Monday, February 1, 2016

A Self-Sufficient Life in 2016: Phase 4: Home

You could live in a 4-bedroom house in suburbia or a studio apartment above a pizza place and the same idea would hold true....nothing, absolutely nothing compares to the feeling you get when arriving home after a long day. Your couch. Your bed. Your walls and doors. It may be a little chaotic if you're like me and you've got kids and animals everywhere, but that's ok. You're home.

Humans need shelter to survive the elements, true. But a home is more than that. It is a place we can retreat, a place we can inject our personalities into, a place we can find those we love.

You know how they say some pets and pet owners look alike (remember 101 Dalmations??)? Well I think our homes are kinda similar - our homes are extensions of ourselves. One of my very good friends is super simple and often anxious - her house is minimally decorated and always clean. One of my favorite blogging buddies, Rachel, travels the world and moves often. Her homes tend to feature photographs of her family, treasures from lands far away, and things that make her super excited (like gas stoves!). And my home, while a constant work-in-progress, is a blend of gifts from family and friends, incomplete DIY projects, windows to my backyard, and kid stuff. Our homes wrap us up and make us feel safe. When we need to get away and rest, or eat, or clean ourselves, we go home. Comfort. Identity. Safety. 

But sometimes our homes stress us out. Sometimes rent is raised, or property taxes go up, or lawn care gets out of control, or roofs leak, or mice move in. Sometimes our home feels more like a trap, a box, than a place of peace. Sometimes we can't make our mortgage payments, or afford to fill our fridges, or shower in our broken bathrooms, or deal with our neighbor's thumping bass at 10PM on a Thursday. I sometimes find myself standing with my fists clenched against my sides, brow furrowed, wishing with all my heart I could just say damn the man and move to the middle of nowhere and sit in a cabin in the woods with canned green peppers and ice cream and maybe 3 chickens and that's it.

But then I think about how the goal is to be self-sustainable...capable....well-versed in solving life's little problems. So I try to follow a few easy methods of regaining a peaceful home. These things put the "Jen" back in "Jen's House," and help me keep reaching for a life surrounded the by things, people, and places I love.

Put Stuff Away
This one sounds easy but it isn't. When you eat a sammich, put the lunchmeat and bread away. I know, I know. You really want to eat the sammich. But before you even take a bite, put the stuff away, run your hand over the counter, and brush the crumbs into your palm. Toss 'em or lick 'em, your choice. Then eat. I promise, the sammich will taste way better.

Open your mail right after getting it out of the mailbox. I will literally stop at my recycling bin outside and toss the junk mail before it even enters my house. Bye, Felicia. Wash your dishes every night....or, if you're like me, make your kid do it (another post in this series will detail how to enlist those little hands!). Hang up your coat, remove your shoes in the house, teach your kids to do the same, asks guests to follow suit, can even teach your dogs to pause at the door to get their paws wiped.

Putting stuff away is the easiest way to avoid what I call "psychotic physical clutter," or PPC. Just sitting in a room filled with clutter will make you feel sick. It's true. It's one of those weird brain things. Look it up.

You do not need all those magazines, Jen. Nope. You really, really don't. Or those pants from high school. Your hips will never be the same and you know it. Nope, don't need all those birthday cards, either. Or that super old notebook from Jr High with all the doodles all over it. And the box of notes you saved from the pre-texting days of your youth. 

You know what I need to do when I notice crap piling up in my room, my kitchen, my basement? I need to sit back and think, "Will I want to look at this stupid vase when I'm on my deathbed? If a tornado raced through here, would I grab this stupid vase? Is this vase more important than my sanity?" And when the answer is no (because it is always no), I flip on my cold, cutthroat heart and I donate it. Yep. I cut myself off emotionally and realize I don't love things, I love people.

And then I donate the thing...or many Goodwill or one of those "leave it outside and we'll pick it up" placed like the Cancer Federation. I am always tempted to save it for a garage sale but you know what, I will never get what I think it's worth and by the time I actually hold the garage sale, I will have too much stuff to even see my garage. So I donate thousands of dollars worth of stuff each year. Things I bought. Things my family bought for me. Things my friends spent their money on. Yep, I will donate those things and not at all feel guilty...why? Because downsizing the immense amount of stuff I collect is good for me...and anyone who gives me a gift cares more about me than the object they gave me. 

Another way to do this? Move into a smaller house. Easy-peasy. No room? No stuff. *sighs* someday!

Learn Basic Repairs
I fixed my furnace once. Seriously. It wasn't turning on one morning and it was like 40 in the house and so I went down there, read the little indicator lights on my furnace, and then YouTubed videos made by HVAC dudes. I used a screwdriver to remove this little stick sensor from my furnace, rubbed the stick with some fine-grain sandpaper per the video dude, then put it back and whammo, heat. Still one of my proudest moments to date...and it was just a silly furnace thing. But you know what? I saved a call to the furnace guy that day. And I saved money. And that feels awesome.

Learn how to do some basic stuff around your house. Figure out how to check the electrical box, snake a drain, troubleshoot heating and cooling issues, check the wear and tear on your roof, and run your lawn mower. You don't need to be good at it, you just gotta be willing to learn and solve some of your own problems. This is self-sufficiency, yes? You know how I make it fun? I pin home repair tutorials :) This Old House has a Pinterest page, people! 

Budget Home Maintenance
I typically wait until a problem occurs before finding the money to fix it. This hasn't bitten me in the butt so far, but it's coming. One of these days something major is going to happen and I won't have the money to fix it and I will end up floating down the street in an upside-down umbrella while a river of my own sewage or something flows under me. Taking $20 a week and putting it into an envelope for emergency home repairs would be awesome....but I think we can take it one step further.

Take the time to perform preventative maintenance. Change your furnace filter. Clean out your gutters. Cut back plants near your foundation. Actually go up in the dark, scary, gross attic with a super-bright flashlight and look for signs of water damage or little critters. Clean your oven. Inspect the caulk around sinks and tubs and patch any holes (yes - you can do this!). Prevention takes time and is annoying but it can save you in the long run!

Prioritize Projects
I have notebooks filled with pictures of remodel ideas. I quite literally want to do close to 10 home projects at any given moment. 

