Thursday, December 30, 2010

Raising Backyard Chickens

 The number of people raising backyard chickens is on the rise. Are backyard chickens a novelty or a trend of the future? Many cities and suburbs around the nation are taking up the chicken debate and passing ordinances to allow chickens in urban areas. What is the draw to chickens? For many it is simply an extension of their desire to become more sustainable.

Back in the 1800’s chickens foraging freely throughout neighborhoods was the norm. For many people choosing to raise chickens is a part of a desire to be less dependent on others to supply their food. Home gardening has increased with the drop in the economy. Chickens often fit into a more sustainable life style. Chickens are very beneficial pets. Chickens are great at eating insects from your garden, they supply you with fertilizer for both your lawn and garden, and they give you eggs! You can’t say that about a pet dog or cat.

Unfortunately chickens are not always accepted by others as dogs or cats tend to be. Before deciding if raising backyard chickens is for you, there are several things you need to research and take into consideration. Although many cities are becoming chicken friendly, others are not. Before you start your venture you need to check your local city ordinance to see if chickens are allowed within city limits. Some cities have specific requirements as to coop placement, number of birds you can have, and the size area in which you keep them. Some also require you to notify neighbors and apply for permits. Many do not allow roosters. If your city does not allow chickens as pets you can become active in changing the regulations. Many groups have worked together to get the city ordinances of many cities changed over the past few years as the novel idea of backyard chickens has taken off. was started by a web developer, Rob Ludlow, from California whom has chickens as pets. He started the web site as a source of information for other chicken enthusiasts as well as a social outlet to gather tips and information from other owners.

Once you have determined that you are allowed to have chickens within the city you need to consider what breed of chicken is right for you. There are many tools you can choose for selecting chicken breeds. Mother Earth News recently launched a Pickin Chicken iPhone/iPad app. Henderson’s Chicken Breed Chart is loaded with information on various breeds including how well they lay eggs, the size and color of their eggs and also their personalities.

When choosing chickens as pets you want to look for docile birds that adapt to well to living in confinement. You want a breed that can be handled easily and isn’t going to make a lot of noise to upset the neighbors. If you choose more than one breed of bird you need to do research on how well they will get along with other breeds.

While researching the various breeds of chickens available you should also look for a reputable hatchery. Iowa has several hatcheries you can choose from. Some require you to purchase more birds than you will want, so you may try to find a group to place an order with. Hoover’s Hatchery was recommended to us and we were able to go together with two other families to meet the minimum requirement for shipping. You can also purchase birds from a local farm store in the early spring; however, the types of breeds available are limited.

If you are new to raising chickens, before you place your order for birds you should do some research on how to care for the animals. We found the book Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens extremely useful. It contains information on a wide range of topics regarding raising chickens. It’s one of the most complete resource books we have found.

In preparation for your birds you need to decide where you will keep them. Many people getting birds for backyard pets choose to order birds in the spring and keep them in the house until they get four to six weeks old and develop their feathers. If you are going to keep them in the house where will you keep them? Baby chickens need frequent care and cleaning up after. They not only need food and water, but require heat and light for warmth.

Feed for you chickens is something else you have to consider. Chickens require different types of food depending on age, and purpose. If you are wanting your hens to lay eggs as they get older, you need to make sure they receive laying rations of food. There are many brands of feed. Some companies also produce organic feed for chickens. If your local supplier does not stock organic feed, and it is something you are interested in, just ask if it is available to order. I found Theisen’s can order organic chicken feed for me and it doesn’t cost much more than non-organic. The organic feed I use is a complete mix which means I do not have to give them a calcium supplement as I would normally have to do if I used non-organic varieties. Be sure to look at the label of the feed you choose to make sure it is age appropriate. Age varies by brand. Many have a starter for newly hatched chickens, and then you progress to finisher and finally layer, unless you plan to use the birds for meat. If this is your plan then you need to use broiler feed instead of layer.

