Cutting down on chicken costs


Get twice as much out of your feed bag by fermenting it |

Get twice as much out of your feed bag by fermenting it |

I have five frozen roosters (we ate two and they were delicious) in my freezer that came from my backyard. It’s a satisfying feeling to have been able to put food on the table. While I may feel proud of myself for carrying through with the plan to raise meat chickens, I don’t feel satisfied financially.

As I stated in my previous post (A Reflection on Raising Chickens for Meat), I made a few mistakes with my first flock. Many, many mistakes. I am kind of glad for my poor record-keeping abilities right now because I would hate to learn how much it actually cost to put those seven roosters in the freezer.

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The homesteading dilemma

The homesteading life dilemma |

The homesteading life dilemma |

I have more time on my hands in the morning lately. The hubs leaves early for his new job and I have a few hours to kill before I have to hustle out the door and head to the newsroom. It’s a nice time to reflect and a time I should be using to blog more. More than a year ago a switch went off — well, actually it was the television. That one small act triggered a chain reaction that led to free-ranging chickens, six baby bunnies, hundreds of square feet of homegrown vegetables and a burning desire to reach a higher level of self sufficiency.

I have a desire to more on our homestead than what we are doing now |

I have a desire to more on our homestead than what we are doing now |

These days I find myself dreaming about the day when we no longer rely on a grocery store to provide a majority of our food. As much as I try and shop local there isn’t always enough money in the bank to purchase the locally-farmed, organic meat so I choose the grocery store alternative. We are having to buy greens again since the aforementioned free-rangers ate all of my kale and lettuce greens. Baby greens are emerging in another garden which I need to get covered this weekend along with two others so we can (hopefully) have a fresh supply of greens and other cold-faring veggies throughout the fall and winter. I have been baking fresh loaves of sourdough bread weekly and have cut commercial bread from our diets (however I do still purchase buns and other bread product like wraps and Naan that I can also make at home). In another month or two we should start seeing some eggs and the roosters should be ready to butcher. The collection of jars in the basement is growing each week due to my new addiction to canning. Things are slowly coming together but I have a burning desire to do more.

It will be a month or two before the chickens are productive on our backyard farm. How do you keep motivated on your homestead? |

It will be a month or two before the chickens are productive on our backyard farm. How do you keep motivated on your homestead? |

Enough with the baby steps. I want to leap, bound and jump towards a homesteading lifestyle. But life has that way of putting up road blocks. Time for one is lacking when you work a day job that keeps you on your toes and constantly busy — oftentimes beyond the 9-5 constrains of the working world. Money is another one. But mostly, it’s me. I could find the time but instead I read up different skills and projects online instead of picking up the tools and getting to work myself. As much as I dream about this lifestyle it seems I am my own biggest roadblock. Anyone else find this the case? I want to be self-sufficient yet I am afraid to take that leap.

No more grocery store bread for this household |

No more grocery store bread for this household |

It’s too easy to live a modern life. We have every convenience available to us at the swipe of a finger or the click of a button. Why would I take the time to make a fresh loaf of bread when the commercial option is available for less than $2? Why wash the dishes by hand when the dishwasher is there? Why hang things to dry when I can toss them in the dryer? I score one out of three there. I do make my own bread but I rely on the conveniences of appliances to do a lot of jobs that I can do myself which will ultimately save us money (eliminating another roadblock).

The desire to live a simpler life has resulted in new life on the farm |

The desire to live a simpler life has resulted in new life on the farm |

How do you stay motivated? What homesteading skills have you mastered? What is your advice to keeping on task?


Life and death on the farm

Life and death on the farm. I knew it would happen but I didn’t think we would say goodbye so soon |

I’ve known since starting this venture that death on the farm was inevitable. The chickens and rabbits we are raising are sources of meat for both our kitchen table and our dog’s bowls. Raising our own meat comes with the hardship of knowing at some point we are going to take a life.

What I wasn’t expecting was that it would happen so soon.

Thumper, our first animal here on the farm, has crossed the rainbow bridge. I went out to toss the bunnies their usual greens and the normally energetic rabbit was not there to greet me. Concerned, I checked around his hutch. He was lifeless in his house, it hadn’t been long since he had passed.