A good friend once sat through my long list of "I want to's" and she sat back and very calmly asked if I planned on living in this home into retirement. I gasped. Of course not. I will be living in my earthen-carved hobbit hole by the time I am retired. She guessed as much (clever girl) and suggested I focus on projects that would significantly add to the value of the home. Would bumping a wall out and expanding the kitchen be awesome? Yes. Would it get me my remodel money back? Not likely, not in this neighborhood. Simple things, like updating countertops, sinks, and getting a non-crumbling back porch would make much more sense from an investment perspective. Yes, my bubble may have burst a little...but her words helped free up my brain for the projects that really, truly need to get done.

Conserve Energy
I mean it. Don't just sigh and scroll past this one. I mean really, really try to reduce your energy bills. Do it for your planet. Do it for your bank account. Do it because candlelight is cool. Just do it. 

Turn off your lights. Unplug appliances that are not in use. Caulk windows. Open curtains on south-facing walls in the winter....close them in the summer. Experiment with different temperature settings on your thermostat. Considered warming your home through alternative means, like a rocket mass heater - those things are seriously incredible. Just try to make a dent, no matter how small. Give it a try. Each mini-step you take in reducing your energy consumption brings you that much closer to freedom from the grids and ties with corporate energy conglomerates....and well on your way to self-sustainability. 

Never Stop Dreaming
I'm obsessed with cob, cordwood, and strawbale houses. Honestly, if I knew back then what I know now, I would've bought a plot of land and built my house from the sand and clay and straw around me instead of taking out a $145k mortgage like everyone else. I would've sunk my whole body into some mushy wet clay and built all these awesome curved windows and used bottles for window holes and built-in benches and crazy river rock mosaics and living roofs. 

But I did not do that. And instead of feeling sorry for myself, or wanting to punch myself in the face, I'm going to hold onto my bucket of dreams and take some steps, however little, to making them a reality. 

You're always going to want something you don't have. That is the very essence of being human. There's nothing wrong with it - it's the motivating force behind our lives, to strive for more. Combine that motivation with a well-balanced sense of gratuity, and I'd say you've got yourself a pretty stable little mental state. Don't let your circumstances prevent you from reaching for what you want. Don't stop believing on this journey. Oh yeah, I just did that. 

Our homes are so much more than shelter. Some homes are made of four walls, others of four ventricles, but regardless of what you call home, know that you alone have the power to change your surroundings. Make the most of it.

What do you consider "home?" How can you become more self-sufficient with your surroundings? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading :)

Did you miss a Self-Sufficient Life series post? Don't worry! Here's what we've covered so far:

Monday, January 18, 2016

A Self-Sufficient Life in 2016: Phase 3: Food

Every living person on this planet needs sustenance. Food is a critical component of not only energy and physical wellness but our cultural background, social experiences, creativity, and the communication of thoughts through taste, touch, smell, and sight.

Food is awesome. Food is life.

Unfortunately, food is expensive...even in rich upper-class countries like America. America's current economic mentality (work all the time) and culture (eating out is more enjoyable than cooking) doesn't allow much in the way of preparing our own food, nor does it allow us enough resources, education, or funds to purchase truly healthy, in-season items from our local farmers. We're left with a plethora of low-quality, manufactured choices that seem inexpensive, but are killing us in the long run with chronic conditions, medical bills, and widespread disease. Our sickness and aversion to spending $2 more on eggs inevitably lines the pockets of millionaires who, when given the chance, would do anything to keep things exactly they way they are...including lying the public, bribing government officials, and bankrupting American farmers.

These people, the people who build, buy, own, and manage your favorite grocery stores, want nothing more than a solid fiscal year. They do not care for you, your kids, your dog, your well-being. They care about money. 

Did you hear me? One of your greatest needs...the need to controlled by people who don't care the least bit about you. If they can make it for cheaper, they will, even if it means injecting human bodies with chemicals that make us infertile, autistic, and riddled with tumors. 

And that, my dear friends, is why having your own source of food is important. 

You can be self-sufficient without buying a farm, milking a cow, or making your own cheese. Although all of those things are incredible in their own right, they might not be realistic for you and that's ok. This entire journey is about finding what is applicable and doable for you, specifically. 

But that doesn't mean you can just sit back and wait for a food source to come to you. We're revolutionizing our lives here, right? Change is hard. You'll need to put in some effort. But don't worry....the things I'm going to suggest are pretty easy. Some are even ... *gasp!*....... fun :)

Start Small
This is critical. At one point in my life, yesterday, years ago, I imagined my yard overflowing with ornamental veggies, chickens, goats, an orchard, beehives, and an aquaponic rainwater system. Remember what I talked about in our goal-setting post? Set some specific, attainable goals. It's ok to have a vision of what you want in the end and it's ok to have a couple big goals on your list, but when creating your own food source, it's best to start small. Many of us have never created our own food before. It takes a good season or two to get the hang of it. Be patient and allow yourself to learn slowly. 

Growing something, anything, is my absolute favorite thing to recommend to those just starting their self-sufficiency journey. Anyone can pop a seed in a pot, honestly. If you have light, dirt, water, and a seed, you have a way to nourish yourself. And it doesn't need to be all work and hard labor and stuff. I was able to create a mostly maintenance-free food garden last year and it rocked my lazy socks off.

Everyone always recommends starting with tomatoes, but not me. I say pick your favorite vegetable and try to grow it. Does your family eat a lot of corn? Corn is the #1 most adulterated food on the planet. Grow some corn stalks. Don't let the size intimidate you. Like cucumbers? Grow cucumbers. I love sweet bell peppers, so I went big and grew two varieties last year. It was my first time growing peppers, ever, and you know what? They grew HUGE and beautiful and I had peppers for days up until the first frost.

If veggies are too intimidating, try herbs. Organic, fresh herbs can be yours at honestly 1% of the price of store-bought herbs. They can be used straight from the plant or dried on a windowsill and shoved into little glass shakers for use later. And some herbs will grow no matter how brown your mint! Or cilantro! Pretty much all the herbs I love to eat grow like weeds. Try making an outdoor herb spiral to make your herb garden even less time-consuming. Pretty, fun, and edible!

Watch where you buy your seeds. Some seed companies support the very corporations I referred to above. Others, like SeedSavers Exchange and Baker Creek, are heirloom seed companies that specialize in saving non-GMO, organic, "vintage" varieties of plants that would otherwise be pushed to extinction by our mechanized chemical food industry. The great thing about heirlooms is they tend to grow better in your specific climate -  I choose seeds from plants originating in Russia, or Minnesota, or Norway because I know they will live better in my super cold climate.

