Saturday, October 31, 2015

My Chicken's Emergency Health & Natural Remedy Quick Resource Guide

I had my first chickens as a kid in 1972; they were Leghorns - A rooster named Ernie and 2 hens, Ethel and Lucy. While that seems like a lifetime ago, I still remember mixing their feed from grains we grew or bought at the mill, and my grandmother giving me advice on their feeding and care. My coop was nothing more than a wooden box with a hinge, a door and a wood branch for a perch. We used straw for bedding.

The care and feeding of poultry even in in the 1970's was quite different than it is today.  Today's poultry enjoys better care, more balanced diets, better housing, even more choices for healthier bedding. We have many more ready made options for treating sick hens, a better understanding of their dietary needs, medical issues and treatments.

Today you can find all kinds of pre-made treatments for poultry and fowl at places like farm stores, grain mills, online and at local pet shops. Some recommendations I found curious. One such recommendation I read online for treating bumblefoot, the recommended product, I used on my horses for wound care. The label clearly states the product is "not for use on horses intended as food" so why would that product be recommended for chickens? Why would I want to put it on my hens? Afterall, I eat the eggs they produce. Like just about anything anymore, I prefer to use as many "natural" or "homeopathic" products whenever possible. This is especially true for animals that provide food for my family.

I spent hours reading labels of recommended products for different ailments and emergencies, looking up ingredients, possible side effects, and origins of products, after a while, everything just becomes jumbled - for me anyway.  I decided that I needed to have a quick resource guide with some kind of clear direction for emergencies and/or sick hens. The last thing I want to do is scan books and websites to look for the information when there is an emergency to deal with. Talk about added stress!

After doing a lot of research, I narrowed the guide to include emergencies, illnesses and diseases I felt were the most common or likely to happen when raising chickens for the quick reference emergency health guide. I typed it up, printed it off and laminated it to keep in my emergency first aid coop kit.  I am sure as time goes by, changes and corrections will be made to it but I think it's a good start.

I will be posting my Emergency First Aid Coop Kit I put together to help with any emergency situation or illness that could arise with the chickens.

I'd be happy to share this with you but I cannot figure out how I can add a PDF file for you to be able to print it off.  You'll need to send me an email at if you'd like a copy until I can figure it out - Please bare with me!  Please let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

As always, thank you for all of your support and for stopping by!  God Bless.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How to Make Chicken Brownies!

What on earth are "Chicken Brownies"?   I've been asked on numerous occasions so I am use to the funny looks one gets when talking about their flock.  Unless you have chickens, this post will leave you wondering I am sure!

I make these treats for the girls on occasion in the fall and winter months.  The brownies are easy to make and the ingredients are varied because they are made out of leftovers, grain products, and such.  You can be creative in your choices.

Here's how I make them:

I usually make the base out of leftover spaghetti or pasta to cover the bottom of an 8 x 8 pan.  I then add powdered eggshells* about a Tablespoon sprinkled over the noodles and about a 1/4 cup of flax, and unsalted sunflower seeds, over the pasta base. 

I then add whatever leftovers I want to use up - If I have spaghetti meat sauce, I'll add that, if I have leftover oatmeal or cereal, I'll add that, leftover veggies or fruit or grains, whatever I think they will eat, I add it - if they need to be chopped, I run them in the food processor to chop them smaller....
On occasion in the winter months, I add freeze-dried mealworms for added protein.

Please Note:  If you use grains such as oatmeal, millet, grits, etc, you may not have to bake these.  I simply add hot water and spread them in the pan for a "no-bake" brownie.

  After I have all of the "extras" added, I take 2 eggs and scramble them like I was making scrambled eggs.  These get poured over the ingredients I am using after they have all been added to the pan and I cook the mixture until the egg is cooked through at 375 degrees for about 20 - 30 minutes depending on the ingredients.  I let the chicken brownies cool down till they are warm to the touch inside as well as on the outside and when just warm, feed them to the girls.  

(Make sure they are cooled inside or the girls could burn themselves!)

This is a great way to use up leftovers or cracked eggs and at the same time, provide your hens with an extra treat.

