Our 1.5 Minutes of Fame: My Healthy Green Family on TV!

I enjoy every opportunity I am given to share my lifestyle and the things I have learned, with others. If I can encourage anyone to live a more sustainable lifestyle, I do it. This is also why I have a blog in the first place. A few months ago I was contacted by a reporter from The Weather Network asking if my family would like to be interviewed and filmed demonstrating our “green lifestyle” on television. I thought it would be a good opportunity to share with others so I accepted.

For weeks beforehand we worked exhaustively preparing our place to have a television face. The barn was painted, the chicken coop was painted, the bucks’ barn was stained, the fence was built and stained, the deck was stained, the gardens were weeded, the yard was tidied, the body products and cleaning products were made ahead of time, and the homemade ice cream was ready to treat our TV crew. They were here for 2.5 hours filming and talking, and all of that was condensed to 1 minute and 32 seconds. Phew! Talk about a great way to make sure the property was on its best behavior!

I talked about what kick-started our homesteading movement, I explained how to make wise food choices, I  demonstrated how to make some of my cleaning products, I displayed my homemade body products, I milked a goat, the children collected eggs, we played with baby goats, my husband opened up a hive, we sampled a honeycomb… And The Weather Network picked out what they wanted, cut the rest and produced a concise, short version of our family.  You can’t even see the newly painted barn.  ;)  I don’t think I could handle a Hollywood life.

Since I spent so much time preparing, I thought I’d share with you a link to our 1.5 minutes of fame. So, take a moment, sit back, relax, and enjoy a very short version of our lifestyle! And think of me, not used to a camera in my face, answering questions I hadn’t practiced ahead of time, and trying so hard not to say “um!”  I watched it 5 times afterward before I could even focus on what I was saying. I am pleased to say that, despite my hair poking up like devil’s horns, they picked out 2 of my most important points and shared them with a television audience across the province and online.  The points being: in order to provide your children with a more sustainable future you need to live it yourself, and the value of knowing the difference between your wants and your needs.  Enjoy our “crazy” life!

Click here for the link!

Top Posts of 2012: DIY Tutorials Rule The Roost!

After reviewing the most viewed, shared and commented on posts from My Healthy Green Family, it is clear that do-it-yourself tutorials and recipes rule the roost!   Here they are, in order.

#1. Washing My Hair With Baking Soda

#2. Homemade All Natural Deodorant with Men and Women’s Fragrances

#3. Homemade Borax-Free Laundry Detergent with Price and Product Comparisons

#4. Homemade Borax-Free Dishwasher Detergent

#5. 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread That Rises Like White!

#6. Plastic Wrap Alternative: DIY Beeswax Cotton Wraps

#7. Homemade Citrus Vinegar Cleaner

#8. To Can or Not To Can? BPA Is the Question

#9. Whipped Body Butter with 2 Simple Ingredients

#10. DIY Faux Paper Towels: Upcycled, Eco-friendly and Cheap!

For more eco-friendly and economical tutorials check out My Healthy Green Family’s DIY Recipes page.

Thanks for all your encouragement, ideas and support over the year!  Watch for more tutorials coming soon.  See you in 2013!

 

I KISSed my son’s birthday party. Eco-friendly and sustainable.

In grade nine I learned a saying that was supposed to help me keep my writing simple and straight forward.  KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.  It sounds kind of rude but it has a point.  Writers can easily get carried away, write too much, say too much and lose the reader in the process.  But let’s go beyond writers.  After attending a million birthday parties for young children (that’s what happens when you have 3 kids) and seeing chaos rule in some situations, I am now using this mantra for the parties I throw.  Besides, it is kind of stupid to let a birthday party ruin your finances, the environment, and your peace of mind. 

I am guilty of not KISSing during past birthday parties.  My kids’ birthdays are all within 3 weeks of each other and in the past I have thrown one huge party to cover all the birthdays at the same time.  It worked, but it couldn’t possibly be held at home (30 kids is a bit much for our house) and since the birthdays are in the winter we have to rent a facility to host the party.  Money.  Planning.  Keeping things under control.  Food for 30 kids.  Phew!  It wasn’t keeping it simple.  I was stupid.

This year we decided to throw separate parties, and the first one up was my nine year old son’s.  So today we threw him a party at home.  He invited 7 of his good buddies.  The rain held off and the party was a sucess.  I Kept It Simple.  Not Stupid.  Here’s how.