If you already have a garden, add to it. Try a new variety of your favorite veggie....or, if you really want to live on the self-sufficiency edge, vow to only eat whatever spinach (or kale, or tomatoes, or corn) you can grow yourself. That would be a good test of whether or not you need to expand your operation to truly feed your family all year long.

My growing season is short. Things get warm in late May and frost is circling by October. That means I have less than 4-5 months to get my food from seed to big, giant vegetable. It also means that unless I'm willing to eat nothing all winter, I need to figure out how to store the food I grow.

So how do we preserve what we grow?

Well, we can can (hehheh). Canning is no joke. I am going to dedicate an entire post in this series to canning - you're welcome to check out my bone broth post for a sneak-peak at my process (get it? process? You process jars when you can? Get it? No? Ehhh).

We can dry our food. Yep, even tomatoes and peppers. I would love a dehydrator, but I've dried herbs by just placing them on counter. The hardest part? Keeping the cat from laying on top of my herbs.

We can freeze our food. Oh yes, I love to freeze my food. I've frozen pureed zucchini, peppers, onion tops for stock, squash, and sweet corn. The only down side to freezing is the need for electricity - if you are trying to save energy or if you're worried about power outages, you might want to try a different preservation method.

My favorite way to preserve the harvest? Grow foods that will live outside in the winter or stay fresh in storage. Potatoes. Onions. Garlic. Carrots. You can grow these things and then leave them in a cold, dry place for months before they'll rot. Did you know that? I didn't know that for a long time. I always thought I needed to refrigerate my onions and taters. I also love my kale - it grows outside in the snow for months. I know if I need something to eat and am truly out of food, kale has my back. It may not taste like ice cream but its nutritional density and cold-hearty nature makes it a most sustainable little source of sustenance.

Consider Chickens
I know. I know most of you think this is so far beyond the stretch of suburban capacity. This is next-level self-sufficiency, here. But I beg you, if you can have chickens, do it. I am telling you. They are the most fun, most exciting, most resourceful little creatures on the planet. They are, compared to dogs, cats, and other animals who provide companionship, but no food, easy to care for.

Yes, there is a learning curve (I'm still nowhere near pro level). Yes, you will need to feed them and figure out what to do when they stop laying eggs. Yes, baby chicks are too adorable to ever consider eating. Yes, you need to build them a home. Yes, they poop. But I swear, dear readers, they are the greatest way to get your feet wet as a self-sufficient omnivore.

Their swift uptick in popularity has gifted us with some incredible chicken resources that will break down the ins and outs of chicken care. We are in the age of instant knowledge - what better way to go big and try something you'd never considered before?

You gotta learn how to prepare those things you're growing, right? Even if you don't grow your own ingredients, cooking from healthy, well-sourced ingredients saves money, calories, and chemicals from entering your body.

One of the first things I ever cooked "from scratch" was a pumpkin pie. I bought a pre-made crust, a can of pumpkin, some evaporated milk, some sugar, and all the other things the back of the pumpkin can told me to get. I remember getting confused in the sugar isle. I saw "confectioners sugar" and assumed it was the right stuff - after all, aren't confections, like, little cakes and pies and shit? So I grabbed the confectioners sugar and baked these two pies. They were, of course, horrific. Nothing sweet or nostalgic about them whatsoever.

I share this story because I think it's important to point out we all start from nothing. The only Aunt Jemima I had in my kitchen growing up was the stationary, printed kind on my syrup bottle. I had to start from the bottom, from the sad, sad bottom of ignorance, and work my way up.

Since the Punkin Pie Episode of 2007, I've learned not only the difference between confectioners sugar and real sugar, but also the difference between fresh pumpkin and canned pumpkin, jack-o-lantern pumpkin plants and sugar pumpkin plants, and of course, how to make a real, authentic, top-notch pumpkin pie from the crust to the delicious, velvety-smooth center.

Cooking can be a pain in the ass at first. Once you get some tried-and-true recipes under your belt, cooking can also be fun. Relaxing, even. No, I know. Who woulda thunk it. My #1 favorite thing to do in the kitchen? Knead dough. I love kneading dough so, so much. And you know, if I hadn't tried to make my own pizza crust once on a whim, I would've never found something I've truly come to love. Take the time and the risk and cook!

Find Food Elsewhere
So here's the deal. To be truly self-sufficient, you've gotta do some of this stuff yourself. But, and this is a huge but, sometimes things like gardens and chickens and pressure canners aren't realistic. Normally I'd say tough, deal with it, do it, grow it, cook it....but I'm willing to make an exception. One exception.

Buy local.

Yep. If you can't make your own milk, find out who can. Ask your town's Facebook group. Ask your neighbor. Ask someone at your local farmers market. Take the time to scout out the best local source of meat, cheese, fruits, breads, and vegetables.

I am going out on a limb here by venturing to say you can be self-sufficient by proxy, meaning you can distance yourself from the sticky, poisoned web of lies spun by our commercial food industry simply by forming a community of growers around you. You become self-sufficient through the relationships you form with your friends, your neighbors, your community.

If you can't physically do it, find someone who can and pay them to. It still takes effort, but hey. Change requires time. And effort. And trying new things.

Give this a try: instead of heading to your local farmers market to get a few little fun things, bring your entire grocery list. What can you cross off? What do you have trouble finding? Do you really need those things? Joel Salatin once said something along the lines of: if those who shopped at farmers markets actually went to buy groceries instead of participating in them like a social event, our food system would be fixed.

You don't need to do it all yourself. You can find others who do it for a living and pay them to do it. It will cost you more, but will require less effort on your part.

Still cook, though. Just give it a try. 

How about you, dear readers? Do you have any food-related goals for the year? Which one of my suggestions seems the most realistic to you? What are your challenges related to self-sufficiency with food? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so, so much for reading :)

Did you miss a Self-Sufficient Life series post? Don't worry! Here's what we've covered so far:

**Can't get enough homesteading? Check out the Homestead Blog Hop, hosted by some of the best and most beautiful bloggers in the self-sufficiency world. This post, and many of my others, are shared on the Homestead Blog Hop each week. From breadmaking to seed selection, home-grown recipes to herbal health, the Homestead Blog Hop has it all! Enjoy! :)


Monday, January 11, 2016

A Self-Sufficient Life in 2016: Phase 2: Handling Setbacks

The very words "self-sufficiency" imply a sense of independence, doing things on your own, being alone. They inspire empowerment, a feeling that no matter what, you can do this. You don't need anything but your own two hands to change the world.

And that's all fun and good until you're faced with handling problems all by yourself.