*Simply save your hens egg shells, rinse them out, dry in the oven for about 20 minutes at 150 degrees and powder them in your blender or food processor - it's a great way to provide calcium for your hens and garden - without cost!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Michigan Tradition...

We always look forward to the end of September because that is the start of apple season and the cider mills open.  We love to pick our apples, grab a gallon of cider or two, a dozen of the warm cinnamon sugar donuts and sit under a tree to relax, people watch and enjoy consuming these delicious fall time treats.

Most cider mills have pick-your-own apples, a viewing area of the apple cider making process and the doughnuts being made.

Some cider mills have U-pick apples and pumpkin patches, corn or hay mazes, live entertainment by local bands, crafters selling their wares, they sell local honey, jams, jellies and butters, and a few have petting zoos to lure folks to their mill.

We choose which cider mill to visit on the quality, processing method and taste of their cider.

 In recent times, we have began to notice more and more cider mills have begun to pasteurize their cider.  I think it may be due to laws that prohibit "Dropped" apples or apples that have fallen to the ground from being used in the making of fresh cider but may be used if the cider is pasteurized so a lot of mills have begun to pasteurize their cider. We prefer unpasteurized, natural pressed cider to cider that has been pasteurized.  We both think it tastes better.                                                                                                  
I think its healthier unprocessed. I like to make apple cider vinegar so when I don't have time to make my own from scratch, I buy an extra gallon and make my ACV from their cider. (This year will be one of those years!)

I'm not sure what other states enjoy this fall pastime but if you ever get a chance to visit a cider mill, you'll be hooked on fresh pressed apple cider and warm cinnamon sugar doughnuts - YUM!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Making Fire Cider - Herbal Folk Remedy

Fire Cider Herbal Medicine & More!
Every year when we harvest our horseradish root, I know that the winter cold and flu season is just around the corner and that means it is time to make Fire Cider!

I am not sure of the origins, but I was blessed with this recipe back in my early teen years from a friend of mine that gave me some for a cold I had. It worked so well for me, I make it every year. I find the hot, tart, tangy, kinda warming, taste to be addictive almost.  It definitely helps me fight back colds and flu as I rarely get sick.

The nice thing about it is that not only is it a medicine, but it also makes for wonderful salad dressings, I drizzle some over chicken and fish, and it adds a little zip to veggies.  :-)  It adds a "zip" that really takes things up a notch.  It's really good stuff that is versatile in its use as well.
I love dual purpose things!

If you don't have the time or just want to buy a bottle, I found it for sale here online.

The recipe is simple:

Fire Cider

1 Quart Mason Jar with plastic lid
1 - large onion (I like the Spanish Onions)
1 - 5" piece of Horseradish Root finely diced
1 - 4" piece of peeled & finely diced Ginger Root
6  - peeled and finely diced Cloves of Garlic 
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried Capsaicin or Cayenne Pepper (From Louisiana is best)
1 bottle of Organic Apple Cider Vinegar with The Mother 

Place all finely diced ingredients into the mason jar, add the cayenne pepper to taste, pour the apple cider vinegar over the ingredients, put the lid on and shake to mix.  Let this sit on your counter for the next 4 weeks, shaking it everyday.

Once the mixture has set for the 4 weeks, I strain it through a double layer of cheese cloth twice to remove any debris.  I want the final product to be free of any solids.

Honey can be added after straining but this is optional.

1/4 cup to 1/2 cup Honey to be added after above ingredients have time to meld for 4 weeks.

I take a tablespoon every day in the morning after breakfast during cold and flu season.

Please Note:  This information is provided for educational purposes only.  I am not giving medical advice, medical treatment or medical care to or for anyone.  Before using or taking anything, one should consult with their own health care professional.  I make no warranty, claim or guarantee as to the effectiveness of any treatment described or found herein.  

Monday, October 5, 2015

What Are The Actual Costs For A Dozen Chicken Eggs?

Let's face it, most of us don't have chickens to make money from selling the eggs.  If that were the case, chicken eggs would have to cost a lot more than what our local market will pay or there would not be anyone selling farm fresh chicken eggs!  Most homesteaders that have and raise chickens do so for many reasons.