Working on a coop is something many people do while the chickens are being housed indoors. Once they have gotten old enough it’s time to introduce them to their new home. There are many things to consider when building your coop. Does it have access to electricity? Is it easy to clean? Does it have enough space to house the number of birds you plan to get? Do you have an area for an outdoor run? If the weather is cooler, how will you keep them warm? Insulating your coop will help to keep them cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

Coop placement is another consideration. Some city regulations require coops be a specified distance from neighbors. Placing the coop where you can keep an eye on your chickens is a good idea. It also makes it more convenient when gathering eggs and taking care of them if it isn’t too far away from your house. Although you may not have the predators within the city such as coyotes to worry about, you do have neighborhood dogs and cats that would like nothing better than to make a meal out of your chickens. Making sure your coop is fenced heavily will help. Do some research on ways to make your coop more predator safe. Locking up your birds at night is another good way to help keep them safe.

Your chickens will help clean bugs from your yard. They will eat extra produce from your garden and in turn supply you with eggs and compost! Living in an urban area you need a place to dispose of their manure. It’s not a good idea to place it directly onto garden beds because it can harm the plants. Instead, place their manure into a compost bin to decompose. Having more than one bin is a good idea so you can alternate using them. While one is composting, you can continue to add items to the other one. A more detailed article on composting chicken manure can be found at (

Whether you choose to use organic feed, decide on a breed that will lay white, brown, or even Easter colored eggs, I’m sure you will find your chickens will bring you extreme joy. Each chicken has his or her own personality and watching their personalities evolve is exciting. They will follow you around the yard, jump to get a treat, come when called, and as we have found, even mimic the sounds of other animals. We have one that can bark like a dog and recently another one has picked up on it as well. They also have started to make a sound like a cat purring.

Holding your chickens and paying attention to them from day one will get them used to your care and contact allowing for more of a bond than you could imagine. Growing up in the country we had chickens, but never as pets. I had no idea how attached I could become to a chicken until we got them. The rest of my family included. Watching them grown and develop has brought us more joy than we could have expected. Being allergic to dogs and cats is one of the main reasons we opted for chickens. Now we choose chickens. Not only are they beneficial to our garden, they don’t bark and keep us up at all hours like the neighborhood dogs do. In addition we get to eat fresh eggs every day! You can’t say that about a dog or cat!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kitchen Tables

I was reading an article today in one of my old magazines. I stopped getting all but one of my subscriptions until I can get caught up on reading some of them, thus the term old. It was about how we hang onto things that were our grandparents simply because they have a memory for us. For the author, it was her kitchen table. She was remodeling and the designer instructed her that the kitchen table had to go, and why not put in a snack bar instead. Her response was no. The kitchen table stays. It was her grandmothers and she had fond memories of her entire family sitting around the table eating, playing cards and games. It didn’t matter to her that she only had 3 of the chairs left that matched the table, or the fact it was faded and stained.

After I finished the article I kind of went, huh. I have a table my grandparents had when I was younger. No matching chairs, just a table.  Even though this table was replaced as I got older with a nicer wooden one, I still prefer the older table. It holds more memories for me. My grandparents gave the table to me many years ago. For a few years I used it in my beauty shop. I used it for many things; eating, folding clothes, and sitting around with friends on occasion.

The table was put into storage after I moved because I only had room for one table in the tiny apartment we lived in. Once we moved into our house we were able to get it out of storage and start using it again. It has become my main table in the kitchen. My nicer table sits in our dining room and is used very seldom, except to collect dust and papers we don’t know where to put.

We prefer to eat in the kitchen where we are more comfortable. The table is host to many crafting projects, including painting and cutting. Luckily the top is very sturdy and is able to withstand all that is has endured. If we get paint on it, we use nail polish remover to take it off. We don’t have to worry too much about hurting it.

I can remember many times growing up all of us sitting around this table sharing a meal my grandmother had prepared. It was generally fried chicken or beef and noodles. Those were the two meals we all seemed to favor. Invariably at each dinner, a glass of milk was spilled, and it would always run toward my grandfather. By this time he was using a chair with wheels so he could maneuver quickly to escape the rushing stream of milk headed his way. The majority of the time he was quick enough to get out of the way. I think I can only recall one time the milk hit his pant leg as he narrowly escaped. I read people used table cloths in the past to help soak up spills at the table during a meal. This would have saved a lot of floor cleaning over the years had I known this. But then again, which is worse, wiping up the floor or doing more laundry? Gotta clean the floors sometime!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Are Organic Foods Healthier?

