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Homesteading - Building A Chicken Yard

It's been a long, cold winter here in the mountains.  I've had a touch of spring fever for the last few weeks, deciding that I should just get a 'head start' on some things that needed to be done here on our little homestead on the mountain.  
I decided that constructing the new chicken yard was first priority.  My flock have a nice, predator-safe coop and pen, but I don't like keeping them inside the pen all the time.  I like letting them free range on the hillside, but only when I am out there (or able to be around the property) to keep an eye on them. We have dogs running through here, coyotes, raccoons, possums, and last but not least, three red-tailed hawks that fly over throughout the day that have already tried to swoop in and grab pullets.  The idea to build a large approximately 500 square foot fenced-in chicken yard seemed like the best thing to do to allow them to have lots of space, almost like free-ranging.  

 With the help of my brother, the chicken yard is almost complete, and the chickens love it.  I do have some more work to do on it, I will be adding some height to the fence, as well as figuring out some over-head protection from the hawks sweeping in.

 My brother working on the gate of the chicken yard.
 I love seeing the chickens come running to the gate when they spot me walking out that way. I really enjoy them and their eggs!  I've found that taking care of chickens is a lot of hard work but is really therapeutic.
 I am sad to report that I will be parting with my handsome roo King Helgar.  He's flogged me several times and I'm now scared of him and can not enjoy taking care of my hens having to stand with brooms and rakes to fend him off when I enter the chicken yard.  He has not been generally aggressive until now, but it's just something I can not deal with from him.  I think he knows that he has his bluff on me! :)  He'd have his bluff on you too, if you felt something knock the wind out of your back and when you turned around a big rooster was in your face.  Scary!  He even had me down to eye level when I slid and fell in wet leaves - he gave me a good scratching, bruising and flogging, so I'm giving him away.

Fresh Eggs Daily

Sunny, but deceptively cold.

After completing the chicken yard, I plan on adding three more raised garden beds.  I have my wood ready to go, but today has been cold and snowy, and I seem to have a little cold trying to take hold.  So, I opted to stay indoors and catch up on some chores.

I'm so excited about spring, I can hardly wait!  I've been daydreaming and planning my little garden all winter long!  How about you, are you excited to see spring?  What kind of plans have you made?
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Feeling Chilly? How About Some Chili? {Printable Recipe}

With winter in full swing, sometimes you just need a bowl of piping hot chili to warm your tummy, and I have a simple chili recipe to help do just that!  This is a favorite in our home that I like to serve with cornbread. 

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page for a printable recipe!

* * *
Here's what you'll need:

•1 - 2 lbs. of ground beef or ground turkey (I use 2 lbs. we like our chili hearty)
•4 - 15.5 oz.  cans of dark red kidney beans, drained
•1 - 6 oz. can of tomato paste
•1 - 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
•1 - large onion, chopped
•1 - large green pepper, chopped
•2 tbsp. garlic, minced
•1 or 2 pkg. chili seasoning mix (I use 2)
•olive oil
 •4 oz. water to mix with seasoning

•6 - 8 cups of water (depending on how thick you like your chili soup)
 •Salt & pepper, to taste

What you'll need to do:

Saute onion and pepper in olive oil over medium heat until translucent, add garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.

Add ground beef or ground turkey, cook until brown.  Drain fat, add chili seasoning and 4 oz. of water, stir well.  Add tomato sauce, tomato paste and kidney beans.  Next, add 6 - 8 cups of water, depending on how thick or soupy you like your chili to be.  Simmer on low for 20 minutes.  Serve with a piece of cornbread or crackers.
*Leftovers easily become taco salad with a bed of lettuce, a few tortilla chips, tomatoes, cheese, salsa and a dollop of sour cream.

Printable Chili Recipe Here
Sharing at:
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Free Printable Weekly Blog Planner

I am a visual person.  I am a note-taker and a list-maker.  I am the queen of sticky-notes.  Without these, I probably could not function in my daily life.  So, I made a very simple little weekly blog post planner to help me keep track of posts, link ups and the social media sites to which I add my weekly post links.  If you'd like to use my little planner, you are more than welcome to do so.  I like sharing!  Scroll down to the end of the post to download it.  For best results, uncheck the 'fit picture to frame' option box when printing.

You can print this handy-dandy, simple weekly planner here.
You have my permission to use it, but please do not alter it or redistribute it as your own.
 Thank you kindly :)
Sharing at Moms The Word Making Your Home Sing Monday
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Money Saving DIY Homemade Fabric Softener

Today, I thought I'd share the recipe I use to make homemade fabric softener.  I was skeptical about using this recipe at first, I mean, how in the world could this stuff work?  I've been known to be a laundry detergent and fabric softener snob my whole adult life.  If it wasn't a certain name brand, I would pass by it in the detergent isle like I was running a race, never giving it a second glance.  I always had my eyes fixated on the one I used - the one my mother had always used when I lived at home.  Now, after making a batch for my mom, this recipe is what she uses!  She even uses my laundry detergent recipe now and says she will never go back to throwing money away using that brand name stuff again!

 * * *

 * * *

Here's what you'll need:
6 cups of hot water (not boiling, just hot)
3 cups of white vinegar
2 cups of  lavender conditioner
4 drops of lavender essential oil

 * * *
Here's what you'll do:

Mix conditioner and water together, stir until the conditioner is dissolved.

