Blue Yurt Farms
Homesteading, Yurts, Travel, Life!
Learning about conservation of our precious forests, engaging in tree planting activities and leading a ‘greener’ way of life is what we’re about here at Blue Yurt Farms. Join us to learn more about living a simpler life that celebrates the important things in life.
Hello, and welcome to my personal ‘homestead’ blog. My name is Erin Baker and I am extremally excited to share my experiences with other people that are interested in healthy eating, farm life, and responsible travel. I don’t claim to be an expert on any of these subjects but I do promise that you’ll get some valuable info and some great stories from me.
And I don’t break promises!
Responsible Travel & Homesteading
Unfortunately for our planet, responsible travel is not the most popular way of getting around the globe these days. That said; things are shifting and more people are becoming aware of the dangers that we face if BIG action isn’t taken by each and every one of us. Even though I like to travel, I’m committed to doing it as ‘responsibly’ as possible and my aim is to inspire others to do the same.
My blog is my ‘homestead’ to do just that!
He lives in a house in the country…
What do you think of when you think about “Living in the country”?
Some people might say “oh it’s a great life”. Some people will still swear by the city life but these people have probably never been in the countryside much or can’t see the positives of a country life.
There are just some things in the country life that the city life can’t provide. I’ve listed just three of these things below, maybe it will entice you over to the country-side!
There’s more peace and quiet
If you’re someone who has made the switch from the city life over tot he country life, one of the first things that you will notice is the beautiful quietness the country offers. You won’t hear but the odd car passing by, or the refuse collection truck coming to wake you at 5 am either.
You won’t need to worry about noisy neighbors loudly blaring their music too loud or city traffic outside your bedroom window. The serenity of the country life is often about what can be heard in place of the city noise.
Think of the rain beating off your roof during the night, or the little birds singing early in the morning. Or imagine the cows mooing away on the green pastures. These are the priceless sounds of nature, so peaceful to the countryside.
You mightn’t know your neighbors, simply by living in the countryside. Although, country communities do tend to be closely knit. There is a sense that people are more reliant on each other more so than people of the city stock.
Part of this is because shops and amenities might be many miles away so it’s better if people help each other out where possible as the might need the favour returned someday.
You might need a carton of milk or a couple of tea bags for the night. Lending a hand will give you that good karma and builds trust among the country folk.
A slower pace of life
Although it may appear at times that farmers and country folk are always working, out on the pastures, cleaning out animal sheds, or driving machinery around the place, country life is often at a slower pace than you would imagine.
But don’t get me wrong, this is by no means saying that the countryside people are lazy or do less work. It simply means that they don’t allow the fast paced, distracting life of the rat race bog them down.
So ask yourself this
Are you tired of the rat race and all of it’s materialistic trappings?
Do you want to feel part of a great community?
Do you want to enjoy life more and be at one with nature?
If you answered yes to any of these questions then a life in the countryside is for you. Make the move!
City versus countryside
Amidst the hustle and bustle of the city slicker’s life and the constant advancements in technology and the digital world, living on a farm is a very special way to live.
You are one with nature, plants, vegetables, animals, fresh air and less distractions than the city life. Choosing the farming life is not for everybody and there are some cons but the pros far outweigh them.
So I have put together four great reason why I love being a farmer, you can read them below:
There’s no commute!
You don’t have a journey to get to your work place! None. You can simply stroll out the front or indeed back door and you are in work, as simple as that!
Although the farming life is focused outdoors, some of your paperwork and management can be done from the house so you don’t actually really leave the house for some of your farm work.
This has its disadvantages. But on the contrary, you’ll never have grapple with traffic during peak times, sit in your vehicle endlessly in motorway traffic or stand, wedged onto a tube, pressing up against someone.
There is a lot more bartering and trading this and that in the farming life than in in your typical town or city. Maybe you want or have a few bales of straw and need to swap something with someone to put food on your table.