In those instances, self-sufficiency can be intimidating. Too much. Scary. Mayday, mayday, we're failing our goals - anyone out there?

If you're anything like me, with a strong group of friends and fantastic family, the answer to that last questions is...... no. Confused? Hear me out.

Many of my goals revolve around some pretty laborious tasks....hard labor, gardening, fostering a sense of peace within myself, creating my own happiness, enriching my children. While friends and family care about me, care about my life, they can't tell me what to do when the crap hits the fan. They can't physically pick up my dreams and take over for a while when I'm sick or tired or just plain over it all.

And that's where being self-sufficient is most challenging. It's all on you, tired or not.

But there are ways to combat this sense of isolation. These are my top 3 tips for dealing with setbacks in your journey to becoming self-sufficient.

1. Expect it
Know ahead of time that your goals will not be easy to attain. Embrace this awareness from the very beginning. If your goals were easy, you'd have done them by now...even the smaller tasks I spoke of last week require focus and motivation to complete.

Prepare for major setbacks by remaining hopeful, but understanding you might be standing alone when the going gets tough. Sometimes chickens die and you have to dispatch them while crying, alone, in the rain. Sometimes a tomato plant started from seed and gingerly protected all spring will wither. Sometimes the dinner you spent an hour on will taste like garbage. Sometimes people you depend on leave, either of their own accord or not. Friends. Family. Spouses. Relationships, people, moments of joy, and life in general is not eternal. It's not fun to think about....matter of fact it royally sucks to think about.....but having a complete understanding of the nature of life will help when life happens. It will still knock the breath from your lungs, but you'll be prepared. You'll have practiced taking deep gulps of air to steady yourself.

2. Reach Outside
I have a standard list of support people I turn to when I feel destroyed. Some of these people are family, others are friends, but like all family and friend circles, not everyone understands my perspective. Sometimes I get advice that wraps me like a hug, other times I feel an unintended coldness that pierces my heart. It's not their fault. Perspective is earned by doing and we each do very different things.

So sometimes, my best bet is to reach outside of my inner circle and reach for those specifically involved in the very things I need help with. My homesteading group on Facebook helped me when I struggled with feelings of failure from a poor garden harvest and losing half my flock. My moms' group hurts and heals with me when I struggle with feelings of failure as a parent. I know exactly which friends of mine are unbiased enough to talk to about my failed marriage.....and sometimes these people are more like acquaintances, only popping in and out of my life every so often. They're still fantastic, close circle or not.

When you need help with one of your self-sufficient goals, reach out to a group of people that values the same goals. It doesn't make you weak....if anything, it allows you to deal with setbacks productively instead of heeding the advice of those who might not always understand the full picture.

3. Keep Motivation Handy
Some of the worst setbacks to happen to me come when I realize my goals and dreams depend on the involvement, appreciation, and support of another person. When that person is no longer available to help with my goals and dreams, I feel like these accomplishments are no longer possible. Kaput. No more. The same can be said of goals centered on money or time or the weather....we cannot control people, money, time, or the weather. These things are completely out of our control.

Keeping my methods of motivation handy helps me realign my goals with what I can accomplish right now, despite unexpected circumstances. I look at my pictures of horse-filled fields, baskets overflowing with homemade soap, cob-cottage homes, and vegetables piled up in massive pyramids and I envision them sitting in front of me, put there by my own hands. I visualize the things I want by drawing them to mind and then watching myself make them happen.

Maybe your motivation doesn't come from pictures and visions but from pets or kiddos. The most innocent souls on our earth can make everything seem so simple, so good, so possible. Maybe you draw motivation from movement, like yoga or walking. Whatever it is that motivates you, keep it close by and remember to draw upon the power of a motivated spirit when you feel like giving up.

I wish it were easier. I wish sometimes life didn't knock me down right when I started to regain my footing. But to believe there is no rhyme or reason behind these setbacks is to negate any opportunity to learn. Problems are sometimes out of my control, I get that. But I gotta believe something good can always come from the ashes, even if it's only the experience of loss and learning itself.

Any of you, dear readers, experience setbacks in your efforts to become more self-sufficient? How do you deal with problems that are beyond your control? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so, so much for reading!

**Can't get enough homesteading? Check out the Homestead Blog Hop, hosted by some of the best and most beautiful bloggers in the self-sufficiency world. This post, and many of my others, are shared on the Homestead Blog Hop each week. From breadmaking to seed selection, home-grown recipes to herbal health, the Homestead Blog Hop has it all! Enjoy! :)


Monday, January 4, 2016

A Self-Sufficient Life in 2016: Phase 1 - Identify Your Goals

The start of the year is contagious. I'm not talking about the various viruses that may be weaving themselves into your home via kids returning to school, or the sick, sweeping panic of the political system as it winds up to deliver blow after blow of dollar-seeking propaganda, I'm talking about a sweet, clear perspective of freshness. A contagious, shared inhale and exhale. A new start. Whether we look forward to it, curse it, or anywhere in between, the start of every year yields a sense of beginning, motivation, and purpose.

January is typically a busy month for me. I was born this month, exactly three days and twenty-two years before my oldest daughter was born. My wedding occurred this month, although on paper we were married back in December. I'm winding down from the holidays and trying to fit back into routines. And last, but certainly not least, this month is busy because it's filled with planning.

Oh am I ever a planner. 

You wanna know what I do when I get sad? I plan vacations. Trips. Parties. Events. Dinners. These things might never (and rarely do) come to fruition, but I plan them anyways. Planning things, daydreaming, and seeking out the wondrous possibilities in front of me keeps me peppy. It brightens my day. 

And this year is no different. This year, I've planned a number of things already. And one of them has to do with you, dear readers. Oh yes.

If I had to name one area of my life where I've found new life, new joy, and new learning opportunities, it would be my journey into self-sufficiency. 

It started innocently enough. I felt a deep, deep sense of anger at the fractured way I was living my life. I worked to pay for a home I never saw, for kids I missed all day, a car that burned fuel racking up miles to the office each day, and food I didn't have time to prepare. I was tired, I was frustrated, and I was angry. And I still am. You see, despite quitting my corporate job and working from home, our household is still dependent on the income of my husband. He essentially switched places with me. We still shop at a commercial grocery store stocked with food from Mexico and I still buy clothes made in China.

I'm still chained to the dependent life. 

