Sunday, June 18, 2017

Keeping Backyard Chickens Cool in the Summer Heat

It's hot in Texas. Really hot. Our high today was 99 degrees Fahrenheit with a heat index set on broil. People are talking about baking cookies on the pavement. We are still in June, people. We still have to get through July and August. This just might be a long hot summer.

The heat can be especially dangerous for your backyard flock, but there are several ways you can help your chickens stay cool.

  1. Add ice to their water. I freeze a large block of ice and plop it into their water when the temperature starts to rise. Who doesn't like a nice, cool drink of ice water on a hot day? I know I do.
  2. My chickens love cold watermelon. Watermelon is great for keeping them hydrated in addition to  cooling them off. You can also feed them frozen corn, peas, or blueberries. But provide these as treats, not as replacements for their feed.
  3. Make sure their coop is well ventilated. If air is unable to freely circulate, the coop is going to be miserably hot. Add a fan for extra air flow, if needed. Just make sure the fan is properly secured so your chickens don't get hurt and make sure any electric cords are safely plugged in and away from any water or fire hazards. 
  4. Spray down a dirt patch where they can take a mud bath and cool off. I'm thinking I'm going to try this with my girls this week. 
  5. Make sure they have plenty of shade. My coop is under a tree and stays mostly shaded all day. I also free range my hens. On hot days they usually hide in the overgrown shrubs under the trees on the side of my house. 
  6. Provide electrolytes. Mix 1 cup of water with 2 teaspoons sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon baking soda. Provide 1 cup electrolytes to one gallon of water. If your hens appear stressed from the heat, give it to them full strength.
  7. Freeze bottles of water and place near nesting boxes. 
  8. Mist down the chicken coop or run. 
  9. Partially fill a small kiddie pool with cool water. You don't want to lose any chickens from drowning so only fill it about an inch or two. 
  10. Have several sources of water for drinking available. I have dog bowls and a large plastic dish tub I fill up and leave in several places so they have easy access to water.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Healthy Eating on a Road Trip

I recently drove from south Texas to Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, and back home to San Antonio in a trip that lasted over two weeks. We had to skip out of the school year a little early after ok'ing it with the kid's school so we could get to his older brother's graduation, so our major summer road trip is already over. But it took some major planning because we were not only attending a graduation, but visiting my parents, planning a backpacking trip and a trip to Virginia Beach, alongside visiting my daughter in Virginia. I was packing for several different scenarios. Plus, I was determined that we not eat out or grab junk to snack on at the gas station while driving from destination to destination. It turns out that the weather sidelined our backpacking and beach plans much to our disappointment. I also didn't plan for enough food on the return trip, especially with my oldest son joining us in Kentucky. But we made it from Texas to Ohio and on to Virginia without eating unhealthy. On our home trip we stopped twice for fast food, but only because my planning fell short when prepping food for one extra person.

Proud Momma moment. 

Summer is here, and many people will be heading out on the road to visit family or head to vacation destinations. It's so easy to rely on the drive through for a quick bite on the run, especially if you are in a hurry to get to your destination, but with a little planning it is possible to eat healthy on the road.

I ordered a set of meal prep containers from Groupon and used them to prepackage meals for lunch and dinner. Our breakfast menu consisted of boiled eggs, peeled ahead of time, bagels with cream cheese, and fresh fruit. Dinner number one was lemon chicken over brown rice and spinach salad. Dinner number two was a Mediterranean salad with chicken, feta cheese, black olives, garbanzo beans, and fresh red pepper slices with whole grain pita bread. I also prepared fruit on the bottom yogurt cups in jelly jars for an easy snack. Lunch our first day was peanut butter banana tortilla wraps using low carb tortillas. I made sure to have a healthy assortment of snacks handy like dried fruit, protein bars, hard cheeses, fresh berries, and nut mixes. I have two coolers, a large one I put our main meals in and a smaller one I kept within reach so we could have easy access to the coconut water, mineral water, and protein drinks I packed. We also had water bottles well within reach.

Fruit on the Bottom Yogurt
Breakfasts were eaten in the hotel, while dinners were either eaten at a roadside rest area or at the hotel. (By the way, Texas has some awesome rest areas with mini history museums, modern playgrounds, and clean restrooms.)

