The Urban Homesteader's Organic Raw Dog Food "Treat" Muffins Recipe: Your Best Friend Will Thank You!

I love the raw food movement. I love it in human nutrition (more raw fruit and veggies!? Yes please!)  So when it comes to my own pets, I want only the best for them. I want them to lead long, happy, healthy lives filled with tasty food, training fun and learning, games and healthy rewards. I don't want to put unhealthy things into my own body, my family's bodies, or my furry and feathered friend's bodies either....now for a whirlwind tour of my thoughts on feeding a dog organic and/or raw. To skip this and head straight to the recipe, scroll to "Recipe" below :)

For those of you still with me.....thanks muchos. I appreciate you guys and your support :) Now....When I was debating what to feed my sweet little furry friends, it felt like there was a lot of confusion and mystique around feeding your dogs a raw diet, and around feeding organic. A lot of the time I feel like people hold true to one end of the debate or another. I've heard everything from "how can you feed your dog kibble and dry food? It's unnatural: heat destroys the enzymes and creates a nutritionally inferior product! And look at all the dog food recalls due to contamination from disease (salmonella, e. coli, etc.) or heavy metals, or _______!" On the other hand, I've also heard (almost the same argument) from the dry-food only crowd. "How can you feed your dog raw meat!? It might be natural, but so is dying from foodbourne illness! Don't you know about the cases of contamination with salmonella, e.coli, topical-disease-causing-organism, etc. in uncooked meats, or the imbalanced diets leading to nutritional deficiencies?"

 Hmmmm.....what is a concerned pet owner to do?

I think the raw foodies and the conventional foodies both have a point. Both raw foods and cooked foods can harbour disease. A poor and/or imbalanced diet is going to result in nutritional deficiencies, decreased lifespan and increased rates of illness. 

I also think, just like in humans, that there is no "one right way" to achieve optimal nutrition. Though there is this commonality of needing to fulfill nutritional requirements, no two people or dogs are identical. Different bodies, digestive systems, conditions, diseases, metabolisms, allergies and intolerances, activity levels and taste preferences, all mean that a meal plan isn't a "one-size-fits-all" situation. 

Practicing safe food handling, food prep and cleanup techniques will go a long way no matter how you feed yourself and your family. At the moment, I'm torn. We travel a lot and our pups come with us. That makes feeding raw more difficult, though I've seen some committed people do it. I also don't think I know enough about canine nutrition, at least at this point, to feel confident making a recipe that will fulfill all of their needs.

What this ends up meaning for us (for now at least) is a hybrid diet for the pups. They are free fed kibble, with our favourite brands being Orijen and Acana, though we have experimented with a lot of different brands and different recipes within a brand.

We also supplement their diet with raw meaty bones (beef, uncooked so they don't splinter), fresh veggies and fruit, bully sticks and pizzles to chew on (which are reportedly safer than rawhide as they are less likely to swell in the intestine causing an obstruction  (a dangerous and sometimes fatal condition), and some organic canned dog food. Certified Organic canned dog food is the only way I've found that you can get a meat based, soy-free AND 100% organic dog food, as the dry dog food industry does not yet have a poultry meal or other meat meal that is certified organic. Check the label, as even if the first ingredient in the dry food is "organic chicken", the next ingredient is usually "chicken meal" and is not organic.

 Le sigh.

Gosh Urban Homesteader, why are you getting your panties in a twist over this?

The reason I find this so frustrating is not because I'm a crazy organic food fanatic, but because I feel that it is misleading the consumer. If the food is labelled as organic, or gives the impression that it is organic, there shouldn't be a non-organic ingredient involved unless it is pointed out to the consumer as being non-organic. Particularly when the non organic "chicken meal" is actually the primary meat ingredient in dry kibble after the water is removed from the organic chicken. So the organic food that you're paying your hard earened dollars for, isn't actually as organic as you were led to believe. If a dog food is properly labelled (aka: honest!) then the consumer can make an informed decision (whether that is to feed the food knowing that one is at least reducing pesticide load in their dogs, or to choose another food that they find to be nutritionally superior even though it is not organic), rather than paying a premium for a food that is not as advertised.  So one has to be careful and read the ingredient labels very carefully so that you end up buying what you wanted to.

 

Anywhoooo, we also supplement with raw food made by local companies, and make a few of our own as "treats" (pretty much too healthy to be called a "treat", but the pups get so excited about it that they can be used as treats!)

 

So onto how to make these delightful little additions! 

