Thursday, March 15, 2018

Growing fodder for chickens - cheaper by the dozen!

After some research on reducing feed costs for chickens, I discovered how easy it is to grow fodder, how it multiplies the seed volume for free (just add water), and how nutritious it is. WIN. WIN. WIN. Oh, and my chickens LOVE it!

I usually feed my chickens fermented layer feed because it also multiplies the volume of the feed for free (just add water), I believe it's more nutritious for the chickens, and the resulting eggs & meat are healthier for my family, and those with whom we share.

The general consensus recommends a 1/4 lb of food per day, per chicken ... and they will eat plenty more given the opportunity! I have 40+ chickens which means 300+lbs of feed per month!! At present {late winter} I am getting around 8 eggs a day, which means they're costing me about $4/dozen to produce (commercial feed cost of ~$80/mo ) which means I need to sell 20 dozen eggs to cover the costs! The laying rate will increase with daylight hours and reduce cost per dozen, but not the overall cost per month.

A few ways we save on feed costs is by occasional free-range foraging (it has to be supervised), kitchen fruit/veg scraps (which I also get from friends in exchange for a dozen eggs), soaked black oil sunflower seed, veggie garden rejects, weeds, and the occasional cup of scratch, cracked corn, or mixed bird seed as a special treat (or to get them back into their coops mid-day!) I'm also raising meal worms but that is another post for another day.

My first fodder crop of choice is barley. I bought a 50lb bag which I am storing in a metal garbage can to keep rodents out! I have also sprouted black oil sunflower seed, wheat, mixed bird seed, mung beans, lentils, garbanzo beans ...

Research tells me that sprouted grains are far higher in nutrient value than dry grains. And if I sprout the barley to 3" greens, I multiply the weight of the food by 4-5 times — that means 1 lb dry barley = 4 lbs fodder! So not only will I have 4 times the food, but it is significantly higher in nutrient value too! WIN. WIN. Therefore a 50lb bag of barley becomes 200+ pounds of fodder ... now that's more like it! The conversion rate may differ depending on seed.

So how to do it?

  • First soak the Barley (or seed of choice) for 24 hrs in water. 
  • Then rinse seed thoroughly and spread in a shallow pan (dish tub, plastic shoebox, foil roast pans ...) ideally if these containers drain it's best. 
  • Each day thoroughly soak the seeds for a minute and then drain so they are not standing in water. 
  • You should see hairlike white roots sprouting from the seeds in about 2-3 days. At this stage, spray with water twice a day until wet but not standing in water.
  • When you start to see green shoots emerging (day 3), add light — by a bright south-facing window, a full-spectrum fluorescent light, a daylight compact fluorescent light in a reflective dome ...
  • Continue to water & grow until it reaches desired height (3-5 inches) 
  • Feed the whole, nutritionally-loaded fodder mat (roots will all have grown together) to your pets ... chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, goats ...

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

"Trifecta" Bread, Buns, or Cinnamon Rolls

I love a fine-textured soft-crusted bread. I love whole wheat and multi-grain bread. I love homemade bread. All three combined - TRIFECTA!

A recent visit to Canada provided this trifecta recipe. Using her bread machine dough cycle our host, Kathy, made this wonderful bread as loaves, buns, and cinnamon rolls every couple of days and we enjoyed EVERY. LAST. BITE.

Better yet, she shared her recipe with me. After some internet research on bread machine dough cycle times, I modified the recipe to make it with a stand mixer. A couple of attempts with different timings and I think I have found the best combination.

Kathy’s Bread & Buns

1-1/2 C hottest tap water (or warm milk)
¼ cup corn syrup (honey, maple, brown sugar syrup)
1-1/2 t salt
3 T powdered milk (omit if using milk)
3 T shortening (lard, butter)
1 egg beaten
4-1/4 C AP Flour (half whole wheat)
2 t active dry yeast
1/3 cup grains (ie. oatmeal, flax, chia, quinoa, 10-grain mix)
For cinnamon buns, you'll need 1/2 C + 2 T melted butter, 3/4 C brown sugar, cinnamon and optional raisins and pecans.