Invitations
The invitations were made online at evite.com.  It was free, required no unnecessary paper, was immediately delivered, and parents responded promptly.  I wouldn’t do it any other way from now on!

Planning
Keeping 8 nine year old boys entertained can be a challenge.  The birthday was in the winter, and we don’t have a TV.  With a little planning, it isn’t a problem.  My teacher-background helped me out here… keep the kids moving from activity to activity and nothing gets wrecked.  What do 9 year old boys like to do?  Well, my guy likes to play sports, create things, and eat.  So we planned to play hockey, do a scavenger hunt, build bird houses, and eat.  In the invitation I requested rain gear, old clothing, and a hockey stick.  They all brought them.  I made the cake and ice cream ahead of time, chopped carrots and apples during the party, and fed those hungry, growing boys. 

And don’t forget to plan an appropriate time!  KISS!  A party from 2-4 pm on a Saturday does not require a meal.  Cake and snacks are great!  Cheaper and easier. 

Activities
My son was outside playing hockey when the boys arrived.  They joined in, one at a time, until a great game was going on and the boys were fully entertained.  Before they started losing interest we moved on to the scavenger hunt where they had to run across our small acreage to find things from old leaves to a container of sand, pond water, and charcoal from an outside fire.  This took them about 15 minutes.  Once completed they moved into our garage which Muscle In The Arm (aka my husband) had turned into a temporary workshop.  They made chickadee bird houses.  Muscle In The Arm pre- drilled holes and partially cut the wood so the boys could still do some sawing and hammering but not be overwhelmed.  8 kids is manageable for such a project.  They stained them with a water-based, low-fume stain and those done early went back to hockey.  By the time this was done there was just enough time left to eat.

Food
In the past I have been guilty of staying up until the wee hours of the morning making gorgeous fondant cakes covered in colorful fairies, flowers, or hockey logos.  They were fun to make: much like playing with playdough.  This last year, though, I couldn’t make another fondant cake without a guilty conscience.  The amount of nasty food coloring that went into the fondant was frightening, and the ingredients of the marshmallows used to make the fondant was horrifying.  I vowed I would never make another fondant cake again.  Chocolate, however, is all natural, and Chocolate Sun Drops are equally all natural and delicious.  The cake was a child’s delight: homemade cake covered in chocolate icing and decorated with chocolate sun drops.  The ice cream was homemade and preservative/additive/coloring-free.  Sugar? Yes. Organic cane sugar.   Artificial anything?  No! 

Along with cake and ice cream I served organic apple slices and carrot sticks, and “almost” healthy chips that were also all natural.  No juice, just water.  The kids didn’t notice in the slightest that there was no juice.   Juice adds extra, unnecessary sugar to an already sugar-loaded party.  The kids gobbled up the food and for once I didn’t cringe at the thought of what they were eating at a party.  No hotdogs.  No pop.  No preservatives.  No artificial color.  No GMOs.  All organic and all natural. 

Gifts.
KISS.  We didn’t have any.  That was easy!  No made-in-China, fall-apart-the-first-day, or duplicate toys.  No wasted wrapping paper.  No difficulty deciding what to buy the birthday boy. No bored kids watching the birthday child open half a million gifts he doesn’t need.   In the invitation I said “ABSOLUTELY NO GIFTS!  My son is saving to buy a pig (his choice) for a needy family through World Vision, and if you would like to make a SMALL donation you are welcome to”.  And they did.  We raised $70 which allowed my son to “buy” the pig, and then “buy” soccer balls for less privilaged children in other countries.  My son had the fun of deciding where the money would go, and felt no pain about not getting gifts.  He learned something about giving to others instead of receiving.  He received gifts from family members which provided him with more than enough new toys. 

Goody bags.
KISS.  They took home their birdhouses, and I made “monster-sized” oatmeal chocolate sun drop cookies to take home in a paper bag.  No cheap candy, no junky toys.  Which also meant no fighting when the kids went home and met up with their siblings who didn’t attend the party.  I made extra cookies to send home for the siblings. 

Decorations
Most of the party was held outside.  In the house, I set the table minimally with stainless steel plates, cutlery and cups, and orange cloth napkins.  The cake graced the table and the fruit and vegetables added extra color.  No one noticed there were no toxic balloons, no unsustainable paper streamers or paper plates, napkins, cups or plastic cutlery.  All eyes were on the all natural smartie-like chocolate sun drops on the cake.

