A common fig tree…MY heritage breed

I’m a second generation American.  My Dad’s family hails from miscellaneous parts of Italy from the north to the south and while we grew up a very very proud fairly typical American family, there are still times where I find myself thinking and referring to my slightly more homogenized friends as “you white people.”  For those of you who grew up in any kind of culture that wasn’t all wonderbread (black, white, brown, red, polka dots-whatever), I bet you know what I mean.

 

As I have gotten older and the less desirable aspects of this sometimes old fashioned culture have fallen away, I find myself left with the warm and fuzzy memories of a family who still maintained some identity of their roots.  These identities are often tied up with individuals, as with my Great Grandfather.  I was lucky to know him as a teenager although to be fair, our language barrier was a pretty big one.  But to hear stories of him through my Dad now that my Great Grandfather has been gone for a couple of decades, well it’s something special.  I have learned that he was a mason and gardener at Kykuit (the Rockefeller Estate in NY) for pretty much his adult life.  I have learned that the shovel that my Dad now uses was one that my G-Grandfather “liberated” from that same estate when he retired (sorry Rockefellers!) with an explanation to my Dad “Bucky-he got lotsa money.  He no miss this“.  But, I also know that his own garden was important to him.  Enough so that when he came to America almost 100 years ago, he brought with him a fig tree.

 

Now, I don’t think we know how long he (or his family) had it in Italy, but I do know that my Dad has maintained his own cutting from it for at least 20-30 years.  And this spring, we get our cutting of it for Blueberry Acres!  Something that I look forward to planting in our ground with my little Blueberry beside me. A fig tree that has been in my family for at least 90+ years and 2 countries.  I’m having a hard time putting into words how cool I think this is, but with all of this talk of native seeds, heritage breeds and heirloom produce…to be able to grow and enjoy delicious figs from a tree that was hand carried by my Great Grandfather on a ship across the ocean all those years ago.  Well, I think it’s pretty cool that I will be able to pass that kind of heritage breed down to Blueberry one day.  I wonder what heritage our grandchildren will talk about when we are long gone….it’s something to think about on those frustrating homestead days.  We are creating a new heritage for our kids!  Happy Homesteading!

You know you are excited to homestead when….

You awake with glee at 3:00 am because you got a response offering you 13 free pallets for your gardening project.

You are excited to find food grade rain barrels 2 hours away and plan a family adventure day around that.

You find a big bunch of worms in your compost pile.

You stop yourself from throwing away that bottle thinking…surely there is something else I can use this for (and then you do-no hoarding here people!)

And when you read other peoples’ posts on poop, fish, agriculture, farming, gardening and DIY crafts with glorious abandon.  You just might be a homesteader!

Making your own chicken feed

Sheldon and I were discussing chicken feed the other day.  Super sexy talk for an old married couple, right?  Well, for homesteaders it’s the backbone of your chicken flock.  Sure, chickens can scavenge for food during the spring/summer but if you want them to lay with consistency (and lay eggs strong enough to make it to your fridge), you need to put some thoughts into what you feed them when they can’t feed themselves so that they get enough nutrition, grit (for digestion) and calcium (for shell strength), etc.

I came across this article from Mother Earth News from the mid 70’s that talks about working with local “silos” to formulate an exact mix.

TLC has this recipe for Organic Chicken Feed

And Examiner has this recipe that seems to be very nut/seed heavy and isn’t any cheaper (but honestly, I’m sure better feed) than commercial brands

However, with the desire to do more with less and ultimately become as self-sufficient as possible, I still don’t feel like we have cracked the code.  So, I’m wondering…for all of you other cluckers out there-what do you feed your chicks/chickens on a regular basis?  Commercial?  Organic (gulp, expensive in our part of the country)?  or home-made?  I would love it if we could share some ideas!

Homesteaders: Are you protecting your technology investment?

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This post was originally shared on Modern Homesteader’s site.  When you get a chance, please go check them out!

We are hoping to share some information as part of a series on maintaining your computer technology.  As some of you may know, over at Blueberry Acres Farm we are budding homesteaders who still maintain “day” jobs.  I am able to work virtually thanks to technology, but my husband “Sheldon” is the one paying the mortgage because of technology.  That is, he’s a geek by trade.

So when we thought about all of the other homesteaders who not only use their home computer equipment, but really count on it to sell product, connect with other homesteaders, follow up on homeschooling lessons or get important information, we thought a good place to start would be free resources that you can use to protect your computer.  Let’s face it-homesteading can be expensive when you start looking at purchasing land, equipment, etc.  Most of us are trying to simplify life, so the idea of needing to buy a new computer every year or two isn’t too appealling.  Just like our vehicles, a little maintenance can go a long way-especially when it comes to online protection.  While he could go on for hours about ways that you can improve your protection and computing experience (I’m telling you-he really could talk for hours, sigh) let’s start with just a couple of Sheldon’s favorite free resources:

Microsoft Security Essentials: If you have the Windows 7 OS (or earlier), then  you can use this to help defend computers running Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.  If you have already upgraded to Windows 8, Windows Defender replaces Security Essentials and runs in the background without an install.  If you are still running Windows 95, I really don’t know what to suggest… :)

Ad-Aware Free Antivirus: Lavasoft describes this as something that “combines our legendary Anti-spyware with a super fast, free Antivirus. It now features  download protection (blocks malicious files before being written to disk), sandboxing (keeps unknown apps running in a virtual environment) and advanced detection.”  It’s good for Windows 8, 7, XP and Vista.

AVG Anti-virus Free:   Another free resource that detects and stops viruses, threats and malware.

