Easy Elderberry Syrup

Elderberries are one of mother natures strongest immunity boosters. They are extremely high in vitamin C and believed to help prevent or treat the flu.
You can purchase commercially made elderberry syrup at most health food stores or HERE (affiliate link).
Or for a fraction of the price you can make it yourself with one of the kits sold in my store: https://www.etsy.com/your/shops/RusticityGoods/tools/listings/255013923
Here’s how:

Ingredients: (all links are affiliates)
Water 3.5 cups
Elderberries 2/3 cup
Ginger Root 2 Tblspn
Cinnamon 1 teaspoon
Cloves 1/2 tspn
Lemon slices (3) optional
Honey  1 cup (BUY LOCAL!!!)

Add water, elderberries, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and lemon slices to a pot. Do not add honey yet. Do not cover the pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to a low simmer. Stir occasionally and leave to simmer for about an hour or so. You want the liquid to reduce to about half.

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Once its reduced, turn off the stove and allow the liquid to cool.
Remove the lemon slices.

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Drape a clean cloth over a bowl and pour the contents of the pot into the cloth. Allow it to drain.

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Pull the cloth closed then squeeze the remaining juice from the cloth, into the bowl.

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Compost the contents of the cloth, or feed it to your chickens.
Add 1 cup of Honey to the liquid. Stir until honey has dissolved and mixed well.
Ta-da! You now have elderberry syrup!
Pour into a glass container. Keep refrigerated.

Dosage:
Preventative:
Adults 1 teaspoon daily.
Children 1/2 teaspoon daily.
Flu/cold treatment:
Adults 1 teaspoon every 4 hours.
Children 1/2 teaspoon every 4 hours.

*This post was submitted in the Wild Crafting Wednesday Blog Hop. Check it out!
http://mindbodyandsoleonline.com/herbal-information/162nd-wildcrafting-wednesday-peoples-choice-award-winners/comment-page-1/#comment-244328*

Swinging Chickens! DIY Chicken Toy.

Believe it or not, there is a chicken swing on the market. Once the chickens  get used to the swing, they seem to really enjoy it. But I was not willing to pay for something I could make myself!

What you need:
3″+/- diameter, straight(ish) Branch
Outdoor rope
Drill
Drill bit large enough to accommodate the rope

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Here’s how to do it:
Drill a hole, about an inch from the end of each end of the branch. Try to keep them linear so the branch will hang straight.

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Insert rope through drilled hole. Tie a tight knot on bottom side of branch.

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I like to melt the fibers of the rope just a bit so be sure the knot doesn’t slip.

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Leave the rope long enough to hang your swing about 6″ from the ground PLUS at least 3 feet for tying the swing to the desired branch.

Repeat this process on the other side of the branch. You may need to melt the threads at the end of the rope to help it get through the drilled holes easily.

Tie the swing to the branch. Here’s how I did it, but with 3 loops rather than 4.

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Trim the rope with about 2″ of excess. Melt the end of the rope threads to give it a nice finish.

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I bribed my girls to try out the swing by tying a bunch of lemon balm to the ropes of the swing. They weren’t buying it.

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Update:
Today was day 2 of the swing introduction. I didn’t see the girls on the swing but I did see them scratching the ground around it. Later in the day I noticed the lemon balm missing. Someone had to climb up there to get it!

Update:
Today is day 4. They are finally giving it a try!
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DIY Hose Reel

Photo Collage Maker_SUAUkO With summer in full swing here in Georgia, we’ve been utilizing the hose a lot around our homestead. I got tired of seeing my hose piled in a big knotted mess, so with help from the hubby, I put together this unique hose reel. The only thing we had to purchase to make this fantastic piece of yard art is the spray paint! Woot Woot! IMG_20140710_154917569_HDR (1)

Here’s how to do it:

Remove the tread and tube from the rim of an old tire.There are multiple ways to do this, we cut ours off with a saws all.

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      Weld the rim to a metal T post. Don’t have a welder? You can JB weld it (you can buy it here , or at walmart). As long as you follow JB weld’s directions it should last a long time. IMG_20140706_150736648 (1)           Weld the rim, top and bottom, to the T post. IMG_20140706_145618611           Sand the rim and remove any dust. Clean it well so you will have a good bond with the spray paint. IMG_20140710_115804052_HDR (1)           Paint that bad boy. Re-coat if needed. IMG_20140710_120711726 (1)           Allow the paint to dry. IMG_20140710_154119748_HDR (1)             Stick that puppy in the ground where you want it. IMG_20140710_154917569_HDR (1)             TA-DA! Instant improvement!