My dream is to personally make a big enough dent in our cost of living to actually make a difference in the quality of our lives. And I want to do it without the typical American budgeting tricks like shopping at WalMart, cutting coupons, or relying on cheap man-made goods to get me through. I want purity, I want community, and I want to learn how to do things the way nature intended. I want, with the help of rain, sun, dirt, and neighbors, to do this on my own. I want a self-sufficient life. 

And I'm not alone. 

The organic craze has exploded. Chicken-keeping is something women actually find cool again. Even some of my best dear blogging readers, who blog in a completely different genre, participate vividly when prompted with questions about a self-sufficient life. 

And so, for the next 9 weeks, while we cozy up under winter's chill and wait for planting time to begin, I invite you to follow along as I unwrap 9 different phases of developing self-sufficiency. And I"m not only talking about the hippie, tree-hugging, permaculture sense of self-sufficiency (althought that's bound to appear now and then because those things are glorious), I'm talking about an all-encompassing, personalized sense of self-sufficiency...according to you. These phases are customizable.....I will explain my application of each phase, but how you apply them your own life will be completely dependent on you, your wishes, abilities, and efforts.

I could not be more excited to share what I learn as I walk, talk, and learn it, myself. 

So where do we begin?

I am a member of an incredible Facebook page for small-scale homesteading and self-sufficiency. One of the admins, a man named Rich, consistently adds his input to a repeat question I see time and time again on the page: "I want to get started with living off the land, producing my own food, and breaking ties with the grid, but how?"

His answer time and time again: Set. Your. Goals. 

I'm not talking about things like, "I want to be healthy," or, "I want to make money doing stuff I love." I'm talking about clear, specific, attainable goals. They don't need to be mind-blowing, huge goals, although you're welcome to shoot for the stars if you want to. I prefer to start small. When I accomplish small goals it helps me build the confidence I need to tackle the bigger, more mind-blowing tasks in my life.

A few of my goals for 2016:

1. Make at least 2 recipes from this cookbook a month.

2. Save enough money by bypassing store-bought items to take a vacation.

3. Write 20 articles for supplemental income.

4. Plant at least 5 new varieties of vegetables this year.

5. Offset an entire year's worth of onion costs by growing them instead of buying them.

6. Restock the chicken flock and secure egg buyers. 

7. Learn how to sew a dress for each kid. 

8. Add three more raised beds to the backyard.

9. Replace once-a-week eating out with once-a-week homemade pizza night.

10. Revamp freelance writing website and gain at least 3 new clients. 

Notice the goals are specific. And unique. Do websites and gardening typically fit together? No, but for me and my life, my website will (hopefully) earn me enough money to offset the startup and reoccurring costs involved with planting, chicken-keeping, and making my own household products. Even homemade hummus is made from something...and that something isn't free. 

Keep in mind self-sufficient doesn't need to mean devoid of income, especially when you are just starting out. Raised garden beds can be built from cheap materials, sure, but then you need to fill the beds with dirt. Dirt, strangely enough, isn't dirt cheap. 

To me (and everyone is different), self sufficiency means no longer spending my income in places that do not share my means no longer being dependent on people and things that do not jive with my goals in life. I will always need to shop (I can't grow my own olive oil, man!), but I want to buy my things and spend my money supporting people who care about our planet, our kids, and our health. And if that means I learn how to make my own cheese, stitch my own pillowcases, and chomp my own carrots in the process, then awesome. More life skills to market myself with.

Because that's the second part of my definition of self-sufficiency - I will know I've reached my goal of a self-sufficient life when me and my immediate family members are doing what we love instead of doing what we hate...or kinda just tolerate. I'll know I've made it when I am making ends meet doing what I love and when my immediate family members aren't forced to drive into a cubicle for 71% of their lives. I know. Sounds a little nuts, yes? Idealistic? Unrealistic? 

But no. People do it every. Single. Day. Every single day, someone realizes her talents, her dreams, and her capabilities and she packages it, markets it, and sells it with pride. And everyday, people buy it. They share it. Others buy it. And a lifestyle is made. It happens every day, people. And everyone has a right to realize that dream. You like yarn? I bet if you like it enough to make your own, people will buy it. You really need to love it, though. You need to be dedicated to making it real, despite what others think, or how hard it is, or how much you want to give up. There are millions of people who give up and walk around living and dying according to the clocks and agendas of others. 

You don't need to be one of those people. And you can start by identifying what you want and setting specific goals to get there. I'll do it with you. Let's go.

What are your goals for the new year? Anyone trying to eat healthier, start a new hobby, or worry less about money? Anyone out there have a lifelong dream you've never realized? Oh and if you enjoy pictures of chicken butts, homemade food, and garden greens, check out my backyard farm's new Instagram page. I created it exclusively for my journey toward we're sure to see some epic fail pics on there eventually! I am so excited to continue this journey with you next week, dear readers, and as always, thank you so, so much for reading :)

Monday, December 28, 2015

Embracing Winter Break With Your Kids (Recipes Included!)

A typical start to my day:

"MAMA!" *crying/screaming/thumping/something crashes/more crying* "MAMA SHE WON'T GET UP!!"

"What? I am up!" *more thudding as oldest child proceeds to get up*

"NO! NO YOU DIDN'T!" *3-year-old whiny voice*

"I didn't do anything!" *9-year-old whiny voice*

"What in the H is going on? Why are you two fighting?" * 31-year-old whiny voice*


Mind you, this is between 6 and 7 in the morning, while the sky is still dark and I'm stumbling around with crusty eyes, looking for something to put on so I don't die of pre-heat frostbite. It is far from the pleasant stretch, yawn, and slow beginnings of my youthful yesteryears. It is insanity, a scramble of getting booties on potties, sheets in the laundry, cereal into mouths, and of course, managing two children who want nothing more than to fight to the death.

So while I look forward to holidays and school breaks with visions of crafts, outings, and baking dancing in my head, I realize my only true break in the morning chaos is when my big girl gets on the bus to school and my little one is left to her own devices. Without that bus, I am toast. My ability to remain calm under pressure - diminished. My lofty visions of bonding time with my children - dashed. My eardrums - exploded. And for those reasons, winter break causes a weird sort of pressure to rise in my stomach....a combination of excitement and dread at what could be.....both exhilarating and terrifying.

So I've made a few adjustments this year.

#1: Relaxed Fun Time

I have a real hard time just sitting down and doing nothing with my kids. I feel the Pinterest pressure to do crafts all day while explaining the history of the lima bean and planning an all-day trip to a museum. Sometimes this pressure is awesome because it motivates me to do real fun stuff with my kids and plan some awesome outings. But sometimes this pressure stresses me to the point of exhaustion and feeling like a failure before I've even gotten out of bed.

