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Cultivate Simple 67: Good Morning and Good Bye

March 3rd, 2014

Tips for brewing a great cup of coffee!  We roast our own beans, head on over to see the process in this post I wrote a few years ago.
Coffee Beans

  • Figure out what kind of coffee you like, do you like dark and chocolatey or bright and acidic. Fine tuning your tastes will help you settle on the best coffee for your palate.
  • Buy beans in small batches or roast your own.
  • Use them up. Don’t let them sit around
  • Store them in an airtight container (don’t put them in the freezer). If you buy a large quantity keep some in a small jar for daily use so that the majority of beans will not be exposed to the air. We store ours in a Le Parfait Glass Jar

Camano Coffee Mill 1
Buy a good grinder

  • A burr grinder is essential. Uniform size won’t let the water get through the coffee faster than it should.
  • Only grind what you are going to use
  • You can get a really nice hand cranked burr grinder from Red Rooster Trading Company

Try different types of coffee makers

  • Espresso
  • Chemex
  • French press
  • Cold brew coffee
  • Vacuum Brewers
  • Moka pots
  • Drip coffee makers

chemex coffee
Maintain Your Coffee Brewing Device

  • Clean your machine
  • Filtered water
  • Drink after brewing. Don’t brew ten cups of coffee and drink them throughout the day. Better to brew twice and have good coffee all day.

roasting_coffee_at_home 1
Sources for green coffee beans:
Sweet Maria’s (this is where we buy our beans)
Dean’s Beans
Sweet Maria’s article about Getting Started Roasting Coffee at Home. Here’s their article about using a hot air popcorn popper to roast coffee. Finally a link to a great article on the health benefits of coffee.

If you really want to use up several hours, visit Coffee Geek or Home Barista and check out the forums. At 10 people, get 12 opinions.

Are you a coffee drinker?  How do you take yours: cream, sugar, black? 

Cultivate Simple 66: Here Chook, Chook, Chook

February 24th, 2014

This week on the podcast we talk about chickens, how to care for them and why you should have them.

I’ve had lots of requests to talk about keeping a small flock of chickens. Before we moved to Maine I’d been longing to have a flock of my own chickens. I love having animals around, and chickens seemed like a valuable addition to our life. Not only do you get eggs, but you also get manure, insect control and scratching.
Chickens 1
I think everyone should have chickens or rabbits, they are a great way to increase your food independence and produce some of your own protein as well as valuable fertilizer for your garden. Whenever you can close the loop you’re better off and you’ll have great, healthy food for your table.
chickens in apple tree 3
How much time to they take? Chickens really don’t take that much time each day, especially if you’re feeding chicken feed. I mix and ferment my own chicken feed and it takes me about 10 min per day preparing their feed and gathering eggs. Since I practice the deep litter method I only clean the coop once or twice a year, usually in spring and sometimes in the fall if I need fertilizer.
New Chickens 9
How much do they cost? That depends entirely on what kind of chickens you get and what you decide to feed them. Mine are very inexpensive to keep around because I buy grain from local farms and mix my own feed. Even if you’re buying organic feed you will still come out ahead if you’re buying organic, free range eggs. Keep in mind that you’re also getting fertilizer and insect control from your chickens.
New Chickens 2 (1)
What are their requirements? Chickens really need very little. A place out of the elements, with shade from the sun, protection from the wind and rain. They will also need protected from predation.

Most important thing is protection from predators. These depend on where you live. This also depends on your flock, how you want to manage them. Do you want to risk losses for free ranging?
chickens and clarington forge
Where do I start? Look for a spot in your yard where they can reside. Somewhere convenient to your house is best since you’ll be heading out every day. Decide if you want them to free range around your yard or be contained to a specific area. They will scratch in your flowerbeds and eat your plant, especially your garden plants.
chicken coop 1
Do they smell? No – a properly managed chicken yard doesn’t smell – I recommend the deep litter method. So far there have been no smells in my chicken coop. Just keep adding litter. The same thing can be done in their run.