All in all, the party was a smashing success in the kids’ eyes as well as in my eyes, which says a lot.  There was literally nothing to throw away.  Food scrap went to the chickens.  The plates, cups and cutlery were washed and put away.  No wrapping paper or packaging to toss.  The kids had an acceptable (in my opinion) sugar intake for a birthday party but did not get unnecessary sugar (extra candy, or pop) and ate all natural, non-GMO, organic food.  The most expensive part of the party was the wood for the birdhouses, which ended up costing us less than $5 per house.  But this wasn’t much in comparison to renting a gym, buying goody bags, plates, cutlery, cups, decorations, and a main course.  It was, in fact, Simple.  I KISSed the birthday party.  Now, repeat for the next 2 kids!

I would love to hear some of your simple birthday party ideas.  Please let me know what you do to keep your parties simple!

This post has been shared with Frugal Days Sustainable Ways #19 and Homestead Barn Hop #55.

Surprise! Monsanto et al. Likely Own Your Seed Companies.

Where do you buy your seeds or seedlings from?  I was not aware until very recently that much of our garden seeds are now produced by companies owned by large pharmaceutical/chemical companies such as Monsanto, Dow and Bayer etc. These aren’t seeds that are genetically modified.  These are the plain old garden seeds you see in many grocery stores and nurseries.   What in the world are bio-tech companies doing buying up seed companies?  One can only speculate.  Control is a big word.  What they own they can potentially genetically modify?  Or, what they own they can eliminate, thereby supplying their own GMO seeds to the farmers who can no longer buy the seeds they used to use?

This chart shows us what seed companies are owned by which of the Big Six companies, the largest being Monsanto.  These seeds are NOT genetically modified.  But the patented seed (for example  Big Beef tomato seeds or plants) come from companies owned by these giants.

An article called Forewarned is Forearmed: Veggies owned by Monsanto by A Garden For The House provides a list of seeds and seedlings that are owned by Monsanto.  Take a look: you will be amazed at the plant names you recognise.  You can also assured that the majority of big box stores will be buying their seeds from these guys.

What can you do?  There are still some smaller seed companies around that are not owned by the Big Six.

Ask you seed supplier.  Do they buy from any of these seed companies?  Look for small, local seed companies who collect and sell their own seed.  I am buying from Salt Spring Seeds.  They grow and collect their own seeds.  Unfortunately they can’t ship to the USA because of customs regulations.  They do ship internationally.   Here is a link to a list of companies that do not buy seeds from any of these companies.  I didn’t make the list so I can’t verify it but it looks like a good place to start.

Look for local seed exchanges.  Don’t buy your seeds at all!  Trade them with other gardeners in your area.  Here is an article with a lot of links to seed exchanges.

Start collecting your own seeds.  Cheapest, safest way, hands down.

Where do YOU buy your seeds?  Can you recommend any seed companies that grow and collect their own seeds or buy only from companies that have no ties to bio tech companies?

This post has been linked up to Natural Parenting Group Blog Hop, Patchwork Living Blog Hop,  Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #16, Our Simple Farm link up, Living Well Blog Hop 31, Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesday and  Hometead Barn Hop #51.

Have You Lost Your Chemical-Conditioning? Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies.

This past year has been a real learning experience for me.  I thought I was eco-friendly before, buying all-natural cleaning supplies, natural shampoos and deodorants… and now, a year later, here I MAKING my own products.  So if I was green then, what am I now?  Good question.  I’d like to say sustainable.

For most of my life, if I ran out of dishwasher detergent, laundry soap, bathroom cleaner, deodorant, shampoo etc., life would go on hold until I ran to the store to buy some more.  It never crossed my mind that I should make it myself.  In fact, because of the chemicals used in most of these products, there is no way I COULD make them myself.  It wasn’t until I became aware of the dangers in those chemical-based products and started using all natural products, that I realised that these ingredients are actually ones I could get my hands on, and I could make myself. 

Talk about enlightening!  Talk about liberating!  Talk about sustainable!  I don’t actually HAVE to run to the store as soon as I run out of something.  I can actually make it myself, and chances are, I will even have the ingredients in my own kitchen or laundry room already!  The clouds have cleared.  I see the light. 

I have been cleaning for some time now with baking soda and vinegar-water.  They work perfectly.  They don’t kill every last bit of bacteria in the house but I am OK with that.  Bacteria isn’t always a bad thing.  But it did take me a while to let go of my 7th Generation cleaners and head to my cupboard for the baking soda.  Chemical conditioning, I call it. 

