excited about naming these ladies!  I’m expecting names that reflect Star Wars, book characters, hilarity, and maybe something slightly inappropriate coming from my husband.  We are splitting them up to name them so everyone will have their chance to pick!

To follow the every day chicken and backyard homesteading adventures, follow us on Instagram.

PLEASE share anything you’ve learned below!

Here’s the coop progress by the man who is constantly surprising me with making my dreams coming true…even chicken dreams…

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Moments That Matter: Eight

new-2I’m sure as a parent you’ve had many moments where you wish you could pause time.

Me?

I have them every day, all day long.  I am constantly soaking up moments with my kids that I know will be gone in an instant.  From day 1 as a parent, I never wanted to look back and wish I had spent more time with them; more time sitting and listening.  Some days I feel like I’m failing, but usually their loud humming and Eskimo kisses are constant reminders of those little successful moments.  These little memories are some of the many reasons I love homeschooling.

I want to soak up all of the bits of this eight-year-old girl firecracker.  She is full of complexities but also incredible things.  I love her zeal for life, the plans she makes, and the dreams she can’t stop talking about.  She has blossomed into an amazing little cook and baker.  I am positive she will be a better at that than me when she is older.  It’s only a matter of time.  If she had a portrait made of herself, she would have her head cocked to the side with her eyes looking up into the sky because she is always filled with daydreams and curiosities.  She has truly been that way since she was a wee little babe.

Faith turned eight today.

This year is a big year for birthdays in our little family, at least to me.  It’s such a big deal to me, as Faith has changed so much this last year and is really seeming a lot…older.  Yikes.

My husband turned 40 this last October.

BIG DEAL.

Jack turned 6 last month.

Again, he just seemed older when it happened.  6 made him more than a Kindergartener in my mind and more than a little boy.

Dean turns 5 in September.

He’ll be a KINDERGARTENER this year!!  How did this happen?!

I turn 30 in October.

Lame.  Not going to be my favorite day.

It’s a big year for all of us!

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A Golden Afternoon Farm

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We are so excited to be expanding our little backyard “farm”!!  For a solid 3 years, I’ve read, thought, prayed, researched, and dreamt of owning chickens.  The time has not been right in our lives until recently.  I see now why previous years would not have been good.  To take a venture like this, the entire family has to be all in and ready to take on the work involved.  I can honestly say that we are ALL ready!

A Golden Afternoon Farm is ready.

My husband has bravely taken on the task of building us a rather large chicken coop.  Right now, we are planning on having 15 chickens.  Sound like a lot?  Well, we use 5 dozen eggs a week for all of our breakfast, baking, and other food needs.  That’s what happens when you cook from scratch, I guess.  Plus, we’d like to be able to share some with our friends and family (get ready Erik and El!). He’s never build a chicken coop, but he has all of the spirit he needs to carry him through!  He is proving that if you want to do something enough, you can learn your way through the hard parts.  I’m really proud of him.  We have been married almost 10 years and he’s still making my dreams come true.  Who knew a chicken coop could be such an amazing and unexpected display of affection?

I’ll keep you posted on our progress and share how he built it after it’s finished!  We don’t have chicks lined up yet but I really felt strongly about finishing the coop before getting the chicks to make everything smooth and stress-free.

NOW, any seasoned chicken farmers please leave as much advice as you can in the comments!  I want to know what you did right and also what you would have done differently.  For the organic farmers…what you feed your chickens (every organic feed I see is loaded with corn!).

Favorite this and that…

tricks of the trade…

Please share!

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Exploring Red Rocks, Las Vegas

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Recently, our family traveled to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 tournament.  Road-trips are always a good time.  Wait, actually they’re not.  haha.  Ours are usually very very loud and full of “are we there yets”.  However, this one was super fun and well worth the time on the road.

We love exploring.

