Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Homemade" Egg Comparison

I am so excited... last week, I posted a rant about store-bought eggs. I have been waiting very im-patiently for my RIR hens to lay their first eggs. Just a few days later, my daughter's hen, Panini, gave me what I was waiting for! And, was I impressed! Just look at how a free-range egg compares to one of those store-bought, organic, all-vegetarian-diet eggs!! :

Honestly, there is no comparison. The organic, store-bought egg had a pretty good shell, and the white was clear, but look at that yolk! As I stated in my rant, the yolk should be more on the orange side of yellow. This chicken was nutritionally deficient, and laid an inferior egg.

Drum roll, please!... And here is our Panini's free-range egg! Look at the quality yolk. The orange yolk tells us that Panini ate plenty of nice, juicy bugs and any other critters she found in the yard (including a snake!). Once again, chickens are NOT vegetarian. They need a quality, balanced diet to lay quality eggs like this one!

Wow, have you ever seen scrambled eggs this yellow from a batch of store-bought eggs?? They are also the most delicious eggs I have ever tasted :)

If you can't keep your own chickens, contact a local farmer to get free-range eggs. I found my ex-egg provider on Craig's List! Take a tour of their farm and make sure the chickens are getting access to open areas and not penned up in a dirty coop. If the farmer raises them the right way, he will be more than willing to open his farm for a private tour.

This post shared on Monday Mania

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Homemade, Non-Greasy, Bug Repellent

I have gotten so tired of mosquitoes this year! The rainy season has been upon us for months, and I see no end to it in the near future... although the constant buzz of sprayer airplanes is overhead, we are still plagued by mosquitoes every time we open the door! Unfortunately, their favorite place to hide is on our front porch :(

I have attempted to make homemade bug repellent a few times, but it never worked out. I used olive oil as my base every time, and it was messy and sticky! As with some commercial repellents, having sticky, greasy skin while outside is not the ideal situation. Every time I used my homemade olive oil blend, I came back inside with sand, dirt and various other organic material stuck to me in a slimy mess... not any more!

The solution to my dilemma was witch hazel! Witch hazel is a natural astringent, so it is soothing for the skin, non-greasy and quickly absorbed. It also has a very mild scent- kind of like graham crackers :)

For my homemade formula, for every 1/2 cup of witch hazel, I add:

25 drops cedar wood essential oil
15 drops citronella essential oil
10 drops eucalyptus essential oil
10 drops tea tree oil
a drizzle of neem oil (to your discretion, as this really alters the nice, herbal scent. Neem oil tends to smell like a fart.)

Mix everything in a mister bottle and spray liberally on exposed skin before going outside.

Be sure to shake before each use! You'll be amazed at the effectiveness of this homemade herbal bug repellent, and no grease :)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Homemade Compost Tumbler

I wrestled with my five citrus trees last weekend. I have the scrapes to show for it, too! All together we have five citrus trees: a grapefruit, two tangerines and two oranges. I don't think they've been cared for in years, because I had a lot of trimming to do. It wasn't the right time to prune citrus- usually right after it fruits, in late winter is best- but when I get an idea to do something, I do it NOW.

You can see we have some fruit, but I am really uncertain of the quality. For quality citrus, you need quality fertilizer, and they are definitely not getting any of that! So, after picking the last thorn out of my skin I had an idea: why not make my own fertilizer?

We have lived on our 9 acres a very short while, so there is still a lot to clean up after the last owners abandoned it. In one of the out-buildings, I found a few 55 gallon drums that looked promising...

After finding a barrel that was empty and did not have any traces of anything potentially toxic, I got my husband's tools and went to work. First thing I did was to drill 1/2" holes all over it- the compost materials will need plenty of oxygen to decompose, so I put them everywhere and anywhere...

Then, I needed an axis for the barrel to spin on so I put a spare piece of galvanized conduit through the middle. I am going to mount the barrel to two posts in the ground later, so I left extra tubing extending from both ends.

I ended up putting two more conduit pieces through the barrel to help with flipping the compost material- otherwise, it would just slide around on the smooth surface. My husband cut a door out of one side of the barrel (I don't trust myself with a circular saw), and he picked me out some shiny, heavy-duty hardware for the latches and hinges.

Here's the finished door- The hardware will definitely keep anything from falling out while the tumbler is spinning! My hubby even installed a handle for easy access...

Well, here's the finished project! I dug 2.5Ft holes and placed my posts in a bed of concrete to keep them stable. This will give me plenty of room to park a wheel barrel underneath when I'm ready to harvest my rich, homemade soil!

From wrestling with citrus trees to building my own compost tumbler, I think this was one of my most productive projects yet!

This post was shared on Monday Mania at the Healthy Home Economist.