For a few months now I have been washing my hair with baking soda-water and rinsing with apple cider vinegar-water.  Fantastic results.  Chemical-free, cheap, safe and available.  I had read about doing it for literally YEARS but I couldn’t put down the shampoo bottle.  Because I was chemically-conditioned to  that chemicals work better.  But they don’t.  My hair is shinier, healthier, and much less dry than it has ever been in my entire life. 

Today I ran out of dishwasher detergent.  Today I looked up how to make my own.  Today I realised that I can easily make my own from ingredients I already have.  Salt.  Baking Soda.  Borax.  Vinegar. 

Next I ran out of laundry detergent.  I looked that up too and have discovered how to make my own.  I did pick up a few ingredients for this one… washing soda (cheap!!!) and pure glycerin soap (also cheap!).   And tomorrow, when I wake up, I am making my own laundry detergent. 

Up next will be deodorant.  I fell in love with an all-natural, baking soda-based locally-made deodorant that I picked up at a farmer’s market last summer.  It worked so well I bought some for my husband.  We put it to the test on hot summer days.  It worked perfectly for both of us.  No aluminium. No preservatives.  No color, or chemicals.  I could keep supporting the local supplier, but once I read the ingredients, I thought “I could make this!”  The ingredients are great and I already have them in my cupboards.  I can MAKE my own deodorant!

I feel as though a whole new world has been opened up before me.  What an opportunity!  I don’t need the chemicals.  I don’t need the preservatives.  I don’t need the beauty isle at the store.  I can make my own from basic ingredients that most stores carry.  And I can feel good about using the products because I can actually pronounce the ingredients.  My family is safe from unknown, harmful chemicals.  No longer do I have to buy the all natural but expensive supplies.  I can make my own.  Have you lost your chemical-conditioning yet?  Come try it with me!

This post has been linked to Common Sense Homesteading’s Living Well #27Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #13Homesteading Trading Post Link Up and The Prairie Homestead’s Homestead Barnhop #48.

Ban the Doll Bottles: Today I Taught My Daughters To Nurse.

While baking with my youngest daughter (almost 3) the other day, I made a startling discovery.  We were mixing milk powder into the batter and she said “that’s what you used to put in my bottle when I was a baby, right?”  My jaw dropped.  She was never formula-fed. Where did she get this idea from?

I breastfed all my babies, and when I nursed my youngest, my middle child nursed her doll too.  I loved it.  But that was then, and now that all my babies are weaned and growing up, I discovered that my two daughters no longer remember how they were fed.  Most of their dolls come with baby bottles, and while I am not condemning bottle feeding, I discovered that my daughters now thought that babies were fed by bottles, not breasts.  After thinking about it for a little while I realized I don’t have any close friends who breastfeed anymore so they haven’t seen it since I nursed them years ago.

I love these MamAmor Dolls that nurse their babies.

I gathered my daughters close in my chair with me, reached for the computer and showed them pictures of breastfeeding women.  I pointed, explained, pointed to myself and to them.  I talked about our goat and baby goats.  They got it.  Now I see them happily breastfeeding their dolls again.  Could those plastic dolls that come with plastic doll bottles affect the way girls mother later in life?  Who knows?  Maybe banning the doll bottles will give girls the understanding they need to, once they are mothers, nurse their babies.

This post has been linked to Authentic Parenting: Sunday Surf, I Thought I Knew Mama: Green and Natural Link Up and Natural Parenting Group Monday Blog Hop.

A Birthday Party Revolution: How to simplify and make a difference.

I have three children, each with their very own birthday, their very own group of friends, and their friends’ very own birthday parties.  Most have been normal, standard parties.  Some have been a little large, or the food and goodie bags a little junky, or the location a little pricey.  But really, nothing unacceptable.  Until now. 

My 4 year old daughter has been invited to her preschool friend’s birthday party.  The party is at a place called My Gym which is a prestigious gymnasium for children.  They host birthday parties, and with a little researching I discovered that My Gym offers parties for $300.  The package includes invitations, a table cloth, napkins, paper plates and a special gift just for the birthday child!  Alright, not something I would choose for my children, but nonetheless, sounds like a place my daughter will have fun at. 