Or maybe you agree to offer your tractor or labour in exchange for that new suckler calf that your neighbor has just gotten. Daily deals are done in the farming community more than deals done on Dragons Den!
A great lack of the office politics
Most of your meetings will happen at a local pub, small shop or post office. There is no time nor place for business managerial talk. Clock-in machines don’t exist in the farming life, well not really.
You are the boss and need to be disciplined with your own time, unless you work for your father or work for another farmer but you probably still have more freedom and independence.
The beauty of this is that you can take some time off whenever you need to or want to, such as for family events or to watch sporting events. Work to get the job done. Be productive and effective!
There’s no dress code
One other great thing about the country farming life is the freedom to wear whatever the hell you like! No pin stripe suits or blue colour shirts. No sweaty jumpers and tight trousers.
All you have to think about is if the weather is fine then dress for it, whereas if it’s going to rain then dress for rain! Farming people don’t care if you’re wearing a Tommy Hilfiger jumper to the fields or a pair of Nike trainers.
So in a nutshell
The farming life gives you more freedom, less time wasting exercises that you would find in an office, a commonly understood method of trading things and no rustling and bustling that will stress you out on your way to work!
We live in a yurt, have chickens and were homesteading but were still a far cry away from being fully self sufficient. We don’t live off grid (although solar is in our dreams),we still buy raw milk from a pastured herd share and we not only haven’t gardened yet, but we haven’t really jumped into full scale preservation methods for stockpiling, like fermenting cabbage, canning and drying.
What I’m trying to say is this homesteading thing is such a series of baby steps. Were so much farther along than we were two and half years ago, and thats something to be celebrated. Even more so since we were tested on our resourcefulness this past week by being snowbound for five days.
Life gives you lemons, so what can you do with them?
When life gives you lemons, you can definitely make more than just a lemonade for the children.
This wonderful fruit and its citric juices has lots of other great uses, whether it is giving your refrigerator a refreshing feel and smell or used to remove those tough coffee stains, lemons are great and below are five great uses for the:
It’s nice to know that you don’t necessarily need to spray aerosols and perfumes to try to neutralize foul-smelling dog-litter box odours or in an attempt to freshen up your bathroom. Simply slice up some lemons into halves.
Place them into a dish in the room of your choice, with the cut side facing up. Then, the magic happens. Your room’s air will soon smell lemony fresh!
Freshen up the Fridge
Lemons are also great for easily removing odours in your fridge. Simply dab some of the lemon’s juice onto some cotton wool or a sponge, leaving it there for several hours to do it’s work.
Obviously, do a full check of your refrigerator to find the root cause of the smell and throw out anything that may be past its use-by date or anything that looks or smells bad.
Keeping your guacamole green
By sprinkling a generous amount of lemon juice from a fresh lemon over your guacamole, you will actually keep the dip green and fresh for longer.
How does this work? Well, the juice of the lemon has a complementary flavour that works well when added to guacamole(avocados). You can also use this trick by making some fruit salads well in advance of eating them.
By squeezing fresh juice onto your slices of apple for example, you will help them stay lovely and white, ready for your guests!
Remove those sweat patches!
You can avoid those expensive laundry bills. Lemon juice is great for removing those sweat patch stains left underneath the arms of shirts, blouses and t-shirts.
With an equal mix of lemon juice (or indeed white vinegar) and water, simply scrubbing them will have your garments back to a stainless fresh feel in no time.
Prevent rice from sticking
Believe it of not, you can prevent your rice from lumping together into a white solid, by simply adding lemon juice to the rice.
Add in a half table spoon full of lemon juice water when it boils. Then, when your rice is cooked, just let it cool off as you usually would. Finally, just fluff the rice about with a fork, ready to be served.
Some other uses for lemons
Some people throw some cut up lemons into their waste disposal just to keep it fresh and clean. Also, if you are feeling a little unwell or suffer from a bad breath, then gargling lemon juice is one way to help get rid of your cold and keep your breath smelling nice and fresh!
