Sunday, April 29, 2012

Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

You can make your own laundry detergent in minutes using your food processor.  All you need are the following ingredients.

You will find the Borax and Washing Soda in the laundry aisle.  Arm & Hammer also makes large boxes of Baking Soda that may be on the laundry aisle as well.  Make sure you get Washing Soda.   Also, I use Ivory soap since it does not have any added artificial colors or fragrances.

Here's what you do:
  • Chop up the bar of Ivory soap and put it into your food processor.
  • Add 1/2 to 1 cup each of the Washing Soda and Borax and process until it looks like a powder.  I split the difference and use 3/4 cup of each.
  • This is how it should look.
  • Store it in a plastic container with a tight fitting lid.   This is a low-sudsing detergent that can be used in the new energy saving washers.  You only need 1 tablespoon per load.  I keep a tablespoon measuring spoon in the container for convenience.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Chickens Have New Home

Last weekend we finally got the chicken coop finished and moved the chickens from their small brooder pen to their new home.   

The term "coop" refers to an enclosure that can be secured from predators where the chickens can roost (sleep).  In researching how to build one of these, we found there are about a million different kinds.   The link below gives you some idea of what I am talking about.

Then, there are chicken "tractors" that can be moved around.  The following link shows some of these.

If you notice in these links, all the coops are connected to an outdoor area called the chicken "run".  The advantage of a chicken tractor is that it can be moved around from place to place,  thus, giving the chickens access to fresh grass from time to time.

At some time in the past, some previous owner built a metal shed attached to the south end of our garage.  The shed has a dirt floor and is enclosed by a fence where a horse or other animal may have been kept at one time.  At any rate, we decided we could close off one end of this shed and use it for a chicken coop.  Then we could make part of the fenced area into the chicken run.

Tom spent a lot of time and sweat equity on this project.  And, my job was to line the floor with some old paving stones we had laying around.  Talking about HARD work.  This entailed loading the pavers into the back of Tom's pickup, hauling them over to the shed, unloading and carrying them one-by-one into the coop where it was somewhat like putting a jigsaw puzzle together.

We put the chickens into a large dog crate for the move.  At first they were very hesitant about leaving the dog crate and entering their new home.

However, one of the little New Hampshire Red chickens showed her adventuresome spirit by being the first one out of the crate.

Notice that we enticed them out of the crate with fresh lettuce.  They have learned to love lettuce.  And, if the lettuce has a caterpillar or two on it, so much the better!  Yum!  Also, notice the metal water dispenser (behind Tom's legs) and the feed dispenser to the left of the lettuce.  It is difficult to see, but the feeder is suspended on a rope from one of the rafters.  It hangs a couple of inches off the floor.  This helps to keep the feed clean.  

One of the chickens refused to come out of the crate.  We finally had to take off the top of the crate before she decided it was a good idea to join the others.  But, soon enough they were exploring their new home and had torn and scratched the lettuce to pieces.

Notice there is a bar that is a couple of feet off the floor across the back of the coop.  That is the "roost" where the chickens sleep.  They can already fly a little bit, but Tom thought they might need some help getting up to the roost, so he leaned a piece of cattle panel against it to give them a "ladder".

Finally, notice my fine paving job on the floor.  Okay, so the coop is not built along square lines and there is a crack there between the wall and the pavers.  Life is not perfect!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Aerobic System Sprinklers

Last month I wrote about our aerobic septic system.  There seemed to be some interest in that so I wanted to show the sprinklers that I mentioned in action.  Normally, these are on a timer and go off around 2:00am.  However, if we use more water than normal, they will go off during the day.  This happens sometimes when we have company.  And, I was able to get pictures of one of them in action the other day. 

There is another sprinkler, like this one, farther out past the white building.  Between the 2 of them, they can dispose of a lot of water.   There is no smell what so ever in the water that comes out.  This is a result of the aerobic decomposition used and the fact that, after the water is processed by the aerobic bacteria in the waste chamber of the septic system, it flows over a basket that contains chlorine tablets into the holding tank where it waits until the sprinklers come on.  The chlorine tablets are specifically made for this purpose. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

How to Dry Herbs

You don't have to have a dehydrator to dry herbs.  I've stumbled onto a method you can use to dry them that requires no special equipment.  I discovered this quite by accident several years ago when I had a lot of basil I had harvested and planned to make pesto with.  Something came up and I didn't have time.  So, I ended up just laying it out on newspapers in our dining room.  Every time I passed by, I picked some of it up and turned it over.  After a week or so, I had some nicely dried basil that was better than I could buy in the store.