I spoke with the mother and she told me that there will be 32 children, and that there unfortunately won’t be room for any other children (ie. my own) so I will either have to find someone to care for my other children during the party while I attend with my 4 year old, or I will have to drop her off.  Since I don’t know the mother any better than most of the preschool parents, I am not just abandoning my 4 year old at the gym for 2.5 hours.  Fortunately for me, a good friend (and co-blogger Healthy Green Mama) will also be attending with her son and is willing to watch my daughter for me at the party.

Those are the facts.  We haven’t actually attended the party yet. 

What has happened to make massive, expensive birthday parties the norm?  What kind of example are we setting for our children?  That we have to spend $300+ on a birthday party every year (for each child) in order to have fun?

That’s 32 children.  That means 32 gifts.  If each child brings a gift valued around $20 then that is over $600 in gifts!  Brought by children who hardly know the birthday girl, and will choose some well-intentioned but inappropriate, or poorly-made, made-in-China toy.  How long is the birthday girl going to play with one of those toys let alone 32 of them!  Does she really need 32 new toys for her birthday, plus everything else her family showers on her?   Of course not. 

Those 32 children come from her preschool and various other activities she is involved in.  A standard is being set (or followed, more likely) to include every child the birthday girl knows, more than likely so no one feels left out.  That means parents have to buy an unnecessary gift for a the birthday girl who hardly knows their child.  In a word, it is WASTE.

The parents have to buy 32 goodie bags generally full of candy and cheap toys that will break before they even get home.  Fake tattoos made from toxic ink.  Cheap toys made in China from an unknown plastic.  Candy from the Dollar Store that likely originated in China.  Just what you want your child to take home. 

The food typical of these birthday parties are pizza or hot dogs, chips, pop and cake.  I don’t feed my children these things and I shudder when they eat them at birthday parties.  Lets think about saturated and trans fats, too much salt, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), sugar, genetically modified organisms (GMO) chemical preservatives, nitrates and nitrites, artificial color and flavour.  Lets then fill our children with them at birthday parties. 
The carbon footprint left behind the typical birthday party is huge.  Paper or plastic plates, cups, cutlery, tablecloth, decorations.  Roll them all up in the table cloth and throw them away.  They end up in the landfill for the rest of your life and many lives to come.  Balloons are chemically-produced and don’t biodegrade.  Those made-in-China toys have a horrendous carbon footprint when you consider the packaging, the distance travelled from the manufacturer, the environmental pollution during production and the plastic and paint on the toy itself. 
I am not blaming the mom for any of this.  I am blaming a wasteful, consumer-driven society where we have to keep up with (or one up) the Joneses.  It turns into an unnecessary spend-fest that gets worse every year.  And the children come to expect it, year after year, and then they give their children the same kind of parties.  It’s a vicious circle that needs to be stopped. 
How can we stop it?   Society expects big, disposable parties.  They are the norm.  But they don’t have to be.  Here are some ways to drastically decrease your carbon footprint, cut your waste, and save money while still throwing a party and still having as much (or more) fun.
Have a party at home or at a park.  It will be more work but you will save money.  If you need to rent a space, look for a local community gymnasium where all children can participate, including siblings. 
Invite only close friends, or if that is an issue, only invite one child.  There are lots of fun things to do with one child, from ice skating and swimming to a play or a movie.  If you are having it at a larger location, you can easily invite more children.  But keep the following things in mind.

State ”ABSOLUTELY NO GIFTS” on the invitations.  Have a donation party where “SMALL DONATIONS” will be accepted towards a charity.  In the past, we have bought goats and chickens for needy families in Africa through World Vision, we have donated to the SPCA (animal shelter), and we have purchase charity stuffed animals through World Wildlife Foundation.  The parents seem to appreciate the simplicity of it, the money spent is less, but when combined it provides a decent donation.  Children learn how to give in order to help others.

Provide healthy food at the party.  Not only will the parents thank you, but you won’t have out-of-control children hopped up on red food coloring or high fructose corn syrup.  Some examples are sandwiches, fruit and vegetable trays, crackers and cheese, real fruit juice or water (what’s wrong with water?) and a homemade birthday cake with natural food coloring. 

Don’t give goodie bags at all, or choose things that the children can do something with when they get home.  One year we gave away tree seedlings.  Another year we gave away bird seed feeders.  One year Healthy Green Mama gave away sunflower seedlings, which turned into giant gorgeous yellow balls of sunshine later that year.  She also gave away homemade cookie mix in a jar.  I’ve been to a party where the only thing my son brought back was a giant chocolate chip cookie.  There are lots of ideas online.