 Canine Haute Cuisine

Canine Haute Cuisine

 

Recipe: 

You're going to need: 

- 2/3 pound lean ground beef

- 1 package chicken hearts (approx. 20 hearts/package)  

- 1 package chicken gizzards

- 1 cup cooked squash (we used Butternut Squash as we were having it ourselves the night I was making these) , puréed

- 1/3 head romaine lettuce (approx 1-1.5 cups), finely chopped

- 1/4 cup cucumber, shredded

- 1/2 pear, finely diced (great way to use up fruit that is past its prime but still good for chickens or canines to eat) 

- 3 pumps salmon oil (approx. 1-2 Tbsp.), we use the Grizzly Wild Salmon Oil brand. You can also substitute another oil of choice, such as olive oil, hemp oil, flax oil or sunflower oil. I just prefer the Salmon Oil's Omega 3:6 ratio (higher level of omega-3s than omega-6s than in vegetable based oils) in this instance. 

 

Tools you'll need include:

- sterilizing agent (Thymox for us)

- paper towels

- hand sanitizer

- 1 metal bowl

- 1 metal spoon for stirring

- 1 spoon for scooping the squash

- 1 mellon baller to take out the pear core

- 1 sharp knife to cut up the chicken, lettuce and fruit

- food grater to grate up the cucumber

- metal cookie sheet

- wax butcher freezer paper or wax paper

- 1/4 cup measuring cup for creating evenly sized portions

 

1. Prepare your work surface to make sure it is sterile (we like Thymox, as it is an all natural but effective alternative to bleach) and that you have a clean metal cookie sheet with wax freezer paper or wax paper covering it before you start. No fun to have chicken on your hands and not be able to access the paper until you rewash your hands only to get them dirty again a moment later.

2. Dice the chicken hearts and gizzards into cubes 1cm in size.

3. Add the ground beef, puréed Butternut squash, lettuce, pear and Salmon Oil, and combine with spoon until thoroughly incorporated. 

4. Using the 1/4 c. measuring cup as a mould, pack the mixture into the cup and tap the portion out onto the wax paper.

5. Once finished, put baking tray into freezer overnight. The next day (or once frozen), put the portions into ziplock bags, label with recipe name and date, and freeze until you need them. Thaw in refridgerator until ready to serve. Discard any uneaten food after their meal (though if there were leftovers, I'd be quite surprised!) FYI: In the Summer serving them partly frozen is a nice treat to keep the pups cool.

6. Sterilize your tools, counter, hands, and anything else that came into contact or possibly could have come in contact with the raw meat.

7. Give to your overjoyed canine friend and bask in the warm glow of the pantry-love that follows :)

 

Happy Urban Homesteading! Here's to our joyful, goofy, playful, snuggly, healthy, happy hounds :)

 

 

 

 

One migraine to rule them all....andddddd an exciting update on Chateau Jardin's newest urban homestead addition

So. I sit here, in bed, comfy-leggings-and-bulky-sweatered-up, on a Friday evening (my cool life knows no bounds amiright?), one that the Mister and I planned as a date night, and I am instead faced with a headache after doing comparatively little to what I could do pre-head-injury. This is all after a Sunday to Wednesday migraine that left me totally exhausted and with a bruised-feeling brain and spine to match. Ugh. My productivity grinds to a painful, pounding halt when the migraines come a callin'.

 

These post-concussion symptoms mean I end up doing a lot of this:

 Collette is happy to snuggle. Theo is bored. 

Collette is happy to snuggle. Theo is bored. 

And this: 

 Cuddles make everything better right? 

Cuddles make everything better right? 

And when I can tolerate enough light and sound and just want to be distracted from the pain, there's some of this too: 

 I love this show. Seriously. So. Funny.

I love this show. Seriously. So. Funny.

As I sit here, I am contemplating my ever growing to do list and what I have on the go. And what compromises I have to make. Like coop lighting, for example.

Hmmm....what? 

Well, the light is on in the chicken coop as of tonight at 6:30pm when the sun had totally disappeared. I've been trying to figure out why the three 25 week old hens aren't laying yet. I've dealt with these breeds before. I expect eggs by now....and yet...the ladies remain....egg-defiant. Barren. Hungry yet elusive.

"C'mon ladies!" I say to them in the morning and evening when I check the nestboxes. "Sheesh!"

They stare at me blankly. "Wraaaaaah?"

They come to investigate the bearer of food. Does she have worms or fruit peelings or treats? When they realize I don't, they go back about their business. Scratching at the ground, pecking at my freckles (they must be edible, right?), finding a comfy place to roost, searching for things I can't see in the sand.... 

So I looked up the weather chart. Duh, I know, but I've been a little preoccupied....and they're only getting 10 hours of sunlight per day. Hens usually require 14-16 hours of light per day to lay eggs. I'm not for or against lighting coops: I know its a hot button topic for some, and after some research I feel comfortable supplementing with light only to add a few hours per day. I don't want my lights on all the time. I figure the Ladies don't either. They need their beauty rest after all. Plus it just ain't natural. If I had a big non-urban homestead where I could keep chickens that I had no use for egg-wise, who were good natured and I could justify retiring, I would probably not supplement with light, except on the coldest days, or I'd just use radiant heat that isn't a fire concern, as I did with my newest batch of chicks. 

