Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Urban Chickens

I think one of the biggest things we learned out on the farm is how easy it is to raise chickens and how much we love fresh eggs! The girls favorite job on the farm was collecting the eggs.

We had two of the older laying hens living in our yard out at the farm. We named them Beauty (the black one) and Mops (the brown chicken). They were great pets and they put up with a lot of abuse from our kids!

Being back in the city is an adjustment and one of the hardest things is the feeling of loss of control over our food sources. I will never get used to buying my eggs in the grocery store. I plan to go back to urban gardening in the spring and I have been sprouting in the kitchen, but I am hoping that by springtime we will have the ability to have some laying hens in the yard here in downtown Grand Rapids. Having land to farm is wonderful, but even after living on 32 acres, I am amazed at how much food can be produced in a very small yard and I really believe it is possible to raise much of your own food even in the city. We have quite a few neighbors practicing Urban Homesteading and raising much of their own food. There is a movement building momentum right now working to change the city ordinance which prohibits keeping chickens in the city.

If there is anyone in the Grand Rapids area that is interested in getting involved in the recently formed Urban Chicken Movement, please consider joining us at the Eastown Neighborhood Association this Wednesday Novemeber 11, 2009 at 7:00pm.

We are all very hopeful the ordinance will be changed soon. There is quite an interest in this topic. We also have a facebook group Urban Laying Hens...Chickens for Grand Rapids.

Here are a few reasons I believe Hens can live in the city:

1. They don't need much room, there are some great chicken tractor designs that you just move around your yard every few days to keep the chickens on fresh grass and they will mow your lawn for free.
2. Seven laying hens produce as much waste as one average sized dog, but unlike dog waste, chicken waste produces great compost material and fertilizer for your garden.
3. They don't make much noise, you don't need a rooster.
4. They are beautiful and living things are wonderful to have around.
5. Chickens provide pest control in your garden, eating harmful bugs and slugs.
6. The eggs they produce are much healthier and more nutritious than those you buy in the store.

and here is my favorite reason to have chickens in the yard:

7. They eat up all your kitchen scraps!

Here are Beauty and Mops enjoying leftover stale cake! Okay so maybe that's not the best thing to feed them...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Introducing an old friend.

Sarah of WanderCraft is a friend of mine from way back. We were born and raised in the same neighborhood in Ypsilanti, and spent lots of time together as kids. We manage to stay in touch a little bit these days, thanks to our blogs! She makes the sweetest photojournals and has just opened her Etsy shop, WanderCRAFT design! Check it out, her stuff is super cute and really affordable!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Handmade Holidays!!

It's that crafty time of year again! No more gardening, no more trips to the beach or playing outside, and I am sad to see it go, but the thing that always gets me through this time is having time to do creative projects. This is my favorite time of year to craft. What better thing to do when the weather turns so cold and dark, and this is my favorite place for new ideas and inspiration this time of year: Sew, Mamma, Sew!

They just started their 3rd Annual Handmade Holidays event yesterday!

Everyday of the month of November there is a blog post with great project and gifts ideas for the holidays! Click on the button to check it out, and tell your friends!

For even more ideas, go thru the archives and look at the last two years Handmade Holidays master lists!

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Grand Tour

Our New House:The front porch wraps around the whole front of the house.
The yard is not very big, but it'll work.

The front hallway

The coat closet! I am so excited about this, I've never had one before!

The living room. Sorry about the crappy photo, I was in a hurry. I don't have too many complaints about the house, but this paint color is one of the few. It's a very wierd pink/coral color and it's in over half the house. I hope to paint this room a soft yellow when I get a chance.


This room was also pink, down to the window trim and baseboards. It was aweful, so before I moved anything into it I painted it white. I am very happy with it. It is so bright with the two big front windows.

The day after I finished painting, and I was going to start moving stuff in, the neighbor across the street who was moving out, put this table and 4 nice solid wood chairs out on the curb! I am so glad I happened to step out on the porch (The only place I had phone reception until we got the land line) in enough time to snatch them up!