When you hear the word organic what comes to your mind?  The term organic can spark a variety of reactions in people.  For some people, when they hear the term organic they may think of people wearing hemp and eating granola.  Today, the term may make you think of more expensive products while others look at the term organic meaning more nutritious.  The term organic can simply mean a healthy lifestyle.  According to the USDA’s Organic Labeling and Marketing Information, for an item to be labeled organic, it must contain at least 95% organic ingredients. The web site, WebMd goes further in its explanation indicating “to meet these standards, organic crops must be produced without conventional pesticides (including herbicides), synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation.  Organically raised animals must be given organic feed and kept free of growth hormones and antibiotics.  Organic farm animals must have access to the outdoors, including pastureland for grazing”. 

Today, many products are marketed with the organic label, including the food we eat, health and beauty products, pet food, and even the clothes we wear.  We see organic products in almost every supermarket.  They are marketed as being healthier for us.  Is eating organic foods going to be healthier for me than ingesting non-organic foods?  To find this out we need to actually research the subject.    

There are some web sites that will say organic is not necessarily healthier; however, adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to our diet is a way we can eat healthier.  I don’t dispute adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to our diet would be healthier for us. For many Americans, the diet of choice has become quick and convenient.  This generally means foods higher in sugar, fats, and preservatives.  If we do choose to add more fresh fruits and vegetable to our diets, why not take it a step further and eliminate foods that contain chemicals as well.  There have been various studies indicating the added health benefits of organic foods.

A study conducted by Rutgers University, Misquotes in "Variation in Mineral Composition of Vegetables”, was interpreted by some to indicate organic foods were of higher mineral content; however, the study did not include samples of the same varieties grown under the same conditions.  Because of this, some of their findings were misinterpreted.  Rutgers has since published a notice to this affect on their site.  On the other hand, there have been numerous controlled studies conducted to show organic foods are healthier for you.  One such site, Organic Trade Associations, lists various published studies.  Some of the studies were conducted in the United States and others in various countries around the world.  According to the studies noted, organically grown foods have been shown to contain higher amounts of antioxidants.  They have also noted higher amounts of minerals in the fruits and vegetables. Another study on organic dairy products reflected an increased amount in omega 3 fatty acids.   The Organic Center (pg. 42) published an in-depth study which indicates “the average serving of organic plant-based food contains about 25% more of the nutrients encompassed in this study than a comparable-sized serving of the same food produced by conventional farming methods”.  What are conventional farming methods you may ask?  Conventional methods differ quite extensively than those farming methods first developed.

As indicated on the web site, Sound Organic Food Movement, the term organic is not a new term, but rather has roots dating back to the 1950’s.  When farming originated, the methods used were not as complex as those methods currently in use today.  The farmers weeded their crops by hand, used compost and manure as fertilizer, and also strategically planted crops, as well as other plants, to help deter pests.  One example of this would be to deter insects from a garden, marigolds would be planted surrounding it.  Marigolds are found to be a plant most insects do not like; therefore, they avoid that area.  There are an abundance of strategic planting suggestions out there.  Another issue with planting crops now is the fact most seeds are now genetically altered.  They do this to make a more insect and disease resistant strain of seed.  If seeds are genetically altered, they are engineered so that they will not come back the following year as the same plant.  This means a farmer can’t save his seeds and replant them the next year.  This has become a big issue not only with our food supply, but with the farmers planting the crops.  We do not know what long term effect the consumption of genetically altered foods or those laden with chemicals will have on us. 

There is a big movement across the country as the demand for organic, as well as locally grown and produced food, is increasing.  I recently watched the movie Food, Inc (Magnolia Pictures, 2008).  The movie documents how standard food is grown, handled, and processed; it gives us a glimpse into the food industry.  The documentary depicts how mass production of food has created many heath issues and illnesses. Currently, most farming methods include the use of genetically altered seeds, pesticides to deter insects, and chemical fertilizers. Some questions that come to mind when viewing this is: shouldn’t the producers have an obligation to give the consumer the best product possible?  Does making a profit always have to come before the well being of the consumer?  A hand full of large corporations now controls our entire food market.  This monopoly has come at the cost of many farmers, some of which have been forced out of business.  There are still many small and organic farmers trying to bring wholesome food to the tables of more Americans. They feel a more natural approach to producing food is better for us and the well being of the animals.