    Tree in a box from Green Planet Parties

Use reusable tableware.  Borrow, borrow, borrow!  Check with your friends for cloth napkins, plastic or stainless steel plates, cups and trays.  Use a real fabric tablecloth!  They do exist!  It creates a little extra work to wash them but we have even done it when away from home.  We just collect the tableware in a box and stick it all in the dishwasher when we get home.  Make homemade invitations or use online invitation sites like evite

When buying a gift for someone, consider what they will actually use.  If you don’t know them very well, try a gift certificate to a book store, or a restaurant.  Buy them things they can use up like crayons and paper.  Find green gifts like stainless steel water bottles.  Make homemade gifts.  Or head online to stores like Green Planet Parties or Green Gifts Guide to choose environmentally-friendly, charitable, or locally-made gifts. 

It doesn’t have to be fancy.  It doesn’t have to be expensive.  It doesn’t have to be hard.  But we CAN make a difference.  We can change the way society throws birthday parties because we ARE society.  Little by little, we can make a difference.  The next time your child is invited to a birthday party think a little harder, and a little greener about what you are going to give.  Make a statement at your child’s birthday party  You might be surprised at who follows your lead.  When you are planning a party, focus on fun, health, the environment and frugality instead of the Joneses.  In the long run a fun birthday party, in a child’s mind, is not about how much money you spent but how much time you spent making it a good one, with your child.





Cloth decorations from Green Planet Parties
Wooden Loom from Green Planet Parties
Eco dolls from Green Planet Parties

This post has been linked to Living Well Blog Hop #23, Homestead Barn Hop, I Thought I Knew Mama’s Green and Natural Mama Thursdays and Frugally Sustainable’s Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways

In Defence of My Goats: 7 Reasons to Keep Them.

I recently read a blog post that I really disliked.  It was called Top 7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Own a Goat.  You can read it if you like.  I think the writer was discouraging potential, stupid urban farmers (as opposed to ones who research a bit) from having goats.  I can’t say that goats would be ideal in a city backyard, but I know lots of people do make it work, and it depends on many factors including lot size, neighbours, bylaws and so on. So, if you are contemplating urban farming and still want to maintain an urban lifestyle (travelling, perfect back yard etc) then no, goats aren’t for you.  But I think most urban farmers have a little more common sense than that.  Just as you don’t buy a puppy if you don’t intend to take care of it, you don’t buy goats if you aren’t prepared to farm.  The author says ”So if you’re on the fence about them, I’m going to tell you why you should get off the fence.” Or maybe she means the bandwagon.  In any case, I took exception to the article and feel the need to tell you the top 7 reasons you SHOULD own a goat, urban or otherwise. If you are on the fence you need the facts from both sides of the story and then make a decision based on your situation.  No one in their right mind would ever own a goat based on her post.    Notice, I am not just stating the facts, I am counteracting some of the blogger’s complaints at the same time.

1.  Goats are good natured.  They are sweet, friendly and curious.  They love to be loved, they talk to you when you talk to them (and even if you don’t), and they follow you around to see what you are up to. They are not incessant talkers, and I haven’t noticed a ridiculous difference in the does’ talking when they are in heat. 
Lulu and my 2 year old daughter.

2.  Goats are easy keepers.  But they are farm animals, not house animals.   Let’s not compare them to dogs, please!  They don’t serve the same purpose.    Goats eat rough hay, weedy hay.  If it has enough protein content in it, the goat doesn’t need a whole lot else.  You do need to make sure the goat is getting enough and not too much minerals but it isn’t rocket science.   Related more to a deer than a cow, goats eat tree leaves, branches, weeds, brush, and they LOVE our invasive Himalayan blackberries.  They eat the leaves, the stem, the flowers, the berries… everything!  Even the nasty thorns.  That’s a good enough reason, in our area, to keep goats.  They require worming and vaccinating (if you are into that).  They have to have their feet trimmed every month or so.  But they produce MILK, people!  Fresh, tasty, rich, creamy, raw milk.  Dogs don’t produce milk.  So let’s compare them to another producing animal, like a cow. 

Goats love blackberry bushes!

3.  Goats can thrive on rocky, steep, rough terrain, where cows can’t.  They can live on smaller properties because they are smaller animals.  They are foragers and are cheaper to feed.  They live nicely in our yard where cows would create muck holes during the long, wet winters. 