My fabric stash is in here! I picked this IKEA side board up on craigslist for $50!

I spend alot of time in the kitchen, and I am so happy to have plenty of room to work!

This is the pantry in the back hallway off the kitchen. Lots of room to store all the applesauce I canned and all of our gluten free flour!

The Dining Room

There is enough room for us all to sit down at the table together!!!! I m so thankful for this. Our old kitchen was ridiculously small and it was so difficult to sit down to a meal together. The girls also have a little table of their own where they eat lots of snacks and draw and play.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Making Our New House a Home

We are begining to feel settled in here and the older girls are both in school. We have been working hard to establish our rythyms and routines. We are all very thankful that after the crazy roller coaster ride of not knowing where we were going to live, that we ended up in this house and it works so well for us.

I have been enjoying getting things moved in and set up in our new house and it's starting to feel like home. I have an amazing craft room to work in, which has allowed me to make some things for our house instead of going shopping. Luna needed a new bed and our bed needed a nice blanket both for warmth and to add some color to our room.

The blanket I made from cut up, felted wool sweaters and backed with flannel. It was pretty easy and only took me one evening and part of the next day to finish. I plan to make another one for the couch with red, orange and brown colors in an attempt to tie together our bright red couch and retro orange chair!

Another quick little project I finished this week was this new purse, just in time as my old one was really wearing out. I found the felted bag at The Outlet for only $4.50 and used some wool sweater scraps from the blanket to sew on some pockets.

I really miss being able to grow our own food in the huge garden out at the farm and collecting fresh eggs, but I figured there had to be some way to produce some of our own food still, so I decided to try sprouting.


The ones on the left are Fenugreek seeds, which I am anxious to try and the ones on the right are chick peas. My first go at sprouting, last week, I tried mung beans. Because of my lack of expierience, I used way to many seeds and had sprouts coming out of everywhere! They were very good, but I had to get creative in trying to use them up which inspired trying this new recipe:


I found the recipe in the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites Cookbook and we (Rich and I anyway, the kids weren't big on them cause they were raw and not at all like the egg rolls at the Chinese restaurant that they love.) really liked them. Rich made a sweet garlic dipping sauce to go with them.

We definitely eat well round here! I love having a kitchen that is big enough to work in, a dining room to sit down together in and a dishwasher to help with all the dishes we dirty!

I am still trying to use up all of the zucchini we grew in the garden this summer so the other night I made a double batch of zucchini brownies and zucchini bread. The bread recipe came from my favorite Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and turned out great with part rice flour mix and part sorghum flour and a little xanthum gum. The Zucchini brownies are from the Simply in Season cookbook that I have been using alot for ideas about what to do with the garden's produce.


Simply in Season
by Mary Beth Lind, Cathleen Hockman-Wert
Serves 18-24

• 1 cup / 250 ml flour
• 3/4 cup / 175 ml whole wheat flour
• 1/3 cup / 75 ml baking cocoa
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine in large bowl.

• 2-3 cups / 500-750 ml zucchini (shredded)
Stir in.

• 1 egg
• 3/4 cup / 175 ml sugar
• 3/4 cup / 175 ml brown sugar
• 1/2 cup / 125 ml plain yogurt
• 1/2 cup / 125 ml oil
• 1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine in separate bowl and beat with fork. Stir into zucchini mixture. Spread evenly into greased 9 x 13-inch / 3.5 L pan.

• 1/2-1 cup / 125-250 ml semisweet or mint chocolate chips
• 1/2 cup / 125 ml nuts (chopped; optional)

Sprinkle on top of batter. Bake in preheated oven at 350F / 180C until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes.

Enough room to live, friends nearby, crafts and good food!! It doesn't get any better! In my next post, I'll give you the grand tour of our new house!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Home Sweet Home

We have moved. It felt like it took forever, but we finally found a place we could afford that met our families' needs. We moved in last week and we are still trying to get all settled in.

