The Prairie Homestead http://www.theprairiehomestead.com Homesteading | Self Sufficient Living | Living off the Land Thu, 23 Jun 2016 15:13:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.3 Homemade Fruit Slushies with Herbs http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/06/homemade-fruit-slushies-recipe.html http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/06/homemade-fruit-slushies-recipe.html#respond Thu, 23 Jun 2016 15:13:37 +0000 http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/?p=16929 Y’all, my herbs are going CRAZY this year. Which is good, considering my garden is struggling a bit, thanks to the darn chickens who keep figuring out ways to bust through the fence and wreak havoc on my fragile seedlings. Well, we might not have green beans or pumpkins, but we WILL have mint and […]

The post Homemade Fruit Slushies with Herbs appeared first on The Prairie Homestead.

]]>
slushie1

Y’all, my herbs are going CRAZY this year.

Which is good, considering my garden is struggling a bit, thanks to the darn chickens who keep figuring out ways to bust through the fence and wreak havoc on my fragile seedlings.

Well, we might not have green beans or pumpkins, but we WILL have mint and basil. Lots and lots of it.

Since I’ve been blessed with this abundance of herbs, I’m bound and determined to put them to good use. Not only will I be adding them to every recipe I can think of, I’ll also be making homemade herb salt to preserve them, sticking them in my chicken nesting boxes, and these homemade fruit slushies are high on the list as well. These slashes take advantage of the summer-bounty of fresh fruit and give you a chance to creatively use some of your garden herbs as well.

homemade fruit slushies recipe
There are two different ways to create the base of a fruit slushie:

  • Using fresh fruit and ice
  • Using frozen fruit and water  

I chose to freeze my fruit for a few reasons. The first being that I often find/harvest large amounts at once and freeze some for later use, and the second being that this allows you to swap out the water if you so choose. If you are looking to boost your gut health you can swap the water for kombucha or water kefir, or if you would rather turn these into cocktails you can simply decrease the amount of water and add your liquor of choice. 🙂

Onto the slushies!

homemade fruit slushies recipe

Homemade Fruit Slushies with Herbs

Yield: Each recipe makes 1 adult portion or 2 child-sized portions

The Basic Formula:

  • 1 ½ to 2 cups frozen fruit, chopped
  • ¾ cup water, water kefir or kombucha
  • Fresh herbs (4 or 5 medium leaves)

Add all of the ingredients into your blender and blend well.

Pour into a chilled glass and serve immediately.

Note: Depending on the water content of your fruit, you may need to add a bit more water to reach your desired consistency. On the flip side, if you weren’t able to fully freeze your fruit ahead of time, you may need some ice cubes to thicken your slushie. If you go this route, cut back on the water so that you don’t water down your drink.

Favorite Homemade Fruit & Herb Slushie Combos:

peach and basil fruit slushy

Peach & Basil

  • 2 cups frozen peach
  • 4 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

mixed berry fruit slushie recipe

Mixed Berry & Mint

  • 1 ¾ cups frozen mixed berries
  • 3 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

watermelon and basil fruit slushy recipe

Watermelon & Basil

  • 2 ½ cups frozen watermelon
  • ¾ cup water
  • 4 fresh basil leaves

Other Flavor Pairings to Consider:

Basil:  Blueberry, Peach, Watermelon
Mint: Melons, Citrus
Cilantro: Cantaloupe, Mango
Lemon Verbena: Lemon, Blueberries, Raspberries

homemade slushie recipe

The post Homemade Fruit Slushies with Herbs appeared first on The Prairie Homestead.

]]>
http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/06/homemade-fruit-slushies-recipe.html/feed 0
Homemade Chicken Feed Recipe http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/06/homemade-chicken-feed-recipe.html http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/06/homemade-chicken-feed-recipe.html#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 19:29:21 +0000 http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/?p=16794 Let’s say you’re a first-time chicken owner, and you’re ready to tackle this backyard chicken gig. You can’t resist the temptation at the feed store, so you find yourself driving home with a box of chirping, fuzzy yellow chicks in your lap. At $3-$4 per chick, that’s a small price to pay for beautiful, home-raised […]

The post Homemade Chicken Feed Recipe appeared first on The Prairie Homestead.