Enter the solution: relaxed fun time

Relaxed fun time is simply going with the flow of the day without planning anything at all. If you're tired, you stay in and nap when the kids nap. If you wake up energized or stir-crazy, you head out and take a day trip somewhere. If you feel like staying in your PJ's all day, you stay (home) in your PJs all day.

So you don't go to a museum. So what? Make a fort. Pull out every toy you have in your house. Dig out a stack of old encyclopedias or if you're like me, old college textbooks with anatomy and nutrition info all up in them. Peer over color diagrams of the human brain or the cell structure of a plant leaf. Talk to your kids about the cool things you did in AP biology.

Don't feel like making forts, playing with toys, or looking at books? POP ON A MOVIE. I mean it, mamas and daddies. It is OK to watch movies with your kids. I always feel guilty about this one because I feel like it's so passive, so unhealthy, to just stare at a screen together and not speak or interact but you know what? Some of my greatest childhood memories are of me, my mom, and my sister sharing a bowl of popcorn on the couch while watching the Muppet Christmas Carol or Babe or The Halloween Tree. If you feel like snuggling your babies in front of the TV, do it, because sooner or later they will be grown and gone and you'll have thousands of hours to be alone and productive in all the ways you yearn to be productive today. This is a fact.

And let your kids guide you, too. For example, sometimes our kids have potty training regression and sometimes that makes moms die a little inside and then sometimes that kid needs to stay near a potty all day for the rest of her cancel the playdates without guilt and tend to your baby. That is your job.....tending to your babies, not making other grown-ups happy.

Try asking your kids what they want to do - sometimes they come up with some really innocent, do-able activities. I asked my big girl what she wanted to do for her last week of winter break and she said she really wanted to color in our new coloring books together. How easy is that? I whipped up some homemade hot chocolate, popped on a fake fire (#thanksNetflix) and we had a coloring party.

Homemade hot chocolate recipe:
Equal parts baking cocoa and organic cane sugar (I used 1 cup of each)
A tablespoon or so of arrowroot powder (cornstarch would work well too)
1 teaspoon of sea salt
Mix it all together, store in a mason jar
Add 1-2 tablespoons per 1 cup of hot whole milk
Drink it down and feel the happy!

Now all this fun time is great, but if you're like me, getting stuff done helps balance winter break anxiety. There's gotta be a way to mix fun with function so your reach that optimal anxiety-free level. And I came up with one.

#2: Cooperative Cleaning
Kids are messy, abusive little craps with nothing better to do than to ruin your clean carpet and dried-crust-free-surfaces. Trying to keep up with them, I've realized, is pointless. Real dumb. Like washing a car in the rain.

So instead of sticking with my regular cleaning schedule, during break this year I am "flowing" with it. I am doing laundry when we're down to our last few pairs of socks. I'm vacuuming before company comes over and that's basically it. Same with the dusting. I'm kinda letting it all slide.

And I've also implemented one important element of winter break behavior - an all-hands-on-deck approach to cleaning up. If we're going to drink hot chocolate and color, we need to clean up our play cooking area. If we want to veg out and watch movies, we need to make our beds and fold laundry. If we are interested in leaving for the day, we need to tidy up so we have a clean house to come home to.

And guess kids DO it. My 9-year old is a master cleaner. She can clean the entire bathroom, she washes dishes every night, she can do laundry from start to finish, she can dust the whole house, and she knows how to run a vacuum. My 3-year old wants to be a master cleaner, but she's just not that powerful yet. She is awesome at putting things away, picking up little pieces of debris the vacuum left behind, matching socks, and carrying things for me to put away.

Kids are hands, and more hands means getting things done, faster. If you make cleaning a non-negotiable item...if you tell your kids cleaning is what needs to get done to enjoy the fun parts of the day, they will do it. They might grumble, they might not do it well at first, but it helps mom, it gets the crap done quicker, it teaches life skills, and it gives the kids a sense of pride in their abilities. One last tip - my trick for coercing a well-done job? I make my kid do the chore until it's up to standard. This rule makes my 9-year old real motivated to do the job well the first time!!

#3: Cook it Out

No, I'm not kidding. Look, I get it. Some people just aren't into cooking. I myself was a Carrie Bradshaw up until a few years ago. Now, though, I am quite thrilled to find new recipes, especially if they are easy and only contain a few ingredients. Because I promise, once you try, cooking can be one of the greatest sources of pride and accomplishment in your life. Plus, cooking = food. Who doesn't love food?

And lemmie tell ya. Kids LOVE to cook almost as much as they love playing in dirt, splashing in the tub, or jumping on your pristine bedspread. Flour and sugar and then yummy stuff to eat once it's all done cooking? For a kid, what's not to love?

Some of my favorite kid-recipes include:

Mashed Potatoes
2-3 russet potatoes
5-6 lil' red potatoes
milk, butter, salt, and pepper to taste
Roughly peel your taters (leaving some skin on is OK!)
Chunk into quarters and put into a pot
Cover in water, then boil until the taters are soft (your fork should go through like buttah)
Drain water, add milk and butter (I typically add about 1/2 cup whole milk and 4 tablespoons of butter, but it depends on the consistency I'm going for)
Add your seasonings (I use salt, pepper, and sometimes seasoned salt, but you do you!)
Mash it all up and then EAT! Also does great when reheated. 
Let the kids: Pick up the peels, add the milk and butter, and smash everything together!

Granola Cereal
Super easy version: buy bagged organic granola from the store
Little more ingredients version: get some oats, almonds, butter, syrup, and brown sugar, mix it all up, bake it in the oven at 250 degrees, turn it over and mix it up, and wah-lah, homemade granola
Any nuts your kids love (hell-ooo cashews!)
Dried cranberries, raisins, apricots, whatever you like
Mix it all up and store in a mason jar
Let the kids: Do everything except the oven stuff!

Any Cookie Recipe, Ever
Cookies are the easiest things ever for kids to help with. Check out my blogging buddy Kristen's post on letting the kids make a mess with cookies - it's awesome! 

Bonus points for having the kids help with dishes afterwards. They've got hands - make them use 'em!