As much as he was a farm animal, Thumper had personality. I remember when we put him in the hutch for the first time. Up until he came here, Thumper spent much of his life living in a dog crate in a garage, so moving to the great outdoors was an adventure for him. At first, he was a little scared of the ramp but after a day or two he could bound up and down that ramp at full speed. He even figured out a way to get into the roof area of the hutch and hang out there. He was a happy bunny and he will be missed.

On a farm, life has a way of being cyclical. Just as Thumper’s life came to an end, new life entered the world. Life he created.

We have six baby bunnies, four dark and two white. We discovered them a week after Thumper’s death when the mound of fur one of the girls had made started moving around. We suspected she may have been pregnant and sure enough, she was. Now we have six baby bunnies to watch grow up.

Our first bunny kittlings |

Our first bunny kittlings |

With new life on the farm comes the likelihood that there will be more death on the farm…. and soon. Everything I have read suggests that eight weeks is optimal slaughter time for rabbits — however some backyard farmers wait 12 weeks. This is the part that scares me. It’s going to be hard. Right now they are sweet and tiny, I can’t imagine taking their lives. Luckily, I think most of this litter will be kept, the females anyway, to build up our breeding stock. So we may have a brief reprieve.

Six bunny kittlings |

Six bunny kittlings |

Hopefully by the time we do have to process the rabbits we have already gone through a chicken butchering. Even though I know that will be difficult as well I have no attachment to the flock of miniature velociraptors. I don’t find the chickens cute as I do the rabbits. I keep telling myself it will be easier with the chickens, but deep down I know it will be just as hard. As much as I say they are freeloaders and slightly terrifying they are pretty cool to watch as they peck around the property. I just try to watch the females more since they will find a permanent home in the coop.

That’s life on the farm I suppose. I never for a minute thought that the farm life would be easy and it sure isn’t. But the benefit of all of this is knowing where our food comes from and that to me, is worth all of it, even the hard parts.

Momma watching over her babies |

Momma watching over her babies |



Pickles take two

Classic Dill Pickles |

Classic Dill Pickles

If you read my first blog post on canning, you might remember there being a slight worry that my beautiful dills would end up tasting like metal. Rest assured, we popped open a jar and no metal there, just yummy, tangy dill. In the meantime, I tried my hand at another canning recipe for dill pickles, this time from Ball.

The trouble with pickling recipes is that unless you have tried them in the past, you have no idea if they are replicating until the season is over. Next year I will have a better handle on which recipes to keep and which ones to trash.

Just a short post today as I am about to head to the kitchen to can some crushed tomatoes to have on hand for the upcoming cold seasons. Already, with the help of my awesome friend Shandra, my cold cellar (a work in progress) is stocked with tomato soup concentrate, peach and raspberry jam, ground cherry, watermelon and peach jalapeno jellies, dill pickles (two kinds), pickled pepperoncinis, cowboy candy, carrot cake jam, roasted garlic tomato sauce, roasted jalapeno salsa and spicy dilly beans. I will be sharing those recipes soon and more. Still ahead are the crushed tomatoes, fire and ice pepper jelly (using ice wine), tequilla pepper jelly (a recipe from Shandra’s family), apple pepper jelly, apple butter, more ground cherry preserves including a jam and pie filling… and plenty more. We are running out of canning days but I plan to make the most of them.

Summer harvest is coming to an end and I am anxious to get into my gardens and plant for fall and winter. A gardening post will be up soon,


Classic Dill Pickles |

Classic Dill Pickles

Makes 6 Pints

  • 4 pounds of pickling cucumbers
  • 3 C sugar
  • 2 Tbsp pickling salt
  • 6 C pickling vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp pickling spice
  • Dill
  • Garlic, crushed

Combine sugar, salt and vinegar in a non-reactive pot (stainless steel). Add spices and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.

Prepare jars by washing in soapy water and then sterilizing in the water bath canner.

Remove jars from canner and put dill and garlic in bottoms. Stuff with cucumbers. Add a little more garlic and dill before filling jars with hot liquid.

Leave 1/2 inch head space and process in water bath canner for 15 minutes.