Are you looking for that nice vanilla taste for your dishes?
If you want to make some vanilla extract, it’s actually quite easy. All you need are two ingredients – obviously some vanilla beans and some vodka.
Don’t be too concerned with the vodka brand or type. Nor does the actual type of vanilla bean matter much. Obviously, with the different brands and types, you will get variations in the final taste of your homemade vanilla extract.
- To keep it simple, for every three full vanilla beans that you use, you’ll need one full cup of vodka. However, if you wanted to add beans to a full bottle, then you can start off by pouring out about one cup or so from the vodka bottle. You’ll want it later on then so just set this aside for now.
- You split the vanilla beans right down the middle,scraping the beans out of the pod with a sharp knife.
- Add in your vanilla beans and pod to your vodka.
- Once you have completed this step with all of your beans, then you need to add that poured cup full of vodka in until the vodka bottle is actually full. Now, you need to shake the vodka bottle and put it into storage for two to four months.
- On a frequent basis, maybe every week or at least when you remember to do so, you need to give the bottle a good shake. Inspect the bottle after two months or so. At this stage, it should now have a very strong vanilla smell, be very dark in colour and have a somewhat syrupy texture. However, if it doesn’t appear to be this way, then simply put it away again for a few more weeks, continuing to check on it periodically. When you do check on it, give it a good shake.
Tip: When it is ready for adding to your cooking or baking, then you can just divide it up into little bottles or else just store it in the same bottle so you know where it is and what it is!
So now that you have made your very own vanilla extract, let’s look at some of the great uses for this tasty ingredient.
You can use vanilla extract to add richness of flavour to sweeten up dishes, whether they are sweet already or if they are savoury based dishes either. It enhances all of the flavours already there from other ingredients in the recipe.
- You could add it into your typical cake recipe to notice a difference.
- You could also try using it in custards, in dressings for your salads, as a marinade or add some into your sauces for dessert!
Another useful tip: Often times we find odours taking over our fridge, giving us an unpleasant waft when we open the door. Fear not! Vanilla extract is here. If you wipe down the insides of your refrigerator with some of your newly made vanilla extract, it should definitely help quench the stench!
It looks GROSS, doesn’t it? But, oh…your chickens will love you for it. And, according to the experts, your pocketbook will smile too. The benefits of fermentation in a nutshell?
Wet feed is more filling than dry, the good bacteria help keep your chickens healthy and the fermentation changes the nutritional components of your feed to the better. We currently aren’t feeding organic (I’m sorry ladies!) due to budget, so it’s the least I can do to try and up the nutritional bang-for-the-buck. So how do YOU do it?
How many chickens do you have? If you only have 3 or 4, you might want to use a Tupperware or smaller bucket. We have a larger flock, so I chose 5 gallon buckets (they come in so handy…almost as handy as pallets!).
You’ll need two, one to drill holes into and the other to act as the container. You’ll also want a cover of some sort, but don’t stress about what. I use a kitchen towel, and a spare piece of firewood…we’re fancy like that. 😉
Chicken food (whatever you feed your hens is fine)
Optional: live apple cider vinegar with mother (i.e. Braggs), whey from cheese or yogurt (Don’t make your own? Just pour off the thin liquid that forms on top of your yogurt), kefir, liquid from non-vinegar sauerkraut or pickles (i.e. Bubbies). The ferment agent is optional, since your wet mash will pick up good bacteria from the air..but it might take longer to ferment without that extra boost.
Choose the location for your container (preferably in a warm spot, near where you feed your chickens). Ours is placed by the door, so I can scoop some in a bowl on my way out to feed the chickens, and near the wood stove for warmth.
Dump the chicken food into your container (the one with the holes), and set the hole-y container into the non-hole-y one. Pour enough water over the chicken food to completely cover it (some will probably float to the surface, that’s not a problem). If you’re using a ferment agent, add a few generous glugs now.