 But...back on topic.

We need eggs people! Oh my....purchasing organic eggs at the store pains my soul and wallet (so.darned.expensive). We were spoiled with all the glorious, delicious, delightful, dark-orangey goodness that is an egg that you plucked from the nest, still-warm. And after having enjoyed a profuse amount of eggs in a rainbow of colours from my well-fed-but-not-overfed urban flock, with their Homemade Organic Feed, and their organic sprouted grains, fermented feed and daily fruits, veggies, grasses, weeds, greens, home-raised-organic mealworms and waxworms.....I expect better. So lighting it is! But only so their total light equals the Summery minimum of 14-16 hours per day. No more. Perhaps less once they're laying...as once laying is in full swing with my heritage breeds I find they don't need to much extra light to have their laying continue in full production, lighting or not. I'm still planning, saving and brainstorming for my "solar powered radiant heat coop". Likely not as far off as it sounds, it's certainly one of my dreams for the chickens and the good ol' earth. But alas, not yet. 

 

So lighting it is.  

 

Also? Wanna know a fun fact? 

 

The Urban Homesteader is getting rabbits!!! Yes, that's right. This menagerie is growing to include some wascally wabbits, and Chateau Jardin will eventually be enjoying its own home-grown, lovingly-raised meat to accompany our organic eggs, fruit and veggie selection. Annnnnnd I'm just a little excited.....

 

Who am I kidding!? I'm rediculously excited :) 

 Oh my love of small local feed stores and the difficult search for organic or mostly organic feed options. It ain't easy folks! 

 

More info on this exciting development to follow in the days and weeks ahead.

 

And as always, Happy Urban Homesteading. May you have many migraine-less days to enjoy this beautiful Autumn in :)

 

 

Amelie

 

A Hiatus.

Dear World,

I've been away. Like Alice, I fell down the rabbit hole. I took an intermission. From my blogging. From my schooling. From many things....experiencing both my own health issues, and those of the people I hold nearest to my heart.

 

It has been a crazy adventure....but I'm back. And I learned a few things along the way.

Some of them were educational. Pharmacology. Physical examination techniques. Better listening skills. Others were more personal, most importantly that

I am human.

Surprise! Insert eye-roll here if you wish :) For what its worth, I've learned that all the scientific, medical, and research training in the world, will never prepare you for the words "terminal" and "cancer", in your own life or the life of a precious loved one. 

And thus, though I would like it not to be so, like anyone else in such a situation, my strengths and weaknesses were laid bare to me. I learned what things I need to work on. In these I have seen progress, but there are always new things to learn and become better at. I learned what things I am naturally good at and what I most enjoy. Of course, I learned lots of things in between too. Life can be a brutal teacher, but it can also be the best teacher. It is one thing to give a diagnosis and prognosis, and it is something entirely different to experience it on the other side of the table. My interaction with patients has changed through this new lens of experience. 

I think many physicians would like for all doctors, including themselves, to be these perfect examples of successful humanity, gliding with ease from family struggle to physician-patient relationship, to diagnostic abilities, to continuous learning, and more...but if we are to be truly empathetic listeners, we must be able to reach inside ourselves and remind ourselves that the information that we hand out so freely can be very, very difficult for people to receive. This must be done, even with our clinical face on, to remind ourselves that our patients are human too: they have strengths and weaknesses and stories of their own. And our words, however unintended, however necessary in the giving of information, the telling of the truth, and the describing of options, can cause pain. 

"Months. Poor prognosis. Presented in the late stages of the disease."

Nothing prepares you for how to go about life when you are told that there is so little time left.

Where is the road map that tells you and your family how to navigate this process? There isn't one anf this can be immensely terrifying. I locked myself behind a glass wall of clinicalisms, facts and caretaking. This is the way I cope. I put everything aside until the necessary work has been done and I have time to sort through my emotions. For me, it was easier to keep busy, and there was a lot to keep busy with, rather than feeling what was happening. It wasn't until much later, when I had time to myself, that I allowed myself to feel. And that was hard. Feeling is hard. Loving is hard. Disease and mortality and suffering are hard. There's no two ways about it people, this is no easy thing!

It feelt like being robbed. Robbed of time: the milestones: graduation from high-school, grad-school, medical school. The birthdays. The family events: Christmases, Easters, Thanksgivings and other holidays. Robbed of joy in the ordinary, regular days, with their laughter, jokes, tiffs, eye-rolls, the incredible highs and lows and their tears and late-night-phone-calls...the joys of surprises and successes, future plans and dreams, and everything else that is tied up in the experience of beautiful, freely given love.

What do you do when there is less than a year to spend with one of the most precious people in your life?

