Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Reasons to LOVE Eggs!

Why eat eggs?

We love our hens and ducks!  We go above and beyond to give them the absolute best care!
There are lots of great reasons to LOVE and eat eggs!

Eggs are a good source of high quality protein (6 grams/egg)

Eggs are full of 9 amino acids which are the building blocks of quality protein.  Eggs help build muscle strength and prevent muscle loss in aging adults.   

Eggs are full of nutrients

Eggs are a great natural source of Vitamin D.  A deficiency in Vitamin D is often linked to depression, psoriasis, and asthma.  Vitamin D is also important in calcium absorption which helps to form strong healthy bones.  Eggs are a great source of choline which is great for your memory!

Eggs keep you feeling full

I eat two eggs for breakfast most days.  I never have to worry about feeling hungry before lunch comes.  The protein in the egg slows the digestion of food in your stomach which keeps you feeling full.  

Eggs can help you lose weight

Because of all that high-quality protein making you feel fuller for longer, you are tempted to snack less!

Eggs are inexpensive

Compared with meat sources of protein, eggs are an inexpensive source of protein.  

Eggs are versatile

Eggs can be scrambled, poached, baked, fried in butter, hard-boiled, & soft-boiled.  They are used in savory and sweet baked dishes.  You can eat them for breakfast, lunch, supper, or a snack. 

So, remember...
~Denise (and Mark)

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Why Duck Eggs Cost More

Egg Pricing

Today's blog is meant to be used as a reference to send people that may ask, "Why do duck eggs cost more?"  I will be explaining pricing, all the options of purchasing eggs, and our loyalty program.

Let's just rip off the band-aid and put the prices out there right away:

6 pack chicken eggs = $3
6 pack duck eggs = $4

12 pack chicken eggs = $5
12 pack duck eggs = $7
12 pack half chicken and half duck eggs (half and half) = $6

18 pack chicken eggs = $7
18 pack duck eggs = $9
18 pack half and half = $8

Okay, take a minute to digest all this.  

1. We are offering multiple sizes of egg cartons:  6 cell, the traditional 12 dozen eggs, and an 18 cell.
2. We are offering a "half and half" of half chicken and half duck eggs.  Duck eggs are excellent for baking but have a more "eggy" taste when eaten cooked (which some people may not appreciate).  I have also read that the way the eggs taste depends a lot on what they are fed.

You may ask...how do I tell which eggs are chicken eggs and which are duck eggs?  Easy...the chicken eggs are brown and the duck eggs are white!  More about egg color in a bit...

3.  We feel that these prices are comparable to prices you would see in the grocery store for pasture raised eggs.  I recently went to 2 different grocery stores in our town and found that one dozen pasture raised chicken eggs ranged in price from $5.50 to $8.50.
I do not want to go into all the differences and benefits of pastured eggs but I found a great article that breaks it all down (cage free vs. free range vs. conventional vs. pasture raised).
Regular vs Pastured Eggs - What You Need To Know

We feel our chickens fall under the pasture raised definition the best.  While they are in the barn this winter, we have been supplementing their feed with green wheat fodder, dried herbs and vegetables and roasted squash.  We are SO excited to finally get our girls out on pasture this spring!!!

4. I think the loyalty program is pretty self explanatory.  If you return 10 of our egg cartons (yes, they MUST be ReMARKable Eggs cartons) to us, you will get a free dozen chicken eggs.  This will help us to re-use the egg cartons/labels to help cut down on costs.  (Yes, we could use other egg cartons that are given to us but we are trying to set forth a professional look.)

Egg colors

We know that it is fun to open a dozen eggs and see lots of pretty egg colors.  Eggs range in color from light pink and white to dark chocolate brown, olive green and baby blue.  So, why doesn't ReMARKable Eggs provide all these fun colors?  Simple...its due to the economics of running an egg business.  

The Araucana chicken is probably the most common blue egg laying chicken.  One hen can produce about 200 eggs per year.  Many sex link hybrids (Mark has Gold Sex Link) can produce up to 300 eggs per year.  Let's just say for easy calculation that the sex link chicken produces 8 more dozen eggs each year (96 more eggs/year).  Then, multiply that by 70 chickens.  That is 560 dozen more eggs to sell.  We need to have product to sell (eggs) to make the business work.