Some of those reasons may be:
  • We want to know more about where our food comes from.
  • We want to know what and how that food source is taken care of.
  • We want to know what our food source is consuming because ultimately the things the animals eat will end up in the end product from our livestock.
  • We want to know that "Free-Range" means they are actually out on grass eating bugs, scratching for seeds and are doing things that chickens do naturally.
  • We want to raise and replenish our livestock naturally.
  • We want to be able to have our own source for protein.
  • Chickens and their eggs are cheaper sources of meat protein.
  • Chickens require less land to raise them on.
  • More communities allow hens in residential neighborhoods\acreage isn't required. 
  • The housing needs of chickens are fairly minimal.
  • We do not like to hear how chickens are treated in commercial environments.
  • We want our children to know where an egg actually comes from.
  • We like our food to be as fresh as possible.
  • We love having chicken TV outside our windows for non-stop, free entertainment.
  • We want our garden soil enriched with chicken poo.
  • We want our garden soil naturally excavated, fertilized and turned at the end of the season.
  • We want natural bug control.
  • They sell eggs to off set the cost of having a flock of chickens.
  • They want to provide family members with farm fresh eggs.
The reasons are many!   

Most of us are "accidental" egg sellers.  We end up selling eggs because we have more eggs being produced than our family can consume.   

In order to calculate the actual costs involved in producing a dozen eggs, we have to breakdown more than just feed costs.  Below is how I figured out what the true costs of producing a dozen eggs:

Coop Costs w/labor  $1,500 divided by life expectancy 15 years/$100/yr by 365 = $.28/day
Cost for a Layer Hen $25.00 Laying Time 2 Years $12.50/yr/365 = $0.32/day
Straw and Pine Shavings for Coop/Nest box Cleaning Weekly $15/mth $0.50/day
Fencing & Fence Posts $85.00 Life Expectancy 15 yr $12.33/yr x 365 = $0.04/day
Electricity (lights/water/ heater) 6 months/$8.00/mth by 30 days = $0.26/day
Solar Predator Protection System & Hawk Netting on Run $185 5yr Life Expectancy $0.10/day
Layer Feed Daily Cost $0.73 per day to feed 12 Hens 
Real Estate Taxes  (broken down by acreage, then by acre and by 1/4 acre = $2.50/day)
Farm Liability Insurance $0.24/day
Egg Cartons and Required Labeling Cost  $0.32/each 
Automobile Gasoline/Expenses to pick up feed month $3.00/mth = $0.10/day

All of these expenses add up to $5.39/day divided by 12 = $0.45 per egg x 12 = $5.40/dozen

As you can see, there are no wages collected for cleaning the coop, feeding the chickens, collecting the eggs, refrigerating the eggs, keeping paperwork on the eggs, feeding the chickens, getting up to let them out, being home to lock them up, for medical supplies, for DE, feed storage, mouse control costs, treats or medical treatment......

Obviously your costs and expenses would be different than my costs and expenses.  I would not be able to get anywhere close to $5.40/dozen in my area but then again, I do not have chickens to sell eggs.  I have chickens for our family's consumption and for my entertainment & enjoyment.  

I wanted to know what it costs to bring a farm fresh egg to our table.  At a cost of $0.45 an egg, I'd say that is a heck of a deal just to know my girls are well cared for, eat healthy, are in a clean environment & are just plain ol' chickens allowed to be and act like chickens! 

Have you figured out what it costs you to provide your family with delicious, nutritious Farm Fresh Eggs?  I'd love to know!

I posted why I sat down and spent my time calculating costs on - Here is a link to that post - Click Here!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Harvesting & Growing Horseradish

It's that time of year that I harvest some of my Horseradish to make both culinary and medicinal delights for the winter months.  We have transplanted our plant stock that I have been growing for over 25 years to our new homestead this last week. I thought now would be a great time to write a little about this wonderful, diverse and highly underrated perennial.  

Here is a little background information on growing and using Horseradish I thought may be of interest to you.  

In Spring, the tender, edible leaves emerge from their Winter resting period.