  • Place all ingredients in the order given into a 4-5qt bowl of a stand mixer.
  • Mix with dough hook on low speed 34 min. Should be ever-so-slightly sticky.
  • Let it rise in mixing bowl, covered with a tea towel, 25 min in a barely warm oven. 
  • Punch down/mix for 15 seconds
  • Again, let it rise in mixing bowl, covered with a tea towel, 25 min in a barely warm oven. 
  • Remove dough from bowl onto a lightly floured countertop. Lightly knead for 20 seconds, then divide and shape into two 9x4 loaf pans, or two 8x8 pans - 9 buns each, or two 9x14 pans - 8 'spaced' buns each. (I do one loaf and one pan of buns)
  • Rise uncovered 55minutes in a barely warm oven
  • Leave bread in oven, set timer to 24 minutes, heat to then bake at 325°F to a pale golden brown. 
  • Remove from oven and cool on rack or wrapped in a tea towel.
  • Stores wonderfully in a plastic food storage bag a couple of days, or in the fridge for a week, and freezes excellently.
  • See instructions below for cinnamon buns.

  • For Cinnamon Buns: when shaping the dough, roll out to a large rectangle, 1/4 inch thick. Brush generously with 2 T melted butter, and sprinkle cinnamon and 1/4 C brown sugar all over (raisins optional.) Roll into a long log and slice into 12 even portions. Melt a stick (1/2 C) of butter and pour into a 9x14 baking pan (I prefer glass.) Sprinkle with 1/2 C of brown sugar (crushed pecans and raisins optional extras.) Place rolled dough slices (spiral sides up) 3 rows x 4 rows. Resume final rise and baking instructions. Serve warm. Store covered in the fridge.

Overnight Rustic Bread

I love homemade bread but for the longest time was afraid to attempt to make it. When I was a kid my mum took a breadmaking class and came home and made all this wonderful bread, I think only once, but I still remember the wonderful smell and taste. My Sisters-in-law and friends make amazing homemade bread. So, I tried once or twice ... and made some nice garden pavers.

I wasn't really committed to the time and process involved. So I got a breadmaker - two actually, but that is another story - and followed the recipes provided, but they were usually overcooked, and the size of the loaf was not at all practical. And it still wasn't the texture or taste I was craving. I gave the breadmakers away.

Many, many years passed. I found a recipe for hot-cross buns in a bread machine book that I had bought. I experimented and modified it so I could make it with a stand-mixer. I succeeded, and make them every year for Easter.

During a year of cancer treatment in 2016, the chemo completely altered/ruined my sense of taste, and I was miserable, to say the least. It took 4-5 months for my full sense of taste to return after my chemo was done, with an appetite to match after losing 40lb. I developed a whole new appreciation for food, food preservation, cooking, and baking. My family now enjoys more desserts among other things!

After a Christmas trip to Canada, where our host, Kathy, made amazing fresh bread, buns, and cinnamon rolls multiple times weekly and my Sister-in-law Glenna made her Mom's "best ever buns" I resolved to make 2018 my year to conquer and master bread.

So, here is a simple overnight bread recipe from another sister-in-law, Pauline. It is a common recipe, but I bake it a little differently for a softer crust, as I don't like it overly crunchy.

Simple Overnight Rustic Bread


2-1/2 cups white bread flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 t. Kosher salt
1/4 t. instant yeast
1-1/3 cup cold water

Mix dry ingredients with a fork. Add water and stir vigorously until all flour is incorporated into a shaggy dough. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap or a lint-free tea towel and leave on the kitchen counter for 18 – 24 hours.

Cut a square of parchment paper and lay it in a bowl (about the size of your dutch oven.) Pull the dough out of the mixing bowl, gathering it into a smooth ball. Place the ball, smooth side up, onto the parchment paper. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a lint-free tea towel. Allow to rise 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Meanwhile, heat oven and Dutch oven to 450°F. Lift parchment paper by ends and place in hot Dutch oven. Bake for 30 minutes until deep golden brown. Immediately remove bread from Dutch oven, discard parchment, and allow to cool on a rack. I wrap mine in a lint-free tea towel to maintain the soft crust. 