Why do duck eggs cost more?

Back to our original question, why do duck eggs cost more?

Messy

Ducks are messy!  We carry gallons and gallons of water (translate to extra labor) to the ducks every day and they just waste most of it!  We are still experimenting with different watering systems for the ducks.  I will probably make an entire blog post about this subject in the near future...

Because they are so messy with their water, we have to use twice as much pine shavings in their area of the barn.  Pine shavings are not cheap!  We are doing the deep litter method in the barn this winter.  Click on the link to learn more details about the deep litter method.  Basically, you keep adding fresh shavings over the soiled ones all winter long and it starts to slowly compost over the winter.  In the spring, we will clean out all the bedding and put it in a pile to finish composting.  In a year or two we will have some grade A compost for sale!  If you have ever used a composting toilet, it is similar to throwing a handful of sawdust in the bucket after you go.

Duck eggs are larger and more nutritious

Two duck eggs are the equivalent to three chicken eggs. Another way to look at this is that a dozen duck eggs is the same as 18 chicken eggs!  Duck eggs are more nutritious (more Omega 3's, iron, B vitamins, and protein) than chicken eggs but do contain more calories, cholesterol and fat.   Here are a couple of great articles comparing chicken and duck eggs:
The Pros & Cons of Eating Duck Eggs vs Chicken Eggs by Mother Earth News
Chicken Eggs vs Duck Eggs Nutrition by Nature Word

Ducks eat more

Along with drinking more water, they eat a lot more than the chickens and it takes more feed to produce an egg.  I read that a chicken will eat about 4 oz of feed a day and a duck will eat 6-7 oz a day.

The ducks are also crazy loud.  We don't want to hold this against them but it is almost to the point that we need to wear ear protection when we go in the barn!  We know they are just being their ducky selves.  

There are lots of things we also enjoy about the ducks (cold hardy, better immune system, can forage for a large part of their food needs) but we have found that they do require more inputs in terms of labor, feed and bedding.


Guess the Date of the First Egg Contest

A big thank you to everyone that has participated in the Guess the Date of the First Egg Contest!  There are over 50 guesses!  We put the nest boxes in the barn yesterday.   Here is the nest box for the chickens.  It is a roll-away design so they lay the eggs in and then they roll out the back into a compartment that can be easily collected from.
We know this pic is a little dark.  We will make a little video soon of how it works...
We have read that ducks do not care to use nest boxes and will just lay their eggs on the floor in various places (another con for the ducks).  We did read that they sometimes like to have a little privacy so we bought this big, white tote at the Goodwill for $4 and Henry cut out an opening for them to go in and use for laying eggs... 
We will make a Facebook live video on the day we find the first egg!  If you are not following us on Facebook, click here:  Remarkable Farms

Let us know if you have any questions about the pricing!
Have an Eggcellent day!
Denise (and Mark)





Sunday, January 19, 2020

Dehydrating vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers!

In the Kitchen

I use a variety of food preservation techniques.  One of my favorite things to do is dehydrate things!  I own 3 dehydrators!  There are so many advantages to dehydrating food:
1. It is shelf stable...no need to worry about the power going out and things thawing or needing to have a can opener
2. Dried foods shrivel up so they take less space
3. Flavors are concentrated since all the water has been taken out
4. Dehydrated food retains more of its nutrients since the food is not exposed to high temperatures
5. Low risk of contamination and no preservatives needed

I have been playing around to see what dehydrated foods we like most the past couple years.  Technically, you could dry almost anything but, when re-hydrated, the texture may be a little different (and may be off putting to you).  For example, we use a lot of pumpkin.  You can dehydrate pumpkin into a powder and then re-hydrate when you need to use.  It just seems easier to me to puree the pumpkin and then freeze it instead of dehydrating it and then having to re-hydrate it again.  I tried dehydrating green beans, but I didn't like the texture when they were re-hydrated (now the chicks and ducks are enjoying them!)  

