Heat Lamp or No Heat Lamp for Chickens?

The past few days have been extremely windy here so my husband wrapped tarps all around the chicken coop to keep our ladies more insulated and protected from the gusts.

With the threat of an oncoming snow storm, we also ran around town to 3 different hardware stores looking for a heat lamp to add to their coup. Lowes and Home Depot were completely sold out as every other chicken keeper in our town had the same idea. We ended up visiting a smaller hardware store and did find an available lamp for sale, however my gut instinct kept telling me not to use it.

Heat Lamps Are Not Always A Good Idea

I ended up doing some research when we got home and sure enough most chicken experts do not recommend heat lamps in the coop. It is far too dangerous of a fire hazard. It’s very hard to secure the lamp without a chicken flapping its wings and either getting itself burned or knocking the lamp down. A knocked over lamp in a wooden chicken coop with bedding is not a good combination if you don’t want the fire department to come out to your house.

So we just kept the tarps up and nixed the heat lamp idea.

This morning we woke up to snow, well more accurately, ice and very cold temperatures. We walked out to the coop to see how the girls were doing and we were pleasantly surprised to see that the inside of the run was warmer and more tolerable than the temperature outside of it. Their water basin had a very thin layer of ice that I easily broke through whereas our koi pond had a thick, solid layer of ice. Making sure your chickens have access to fresh water daily is very important as they can dehydrate very quickly. You can either replenish their water as needed throughout the day to prevent it from freezing or buy a heated water base.

From my research I also learned that most breeds are cold tolerant and do a good job at keeping themselves warm in the winter. After all, they do come with their very own winter coat made of thousands of feathers. Chickens will fluff up their many feathers to trap air. They will also huddle with each other to share body heat.

We let them out of their coop to enjoy some sunshine, but they were a little hesitant at first. Even after they finally ventured out they weren’t thrilled. I’m sure they did not enjoy the fact that the ground was frozen over and their little feet could not scratch. Chickens are also susceptible to frost bite so I am thinking they didn’t like the feel of the cold ice on their feet. We decided to leave the coop open for the day and they can come and go as they please.

Here’s a little video about the Snow Day that our chickens had today

How to Make Fermented Ginger Ale


The first time I tried homemade fermented ginger ale was when my mom made it about 2 years ago. I’ve been hooked on its subtle spicy kick ever since!

Growing up you always hear to drink ginger ale if you have an upset stomach, well I can promise you that the canned or bottled stuff on the grocery store shelf will not soothe your stomach ache. How could it when the ingredients list is as follows?

Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (preservative), Caramel Color, Natural Flavors.

Where is the actual ginger?

Ok, back to the real deal stuff…

fermented-ginger-ale-01 You can use either a ginger bug or whey to make the homemade version. I will be sharing the whey version in this post because that is what I had on hand at the time. If you want it more fizzy then using a ginger bug is the way to go.

You’ll notice that I peeled the ginger root as much as I could. You don’t have to be perfect with that, in fact, some people don’t peel it at all. Either way is fine! Just make sure to rinse off the ginger well to remove any clinging dirt.

fermented-ginger-ale-02 Next you’ll want to throw the ginger into a mini food processor to chop it into small pieces. I recommend first rough chopping the ginger so that the food processor can chop it up easily.

fermented-ginger-ale-03 Now you can just add all the ingredients (chopped ginger pieces, lime juice, whey, cane sugar, and sea salt) into a 2 quart mason jar. Fill the jar with 2 quarts filtered water, making sure to leave at least 1 inch head-space at the top. Add your lid and tighten well. Make sure to mark the jar with the date so you don’t lose track of fermenting time.

A quick note about the sugar…the sugar is not for our consumption. It is there for the lactobacillus, the good bacteria, to digest and convert it into lactic acid which in turns acts as a natural preservative.

Time to Ferment

Leave the jar on your kitchen counter for 3-5 days. The length of fermentation time will depend on how warm your kitchen is. The warmer it is, the quicker the process will go.

Check the lid of your jar daily for pressure. If you are not able to press down on the lid and hear the “clicky” sound then that is a signal that your jar needs to be burped to release the pressure. Burping is easy! Just loosen up the ring and you will hear the pressure expel. Tighten the lid back up and check on it again the next day. Make sure not to skip burping or else the jar may break.

Storing Your Fermented Ginger Ale

Once the fermentation time is up, you have 2 options. First, you can just store the entire jar of ginger ale in the fridge as is…ginger pieces and all.

Or, you can strain the ginger pieces out with a fine mesh strainer into a new mason jar and store just the liquid in the fridge. If you keep the pieces in with the liquid then the flavor will continue to develop over time and get a little more spicy.