Growing Horseradish:

Horseradish is a perennial that is best propagated by root cuttings. Horseradish is hardy to zone 5 and in other areas, it may be grown as an annual.  Horseradish root stock must be planted in amended soil with compost.  Horseradish prefers afternoon sunshine with a little shade. Horseradish also benefits from frequent watering - the plant prefers a moist soil but not wet or soggy soils. Horseradish can be planted in full sun which helps horseradish to survive but horseradish will do well with afternoon shade especially in areas that are hot, and or dry.  Once you get Horseradish established, it is pretty much one of those plants that you don't need to fuss over.  They are quite hardy I have found.

One of my Horseradish Plants Just Before Harvesting
Harvesting Horseradish:

The best time to harvest Horseradish is after the first hard frost and the leaves are dying back.  If the ground has frozen, you can overwinter horseradish.  In the spring before the plant begins to actively grow, you can harvest it at that time too if you wish.

Storing Horseradish:

Horseradish roots should be stored in a cool, dark location so the root does not spoil.  Whole root stock may be stored up to 3 months if kept in a ventilated plastic bag inside of a refrigerator.  They can be stored in a root cellar or buried in moist sand.  Horseradish may be frozen and used for culinary purposes later.  

Culinary Uses:  

This Root I harvested in early Spring 2015.

Horseradish Root is used to make condiments, as a spice and for seasoning.  Horseradish contains potassium, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium, are fat-free and rich in vitamins A & C. Horseradish loses nutritional value when cooked so it is best used raw. The most common uses for raw Horseradish are for cocktail sauces, dips, dressings, numerous condiments like horseradish mustard, horseradish mayonnaise, or added into cheese spreads.  

Horseradish loses its pungent punch when heated.  Using fresh is always preferred but prepared, store bought is at times necessary and acceptable to use in many recipes.  The ratio of prepared, store bought Horseradish to using fresh grated Horseradish is 4 prepared to 1 fresh.  

Other herbs that pair beautifully with Horseradish are bay, chives, garlic and mint.  

In the book, Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables, a Common Sense Guide by E. Schreiber, suggests to "throw out the rules and add a little horseradish to everything!" 

When I add Horseradish, I make the addition to "taste" and not so much by measurement.  I truly enjoy the addition of Horseradish Cream to liven up a sandwich - it adds punch to an otherwise dull roast beef  or grilled cheese sandwich.  Here's the recipe:

Horseradish Cream
1/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream       
1/4 cup plain yogurt or mayonnaise                                                        
1/2 TBSP Horseradish  (to taste)
1/2 TBSP Fresh Chopped Dill      
Salt and Pepper to Taste        
1/2 Tsp Lemon Juice (optional)

Measure and mix all ingredients in bowl.  Store covered in refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Can be used as a dip for veggies and/or chips.

Medicinal Uses:

Long before Horseradish became popular as a ingredient in the kitchen, it was used for medicinal purposes from sore throats to digestive tract issues, for the treatment of asthma, arthritis, toothaches and cancer.  Horseradish is known for its diuretic and circulatory properties.  

Native American Indians used Horseradish for toothaches and menstrual cramps.  The ground root was applied to the skin and applied to the skin for circulation.  Tonics were made to treat congestion, sore throats, hoarseness and as an expectorant for colds. 

Today the medical field utilizes an enzyme present in Horseradish, referred to as HRP, as a tool for detecting antibodies.  Research is being conducted to explore possibilities that compounds found in Horseradish can be used for the prevention of cancer.   

One must be cautioned that large doses of Horseradish can cause irritation to the stomach lining and may cause vomiting if you over do it.

Wasabi, which is sometimes called Japanese Horseradish, is another cultivated plant that enjoys the culinary addition of "heat" though many argue Wasabi has a more pungent hot flavor, others folks argue that Horseradish provides more heat.  What many don't know is that Horseradish is often dyed green and used as a substitute for Wasabi!  

The Horseradish Plant not only provides beautiful foliage to a landscape, it provides a wonderful medicinal food source for folks to enjoy. 

Fall is the best time to plant Horseradish plants.  Look for a root in the organic section of your local grocer or at the farmers market that has a bit of green on the crown.  Plant the root with the crown up it in a moist but not wet area and wait till next fall to harvest some of this wonderful plant.

(You guessed it, I am getting ready to make some things with Horseradish!)