Cover your container with a kitchen towel or lid. This just keeps undesirables out.
NOTE: One of our cats is OBSESSED with the chicken ferment, and will actually eat some if I let him. Bugger. So I keep a heavy piece of firewood over my towel as extra protection from his grubby little paws.
Add more water than is shown in this below shot…I just wanted to show the sludge that forms. You want water/liquid to cover your fermenting food.
Check on your chicken ferment every 12 hours or so (or in my laid back way, when I think of it), and add more water as needed. The food will soak up the water like a sponge, so you will be adding more on a fairly regular basis.
WHEN DO I START FEEDING IT TO MY CHICKENS?
You can start as soon as the food soaks up the first round of water, but it won’t truly be fermented yet. I waited three days, and WOW, the girls (and boys) went WILD for it.
IS THERE A SCHEDULE?
This is what I do. Please note, I’ve been doing this a week, so we’ll see how long I keep it up, but it’s not really a big pain, and they really like it, so I have high hopes.
Wake up, scoop a few cups of food out of the bucket and take it out to the chickens.
Pick up more dry chicken food while I’m out there (we keep the dry chicken food in big metal trash cans by the coop) and add it to the ferment bucket when I come in.
I’ll then pour enough water to cover, stir to combine and cover.
It’s that easy.
Optional extras: Use your imagination. Raw seeds, veggie scraps, boiled eggs, etc are all supposed to be awesome.
Here is what I’ve tried so far: Raw black oil sunflower seeds, raw peanuts (in shell), rolled oats, raw lentils, water kefir, beet stock (the water left over after boiling beets).
I was beyond skittish about fermenting things not even, eh, 4 months ago…but once you get started, you really gain a lot of confidence in YOUR ability to test food safety. Here’s a good general rule — if it smells OFF or ROTTED, things might not be on the right track (That rule is for this ferment…cause, lemme tell you, kimchi? Definitely, definitely smells funktastic while it ferments.)
GOOD SMELLS FOR THIS FERMENT: yeasty, beer-like, bread, warm, toasty. Ours even smells peanut-y from the raw, shell-on peanuts.
So you may have heard the term “fairy egg” but what exactly is it and why do many chickens lay them?
Fairy eggs have a number of different names gathered over the years, also known as a “witch”, “cock” or “wind” egg. All they are is basically an inconsistency in the hen’s laying cycle.
This is pretty common among flocks of chickens in the back yard. Fairy eggs are usually smaller than the regular eggs hatched, and are also much rounder without containing any yolk. Typically, these eggs tend to occur at two points in a hen’s life.
Firstly, quite early in the hen’s life just before any hormones and/or her reproductive cycle have been fully formed and ready for production. Secondly, often very late in the hen’s life as the hormones start winding down, reducing chances of production.
It’s important to note though, that these eggs can also actually be a stress resultant or caused by a disruption in the hen’s routine.
Why do they happen?
They occur when the hen starts to produce an egg, but before the yolk is released from the oviduct of the hen. Therefore, only the white part of the egg (known as albumen) is shelled. Young laying hens are known for having a lot of them!
Even if you have had many hens, many pullets will start laying their regular sized eggs from the beginning, rather than starting out with tiny eggs, gradually working up to bigger ones from there.
But don’t be alarmed!
In any event, some fairy eggs here and there are nothing to be too concerned with. They are merely a blip in your hen’s production, early in their life. One way to look at them, is that they are some kind of “prototype”.
What is interesting is that, some hens just won’t lay miniature versions of eggs, while others will give you a taster by laying a few fairy eggs early on in their “career”, just to test the nest I guess!
Are they edible?
Although they have no yolk, fairy eggs are in fact perfectly fine for humans to eat! But since a lot of the nutrition is actually found in the egg yolk, couple with the fact that the eggs are so tiny anyway, instead of eating them, maybe you can just rinse off your fairy eggs to get rid of any bloom (which acts as an insulator from air).
