Fun With Backyard Chickens

Fun With Backyard Chickens

We’ve talked about raising chickens at our house on and off for years now.  Every spring, the subject comes up around Easter.  As I became more aware of the health benefits of pastured eggs, I started to seriously  consider raising chickens in my backyard.  Besides access to the healthiest eggs I could get, we’ve heard stories from other chicken raising friends of how rewarding raising chickens can be.

We had an old outdoor birdcage with a cedar shake roof in the backyard that I thought we might be able to repurpose into a coop.  After checking it out, the roof was the only thing worth saving and a coop was designed around the existing roof.  We decided on a condo style coop-a 2 level coop with a roosting area above an enclosed run.  An additional enclosed run would be added onto the structure at a later date before our chickens were full grown.  To conserve space, I decided upon an exterior nesting box for our birds to lay their eggs in.   As the coop was nearing completion, it was time to get some chicks…

Backyard Chickens:Baby Chicks In The Brooder

In early April we brought home five baby chicks.  We settled upon three Rhode Island Reds and two Golden Sexlinks.  These should be good all around birds in terms of personality, adaptability to weather and very productive egg layers.  We kept them inside in a makeshift brooder consisting of a large storage tote with a hardware cloth lid.  After about a week, we transitioned to pine shavings for bedding inside our brooder and quickly moved to a hanging feeder and waterer.  For the first week, the chicks were on paper towels and clean up was quick and easy.  Once we  transitioned to pine shavings, they got everywhere including in the water and food.  Chicken poop started getting in these as well.  I made a hanging waterer out of a nalgene bottle and a nipple waterer you can find at feed stores.  Getting your birds’ food and water off the ground is essential from all I’ve read and it really helps cut down on extra cleaning and refilling.

Chickens and cat on brooderOur cat loved watching the babies…

The Coop Gets Finished

After several weeks, it was obvious the chicks were going to need to go out in the coop before they got all their feathers since space was starting to become an issue.  The night time temperatures were a little too cold for the chicks, so they were going to need a heat lamp at night.  I wanted to have an outlet inside our coop eventually for the winter time, but now I was forced to come up with a solution before the coop was inhabited.  I ended up running electricity from our garage to the coop and ran conduit inside the coop (no pecking the wires!).  I also used totally enclosed plastic housings for the ground fault interrupter receptacle as chicken waste will eventually rot metal housings.  To minimize dust at the receptacle, I installed an in-use cover.  We painted the coop to match the house, and I installed a beautiful fused glass window in the door to the coop that Mrs. Wellinformedliving had made.  Here’s a picture of the finished coop:

Chicken Coop Backyard Chickens

A close up of the art glass window:

Backyard Chickens Art Glass Window

A view from inside the coop:

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Here’s a view of the inside, you can see the GFCI on the left, one of the roosts in the back and one of the water bottle waterers.

Backyard Chickens Chicken Coop

And the coop at night:

backyard chickens chicken coop at night

backyard chickens chicken coop at night wellinformedliving.com

The chicks have been in their new home for several weeks now and have adapted quite well.  They have learned to use the ramp between levels and their new gravity feed watering system.  As they grow and get older we’ll remove the heat lamp and give them some outside free range time each day.  All in all this has been an extremely rewarding experience so far.

backyard chickens wellinformedliving.com

(Our cat is watching from the plant bed)

Should You Take Vitamins And Supplements?

should you take supplementsGo to any health food store, supermarket or pharmacy and you’ll find a huge selection of vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements.  Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, can be quite expensive, and may or may not offer any health benefits at all.  Are dietary supplements safe?  What are the best supplements?  What popular nutritional supplements such as fish oil are worth considering? Should you take vitamins and supplements at all?  There is no easy answer to the question.  That answer depends on many factors including one’s overall health, age, genetics and the environment.