Chigger Relief

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My girls and I were devoured by chiggers recently. If you have ever been eaten alive by chiggers than you understand how irritating a chigger bite can be. If you haven’t been bitten by a chigger than let me put it this way; imagine a mosquito bite, now enhance that itchy feeling by 1000 and add molten lava oozing from the bite when you scratch it.

I think the worst part about chigger bites is how long they last. They stay with me for weeks. But not this time! I couldn’t stand to see my babies in discomfort so I came up with a healing recipe.

Let me clear a few things up first. Chiggers are tiny mites. They usually enter by the sock line. They love warm, moist, soft skin (imagine sock and panty lines). They do not bury themselves in your skin. Their saliva is the irritant that causes the terrible, welts and molten lava feeling. Nail polish will not smother them (as lots of people assume) because they are not buried in your skin. In fact, I believe that the nail polish will cause the irritant to stay in the skin longer.

My thought process was this “Oh my God! My skin is on fire! How can I suck out the toxic acid saliva from this blood thirsty spawn of satin?” . I tried it all. I slathered it all on me. I even bought ChiggerRid, which did relieve the itch for the longest but I later found the barrier it leaves on your skin to be irritating and cause me to scratch, which in turn made the volcano erupt.

Then it hit me. The clouds parted. Angels sang. And a vision of Calcium Bentonite Clay almost brought me to tears of joy.

I whipped up a batch with Apple Cider Vinegar and added tea tree oil. I covered the bites. Waited 20 minutes then removed the clay. The itch was gone for hours at a time and I also saw the bites shrinking. I am on day 4 now and the bites I treated and almost gone and the itch is only that of a boring ol’ mosquito bite. The bites I haven’t treated (some places you just don’t want to slather with clay) are still the size of a quarter and burn like crazy when I scratch them.

I’m assuming that you are reading this because you are trying to find a cure for your lava skin. Here it is.

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Chigger Relief:

Ingredients:

2 tblspns Calcium Bentonite Clay (buy it here or at the vitamin shoppe)

1/4 teaspoon tea tree oil (buy it here, or Any pharmacy)

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) to desired consistency (I like about 1.5 tblspns)

In a glass jar add clay and slowly add ACV to desired consistency is achieved. Mix well with a plastic utensil. Add Tea Tree Oil. Mix well.

Apply concoction to bites just thick enough of a layer that you can’t see the bites any longer. Sit back and enjoy the relief for 20-30 minutes. When time is up remove the clay with a with a wet wash rag. Or you can go hose off outside. DO NOT WASH CLAY DOWN YOUR HOMES DRAINS IT WILL CLOG YOUR PIPES.

Do this a minimum of twice a day. Keep remaining clay mixture in the fridge (ITS EVEN BETTER WHEN ITS COLD!!!!!).

I like to apply plantain salve to the bites after the clay is removed. If you don’t have plantain salve Aloe is a great alternative. It relieves itch and helps the skin heal.

The clay mixture has cut my healing time by more than half. How has it worked for you?

Get Drunk on Flowers.

Ok, you need more than flowers but hey, the title got you here.

We recently made a batch of Elderberry Flower Cordial. I found the recipe at Food.com.

Well, since I’m new to fermenting, I didn’t have the cordial in a warm enough place to ferment. We ended up with a fizz-less, over sweet alcoholic syrup. Basically useless to me because I don’t like terribly sweet things, and I’m not going to give my kids alcohol syrup on their pancakes.

So, I added an additional 1/2 liter of water (a bottle of purified water that was room temperature). And found a proper place to ferment it. Left it there for a week and I opened the most wonderful bottle of champagne I have EVER made. 😉

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Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

15 large Elderberry Flower Heads, Shaken to remove bugs

4.5 Cups of Sugar (I prefer Morena Pure Cane Sugar. It has an amazing flavor all its own and it is much better for you.)

1 Lemon thinly sliced

5 cups boiling water

1 clean, plastic soda bottle with lid

 

Place flower heads in the bottom of a large bowl.