You can then let them dry until the inside white has dried up and you can notice it rattling inside if you pick it up and give it a little shake. You can then make use of them as lovely decor for the kitchen!
According to farming folklore, it is believed that to protect them against a cock egg, you should throw the fairy egg over your house’s roof allowing it to hit the ground.
Up to you! But I would simply suggest that you display them as decor in a little basket on your counter top!
Did you ever consider if chickens recognize each other?
Or better still would you say chickens could recognize you? Besides the good old treats, are they actually happy to see your face in the evening after work?
Well, it just so happens to be the case that not only do chickens recognize you, their owner but chickens also recognize up to one hundred members of their flock! Crazy! I know.
Surprisingly, chickens actually do have eyesight similar to that of us humans (technically, they have better eyesight) and could recognize up to one hundred members of their flock, just by sight! It’s believed that they recognize the shape of both the head and comb of their fellow flock mates.
Chickens also accept other chickens although they may be of a different breed. (Though it’s not clear to me which features or characteristics chickens use to spot their familiar human friends, as people features may change from time to time, such as new hairstyles, different clothes or facial hair etc.
From personal experience, I know that they also recognize different types of animals as being either on their side or a rival – even down to a specific dog or cat, as their friend or enemy! For example, if your dog comes racing around the corner and on past the chicken run, then your chickens probably won’t even flinch.
But on the odd occasion that one of your neighbor’s or friend’s dog visits your yard, then the chickens suddenly freeze and raise the alarm bells.
Which brings me to my next point, chickens are shockingly able to make around thirty different noises, all with their own unique meaning, which the other flock members will recognize.
Newly hatched little chicks
The newly hatched little chicks do actually recognize their mother hen, by sound and sight.
Research has been done to suggest that when a hen sitting on her eggs was taken away under a dark environment from her own little chicks to be replaced by another broody hen, the little chicks were still able to find their mother, although they couldn’t even see her.
Also, when their mother hen was put in disguise by various ways, the chicks recognized their mother hen and came to her immediately.
Watch them interact with each other
Knowing that chicks and mother hens do all recognize one another from sight, and also that they can differentiate between the different members of their flock, it is fascinating watching their interactions.
Do you have chickens? Watch your own chickens. You might notice that they don’t necessarily choose to hang around with those flock members who appear to be the same breed as them or of the same color.
However, the chickens do tend to pick a buddy during the free range time, which they generally stick with for life. So the next time you are out on your far or in any chicken farm, have a look at how the chickens react and see do you notice and obvious patterns!
Jenn from Cluck and Hoe, 1/6th acre
My husband, teenaged daughter and I rent a house in a suburb of Los Angeles County, CA. Our homestead lot is 7,086 Square feet, or .16 of an acre. We as a family have always talked about doing more for ourselves and depending less and less on the quick and easy amenities of city living. I have always loved to cook from scratch meals for my family and to garden. I have recently started baking our breads from scratch, which is no easy task as it takes plenty of forethought and preplanning but is so worth the added effort. We have planted a decent sized vegetable and herb garden in raised planter beds, pallets and containers.
We added a small flock of laying hens this past summer. I have been meal planning and learning how to get the most out of our food and what we have. As a primarily single income family of 3, it is vital that we stretch our dollars as far as we can.
We would love to raise a pig and maybe some goats, ducks, turkey and meat chickens but there just isn’t space or proper zoning to allow us to do that where we are. So for now, we enjoy what produce we do gather from the garden, like my head sized crowns of broccoli or the fresh kale, Swiss chard and lettuces. I may not be able to put things up for the fall and winter months but we are able to enjoy plenty of fresh produce during the growing months. We also have fresh eggs from our hens with enough excess to sell a dozen or 2 a week to friends and family.