]]>
homemade chicken feed recipe

Let’s say you’re a first-time chicken owner, and you’re ready to tackle this backyard chicken gig.

You can’t resist the temptation at the feed store, so you find yourself driving home with a box of chirping, fuzzy yellow chicks in your lap. At $3-$4 per chick, that’s a small price to pay for beautiful, home-raised hens that will give you your own eggs for free, right?

Wrong.

Here’s the problem… There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and no such thing as a free egg.

As many of you already know, those fluffy yellow chicks (aka the gateway drug to homesteading…) are actually one of the cheaper aspects of keeping chickens. Once you succumb to the magnetic draw of feed-store chicks, expect to keep opening your wallet for:

  • A chicken coop/run
  • Feed (if you want organic or non-GMO feed, expect to pay the big bucks)
  • Waterers/feeders
  • Shavings/bedding
  • Heat lamps (if you use them)
  • Electricity for the coop
  • And any other random chicken accessories that might strike your fancy.

Of all the items on the above list, the one we chicken-addicts talk about the most is the feed. Why? Because buying good chicken feed at the store is so expensive it’s almost physically painful.

For example, this organic, non-GMO brand on Amazon is $38 for just 25 lbs. (affiliate link)

Ouch.

homemade chicken feed recipe

So, homemade chicken feed has to be cheaper, right?

Eh, maybe. But don’t count on it.

In fact, more often than not, by the time you hunt down all the (semi-strange) ingredients you need to build a good homemade feed, it’ll actually cost you more… And if you want to keep your flock healthy and producing well, you must make sure you are feeding them with the proper balance of protein, energy and nutrients. Unfortunately, you can’t just toss them some corn and call it good…

I’ve been ordering a custom-mixed feed from the local feed mill for 2 years now. (It’s the whole grain, non-GMO recipe you’ll find in Natural Homestead: 40 Recipes for Critters & Crops, in case you’re wondering)

Unfortunately, it’s not super easy to put together, and I could only find ONE mill in my area who would even attempt to help me with it.

So, when I saw that my favorite permaculture chicken guy, Justin Rhodes, had a favorite non-fussy homemade chicken feed formula he uses and loves, I was all over it.

I asked him if I could share it with you today, and he said YES. (Thanks Justin!)

(By the way—his YouTube channel is my #1 fav—you gotta check it out!)

A Few Important Notes:

  • As stated above, this is Justin’s recipe. I personally use a custom-mix that my local feed mill helps me to put together. The recipe for that mix is in my Natural Homestead book. However, it is a more complicated formula (with more difficult ingredients), so I wanted to share Justin’s simpler option.
  • You do not have to grind the grains– just feed them whole.
  • There are no lentils in the recipe. The photos in the post (with lentils in them) were shot a while ago, and thought they’d be a good fit for this post. This particular recipe does not contain lentils.
  • Since I have my feed mill custom-mix me a different recipe, I do not have price breakdowns for this particular recipe.

Natural Homestead feed

Simple Chicken Feed Recipe Formula

(This post contains affiliate links)

Mix together and feed as you would any other chicken feed. Since you are using whole grains, it should not loose it nutritive content as quickly as more processed feeds.

About the Ingredients:

Homemade Chicken Feed Notes:

  • I like how flexible this formula is– you can make a small amount or a large amount.
  • No doubt, I will get some emails over this post. There are websites/books/etc that turn feeding chickens into rocket sicence, and admittedly, you DO need to be careful in how you are balancing rations. However, I always go back to the fact that great-Grandma was keeping her flock productive long before there were shiny bags of “Chicken Chow” at the feed store, so I hesitate to overcomplicate the matter. Plus, when someone with WAY more chicken experience like Justin has consistent success with a recipe like this, I trust that.
  • Over the years, I have received emails from people in an absolute panic over what to feed their chickens. GMO/non-GMO, organic/non-organic, homemade/purchased—there is, indeed, a lot of options out there. But here’s the deal—we can’t control every aspect of our lives. Even if you (or your chickens) are eating the most perfect diet in existence, you/they will still likely be exposed to toxins in the air, soil, water, etc. This is just a side-effect of living on an imperfect planet.  Therefore, my conclusion is I will do the best I can, and even if I can’t source the perfect ingredient, I will be at peace knowing I did the best I could and they are still eating 100% better than industrially-farmed chickens. Seriously guys—please don’t lose sleep over chicken feed.

how to cut your chicken feed bill

Cut Your Chicken Feed Costs Even More!