One of the best things I purchased for this trip was a Bodum travel coffee press. I packed premeasured coffee grounds so all I had to do was add hot water and press. I don't use sugar or creamer in my coffee, but I do like to dilute it with a little milk, so I brought a little container of milk, too. If you are a coffee aficionado I highly recommend you pick one up instead of relying on hotel or truck stop coffee.

Are you heading out on the road alone or with friends or family this summer? I challenge you to healthy eating on the road. No fast food and no Starbucks. It only takes a little planning. If you are already meal prepping for your work week, it will be easy peasy.

Ready, set....go!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Living an Authentic Life

This topic has been rolling around in my head for some time now, no doubt inspired by a big milestone in my life. I just stepped over that threshold of time known as half a century. Yep, I just turned the big 5-0. Some people approach fifty with great dread, but I'm finding that, for the most part, I like where I'm at. I'm no longer in a place where I worry about what other people think of my life choices, and it's very freeing.

I'm in the middle of some life changes that are very exciting, a little frightening, and greatly liberating. I'm transitioning to living the creative life I've always been drawn towards, devoting more time to blogging, photography, and painting. In essence, I will finally be living my authentic life.

Steps to Living Your Authentic Life

Listen to your soul. In this loud, crazy world we sometimes get caught up listening to someone else's voice, or we mistake the voice in our head as wiser than the voice in our heart. But that heart voice is the voice of your soul. It's where passion, cosmic connection, and the things that make us unique reside. Yet, we are told that voice doesn't hold as much value as the voice of reasoning, status, and wealth. However, you can never live an authentic life if you do not listen to your soul.

Rethink wealth. Living an authentic life is not a vow to live in poverty, nor is it being surrounded by gold. In fact, the greatest wealth is not associated with money at all. When you begin to think of wealth as quality relationships and experiences your perspective changes and you find you are able to live a more enjoyable life on less money.

Embrace minimalism. Surround yourself with things that only bring you joy or that you find to be useful. You are not being authentic to yourself keeping gifts out of guilty obligation, books you really didn't enjoy reading, the carved sculpture that reminds you of your ex, or the bulky microwave you never use. Get rid of it and create space in your life, physically and metaphorically. Then, refrain from filling that space.

Practice non attachment. Even a highly authentic life is going to go through some horrible lows. People we care about leave us or disappoint us. Unexpected illness invades our bodies. Natural disasters beyond our control destroy homes and lives. Living an authentic life means walking through the fire regardless of our fear. Even if we lose our path, even when we find ourselves in agony, acknowledge this authentic, human moment in your life and trust that it is just a moment. Accept that everything in life is impermanent and trust that voice in your soul to get you back on your path once again.

Do what you love. Or love what you do. Many of us do neither. Put love into your work, regardless if it's your calling or not. Put love into caring for your home, your family, your self. You do this by being kind and expressing gratitude. Be grateful for every dish you wash. Extend kindness to the custodian. Stop and really listen to your child chatting at you about his day.

And finally, slow down. You can't live an authentic life if you get caught in an avalanche of busyness. Give your mind time for quiet contemplation. Allow conversations to flow into the night. Walk slower, drive slower. Be aware of your surroundings. Quit running from one thing to the next and you might just catch up with yourself.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Clean Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes

First of all, wow, it is so nice NOT to be blogging from an Ipad mini. It's not good on the eyes, or at least my eyes. I've never had great eye sight. I've worn glasses since second grade. I'm not such a young chick anymore though. I finally gave in and got progressive bifocals last year. So, yeah, the eyes aren't what they used to be.

I'm going to state something obvious here. The great thing about hanging out with like minded people is, well, they are like minded. Usually, I go to a party or some gathering and I'm overwhelmed with food that leaves me feeling heavy and lethargic. Especially since I have cut refined sugars out of my diet and mainly eat a clean diet. Celebrations full of greasy pizza, coolers loaded with sugary sodas, heavily processed meats, meager vegetable trays, and the overly sweet cake loaded with frosting. I can't eat these things anymore. So I may have been overly excited last month when I attended my Crossfit box's potluck to celebrate the end of the 2017 Opens. These are my people. The food was delicious, and whoever brought the paleo chocolate cupcakes is an angel. They were heaven, and I didn't feel like I was going to crash and burn after eating one.