I don't have an answer for you. Because the reality is:

Nothing will prepare you to face that. I learned that all you can do is try to t do the best with what you are given, and more importantly, to be present and enjoy each moment that you do have with those you love. You're in the now: Carpe Diem! Live life to whatever "fullest" looks like to you, in whatever capacity, physical, emotional, intellectual....whatever! And live this "fullest" life with those you love. Even when its inconvenient. Even when it interrupts your plans. Even when it takes those plans and throws them out like a non-recyclable (its a long list in this city folks!)

There really is no better time to do things, say what you need to, travel to places you want to go, visit people you want to see, and just be.

Facing our own mortality, or feeling robbed of time with those we love, is really the pits man. I hate crying messy, snotty, blotchy-face tears over the people and things I love: my family, friends, pets and others in my life.

Some people might find my career choice odd in light of this. Our culture is fascinated with the Dr. House's, the Sherlock Holmes' and other such "geniuses", who care about little other than their problem-solving abilities...that is, until their layers are peeled away and their core exposed....

But I am not like that. And I am proud to be different from these idolizations.

I LOVE being involved and caring and LOVING people in their most difficult moments...their trials, their fears, their truths. 

You know what one of the craziest parts of all of this is? What I've noticed about myself over the past couple of years, the last two in particular, is that I actively seek those moments out. And having gone through this experience, I want all the more to be a comforting presence to others. I want to support others through their difficult moments, days, weeks and years. I want to make a space where people are comfortable to express their hopes and fears in a safe, judgement-free environment. I want people to feel free to share, free to think and hope and make decisions, with the knowledge that I am doing my best for them, my 100%. I want to do this because I want to be the best doctor I can be, to form long-lasting, important relationships with patients.

I've learned the importance of being present. 

I want patients to not just feel, but to truly know that they are heard.

I want patients to walk away from each meeting with a peaceful, knowledgeable glow in their minds and in their hearts, that gives them what they are seeking for in the medical world.

I want patients to feel comfortable to share their inmost being, so that we can work together to find solutions to the things they are facing.

I want to be the Family Physician that make people feel like my mother's family physician did and still does. She's been through everything with Mom: pregnancies, allergies, life in general, teenage-kids, middle-age, cancer, chemo, palliative treatment, sepsis, many, many surgeries, the ICU, and now....that beautiful, painfully-sought, hope-giving, complicated words: potential remission

My mom's family doctor came in to remove her chemo drug bottle when I couldn't - the doctor didn't allude to, discuss or even or mention this, but she was coming in on her day off, solely for this chemo drug bottle removal, being the woman who had been there for my mother's five cesareans, other health concerns (and those of her five children!) along the way, and eventually, her cancer and treatment and surgeries too.

There is something for me, about the human person, the true essence of difficult experiences: the true joy, true pain (the two almost oft thought of opposites are so often united in one memory), true love and the eternal, supra-earthly call of the bond of blood and family that one has by genetics, adoption or by pure loving acceptance, that makes my heart clench to the core with intense love, pain, beauty and hope. It is something that calls to the essence of who I am, and fulfills my deepest self - the "me" that was made to love others, no matter what state they're in, and if they're having a difficult time (navigating through the surprises of life isn't easy by any means), to love them as fellow human beings and do my absolute best to care for their well-being all the more, each day, giving of myself and learning more and more about medicine and humanity in the process.

I love caring for others.

Nurturing those that need nurturing. Loving those that need love. Listening to those that don't want advice or any other sort of words, but the being-there-ness that a physician can give to their patient. Medicine contains such joys, sorrows, beauty, love....Few things will top seeing the expression of a woman looking at her baby for the first time. If that doesn't make you fall in love with medicine a hundred times over, I really don't know what does.

I've learned all over again, something I already knew: that women are incredible. Their strength is SO mighty, SO courageous, SO self-sacrificial. Mamas, around the world, with their born, unborn, stillborn, miscarried and otherwise babes, have an essence of understanding, an experience that has embraced them into the sisterhood of motherhood, one which contains such frightful deeps and such incredible highs so as to not be able to be captured with words...

 

Only.....my complete and utter admiration.

 

This past Thanksgiving weekend I found myself looking around me and thinking....I have so much to be thankful for. Though I would not wish it on anyone, I am thankful for this journey. Thankful for all it will do for my future patients. Thankful for more time with my Mama. Thankful for life and joy and family and friends and laughter and education and hope.

 

So, dear readers, I wish you a Happy Belated Thanksgiving. May you find all that you are looking for, hope even when life chokes your throat with its difficulties and anger and decisions and sadness and everything else. May you experience hope when you are overjoyed and brought-to-tears-happy and excited and in wonder of the beauty of everything that life is and can or could be. May you find peace and joy along the way, and those people you want to share it with, and family, be it blood or love or both that ties you together.

 

Happy Urban Homesteading, whether that be in a physical homestead, the homestead of your heart, or both.

 

 

Amelie

 

 

"How doth the little busy bee..."

"How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!"