These Red Rocks have been on my list for a while so I was excited to see them in person.  Surely, the other Red Rocks on my list are just as incredible, but these were AMAZING!  It’s impossible to snap a photo which can give you even a glimpse of the creativity of God in these rock formations.  The colors are mind-blowing.  I even muttered at one point that it was prettier than the Grand Canyon.  Don’t judge.  It’s been a while since I’ve been there.  The Red Rocks have so many different trails, spots for rock-climbing, interesting desert plants like agave and joshua trees, picnicking areas, and a wonderful nature center that is well worth visiting.  Plus, they have a few desert tortoises, including the famous Mojave Max.  We were there the day after he came out of his hole after hibernating.  Apparently, that is a big deal to witness.

Don’t miss the hilarious tortoise crossing sign at the bottom.

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Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

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Backyard chickens are all the rage right now and laundry detergent is totally next on he list, in my opinion.  I see it being made left and right.  I attempted to use some a few years ago and it was a failure in my mind then.  It didn’t clean the clothes the way I wanted, so I couldn’t switch over.  Then, over the years we’ve started to make huge changes in our family’s health.  Each year, we changed a few things which have now added up to many, including eliminating all toxic chemicals from our house.  So, I thought it was a good time to share this recipe with you.

Let me just say, I love Method cleaning products. Branding, packaging, partnerships with cool designers, and plant-based products.  I still use them in other areas of my home.  I just new in my heart that I could easily be making laundry detergent.

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Homemade Laundry Detergent

1 box Borax

(also named sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate, whitener and deodorizer)

1 cup washing soda (sodium carbonate, dirt removal)

3 bars of grated soap, your choice

(see below for my research of which to use)

Use 1/2 cup of homemade detergent

Optional additions at the time of doing laundry:

1/2 cup vinegar (acetic acid and water, natural odor remover)

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and store in an air-tight container of your choice.  You will need a large one!  You can follow instructions for making liquid soap by dissolving the ingredients together with water but this powder has worked totally great and saves the step!!  Mix and your done.  So easy!  All ingredients can be found on Amazon (I made a list here for easy shopping).

Why you should make laundry detergent:

Better Health:

When a person starts living a chemical-free life, you begin being ok with clothes that are not washed as well as the ones that have toxic chemicals.  Yes, I have totally become one of those crazy people who is appalled by that junk.  Eek!  It’s like a conversion experience of sorts.  I can’t believe what I used to be breathing every day.  My whites are not as bright as a person who uses bleach, but I can live with that if it means cleaner air for my family to breath in.  I believe this change a few years ago was one of many reasons my daughter has been relieved of asthma.  She had just been diagnosed after a few years of wheezing and some really bad attacks.  We used that inhaler so many times.  Now, she hasn’t had so much as a wheezing moment for over a year.  I’m so thankful to God for His healing and the wisdom He gave me to know these changes can make a difference.  I’m not saying a chemical-free life will cure asthma.  I just know what we experienced and the way our eyes have been opened to the way chemicals can trick you into thinking they can reside in your lungs without doing definite damage.  Don’t believe me?  Watch the reaction of one of my kids when they go near bleach.  You’d think it was a skunk or a rotten egg!  They are so sensitive to it, having not been around it for their whole lives that breathing it is unbearable.  For a lot of people, they have been desensitized to it over years of exposure.  Craziness!

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Chemical-free life:

I chose this soap because of much research on which would be the least toxic whilst also not ruining my clothes.  It has a pink dye in it but I weighed that against its homemade laundry soap competitor, Fels-Naphtha, which also has dye.  The dye in Zote soap is used as a brightener and I was ok with that in this context.  HOWEVER, since making the batch in these pictures, I discovered something better and the reason for the switch might only matter to me so I didn’t bother to re-photograph everything.  More below on that.  Changes like this are always a process.

Plant-based and Animal-free products:

New info for me:

Most soap these days is made from tallow or animal fat.  I eat meat and don’t have issues with using/eating tallow.  However, I only eat meat that has been raised locally and cared for in the way I believe God intended them to be cared for.  The point made by this wonderful lady, made SO much sense to me.  If I am purchasing a soap, be it Fels-Naptha, Zote, or whomever, the beef tallow being used in the soap would be needed in mass quantities and is most likely coming from large farms where the animals are tortured and left for dead, but not before their parts are taken.  It’s a rough thought, I know, but it has to be said.  If this isn’t important to you then any  bar soaps will be fine for this detergent.  Tallow is the ingredient that adds lather.