Not only did my friend Justin generously allow me to publish his feed recipe, but he’s teaching a special LIVE webinar this Sunday, (June 26th, 2016 at 3pm EST) and sharing 20 of his best stunts for reducing chicken-feed costs! Like I mentioned before, I always appreciate Justin’s information– it’s meaty, specific, and actionable. Without fail, he always shares tips I would have never thought of on my own!

Sunday’s webinar will cover:

  • Four obvious (but overlooked) ways to reduce your need for chicken feed.
  • Disgusting, but extremely resourceful, ways to turn dead animals into protein packed feed.
  • Discover free foods right in front of your face (that most people call problems).
  • Quick and easy adjustments to the grains you’re already feeding for 15% savings in 24 hours.

Save your spot in the Creative Chicken Feeds Webinar HERE– it’s free!

(There will be a recording sent out to everyone who registers, in case you can’t attend live)

Other Homestead Chicken Posts You’ll Like:

homemade chicken feed recipe

The post Homemade Chicken Feed Recipe appeared first on The Prairie Homestead.

]]>
http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/06/homemade-chicken-feed-recipe.html/feed 29
7 Simple Ways to Improve Garden Soil http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/06/improve-garden-soil.html http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/06/improve-garden-soil.html#comments Thu, 16 Jun 2016 15:50:43 +0000 http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/?p=16859 Barren… That was the first word that crossed my mind when I set out to work on my new kitchen garden this year. It’s right under my laundry room window, and is the perfect spot, considering it gets plenty of southern sunlight and is right next to our new porch. However, the soil leaves a […]

The post 7 Simple Ways to Improve Garden Soil appeared first on The Prairie Homestead.

]]>
improve garden soil naturally

Barren…

That was the first word that crossed my mind when I set out to work on my new kitchen garden this year.

It’s right under my laundry room window, and is the perfect spot, considering it gets plenty of southern sunlight and is right next to our new porch.

kitchen-garden

However, the soil leaves a little lot to be desired. In fact, I think it probably deserves to just be called ‘dirt’, not soil.

Most of the topsoil there was removed in our house remodel project last year. There was actually a 12 foot hole right there this time last year, and the soil that was used to fill that hole is rather disappointing. It’s heavy with clay, packs down hard when it gets wet, and there’s not a worm in sight.

Quite a difference from the spongy, fluffy, worm-filled soil in my main veggie garden. Then again, I suppose I’ve been spoiled by my deep mulch.

worms

But of course, there’s no way I was just going to leave the sad little patch of clay just sitting there. Nope. It needed to be loved and nurtured and tended so it could blossom into its full potential. And so I could have herbs I could pick in my bare feet while supper was on the stove. That’s high priority, ya know.

Before we tilled it (I almost sold our tiller last year, since we don’t need it for our main garden anymore… But I’m glad I didn’t!), Prairie Husband dumped several loads of composted manure on top of the patch, and I spread it around.

composted manure

This compost is just plain gorgeous. It’s crumbly and rich, I just want to go roll around it in. But I don’t, because that would be weird.

Anyway, after tilling the composted manure into the dirt, I raked the top to remove as many stones and pebbles as possible, and then planted my raspberries, strawberries, and herbs.

I then mulched the plants with wood chips (since it’s right next to our house, I opted for the prettier chips, versus hay mulch).

I’ll continue to top-dress with more compost as needed, and also use some compost tea and other amendments as needed as the summer progresses. It will be a gradual process to get the soil where it needs to be, but I’m hopeful. And the plants seem to be happy so far.

Because I’ve had soil on the brain lately, here’s a list of 7 ways you can improve garden soil if you’re dealing with a less-than-ideal growing situation like I am.