I'd like to try making buns from this recipe too, on a pizza stone. I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, December 8, 2017

30 Days of Thanksgiving

1st. Praise God I've been cancer free for 16 months!
2nd. I'm thankful for an amazing husband <3

3rd. I'm thankful for our terrific tweenage kids <3

4th. Thank you for/to my wonderful, caring friends
5th. I'm grateful to experience Autumn "in the flesh" this year!
6th. Thankful for Cyber School and the academic progress happening through it
7th. Grateful for a warm home as it snows outside!
8th. I'm thankful I have almost regained my former strength
9th. I love that my hair is growing in curly!!
10th. I am grateful for my job, my bosses, & my co-workers
11th. I thank God for an amazing church family
12th. I am thankful that my neuropathy is 98% gone
13th. I praise God for his abundant provision for our needs
14th. I am excited to have my taste buds fully functioning again and am eager to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner next week!
15th. I thank God for His grace & mercy
16th. I thank God for His faithfulness
17th. I thank God for forgiveness through His Son, Jesus Christ
18th. I thank God for reunification 

19th. I thank God for his presence in my children's lives
20th. I am thankful for the love story known as ADOPTION
21st. I thank God for my bonus families 
22nd. I'm grateful everything is ready to go in the oven tomorrow...
23rd. I'm thankful for a delicious Thanksgiving meal

24th. Praise God from whom all blessings flow
25th. I'm thankful for Thanksgiving leftovers! YUM!
26th. I thank God for our spiritual leaders and their pastoral care
27th. I thank God for revealing new truths and insights through my Bible Study small group
28th. I'm thankful for our beautiful & affectionate dog Biskit

29th. I'm excited for a Christmas & New Year spent with LAINGs!!
30th. I'm thankful for Advent and how it helps us focus on the true meaning of, and celebration of, Christmas. Let the countdown begin!


Friday, January 6, 2017

Happy New Year - 2017 is upon us!

A very Merry Christmas!!
Happy New Year!

WOW! It is 2017 already, but I am not going to complain, because 2016 is a year I'd like to put behind me - way behind me! 2017 is my year to forge ahead, recover, rebuild, give back ... I guess my "cruise" has not entirely ended, but I do anticipate much calmer waters for the remainder of the journey!

2016 in a Nutshell:

January: A long-overdue physical/wellcheck exam ...
February: Diagnosed with Stage 2 Rectal Cancer
February - April: 6-weeks of daily radiation & low-dose chemotherapy pre-treatment
June: Surgery to remove "dead" cancer tumor & install illeostomy
August-October: 6 sessions of chemotherapy post/preventative treatment (should have been 8)
October-December: 40 days in hospital with chemo-related bowel obstruction/complications
November: Surgery to remove bowel obstruction and reverse ostomy
December 4: home in time for Christmas

In years past I barely went to a doctor more than once, for annual allergy med renewals. In 2016 I had more than 80 medical appointments, not including my 40 days in hospital! I have a 2-inch binder filled with paperwork associated with those appointments. My fridge is a pharmacy.

I was ever-grateful to be home in time for Christmas. Unfortunately, I think I increased Matt's already-overloaded workload with the extra care I required in the first couple of weeks. My first major recovery goal was to be able to go to a Christmas Eve Service. Check. Though our decorations were very minimal this year, we were thoroughly spoiled and blessed this Christmas. Friends "showered" us with a gift-card tree, others played Santa... Thankfully I had done my shopping online early and had all my wrapping done a couple days before Christmas (first time ever!) My taste buds had even recovered enough to allow me to thoroughly enjoy a baked ham dinner prepared by my Mother-in-law. Ahhh, tasty food at last! The ensuing frequent bathroom visits were worth it! Oh, and we received so many wonderful & delicious Christmas cookies (in the mail, with meals, from M-in-law...) that we will be eating them yet for weeks!

Be careful what you wish for ...
For a couple years I had been trying to drop about 10-15 lbs. I think I only dropped 5lbs, and I'd like to think it's because I replaced fat weight with muscle weight, as I was exercising a couple times a week & eating reasonably healthy food. Well, I will now be careful of what I wish for (health rather than weight loss?) as in 2016 I lost 40lbs (~18kg)!! Needless to say I have slim (flabby) legs and flat (untoned) abs right now, but 40lbs was a tad extreme. 25 of those pounds were lost during my recent hospital stay. Although they were feeding me 2300 calories a day via IV fluids my body and my muscles wasted away. I only walked the hallways 3-4 times during my 40-day stay, due to fatigue and weakness.