Wait a few months before popping those lids and digging in for a deeper flavour to develop.


Finally, bread that’s not a brick

With a homemade starter you have to wait seven days to make your first loaves but it is worth the wait. Finally, a light, fluffy bread from scratch. How to make your own sourdough starter and bread |

With a homemade starter you have to wait seven days to make your first loaves but it is worth the wait. Finally, a light, fluffy bread from scratch. How to make your own sourdough starter and bread |

Nothing warms the home like the smell of fresh baked bread. It’s warm, it’s comforting and most of all, it tastes amazing — most of the time. I have had a lot bread failures in my time. My homemade bread is not light and fluffy, it’s heavy and dense — until now. I have finally found a recipe that makes incredible tasting, light, airy bread.

If you are looking to make a loaf today, however, you have come to the wrong place.

The bread I am talking about is a sourdough bread. That sour flavour comes from the starter, which is essentially a fermented flour and water mix that you feed for a minimum of seven days before using. So, again, if you are looking to make bread today, this recipe won’t help. But, if you are planning to make homemade bread a week from now, or just want to make your own starter, follow along.

Making a starter was pretty easy. It begins with 3/4 C flour and 3/4 C spring water (this is key as chlorine in tap water can kill the active ingredients) in a mason jar. You stir it together until all of the lumps are gone then put it in a warm place. I put mine on top of my fridge. Next day, same thing. Day after, same thing. Day after that, same thing, I skipped a day since it seemed to have slowed down. Keep doing this until you get to day seven. You may to pour a little bit of the start out to make room for the continuous feedings. Once your starter is ready though, you will no longer have to waste any of the starter as you can bake with it.

After about day five or six you are going to want to start stirring the liquid layer back into the starter about twice a day.

After seven days, store your starter in the fridge and continue to feed it once a week. Instead of dumping the extra, make a loaf of bread.

Homemade Sourdough that is light, fluffy and oh so good |

Homemade Sourdough that is light, fluffy and oh so good |

Sourdough Bread from Scratch

  • 1 1/4 C spring water
  • 1 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 2 C starter
  • 4-4 1/2 C all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp salt

Combine water and yeast in bottom of mixer bowl. Let sit a few minutes until yeast has dissolved. Add starter, stir until dissolved.

Add 4 cups of flour and salt, knead for eight minutes. Adding flour 1 Tbsp at a time if it becomes sticky.

Remove dough and clean bowl. Coat in olive oil and return bread to bowl. Let rise in a warm place for 1-1.5 hours.

Once dough has risen turn it out and divide into two balls. Let rest 20 minutes.

Shape dough into loaf pans and let rise for another 1.5 hours.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat oven to 450.

When loaves have risen, cut slits in the tops and put in oven. Bake for 10 minutes than lower temperature to 400. Bake 30 minutes.

Makes two loaves.

Making a sourdough starter isn't so bad. Just combine 3/4 C flour and spring water daily for seven days until you have a sour-smelling, smooth batter. You can bake your first loaf after day seven |

Making a sourdough starter isn’t so bad. Just combine 3/4 C flour and spring water daily for seven days until you have a sour-smelling, smooth batter. You can bake your first loaf after day seven |

Addicted to canning


Peach Pepper Jelly |

Peach Pepper Jelly |

There is no greater sound when canning than the popping of a lid. This signals a successful jar of preserves that can last up to a year, or in some cases longer. Ever since I popped my canning cherry a few weeks ago, I have been addicted.

This weekend, with the help of my amazing friend Shandra, we canned six different things: spicy dilly beans, dill pickles, pickled pepperoncini peppers, roasted jalapeno salsa, ground cherry pepper jelly and the recipe I am going to share with you tonight (don’t worry, I will share the rest too) peach jalapeno pepper jelly.

Sweet peach and spicy jalapeno come together in this delicious canning recipe |

Sweet peach and spicy jalapeno come together in this delicious canning recipe |

With peaches still in season, I thought what better way to break into the world of making jelly than with a peach pepper variety.

I love pepper jelly. Over a warm, gooey wheel of creamy brie, spread over cream cheese or just on a cracker, pepper jelly is a sweet and spicy bit of heaven.