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You choose the ingredients:

Just so you know, Zote smells like citronella but only before the clothes are washed and not after.  I wonder if this detergent repels mosquitos?  That would be pretty awesome.

If you’ve read a million recipes for laundry soap and they all look the same, they basically are.  They all seem to included Borax, washing soda, and some kind of bar soap.  You get the choice in that bar soap.  That’s pretty cool.  If you are choosing bar soaps, be sure to check the ingredients yourself.  They might be advertising themselves as “natural”, but still include mostly toxic or icky ingredients.  Fels-naptha and Zote were the most common ones I saw.

Fels-Naptha Ingredients:

Soap (sodium tallowate*, sodium cocoate* (or) sodium palmate kernelate*, and sodium palmate*), water, talc, cocnut acid*, palm acid*, tallow acid*, PEG-6 methyl ether, glycerin, sorbitol, sodium chloride, pentasodium pentetate and/or tetrasodium etidronate, titatium dioxide, fragrance, Acid Orange (CI 20170), Acid yellow 73 (ci43350) *contains one or more of these ingredients

Zote Ingredients:

Sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate, fragrance (citronella oil), optical brightener, and violet 10.

Ivory soap Ingredients:

 sodium tallowate and/or sodium palmate, water, sodium cocoate or sodium palm kernelate, glycerin, sodium chloride, fragrance, one or more of the following: coconut acid, palm kernel acid, tallow acid or palm acid, and tetrasodium EDTA.

Kirk’s Castile Soap Ingredients:

Coconut Soap, Water, Vegetable Glycerin, Coconut Oil, Natural Fragrance

Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap (citrus scent):

Organic Coconut Oil*, Organic Palm Oil*, Sodium Hydroxide**, Water, Organic Orange Oil, Organic Olive Oil*, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Organic Lemon Oil, Organic Lime Oil, Salt, Citric Acid, Tocopherol
* CERTIFIED FAIR TRADE INGREDIENTS
** None remains after saponifying oils into soap and glycerin

I think we’ve found some winners!!  Do you see them?!

I feel so silly for not having found the Dr. Bronner’s or Kirk’s Castile bar in the first place.  I use the liquid Dr. Bronners Castile soap but because I’ve never seen the bars before, I didn’t know they existed until I searched on amazon for a different Dr. Bronner’s product.  Castile soap simply means they are made from pure vegetable oils, as made originally in Spain.  Being able to understand your ingredients is important!

Bonus:  Sweet citrus smells and the choice of a few other scents from organic oils!!

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Saving you money:

Personally, I believe this claim has been exaggerated.  Making your own detergent is only cheaper when you compare it to what you are already buying.  I had been purchasing Method products, so making it DEFINITELY saved me money. However, if you are using a store brand or just a cheap detergent, this will NOT save you money.  For me, the health benefits are amazing and the price is less, so it’s a win-win!  A whole container of this cost me about $15.  If you find the ingredients cheaper or buy in bulk, it will naturally cost less.  I made an amazon ingredient list here, in case you feel the need to make this immediately! :)

Cleaning clothes, naturally:

What most people want to know is, “Will it clean my clothes?”  My answer is yes!  It will definitely clean your clothes and make them smell fresh.  It won’t, however, get all of those stains out.  I am willing to accept a few stains for the price of health and no toxic chemicals.  I just have to do a better job of soaking my boy’s clothes and also our rags we use in the kitchen that build up musty smells.  No biggie.   I can share more on that method another day!

Making good choices for your family:

If you are reading this far down the page, you are probably the one who makes decisions about the household.  We are the ones responsible for great changes, like this for our family.  Go make some!  I’m so excited to have finally given this homemade laundry detergent a shot again!

Below is my laundry setup with a dispenser for vinegar (get it now at Target in the seasonal section!!) and one for the detergent (find this lidded glass container at the Crate & Barrel outlet):

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