- excerpt of poem by Isaac Watts

 sometimes, when you most need it, time stands  still . It is then that are not worrying about the future, but rather just experiencing, in all its loveliness, the  present moment.   Beautiful.

sometimes, when you most need it, time stands still. It is then that are not worrying about the future, but rather just experiencing, in all its loveliness, the present moment. Beautiful.


The New Kids in Town: DIY a Safe, Economical, Hygienic Chick Brooder Box

Goodness. I feel SO behind in everything....its incredible how dreadfully foggy and slow one's brain can be after a head injury. I've been attempting to work on the Poultry Nutrition Summaries Series....to little avail. I'm stringing together the summaries I made on the agricultural and veterinary articles I poured over and researched months ago, which I then used to formulate my own feed. Right now, instead, it's incredibly frustrating to feel like I'm running in a swimming pool; I know how fast I can run on land, but when I try to motor along it's like my head is filled with fuzz - thoughts come so much slower, and quickly result in fatigue. This certainly gives me a lot of empathy for patients suffering concussions themselves and the changes to one's lifestyle and independence as a fallout from that! Anywhoo, on to today's topic, which is a pretty darned cute one if I say so myself...

There's some new kids in town:

 2 Jill Rees Cream Legbars and Black Copper Marans from very dark-egg-laying lines, all three from  Grade Eh Farms

2 Jill Rees Cream Legbars and Black Copper Marans from very dark-egg-laying lines, all three from Grade Eh Farms

Their cuteness pretty much knows no bounds, particularly at this stage:

I thought, given that chick season is in full swing, and with all the Avian Flu scares, biosecurity risks, etc., a DIY Brooder How-To was in order to maximize hygiene, chick health, your, your family and friend's and general population's health, while still being economical, low-maintenance and possible for the thrifty urban homesteader. I have immunocompromised individuals in my family, so keeping things clean, along with handwashing procedures and the rest, is a must for me. In the very least, I hope you can learn something from what I've found to be helpful :)

So fellow urban microfarmers, I welcome you to....*drumroll pleassseee*.... the Chick Den! An easy to clean and disinfect, cost-effective, roomy first home for chicks, while being compact for your small space (expandable for larger operations), which means more time for fun with your new little ones.

So lets go into detail about this brooder box. Here's a bigger picture:

IMG_3845.JPG

So what will you need for this project?

Tools:

  • ruler
  • Sharpie
  • safety glasses/goggles
  • working gloves that allow you dexterity while still providing safety
  • drill (our favorite is the Dewalt 20V Li-ion with Impact Driver for our projects)
  • drill bit set that includes pilot point drill bits (see here for one similar to what we use)
  • Dremel with cutting attachments (the one I use is here) OR you could use an exactoknife (be careful as its easy to cut yourself)
  • wire cutters/canning shears
  • glue gun (preferred, I got mine at the Dollar Store) or krazy glue
  • glue gun sticks

Supplies:

  • Brinsea EcoGlow 20 Chick Brooder (here): I LOVE mine! Like most worthwhile things, you spend a bit more money up front, and save money in the long run on your electric bill. It is also SO much safer than the traditional fire-hazard brooding lamp for your home, barn and chicks!
  • Purell or other 70% alcohol based hand sanitizer ( check! some at 60-62% and kill fewer germs...)or other hand sanitizer
  • 1 plastic bin with lid (rule of thumb for space required: 6 square inches/chick, according to Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens, one of my favorite books!) Mine have 144 square inches/chick in this brooder box, which is about 18" x 24"
  • 1/2" or 1/4" hardware cloth (I used ~22" x 16", with a cut out for the water bottle)
  • nuts, bolts, washers (make sure they fit before you leave the hardware store!)
  • 3 screw in mug hooks (as here), one for the wild bird feeder and two for the waterer
  • rabbit/guinea pig/small animal water bottle, cap with ball waterer removed
  • 4 caps from 2L soda bottles (1 to drill a hole in and then screw in the nipple waterer, 3 to cover the sharp edges of the hooks used to hang the waterer and feeder
  • nipple waterer (as here) to keep water off the ground and poop-free
  • Gro2Max probiotic poultry water powder
  • PoulVite vitamin water powder
  • glass/metal/plastic dish to catch water drips under the waterer
  • pine or aspen shavings
  • chick feed - right now I'm using MannaPro Organic Chick Starter (note: this does contain soy)
  • chick grit - right now I'm using MannaPro Chick Grit for the chicks 2 weeks+ of age
  • wild bird feeder to keep feed off the ground and poop-free
  • thermometer-hygrometer with extra wireless thermometer (my favourite for chickdom to full hen here) - I then also use this inside the roost in the winter to monitor the temperature and make sure the hens are not too cold
  • extension cord with surge protector for fire safety
  • LED "cool light" photosensing nightlight put near the brooder to attract the chicks to the brooder in low light conditions. I like that it won't melt anything.
  • *optional:* compact mirror or other shiny, chick-safe & indestructable object on a string to give the chicks an extra thing to peck at
  • *optional:* chick brooder clamp light with ceramic holder, 25W or other low-wattage bulb

This is how I use these tools and supplies to set my chick den up on the inside:

Here's another top view - cant.get.over.the.cuteness.....