I have gained about 10lbs since being home. Another 10-15 to go. It has been hard, as my appetite is reduced (my stomach shrunk after not physically eating for most of those 40 days) and I had significant taste aversion - nothing tasted like it should - from the chemotherapy. Thankfully that is wearing off now and every day I am expanding my diet. I am also dealing with "low anterior resection syndrome" which, to put it mildly, is a significant change in bowel habits! Needless to say, I need to be in close proximity to a bathroom for unpredictable and significant portions of the day!

Be a self-advocate ... 
If you ever find yourself in hospital for any length of time, I urge you to ask A LOT of questions, especially about the medicines they want to administer, and other medical treatments. I had more than 8 doctors visiting me throughout my stay (my specialists, or their associates on days they were in the office) and each of them would prescribe a new medicine for my symptoms. I had at least 10-15 different RN's & LPN's (nurses) and aides. After a week or two I finally took charge of my care and after asking a LOT of questions, and doing significant research & self-eduction online (I kept my cell phone & tablet close every day!) I told the doctors and nurses which medications I was going to take! Many of the suggested medications countered each other (bowel stimulant vs. muscle relaxant), or made no sense (appetite stimulant - I couldn't eat! Anti-nausea - I spent 3 weeks vomiting multiple times daily as my bowel was obstructed so stomach juices had nowhere else to go!) ... Obviously there were some I wouldn't refuse (blood thinner, pain meds) but even then, I had to keep telling them the dose & type of pain meds that worked (and what didn't) and that I couldn't take them orally (vs. via IV) due to my gag reflex. I had to work with and remind the nurses of the ratio of saline to potassium so the infusion wouldn't burn as it entered my IV lines (it happened twice - pain immeasurable!) I had many conversations over the nasal-gastric (NG) tube and three attempts at it before I overcame my fear and realized its benefit (especially those last 2 weeks.) By week 4 (after much observation), I could have hooked up my IV nutrition myself, and I found myself catching errors of the nurses as they did it. If your body (or medical treatment) doesn't feel right, get it checked out ASAP and persist in your pursuit for care/treatment until it is resolved. COMMUNICATION is key, and you need to take charge of your care, or have a trusted person who can on your behalf.

I have to add that if you are a nurse: RN, LPN, PCA, PT, or OT - I think you are an angel in disguise! The care I received during my "40 days" was world class, and the selflessness and courtesy of the staff that cared for me was amazing, especially when it came to cleaning up after me, and tolerating me telling them how to care for my needs (politely of course!) and my countless requests for cups of ice! I tried to thank every one of them by name before they left my room. Many of them checked in on me on days they were assigned to other patients!

Don't be afraid to ask for help ...
This may be as simple as sharing your personal battle/s with a friends, but sometimes you also need to be direct and ask for specific help, such as with meals, rides to appointments, playdates, etc. We have been overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness and generosity of our many friends, a neighbor, and also many strangers, throughout the past year. Our neighbor voluntarily maintained our lawn (without our asking) all growing season, and offered meals, rides, and other aid; Our church family and many friends have made countless meals to feed our family (many meals enough to feed us two or three times!); Our swimming friends rallied together to support us financially through Christmas, with a couple playing Secret Santa; Our community aided us with much-needed and appreciated support; My mother-in-law came daily to help after school & evenings while I was in hospital and during my recovery; Friends have given me rides to Dr. appointments during the day; My & Matt's employers have been gracious (with time away from work) and generous with assistance. God has used many folks to provide for our needs in abundance! We are truly blessed!

