Sunday, August 10, 2014

Blackberry Pie! Oh, My!

Blackberries are ripe and harvest has commenced... joy from the fruit of the vine and thankful to the Giver of all good things.

Recipe can be found HERE. I substituted some arrowroot for the flour to thicken it up just a wee bit.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Brite Tap Chicken Waterer

I've waited quite some time to write a review of the Brite Tap Chicken Waterer because I wanted to really give it a spin and "kick-the-tires" so to speak. It's one thing to try something once or twice or for a day or two... it's an entirely different matter to use it for an extended period of time and still be happy with the product.

I couldn't be more pleased!!

My family has tried just about every imaginable chicken waterer on the market and not one of them has kept the water clean, nor have they been low maintenance. Honestly, we had resorted to a feed bucket filled to the brim for the hens because at least we could quickly dump it on a plant, wipe it out, and refill it. All the other waterers meant taking them apart, scrubbing the tray AND the reservoir, trying not to drop it while we carried it back, etc. Even if it had a reservoir, because it was gravity fed into a tray, muck seemed to get in there and contaminate the water. Totally frustrated, we assumed a basic bucket was as good as it was going to get.

Then I came across the Brite Tap. Reading about the design, I thought it HAD to be an improvement over what we were using. And theoretically, it might actually be a home run. So I contacted Mark, the designer and owner of Brite Tap and got ahold of his product and whisked it out to the chicken coop.

I introduced it to the adult "girls" first to see how they like it...

Too excited to hang it or do anything fancy, I just stuck it on whatever surface was available... an extra nesting box. Within a minute they had to investigate. No coaching needed, these gals knew this produced the good stuff... cool clean water. They were lining up for a turn at the water cooler.

The height seemed just about right at 22 inches off the floor.

Right now several of you may be thinking "yeah, I tried using nipples on a bucket but the water got horribly dirty on the surface, almost like mold, due to dust in the coop and other debris". I know... happened to me time and time again. Plus, I had a terrible time refilling those buckets with the nipples on the bottom because you couldn't set them down ANYWHERE or you would ruin the nipples.

Mark solved that with the Brite Tap. The nipples are attached to a little enclosed mini-tank that is attached to the front (not the bottom) of your container.

And just in case it gets dirty for some weird reason, those red plugs on the side come out so you can get in there and give it a gentle scrubbing. Oh, and since it's clear, you can see if there's water in the cooler or not, but I find that by lifting it a bit, I can judge if it's getting low on water or not. Seems like we refill ours about ever 3 days for 5 hens - give or take depending on heat, etc.

After filling the cooler, you just pop open the vent (see photo below) and tilt it forward so the water runs into the clear mini-tank and fills it up. Then hang or set it on a surface with the mini-tank and nipples extended beyond the edge.

Next I tried the Brite Tap with our new chicks. Sorry I don't have a photo of that, but trust me... it took them only seconds to figure out the system. I set it up on a cement cinder block for now, but as they grow, we'll raise it up to fit their needs. Let me just say it again... It's SO CLEAN!!!!

Most of the time, we just use a watering pail to fill the tank, but after about a month, it gets dusty on the outside so I'll just give the whole thing a quick hose down, rinse it out good, and start again. No scrubbing, just the blast from the hose takes care of it (they've yet to climb on it and poop on the cooler... hope it stays that way!).

Just a few other side notes...

• You can find out more about Brite Tap Chicken Waterers, including care instructs, set up videos, cleaning supplies, and FAQs, right HERE.
• Brite Tap is sold with or without the cooler, so if you have your own, you can possibly retro-fit it with the waterer.
• Mark has a great chicken blog HERE and has a new app for both iPhone and Android (see HERE).

This is a 5 STAR product friends! No fudging... it does what it says. I'm saving my dollars to buy a second one because I often keep my flock in two separate groups. Now if I can just get Mark to design a goat waterer that works as well as this one, I'd be the happiest homesteader both sides of the Mississippi!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Welcome to the Myers

My beautiful Staub casserole dish, kitchen utensils, and a spice rack for pegboard
         My excuse for not writing -  being a newlywed
         No apologies.

        This is my home. We have a two bedroom apartment in the middle of the Tehachapi Mountains. I love it. 
         My husband and I are getting things done. I have an idea; he goes to Home Depot. One day he came home and there were dozens of tiny green sticky notes all over. I had been Pinteresting. 

        Spellcheck may say its not a word, but we know it is an active verb.

         I took my inspiration from Julia Child's kitchen. Ever since Meryl Streep graced the screen with her onion mincing and crying, I knew she was my hero. Julia Child, not Meryl Streep.
         Eric took me to out to HomeDepot and had them cut industrial pegboard to size, while I dreamily looked at pegs. 

         When we got home, Eric used wall anchors to mount the nails, putting in a nut to space the pegboard out from the wall. Besides the four corners, he braced the middle, so it can hold my Les Creuset Dutch Oven. 

         Organizing my kitchen has never been so easy, all I had to do was have my husband dry and put away while I wash. Instead of putting all the utensils in one jar, he dashed out of the room to grab the hooks.

        He also used screwdriver holders for our molinillos, Mexican hot chocolate whisks.

        I took the racks we picked up and use the small ones for spices, medium for Ball jars with utensils, and the large ones for pot lids and napkins.

          As an after thought we put up invisible bookshelves for our cookbooks and travel guides which had been lining the counter. All we needed was two L-brackets per shelf, more wall anchors, and Velcro pieces.

         After mounting the brackets at level, we tacked a small piece of Velcro to the back inside cover of a hard cover book and the other on the bottom of the bracket. The trick is spacing out the Velcro evenly on the book, so that it matches the bracket. The perfect distance is about 6 inches between the brackets.

