Sunday, April 1, 2012

I'll be your honey bee.

We'll today was the day Brandon has waited for the past month and a half.  What started as a notion has turned into a month of saying, "Wow God is such an awesome creator" after learning so much about the honey bee- a creature that until a month ago I had looked at with fear when they were around and had little thought of the bug otherwise.  So the past month has been filled with Brandon talking (yelling) at elderly folks whose hearing is less than prime, but they are full of wisdom and the few and far between that call themselves beekeepers.  Honestly, it will be a dying practice- if some of us don't step in and learn from these folks. 

We have spent the last 2 saturdays taking a beekeeping class, the first class began with a 30 minute preview to a sermon from the Moody Institute and the film was from the 1950's.  We learned basic anatomy, characteristics, and life stages of the honey bee...this past saturday was filled with disease, pest, etc that make it so hard for the honey bee to thrive these days and the part we had waited for...Honey :)

So here are some of the things we have learned about the honey bee that is just amazing to us, and the beekeeping bug has well...bitten. haha.

  •  The honeybee is responsible for producing one-third of the food that we consume yearly through pollination- if the honey bee goes extinct (which its populations decline annually- we will starve)
  • When a full bottle of honey is turned upside-down an air bubble will go to the top. The faster that the air bubble rises the less pure the honey and the slower the more pure. Most if not all store bought honey when checked the air bubble will almost always go to the top without delay. If it takes only a second or two then you are the purchaser of a bottle containing 80% or more corn syrup and 20% or less honey! That equates to a plastic honey bear filled with a sweet soft drink.

    • Fun food fact- An acre of Almonds trees without honeybees actively pollinating can produce 80 lbs of almonds. An acre of Almond trees that are deliberately pollinated with honeybees can produce over 3,000 lbs per acre.
Consider starting beekeeping yourself- You don't have to live in the country, or have tons of fields for  your bees to work-- and trust me I use to be scared of them, but the honey bee is really docile- the more folks there are take interest in the beekeeping, the better chance there is to keep this little dude around a little longer, and keep us fed as well. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sooey....sooey sooey sooey.

Does this sound familiar to anyone???  When I was little at a country themed church dinner, I won the hog calling contest- whether it was rigged or not, I will not say-- I mean c'mon a cute little blonde haired chick against adults- I was sure to win.  I think I won a pack of bacon maybe?? That was about my extent of dealing with pigs until college when part of my animal science concentration required a swine production class.  I have to say it was my favorite class of all my college classes- Here I learned to castrate piglets, ear notch, and unfortunately the ins and outs of commercial swine production.  Before this class I enjoyed every bite of sausage, bacon, pork chops-- after the class not so much. 

The truth and story of that pigs life isn't much to tell- if anything its a really sad story.  Piglets are born in a metal cage- with the mom only able to face one way- never to walk, never to turn around, with bars around her so she cannot lie down on her young-- it could lead to downfalls in production if she were to so happen to suffocate her young you know.  So they are on a lower lever where they can only drink her milk.  She has a watering unit and feeding unit that is programmed to turn on when she pushes the "button"  And of course for health and sanitation reasons- there is no mud to wallow in.  Nothing to root.  One of the things we had to do in lab was to cut off the piglets tail.  Out of boredom, they will start to knawl on each other.  The piglet will then be moved from the nursery to a finishing house where they will then live a few short months (like 6-8 if I remember correctly) to then simply gain weight until time to ride a transfer truck to slaughter.  Once there, they are to be unloaded into cubicals to calm their nerves- stressed out pigs tend to produce a hormone/chemical that makes meat tougher, they are then lead down a death march- if they are fortunate enough it is a gas chamber, they are in there a short amount of time and dumped out dead for then the butchering of their bodies.  Every part is used.  then shipped to a store near you.  In some slaughter plants they are electrocuted. The slaughter plant I toured moved 10,000 hogs each day...the plant a few miles down the road did 30,000 a day.  North Carolina is the 2nd leading  (or was then) producers of hogs in the US.  Since then I still eat meat from the store, but every now and then I think about all the animals that are just manufactered each day- when I get behind a turkey truck (who are grown to sizes so large they cannot walk--which doesn't everyone like a huge turkey breast at thanksgiving?) or a chicken truck- or any other truck hauling an animal. 