One thing that I like is dehydrating cut up celery and then using it in soups all winter long.  I also dehydrate mushrooms.  A new thing I tried this year is beets.  I cut beets to the size of french fries and dried them.  Then, you re-hydrate them and fry them up like french fries (I know, not the healthiest recipe).  The beet fries were a hit and it's not like we are eating these everyday.  
Dried beet "fries"
Another thing I experimented with is zucchini.  I shredded some and I cut some in long lengths and then I could use them as lasagna noodles.

If you have a cherry tomato plant, you know how prolific they can be.  I made "sun-dried" tomatoes with the cherry tomatoes.  I made so many of these that we are now feeding a good amount to the chicks and ducks too!

I also like to dry flower petals.  Since they are so dainty, I don't even bother with putting them in the dehydrator.  I just let them sit out on a screen.  I use the flower petals to make tinctures and healing balms.  Also, we feed them to the chicks and ducks (boy, the chicks and ducks are really spoiled...)

This past fall, Mary came to the farm to work.  One of her main duties was to dry herbs.  Here she is drying some yarrow leaves.  We are now feeding these leaves to the chicks and ducks.  She also dried kale, comfrey, anise hyssop, catnip, echinacea, sage and bee balm.


I ended up with a nice variety of dried herbs/flowers that we are now feeding to the chicks and ducks each day!
There are many benefits to feeding herbs to your chickens.  There is a great article about this at Timber Creek Farm.  Here is one of their images showing some of the advantages of herbs for chickens:
You can also dry fruit.  I dried some cherries last summer and yesterday, I put some frozen currents in the dehydrator.  I think most people have eaten banana chips or dehydrated apple rings.  These are convenient, go-anywhere snacks to take when you are on the run.  The possibilities are limitless on what to dry and consume!  Consider dehydrating for a great food preservation technique!
~Denise




Sunday, January 5, 2020

Christmas visit to see Joshua

Visiting Joshua

We got up early on Christmas Day and headed for the airport.  One short flight later, we were in Salt Lake City.  Mark was excited to go to see Joshua.  In early December, he kept saying, "Airport, airport" and when I asked who he wanted to see, he said "Josh"
Mark waiting at airport to get on our plane.
Henry's mom flew out from Philadelphia to meet us and visit with Joshua.  We were so happy to see her because it had been almost 2 years since we were able to visit her.  We went to see a movie and then headed to the Macaroni Grill for dinner.  Although we had made reservations, it was still about an hour until we got seated and then another hour before the food came but that just gave us a lot of time to talk and catch up.
Linda, Joshua, Mark and Henry waiting for our Christmas dinner.
The next day, we went for a train ride in Heber Valley which is about 40 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.
Joshua, Denise, Linda and Mark waiting to board train.

Denise, Joshua and Linda on train.
The best part of the train ride was that we saw some swans on the lake!  Joshua seems to be really fascinated by swans lately and kept asking for pics of swans to put in his room.  Did you know a baby swan is called a cygnet?
Denise and Mark on train.
On Friday morning, we had a family therapy session and then headed out to the Great Salt Lake.  This time, we went to Antelope Island.  You can drive out to it on a causeway!  The entire island is now a State Park but it used to be ranched in the late 1800's up until 1981.  The Fielding Garr Ranch homestead is open for people to walk through.  It is the oldest Anglo built house on it's original foundation in Utah.

Henry and Mark walking around the Fielding Garr homestead
Denise and Mark walking out to see bison.
There is a lot of wildlife on the island including mule deer, big horn sheep, antelope, and one of the largest herds of bison.
Bison grazing at the base of "mountain"
We spent our Saturday doing some shopping, bowling, going to another movie, eating ice cream and pizza!  We left on Sunday and headed back to Idaho.  

A big THANK YOU to Joe for feeding the ducks, chicks, dogs and cat while we were gone!

~Denise






Sunday, December 22, 2019

Fall 2019 Update and Food Storage

On The Farm

Some brief updates from happenings this past fall at ReMARKable Farms and the Wetzel household.