We are sad in many ways to leave the farm and the rural life, but in many ways we are very excited to be back in the city. We really had a crazy adventure living in the camper on the farm for the summer, but it was for a season and the season had to come to and end. We had a house lined up to rent just a mile from the farm, but God closed that door for reasons we didn't understand. Although it was a long and frustrating experience to figure out where we belonged after that and to find housing, we can see now that God was in control and directing everything. I will write more soon about the whole expierience and what we have learned, but God has been faithful and this house is a wonderful blessing for our family. Our Father provides.

The new house is close enough to Rosie's school that we walked her there for her first day and it's very close to our house on Lake Dr. so we will be able to keep an eye on things there and maintain that place until someday when the housing market recovers and we can sell it.

Here is a photo of our kitchen! Plenty of room to cook! The layout works so well for us. Lily has her own room and Daisy and Rosie share one right next to our bedroom. The bathroom is huge and there is even a very small room that is Ralphie the rabbit and Rita the rats bedroom!

The very best part for me is that there is a large room off the living room that will be my office and the family craft studio! I will post photos once I get it all put together, but we'll be having a craft night at my house very soon!!! and hopefully everyweek this winter!!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Welcome baby Ayana!

My little sister Julie had her baby! But it took me so long to post this, now she is three weeks old!

Ayana Lynae Torres
August 30, 2009
7lbs. 4oz

She was born after an all night labor, which I was so blessed to be able to spend supporting my sister. Julie did so well and had a completely natural delivery at Metro Hospital only 1 1/2 hours after arriving there!

She was so alert and aware, yet calm and soooo sweet!

My girls are so excited to have another cousin.

This is the little Dollie I managed to sew for her. I just finished it the night before she was born! The button in her hair came from our grandmother.

Here's the tutorial, if you want to try one.

Friday, August 28, 2009

First fruits

The growing season has flown by and all of our hard work is beginning to pay off! We have an abundance of food on the farm! It is an exciting time! I am scrambling to find ways to prepare and preserve all the food from the garden, but it feels like such a blessing! We have lots of eggs and both cow's milk and goats milk. The other day I made a big omlette and was very happy when I realized that the whole thing came from the farm except the mushrooms! We also processed out 4 roosters and put them in the freezer. They were funny creatures and they will be missed a little though.

Zucchini and hot peppers

Lily and I took a walk out to the apples trees the other day to check on their ripeness. We were excited to discover that there are a couple varieties of apples that seem perfectly ready and a another that isn't far off. We spent the rest of the day mowing and clearing around the tress so that we could get to the fruit. As with everything on this farm, there is alot of work to do to bring things back to working order. The orchard is horribly overgrown after so many years of neglect. In all there are 5 apple trees and 1 pear tree. The pears are still very green and hard though.

The apples are a beautiful variegated red and green and have a crisp sour taste. They will be great for pies, applesauce and cider.

Lily lost her front tooth last week, can you see? It has changed the way she talks a little, it's so funny!

I love this photo, but I am a little embarrased about her fingernails! They are so dirty. I guess, she is a farm kid!

This is Radio Calendula, and yes it really is that orange!

Won't be long before I am going to have to learn to make Sour Kraut!

There is a row of Sunflowers along the fence of the garden that have gotten to be 7 or 8 feet tall and they are stunning! Especially at sunset.

I will be honest with you though, all of this beautiful stuff came from this weed infested and overgrown garden:

I love to show off the stuff I pick, but I am a little embarrased to show off the garden because for the most part the weeds are larger than the plants! You kind of have to hunt thru the weeds to find the produce. That's ok, we'll do better next year!

My favorite cow ever, Foxy.

Please pray for us as we continue to look for a place to live. We are feeling torn about leaving the country and returning to the city, and confused about whether to rent or purchase a home and I am feeling very anxious to know where we are going. I never imagined we still wouldn't know at this point, especially with school starting next week!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Where oh where do we go?