Organic foods are better for you because they are grown with considerably less harmful pesticides. Organic farming does not use chemicals that can contaminate the soil and in turn our water supply; therefore, not only is organic food better for consumption, it is better for the environment. Even the EPA warns of the dangers of children and pesticides on its web site.   They warn “pesticides may harm a developing child by blocking the absorption of important food nutrients necessary for normal healthy growth. Another way pesticides may cause harm is if a child's excretory system is not fully developed, the body may not fully remove pesticides. Also, there are "critical periods" in human development when exposure to a toxin can permanently alter the way an individual's biological system operates”. 

There are many things to consider when choosing traditionally grown foods vs. organic.  Organic generally cost more since the products are not mass produced; however, we have to weigh the added benefits against the cost.  If we are getting more nutrients and a better looking product, is the added cost worth it?  In my experience, organic foods taste better and are more appealing.  Just knowing they are not laced with chemicals makes me choose organic when I can.  At times, there have been some products that weren’t as appealing as the non-organic; however, organic products are not genetically altered.  Genetically altered products are altered to appeal to our senses.  They are often larger, brighter and shinier.  Although organic may not be as bright and shiny, they are still the better choice.  Did you realize petroleum is put onto cucumbers and peppers to make them nice and shiny?  I would rather have one that is less attractive that I know is free of chemicals. 

      With all of the research indicating the added health benefits of choosing organic, there are still times when I have to weigh the additional cost of organic foods when shopping.  For instance, an organic gallon of milk has recently risen to $8 a gallon vs. $3 for non-organic.  Take in to consideration, my family goes through four gallons of milk a week, which is twenty gallons a month.  The difference between organic and non-organic milk adds up to $100 a month.  Since the increase in cost, I have switched back to non-organic.  I really miss the organic milk, but at this time don’t feel the additional expense in this area outweighs the desire to purchase organic.  I choose to concentrate on buying organic fruits and vegetables and various other products and skip the organic milk at this time.  When given the choice, if within reason, I choose organic.  I feel I have more energy when I include more organic foods in my diet.  I am always working at trying to incorporating more organic items into our lives whenever possible.  I feel the less exposure to pesticides my family has, the better it will be for us in the long term. 

Benbrook, Charles, Xin Zhao, Jaime Yanex, Neal Davies, and Preston Andrews. "New Evidence Confirms the Nutritional Superiority of Plant-Based Organic Foods." Organic Center; State of Science Review: Nutritional Superiority of Organic Foods (2008): 1-49. Web. 21 Mar 2010. .
Food, Inc.  Kenner, Robert. Magnolia Pictures, 2008.  DVD.
Heckman, Joseph R. "Misquotes in "Variation in Mineral Composition of Vegetables"." Rutgers; New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 11Mar1991. Web. 21 Mar 2010. .
"Is Organic Food Better for You?” WebMD. WebMD, Inc., 2004. Web. 21 Mar 2010. .
"Nutritional Considerations." Organic Trade Association. Organic Trade Association, 2008. Web. 21 Mar 2010. .
"Organic Labeling and Marketing Information." United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service. United States Department of Agriculture, Apr2008. Web. 21 Mar 2010. <>.
"Pesticides: Health and Safety." U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA.Gov, 04Mar2008. Web. 21 Mar 2010. .

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Chickens are Laying! The Chickens are Laying!

With all of the news stories regarding recalled eggs in the supermarket, the chickens couldn’t have started laying at a better time.  After weeks of anticipation, the chickens are finally starting to lay consistently.  I have been able to gather one egg each day for about a week, until this week.  On Monday and Tuesday they had laid two eggs. I actually caught one of the hens in the nesting box so I was able to see which one was leaving me the presents.  I was contemplating a surveillance camera in the coop to catch them in the act.  My family jokes that I need to get a chicken cam so we can post it on the web. 

Today I went out expecting to bring in two more eggs, and to my surprise there were five!  Two of the hens had laid their first eggs.  The first eggs are smaller and much lighter in color than the others.  It may be a few days now before the newest layers lay another egg so tomorrow I have no idea how many eggs I will find.  The older chickens are 25 weeks old, while the younger ones are at 21 weeks.  The older birds are the ones I have caught in the nesting boxes so far.  They don’t seem to stay in there long so catching them is by chance.

The chickens are starting to like being let out of the coop for longer periods of time.  They don’t venture far away from me and if I leave to come into the house for something, they scurry back into the run for safety.  Once I return, out they come again.  The little red ones have been following me around like a litter of kittens.  They have started to beg like dogs for treats at my feet.  My son laughs when I get the bag of sunflower seeds out to make them come running.   