Lay lemon sliced on top of flowers.

Dump sugar evenly over lemons.

Pour boiling water over lemons.

Mix until sugar is dissolved.

Place lid on bowl or cover with plastic wrap.

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Leave the container on your counter for 4 days.

Every day for the next 4 days, remove cover, mix and squish the lemons.

By day 4 you should have a little fizzy action going on.

Filter the liquid from the flower mix into your soda bottle.

Place cap on tightly.

Leave the soda bottle to ferment  in a warm/dark place for the next week. My fermentation spot ended up being the upstairs linen closet. Try to find a place that has a fairly consistent temperature.

Check occasionally for fizziness. The bottle will expand as the gas builds. You may need to release the gasses to prevent the bottle from making a huge mess in your linen closet………. *cough* (joking, that didn’t happen to me but it could).

By the end of the week you should have a lovely, floral champagne.

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I think next time I will try reducing the sugar. I feel it lacks that crispness of champagne because of the sugar. But as I said, I don’t like overly sweet things. You could try reducing the sugar. Remember that the amount of sugar used has a direct effect on the fermentation. This was my first time making this, and I really have very limited experience with fermentation so please don’t expect more than this from me… hahaha.

Do you have any fermentation tips to share? How did your elderflower champagne turn out? Please comment and let me know!

 

 

 

 

 

Design Your Own Rain Boots

We love rain boots. They are our choice of foot wear on this homestead.

My youngest daughter wanted a pair of Boston Terrier rain boots but I wasn’t willing to pay the prices some companies were charging. We decided to make our own.

First I found a pair of cheap, plain black, rubber rain boots. The boots have to have a mat finish. No glossy surfaces.

Then I did some research. I read a few blogs that gave directions on how to do it but all the reviews said that the paint peels off or cracks very easy. It became obvious that acrylic paint won’t work. I needed rubber paint.

I researched rubber paint. Which lead me to LIQUID ELECTRIC TAPE!

I made a trip to Home Depot and found a small selection of 3 colors of liquid electrical tape. White, green and red. I was a little disappointed because I really wanted black (how can you have a Boston Terrier without black?) but they were sold out. I grabbed a bottle of white.

Next I drew my design on a piece of card stock. I carefully cut the design out with an exacto-knife. I now had a template.

I positioned the template where I wanted them on the boot, and traced it with a pencil.

Since I didn’t have black, I filled the entire tracing in with the white liquid electrical tape and added black details with a Sharpie. I used a paint brush to apply the liquid electrical tape. It worked just like acrylic paint, but a little thicker and I had to work quickly because it dried fairly quick.

We have had these boots now for 6 months and the liquid electrical tape is still right where I put it. No cracking or peeling. They’ve waded through puddles and ran through grass. They’ve had chickens pecking at them and dogs scratching them. Still attached perfectly The Sharpie has faded a bit. I would definitely use the black liquid electrical tape if I weren’t too cheap and lazy to go buy a bottle.

You can make any design you choose! Have fun! Please share a picture with me when your done!

Easy Herb Gelatin Treats for Chickens (or humans, I guess!)

With the heat on the rise I have been looking for ways to help keep my small flock cool.

Fresh Eggs Daily had a great post on Beating the Heat. This is my favorite chicken site. Tons of information. The post gave me an idea. I could make Homemade Healthy Gummie Snacks for my chickens! They were such a hit with the kids, the chickens were bound to love them!

I found out that not only could chickens eat gelatin, but gelatin is actually good for them. Just like in humans, gelatin helps support health hair, skin and nails. It is also aids digestion and soothes the digestive tract. Sounds like a winning combo for chickens. And to clarify, gelatin is made form the bones and hooves of bovine. It is not made from chicken products. No cannibalism here.

You can make these treats from the herb of your choice. Or you could not use herbs at all. Maybe just use fruit. Or a fruit herb combo. How ever you make them this is a healthy treat that can help your chicken keep its cool.

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Ingredients:

2 cups herbal infusion (How to make a Water Infusion)

1 cup cold water, fruit juice, or fruit puree (I used strawberries and blackberries (this is a great opportunity to use up that frost bitten fruit you have in the freezer ;))).