4.  Goats produce milk!  The milk is GOOD!  Unpasteurized, fresh milk taken immediately to be filtered and refrigerated is very mild flavoured.  Most people can’t tell the difference between fresh, unpasteurised goats milk and cows milk.  Goats milk is high in cream.  It is easier to digest than cow’s milk.  And smaller property owners can have fresh milk!  Nigerian dwarf goats, as high as your knee, can produce up to 1 litre of milk a day!  Think, goats milk, cheese, yogurt, soap and so on.  All potentially produced on your own property. 

Good, good, unpasteurized goat milk.

5.  Goats are clean animals.  They don’t wallow in their feces.  They won’t drink dirty water.  They won’t sleep in dirty bedding.  They won’t eat dirty hay.  They are clean; their milk is clean.

6.  Goats are small animals and are easy to move around compared to the alternative dairy producer, a cow.  Our Nigerians, in particular, are only up to my knee.   My 2 year old plays happily with our does.  In fact, they love her!  She hugs them, leads them around on a leash, pets them and brushes them. 
Jesse, a young wether, is smaller than the rooster in this picture.
7.  Goats are smart animals.    Their curiosity will encourage them to check out their boundaries and see what their escape routes are.  But if you have a good fence system they won’t escape.  They know when it’s time to be milked, and they know when you are just walking through the yard.  They will taste-test anything, but I haven’t actually known any goats to eat anything they shouldn’t.  At least, I haven’t given them the opportunity to yet. 
Goats are social animals.  Never have just one or they will pine.

Alright.  I could go on.  I won’t.  Goats have their place, as do dogs, cows, chickens, horses, pigs, and so on.  If goats aren’t the right animal for you, don’t raise them.  Don’t pick them apart though.  Naturally, there are exceptions to all animals, and animals in season will act differently than animals not in season.  Common sense will tell you how to deal appropriately with the animals. If you don’t have common sense then use the internet.  And compare apples to apples please!  I love my dog and she is absolutely NOT comparable to my goats.  Or my chickens.  She is a companion animal not a food producer.  And if you can’t handle the smell of a buck then don’t get one!!!

Goats are part of our family :)

This post has been linked to Common Sense Homesteading’s Living Well Blog Hop #22.

Giving The Gift Of Life.

Welcome to the December Mindful Mama Carnival: Staying Mindful During the Holiday Season
This post was written for inclusion in the Mindful Mama Carnival hosted by Becoming Crunchy and TouchstoneZ. This month our participants
have shared how they stay mindful during the holiday season. Please read to
the end to find a list of links to the other carnival
participants.

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Give the gift of life this Christmas.

I grew up in a small town where Christmas shopping was limited and since my mom didn’t drive and my dad worked at camp all week, visits to the nearest city 45 minutes away were few and far between.  We shopped from a Sears catalogue regularly and my three sisters and I all fought over the lastest edition of the Christmas Wishbook.  We would spend hours pouring over the pictures of toys, clothes, sleds, skates and more.  Everything looked so wonderful and exciting.  We would pick out, with stars in our eyes, a new toy or clothing item for Christmas.  I still remember the surreal feeling of opening a new toy, and even the smell of the new packaging.  I am sure my mom loved these catalogues because they guaranteed her hours of uninterrupted quiet time while we lost ourselves in the dreamworld of Christmas.

My children also love toy catalogues.  We get a few in the mail and the children love to look at the wonderful toys and images of children playing with new and exciting things.  One catalogue we get, though, is different.  Instead of advertising toys to buy, it advertises gifts we could give to children or families less fortunate than ours. World Vision offers gifts of life. A well for an African community.  Four chickens to keep a family with food.  An alpaca for an Andean family to make clothing and blankets.  Fruit trees to help a family start an orchard.  A bee hive to start a family business.  A wood-conserving stove to protect children from the dangers of open fire cooking.  You can even help impoverished families in your own country through World Vision.



Let’s teach our children to help others and think outside the (well-wrapped) box.

This catalogue not only inspires the gift of giving in us, but it provides a unique opportunity to teach our children about helping others and thinking outside the (well-wrapped) box.  We can create happiness within ourselves by helping create happiness in others.   Watching my children pouring over this catalogue is a beautiful sight.  Together, we can choose a gift that will change a family’s life.  We can set aside our own wants for a while and focus on the needs of others. 