DISCLAIMER:  Please note that I am not a doctor nor am I recommending any herbs or plants for medical or health purposes.  The information contained herein is given as educational purposes only and should not be considered as or a recommendation of any particular medical or health treatment.  Always check with your health professional before using any herb or plant as a treatment or health treatment.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Our Storage Solution for Organizing and 

Storing Herbs & Spices

At our last home, like most folks, I stored my herbs and spices in a cupboard by the stove.  The problems I had with doing that was:

1.  Difficult to find the spice or herb I needed.
2.  The cabinet was too small and "overfilled".
3.  Constantly had move jars and re-arrange.
4.  The cabinet was too close to the stove.  
     (Herbs and spices should be stored in a cool, dry and dark area.)
5. The cabinet was difficult to keep organized.

I purchased a lot of items I thought would help improve my dilemma like those stepped spice storage shelfs. While they worked for the small jars, they did not fit the large jars so I made my own "stepped" spice rack for the cupboard that really did nothing more than lift the containers up but still forced me remove the jars and stepped plastic shelves to get to the spice jars behind them!

 That absolutely drove me crazy.  I was so limited on storage and cabinet space, I did not have much choice.  When we decided to build the new homestead, I made a detailed list of things the new house had to accommodate in a more "user friendly" manner.   Spice storage was on that list!

Here is my solution to my Spice & Herb Storage Issue: 
We built and added this spice storage rack inside one of my new pantry doors - 
What an improvement!  

I organized the herbs and spices by color instead of alphabetically.  
I just find it easier to find them this way.

Spices and herbs I rarely use, I keep on the bottom tiers.

Here is a close up of the spice shelf that we attached to a stain grade piece of 
plywood which is glued to the plywood and then screwed from behind & then
screwed securely into the pantry door.  

   For the spice jars, I wanted everything to match, so I purchased these 
wonderful Weck Jars to store my spices and herbs in.  They fit beautifully without
worry they could fall out.

On our pantry door, we measured the space inside the door handle 
and from where I wanted the top and bottom of the spice rack and cut the plywood to those 

We bought the spice shelves from IKEA 
(Here is the link to them: IKEA Spice Shelf )

We put the spice shelves together, wood glued and screwed them to the plywood, 
stained the plywood and spice shelves and after they were dry,
we screwed them to the inside of the pantry door.

Having my herbs and spices finally organized and easily accessible has really
made meal making so much more enjoyable - I actually know what I am low on and I
know which ones need to be replaced.  

Organizing the spices have really increased the time 
spent on getting dinner on the table!

Do you have this same kind of issue with your spice storage?  
If so, this may be a solution that could work for you!

As Always,
Thank you for your support &
Stopping By!

Back to Basics Gal





Saturday, September 26, 2015

Food Preservation 2015 Book Giveaway!


the Food Preservation 2015 END OF SUMMER Book Giveaway!

 It's a little late in the season but I guess it's better late than never as the old saying goes.  We are still trying to get settled so things like the blog and Youtube have been few and far between. I would love to be able to give each and every sub a prize but alas, that is not a possibility!  I am trying to make this as simple as possible to keep track of folks who want to enter so below I am listing what I need you to do to have your name drawn....

1.  You must be a subscriber to my YouTube Channel.
2.  The drawing is only open to residents of the USA.  (Sorry but shipping out of country is not in my meager budget at this time!)
3.  Please, ONE entry per person so more folks will have a chance.  (Choose the one book you would want the most); They are all great books!

Book #1 - PUT EM' UP FRUIT  

   Book #2 -  CAN IT!  


  Book #4 - The Art of Preserving 

4.  Entries will be accepted starting today, September 26th, 2015 and up until October 21st, 2015 at midnight.  Sorry, entries received after that date will not be entered.
5.  You must enter here on my blog, Back to Basics & Homespun News, Simply include your YouTube Name and the number (1 through 4 above) for the one book you would like to be put in the drawing for - Remember, one entry only per person!  Duplicate entries will not be honored.
6. The winner(s) will be drawn sometime during the week of Halloween (October 25th through October 31st, 2015) - This should allow you enough time to see the contest and get your entry in.
(This timeframe will also allow me enough time to check the entries and get them ready for the drawing!)