Factors To Consider With Vitamins And Supplements

I would rather get all the nutrition my body needs through the food I eat than to take supplements.  However, I still take certain vitamins and minerals daily.  The main thing anyone can do to improve health is to stop eating the SAD (standard American diet).  The “western” diet in general is high in bad seed and nut oils, sugars and excess salt.  Most of these high levels of health destroying oils and sugars gets into our bodies by eating processed foods.  These “foods” may be convenient in the moment, but regular consumption of these foods can contribute to obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease.  Ideally, one would get all vitamins and minerals through vegetables-I strive to eat a diet where the majority of the food I consume are fruits and vegetables.  Because I eat a  lot of vegetables,  I don’t take a multivitamin.  Someone else my need to take one because their dietary intake is low in vitamins and minerals.  Overall health, based one’s eating habits is the first factor to consider if you want to feel the best you can.  Do you eat like crap?  If you do, you might want to supplement with a multivitamin.  I have high blood pressure that runs in my family.  Because of this, I take additional potassium and CoQ10 because it may help to lower my blood pressure.  One might want to investigate what supplements can help if you are predisposed to a certain disease.  Certain nutrients, can be lacking in most of our diets because the soil our food is grown in is mineral deficient after years of depletion.  As we age, our bodies tend to make less of certain chemicals needed for health.   Here are a few of the supplements I take.  Anyone interested in optimum health, no matter how healthy they eat, might want to consider these as well.

Basic Dietary Supplements For Everyone

Vitamin C

As I stated in my post on vitamin C,  vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, is needed for tissue repair and growth, and assists in wound healing and bone and teeth maintenance.  Large doses of vitamin C (up to 2 grams a day)  can reduce mortality factors such as heart disease and stroke.  It is  water soluble.  If you have too much in your system, your body excretes it.  Because of it’s safety and inexpensiveness, I consider it a good bet towards overall health insurance.

Magnesium

As stated on the National Institutes Of Health fact page on magnesium: “Magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation. Magnesium is required for energy production, oxidative phosphorylation, and glycolysis. It contributes to the structural development of bone and is required for the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and the antioxidant glutathione. Magnesium also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, a process that is important to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm.”  Most people don’t get enough magnesium in their diet because of soil mineral depletion.  Even if you eat foods that contain magnesium, the magnesium levels in those foods are lower than they were in the past.  Because of this fact, my genetic predisposition towards high blood pressure, and it’s major role  so many body processes, I choose to take it daily.

Vitamin D

Most of us are aware of Vitamin D and its relationship with bone health by helping the body absorb calcium.  It has also been linked to treatment and prevention of cancer, autoimmune disease, heart disease and diabetes. Dairy and seafood are the most obvious sources of dietary vitamin D.  Most if not all dairy in the supermarket has been pasteurized for storage.  Unfortunately, that process destroys vitamins and minerals in the milk and they are added back in after the fact.  Some people feel that these added nutrients are poorly absorbed.  A larger issue is the quality of these dairy products.  Factory farmed dairy has far lower levels of these nutrients including vitamin D, than grass-fed pastured animals.  So, much like the case is with magnesium, dietary intake is less than optimum.  I do not supplement with vitamin D as long as I drink raw whole milk from pastured cows and eat butter made from the milk of grass fed cows.

Omega 3/Fish Oil

I’m not sure of where I stand on Omega-3 supplementation honestly.  It is anti-inflammatory, can help with pain management and depression.  However after reading Chris Kresser’s article on fish oil, I am very concerned that most Omega-3 oils on the market may be rancid.  Eating rancid oil is about as healthy as smoking cigarettes to me and currently I am trying to eat more seafood-up to a pound a week of wild salmon, tuna and shellfish to get my omega-3’s.  Limiting omega-6 fats in the diet will help as well since most people are technically not omega-3 deficient, but the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 in most diets is skewed.  Most people consume too much omega-6 through processed foods.  The human brain is approximately 8% omega-3 fats  a fact that should motivate everyone to get enough omega-3 fats in their diet.  If I was not eating seafood, I would take moderate amounts of omega 3 supplements just to cover my bases.

Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 is not widely known to many but very necessary to overall health.  It helps the body utilize calcium by directing it towards the bones instead of the arterial walls.  It may play an important role in preventing certain cancers such as prostate cancer.  Large dose therapy is used to help remineralize teeth.  If you are eating grass fed butter, lacto-fermented foods and pastured eggs, you are probably getting enough in your diet.  If you aren’t eating those things you might want to research the benefits of vitamin K2.

Additional Supplements

N-acetyl Cysteine

N-acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is derived from the amino acid cysteine.  It is the precursor to glutathione-the body’s master antioxidant.  Glutathione supports the liver and detoxification and protects DNA.  NAC can support the body in cases of influenzaAcetaminophen poisoning, and COPD.  As a former smoker, I take it daily as insurance and up my intake when I am coming down with a cold or flu.

Coenzyme Q10

Another antioxidant produced by the body, CoQ10 is responsible for providing energy to cells in the body and production declines with age.  If you know anyone taking a statin to lower cholesterol they need to supplement with CoQ10 as statins deplete the body’s levels.

Betaine HCL

As the body ages, stomach acid production declines.  Betaine is used to help existing stomach acid digest food properly to extract all those vitamins and minerals from those organic veggies you’ve been eating.  Taking it before a meal not cause you problems with excess night time stomach acid.

NAD

This is a precursor to nicotinamide mononucleotide which was discovered in 2013 to help reverse mitochondria degradation.  Supplementation may help the aging of all cells in the body…..pretty huge if it’s true…check it out here.  My next supplement experiment.

Optimum health is built on the building blocks of optimum nutrition.  Consider trying some of these supplements if there are holes in your diet that might benefit from supplementation.

Useful Must Have Kitchen Gadgets

useful must have kitchen gadgets

I’m always on the lookout for useful items for my kitchen.  Here are three useful must have kitchen gadgets I’m currently using quite a bit:

Useful Must Have Kitchen Gadgets

Chef’n Zipstrip Herb Stripper

Must Have Useful Kitchen Gadgets

 

This cool little gadget has 4 different sized holes on the handle that you can pull herbs through to easily and quickly strip the leaves.  I find it really useful for rosemary and thyme.

Must Have Useful Kitchen Gadgets
Stem Citrus Spritzer by Quirky
Must Have Useful Kitchen Gadgets

Screw the Quirky citrus spritzer into any citrus fruit and spray juice where you want it.  Disassembles for easy cleaning.

useful must have kitchen gadgets
Ball 5-Blade Herb Scissors
useful must have kitchen gadgets

 

These are a really fun way to cut lots of herbs like basil and parsley.  With these herb scissors you won’t go nuts next time you have to chop a bag of basil.

useful must have kitchen gadgets

 

All of these items can be purchased through Amazon.com by clicking on the images.  Happy cooking!

 

How To Keep Salad Greens As Fresh As Possible

how to store washed salad leaves

Bagged or boxed pre washed salad greens used to be a sore spot with me.  They offer great convenience, but more often than not they would rot before I could use them.  Imagine coming home from work exhausted and deciding to make a simple salad for dinner.  You open up the box of greens you bought 2 days ago to find convenient organic slimy rotting baby kale.  Yum.  What a letdown.  That quick meal idea is no longer an option when you needed to use it most.

Over the years I have moved the greens to different parts of the fridge searching for the optimum location to maintain freshness.  I have tried adding or removing air to the bag before i sealed it.  I tried rubber bands, twist ties and chip clips in an effort to find the perfect way to seal the opened bag.  Those huge plastic clam shells full of convenient organic expensive greens were a no go-they lasted about a day on me before it looked like a snail had gotten into my mixed field greens.