      As a last note, I pulled out all of the odd shaped dishes, large pots, and my cheese grater and hung them on an overhead pot rack. My husband has to duck and weave to get the coffee pot in the morning, but he wants to be in fighting shape. 

      We still have a lot to do, but that's part of the fun. We are learning to conserve space, reduce clutter, and build a home together.  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Welcome To The World Little Ones!

Dance Hall, our sweet Nigerian Dwarf doe, just delivered twins...

Born Saturday, March 15, 2014
• Sundance & Shadow Dancer •

Shortly after birth

Warming up by momma and soaking in the sun!

Could those be blue eyes?!

A whole new world awaits!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Coming Soon... Wedding Photos!

Just a teaser, but I hope to have a few posts of Kate's wedding. A little at a time. But thought you might get a kick of how she counted down the days. Can you tell she was thinking of her beau while doing chores?

She's my gardening gal. Animals? Not so much. Needless to say, she was ready to hand off the milking to her sister, but I want all my girls to at least know HOW to take care of a few farm animals. (She can now check that one off!). And although it seems the wedding day would never arrive, it finally did.

More to come!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Homesteading? There's An App For That

Technology has certainly revolutionized life and in the area of homesteading it's no exception. So why not take advantage of that technology and use it to help in the areas of quick referencing for information, calculations, calendar memos, and tracking (journaling)?

Yes, there are apps for all that. In fact, there are quite a few! But I like simple, easy to use apps... things I would use for example when I'm actually OUT IN THE GARDEN and I don't have anything but my phone with me. I can do all the planning I want in the house, but when I get outside, it's like I can't remember a thing!

Here are a few new favorites... All for FREE.

1. Organic Gardening's "Plant Planner". 
Features include... 
  • Database of plants with complete planting information - herbs, vegetables, and even flowers, which makes it great for those who have potager gardens. And photos are included! If only it included companion planting  information and rotation notes! Hopefully in a future update.
  • GPS supported location finder identifies frost dates for your garden - this app has been the most accurate by far! 
  • Weather data for your area - Again, because of the GPS, it's highly accurate. It even tells me what weather station the app is using to gather the info. Mine happens to be about 1.5 miles from my house.
  • Option to save plants in your virtual garden for future reference. This is strictly a listing and not a diagram of your garden. However, it does keep notes of planting dates and harvest dates.
  • Calendar - this is a blank page for you to add dates and notes. For example, I added what I want to plant in the future so I have a reminder (no alarm on this app). Also, I included harvest dates and I plan to add dates for sowing succession plantings. Would be even better if the calendar updated automatically if you add a plant to your garden, but all in all it's a great app that's easy to use.

2.  Vegetable Garden Calculator. 
I tend to over plant or under plant. And sometimes I just have no clue! This app's features are pretty simple... just a listing of veggies and yield information. Select "add", the number of people you are planting for, and it calculates the number of plants you need. That's it. Simple and straightforward. 

If you like this app, the same people offer a few others for a small fee that might be worth the purchase price such as "Store It Smart" - a quick reference guide to keeping all that produce fresh, including long term storage information.

3. Egg Vestment. 
Another amazingly simple app that does only one thing really well... track your egg count and any purchases so you have a bottom line cost-per-egg. L.O.V.E. it!! Would be awesome if they made one for milking goats!

If you're a new chicken owner, those eggs may be very pricy and you don't want to go showing the bottom line to just anyone! But over time, you'll see your investment pay off. And that's encouraging.

Also, this will help you set prices if you want to sell your eggs. I opted not to include my housing, but I do include the feed, new chicks, and the occasional "necessary"purchases.

4. Rain Harvest Calculator. 
I'm interested in rain water catchment and this little app will help me determine how much water I can anticipate from each rooftop collection site. The app includes the formula should you want to do your own, but it will make those calcs for you in US or Metric volumes.

For example, if you wanted to install a system on your chicken coop to water your own flock from rainwater, you could calculate that before hand to know what size storage containers to have on hand for all that water!

I know there a lot more out there, so please share one you really like. This is an on-line community and we can all benefit from great information shared among friends. Hope these make your work just a wee bit easier and more efficient!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

DIY Natural Products - From A Kit!

Seems like everyone today is realizing the benefits of simple products that don't have a lot of added ingredients - especially with questionable chemicals. And most people really would like to have CONTROL of what goes into the items they apply to their skin.

So when my friend Stacia told me about the home based business she started recently, Handcrafted Honey Bee, I was super excited and wanted to share about it with all my homesteading friends. Stacia has been making products from her bees for some time, but she's recently branched out to offering kits for the DIY crowd who want to try to their hand at creating custom toiletries such as lip balms, salves, and deodorants. Now how cool is that?

It can certainly be intimidating working with ingredients and herbs that are unfamiliar, but having a kit with all the items ready to go... now that's do-able for almost everyone! And it builds confidence to branch out and try new creations. What a great gift for a friend or family member who has wanted to take the plunge, but hesitated because of lack of time, resources, or knowledge. Wouldn't it be fun to buy two different kits - one for yourself and one for a friend - and have a girls night making your own products to enjoy and share? No more excuses girls! These kits are designed to be EASY, EDUCATIONAL, and FUN!

To get started, all you need to do is pick a item you want to create, make the custom selections related to your product choice (ie: scent, etc.), and check out on line through her store site. Then when your kit arrives you can get started with the included instructions walking you through the steps to make your final product.

Each month, Stacia will be adding a new kit every month, so you'll want to check her site often or connect with her on facebook (HERE). And if you place an offer before March 15th, you will receive a 25% discount - that's certainly worth giving it a try!

I'm starting with the White Gardenia Deodorant Kit? Which one will you try first?


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