The peach flavour sweetens up the heat from the garden-fresh jalapeno peppers.

One sad thing about making pepper jelly from scratch is seeing the amount of sugar that goes into it. If anyone has a sugarless or low sugar recipe for pepper jelly, please feel free to share it in the comments below. I plan on whipping up a few different versions of pepper jelly before the season is through.

Sweet juicy peaches meet spicy jalapeno in this yummy canning recipe |

Sweet juicy peaches meet spicy jalapeno in this yummy canning recipe |

Peach Jalapeno Pepper Jelly

Adapted from How to Have It All

  • 6 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 1/2 C apple cider vinegar
  • 6 1/2 C sugar
  • 2 pouches Certo liquid pectin
  • 1 C peaches, finely diced

In a large stainless steel pot (do not use a coated pot for this, see my Popping My Canning Cherry for more information on non-reactive cookware in canning) combine peppers, sugar and vinegar over high heat.

Bring to a rolling boil. Maintain a rolling boil, stirring constantly for five minutes.

Add pectin and peaches. Return to a rolling boil and stir for three minutes.

Remove pot from heat and let cool for a minute. Skim off any foam with a spoon.

Pour into hot jars leaving a half-inch of head space. Process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Remove from canner and place jars somewhere they can sit undisturbed for 24 hours.

Listen for the pop and rejoice in the fact that you just made your own pepper jelly.

We doubled the recipe and ended up with 13 jam-sized jars (250 ml) of this delicious jelly.

After we made the jelly I did read a few posts from other bloggers regarding the doubling of canning recipes. Many warned against while others said the consistency changes when doing larger batches.

Peach Jalapeno Pepper Jelly |

Peach Jalapeno Pepper Jelly |

Popping my canning cherry and a pickle recipe

Pickle success on my first try? Only time will tell. Popping my canning cherry and a pickle recipe |

Pickle success on my first try? Only time will tell. Popping my canning cherry and a pickle recipe |

Get it? Popping my canning cherry. Like that sweet popping sound you want to hear when you can. It’s a sweet sound I tell you, especially when there is a symphony of popping lids. It means victory.

Everything is growing like mad around here. While my tomato plants aren’t as tall or as big as I would like them to be, there are plenty of fruits, big and small, ripening on their vines. I have about six little eggplants growing and dozens of peppers, hot and sweet. The ground cherries and gooseberries are impressive, taking over the little berry patch so much that my raspberry and blueberry plants have disappeared. I have plenty of canning recipes I plan to try with my crop as I am expecting a bumper one (PS tried ground cherries for the first time tonight and oh my are they are sweet and tasty). My homemade pickle cucumbers are also faring well, though not producing enough at one time to make pickles so I had to cheat.

I had seven homegrown cucumbers on the counter just dying to be made into pickles. I couldn’t wait.

I had to cheat and buy some extras from the farmers' market. I couldn't wait to try my hand at canning.

I had to cheat and buy some extras from the farmers’ market. I couldn’t wait to try my hand at canning.

After a trip to the Grimsby Farmers’ Market I had enough cucumbers to make a small batch of pickles. Too bad I forgot to plant dill, I had to buy that too.

It looks like my pickling adventure was a success (and my subsequent spicy dilly bean adventure as well as adventures in jam, all of which I will blog about soon). I do have one concern though, and only time will tell. Apparently in all my researching about canning, I failed to take in one major advisory: use a non-reactive pot.

What does that mean? Pots made of aluminum, cast iron or treated with a non-stick coating can leach a metallic taste into the final product. Non-reactive pans include those made of stainless steal or enamel-coated cast iron.

I used non-stick pans, though mine are not teflon treated, they have a petroleum-free, ceramic-based coating. Anyone have any idea if that makes a difference?

At least there are only four jars of possibly metallic pickles (and four more small ones beans). The jams are safe we used a stainless pot.

Here is the recipe I tried, though I cannot vouch for taste yet.

And there you have it folks, my first canning accomplishment.

And there you have it folks, my first canning accomplishment.