I stumbled upon one of the most simple and easiest ways to keep those salad greens fresh.  Washed salad greens now last at least a week in my fridge.  I even buy those big honking clam shells now without the anxiety that used to come with them.how to store washed salad leaves

 

All you need is a sheet of paper towel. Place a sheet of paper towel in the bag or the box of salad and close it up.  Seriously its that easy.

how to store washed salad leaves

Like I mentioned earlier, greens keep at least a week for me when I do this.  The paper towel absorbs excess moisture as far as I can tell.  Try it and let us know how it worked for you on our Facebook page: facebook.com/wellinformedliving

how to store washed salad leaves

 

5 Mind Blowing Books That Will Change Your Life

books that will change your life
books that will change your life

So many of us are looking for the next new thing to improve and make our lives easier.  We all want to know how to lose weight fast, how to make money easily, how to detox, how to be healthy without too much effort.  As each of us gets older we generally come to the same conclusion: all this stuff takes work, and you only get when you give.  To get anything out of life, you need to work at it.  How you work is another story.  The more information one has, the better choices one can make.  With the right choices we can maximize our hard work to achieve greater health and well being.  A good book at the right time can change how you look at the world.  Lots of us have favorite fictional books that have improved our lives.  The books will talk about today shatter long held beliefs on health, diet and finance.  They have made my life more informed and a little…easier.

The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet 

Nina Teicholz

An incredibly eye opening book on the vilification of fat in the 20th century and how small poorly designed studies by Ancel Keys helped cement dietary policy.  Nina Teicholz also documents the rise of low cost factory vegetable fats in the western diet and provides an excellent primer on cholesterol, saturated vs unsaturated fats and trans fats and the current research and findings to support the need for fats in the human diet.  The Big Fat Surprise will convince you that certain fat is in essence healthy food.

Body by Science: A Research Based Program to Get the Results You Want in 12 Minutes a Week

John R. Little and Doug McGuff

Body By Science is all about high intensity, low frequency weight resistance training as opposed to long session aerobic/cardio to build and maintain health.  The book is split into the research and data that backs up the “body by science” program as well as the program itself.  With as little as five exercises (“the big five”) and twelve minutes a day, one can build muscle while avoiding the stress and inflammation caused by repetitive exercise.

The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles

Terry Wahls M.D. and Eve Adamson 

Part memoir, part cookbook, part explanation of a Paleo diet approach, The Wahls Protocol details the amazing story of Terry Wahls who through diet alone went from being in a wheelchair with MS to running a marathon.  Dr Terry Wahls outlines her concept of eating a low carb diet for optimum nutrition to build and restore optimum health.  I heard an interview with Dr Wahls and after hearing her speak, I was convinced to try to improve and optimize my own health as much as possible.  In the interview, she stated that all disease-autism, depression, asthma whatever-looks the same at the cellular level.  All life is based on chemical reactions and all disease appears as an imbalance in that chemical reaction.  Optimize that chemical reaction by giving the cells what they need to function through proper nutrition and most 20th century illness such as diabetes and autoimmunity should lessen.  Her story is truly inspirational.  Here’s a video of her speaking, it’s very much worth your time:

MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom

Tony Robbins

Love him or hate him but Tony Robbins has a motivating style that gets the reader excited.  In Money Master The Game, he talks about the importance of investing for the future and several ways to invest for your tomorrows.  I’m not a real big fan of Robbins but I must say this book motivated me to start doing something about investing for the future.  My big takeaways were how to look for hidden fees in business transactions and that you are never too old to start anything.

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

Michael Lewis
The Big Short is the book that is the basis for the Adam McKay written and directed movie about the financial meltdown of 2008.  The story borders on the absurd to the point where one could assume the plot is satire.  It’s not.  This happened and can happen again.  The Big Short is both entertaining and educational about the banking system, and investment in general.