So we thought we'd be moving today. We had planned on renting a house about a mile from the farm and we were supposed to start moving in today, but we found out on Monday that it all feel thru. This is a very hard readjustment for us and we are struggling with it and confused about what to do now. We are grateful though because as disappointed as we are about the major change in plans, we did pray specifically that it wouldn't work out if it wasn't the right thing for our family. So please pray for us, everything seems a little uncertain right now, and we are desperate for God's guidance in our decisions. As much as we love living at the farm, we are ready to have our own house and our own routine. We had our hearts set on being close enough to still be involved on a daily basis, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see how things turn out.

If you know of anyone who is renting a 4 bedroom house for a reasonable price or needs a house sitter for the winter let us know!

As for the farm, things are going very well. The number of animals seems to be increasing exponentially. We have three new goats, two new sheep, and more chickens than I can count. It is so fun to see the babies following their mommas around the farm. There are 40 chickens of which the females are being raised into new laying hens and the roosters will become dinner. There are 100 brand new little chicks that are being raised for meat and another batch to be ordered in the next week or so.

Three of the hens that went broody successfully hatched 8 chicks and are doing well.

This chicken made a nest behind an old sewing machine in the upper part of the barn and hatched 4 chicks all on her own. One poor little chick was stuck in his shell and Jenna helped it along a little. It was very weak and we didn't think it would make it, but after a couple hours in an incubator we returned it to it's mother and it is doing fine!

We are looking forward to harvesting apples and pears soon and we have been eating tomatoes, broccoli and herbs from the garden. I am not really looking forward to the digging to harvest the potatoes but we are going to have lots of them! Stay tuned, we are planning a harvest party for the fall, but in the meantime let me know if you want to come out and visit!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


The new Rich and Jen. We are farmers now. What do you think? Do we look it?

We are planning on renting a house very near the farm for the next year. I really thought this would just be a summer adventure and that we would end up back in the city, but we have fallen in love with farming. We even have a couple of our very own goats. We are making some major decisions right now about housing and school, so please pray for our family and our community as we sort things out. I'll let you know as soon as I do what we'll be doing.

If you'd like to come out and visit the farm and see what we've been up to, let me know! There are lots of animals out here now and the garden is growing. It's been an amazing transformation over the last few months. If you were out last fall or early this spring, you'll be amazed.

Peace and Blessings!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Our family vacation

Every year my Dad rents a cottage on the Indian River in Northern Michigan. It is a beautiful place. The Indian River is just one river in a long inland waterway that stretches all the way across the top of the state.

We spend lots of time on the boat and this year for the first two days of the trip both of my sisters and their husbands were there. It was so nice to all be together in the same place. It doesn't happen often.

This is my little sister Julie, She is having a baby girl in 4 short weeks from now! My first niece on my side of the family! I am so excited and Julie is sooo cute pregnant. Her and Davie are keeping the name a secret, so the girls are having lots of fun guessing. In the meantime, we just call her 'pork chop"!!

Here are our photos from this year's trip!

Hope your having a great summer too!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Laura and Wayne's Wedding

My middle sister Laura was married on June 20, and it was a beautiful day!

Please visit:
and enter
event code: 48524-June20
to view the online wedding photo gallery.

Me and all the girls were in the wedding, Rich and Amy were photographing and I was helping with the photography as well, so it was quite a day. The day before was horrible weather and it rained a huge amount, so when we got up Saturday morning to start getting ready the farm was one big mud puddle. Can you guess where I am going with this? I'll save the explanation and just share the photos:

and this is before the worst of it! By the time we finally wrangled them and got them into the tub, they were covered in mud from head to toe!

But we all managed to get cleaned up and we all had fun.

I really liked my dress....and the girls were so precious. Getting all dressed up had a mesmerizing effect on them. They behaved like perfect angels all day! Maybe I should dress them up more often!

What a beautiful day. Everything turned out wonderfully. Congratulations Laura and Wayne!