Let there be light!  After 2 years of being in the complete and total dark at night, we finally got around to calling the local utility company.  They came out and put in a totally new, photosensitive light in the yard where we park our cars!  Thanks Avista!  Now, we can see when we are getting in and out of our vehicles at night!

I started some apple wine.  Last year, I made hard cider and it is still aging (it is supposed to age for 2 years).  So, I decided to try something different and make some apple wine!

I know this is not going to be a popular decision but I have decided that I am NOT going to plant sunflowers to sell as cut flowers next year.  I will probably still plant some sunflowers to harvest for the chickens but these will be more for seed and not flowers.  Of course, I will still grow some red sunflowers so I can make the red sunflower jelly.  Why not grow sunflowers?  Time...the sunflowers take a LOT of time and I can never recoup that in profits from sales.  The sunflowers has truly been a labor of love the past few years.  Now, with Mark's egg business starting, I just don't feel like I will have the time to devote to the flowers.  Another reason is that I also want that time to devote to our own personal garden and food preservation which leads me to my next topic...

In the Garden

Here is a list of the items I was able to preserve this past year.  Yes, I am patting myself on the back...also, I use this list to help me determine if I need to make more/less for the next year.

Canned:
5 - 1/4 pints cowboy candy
9 pints beets
12 pints pickled beets
8 pints salsa
8 pints rotel - ran our 1/26/20
9 quarts apple pie filling
10 pints applesauce
26 pints hot apples
32 quarts tomato sauce
6 quarts cherry pie filling
cherry jam
12 - 1/2 pints beet ketchup
4 - 3/4 quarts of dilled cauliflower
4 - 3/4 quarts of green enchilada sauce


Frozen:
30 pints green beans
5 pints dragon tongue beans
12 - 1 cup servings of diced onion
9 - 1/2 cup servings of green chilis
15 pints corn
*12 pints broccoli
*7 pints cauliflower
7 -10 oz servings of kale/beet greens
*note to self: freeze in quarts next year

Dehydrated:
celery
green beans
kale
*lots of herbs (oregano, thyme, basil, yarrow flowers and leaves, lemon mint, catnip, dill, echinacea, anise hyssop, sage, bee balm)
*flowers (calendula, chamomile, borage, marigold, nasturium, lavender)
cherry tomatoes
Sunflower seeds
Pumpkin seeds
*most of the herbs and flowers are for treats for the chickens and ducks this winter















Fermented:
4 gallons salsa
carrots
beets
1 1/2 quarts sauerkraut
2 quarts of cauliflower

I also finally purchased some shelving to store my squash!  I am so happy about how this turned out.  It feels so much more organized.  A lot of these squash are for the chickens and ducks too.  I just went through the bins this morning and picked out the moldy ones to toss in the compost bin and picked out a couple to roast for the chickens and ducks.


In the Wetzel Household

Lastly, a bit of nerve racking news...I had a phone call in November about Joshua's Medicaid.  It seems that we make too much money now so he lost his Medicaid.  The Medicaid is paying for his residential treatment.  I have no idea how much this costs but I can assume it is a lot of money.  My heart just sank.  He is definitely not completed with his treatment and I was so nervous that he might be forced to come home.  I immediately started making phone calls.  It's crazy that his treatment is based on our income.  The two seem to be unrelated to me.  Anyway, the good news is that I just found out on Friday that Children's Behavioral Health in Idaho is going to take over on Joshua's payment for his treatment.  Another thing to be thankful for!  A Christmas miracle!

Ready to put 2019 in the books and start a new decade...Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
~Denise


Sunday, December 8, 2019

Chicory coffee...a caffeine free coffee substitute...

In the Garden and Kitchen

I have been posting a lot about the ducks and chicks lately so I thought I would mix things up and share something that I did this past fall.  I made chicory coffee!  Once again, this is something I kind of discovered by accident.  Let me start from the beginning...

Before moving to the farm, I spent a lot of time researching about chickens and growing feed for them.  I remember something about how chickens would like to eat chicory but my research did not go much beyond that.  So, we moved to the farm and I planted some in my food forest and herb garden.  I planted seeds and it really took off and got HUGE!  It was taller than me!