Today they played chicken football with cherry tomatoes.  It’s like keep away.  One of them will grab it and run away while the others chase her trying to get the tomato for themselves.  I realize it doesn’t take much to amuse us here.  Not only are our chickens fun and entertaining to us, they supply us with eggs we don’t have to worry about being recalled.  What a bonus! 

Friday, July 30, 2010

My New Lounge Chair

I have been dreaming of a comfortable lounge chair for quite some time, but not wanting to spend the money on one. I finally saved up and splurged. I put it together myself and when I finished there were parts left over.  I don’t think that was supposed to happen, however, the directions were lacking immensely!  My son got after me because there were parts left over, but when he went to look at the direction understood why I completed the project the way I did.  He “fixed it” for me, as I knew he would.  Now, if he would have just helped in the first place he wouldn’t have had to fix it, but that’s another story……

As for my new chaise lounge…I love it! I wish I had gotten one years ago.  It’s so comfy you could almost use it as an indoor chair.  Now I can sit outside with the chickens and read in comfort. 

The chairs I had been using for years was the tri-fold type that like to fold up on you when you go to sit down on it.  Similar to this one pictured.  I have ended up with some really nasty bruises over the years from collapsing accidents.  These types of chairs are like

being on a teeter totter the entire time.  If you move too close to one end, the other one goes up in the air.  I get motion sick just thinking about it.  Not to mention the discomfort factor!  The new chair is so cushiony you don’t even feel like you should be sitting outside on it.  I can’t believe the difference. 

The down side, we have a rabbit visit our yard that apparently likes to chew on things.  The other day we caught him chewing on plastic garden fencing.  When we went to look at the fence noticed he had chewed several holes in it.  This is the same rabbit that chewed off my spinach just as I was ready to harvest it.  After putting up the plastic fencing we were putting the cover over the chair to protect it from the elements, my son noticed the rabbit had chewed on the chair covering too.  It can be fixed by sewing; however, it was a little upsetting to see the destruction made by a rabbit.  I may have to invest in a live trap to relocate the critter to a new home at this rate of destruction.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Making Flour from Grain

I needed to replenish my whole grain flour this week, which meant grinding grain. I know some people like to grind their flour fresh each time they go to use it. It has more nutrients when you do, however, as my blog indicates, this is a journey, and I am still about convenience when possible. I prefer to grind the grain into flour and store it in the refrigerator so it is ready when I want to use it. It is still healthier than processed flour when I do this.  I also do not like to clean up messes, and since the parts require hand washing, I like to do as little of that as possible. I still like my dishwasher and put as much into it as I can!

I bought my grain mill after many months of research about a year ago. I kind of did things backwards. I purchased the grain first, then the mill. For awhile I was having a friend grind grain for me until I decided on which grain mill I actually wanted to purchase. I decided on the Nutrimill. I purchased it from Pleasant Hill Grain and was very pleased with the purchase and delivery. Their prices were less than competitors, they have a good reputation, and shipping was FREE!

I chose the Nutrimill Grain Mill after reading many reviews and have been pleased with it.  I wanted a machine that would grind the grain into as fine of a flour as possible since my family doesn't truly like "whole grains".  When I use the milled flour I often use it 1:2 or 1:3 with organic unbleached flour, or organic spelt flour.  The ground flour will make a recipe heavier and give it more substance.  I find I get slightly more cups of flour than I grind in grain.

This is organic spelt grain in the hopper.  I fill the hopper full and generally fill it again before emptying the flour.

I use the high speed setting and place the dial on as fine of a setting as it will allow. This means just slightly turning the dial.  You can also set the dial to a more coarse setting to crack corn for chickens, or slightly course to make corn meal.  The mill will grind various types of grains.  Be sure to check with each manufacturer as they do not all grind the same types of grain.

The machine is quite loud when running so you will most likely want to wear ear protection if you are sensitive to noise. I wear my head set I wear when shooting so I can still watch the machine while it grinds.  Some may choose to walk away and return when they hear the hopper has run out of grain.

This is the flour.

Finished Product.  I place this container in my refrigerator and use it in many recipes.  I replenish it as needed.

 I also have a hand grain mill which I  purchased should the electricity go out at some point, but I have not tried it yet.  As I mentioned, I prefer a finer flour and most hand grinders do not grind as fine.  Once I get it out and use it, I will post on it in the future.