What kind of coop do I need? It depends on how many chickens you’re going to have and how much time they will spend in their coop. Also consider the size of the run if you have it. Consider building the coop above with a run area below. This will keep it dry and give them an area to get out of the rain/weather. Chickens don’t care what their coop looks like, they’re happy as long as it’s dry and draft free. Biggest consideration is ventilation to keep the humidity down. I have a board on Pinterest full of coop ideas and other chicken information.
chicken coop 3
What breed of chicken do I get? Find a local breeder or find someone who has barnyard mix – the “mutt” of the chicken world. If you live in the South you want a heat tolerant breed and if you live in the North a cold tolerant breed is best. This is why it’s a good idea to get them from a local breeder/farmer. You know their chickens will do well in your area. Don’t trust chickens from Craigslist, most of the time they’re not the greatest and can be diseased. You want chickens from a reputable place.
What about diseases? A well managed flock won’t really have issues with diseases. The deep litter method also helps with this. As with anything, making sure you’re feeding them well so they’re healthy is your best way of controlling diseases.
chicken love 1
What else should I consider? How you will manage your flock. Willl you make them your pets or are you going to take a hands off approach. Consider that you will have to deal with death and possible have to put down a chicken in case of injury or illness.

What do I feed them? you can go with chicken feed, but you’re probably better off mixing your own feed.
fermented chicken feed
If you’re on the fence, do it. I really don’t think you’ll regret it, you’re more likely going to wish you had done it sooner.

Think about maybe sharing a flock with a friend or neighbor, split costs and work. Then you have someone to watch them while you’re gone. Though many people are more than happy to check in on your chickens in exchange for free eggs.

Cultivate Simple 65: 5×5 Challenge

February 10th, 2014

This week on the podcast we talk about the 5×5 Challenge and why you should join in. If you are new gardener, joining the challenge is a great way to get your hands dirty! For the experienced gardeners, the 5×5 challenge offers a good structure to mentor a new gardener.

Round 5x5 logo

Check out the 5×5 Challenge Posts from last year’s challenge.
5x5 garden

Books of the Week

Cultivate Simple 61: Fermenting for the Flock

January 13th, 2014

In this week’s episode we discuss fermenting your own feed for your chickens and other animals.

fermented chicken feed
Why should you consider fermenting chicken feed?

  • it increased availability of nutrients for the chickens
  • it actually increases the amount of vitamins in the feed and produces new vitamins
  • makes the food easier to digest because it’s soaked and soft
  • provided beneficial probiotics to help chickens absorb more nutrients from their feed and keeps them healthier
  • decreases risk of diseases like salmonella and healthier digestive tracks
  • decreases the amount of feed chickens are consuming and they produce less waste
  • makes poop small and less stinky (I know amazing).
  • egg yolks are bigger and shells are stronger.
  • your chickens will be healthier and happier!

Here’s a post from Scratch Cradle with all the scientific studies linked – etc.

In fermented feed phosphorus levels are increased and sugar level decrease, fermenting the feed also increases protein content in the feed by about 3%.

There have been studies to show that hens fed fermented fed develop more villi in their intestines and thus absorb more nutrients from their feed making them more efficient at feed conversion.

Books of the Week

Cultivate Simple 58: Preparing for the Worst

December 23rd, 2013

With a half of an inch of ice on the ground and more to come, we discuss being prepared for power outages and natural disasters.

South River Miso a great source for naturally fermented miso and tamari.

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 6.07.14 PM

The Basics
– Prepare for the basic essential needs first: warmth and water
– If you live in a cold climate you need to have an alternate source of heat, at it’s most basic a small propane heater works well.
– An oil lamp works well for providing light for a room, it works much better than flashlights

– Batteries (if rechargeables make sure they are all topped off, including cell phones)
– Have a GOOD flashlight
– Inverter to power appliances from your car (less expensive but your car is not ‘built’ for this)
– Generator (more expensive but made for the job)
– A generator is only as good as the supply of fuel you have
– Turn off all your stuff so when the power comes back on it doesn’t overwhelm the grid
Steve Harris’s Website has lots of good information on power.

– Cook a pot of soup the night before, it’s easier to heat up one pot of already prepared food than try to cook without power, if the power doesn’t go out you have food for the next day
– Always have a weeks worth of food on hand
– Canned food is good, raw ingredients are better
– You need a way to cook it. If you don’t have a gas stove that will run without power, make alternate plans (grill, coleman stove, cook over fire)
– If there is an extended power outage, eat perishable food first
– Freeze gallon jugs of water in your freezer (thermal mass)

– Do you have a well or city water
– Gather water in containers for drinking and cooking
– Having a Berkey water filter will save you from having to boil
– Fill the bathtub with water for washing and flushing (tub bladder)
– Your hot water tank is an often overlooked source of water

– Have some cash on hand
– First Aid Supplies
– Sanitary supplies
– Extra items above can be used for trade/barter in extended outages

– People are stupid and stupid people do stupid things when society breaks down

– Have things to do without power/electric: knitting, crocheting, reading, puzzles, games, etc
– Movies on laptop

Book of the Week

What is the longest stretch you have been without power?

Reading & Watching

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.