Chicory also grows wild in pastures and ditches.  If you look around in the summer and see any plants with pretty little blueish flowers, that is probably chicory.  Many parts of the chicory plant can be used.  The greens can be used in salad (Radicchio and Belgian endive are types of chicory).  The flowers are great for pollinators.  It is a perennial (which I did not realize...again...should have done some more homework...) and grows some massive tap roots.  The roots can be eaten or dried out, roasted and used as a coffee substitute.

This past summer, my friend, Janet, brought her friend from Texas over to see the farm (sorry, Janet, I could not remember her name).  She noticed the chicory and had noted that you could make coffee from the roots.  I had also read that at one time but didn't really give it a second thought.  

It seems that throughout history, when coffee beans were limited, people started harvesting chicory, roasting the roots, and used that as a coffee substitute.  Chicory is still very popular in New Orleans and it is often brewed with coffee and then mixed with milk (au lait).  There is a nice review of the history of chicory here.

This fall, after a killing frost, I decided to try and clean up the food forest.  I started pulling the chicory tops to add to my compost bin.  
Dead chicory plant in food forest
As I pulled, out of the ground came these long roots.  I grabbed a bin and started collecting them.
I brought them in to the house, washed them up and then attempted to cut them into small pieces.  That was pretty challenging.  I found that a pair of pruning shears worked the best.  I laid them out on a dehydrator sheet and put them in the dehydrator overnight.

The next morning, I roasted them at 300 degrees in the oven.  The whole house smelled wonderful!  Sort of like a chocolate malt scent.  I roasted them for at least an hour.  Then, you put them in a coffee grinder and grind them up.

Here is a really nice article about harvesting chicory for coffee.  I add a little bit to my regular coffee grounds and brew it in my coffee pot (I guess I should say that Henry does this because he always makes my coffee for me - thanks Hen!).  It has a nice, earthy taste and you don't need much!  I should have enough for the whole year in this half gallon jar.

~Denise



Sunday, November 24, 2019

Being Thankful...

On the Farm...

Things have been busy with the new ducklings and chicks.  Mark works everyday to help with emptying the duck "pond" and feeding and watering all the ducklings and chicks.  We have also been practicing gathering eggs, washing eggs, packing eggs, and storing eggs.  See, a week ago Friday, Mark and I went to meet with his Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselor.  It seems that they are trying a "new" customized employment program with Mark's business plan.  We are literally charting new territory here with VR funding for individuals with significant disabilities.  I am going to be honest.  I find it frustrating.  I guess I am being selfish.  I don't want to pave any new trails...I just want them to fund Mark's business.  We are now going through a Discovery process to see what Mark can do for his business and, it is my understanding that, it must be determined that Mark can do "a significant amount of meaningful work" for VR to move forward with funding.  


This is the reason we have been practicing gathering, washing, packing and storing eggs.  The VR counselor is coming to our home on Tuesday for Mark's evaluation.  Please, send good vibes and prayers our way on Tuesday.  I will work at being more thankful for this opportunity...

Then, I got this small stone in the mail yesterday from my mother-in-law:
I think this kind of says it all.  

I am thankful that I have the ability to speak up and help Mark.  

I am thankful that we have gotten so much support from our family and friends as we start this journey. 

I am thankful that we have gotten support from the local community (front page newspaper article and grant funding).

I am thankful that we have a barn that we can use to house the poultry since the coops are not built yet.

I am thankful for a supportive husband that lets me do my crazy ideas.

I am thankful for friends that put together garage sale fundraisers and all the people that donated/came by to purchase items at garage sale.

I am thankful that we were able to purchase a home and property that will meet our farm needs.

I am thankful for my truck to help me get stuff done around the farm.

I am thankful for the Medicaid funding that helps to provide for Mark to be a part of his community.

I am thankful for our church family and the support we have gotten from St. Mary's parish.

I am thankful for the schooling Mark received and that they spent time helping Mark to learn tasks that he would need for his business.

I am thankful that we raised over $11,000 and just got another donation yesterday on the GoFundMe!

I am thankful that I can cry tears of joy as I type this because we are so blessed...

Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!  to everyone that has helped Mark and our family!

Happy Thanksgiving!
~Denise