And what I think is the most important suggestion…Is everyone in your house singing off the same sheet of music when it comes to online protection?  You are probably doing all of the right things to protect your computer investment…but are your kids?  Your grandkids?  Your spouse?  Your parents?  Why do I ask?  Well, I think of my senior citizen parents who allow the grandkids to come and go on their computer.  Not only can that be some dangerous “grandparenting,” it’s also bad PC management.  It feels like we are CONSTANTLY cleaning viruses and the like off of their computer because not only are they not keeping up with PC clean up, but they allow the g/k’s to go onto any site they want.  Make sure that you set the expectation and that if a child (or adult) is allowed to use the PC without supervision, they know the rules of proverbial road.  If you have doubts, consider setting up accounts for each user on the computer so that they cannot make changes to the PC without the administrator password…that you don’t leave on a post-it note next to the computer!

We will share some additional suggestions on technology repair/management in our next post in this series.  Thanks and happy homesteading!

Shellie, Contributing Writer, Modern Homesteaders

Blueberry Acres Farm

 

Is skim milk making our kids fat?

I saw this article this morning on my FB feed and forgive me whoever posted it, I can’t even remember who did it!  Anywhoo…this NPR article talks about a potential causal link between skim milk and heavier kids.

I think the NPR article was a little too light on facts for me and for some reason, I can’t pull up the BMJ article, but it does make me wonder more about this link…especially considering that we made the pediatrician recommended switch to skim at age 2 like so many other parents.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with a parent making a choice to continue to give full fat milk at any age.  However, I think at times we as parents (specifically parents who crave a more natural lifestyle) can jump on the bandwagon too quickly when we think that the “establishment” has led us astray.  Do I think that full fat milk could be more healthy than skim?  Sure.  Do I think that there is enough evidence in this study to prove without a doubt that previous advice on skim vs. full fat is wrong?  From what I have seen….Nope.  And until then, I’m going to continue to follow what I think to be right as a Mom.

What about the other parents out there…how do you separate the hype from the fact when it comes to making changes like this for your kids?  I would love to hear from you!

Happy 3.14159 day!

Although I guess I should have really wished you a Happy 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510 58209 74944 59230 78164 06286 20899 86280 34825 34211 70679∞ Day if I were to be accurate, right?

 

Picture courtesy of University of Iowa

Picture courtesy of University of Iowa

In honor of Pi Day, I thought I would share one of my favorite recipes for Pie Crust along with one of my favorite filling recipes courtesy of AllRecipes.  While I would love to take pictures of me baking it, that ain’t happenin today, so instead, hopefully you will bake it and deliver it to me.  Wait…that was too bossy.  Bake it and deliver it to me please?  🙂  Seriously-I hope you and your family enjoy some geeky math fun today!

Ideas for teaching kids about pi:

http://www.teachpi.org/

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/exploring-pi

 

And my favorite “Pi” recipe:

Crust:

  • 1 1/4 Cups AP Flour
  • 1/2 Cup butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 tea salt (mix it into the flour in advance)
  • 1/4 tea to 1/2 tea freshly grated nutmeg (can also substitute cinnamon)
  • 1 Cup ice water

Measure everything out in bowls and then stick EVERYTHING (including your mixing implements-I use a stand mixer with dough attachment for this) in the fridge for an hour.  Get it all nice and cold after you have prepped it.

After it is all chilled, begin to mix the butter into the flour a piece at a time.  Basically, you are looking for your flour to begin to look like clumpy sand.  It doesn’t have to be uniform and the butter doesn’t have to be all broken up, but it should be at least semi evenly distributed.  Try not to work it with your hands-let the butter stay cool so if you can’t use a mixer, use a fork to cut in the butter.  If you see the butter is starting to melt while you are working it, stick the whole thing back in the fridge.

Once the butter is mixed in, start to work in your water 1 TEASPOON AT A TIME!  I can’t stress this enough.  I don’t pay any attention to recipes when it tells me how much water you need because there are so many variables when working with crust.  If you live in South Florida, chances are you are going to need a heck of a lot less water than someone who lives in Tucson.  Humidity, heat, environment, drafts-they all matter, so just get to know your dough.  You can always add more, but honey-I haven’t ever seen a pie crust that can be saved when you add too much, so start slow.  When you start to see your dough come together, slow down on your water.  It should be able to hold together in a ball when you smoosh it with your hand.  If it crumbles still, you need more water.

Once mixed, let it rest in your fridge covered for another hour.  After the hour, you should be able to roll it out (wax paper on both sides of it helps) into crust for 2-3 pies depending on whether they are covered pies and how big your pie plates are.  Again-try to handle with your hot little hands as little as possible.

One of our favorite all time fillings is for Buttermilk Pie.  Allrecipes has some great ones in their collection, including this one.  But, I would love to hear from y’all…what is your favorite pie?  Happy Pi Day!

 

 

I think my family is trying to murder me…

…through sleep deprivation.

 

Sorry for the lack of posts/responses lately folks.  Between Sheldon’s snoring, Blueberry’s wandering and everyone’s nighttime noisiness, Blueberry Acres Farm has been far from bucolic over the last week.  It hasn’t been all zombie-like movements…We have successfully planted 12 new trees (go environment!), ordered what feels like truck loads more (I have no freaking idea where these new trees are going), gotten in another order of seeds, gotten in bedding plants and almost broke my amazingly agile and healthy 70 year old Dad as he helped us plant the latest batch of trees in the driving/cold rain.

This weekend will bring us more dog training, more garden planting, probably more trees, and apparently the building of a turkey coop THAT I DO NOT HAVE TIME TO BUILD BEFORE THE TURKEYS GET HERE IN 3 WEEKS.

I have lots more to say but no time to say it right now.  Calgon take me away!  🙂