**Note my storage container in the first picture is a recycled animal cracker canister.  I love these canisters to hold grain and other items I purchase in bulk.  I remove the label and wash them before reusing.  I also buy baking soda in a 13# bag which fits nicely into these containers.  

For more information on grinding flour:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chickens in the Back Yard

Chickens in the back yard, why not?  Recently the city of Cedar Rapids passed an ordinance to allow you to keep up to six hens within the city.  Hooray for those people!  They will soon be able to enjoy their own feathered pets and fresh eggs. 

Chickens go along with the sustainable ecological lifestyle, many of us would love to attain.  Many years ago chickens were in back yards everywhere.  Why the change in attitude?  What is so offensive about chickens? They eat bugs, grass, food scraps, provide fertilizer and help to fill the compost bin. And give us eggs!  They are quieter than a dog.  They eat less, and quite honestly, smell less too! Chickens are low maintenance pets. 

Chickens will also eat items out of the garden when available, bugs included. Ours love green peas.  I get more enjoyment out of watching them eat the peas rather than save them for ourselves.  They fight over who gets to eat them.  I have never seen anything like it.  One of the larger ones, we now call her fatty.  (She was crazy feathers, but lately has really put on the weight).  She is always first in line begging for treats.  She will actually push the others out of the way to get to them.  She’s also really fast and is usually first to get to them. 

Every time we go outside they look at us in their run and wait for us to come and give them treats and pay attention to them.  They like to be let out in the yard to forage for insects and eat grass.  Today we mowed the yard and placed the bagged grass into their run.  They loved it.  They could sit in the soft grass and eat all they wanted.  They like scratching and playing in it.  They will have the grass gone within a few days.  I generally keep straw on the ground for them to scratch and eat the seeds off of to keep them busy, but when we mow, we like to treat them with fresh grass. 

It shouldn’t be too long before we start getting eggs from our older girls.  One of them in particular is starting to get a nice red comb.  This is a sign they are about ready to start laying.  I can hardly wait.  I haven’t bought eggs from the store in a long time.  I am going to have to break down and buy another dozen for baking.  After having fresh eggs, I just can’t seem to use an entire dozen of store bought eggs any more.  They don’t last very long and taste awful! 

I am also excited today because I have finally found a local source for organic chicken feed!  Thanks to the facebook group CLUC (Citizens for the Legalization of Urban Chickens) I was able to contact our local Theiesn’s to see if they could order it for me.  They were nice enough to actually pick it up at another store and in the future will do a store trade if I would like more.

 When I inquired about the feed the manager indicated others thought the price was too high and walked out of the store, therefore, they do not carry it.  He quoted me a price of 14.89 for 40# which actually is only a little higher than non-organic TSC store brand I had been purchasing.  I think I pay close to $12 for 50#. 

I currently give our hens organic fruits, vegetables and nuts when possible.  I had looked at organic food in the past, but could only find suppliers on the west coast.  Shipping charges were going to be outrageous. I even looked into making my own, but this meant having all of the grains on hand, grinding them, and then mixing it all together.  This was going to take more room for storage, time, and having a lot of food on hand that could possibly go bad.  Not something I was wanting to tackle for my brood of 12 hens.  In the meantime, I am looking forward to Friday when my organic feed comes in.  We are getting down to the last few inches of feed in the bucket! 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pimento Cream Cheese Spread

Last night I tried a recipe I found on a fellow bloggers site .  It turned out yummy!  As usual, I realized I don't have any crackers to eat the spread on.  I opted to try it on homemade bread instead.  It was good, but I think  I'm going to make some rye bread today which I think will go great with the spread.  I love eating those mini rye bread loaves you buy in the store with cheese spreads on.  Making my own rye bread will save me a trip to the store!

When I was younger my grandmother got me hooked on those little jar cheese spreads.  We would always spend New Year's Eve with my grandparent's and have our own celebration.  This was one of the things she would always have for us.  My favorites are the pimento and pineapple spreads.  This recipe is very close to the pimento cheese spread in the jar, but easier to spread! And probably better for you since you know the ingredients that you are putting into it.  Who knows what type of preservatives are in those for them to be able to sit on the shelf for so long!