So here is our alternative, the past two years we have bought a pig.  My dad has a movable lot- the pigs can root, toot, and live a good life...a pigs life.  They eat scraps which they love and grain until their time has come.  Many people say- how could you eat that, something you have fed every day?  Well I don't feed them every dad does haha.  Hogs are also not the most friendly or cuddly  either it came to our home with a purpose not a pet, but I easily eat and enjoy my meal that they have provided because it was humane.
 American agriculture is producing animals and vegetables at record speed- almost on the brink of impossible.  I am not a PETA person, this isn't a protest to be vegan by any means, this is an urge to  support your local farmer if at all possible, find someone who will sell you a portion of cow, pig, or even free range chickens to then be processed.   The animals have an animals life- not a manufactured commercial life, and you can tell it in the taste. 

We have fresh sausage for sale $2.50/ pack if anyone is interested.

Also take a look at this music video that sounds this out just beautifully.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Alrighty folks, there is reformation in the Baker household.  We are going to attempt homesteading, by this we mean less and less dependent upon the supermarket, aka WALMART and more and more on items we can make for a healthier lifestyle.  We have wanted to do this for quite sometime, but I mean who has the time right?  When the women went into the workplace, men invented microwave ovens, Just add milk recipes, and Drive thru resturants.  So- we live a very crazy schedule, but we are determined to make this happen, we have begun to make baby steps in this direction. 

Baby step #1- I am making my own deoderant.  I was listening to the radio in the dentist office the other day- the room was full of women.  A fact screamed its words to me "1 out of every 8 women in the US will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime"  I looked around there room there were a ton of women, I started to count...1...2...3..then I thought it could end up being me.  What is it about our lifestyles that have us so prone to Cancer in America, my former co-worker from China said that Breast cancer is pretty much unheard of.  The products they use are primarily soy instead of dairy.  One thought that crossed my mind was deoderant- I had heard rumors that the aluminum and other ingredients in them may cause breast cancer and alzheimers.  While I doubt it is really conclusive- what if, what if I could make my own deoderant, which I know is safe, and save my money.  So I tried it and LOVE IT.  It was really easy to make, I even had a lot left over to share with my mom.  Here are the steps if you want to tell Secret, Dove, Degree, and whoever else to keep their aluminum, and you will keep your $4 a stick. 

5-6 tablespoon coconut oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup cornstarch
* you can add a few drops of essential oils, however I didn't add any to mine and honestly I haven't needed anything extra to mask an odor, I also work a really manual sweaty job, so if it works for me it should work for you.  The Aluminum was the antiperspirant, which I don't do much of so if you sweat a lot- not sure what you should do. 

mix those ingredients up....and fill them into your old deoderant container, or in a container to get it out with your fingers. 

Cost Total:  with the common use of the ingredients it calls for, you can make this deoderant for practically nothing. 

Baby Step #2:  Washing Powders
We go through a lot of washing powders.  its rather expensive, I don't coupon so its about $25/month we spend to just wash our clothes.  This is another shot in the dark that has proved to be better than Tide.  Our clothes have smelled clean and not perfumed, and it has done a really great job of washing them too! 

here's how you can join in:
1/2 cup Borax
1/2 cup washing soda
1 cup of grated soap.  The first time I used what I had on hand which was a bar of Dial (it was really "moisturizing" and grated into curly q's which worked fine, but IVORY grated nicely into a fine powder)
mix and add 2 tablespoons to each load (before you put the clothes in) 
Cost:  There is enough borax and Washing soda in the boxes to last us really its the bar of soap a week, we have a TON of dirty clothes each week (you wouldn't think right?)

Baby Steps #3
Garden and honey bees and worms.  I will let B elaborate later about the B's he is really excited about, but we are taking a beekeeping class the end of the month, with the bees coming in April.  We are getting a few garden spots ready at our house for quick meals and are planning on growing a huge one with my parents. I also want to do composting with worms, we will share my homemade worm mansion (which will eliminate scrap from going to the garbage and in my dogs  belly which causes a horrible time cleaning her lot for Brandon) and it will also produce some really good stuff that our plants will love, making more flowers, for the bees to pollinate, so we can have more fruit to can and eat.  I want to eat the fruit of my labor this summer, fall, winter, and maybe even into next spring :)  If I grow my own food- I know it has not been treated with pesticides, it has not had to travel 1000 miles across the country or even more across the world picked too early or treated with an anti ripening agent.  it will be fresh.  it will be 100% good for us.

Our interest in change has just came from a disgust in the way we are living.  I want to reduce the amount of trash we produce, but how can I when my veggies come wrapped in plastic, my bread in plastic, some are wrapped in plastic and in a box.  this is not how food was intended to be.  I am tired of cooking in the "just add milk" era, I want to make my pies and cakes and bread, mix the flour, sugar, and yeast myself and enjoy it, or try again tweaking the art of baking....not just relying on Betty Crocker. 

I wanted to share with you a few of our changes and possibly inspire others to do the same.  We are excited to create our own little homestead.