How Can You Trim Your Food Bill?

We are shocked by the rise of many prices, especially food. Fortunately, we mute the cost by finding or growing groceries here at Winding Pathways. We’re lucky to own two acres, but folks living on tiny lots can produce an amazing amount of food, even if they aren’t passionate gardeners.

In a nutshell here’s what we do to tame grocery bills:

Foraging

It’s ironic that many people consider the most delicious and easy wild foods pests and spend time and money trying to eliminate them. We eat ‘em. Books and websites, including Winding Pathways, share tips on finding, identifying, harvesting, cooking, and eating wild foods. Caveat:  ALWAYS check that you have the correct plant, gather from unpolluted places, and consume only a small amount initially to be sure your body accepts the wild edible.

Here are our favorites:

  • Mid to late spring: Nettles and dandelions.

  • Late spring through summer: Lambs quarters, purslane, amaranth, and the bluegills and crappies we catch.
  • Early fall: Acorns, new lambs quarter growth, and walnuts. Watch this YouTube video for complete processing and eating the cookies!
  • Winter: Venison from the deer we harvest…..if we’re lucky.

Gardening

We’re not passionate gardeners and we don’t can or freeze vegetables, so here’s what we do:

  • Succession plant: Our small garden yields an enormous amount of food.  We don’t let a square foot be idle. When summer’s heat turns lettuce bitter, we pull it, feed it to our chickens, and plant beans or another heat-loving crop. Same with other crops that grow quickly and then fade.
  • Use vertical space: Pole beans, for example, produce much more food per square foot than bush beans, so we choose climbers and use vertical space. We have the pole high enough to reach up and pull off the beans.
  • Grow dwarfs: Some cucumber varieties, for example, are “bush” type, meaning they produce a crop without long vines that consume plenty of space.
  • Think of winter eating: Because we lack freezer space and don’t can food, we plant vegetables that need little care during the growing season and store them until late winter without being canned or frozen. Here’s our list:
    1. Winter squash. Pick them, let them curet, and store them in a cool spot. They keep for months. Same with pie pumpkins.
    2. Carrots and parsnips. In late fall we smother the plants with a thick blanket of dry leaves or straw that keeps the ground from freezing. We’ve harvested carrots in January by brushing away snow and peeling back the mulch and pulling them.
    3. Sweet potatoes. They love the South’s climate yet grow well up north.

We carefully dig them in the fall, cure them, and store them like winter squash.

Chickens

We can’t imagine living without a small chicken flock. Our six to 12 hens gift us a couple of dozen eggs a week. Their manure fertilizes the garden and garden weeds are a great hen chow. During warm months our hens forage in their large run eating bugs, worms, and weeds and transforming them into eggs. Sometimes we even stew down an old hen.

Wildlife

Lots of folks don’t like hunting.  For us harvesting a deer is a form of food gathering, not recreation.  After all, deer are free-ranging, local, and organic. Fortunately, we’re able to hunt on our property and convert a deer into delicious meat.  We also enjoy eating panfish.

Like most folks, we can’t grow or forage all our food but much comes from the yard and area. It takes knowledge and investment in elbow grease but trims the food budget.  Perhaps even better, knowing how to find and grow food makes us feel less vulnerable to national disruptions that make food either hard to get or expensive.

How Can Parents Influence Your Childhood Passions?

Keep the Photos!

An old photo or letter can bring back memories. That happened to Rich recently and helped him recognize both good parenting and a lifelong passion.

Rich was sorting through a stack of family documents when he discovered a paper his mother wrote in his “baby” book.  Written in 1959, when Rich was nine, it stated that he wanted to be a chicken farmer!  Of all things for a kid growing up in suburban New Jersey to say.

Rich became fascinated with chickens while only four or five years old. By the time his mother wrote in the book he had learned many chicken breeds. Another letter, dated May 5, 1959, was written as an exercise in his elementary school. The teacher was teaching students letter writing.  Rich’s note to his mother said:

Thank you for taking me to the chicken farm. Now I know what a black hen looks like. I now know why one costs more than a Leghorn. I’m going to cook breakfast for you.  Happy Mother’s Day. Love, Rich

A Budding Entrepreneur

A third document is an account of how many eggs his hens laid each day and a bill presented to a customer. 65 cents for a dozen in 1960. Adjusted for inflation that dozen would cost $6.50 today.

A pair of photos show 13-year-old Rich at his junior high school science fairs. One science project was titled, The Effect of Vitamin E on the Hatchability of Chicken Eggs, and the other demonstrated an incubator.

What Do These Documents Signify?

  • Great parenting. It must have seemed weird to his parents that their young child had such an unusual passion, but they helped, learned, and encouraged.
  • Chickens helped teach math, animal care, writing, business, and research methods.
  • Chickens became a lifelong passion.

Rich encourages parents to encourage their children’s passions. They might lead to lifelong hobbies and, perhaps, even a career.

Update on Careers

Rich never became a chicken farmer, per se, but he is co-owner of Winding Pathways where we encourage people to be creative in how they interact with nature and to consider backyard chicken raising. He developed another passion, fish, and earned a degree in fishery biology, and served as a biologist in Alaska.

How Do You Prepare for a Derecho?

Well, you don’t. These powerful storms develop quickly from what seems like a “normal” thunderstorm. Even the weather service can be caught off guard as happened Monday, August 10, 2020, as a series of storms developed over Nebraska and swept East rapidly.

Gustavus Hinrichs, a Danish immigrant, and professor at the University of Iowa, recognized these storms differ from hurricanes because the winds move quickly in a straight line.  Hence, derecho.

This link has satellite imagery of the formation of the derecho with Eastern Iowa being the epicenter.  Over 20 counties have qualified for disaster aid.

Winding Pathways sustained damage especially the trees. And, we are working each day in the community to help recover. In the future, create.

For now, we invite readers to support local organizations in communities damaged by natural forces like fires, storms, and droughts.

Free range chickensWe are OK. The chickens were truly “free-ranging” for ten days before we got temporary fencing back up.  They keep eating our food scraps, foraging for insects, and laying eggs so all is well.
And, we will update as we can.

 

 

Go to our posts on preparedness and we will post updates of what we learned to add to preparedness. Remembering that different emergencies require different responses and different preparedness techniques.

Be well.

 

Baby Chicks Grow Up – Part Two

Mama

Mama Hen with chicks foraging.

Now a couple of months old, the quartet of chicks is exploring farther afield. After the cold and snowy introduction to the outside world in late March, they readily follow Mama Hen outside.

Mama protects them inside from the other hens by cornering the chicks and standing literally in front of them, screening them from the others who get too close. Outside, Mama clucks and calls the chicks over for food and again, warns off the adults with a serious sounding tone and lunge toward one that may get too close to the chicks or be aggressive toward them.

 

Roost

Mama hen with four chicks on roost.

The chicks learned how to fly up onto the roost with Mama and she mightily shelters them at night. We were worried the first few nights in April when temperatures fell to 11 degrees.  But, they did OK.

 

 

 

Getting back down off the high perch is a challenge. A hilarious video shows three on the ground foraging and one walking back and forth screwing up courage for the long “flight” down.

The other day, one chick squeezed through the wire into the yard.  Mama called it back. The funny thing about chickens is they can figure out how to get out and sometimes cannot figure out how to get back in.

Enjoy our blogs, pix and videos of the chicks growing up.