The recipe is also much cheaper to make.  It seemed to make about three times the amount that comes in the jars, and last time I looked, the jars were almost $2. each.  Not to mention, you are left with a glass jar to do something with.  Either recycle or reuse.  Put it this way, we have lots of juice jars in our cupboard and no room for anymore.

Pimento Cheese Spread

8 ounces Cream Cheese
2 ounces cheddar cheese -- shredded
1 tablespoon Heavy Cream
½ Cup Pimientos, Canned -- 4 ounce jar - drained
Combine cheeses & cream in food processor until fluffy. Pulse in pimentos. Makes 12 oz. cheese spread.

This recipe and others can be found here on the Iowa Housewife's Blog.  It is simple to make and only takes a few minutes to prepare.

I used a small food processor and I'm sure it would go much quicker with a standard sized one, however, once again, someone else thought they needed my larger food processor more than I did. ( I was told the girl friend was able to get a lot of use out of it.  Gives me a warm fuzzy just to think about it ;)
If I had more room I would purchase a larger one, but currently I have no place to store it.   I'm not sure how making coleslaw is going to work with the smaller food processor.  I haven't tried it yet, but my cabbage is coming along nicely so it won't be long!

Taking Out the Trash

How many of you take out the trash simply because it is trash day?  I used to be one of those people.  I would go around the house and gather the trash out of each can to be taken out to the curb.  I use trash bags in each trash can or often recycle plastic grocery bags.  Note***I know some people use waste baskets without a bag and simply just empty the basket.  Personally, I don't want to handle the trash more than I have to.  There is a reason it's called trash, and picking it out of the trash can to place in a bag later just grosses me out.  I know, just dump it right.  Well, there is always some piece that doesn't seem to want to come out and you have to grab it anyway.  Not for me, but to each their own.  

Gathering all of the trash bags was something I did weekly.  I wanted to make sure we had all of the trash.  I was always afraid we may have extra the next week.  We are allowed one trash can per household.  At times the trash can was very full.

As time has gone we have slowly cut back on our trash.  With being more conscientious of what goes into the trash I have been able to extend the time it takes before it is necessary to "take out the trash".  I have been able to go two weeks and more depending on the trash bin location before I have to take it out.  

I have always recycled and recycle as much as I can.   I started recycling before they had curb side recycling.  Our recycle bin is always full.  I hate seeing items that can be recycled simply discarded into the trash. 

I have also started composting more items versus throwing them in the trash or down the garbage disposal.  This has helped cut back on using trash bags as well.  By simply not throwing any food items into the trash, it has helped cut down on odors that may arise, and allow me to actually fill the bag before discarding.  

One idea I had never thought about I learned in my Sustainable Living Course is a way to reuse large plastic bags.  You know the ones paper towels come in when you buy them in the large mulit roll pack.  You have to be careful and cut the end open so you don't put a hole in the plastic.  Once you have used all of the items in the bag, simply place it in your trash can as a trash bag.  Simple idea right!  We are going to end up throwing it in the trash anyway.  Why not give it a second use before doing so? Funny thing is my grandmother most likely did something like this and we always thought she was being tight.  She was actually just being frugal and not wasting things.  She is probably looking down at me and chucking at the things we have started to incorporate into our daily lives.

This summer, on my quest to simplify things more, I purchased another compost bin. I already had one, but we were not very diligent about using. It seemed every time we added items to it that meant it would take longer to break down before we could harvest the compost.  Now with two I can alternate the bins. One bin is almost ready to harvest, and the other I am still able to add new items to be composted.

In addition to purchasing a second bin for outside I decide to purchase a compost pail for inside.  The pail has a charcoal filter in the lid to help destroy any odors.  I really like it.  You don’t have to line the bin with a bag if you don’t want to it just simply means washing it. It is dishwasher safe too!  I choose to reuse a produce bag to line the pail so all I have to do is grab the bag and go dump it into the large bin outside.  I have a feeling I am really going to like it this winter when it’s really cold and no one will want to go dump the compost. 

If you don’t recycle yet, I hope you will start.  The less we have entering the landfills the better it will be for our children in the future.  Many things can be placed in the recycle bin.  Check with your city regarding recycling and trash collection.  By recycling and composting items you will end up with less trash to haul to the curb!  This day taking out the trash isn’t as bad; I often think we are missing something because the trash can is barely half full.  

A good book to read is Green Living for Dummies. It was one I had to purchase for my class that actually ended up having a lot of great ideas.