Some people like to warm up the ginger ale once it’s finished, but I prefer mine cold straight out of the fridge. It’s really refreshing that way.

One more thing to note

I find that my ginger ale continues to ferment even when kept in the fridge. The fermenting at this cool of a temperature is very slow, but I have noticed that if I leave the jar sealed for several days that when I do open it, a good amount of newly built up pressure releases so make sure to burp the jar every so often during storage.

Check out my accompanying video to this post:

Fermented Ginger Ale Recipe


  • 1 cup ginger, peeled & finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup lime or lemon juice, fresh squeezed
  • 1/4 cup whey
  • 1/4 cup cane sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 quarts filtered water


  1. Add all ingredients, including filtered water to a large mason jar. Secure with a lid. Add date to jar.
  2. Leave on counter to ferment for 3-5 days, making sure to burp the jar as needed.
  3. Once fermentation is achieved, move ginger ale into fridge for long term storage.

This post was shared at Simple Saturdays Blog Hop.

Sarmale aka Romanian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Sarmale is the Romanian version of stuffed cabbage leaves. Traditionally it is eaten in winter for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, however my mom makes it throughout the year (lucky us!). That is not to say we don’t follow the tradition of eating it for Christmas because we totally do and always look forward to it.

My mom has many Romanian recipes that I want to learn how to make and since John and I are living with my parents for the next 3 weeks until they close on their new house, this is the perfect time for me to learn some of them. I’ve already jotted down several and plan on sharing the recipes here.

Emily and I enjoying my mom's homemade smoked bacon last Christmas.

Emily and I enjoying my mom’s homemade smoked bacon last Christmas.

We cooked sarmale this particular time as a request for my sister-in-law, Emily’s 26th birthday. She’s not Romanian but completely loves our country’s cuisine.

[Read more…]

First Signs of Fall 2014

The first signs of fall have been making their appearance this past week. We’ve been enjoying the drop in temperature and spending more time outside.

We are also loving the fact that we can open up our windows and let the breeze in.

Here is part of my view from the kitchen sink. It overlooks the flower garden and usually I can see hummingbirds and golden finch flying from flower to flower. It’s such a beautiful sight to see!

fall4 fall5
Early this week I noticed that the leaves on some of our trees are slowly starting to change. It was very subtle at first, but now the change in color is becoming more noticeable.

In the past 2 days I am noticing more and more leaves falling from the trees.

John will have his yard work cut out for him every fall for the rest of his life here. Here is a picture of my dad from several years ago. Just look at all the leaves that fall on our property! And this is just the front yard. Luckily John enjoys yard work so he isn’t scared of a few thousand leaves.

This past weekend we also started decorating the front porch for fall. Aren’t the mums beautiful? We set the yellow mums into our wedding candelabras. I just love re-purposing them! It brings back such nice memories of our wedding.

Shared at Maple Hill Hop and Down Home Blog Hop.

Planting Our Fall Garden

Although we close on our house in 2 weeks, we have been enjoying living here since Labor Day weekend. Now that we are in our house and actually have a backyard, we wanted to have a fall garden. We didn’t get to plan ahead because of the move so I started off very small. I’m using this time as a learning experience so if my efforts don’t yield much this time around then I am ok with it.

First step was to buy some transplants at the farmers market. I picked out 2 types of cabbage (hoping to make some good sauerkraut later!), romaine lettuce and beets (for beet kvass). I wanted some kale too but I didn’t like the selection so I passed on it.

Once I was back at home I finished weeding and pulled out all the plants that are no longer producing. Here is what the garden looked like before I started working in it.

While I was laboring in the soil, my husband was enjoying a beer while watching football in his new favorite room.

Lola was enjoying the nice crisp air in her favorite spot. The weather really was beautiful and made working in the garden enjoyable.

Back to the garden…the soil was loosened and ready for planting.

Here is my cabbage.

My romaine lettuce.

My beets.

About an hour later I spotted this little gal inching closer to the garden.

Soon a few of her buddies were making their way over too.


Here is John all perched up on the railing like a fellow chicken. The ladies left the garden area for a little bit, but eventually they did climb up into the garden and started scratching and pecking around so I had to chase them away.

This post was shared at Down Home Blog Hop.

We Are Buying Our Dream Home!


John and I will close on our dream house in 2 weeks! This has been a 2 year process and I cannot describe how amazing it feels to finally be able to own our forever home. Our home’s story is a bit unconventional as we just so happened to buy it from my parents.

My mom and dad bought the house in back in 2000 (I was about 15 years old at the time) and over the years they have poured their hearts and souls into making it the house that it is today.

This is the original house as purchased before they renovated and added an addition in 2008. There was no garage and not much landscaping.

