Growing our own …..
On the food front, we have learnt quite a lot over the past couple of years regarding what is good for you and your animals and what isn’t. We have all been eating processed foods, fruits and vegetables, grown with the help of pesticides, for years. With the upsurge of food allergies over the past 10 or 20 years, it does make you wonder why it is such a huge problem?
Whilst we are by no means experts on the subject, the fruits and vegetables that we have managed to grow and eat have been such a pleasure. We know what we are consuming, and the taste is definitely better. Our herbs are coming along nicely, and we regularly add them to the animal feeds as well as our own meals. Picking our own Basil and adding it to our own tomato sauces, ketchup, and salads, is quite a thrill. Even the children now know every fruit and vegetable, and even herbs, and we often ask them to find something that they think is ripe and ready for the table.
When we have a glut of a certain crop, we have had to learn how to make it last so it doesn’t go to waste. We now dry many things including herbs. We make sauces and freeze them. We have dried tomatoes and put them in jars along with our own olive oil. We bought a pressure canner, so we can preserve various vegetables. We have recently started smoking some of our own meat, and are just about to try salting some pork so we have our own ham. We brined olives earlier this year and are now on our last few jars, almost 10 months after we harvested them. It is a huge subject and we learn something new every day.
Raising our own chickens for eggs has been one of our biggest pleasures, and they never go to waste. Every evening as we give the animals their last feed for the day, we check all 4 coops and collect the eggs. The most we have had on one day was 15 chicken eggs plus 2 duck eggs, the worst was just a few days ago when there were none. We now know why this happened. We had just introduced a new flock of chickens, and the daylight hours had decreased. Never the less it was a huge disappointment.
The cost of keeping chickens for eggs, is more than if you bought them from a supermarket, but again we know what they are eating, and the fact that our hens are pasture raised, and have freedom, gives us all a sense of pleasure. To help reduce the cost of keeping them we recently started soaking their feed. By doing this we have doubled the time it takes to use up a bag of feed. We buy a sack each of wheat, barley and broken corn. We then take an equal amount of each grain and add to a bucket, fill with water keeping it covered and leave it for about 3 days (slightly less when the summer heat is upon us). During the 3 days it is soaking, it starts to ferment. This process actually doubles not only the amount we need to feed them, but also drastically increases the goodness. Using this method, only one third of a cup of feed per chicken is all you need every day.
When we started on this project, little did we know what we didn’t know. We regularly research on the internet what we cannot find in our collection of books. Our Face Book followers are amazing, and when we have a problem, we share it on our page, and get a huge amount of useful feedback from people all over the world, that are working on similar ventures. All in all it is a very satisfying experience, so no matter how small your paradise might be, give it a try. Even if it is your own herb garden, you will still get that sense of achievement when eating your own!