4 packs  unflavored 1/4 oz gelatin (you buy it here or any grocery store in the Jello section)

First thing you need to do is make an herbal infusion. Since I want to cool my chickens I decided to go with mint. It has natural cooling properties. Since mint is a strong herb, I only filled my infusion jar 1/4 of the way.

Bring your finished infusion to a boil in a 2 quart pot.

Remove from heat.

Slowly add gelatin while mixing.

Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, just blend it by hand with a wisk or fork. I love my immersion blender and I highly recommend one. You can buy the one I have here or at walmart.

Add cold water juice (or fruit juice or puree).

Blend until smooth.

Pour liquid into a greased, 3 qt 9×13 casserole dish.

Place casserole dish in fridge.

Allow to sit for 1-4 hours (or until firm).

Cut into squares the size of your choice. I like 1/2″ squares.

Serve to chickens.

Watch the chickens steal them from each other and chase each other for the last bit! They LOVE THEM! I tried them as well. I don’t prefer mint jello but I can tell you for sure it has that great cooling effect!

If you made  your own flavor and the chickens didn’t like it, you can put the cubes back into the pot and reheat them until liquid. Try adding something you know they love, like strawberries or bananas. Then re-pour, refrigerate and serve again. Have fun! Try new flavors and let me know which one your chickens like best!

Here is my flock enjoying their gelatin treat! Ravenous!

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Look how sad my little Mango is. The girls stole all the treats! 😦

 

How to Make a Water Infusion

Infusions are a away to make the qualities of an organic item infusion into water. You can make infusions out of pretty much any fruit,vegetable, flower, herb, leaf or bark, etc. Just please make sure what you are infusing is not toxic or poisonous. Do research on the item and get confirmation from an experienced individual before you make your infusion.

What you need

1 quart size glass jar with lid

2 cups of boiling water

item to be infused (usually 2 cups. NOTE:Some Herbs, like mint, Have a very strong flavor , you may want to use less of the herb. You can use as much or as little as you’d like). Make sure the item has not been sprayed/treated with pesticide/herbicide

My Method:

I fill the jar with the item to be infused (say white clover because I love White Clover Jelly). I stuff that jar with just the flower, removing as much greens from the flower as possible.

Most people will rinse the flowers to get any little bugs that may be hiding in the flowers. I just kinda shake them off before I stuff them in the jar. I don’t like the idea of washing away any of the pollen or nectar that are in the flower. BUT if you don’t like the idea of ant infused water, go ahead and give the flowers a quick rinse and put them back in the jar.

Pour 2 cups of boiling water over the flowers in the jar.

Put the lid on the jar.

Leave the jar to sit for 4-24 hours.

In a fine strainer, muslin cloth or cheese cloth, strain the water from the flowers into a bowl. Squeeze the liquid from the flowers, through the strainer, to be sure you get all the goodness. (Side note, you can feed the left over flowers to your chickens)

You now have a fusion. TA-DA!

This fusion good for about 24 hours when kept in the fridge. The older a fusion is the less of the qualities of the item infused will remain. Basically, use it or lose it. If you can’t use it right away, freeze it! You can leave it in your glass jar (with room for expansion) or make ice cubes. The qualities will be less, but it is better than wasting.

I am not a professional. I am not a doctor. I am not telling you to do this.

 

 

Make Your Own Citrus Coop Cleaner

Ingredients:

The peel of 2 oranges, or 3 lemons, or 4 limes, or maybe 1 grapefruit? I don’t eat grapefruit so you guess on that one.

White vinegar

1 quart mason jar or bigger. Use what you have, just try to use glass or food grade plastic. You could even use the vinegar bottle.

Place citrus peels into the container of your choice. I had left over orange peels from my Homemade Healthy Fruit Gummies recipe.

Leave the vinegar mixture to rest for about a month. Shake it occasionally.

Filter the vinegar into a spray bottle.

Use the citrus vinegar spray to clean your kitchen or to clean your coop when you are giving it that occasional deep clean.

This stuff smells fantastic and has all of the wonderful benefits of white vinegar.

I got this recipe from my favorite chicken website Fresh Eggs Daily. She added cinnamon sticks and vanilla to the vinegar and oranges before allowing it to rest. I bet that smelled amazing! If you haven’t checked out her site, it is worth your time. She has tons of chicken recipes and raises her chickens naturally with herbs. Lots of great tips.