This Christmas, take a moment to think of things we can do for others less fortunate than ourselves.  From the local food bank or animal shelter to the wide arms of charities like World Vision or World Wildlife Fund, there are many charities needing help right now.  Our children already know how to receive.  Let’s teach them how to give.  Follow us on Facebook to receive regular charity suggestions during the days before Christmas this year. 

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Mindful Mama Carnival -- Becoming Crunchy and TouchstoneZ Visit The Mindful Mama Homepage to find out how you can participate in the next Mindful Mama Carnival!
On Carnival day, please follow along on Twitter using the handy #MindMaCar hashtag. You can also subscribe to the Mindful Mama Twitter List and Mindful Mama Participant Feed.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Is Wholesome Home Cooking A Dying Art?

First off, if you are a mom of a baby under one, don’t read this.  It isn’t meant for you.  This is the one time in your life that all you should be doing is whatever it takes to survive the first year.  Come back to this article when your youngest is over a year old!

I read an article the other day called “Home Cooking a Dying Art”.  A study polled 16500 women and found that over half of them found putting together a nutritious, balanced meal a challenge.  Hundreds said their children wouldn’t eat healthy food, and many said they were concerned that their children weren’t getting enough exercise.  This article intrigued me.  Why is it hard for women to make healthy meals?  Sure, time plays a huge role.  But this isn’t just about time.  There’s something more here.

The article went on to say that these mothers haven’t been taught how to cook.  This intrigued me even further.  I was raised by a mother who made all her meals from scratch.  I spent much of my childhood watching my mother bake bread, grow fruit and vegetables, and preserve them.  I didn’t necessarily learn how to cook, but it was always going on around me, and so when I left home, married and began to raise a family, I naturally turned to these activities as a normal part of mothering.  Even though my mother lives hours away from me, I still phone her to ask her what the ratio of sugar to water is when canning peaches, for my grandmother’s wonderful chocolate cake recipe, or what vegetables to start first in the greenhouse.  I didn’t really have to learn how to do it: it was already ingrained in me.  So to read about women not knowing HOW to make good meals from scratch was a bit startling to me.
I spent a fair bit of time watching my mother hen take care of her chicks.  She literally taught them EVERYTHING.  Everything she did, was done for her chicks.  She protected them from the other hens.  She kept them warm.  She taught them how to eat, scratch, find water, and preen.  She taught them what to do when danger was present.  She taught them how to roost.  Everything a chicken does, she taught them, and she did it 24 hours of the day.  I was so impressed and touched by her care, even though she was doing only what instinct taught her to do. 
After reading this article I was broadsided by the realization that it is up to me to pass on my knowledge that I gleaned from my mother to my children.  If I expect the next generation to be able to cook whole, healthy meals for their families, then it is up to me to teach them by example and experience. 
There is one other thing that I can do, too.  I can help other women who have not had my life experience, learn how to cook healthy food for their families.  What could be more fun than teaching a friend how to preserve peaches?  Bake bread?  Plant a garden?  These chores that sometimes seem tedious would suddenly come to life if I could have a friend doing it with me. 
No, we don’t have to perserve food right now, or cook nutritious meals from scratch.  Our culture has developed into such a one that we can buy anything we like.  But that isn’t necessarily a good thing.  With a poor economy we can save money using the skills our ancestors required to survive.  We can protect the health of ourselves, our family and future generations by learning and passing on these skills.  And if you have ever made a batch of jam or homemade bread, you will know there is nothing much more satisfying than to know that you made something delicious and healthy, while saving money. 

Maybe, whole food cooking is becoming a dying art.  But it doesn’t have to be.  Make it your goal to LEARN how to cook from scratch.  Take some courses.  Ask your mother, grandmother or friend.  Borrow books from the library.  Let’s relearn the dying art of cooking with whole, healthy foods.  Lets take that extra time to learn what we need to keep our families healthy. 
So next time my three children drag chairs across the kitchen to watch me make supper, maybe I shouldn’t groan inwardly and bemoan my sudden lack of ability to move or open drawers.  Maybe I should resist the urge to shoo them out of the kitchen.  Instead, I can hand them a spoon and tell them what I am doing so one day they will be able to make a meal from scratch, and provide healthy food for their families.

This post has been linked to The Prairie Homestead Barn Hop,. Frugally Sustainable: Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Hearth and Soul Blog Hop and Real Food Forager: Fat Tuesdays.

Stock photos provided by www.dreamstime.com.