The following sequence of pictures shows how I used this method recently to dry Oregano.  First of all, here is what Oregano looks like growing in my herb garden.

I harvest it with scissors, cutting the stems about 3 to 4 inches long.  Here is a bunch I just harvested for the Farmers' Market.  I divide it out into sandwich bags for sale.  Then if I have any leftover, I dry it.

So, the first thing you do is strip the leaves off the stems, like this:

Strip off enough leaves to cover a paper towel one layer deep.  Cover the leaves with another paper towel and leave them out on your kitchen counter or somewhere that it will be convenient for you to "fluff" them every day.  By fluff, I mean to gently turn them over.  It needs to be done at least once a day and more often if you can manage it.  After 2 to 3 days, you will notice the leaves beginning to dry.  After about a week, they will be fairly dry, but not brittle.

At this point, you can put them in a plastic sandwich bag for storage or you can go ahead and grind them up.  You can crush them between your fingers or use a mortar and pestle.  However, I like to use a coffee grinder.  You probably would not want to use the same one you use to grind coffee, unless you want herb flavored coffee!  In our case, we have a coffee grinder we bought years ago, but never really used much for grinding coffee.  So, I commandeered it for grinding herbs instead.

I fill it full of dried leaves.  It doesn't hold much, so I have to process them in several batches.  

 Then, I put them in a plastic bottle that I saved from Oregano that I bought one time.

Ready to use for spaghetti, pizza or any other recipe that calls for Oregano.

Friday, April 6, 2012

And Now There Are Five

I have bad news to report.  A snake got in with our chickens and ate one of them!  I'm glad I did not find it or I would have freaked out.  Tom called me at work one morning this week and told me he had bad news and proceeded to tell me how he had gone out to check on the chicks and only saw five of them huddled together in one corner of the pen.  On the other side was a big black snake with an obvious lump in its middle.  

Now we have these chicks in a pen made of boards and chicken wire inside our detached garage.  Inside the pen is a circle of cardboard about 18 inches tall that keeps drafts from reaching the chicks.  Tom said the snake was able to crawl into the pen through the chicken wire, but was unable to crawl back out since it had grown considerably in diameter.  I asked him if he killed it and he said, yes, that he shot it.  Now I had visions of our garage having bullet holes in the walls.  But he got a rake, fished the snake out of the pen, threw it outside and shot it with our 410 shotgun.  Yes, we have a gun.  You don't live in the country without some sort of protection.  Although, I'm not at all sure I could figure out how to shoot it if I were faced with an intruder.

At any rate, the snake is dead, and I really hate to have had to kill it.  It was a non-poisonous snake and most likely had spent the winter in our garage eating mice and rats.  But, I'm not sure what other option we had.  It would surely have come back and got another of our chickens as soon as it got hungry again had Tom let it go.

The good news is that the remaining 5 chicks are growing like crazy.  We have started giving them lettuce and swiss chard from the garden and they love it.  Here they are eating some that I hung in their pen this afternoon.

When we first started giving them greens, we just laid them in the pen.  The chicks were very wary of them at first and it took them a day or two to learn they were good to eat.  However, now they get excited when they see you coming with greens.  Today, I decided to try hanging them on the side of the cardboard ring.  It was hilarious to watch them figure out how to best get at the greens.  They could stretch their necks and reach them until they had eaten them up about half way.  Then they had to "hop" in order to reach them.  Did you know chickens could hop?!!

Tom has been working on a place to put them when they are big enough to move out of this brooder pen.  At the rate they are growing, it won't be long.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Drought is Officially Over

On January 14, I wrote about some of my thoughts on the drought that gripped Oklahoma for the most part of 2011.  At that time, the Oklahoma Climatological Survey showed our part of the state being in a severe drought area.  Since that time, our area has received some much needed rainfall and GLORY BE the same website now shows us as being drought free.

I stopped by Eagle Heights Church and took a picture of the same tree in that post.

Notice the sewer line has disappeared below the water again.  Let's hope that it does not reappear for many years!