 

All of these books would be a great addition to one’s library and I believe hold the potential to drastically change one’s life.  If you are interested in ordering any of these titles, you can click on the book images in this post and it will direct you to Amazon.com

Eat Real Food Bumper Stickers Available!

eat real food

We have some beautiful vinyl die cut bumper stickers available at our Etsy store! Our “Eat Real Food” design lets everyone know your commitment to healthy food and real food.  Good health starts with good nutrition.  Real, whole foods contain the most nutrition.  Eating real food daily can improve health and change our lives.  In my case, it was as simple as “eat real food, lose weight”.  Stickers are fade resistant and measure approximately 3.75″ x 4″.  Show the world how much you believe in healthy food with one of our stickers!

Our stickers are $3.00 available postage paid through Etsy or the Paypal button below.

Eat Real Food


 

Bacon Flavored Seaweed Snacks

I’d like to talk about seaweed and give you a bacon flavored seaweed snacks recipe that I love.  I’m very fond of those roasted seaweed snacks you find all over nowadays.  Annie Chun’s and Trader Joe’s are a few of the companies that come to mind who make these addictive treats. Nori, the seaweed that is wrapped around your sushi roll, is basically flavored and lightly oiled and then roasted.  Salty and crunchy, these are a great satisfying snack that has no carbohydrates, and has a pretty good nutrient profile.  Seaweed nutrition is impressive.  All types of seaweed whether it’s kelp or nori or kombu are high in fiber, low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin b12 and iodine.  Unfortunately, the added ingredients and the types of oils used when manufacturing them make most seaweed snacks less than ideal.  Google image searching “seaweed snack ingredients” will reveal some of these undesirable ingredients: maltodextrin and brown sugar are a few things I’d like to avoid.  I am trying to avoid added sugar wherever I can.  The choice of oils concerns me as well: sunflower, safflower and olive oils are omega 6 heavy and are not real stable oils.  The western diet already has too much inflammation causing omega 6 oils-one reason I try to limit added vegetable oils wherever I can. Vegetable oils tend to go rancid when heated as well.   “These roasted seaweed snacks have so much going for them besides these “junky” additives” I thought to myself.  “If only I could get them made with lard”.  “Yeah right” I told myself.  “Just go all the way and make them with bacon somehow.”

 

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What an interesting idea!  Well, I had some bacon fat in the fridge, and found a few recipes online and tried it out…

Most recipes are pretty straight forward-oil sheets of nori, season and either pan roast or roast in a low oven.  I followed the procedure detailed at maangchi.com.  For seasoning, I used a small amount of sesame oil.  I found this acceptable considering the majority of oil used in the recipe would be bacon fat. Man, I love the taste of sesame oil.

For 20 nori sheets I used a mixture of 2 tbs of bacon fat and just shy of a teaspoon of sesame oil mixed together.  Working on top of paper towels, I used a pastry brush to apply a thin layer of oil on the shiny side of the nori which was facing up:

 

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I sprinkled a small amount of sea salt and placed another sheet, smooth side up on top of the first sheet.  I continued this process until all the sheets were used up.

seaweedsnacks

At this point, I rolled all the sheets of seaweed into a roll and wrapped it in paper towel.  I let this set and rest to allow the nori to soak up the oil mixture as I heated up a cast iron skillet over medium heat.   I placed a sheet rough side down into the hot skillet and pressed it down with a spatula.

20160102_142144  The nori will shrink and curl as it gets hot, hence the spatula to flatten it out.  After about 20-25 seconds, I placed another sheet, rough side up on top of the sheet in the pan.  I then flipped the two sheets so the new piece was rough side down on the pan and roasted it for another 20 or so seconds while I repeated this process with the remaining sheets-each time making sure the rough side would be the side that touches the pan.

At this point your’re done.  Let them cool and cut into squares.  I went a little heavy on the oil when I prepped the sheets.  Because of this, they were a little greasy and I ended up blotting the sheets on paper towels-much like as you would bacon.  Place in an airtight container and store in the freezer for maximum crispness.

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These taste pretty amazing.  They have a strong blast of seaweed and bacon with a nice peppery finish.  You know they must be pretty good because I’m describing the taste as if I were talking about a fine wine.  And I don’t have to think about excess sugars or rancid oils as I pig out on them!