#4: Love on Yourself

You know what I did the other day during break? I took a freaking bath. That's right. I drew myself a giant bath. I had the oldest make some lunch, and while my kids ate, I sat in the bathtub. Now granted, the door was open and my youngest kept poppin in every now and then to laugh at my "naked booty" (true story), and at one point I needed to get out and reach over to wipe her butt after a particularly stinky poo, but I took a bath. In the middle of the day. With both my kids home.

And you know what? Nothing burned down. Nobody broke in and tried to kill us. No one fell down the stairs. Nothing terrible happened aside from the poop stink and frankly, that's a small price to pay for sitting in a bathtub in the middle of the day. 

I also make a point of doing yoga 5 days a week whether my kids want me to or not. I will set them up with something to do (two separate things so they don't interact/argue when I'm in the middle of my down dog), and I take to my mat. My chi may need to adapt from constant princess song-singing and my session might need to pause for a couple potty-helping breaks, but I get yoga done with two kids in the house. Far from perfect, but perfectly do-able. 

You gotta take care of yourselves if you wanna take care of others.

#5: Call Grandma

When all else fails, rally the power of Grandma. My mom took my kids overnight a few weekends ago, and while it wasn't in the middle of winter break, it was during one of my busiest months of the year and I needed the break like the desert needs rain. My kids were loved on and hugged and entertained and cherished and I didn't need to do a thing. 

Same with my in-laws. They come and watch my kiddos whenever I need them to and are constantly initiating playdates at their house so I can be a real grown-up for a little while. It's magical and incredible and I am so blessed.

Family not in the picture? How about a family friend? A trusted neighbor? A favorite babysitter? You have the option of taking a break from break. It doesn't make you a crappy parent. It doesn't make you a failure. It doesn't mean you can't take care of your own kids. It means your kids get to have fun with someone else for a bit. Take a couple hours one day to let your kids live it up with someone you know and trust....and then take that time to execute #4. **Note: This does not mean asking stay-at-home moms to watch your kids for you if those moms are not into watching kids. I have some friends who love kids and don't mind the extra children, but I am one of those moms who doesn't enjoy watching other people's kids and wants this well-earned time at home to myself. Those who WANT to watch/be with your kids are the ones you should be calling - they will make it the most fun!

This week will fly by like the last one did, I'm sure, and then school will start again and I'll be riding the long, tired wave 'till we reach warm weather again. My mornings aren't likely to calm down anytime soon, but with a little perspective and flexibility, here's hoping the daytime can make up for the chaos of morning. 

How about you, dear readers? Those with kids, how do you handle winter breaks? Those without kids, will you please tell me about your holiday life so I may live vicariously through your joy and peace? :) I hope you each had a wonderful Christmas and I wish you all a very happy New Year. Thank you so, so much for reading!


Monday, December 14, 2015

What I Really Want for Christmas

I just spent close to five hours researching homemade chicken food. I have excel open, the little computer calculator sitting in the toolbar, and countless blog posts windowed in my Chrome tabs.

Pricing chicken feed, dear readers, is the 10th circle of hell.

So instead of delivering a wise and well-written post about chicken feed I thought I'd focus on things I like. You know. Anything other than chicken food. Fun stuff. Like presents.

I love my kids. They truly are the best presents a girl could get. But sometimes, being a mom of small kids means I get the shaft in the purchased gift department. Or the feeling special department. Or hell, just in the "thank you" department. And that's ok, you know? It will pass sooner than I want it to and then my kids will be grown and undoubtedly showering me with hundreds of gifts to compensate for the years upon years of sweat, blood, and tears I willingly donated to their childhoods. That's what happens, right? Your kids turn 18 and then WHAMMO, you get presents raining down upon your heads, right? RIGHT?

So I'm gonna start a list. You know. To prepare for the upcoming Shower of Gifts for Mom. Or maybe, in all seriousness, to just focus on the things that matter most during this (sometimes materialistic) holiday season.

1. Stock in hardware cloth because hell-ooo, early retirement!

2. One solid hour of my two daughters getting along

3. Rent-free homes for my mom (a cottage in the woods) and sister (a gypsy trailer)

4. American citizenship for Aya. Aya is an Iraqi refugee whose application for resettlement in America was rejected. She has a very real, very eye-opening story that you can read about on the Humans of New York Facebook page. If you'd like to voice your support for Aya, you can sign a petition for her on this page.

5. Pretty much anything written by Joel Salatin

6. To feel proud and in love with my body regardless of, as my husband's friends call it, my Estimated Growth Potential (aka, how much weight a woman gains as she ages/has children/etc.)

7. Snow! :)

8. One of those book exchange sign-up delivery services. You know. Where really attractive men deliver a books once per week so you always have a fresh book to read. Those types of services exist, right? Hmm? Yes?

9. A community owned grocery store in my area

10. My 2nd mama to be cancer free and healthy forever and ever, Amen

11. One entire day of just me, my PJs, snuggly kids, popcorn, Dots, cocoa, and movies

12. A book agent

13. Easter Egger chickens, complete with free feed for life

14. The ability to calm down and not get so angry and frustrated

15. Anything, and I mean anything, from the Simple Life Mom store on Etsy

16. The power to convince others to rethink the way they think, particularly about things like food, racism, and global politics

17. I'd love for my entire head of hair to turn silver all at once. I am excited about "going grey"...I consider those silver strands my sprouting unicorn mane. I just wish it would kinda happen now, instead of little by little. I want full unicorn, baby!

18. To end my reliance on money and grid-delivered energy

19. 500 pounds of pure, organic, hand-expressed coconut oil

20. For each of my lovely readers to feel loved, supported, and happy. Cuz that's how you make me feel :)

What about you? What do you really want for Christmas? I'd love to
hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so, so much for reading!!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Best Online Resources for Chicken Keepers

The growing season is over, the harvest, ended, and wintertime is knocking on our door. For me, this means a little bit of a break. Nothing left to weed, nothing to freeze, can, or collect, my herbal medicine closet is nice and stocked, and my seed catalogs are sitting open on my bedside table. This is my time to dream and concoct and plan and set my wish list for next spring.

And next spring, I'm getting 10 more chicks. 

Now in the big picture, 10 chicks is nothing. A small, nice little amount of birds for the common backyard homesteader wanna-be. For me, however, 10 chicks is a ton. A massive amount. A bounty of possibilities, learning opportunities, and of course, eggs.

And here's the funny part: I still am a long way from knowing exactly what the heck I am doing. I'll probably lose a few birds. I will likely still muck up the butchering process a bit. Joel Salatin might shake his mighty, incredible head at me and think, "Who is this girl, and what in gosh's name is she doing with those birds?"