    Blue Ribbon Dill Pickles



  • 1 basket of pickling cucumbers
  • Bunch of dill
  • Head of garlic
  • 8 1/2 C water
  • 2 1/4 C pickling vinegar
  • 1/2 C pickling salt


  • Stainless steel pot, large and small size
  • Canning pot
  • 4 pickle-sized canning with rings and lids (make sure to get new lids as the seal is only good for one use)
  • Canning tongs *
  • Canning funnel *
  • Canning magnet *
  • Canning measuring stick *
  • Towels

(*all come together in a kit from Bernadin available at most retailers)

Wash jars either by hand in hot, soapy water or on sterilizer mode in your dishwasher. Rinse and fill with water, set aside.

Fill canner with hot water and set on burner over high heat.

In smaller pot, cover rings and lids with water and bring to simmer.

In large, stainless pot, bring water, vinegar and salt to a boil. Turn off heat and set aside.

Stuff jars. First layer the garlic (I did two in each) and dill at the bottom (I added some mustard seeds, brown and yellow) then stuff in the cucs. Cram them in there up to the neck. Make sure they are stuffed in there tight or you will have a big empty gap in your finished jar (like with my beans). Top it off with some more dill and another clove of garlic.

Next, get out your trusty little canning funnel and pour in that hot, vinegar-water-salt mix. Careful, it’s hot. Fill jars, leaving a half-inch gap at the top (use your trusty little measuring stick to do that). Wipe off jar rim with warm, damp towel.

Now it’s time to use that little magnet tool. Grab a lid and ring from the simmering pot and place it on top of the jar. Screw down rim, do not tighten to much, but make sure rim is even.

Once jars are filled, use those trusty canning tongs to lower the jar into the canning pot. Bring water almost to a boil, about 15 minutes.

Remove jars from pot with tongs and place on dish towel. Put another towel on top.

Listen for the pop.

If it doesn’t pop, don’t sweat it at first. It can take 12-24 hours for the lid to pop. Mine happened after I went to bed a little depressed that my pickles didn’t pop. It was like Christmas morning when I went downstairs and discovered that over night those lids had sealed. Victory.

And then I learned about the non-reactive pot thing. Less victory.

Another small note. My garlic turned green. No blue. Like blue cheese. I read that this is perfectly normal and has something to do with a reaction between the garlic and water (or maybe my reactive pot?). For the beans, I chopped the garlic and did not have this problem. No more whole garlic in my canning recipes. Unless someone has a suggestion?


Meet the girls

The newest residents on the homestead, New Zealand White females.

The newest residents on the homestead, New Zealand White females.

And just like that, we have a rabbitry.

Thumper finally has some lady friends. On Saturday, we added two New Zealand White females to our growing farm. At first, the red eyes creeped me out a bit, but they are slowly growing on me. And really, looks shouldn’t matter, they are meat producers after all.


We haven’t decided when Thumper and his new friends are going to do the deed. I have been reading up on rabbit breeding and from what I’ve read, it happens fast. One website that I read said the deed would be finished in roughly 15 seconds, and you can tell because the male will fall over groaning, shaking and clinging to the bunny. Oh my. This will be an interesting experience to say the least. Another trusted source said to leave the female in with the male for 15 minutes and then to repeat this an hour later. The female should always be placed in the male’s pen for breeding. Rabbits are extremely territorial, especially the ladies. They have been known to kill males who invade their territory.


Starting to be brave and coming out of her rabbit hole.

Why rabbits are great on the homestead

You know how the saying goes, they breed like rabbits. One doe can produce up to 300 pounds of meat per year. With our two-doe rabbitry, we can supply ourselves with 600 pounds of meat for a low cost.

Our hutch was built with recycled material and our male was free. So the investment so far has been $50 for two, ready-to-breed female rabbits plus food, a relatively low investment for such a big return.

They take up very little space. Rabbits need a minimum space of two feet wide, three feet long, and two feet high. Our hutch is larger than many I have seen on Pinterest and can be seen in this post.

Gestation in rabbits is 30-32 days and females can be bred four weeks after the kits are born. Following a program like this should produce six litters a year.

Aside from providing meat, rabbit poop is an excellent fertilizer for gardens. They are vegetarian and their waste can be added to the soil immediately, unlike with chicken poop which is high in ammonia and should compost at least six months before adding to your gardens.