7 Simple Strategies to Improve Garden Soil

1. Compost

compost pile

Turn your kitchen and yard waste (leaves, grass clippings, etc.) into a fantastic soil amendment with very little effort. Compost adds both nutrients and organic matter to soil, and it also helps with water retention. You can buy it at the garden store, however, it’s free to make your own. And even if you aren’t ready to create a full compost pile, adding some of the most common kitchen waste to (like coffee grounds and egg shells) to specific plants in your garden and boost plant and soil health impressively well. 

2. Manure

horse-manure

I call our composted animal poop ‘black gold’. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing, my friends. Adding animal manure to your garden provides nutrients, builds organic matter, and adds microbial action.

Fresh manure can be too hot for plants and may burn them, so it’s best to use composted or aged manure. If you are using fresh manure, just be sure to add it in the fall and let it sit all winter. (Don’t apply most fresh manures to growing plants)

  • Chicken Manure: Highest in nitrogen, but also one of the “hotter” options. Definitely let it compost and age well before applying.
  • Horse Manure: Easy to find, but may contain the most weed seeds (although if the compost pile reaches a high enough temperature, this can reduce the weed seeds). We use a lot of composted horse manure in our garden, since we have two horses, and they poop. A LOT. 
  • Cow Manure: A great all-purpose manure that doesn’t burn plants as easily, due to a lower nitrogen content. Generally less weed seeds than horse manure. 
  • Goat/Sheep Manure: A drier manure that is less smelly and gentle to plants (won’t burn as easily). The little pellets make it easy to apply, too.
  • Rabbit Manure: This is considered a “cold” manure, so you can add it directly to plants, with no worry of it burning plants. Just grab some of the “pellets” and sprinkle away! They will disintegrate slowly over time and release their nutrients into the soil as they break down.

3. Mulch

deep mulch garden method

I’ve been singing the praises of deep much for several years now, so I bet you’re not surprised to see this one on this list. Not only does mulch hold moisture in the soil, but as it breaks down, it will gradually add organic matter to your soil as well. I cannot believe how many worms I have in my main garden after 2+ years of mulch. I have a bunch of mulching posts already, so get the full mulching story in the following links:

4. Cover Crops

Cover crops are a fantastic way to remedy soil problems with minimal work. Not only can cover crops provide nutrients to the soil, they can also improve both drainage and aeration, smother unwanted plants (like quackgrass), attract beneficial soil organisms, and act as an overwintering mulch. The negative side of cover crops is having to wait a season before you can use that particular garden spot for growing other plants. You can also use various cover crops to break up hard soil. Ryegrass and Daikon radishes are good examples of cover crops with strong root systems that will help break up and aerate your soil.

This article has more in-depth info on cover crops if you think they’d be a fit for your garden.

5. Vermicompost

Putting worms to work is another natural way you can improve garden soil. There are a few different ways to make this happen:

  • Add them to your compost pile to help speed decomposition and add even more nutrients to your compost.
  • Grow/farm worms in a separate compost bin and save their worm castings. Purchasing worm castings is super expensive, so it’s much more cost-effective to create your own, which can then be added to the soil to give it a nutrient-boost.
  • Add worms directly to your poor garden soil. Give them some compost and mulch, and the worms will help aerate your soil and put their castings directly into the troublesome area.

6. Natural Amendments

how to improve your garden soil

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your soil is to test in order to find out what specific nutrients are missing from your soil.

There are a couple of ways to test your soil:

  • A home soil test (I found this one on Amazon (affiliate link))
  • Get your soil tested from a garden lab (many Universities have these, check with your local Cooperative Extension Office, or talk to local Master Gardeners for more information on this)

Once you know what nutrients are missing from your soil, you can add natural amendments such as:

  • For low nitrogen: add fish emulsion, blood meal, or legume cover crops
  • For low phosphorus: add rock phosphate for long term results and bone meal for a quick fix
  • For low potassium: add wood ash and compost rich in banana peels
  • For low calcium: add lime (either calcium carbonate lime or dolomitic lime), gysum, or clam/oyster shells
  • For low magnesium: add epsom salts or dolomitic lime

7. Raised Beds

planter-box

If you’ve been working in improving your garden soil, and still aren’t getting the results you want, it might be time to consider raised beds. Raised beds are an easy way to fix poor garden soil problems, as you can fully control what goes into the boxes. Plus, they can look pretty spiffy and they don’t have to be expensive. Check out these raised bed designs for some inspiration.