Both the feeder and waterer (seen below) are off the ground, but still at a reachable height for the chicks. The bottle caps are glue gunned onto the outside of the plastic bin, covering the sharp "screw" end of the 3 cup hooks used to hand the feeder and waterer to protect little visiting hands, as well as my own. Purell at the door and at the brooder make sure that it is convenient for people to sanitize their hands without having to think of it.

And now for the side view:

I hope that helps you with your new chick setup! If you're an old chick-raising-pro, I hope that you found something helpful and new in how I set up my chick brooding pen!

Happy Urban Homesteading!

 

 

A Smoothie a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

....or at least keeps him/her happy with you at your yearly physical :) Put an apple in it if you like. Har har har.

Anywhooo - look at this beauty! Is there anything better than a smoothie people?

No. I tell you, there is not.

Well...maybe a few things. But its a short list! NOT many I tell you. Smoothies are a health packed, delicious, nutritious, vitamin and antioxidant-rich delight, whipped up into a lovely, creamy, heavenly goodness! I make all sorts of smoothies and they really make my day. This is healthy food that doesn't taste like tasteless "health food". This is the real deal!

 Mmmm mmmm good. Look a little grey on your screen? In real life its pink, purple and green! My outdated (already) iPhone camera can't figure it out. A beautiful natural treat nonetheless :D

Mmmm mmmm good. Look a little grey on your screen? In real life its pink, purple and green! My outdated (already) iPhone camera can't figure it out. A beautiful natural treat nonetheless :D

Prep Time: 5 minutes; "Cook" Time: 1-2 minutes

Total Recipe Time: 6-7 minutes!

Ingredients*:

  • 2 cups almond milk (or milk or your milk substitute of choice)
  • 1.5 cups fresh strawberries tops removed (although sometimes I don't bother!)
  • 2 cups frozen blueberries
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 large kale leaves (mine were about 14 inches long each)
  • 1 cup Greek Yoghurt (your % to your personal taste)
  • sweeten to taste (Xyla, Stevia, Truvia, honey, agave, Organic Cane Sugar, etc.)
  • 1 scoop protein powder if desired (I use hemp protein or rice protein with added vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, omega-3's, fibre, and more!)

*For us, all of these ingredients are organic, 'cause we like to roll like that (when possible). You of course are welcome to do as your taste-buds, budget and surrounding stores/garden allow! :)

Blend from 1-10 if you're using a Vitamix to prevent a fountain from exploding from your machine, then turn from "Variable" to "High", blend until smooth, approximately 1-2 minutes.

I love my Vitamix. I'll probably sing its praises from the mountaintops one day. #nowordofalie. This baby makes my life! At least nutritionally, that is.

It is an incredible machine. After seeing two friends' Vitamixes in action and their perfect results, we went on a family trip and got ours at a Kitchen Outlet Store in Oregon (no Tax y'all!) refurbished for a massive discount. And the dollar was on par so it didn't kill our budget either.

FYI: When ours had its motor die suddenly, I called the Vitamix Hotline (seriously, its a thing) - the Vitamix people sent a box, postage paid, along with a Fedex guy that picked it up from our house, and shipped it back to us within a week. I could honestly swoon over their warranty policy. They really, truly stand by their products, and I have nothing but good things to say about them! The lady on the Vitamix Support Line was really kind and sweet too :) Made the whole experience much better. Overall an A+, lovely company. And I'm not getting any money to say it! This is just my honest-to-goodness, tried-and-true opinion.

Point of interest that was the first thing that drew me to the Vitamix: I find the Vitamix is so powerful that it blends even the seeds in fruit up, which I would assume (though I would have to look it up) helps us access and digest the nutrients found in the seeds better). On other blenders: you know your blender best - whip this creamy, lovely smoothie up and enjoy :) Either way it packs a wonderful health punch!

Another thing to love about smoothies in general is that they're totally portable, and clean-up (as long as you do it right away and not wait until the scary "hardened on" stage, and if you have dishwasher safe reusable containers) it's just a 30 second to 1 minute rinse of the blender and its top under hot water. I find that this way, even if I don't have a lot of time, I can still get a healthy snack/meal in and not have a huge mess to clean up either!  Vitamix and smoothies for the win! :D

I've been compiling my past readings on grains, legumes and supplements...takes longer than I thought it would! I've had some physical setbacks that have made me take more time than usual to do tasks that I normally find easy. So it's taking a bit of time...but it's certainly worth the wait! :)

Happy Urban Homesteading lovelies!