Living in the city on a small lot most certainly limits the amount of homesteading we can accomplish, but it in no way prohibits us from at least enjoying a little here and there. We dream of one day moving out of state and finding a piece of land to call our own where we can fully engulf ourselves in the homesteading life. Until that time comes we look at where we are now as a great opportunity to practice and hone some vital homesteading skills before we finally are able to head out and plant ourselves on some acreage.
By the time we are on land, I will have mastered that elusive sourdough bread, collected enough mason jars to fill a proper root cellar and maybe even brushed up on my sewing skills. I even plan to find some husbandry classes at the local community college to expand my knowledge of the animals we hope to one day raise.
A big thanks to these lovely ladies for sharing their urban homestead experiences. I hope it was inspiring to you! I’m definitely a huge believer in doing what you can with what you have when you have it. Even if you have no acreage at all, you can practice making your own bread from scratch or buy some bulk fruit from a farmer to practice your canning mojo.
Having a lot of land, animals and endless possibilities? It can be downright exhausting…to the point where the fun gets taken RIGHT OUT. Somedays I wish I was back in my cozy urban rental apartment — flipping through homestead books, making butter from cream I bought at Whole Foods and baking hamburger buns from scratch (which impressed our friends to no end). Which is why we’ve cut back a bit around here. Sometimes things look better on paper than they do in reality, and figuring out your happy reality is just part of the life + homestead journey!
Mollie from Jahner Farmstead, 1/4th acre
We purchased our first home in Suburbia almost 3 years ago now. We sit on about ¼ acre. Why the name the Jahner Farmstead? Well, having a homestead is our dream and ideally we would like to live on more acreage and have lots and lots and lots of animals…We love animals. But the point is homesteading isn’t about how much you have. In fact it’s about living sustainably and harmoniously in whatever situation you might find yourself.
So what do we do on ¼ of an acre? Surprisingly enough we fit a lot into our small plot. We have 15 raised beds in the backyard and 4 in the front. Fruit trees, herb garden, blueberry bushes, raspberry bushes, grapes, meat rabbits, a feisty orange tabby and a happy-go-lucky German Shepherd.
The hardest part about homesteading on such a small plot of land is the lack of space and the fact that our neighbors may or may not approve of our animal hoardage. Ok not hoarding but we have a lot of animals for our cul-de-sac. The biggest struggle about homesteading on ¼ an acre? It is having to get creative which can be exhausting. I grow veggies in the front yard. My steps are lined with pots of tomatoes. There isn’t a patch of dirt that goes without something edible growing in it. I struggle with the sun in my yard and the lack of chickens.
However with struggles, come victories like meat rabbits, a growing garden and healthy soil.
Susan from Learning and Yearning, 1/4th acre
Before we married, all Mike and I ever talked about was homesteading. Our life took a lot of twists and turns and we never really homesteaded in the way we imagined. Over the years, we’ve lived at times without running water, with wood as our only source of heat and cooking, and have raised a few chickens. But for the most part, we’ve been city dwellers. Gardening has been the one constant and has been my passion.
I’ve been hanging out with some amazing homesteaders online lately and reading about their lives has, at times, given me twinges of sadness for dreams not realized, but as a Christian I believe in the sovereignty of God, and have often taken comfort in the Scripture in Acts that says that God determines the times and places of our lives. We live in a small town now on a quarter acre of land. We’re not allowed to have animals here and I often ask myself if I would, if I could.
We own a wonderful, tiny little cottage on a pristine lake an hour from here and spend a lot of time there, especially in the summer. Who would take care of animals when we’re away so much? We are close to farms where we are able to get grass-fed beef and raw milk, pastured chickens, eggs and pork. We love being able to support these salt-of-the-earth-people. If we raised our own animals, we wouldn’t be supporting these farmers. What we do on this quarter acre is garden. We have apple trees and raspberry bushes, and grow veggies to our hearts content. We’re expanding our garden this year, so all that will be left of lawn is a small, shady area for picnicking and a place for grandkids to play. Are we urban homesteaders? I don’t know. We’re content and I guess that’s all that matters.
Read about part 3 here.