Try making your own scent of citrus cleaner. Just remember to use White vinegar, a citrus and nothing sticky. How about Lime/Mint or Lemon and cloves? What recipe will you use? Please let me know how it turned out!

Building a Chicken Coop

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Building my first chicken coop was a challenge. I had never build a structure before. I am also a tiny bit of a perfectionist and I detest when I make something to later wish I had done it differently. So I took a lot of time and put a lot of thought into how I wanted my chicken coop to work. I did research on What makes a good chicken coop. I drew up lots of plans, threw them away and drew more.

I had some supplies on hand already. I try to reuse/re-purpose items as much as possible. I hate wasting things, money included. I wanted this coop to be the best coop possible for the smallest amount of money.

I consider myself a handy person. I do much more than I used to before I got over my irrational fear of power tools, that most women seem to have. But I confess, I was nervous to build this coop.

All of my plans were thrown out the window when I found this at the thrift store.IMG_20140321_155910

I know, right!

Seriously, weeks of planning, OUT THE WINDOW.

Now some people, like my husband, would look at this armorer and think “Man, that is ugly!”. But a chicken person would go crazy once they saw the inside:IMG_20140321_165506-1BAM! How can you NOT see nesting boxes?!

My husband couldn’t see the potential but I went with it anyways. I redrew the plans and then I got to work!

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First things first, the foundation. I’m worried about predators around our homestead so I wanted my coop build up off the ground. I’m also, admittedly, cheap and decided that I wanted to use the fence as one of the walls of the coop (free wall!). These things helped me to decide that I wanted one roof for the entire coop and pen. Which gave me the base of my foundation.

I decided where I wanted to position the coop and installed the 4×4 posts. I had never installed posts before. I dug the post holes with a post hole digger, installed, leveled and braced the posts. Then cemented them in.

Proud of my post work.

Proud of my post work.

I measured the pitch I wanted for the roof and marked the angels on the posts. My husband cut them for me. After that I installed the support beams for the roof and floor.

The next step was the floor of the coop. It took a little finagling (because I built it off a crooked fence) but I got it done.

Then came the walls.  I had a few items I had been saving to use on the coop. I basically built the walls around the items. One was the face of an old kitchen cabinet I had found on the side of the road.

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I measured the width of the cabinet and installed two 2×4 posts that width apart from each other, from the floor of the coop to the ceiling, where I wanted the cabinet positioned.

I decided to spend a little extra money to have a good roof over the coop. We live in a heavily wooded ares and I was afraid of limbs and branches falling on the coop. I also only want to build this thing one time, so a good roof will keep it dry and help it last longer.

The roof was special ordered and I had to wait for it to come in before I would install the cabinet. It took about 2 weeks but it was well worth the wait. I installed the roof in about an hour by myself. I siliconed the screws to make a water tight seal.

Finally, the cabinet was moved into place. I tacked trim, to both the cabinet and the coop, around the connection point.

After all 4 walls were solid I climbed into the coop and stapled in bright aluminum bug screen and then stapled 1/4″ hardware cloth over it. I was sure to use heavy-duty staples and hammered them in to set them nicely. I them checked for any protruding nails or staples that my birds could possibly hurt themselves on and set them as well.

The final touches like safety hooks and a perch, for access to the nesting boxes, were added. As well as adding a door to the pen and enclosing the pen with chicken wire.

It took me about 2 weeks to build the coop and I have made a few improvements since then. This was a fantastic experience for me. I have always known that I could do anything I put my mind to. My Mom taught me that I was just as capable as any one else and I could do anything a man could do. But believing that and actually doing it are two different things. I built this coop entirely by myself (minus my husband cutting the 4×4 posts because he was worried I would hurt myself 🙂 ). It was hard work and it wore me out, but I did it. Now I feel like I can build anything! (Insert Super woman photo here!)

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Front view

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Left side

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Left side optional chicken door

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Left side door interior view

 

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Observation window/center door

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Chicken’s coop access door with stained glass above

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Center chicken door/main coop access from pen

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Center door/observation window

 

 

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Right side door

 

 

 

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Right interior view

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No coop is complete without stained glass windows.

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Happy chickens!

 

Do you have any questions on building a coop? I’m no expert BUT I FEEL LIKE ONE! 🙂