The Poultry Nutrition Summaries: Part 1 - The Benefits of Sprouted Grains

Update: As of now, I have sold the entirety of this year’s flock of chickens...and had a waitlist too. I’m going to change gears and focus my flock program on Isbars primarily now. I have fallen in love with them: their sweetness, their loving personalities, the way they come up to greet me in their run (when I was in rat/mice extermination mode, and setting the traps at night as I couldn’t have them out in the day or they could catch my dogs, the neighbourhood cats, squirrels, bird-life, etc., the Isbars would jump off their roosting bar in their coop if they heard my voice, even though they can barely see in the dark, in order to come visit!) They lay the most incredible green eggs, ranging from mint with white flecks, to bluey-green, to sage, olive with brown flecks, and all the range of colours in between. They’re the most reliable layers I have, even outdoing the Cream Legbars (who are wickedly good layers too). And I love that they’re “Blue” poultry, with the different shades of blue (a dark to light blueish grey), splash (white with grey and black spots), and black. All in all they’re just lovely. I’ve collaborated with a fabulous heritage chicken breeder at Under the Feather Farms in Roberts Creek, BC, who is hatching some eggs for me from her breeding program and DC Heritage Poultry, and I am just SO excited :) Perhaps only chicken-lovers will understand, but it really feels like Christmas or a birthday!

Now….onto the nutrition series before I get too distracted! Ahhhh nutrition. One of those things that I love to think about,  talk about, read about, learn about, and basically immerse myself in. Whether it be that of humans, dogs and other pets, or chickens, I find a way to dive into the latest research and apply it to my own life and that of my family and pets. And as for today? Part One’s focus is going to be on Sprouting.

“But Urban Homesteader, we already know you sprout your feed!”

Correct, fellow micro farmer, but this series is going to focus more on the technical “why” of what I feed, based on the articles I’ve read and my personal preferences in human and animal nutrition stemming from those, rather than the practicalities of how I go about it.

So what’s the deal on SPROUTING vs. FERMENTING anyway? What should one choose to do, with limited time, space, and resources? What’s the difference so you can make up your own mind?

Personally, I think they're both excellent, and offer some of the same benefits, but in the end I like both because they achieve different aims (at least in my feeding recipe). This is why I do both (sprouting, fermenting, and sprouting then fermenting when I'm feeling truly ambitious). Sprouting and fermenting both improve digestibility (less cellulose/other hard to break down things for monogastrics like us or chickens, fewer anti-nutrients, and in the case of sprouting, the formation of enzymes that help break down some of the grain components). Fermenting does these things too to a certain extent, but through the use of bacterial (or yeast in some cases, though one has to be careful not to make beer by accident) enzymes/bacterial-directed processes rather than seedling-directed processes, but one of the main differences in fermenting is the added benefit of probiotics and their beneficial effect on the gut flora and thus the overall health of the chicken. I think that fermenting (and adding dry brewers yeast to the food directly before they eat it to avoid the creation of alcohols) is great for several reasons (on top of those benefits similar to sprouting). Let’s do things one by one, and focus on the benefits of Sprouting first.

SPROUTING

“Until about a hundred years ago, humans harvested their grains, tied them into sheaves, and left them in the field until they were ready to thresh the grain. Inevitably, with this exposure to the weather, at least some of the grain would begin to sprout. While a little sprouting appears to be good for us, there’s a sweet spot. Just the right amount of time, temperature, and moisture are necessary to start the germination process….Sprouting grains increases many of the grains' key nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin C, folate, fiber, and essential amino acids often lacking in grains, such as lysine.” (Whole Grain Council on Sprouted Grains: http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/sprouted-whole-grains, summary of some of their favourite findings below).

Note: Now, these findings below are from all sorts of different species, often rats, not just on laying hens. Thus, take what they say with a grain of salt, in terms of their applicability to layers. For me, my reading has been sufficient. If you’re not convinced, look up more studies in laying hens specifically, to see if you’re convinced/not convinced by that data.

Increasing Antioxidants:
Scientists at the University of Alberta germinated wheat under various conditions to determine how to maximize the production of antioxidants.  First, they steeped the grains in water for 24 or 48 hours, then sprouted them in the dark for 9 days. Vitamins C and E and beta-carotene, which were barely detectable in the dry grains, increased steadiily during the germination period. Grains steeped for 48 hours became wet, sticky, discolored and acidic-smelling after germination, leading researchers to conclude that 24 hours of steeping and 7 days of sprouting would produce the best combination of antioxidant concentrations and sensory properties.
International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, July 2001; 52(4):319-30.