Besides expanding the house, they also built a 1,400 sq foot 2 story barn. The barn is now all John’s domain and he has some pretty cool plans for it. My parents also added the pergola.

pond3 /
My dad and brother designed and dug this beautiful koi pond themselves. It sits right off of the pergola. It’s home to a couple koi fish, many gold fish, a turtle, a bullfrog and many little toads.


At one point there were numerous koi stocked in the pond, but over the years predatory birds killed most of them. How sad 🙁 but we plan on restocking the pond and will try our best to ward off any predators.

pizzaoven2 pizzaoven1

My dad and brother also built this amazing pizza oven themselves. It sits next to the barn and we have plans to build an outdoor kitchen around it.

Last Thanksgiving we even cooked the turkey in the pizza oven! It came out delicious!


The house also comes with the chicken coop my parents built! Isn’t it cute? We will most likely be keeping their chickens unless their new neighborhood allows them. Their current flock isn’t quite this big as in this picture, but I’m already researching chicken breeds in hopes of growing the flock again.


We will also be adopting our outdoor family cat Lola. She is about 14 years old and very comfortable here. We wouldn’t dream of relocating her in her old age.

wroughtiron1 wroughtiron 1

There is a lot of custom wrought iron all over the house and yard that my dad created himself…my dad is a blacksmith after all! He is so talented!

While my mom and dad were getting comfortable with the idea of downsizing over the past 2 years, they couldn’t stand the thought of completely letting go of the house forever to a stranger. They just put so much into the house over the years and to be honest, the thought of my family losing the house was painful to me too. Even John felt attached to the house and he didn’t even live in it like I did. In fact, I think John may love the house just a bit more than I do! No joke, he is obsessed with it.

ceremony2 ceremony1

We love the house so much that when we got engaged last year, the only wedding venue we considered was the house itself! We had a beautiful front yard ceremony this past June…


and a tented reception in the backyard.

Although the house is beautiful and has so many wonderful features, we do have a looooong to-do list with ways to continue improving it and truly making it our own. We are here for the long haul so we have plenty of time to get everything off our list checked off!

This post was shared at Down Home Blog Hop, From The Farm Blog Hop, Simple Saturdays, Homemade Mondays & Maple Hill Hop.

Nourishing Tradition’s Moroccan Chicken Recipe

Moroccan Chicken is by far one of the best recipes in Nourishing Traditions. It has become a staple in our house because it’s just that good! Over time I have played around with the original recipe and now make it the way I’m about to share in this post.

The original recipe calls for dry white wine, but I like to use dry Vermouth because I don’t have to worry about opening the bottle and finishing it before it goes bad. Vermouth will last forever after being opened and my husband likes to make us martinis and Manhattans so we are never without it.

You should also have a bottle of sweet Vermouth on hand for any recipe that calls for red wine. Actually, you could substitute the sweet Vermouth for the dry if necessary. I’ve cooked this Moroccan chicken recipe with both and while it does change up the flavor, it’s still delicious either way.

The original recipe calls for crushed green peppercorns, but black pepper is a fine substitute. Perhaps use a little less black pepper if it’s ground finely or else the dish may come out too peppery.

I now omit the dried apricot pieces that the original recipe calls for because the ones that I find in my area have additives. I personally didn’t think the apricots added that much more to the flavor when I did use them so don’t feel like you are missing out.

The original recipe says to bake at 375 degrees F for 2 hours. I follow the method from Plan To Eat by cooking it at 350 degrees for the first hour, then lowering the heat to 300 degrees, covering with foil and cooking it an additional hour. I find that this method prevents the chicken from getting overdone.

I like to use 1 cup of chicken stock for the reduced sauce rather than 2 as originally called for. The sauce reduces easier this way. Remember that homemade chicken stock is best! 🙂

The marinade. You have to give this a taste before you pour it over the chicken. It is so delicious and a preview of what’s to come!


Nourishing Tradition’s Moroccan Chicken Recipe


  • 1 organic chicken, cut into pieces (breasts & legs)
  • 1/4 cup naturally fermented soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup dry Vermouth
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • Lemon zest (from 2 juiced lemons)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon green peppercorns, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cups chicken stock (homemade is best)


  1. Combine soy sauce, Vermouth, honey, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, and spices together. *Zest lemons first. It's easier to zest them whole rather than after you've juiced them.
  2. Pour marinade over chicken and allow to marinate overnight or at least several hours.
  3. Remove chicken and place pieces in a glass baking dish with skin side up (DO NOT THROW OUT MARINADE!).
  4. Pat chicken dry and brush with the melted butter.
  5. Bake uncovered for 1 hour at 350 degrees F.
  6. Lower temperature to 300 degrees F and bake for 1 more hour.
  7. While chicken is on it's last hour of baking, prepare to reduce the leftover marinade into a flavorful sauce. Just pour chicken stock into a pan and bring to a boil. Add marinade and allow to reduce.
  8. Pour sauce over chicken and enjoy!