I just wish I had gotten the recipe. Because I became fixated on chocolate cupcakes. But after some searching I came across a chocolate cupcake recipe worth trying.

I couldn't head to the gym last night because the kid was running a fever, so I baked up a batch of these cupcakes instead. They use coconut flour, which can be tricky to work with since it soaks up liquids, but this recipe creates a moist cake worthy of any celebration. I used Wholesome organic chocolate frosting on mine simply because I had some on hand, but the next time I bake up a batch of cupcakes I'm going to experiment with a couple cleaner, healthier frosting recipes. Adding a raspberry to the top gives them a festive look and adds a whole other yummy taste experience. Strawberry slices would also be delicious.

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder (or 1/4 tsp of baking soda)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Combine all dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and mix well. Let batter sit for a couple minutes then pour into cupcake liners, filling about half way. 

Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool and frost with desired frosting. Store in tightly sealed container. 

Makes 8-10 cupcakes

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Is Minimalism Poverty Appropriation?

I have a firsthand knowledge of poverty. There was a period of time growing up where my family lived in a home that was dark, drafty in the winter, and way too small. The roof leaked. I feared that the bathtub would fall through the floor every time I took a bath because the floor was so rotten. My parents drove $500 cars with the muffler tied up and the seats worn. I was embarrassed to have friends over and hated the cheap clothes I wore to school. Sometimes Mom would have to get creative to feed us. Dad became bitter and angry. He worked so hard, but it wasn't enough. We were among the rural poor of America.

I found myself struggling as an adult, five years ago, after my marriage to a very emotionally abusive man fell apart. I lost my job because I lacked childcare for my then three year old son. I had to rely on assistance to feed us. I had to beg, borrow, and take on odd jobs to keep the rent paid. I've dealt with the humiliation of having the lights cut off. I've dealt with the struggle of having to decide between getting the car repaired so I could drive to work or paying the bills. I eventually was offered a job as a teaching assistant in a little private school and now work as an art teacher at a different school. I still don't earn a lot, but we get by enough that I am no longer on government assistance.

So, yeah, I know a little bit about poverty.

Today I came across an article entitled The Troubling Trendiness of Poverty Appropriation by July Westhale. Westhale makes the connection between minimalism, the tiny house movement, and poverty appropriation. She admits "This idea of "returning" to a "simple" life is one I struggle with." She tries to make the case that by wealthy people choosing to simplify their lives is poverty appropriation simply because poor people are limited by choice. 

I want to point out three things. One, poverty does not equal living a simple life. There is nothing simple about poverty. Two, poor people still have choices and are still capable of making bad choices that further hinder their situation and good choices that may lead to a more satisfying life. Three, minimalism isn't some feel good trend for the wealthy. In fact, in my experience, minimalism improved my standard of living even though I was poor. 

This is the second article I have come across trying to equate minimalism trends with poverty appropriation. I just don't see it. Yes, there needs to be more conversation on poverty in America, as well as an understanding of the unique challenges of the urban and rural poor. I see a huge rift between the really wealthy of our country and the poorest. In our current political climate that rift seems to be growing at an alarming rate. But I actually see minimalism as part of the solution to the issues surrounding poverty. 

Minimalism uses up less resources. It encourages thrift and moves us away from capitalism. It demands a respect for environment, lifting quality of living. Embracing minimalism actually allows  me to live on a lower class salary and truly embrace simplicity. I still struggle. I still make bad choices from time to time. Hey, I'm human. But minimalism has improved my standard of living.

I feel like Westhale doesn't fully understand minimalism and harbors some resentment for her years living in poverty. I get it. I feel that resentment at times, too. But I realize it's a struggle inside of me and doesn't help. I think she also uses a couple really fringe groups to make her point that poverty appropriation is even a thing. 