Urban Homesteader, why are antioxidants useful in raising laying hens?
Herbal antioxidants increase egg production, fertility, hatchability, oxidative stability (freshness), egg mass, eggshell thickness and egg shape, yolk weight, yolk colour, egg lipid profile and chicken blood lipid profile, and nutrient digestibility.
International Journal of Poultry Science 7 (2): 134-150, 2008, http://www.pjbs.org/ijps/fin1037.pdf

Better Digestibility, Increased Nutrient Availability:
Sprouting results in better conversion of feed into “product” (in this case we’re aiming for more money in your pocket and eggs in your basket! In layers this product is eggs, in dairy cows it is milk, in rats it is body mass, etc.) and Increasing Enzymatic Breakdown of Complex Surgars into more easily Digestable Sugars: Germinated feeds had the highest feed efficiency ratio (FER), protein efficiency ratio (PER) and diastatic power values and were therefore considered of higher nutritional value. It was therefore concluded that germination was superior to the other processing methods in improving the nutritional and functional qualities of sorghum.
International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, March 2001; 52(2):117-26.

In an experiment at the University of Alberta, barley kernels were sprouted from 2 to 5 days, then oven-dried and milled. Researchers found decreases in dry matter, gross energy (calories) and triglycerides, and increases in fiber and diglyceride content. After the sprouted barley was fed to rats, scientists said that “digestibility data showed an enhancement of digestibility of nutrients in barley… implying that sprouting improved nutritional qualify of barley.”
Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, September 1989; 39(3):267-78.

Increasing Folate (Vitamin B9):
Sprouting rye increases its folate content by 1.7- to 3.8-fold, depending on germination temperature, according to researchers in Finland.
The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, December 13, 2006; 54(25):9522-8.

Decreasing Allergenic Proteins:
While very few people are allergic to rice, when allergies do occur they are usually linked to specific proteins. Japanese researchers found that sprouted brown rice was much lower in two abundant allergens, when compared to non-sprouted brown rice, and that the reduction was probably caused by protease (enzyme) activity during germination.
Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, October 2005; 69(10):1877-83.

Increasing Fiber (a bigger deal for us humans than for our poultry friends):
German researchers sprouted wheat kernels for up to 168 hours (1 week), analyzing them at different stages to learn the effects of germination on different nutrient levels. While different times and temperatures produced different effects, overall the sprouting process decreased gluten proteins substantially, while increasing folate. Longer germination times led to a substantial increase of total dietary fiber, with soluble fiber tripling and insoluble fiber decreasing by 50%.
Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, June 13, 2007; 55(12):4678-83. Epub 2007 May 12.

Increased Lysine (a difficult to fulfill amino acid requirement in poultry diets!):
Researchers in India allowed proso millet to germinate for 1-7 days, then analysed the changes in its composition. They found that sprouting increased lysine (a key amino acid lacking in most grains) and concentrated the protein, as the grain overall lost weight. Increases in tryptophan, albumin and globulin were also observed, along with decreases in prolamins, a plant storage protein that may be difficult for some people to digest. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, February 1994; 45(2):97-102.

Decrease in Anti-nutritional Factors/Anti-nutrients (a BIG deal in commercial, and even more so some home-made poultry diets):
In a 1989 meta-analysis of existing studies, JK Chavan and SS Kadam found evidence that “Sprouting of grains for a limited period causes increased activities of hydrolytic enzymes, improvement in the contents of certain essential amino acids, total sugars, and B-group vitamins, and a decrease in dry matter, starch, and antinutrients. The digestibilities of storage proteins and starch are improved due to their partial hydrolysis during sprouting.”
Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 1989; 28(5):401-37.

Urban Homesteader, what on earth is an anti nutritional factor/antinutrient?
Antinutrients decrease the ability of the hen to absorb important dietary components such as minerals (especially phosphorus and calcium - really important in layers!) and vitamins (Eg: vitamin D), as well as interfering with the hen’s own digestive enzymes, resulting in decreased ability to absorb dietary components like proteins. This also means that the layers excrete the excess, undigested material, resulting in increased environmental impact of poultry waste, and potential respiratory health impact of the waste product ammonia on respiratory health of the hens and their human caretakers. One of the most commonly talked about anti nutritional factors is PHYTATE/PHYTIC ACID, which binds to phosphorus, and causes all the problems listed above.
World's Poultry Science Journal / Volume 54 / Issue 01 / March 1998, pp 27-47

So that’s a Summary so far, I’ll add more as I go along, a lot of my saved files on poultry nutrition (Including my copy of “Commercial Poultry Nutrition” and other useful books were lost in the great computer-meets-water incident. Great meaning greatly impacting my life, not great to experience :) I wish you all the best in your homesteading endeavours, especially as the sun has been shining and the garden is looking fabulous in full bloom!


Coming Up Next in The Poultry Nutrition Summaries Series:

FERMENTING: The Joy of Cooking (with Probiotics)

BREWER’S YEAST: No Drunk Chicks Here Ma’am!

GRAINS & LEGUMES: What does the data really say? Nutrients, Anti-nutrients and more!

PROTEIN IN POULTRY DIETS: The the difficulty in achieving a natural, organic diet with sufficient protein in home-made layer diets. What are my Options?