Other recipes call for roasting in the oven.  In the future I will try this method as well.  I believe the real trick however you make these is to keep the oil on the light side.  Next time I’ll be wiping the oil mix on with a paper towel and see how that goes.   The tip to store in the freezer from maangchi.com is spot on-these were still crispy a week later.

DIY roasted seaweed was pretty easy overall with pretty awesome results.  I was looking for an easy to make, great tasting snack that is pretty much guilt free.  I’ll be experimenting with the choice of oil and seasonings as well.  Coconut oil, clarified butter, onion powder, garlic powder, powdered mushrooms….who knows what else?  If you want to make a suggestion of your own, why not contact us on our Facebook page and let us know!

A Cool Food Storage Gizmo You Won’t Want To Live Without

I’m always looking for effective ways to store say, half an avocado, or the lemon that was left after cutting out a slice to go with some seafood.  Well my lemon storage (and lime, orange and avocado) troubles are done now that I have the [eafl id=233 name=”savil by dreamfarm” text=”Savil food saver”] from Dreamfarm.  This unique gadget saves a little bit to a lot of cut apples, oranges etc with its thoughtful design.

 

Unique Hinge Design On This Cool Food Storage Gizmo

Closed for storage, the Savel looks pretty unassuming:

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Lift on the silicone retainer strap, and release the clasp to open:

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The inside is the surface which will be against the cut side of your lime, apple or whatever. What makes the Savel such a cool tool in the kitchen is the hinge that lets this surface flex from fully closed to about a 270 degree angle….

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This allows you to store a little:

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Or half:

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Or even a lot of a piece of fruit:

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The smooth side rests on your cut edge keeping air out while the silicone band holds the fruit in place.  Now you can store half an avocado and actually enjoy it when you take it out of the fridge later!  This is one of those utensils that will be so useful and convenient you might want several.

The Savel is available at Amazon.com through the link below:

Wellinformedliving.com will be reviewing more useful items for around the home, kitchen ideas and other cool stuff in the future, stay connected by joining our Facebook group or follow us on Twitter.

A Cool Squash Cutting Trick

With fall in full swing, I start thinking about all the tasty winter squash everywhere I look.  Farmer’s markets and farm stands full of delicious butternut, acorn, delicata, and sweetmeat squash to name a few varieties.  Winter squash are high in magnesium and potassium and beta carotene.  As I stated in a post on oyster nutrition, “Magnesium is needed for over 300 biochemical reactions in your body”.  Potassium will help your body control blood pressure.  Beta carotene is used by the body to manufacture vitamin A.  Most Americans get about half the RDA of vitamin A and squash is a great way to help supplement your diet with it’s basic building block, beta carotene.  Winter squash is also a great source of the soluble and insoluble fiber so necessary in optimal gut health.

Cutting a thick skinned winter squash can be quite frankly, a pain in the ass.  It can be extremely tough (like the skin!) to even get a knife through one without slipping and cutting yourself.  Today I have a quick and easy tip that will make it easy to cut a squash and get on with one of those squash recipies.  What you need is:

  • Squash of some sort
  • A large decent kitchen knife (don’t use your fancy knives for this hack)
  • A rubber mallet

cutting winter squashYup.  A rubber mallet.  That’s the secret ingredient.  You’ve seen them everywhere from Harbor Freight to auto parts stores bargain bins.  They’re pretty cheap.  You probably have one in the garage or basement…

Get your knife started in your squash:

cutting squasha

Hold the mallet in one hand and while holding the knife handle with your other hand, start tapping the knife through your squash:

cutting squashb

When you get the knife past halfway or so, you can usually just push the knife the rest of the cut:

cutting squashc

Squash cut…..you can use the same process to cut your squash into smaller chunks if needed.  Do not, I repeat do not use this technique on summer squash!

cutting winter squash