Time to forge ahead, rebuild, recover ...
My recovery is going slow and steady. I arrived home December 4. There was a bed and commode set up for me on the first floor of our house, which also has a bathroom, kitchen & living room. Though barely able to walk (both ability and stamina) between the recliner and my bed, I have been self-sufficient during the day, with daily visits by either a visiting nurse, physio therapist, or occupational therapist until Christmas. Grandma was still coming to help on school-day afternoons & evenings too. The therapists worked me hard (admittedly I didn't do much on my part between their visits) and were impressed with my progress such that they ended at Christmas, when I could climb/descend the stairs solo. I can now do stairs multiple times daily, albeit slow. I can stand long enough to prepare meals for the family. I daily dress my abdominal wound which is healing nicely (hole barely the size of a Q-tip now!) I am eager to drive again (next week?!), to start walking at the gym, to get back into church activities, and to resume daily chores like feeding chickens (a ways off yet due to lifting/weight limitations & cold sensitivity.) I am eager to see my work colleagues again (starting February?)!! Most of all I am eagerly anticipating Spring (come on March-April!!) and getting back to my gardens and yard work!! I have big plans for my veggie garden and chicken runs this year!

I will have many follow-up checkups this year. I'll visit the oncologist monthly to get my medi-port flushed, and quarterly he'll do cancer screenings via CAT scans, etc. My surgeon will check on me quarterly also for the next year. Then every 6 months for the following two years.

My hair has thinned significantly. I think it may yet all fall out (that which was present throughout my treatment) and I may be headed for a buzz cut, but we'll see. There is enough hanging in there yet to maintain it, but it hasn't grown since April, and is thinning by the handful weekly. Unfortunately we are approaching the coldest months of winter, so I'll be investing in some warm hats!

I am experiencing some neuropathy in my fingertips and feet/toes that seems to be lingering. I will be getting that checked out by a neurologist in February. Sure hope it's not permanent. It's not debilitating so much as annoying.

Time to give back ...
Our first opportunity to give back was on Christmas Eve - we stopped in at the hospital after church to give cookies to the nursing staff on the fourth floor and offer thanks for their selfless service and care for the patients. In 2017 and beyond, I am determined to find more ways to GIVE BACK to my neighbors, community, church, and friends, in whatever ways I can. I will definitely join the "meal team" at church. I will shovel snow from neighbor's sidewalks and/or cars next winter (not quite this winter.) I will offer rides, and I will look for and ask for ways to help folks in need. I am compelled to pay it forward after the generosity and thoughtfulness extended to our family this past year, and to be God's hands and feet to those in need in my community. I'm not going to become a "cancer crusader" raising money and awareness ... but I will, however, encourage people to get screened if conversing about my cancer journey!

I Thessalonians 5:16-17
"Be joyful always": Praise God for His faithfulness to carry me through the storms of the past year and keep joy in my heart, despite my circumstances. Praise God for Health Insurance.
"Pray Continually": I pray blessings upon you all in this New Year! Please pray for my continued healing and restoration, and Matt's continued stamina to do the extra tasks I can't yet.
"Give thanks in all circumstances": Again I thank you for the ways you have supported me and my family 'along the road' this past year ... prayers, encouragement, meals, gifts, gift cards, care packages, flowers, financial aid, rides, playdates, help ... I will treasure your generosity in my heart always and be inspired by it frequently.

By God's grace,

Sandii :)

My two tweenage 6th graders.
K: 12 years old                                                      T: 11 years old

Friday, December 2, 2016

Day 37 ...

G'day folks!

Day 37 and counting ...

It's easy to think of all the things I have missed in these past five {unexpected} weeks ... like my family (the kids have not been able to visit anywhere near as frequently as their Papa); the Fall color change (my favorite time of year), which started the week I entered the hospital; Thanksgiving celebrations & dinners, not that I didn't give thanks!; eating; two tooth losses (one each kid!); seeing friends (I had to curb visitors for a number of reasons); swim meets; the great outdoors ... I could go on...

But instead I will think of what I have gained. Victory! I have battled rectal cancer this year and as far as I am concerned, have WON! No more treatments (though plenty of check-ups to come!) I have grown sympathy, empathy, and compassion. You may not believe it, but I was a little short on those. I was a "Suck it in, get over it, and get on with life" kinda person. I am not kidding! I understand now that pain, hurt, and disease can be invisible, and easily masked. I have gained an extraordinary new and heightened appreciation for my husband as he has worked hard to hold all things together, including himself, as he has watched me endure these past weeks. I have gained a new appreciation for food - even if I can't eat much yet - and ways to prepare it (thanks Food Network!) I am eager to get back in the kitchen, and share the space (which I didn't much before) with a daughter who tells me cooking and baking is {one of} her passions. I have seen my kids grow in compassion, courage, love, and faith.