I agree with her that poverty sucks. It's nothing to mock and it is far more complicated than the stereotypes our culture assigns to it. However, she misuses the word appropriation. I see no glorification of the poor through minimalism. It is possible to be poor and choose minimalism as a way to better one's life. It is also possible to be wealthy and choose to embrace minimalism as a means to escape the rat race overconsumption of our society. Neither is better than the other. Neither is an insult to the other. Both are living their lives the best they know how. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Figberry Box Review: Cocoa Cherry Bites

I discovered Figberry about a month and a half ago while browsing through Instagram. They offer a monthly subscription service for vegan snack kits. The kits contain healthy, plant based ingredients to make a dozen all natural energy bites. The boxes are geared toward all ages and simple enough for young chefs to make. The pre measured ingredients come carefully packed in a small box with a recipe card that also includes interesting nutritional facts.

My son is a moody chef, and even though I sent for the box thinking we could make these together, I ended up making them alone while he went on a back yard adventure with our chickens. It was just too beautiful of an evening to spend in the kitchen. He headed out play with the chickens.

The recipe was easy to follow. There is no cooking or baking involved, but you do need a food processor. I don't have a stand alone food processor, but an attachment for my blender. The mixture was a bit thick for my setup, so when I went to add the cherries in the last step, they weren't getting mixed in, but just sat there on the top. I added a bit of the water from soaking the dates and that seemed to do the trick.

My mistake was rolling all of them in the dried coconut. Mr. Picky isn't a big fan of dried coconut and refused to eat them. But I enjoyed them. They were quite flavorful and made a great pre workout snack. I'm not giving up on the kid yet, though. I plan on ordering another box so we can try a different flavor. This time, no rolling in coconut.

The only downside to the Figberry box, or any subscription box for that matter, is the packaging. I washed the little container the tahini came in to reuse, but I felt guilty about the little cellophane bags I threw away that contained the dry ingredients.

If you would like to try a Figberry box subscription click here. They currently have a code on the subscription page you can use for $10 off your first box. Figberry also now offers the option of ordering a single box from previous flavors.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sidelined by injury and Depressed

The Friday before New Years Eve I decided to get one last workout in for the year. I have been doing Crossfit for about 10-11 months. I have never been what I consider a hard core athlete, but I have always been active, even enjoying a stint with technical mountaineering when I was younger. I love Crossfit. I love the way it challenges me. I love being around people who understand how it feels to physically and mentally push your body.

This particular workout wasn't any more difficult than usual. In fact, it involved one of my favorite lifts, the deadlift. Since we were going to be lifting a large number of reps, I picked a weight less than my max. Everything seemed to be going fine, until the end when I felt a little pull in my lower back. After the workout there was some pain, but I didn't think it was anything beyond muscle fatigue and after a rest day all would be fine.

Later that evening I was struggling to walk. The pain on the lower right side of my back seemed to wrap around and shoot down the front of my leg, stopping at the knee. I endured the pain the next day, but when I got up New Year's Day the pain was so intense I fell to the floor in tears.

I spent the first day of the year in an emergency clinic. I was diagnosed with a lumbothoracic strain that was irritating a nerve down the front of my leg from the inflammation. I was given a muscle relaxer, prescription pain meds, and Prednisone to help ease the inflammation.

It's been over two weeks since I have been able to work out. I've gone to the gym a couple times to work on mobility and gentle stretches, which I have also been doing at home. The healing process is slower than the doctor predicted. My back is finally easing up, revealing a pain in my groin, meaning I probably strained tissue in that part of my body, too.

The surprising part of all of this is the mental struggles I have been dealing with. Mornings have been complete hell. Tears well up in my eyes as I struggle to get up out of bed and get myself and my son out the door. I feel mired in negativity. I'm frustrated, tired all the time, and feeling disconnected. I come home from work and sleep. I feel like a lousy mother, griping at the kid too much. My house is a mess, I'm a mess. I hate it.

It turns out that depression is common when dealing with a sports injury. And not really a surprise. The athlete has been sidelined from something that brings joy and fulfillment to their lives. They're isolated from their usual social group. Prescriptions for treatment of the injury may exacerbate things with side effects. Not to mention the biological changes in the body from suddenly becoming less active. Crossfit Invictus has a great article on their blog about mentally dealing with injuries: Coping with Injuries: The Psychology of Being Sidelined.

My goal today is mental self care.

I've named the beast. Acknowledgment is half the battle. I'm going to plan my path to recovery, set some realistic goals for getting back into the gym without re-injury, and be kind to myself today.

And if you are mentally struggling from being sidelined, too, know that you are not alone and it is totally normal.