I can’t say I am looking forward to butchering day. This happens when the kits reach about eight weeks old, which gives me a little more than three months to prepare for that day. I was hoping we would have harvested chickens first, seeing as I have no adoration for feathered friends.

The chickens are growing fast and will moving outdoors soon. Their coop, also built from recycled materials, is almost ready for them.



Where this all began

Late planted tomatoes, hopefully they produce

Late planted tomatoes, hopefully they produce

I came home after a long day at work, plopped my self on the couch and grabbed the remote to turn on the TV. Click. Nothing.

“The TV doesn’t work,” I say to the husband.

“I unplugged it,” he replies.

“Oh. Why?” I ask.

The answer is this. We were spending far too much time hypnotized by the 42″ flat screen picture box mounted to the wall and not enough time living. We were eating the crappy, engineered foods that advertisers told us were healthy. I was duped by the low fat, healthy and every other key word businesses use to distract you from the fact that most of those products, the ones that come boxes, bags and cans, are not really food.

This one gesture started a path towards happiness and hopefully, sustainability.

I am tired of anxiously watching the total rise with each purchase I make at the grocery store. Our food bills are out of control and I am tired of it. Instead of putting money in someone else’s pocket I am hoping to keep more in my own and maybe even make a little more along the way.

If everything goes as planned, we should have plenty of food to keep us well fed throughout the fall and winter. A greenhouse or hoop house will enable us to grow fresh greens year round while food preservation methods such as canning, drying and freezing will provide our staples.

Our flock of Plymouth Barred Rocks will provide us with fresh eggs and meat. If we like it, our rabbit colony will also provide a sustainable food source.

My head is bursting with ideas on how we can grow our venture to not only feed ourselves, but feed others. My dream is to provide people with fresh and trustworthy food. Vegetables grown organically, meat raised on pasture without any hormones, antibiotics or genetically modified feeds. I want to bring pure food to your table.

It all starts with a dream. The dream is the platform from which great things develop. My dreams are big, but not far out of reach.

To add some art to the post, here are some updated photos from my garden progress. Note the lush green of the pepper plants thanks to the use of Epsom salt in the soil.


A pepper’s best friend

epsom salt

For a minute there, I was worried.

My beautiful pepper seedlings, which I had raised from itty-bitty seeds, were not looking so hot. The leaves were a light green, with a slight tinge of yellow. They weren’t pretty. They also weren’t really growing.

We eat a lot of peppers, especially jalapeno, so I was counting on getting a pretty decent yield of these thick-walled fruits. I have planted 32 feet of peppers, in two, 16-foot raised row beds. The varieties planted are California Wonder, Jalapeno, Pepperoncini and Sweet Chocolate.

I did a little reading online via Pinterest and made a few quick amendments and my peppers are looking good once again. The majority now have lush, green leaves and are starting to get a little taller.

Here is what I learned.

Epsom salt is a pepper’s (and tomato’s) best friend.

Early in the season this mineral compound aids in germination, early root and cell development, photosynthesis, plant growth and prevents blossom-end rot. Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, adds, you guessed it, magnesium to the soil. Plants like peppers and tomatoes are prone to magnesium deficiency which causes the fruit to be slow to mature and ripen. Because our season is limited, slowing the season is not a good idea. 

How to garden with Epsom salt.

At planting: This step I obviously missed, but apparently adding one or two tablespoons to the hole before transplanting peppers and tomatoes.

Throughout the season: Work in one tablespoon of Epsom salt per foot of plant height around the base of each plant. Do this two times a week. Epsom salt can also be applied as a topical spray by combining one tablespoon of Epsom salt per gallon of water in a sprayer tank (I use a $3 one from Dollarama). Apply this spray once the plants start blossoming to increase yields and keep plants lush and bushy. It is advised to substitute this application as a substitute for a normal watering once a month.

Hopefully, with if I keep up this routine, I will have a lot of peppers to eat and preserve later this season. I also plan to add a layer of black mulch to keep in moisture. I added a layer of grass mulch around my tomato and broccoli plants, however peppers do not like the extra nitrogen so off to the garden centre it is.

epsom salt2