So, as for me and my progress... I had surgery two weeks ago to fix an adhesion {blockage} in my small intestine (about 12 inches removed) and reorganize my bowel. I also endured two more goes with the NG tube in the past two weeks. Well, I am pleased to report that the plumbing is now consistently {and continually} flowing south, four days now! I no longer have an NG tube (hallelujah!) nor any other tubes on my face! I am down to one IV connection (from as many as five) which should be removed tomorrow, which means I am eating {tentatively} again! My stomach is the size of a walnut after not eating for 5 weeks, so I have some reconditioning to do. I walked the hallway without a walker today for the first time, but have a very long road ahead by way of rebuilding my muscles and strength.

Heading home soon.

Anyway, my brain is plain wore out. Evening shadows have fallen, and there's a soppy chick-flick on Hallmark Channel waiting to entertain me.

Thanks for continued love & support & prayers!

By God's grace,


Look, no tubes! Dec 2, 2016.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving indeed!

So it's Thanksgiving and I can't eat? ... So what! I'm not hungry anyway! I'm full of IV liquid "turkey and trimmings", including liquid "cream pie" for dessert!

But I sure have MUCH to be THANKFUL for!!

I am thankful that the God of love is carrying me through this medical trial, and giving me strength, endurance, peace, even humor! If I stop wanting my desires, He will be able to complete His healing in me! I give in, go for it Great Physician!

I'll come back to medical stuff but I have to next give thanks for my family & friends.

I am so grateful for, and blessed by, my husband, Matt. He's so full of love and faithful to care for the needs of his family above self. Exhausted, but driven by love & concern for me. I can't express how much I love and admire Matt. God give him strength, endurance, and restful rest each day.

I am blessed to be the Mother of Kaeden, a sweet, and sensitive young man of undiscovered potential, trying to find his place in this world, and his identity, through imagination, music, faith activities, life-experiences, academic challenges, and the noise of life. Lord, quiet the distractions and guide his path that he might clearly be identified as a child and friend of God.

I am blessed to be the Mother of fiercely independent, self-driven, yet tender-hearted, and compassionate Tyya. She has a heart for God, a talent for swimming, and a passion for cooking and baking. She is sweeter than pie. God, grow Tyya's heart for you and grant me the wisdom to recognize and nurture her gifts, talents and passions.

I am thankful for extended family; for my parents & siblings - loving, praying for, and encouraging me from afar.

I am thankful for my mother-in-law - selflessly helping to take care of the kids and Matt in my extended absence and the love she demonstrates by doing such. For making Thanksgiving dinner and letting the kids help & learn!

I am thankful for my sibs-in-law ready to help at a moments notice, praying fervently in the meantime.

I am thankful for my friends, church families, and prayer warriors (local & world-wide) for taking time out of their already busy lives and heaping love, prayers, well wishes, gifts, encouragement, cards, letters, texts, meals, transport, care packages, play dates, cheerleading, lawn mowing ... !! Oh how you have blessed, loved, and inspired me and my family!

I am thankful for our beautiful dog Biskit who must be wondering what happened to her pack leader who vanished a month ago... aknd waits faithfully for her return.

I am thankful for a world-class hospital and for the world-class medical care it provides; for an army of angels dressed as nursing and personal care staff - filled with care & compassion; for skilled doctors and specialists, willing to admit they sometimes don't know what the problem is but are trying to figure it out!

I am thankful for alert & lucid consciousness, personal awareness, curiosity, self-education, self-advocacy, pain, comfort, rest. For medications & the knowledge of what they do, and how they work, especially in me! Yep, I'm even thankful for my uncomfortable NG tube sucking the crap from my stomach so my bowels can rest before waking and working! I am thankful for the hope of healing and wholeness.

I could go on, but you get the picture. My attitude of gratitude is as much a part of my healing process as the medical treatment I am receiving. If I dwell for so much as a moment on the negative & awful aspects of this trial I'd be consumed and without hope. I choose to remain positive, grateful, and full of hope!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

By God's grace,

Sandii :)