I like to pair this with Coconut Garlic Rice and a salad.

This post was shared at The Homestead Blog Hop, Down Home Blog Hop, Simple Saturdays & Mostly Homemade Mondays.

How to make a sourdough starter


Confession time……this is probably the 4th time I’ve made a sourdough starter. My first attempt was back in 2012 when I was just starting out with Real Food and surprisingly it went well! I had a nice bubbly starter and even made delicious sourdough biscuits out of it. Unfortunately, I was not a good sourdough mama and my starter died of starvation in the back of my fridge. Since then I’ve attempted to make sourdough 2 other times and was not able to recreate it. I was determined to make it work this time and it did!

What is sourdough?

Sourdough is basically an ancient fermented dough from naturally occurring yeasts and lactobacillus bacteria. Yeast and lactobacillus found in the air will eat up the sugar from the flour and create gas which will allow your bread to rise naturally. Because the flour is already partially digested by the bacteria, it will be easier for our bodies to digest the final product (like a loaf of bread, tortillas, biscuits, etc.) Sourdough also breaks down phytic acid so that we can get more nutrients out of the resulting product. [Read more…]

Cilantro Chimichurri Sauce

This sauce is quick and so flavorful! It’s perfect for steak. It combines 2 of our favorite ingredients…cilantro and garlic! It pains me when I learn that someone doesn’t have the taste buds for cilantro. Did you know that for some people cilantro can taste like soap? Ahh so sad. Anyhow, if you don’t taste soap when you eat cilantro then give this recipe a try the next time you grill up some steak!

Cilantro Chimichurri Sauce

Serving Size: 4


  • 1 bunch cilantro (thin stems are ok, but toss out the thicker ones)
  • Juice from ½ lime
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


  1. Put all ingredients except for the olive oil into a food processor and pulse until everything gets chopped up into small, even pieces.
  2. Scoop mixture into a bowl and add olive oil. Mix with a spoon. If necessary add more salt and stir.

This post was shared on Allergy-Free Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday  and The Homestead Blog Hop.

Why Organic Spices Matter


Switching to organic fruits, vegetables and meats may be a natural transition when moving toward a Real Food lifestyle, but don’t overlook your spices! Sure, spices tend to be a small part of the final meals we consume, but that doesn’t mean they can’t effect our health. Besides the obvious problem of pesticides,  did you know that conventional, non-organic spices may be irradiated?

Approved in 1963, irradiation is a process that exposes spices (as well as some fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, flour, and juices)  to radiation through gamma rays, electron beams and X-rays .

Manufacturers benefit from irradiation because it kills bacteria and pests, which results in goods lasting longer on the shelf. At first that may sound like a good thing. However, all the bacteria is killed, both good and bad. Vitamin, mineral and enzyme content can also be reduced by this process. If you’ve read Nourishing Traditions or Nutrition & Physical Degeneration then you already know the detrimental effects that denaturing our food has on our health. Irradiation can also prevent spoiled food from giving off tell-tale signs of spoilage like an off scent since the bad bacteria is killed. This means you may be consuming food past it’s prime. Manufacturers need to ensure that our foods are handled safely and in sanitary conditions during the entire production process, not fall back on irradiation as a means to fix contaminated food at the end.

Now, the FDA does regulate irradiated foods by requiring them to be labeled with the International Radura logo (click here to see it).  However, food products that contain irradiated spices or other ingredients do not have to be labeled. So for example, if you buy a jar of spaghetti sauce, the basil or tomatoes may have been irradiated but the manufacturer does not have to disclose this.

By law, organic foods including spices, cannot be irradiated so if you are looking to avoid radiation in your food then always choose organic when possible.


One of our spice racks. Most of our spices are organic now, but we still have a few to replace.

Don’t feel like you need to replace all your spices ASAP in favor of all organic ones. Just take baby steps! First, go through all your conventional spices and toss out anything that is expired and replace the ones you use most right off. Then make it a goal to replace 1 conventional spice for an organic one each time you grocery shop, or even just 1 a month if the budget is too tight. Take baby steps and before you know it, you’ll have a completely organic set of spices, free of radiation (and pesticides).

Most of our spices are now organic, but we still have some conventional ones that we’ve been working through, however I am going to follow my own suggestion and start replacing one old spice on each grocery trip. I do a weekly run so that should be 4 spices a month for us.


My grocery list chalkboard. I will be replacing our conventional paprika with an organic version on my next grocery trip.

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