 * * *
Add the vinegar and lavender essential oil, mix well.
* * *
* * * 
Store your fabric softener in an old fabric softener container. 
 Use the amount you normally would if you were using commercial brand softener.
* I always give my container a gentle shake to stir it up before adding it to my load.
Remember, this softener doesn't have all the chemicals that brand name softeners contain.  It will be a little thinner than you are used to, so don't panic when you pour it thinking that something went wrong.  And don't worry about the vinegar smell.  You can't smell it in your clothes.  It rinses clean and your clothes come out feeling and smelling so fresh and clean!
* * *

 Go here for laundry detergent recipe:
DIY Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe
Would you like more information about the Lavender Essential Oil I use? 
You can read about it here
Sharing at:  
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Natural All Purpose Cleaner Using Lavender Essential Oil

I'm excited to share a DIY natural, all purpose cleaner with you today!  I'm not kidding when I tell you that I love household cleaners.
In my younger years, I used to be the lady who bought all these different kinds of household cleaners for every surface because I believed that I needed a different cleaner for every single surface in my home.  Why?  Because the advertisers said I did.  And I fell for that, hook-line-and-sinker.  Thankfully, I became more wise of those advertisers.  :) They weren't trying to help me in my household chores, they were trying to make me believe that I needed them, so I'd spend the money - and I did, for a while. 

One day, I happened upon an all purpose cleaner that really did just that, it cleaned all my surfaces!  After using it, my stove top was shiny, my refrigerator gleamed and my sinks and water spouts sparkled!  I was in love!  I used it for several years, but it was expensive, and I started thinking there has to be a way that I can make a cleaner that is similar to my beloved Lavender cleaner and save money.  And, there was!  I can't take credit for inventing this concoction, it's been floating around online for a long time now, but whoever thought of it - I would like to give you a big hug!

* * *
Here's what you'll need:
- 32 oz. bottle of white vinegar (buy the glass bottle)
- 2 cups distilled water
- 20 drops of Lavender Essential Oil 
- an old  (clean) spray nozzle from an emptied bottle

Here's what you'll do:

Remove the label from the vinegar jar. (This is optional, but for me, I need the label off to add my own label)
Pour 2 cups of vinegar from the vinegar bottle into a jar for storage (leaving half the vinegar in the bottle).

Add 2 cups of distilled water back into the vinegar bottle.  Put on the lid and give it a shake-shake.

Next, add 20 drops of Lavender Essential Oil to the bottle of vinegar and water solution, give it another shake to mix it all up well.  Replace the lid with the spray nozzle.

And there you have it, your own bottle of All Purpose Lavender Cleaner.  
(Store your bottle under the sink or in a dark place away from light.)

I like to pour a small amount of my All Purpose Lavender Cleaner into a small amber bottle and place it in my bathroom vanity, so I can quickly give my black granite sink a swipe to get rid of those white water stains.

  So easy, so economical and so natural!

If you'd like more information about the essential oils I use, please read my Essential Oils page.

Young Living Essential Oils have been such a blessing to me and my family. I know they will bless your family, too!  Be sure to read my testimony here

Check out the other Vibrant Living Bloggers to see more ideas about cleaning with essential oils.  There are many wonderful blogs listed - you will find so many helpful ideas and information there!

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Handmade Soap Extravaganza Giveaway with 8 Winners!

Today I have come together with several other awesome soapmaking bloggers to offer a Soap Extravaganza.  There will be 8 winners of these decadent, beautiful handmade soaps.  Perfect for nourishing your tired, dry winter skin.  This is one way to bring some brightness and sunshine to the dreary winter days. 

As some of you may know, I craft a variety of both hot and cold processed and handmade artisan soaps, and I'd love for the winners to be able to try out each type of soap.

You can find my soaps at Lemonberry And Lime if you'd like to visit my shop.

Up for grabs from my shop are a Gingersnap Crumble Goats Milk Hot Process Soap and a So Soapy Clean Artisan Soap:

In addition, I'm giving away another soap duo -

Spiced Pumpkin Goat's Milk Cold Process Soap and a Milk Oats and Honey Artisan Soap:

Next up is Nancy, from A Rural Journal.  Nancy's soaps look so decadent.  I'm guessing they smell amazing! You can buy Nancy's soap in her Papio Creek Shop.

  The first soap she is giving away is a Papio Creek Toasted Coconut Cold Processed Soap:

The second soap she is giving away is a Papio Creek Aromatic Anise cold processed soap:

Also participating is Teresa from Eden Hills Blog.  She has a farm with many animals, including lots of very cute goats.  Teresa crafts soaps from goat's milk, and you can visit her store at Eden Hills Market to find out more about her products.

She is giving away a Chocolate Chunk Goat Milk Soap:

And she is also giving away a Red Apple goat milk soap:

Two Bears Farm is also offering up two decorative homemade soaps.  You can check out the Two Bears Farm Etsy shop to see similar soaps.

 First up is a shea butter glycerin peace dove soap, lightly scented with lemon verbena:

Also offered is a mother and child shea butter glycerin soap, lightly scented with lavender.  This would also be a wonderful gift for a new mother:

Have you found a soap you simply must have yet, readers?  Just click on the Rafflecopter below to enter:

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