Happy soil improving my friends!

natural ways to improve garden soil

The post 7 Simple Ways to Improve Garden Soil appeared first on The Prairie Homestead.

]]>
http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/06/improve-garden-soil.html/feed 6
Homemade Chocolate Milk Syrup http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/06/homemade-chocolate-milk-syrup.html http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/06/homemade-chocolate-milk-syrup.html#comments Tue, 14 Jun 2016 09:19:18 +0000 http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/?p=16901 New calves are exciting… But that’s only half of the excitement when you have a milk cow. A new calf means a cow bursting with fresh milk. (OK… not literally bursting. That’s probably a bad choice of words.) FINALLY, after several months of either being milk-less, or having to buy it at the store, we are celebrating! In another […]

The post Homemade Chocolate Milk Syrup appeared first on The Prairie Homestead.

]]>
homemade natural chocolate milk syrup recipe

New calves are exciting…

But that’s only half of the excitement when you have a milk cow.

A new calf means a cow bursting with fresh milk. (OK… not literally bursting. That’s probably a bad choice of words.) FINALLY, after several months of either being milk-less, or having to buy it at the store, we are celebrating!

newcalf

In another week or so, once the calf and Oakley get fully settled in with each other, I’ll start milking once again. (I follow a milk once per day routine that minimizes my labor a bit.) That means we’ll have fresh, raw milk for our morning smoothies, and for homemade milk shakes, and for baking, and homemade ice cream, and DIY yogurt, and tangy buttermilk, and the list goes on and on and on.

The Prairie Kids aren’t very well acquainted with chocolate milk (poor, poor children), so I was excited to make this for them as a treat. I never buy chocolate syrup because the ingredients in the stuff at the store are pretty disappointing.

homemade chocolate milk syrup

For example, this is the ingredient list from one of the most popular store-bought syrups. See what I mean about the ingredient list?

HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP; CORN SYRUP; WATER; COCOA; SUGAR; CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: POTASSIUM SORBATE (PRESERVATIVE); SALT; MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES; XANTHAN GUM; POLYSORBATE 60; VANILLIN, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR

Contrast that with my homemade chocolate milk syrup which is just: 

COCOA, MAPLE SYRUP, WATER, VANILLA EXTRACT

Much better, eh? It’s still a treat, but I feel much better about it. And chances are, you already have these ingredients hanging out in your pantry. So let’s drink up!

homemade natural chocolate milk syrup recipe

Homemade Chocolate Milk Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cocoa powder (where to buy)
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup (where to buy)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon real vanilla extract (how to make vanilla extract)

Directions:

  1. On low, in a medium saucepan, mix together the maple syrup and water. Bring to a simmer.
  2. Whisk in the cocoa powder. Remove from heat.
  3. Add vanilla extract and let cool (syrup will thicken).
  4. Simply add your desired amount to a glass of milk and enjoy. Keep in the fridge for up to three weeks.

homemade natural chocolate milk syrup recipe

Homemade Chocolate Milk Syrup Notes

  • Once completely set, if you feel as though your syrup is too thick, throw it back on the stovetop. Warm your syrup and add a tbsp more water and mix. Remove from heat and let set.  
  • I haven’t tried substituting honey for the maple syrup in this recipe, but it would be worth a try.
  • This homemade chocolate syrup would be awesome on homemade ice cream, too. Just sayin’.
  • If you’re more a caramel-type of person, check out my homemade caramel sauce. You’re welcome.

Other Homemade Stuff for Your Sweet Tooth…

natural chocolate milk syrup recipe

The post Homemade Chocolate Milk Syrup appeared first on The Prairie Homestead.

]]>
http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/06/homemade-chocolate-milk-syrup.html/feed 36