AT THAT TIME, I WILL ASK YOU TO PROVIDE ME WITH YOUR MAILING ADDRESS, (no post office boxes please, I don't think tracking will work with PO Boxes) and  your                   EMAIL ADDRESS.

PLEASE NOTE: Your privacy is important to me.  The information you provide 
will only be used to send you the book you won and your email used to send you 
information pertaining to this drawing.  


I hate sounding so HARSH but holding a drawing is a lot of work and I want the steps clearly stated so everyone has an opportunity to enter & everyone is clear on the rules.

Thank you so much for your support.  It is appreciated more than you could possibly know!

Best of Luck to All.
As Always, Thanks so Much for Stopping By!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Are You Eating Real Cinnamon?

While trying to find some Ceylon Cinnamon sticks online, I happened upon some health related information I thought needed to be shared.  Here is what I found:

Who knew there is only one "true" or "real" cinnamon? 

I had been buying Ceylon Cinnamon simply because I preferred the more delicate taste to that of the Saigon Cinnamon I had purchased. I noticed there was a slightly higher price for Ceylon Cinnamon which I thought was because it must have been more expensive to harvest, maybe it was more difficult to harvest or something along those lines. There is a difference in the taste between cinnamons being sold on the market.  I found the Saigon Cinnamon leaves an aftertaste and is a little bitter tasting.  I did not know any information about the health risks between the different "cinnamons" on the market.

All types of cinnamon share certain characteristics such as they are antimicrobial, inhibit the growth of fungi and yeast, and help regulate blood sugars.  Where the huge difference is from a health standpoint is the amount of Coumarin they have.

"True" or "Real" Cinnamon is called Ceylon Cinnamon which is grown in Sri Lanka and is sourced from the plant Cinnamomum Zeylanicum.  Ceylon Cinnamon has a sweet, very delicate, milder smell, offers a brighter, almost citrusy taste. It does not have a bitter after taste.
Saigon and Cassia Cinnamon offer a stronger, pungent, hotter taste and a stronger, bolder scent than Ceylon Cinnamon.

The most common type of spice we find here in the United States and in Asia being sold as cinnamon is either Cassia, which is also known as Chinese Cinnamon and Saigon Cinnamon.  Cassia comes from a plant called Cinnamomum Cassia or Cinnamon Aromaticum, a totally different plant than true cinnamon comes from.  Likewise, Saigon Cinnamon comes from an evergreen tree in the genius Cinnamomum which is indigenous to Asia.  Both of these types of "cinnamon" have a high amount of Coumarin which has strong blood-thinning properties and can cause liver and kidney damage over prolonged use.

A published study by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry tested cinnamon commercially available in the United States which found "Substantial Amounts" of the naturally occurring organic compound Coumarin which can cause liver damage if consumed in excess.  Coumarin is found naturally in many edible plants like strawberries, apricots, cherries, and black currents,  Coumarin was banned as a food additive in the United States in 1954. This same study found only trace amounts of Coumarin in Ceylon Cinnamon.

European health agencies have taken steps to warn their population of the dangers of consuming excessive amounts of Cassia Cinnamon due to its Coumarin content.

According to the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, 1 Kg of Cassia Cinnamon Powder contains 2.1 to 4.4 g of coumarin.  Based upon the weight, the report concluded that one teaspoon of Cassia Cinnamon contains anywhere from 5.8 to 12.1 mg of coumarin which is above the tolerable daily intake level - the report cautions against high daily intakes of foods containing coumarin and specifically states that Ceylon Cinnamon contains "hardly any" coumarin.

Ceylon Cinnamon on left
Ceylon Cinnamon is highly valued as a culinary and medicinal spice and is also more expensive than other cinnamon being sold such as Cassia/Chinese Cinnamon and Saigon Cinnamon.  Ceylon Cinnamon sticks are lighter, tannish in color, have numerous layers in the sticks, are easily broken up and easily ground into powder.  Cassia and Saigon Cinnamon sticks are reddish brown, have thicker and fewer layers, and are very difficult to grind up even with a blender or chopper.

You can find  in some grocery stores, at some health food stores and of course, online.  I purchase my Ceylon Cinnamon in sticks and grind them as needed.

I hope you found this information useful.  As Always, Thanks for stopping by!