But I'm going to keep trying anyways. Because that's what it's all about, people. Trying, failing, and trying again. Lessons learned. Flaws, forgiven.

Thankfully, I have this little magic tool called the internet. It allows me to connect to those who started this journey long before I knew the difference between a chicken nugget and chicken meat. And with this incredible resource comes a limitless supply of information, both good and bad. Everyone has an opinion. Thankfully, only a handful of them are actually worth reading and following. What follows is my list of tried-and-true resources for all things chicken. 

These are the people who inspired me to start and motivate me to keep going. 

Justin Rhodes, author, teacher, and filmmaker at Abundant Permaculture
I found Justin back when I first started researching how to raise free-range hens. He was promoting Permaculture Chickens, his incredible film detailing everything you need to know about raising chickens, from chick to the dinner table. I backed his crowdfunding campaign as fast as my little fingers could type and received my copy of the film a few weeks ago. My 9-year-old and I watched it together and can I please tell you....there are no chicken resources like this available on the market today. Believe me. I looked. For months before I found Justin, I looked. 

Listening and watching Justin is like talking to a friend. He is super relatable and "walks the walk," backing his knowledge with a plethora of real-life experience he's earned throughout his years on his own homestead. He lives what he teaches every single day and shares the same passion most homesteader wannabes preach from the hills - self-sustainability, field to fork eating, and transparent, eco-centric living.  

Did I mention he is sharing some of his chicken videos online right now? Exclusive interviews with Joel Salatin. How to get started with chickens in one weekend. I'm serious, dear readers. It's one thing to actually know what you're talking about in this crazy world of chicken keeping. It's a completely separate thing, a gift to us newbies, to have someone so willing to share his knowledge with the world. Check him out. You will not regret it. And I can vouch for his email is never spammy. He sends these hilarious and awesome Friday lists once a week and lets you know when his new videos are out. That's it. You'd be crazy to want chickens and not want to learn from Justin.

I don't subscribe to many email lists, mainly because I hate checking my email every 5 minutes. It detracts from my down-home, one-with-nature vibe to have my little pink cell phone in my hand. Really clashes with the plaid. But I subscribe to Jill. Like Justin, Jill sends out a weekly email with a list of 5 or so homesteading tidbits she found interesting that week. Sometimes she gives out seasonal recipes, like stellar homemade eggnog recipes, sometimes she gifts her lessons on vegetarian chickens, and still other emails contain little golden nuggets of hard-earned perspective about what to do with your chickens once they stop laying. Jill has it all, and then some. Her site is FULL of awesome information about chickens and homesteading for the common, simple Jen. I mean reader. 

This is another one of those incredible multi-faceted homesteading resources I frequent on the regular. I was directed to Merissa by a friend who was looking to simplify her own life and loved the free e-book links Merissa gave out regularly. Little House Living focuses on a number of sustainable living skills, but her posts about Raising Baby Chicks, Backyard Chicken Breeds, and How to Care for Setting Hens were some of the very first articles I read about chicken keeping. Merissa is easy to follow and also lives what she teaches. I love her easy-to-follow posts and of course, all of the fuzzy, adorable chick pictures.

I don't know of a chicken owner out there who doesn't know The Chicken Chick. I had to look up her real name because honestly, all I think when I see her face is "Chicken Chick"...sorry Kathy. This lady knows everything there is to know about chickens. Bumblefoot problem? The Chicken Chick can help. Wanna make your own waterer? Chicken Chick can show you how. Broody hen problems? Let the Chicken Chick walk you through some solutions. She helped me choose which medicines to keep on hand and what chicken books I must have on my bookshelf. 

The only criticism I have of this incredible lady is that our views don't always line up. Her chickens are absolutely her babies, through and through. Mine are more a source of nutrition and food. Sometimes I read her posts and think "TO THE STEWPOT!" and I'm sure if she were to read some of my posts she'd want to slug me. Differences aside, I head to her blog when I have chicken health issues and want an expert opinion on what can be done.

Another all-in-one homesteading resource! Jessica caught my eye by way of her beautiful pins. I am a Pinterest fanatic, in case my boards haven't shown you, and her posts quickly made their way to my Green Grass Grows board for safekeeping. She is a wealth of information on all types of homesteading creatures, especially chickens. You can find info about changing chicken ordinances on her site, how to care for chickens during the snowy season, safe egg handling, and even some hilarious stories that only happen in suburban homesteading homes. Jessica is a delight to read and again, one of those places I go to for a number of my homesteader wannabe needs. 

This is my go-to place when I'm looking for others like me. I went to this site back when I couldn't figure out if my chick was a rooster or a hen, back when I didn't understand the egg song was a-ok, and back when I was scheming on ideas for my chicken hoop house. This site houses a fantastic community of chicken enthusiasts that love to share their learning experiences with the world. Great community!

Honorable Mention: Fresh Eggs Daily
Now some might argue this is the very best website for all things chicken. That might be true, but I have a bit of a tainted perspective when it comes to this site/author. Now I'm sure this isn't the norm (at least I hope it isn't) but I was quite literally bullied off the Fresh Eggs Daily Facebook page back in the beginning of my chicken-keeping journey for praising some egg producers for selling eggs in stores that are certified humane by the Humane Farm Animal Care nonprofit organization. The comments I received for supporting eggs sold in stores were stinging and bordered on harassment ....and that's coming from one tough B who can pretty much handle herself when it comes to confrontation. Not on the Fresh Eggs Daily page, though....wheweee. I was torn apart for allowing any store-bought eggs into my home, despite my (valid) argument that we all want fresh eggs for everyone, hence the need to support eggs sold in stores that align with the core values of sustainability, responsibility, and love for both animal and earth. I kid you not, I had to leave the Facebook page. I'd never met a group of more closed-minded people in my life, which is really sad, considering we all want the same thing. I thought it was important, though, to list the site here despite my bad experience, simply because I know if you can get past the pitchforks and close-minded die-hards who can't see an ally from an enemy, you're bound to find some great info. 

So there you have it folks :) My list of the best online resources for chicken keepers. I hope you would consider passing them along to someone you know who is on the fence about chicken-keeping, or even pinning this post for your reference later ;) Would love to add some chicken-loving peeps (see what I did there) to my flock (I'm on a roll!).

Would you ever consider keeping chickens? Would you be more like the Chicken Chick, keeping them as pets and babies, or like Justin, keeping them as livestock? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading!