Friday, July 18, 2014

We've Moved!

Wondering where we have been lately? We have a whole new webpage. Head over to to continue to follow along on our farming adventures. Join us as we create new recipes, learn more about farming, essential oils, and homesteading!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Online Essential Oils Class

I am loving using my essential oils and finding so many wonderful ways to use them! I've made my own face wash, shampoo, and body wash, using Young Living oils and castile soap. I like the baby unscented kind as it is much gentler and free of any added scents. I've been enjoying having a few classes each month and educating others about essential oils and the best ways to use them. Last night, my upline, Homemade Mommy, offered a livestream class for everyone to watch. If you would like to watch it, here is the link, It was so informative and fun to see how she hosts her classes. If you are local to me (Sacramento area), and want to host a class or want to come to one, let me know! Right now I am running a special for the weekend! When you sign up with the Premium Starter Kit, I will gift you the Essential Oils Pocket Reference as well as the book Homemade Mommy Beauty Essentials. These two books are valuable resources as you start your journey in natural living and better health! If you are ready to start your journey with Young Living oils, follow my sign-up link  or send me an email to learn more I am also looking for some team players who like to get their oils paid for and would enjoy teaching others about essential oils! If you would like to learn more about how to earn free oils please email me! I look forward to hearing from you!
Stay Oily!
Everything you get for $150. A great value!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Pastured Broilers

Our pastured broilers are growing nicely! Cornish Crosses are not a heritage breed and do grow quite fast. If you give them hormones or feed them too much,they will likely be unable to walk around after 6 or 7 weeks old. However, we feel growing them on pasture and giving a clean area of grass to pick around each day, is much better than packing thousands of birds in an enclosed building. In the shelters they have room to move and are able to eat grass and bugs. A chickens natural diet. We don't feed them GMO-free feed this year (nobody's perfect), but we hope to be in a position where we can do that next Spring. The chickens grow pretty quickly, but we do not give them antibiotics or any growth hormones. Just fresh air, clean grass, and lots of sunshine! Each morning we move the shelters, feed the chickens, and give them fresh water. They love moving time! They rush over to the new patch of grass and start searching for bugs and grass. Pastured poultry is not necessarily the most sustainable thing on the farm, yet it's very rewarding and quite easy and a cheap way to get into farming! We are enjoying giving these chickens a great life and soon we look forward to having fresh tasty chicken to eat for dinner! (Don't tell the chickens that yet, we don't need them unionizing on us ;)

March 27, baby chicks arrive in the mail!
A few things we have learned so far:

  • These chickens drink a lot more than our egg layers. Next year we hope to get an automatic waterer.

  • We need a new board on top of our current shelter. We used a cheap piece of siding to put on the top because it was light weight, however it warped right away and anytime it rains or the sprinklers come on water sits on the top and we have to push it off. 

  • We need some sort of handle on one side to help us move the shelters around. They are heavy and the rope we are using always has chicken poop on it and is hard to hold. 

  • We need a better quality food for the chickens. They eat a lot, I think part of the problem is the food we give them. 

  • You're going to have lots of flies and your lawn is not going to be beautiful anymore. Watering will help with both of these problems and help the poop disintegrate faster. We try not to water the lawn here in California too much as we have limited water. 
Have you raised pastured poultry before? What do you feed them and what kind of waterer and shelters do you use? What breed do you raise? We'd love to learn more about your set up! 
Checking out their new home until they are big enough to go outside

Good morning! Enjoying a new patch of grass!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Homemade Chocolate Lip Balm

*Links in this blog may be affiliate links. It costs you nothing to use them, but provides Agape Farm with a small commision. Thanks for supporting the Farm!*

I went through my cupboards last week and threw away all of my cough medicines, aspirin, anti-diarrheal medicine, antacids, allergy medicines, and more. I haven't used shampoo, conditioner, or face wash in months. What am I using instead you might wonder? Essential oils! Therapeutic grade essential oils, like Young Living's, can replace so many things in your household. There are endless recipes for beauty products, from lip balm to insect repellant, and guess what, these items are so safe you could eat them! Have you ever accidentally gotten bug spray in your mouth? It doesn't taste good! One of my favorite books for learning more about recipes with essential oils was written by my friend Lindsey over at Her book, Homemade Mommy Beauty Essentials: 35 DIY Beauty Recipes to Use Everyday, contains 35 wonderful DIY recipes for everyday beauty products. Check her page out for recipes, healthy eating, and much more!

A picture of Homemade Mommy's lip balm!
 (Picture is property of Homemade Mommy)

One recipe I am looking forward to making is Chocolate Mint Lip Balm. Yum! It sounds delicious!


Equipment You'll Need


Gently melt the cocoa butter, coconut oil, sweet almond oil, and beeswax in a double boiler (or in a glass bowl set on top of a sauce pot of simmering water).
Remove from heat and then stir in the peppermint essential oil.
Quickly pour the melted oil into the tubes. You have to move very quickly before the oils start to set. You can use a small funnel, but it may get clogged in the process. Using a medicine dropper is not recommend because it will quickly clog up as well!
Allow the lip balm to set and then cap the containers.

- See more at:

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cinnamon Rolls

Links in this post may be affiliate links. By clicking this links you are charged nothing, but we might earn a small amount. Thank you for supporting the farm! 
Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a fun relaxing weekend. Hubby's new work schedule consists of working Saturdays every other month, he has this month off, so it was nice to get to spend a Saturday with him. We woke up early on Saturday morning and went to the local park and went on a nice bike ride. Then we went to another park and went down some cement slides and hiked along the river. We are blessed with some great parks in this town! I can't wait to have kids and be able to enjoy the parks more. Before we left for our bike ride, I whipped up some dough for cinnamon rolls so they could rise. Once we got home I was able to finish them up. They were so yummy! I will definitely double the filling recipe next time though. I like them with lots of cinnamon and delicious filling. We worked in the garden this weekend as well, lots of weed pulling has finally resulted in a lot less weeds. They have finally stopped coming up so ferociously. Our veggies are doing great and coming up so nicely. I will add more information in our next post though. Sunday was spent going to church, hubby did sound and I taught Sunday school. It's so much fun teaching the kids more about our wonderful Savior! My mother-in-law came to church too and took us to lunch afterwards. So yummy. The rest of the day was spent around the house and babysitting. A relaxing weekend for sure, which was nice as the rest of the month is going to be crazy! Lots of birthdays! My nephew turns one and my sister is having a baby on the same day!! The next weekend my big brother will be marrying his beautiful fiancee! They have been together for a long time and I am happy to welcome her to the family. I am blessed with wonderful siblings and sibling-in-laws. Now onto the reason you are reading this post: those yummy cinnamon rolls. This was one of the first times I ever made homemade cinnamon rolls from scratch. They are time consuming, but so yummy.

Recipe adapted from New Cook Book, Limited Edition "Pink Plaid" : For Breast Cancer Awareness (Better Homes & Gardens) (one of my favorites!) Pg. 154.

Next time I will double the filling. Feel free to use a cream cheese icing or no icing at all. You can prepare the rolls ahead of time and place in fridge immediately after placing in pans up to 24 hours. Leave a little room on top for them to rise. When ready to bake let them stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

For the dough:
4 to 4&1/2 cups of AP flour
1 package active dry yeast or 2 & 1/4 tsps.
1 cup milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

For the filling:
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup AP flour
1 T. cinnamon
1/3 cup butter

1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup golden raisins

Vanilla Icing:
In a small bowl stir together 1 and 1/4 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 1-2 Tbs. of milk. Mix together until sugar is dissolved.

In large mixing bowl combine 2 cups of the flour and the yeast; set aside. In a small saucepan heat and stir milk, g. sugar, 1/3 cup butter, and the salt until just warm and the butter is slightly melted (about 120 degrees, don't let it boil). Add to flour mixture along with 2 eggs. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds. Beat on high for 3 minutes. Stir in as much of the remaining 2 to 21/2 cups flour ( I just used my stand mixer and used the dough hook for several minutes).

2. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead in more flour if needed, to make a soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3-5 minutes). Shape into a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning to grease the ball. Cover; let rise in warm place until doubled.

3. Punch down dough and divide in half. Let rest 10 minutes. Lightly grease 2- 8x8x2 or 9x9x2-inch baking pans and set aside. Mix together the filling and use a pastry cutter or your fingers to mix in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add in raisins and pecans if desired.

4. Roll out each half dough into a 12x8 rectangle. Sprinkle half the filling over each rectangle, leaving 1 inch unfilled along one side of the roll. Roll up each rectangle, starting from the filled long side. Pinch to seal seams. Slice into 12 equal pieces. Arrange in greased pans. Cover and let rise about 30 minutes.

Golden Brown with icing on. 
5. Preheat oven to 375. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes and remove from pan. Pour icing over top.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Getting Started With Essential Oils

If you don't quite understand essential oils and what they are for, you are not alone. I get lots of questions from people asking me why I chose Young Living, are oils safe when pregnant, how do I use the oils, and what oils can I use for a certain symptom. The first thing I want to say is, I am not a medical professional. I am offering advice and information learned from the Essential Oils Pocket Reference (which I am giving away free to the first 10 people to sign up with the Premium Starter Kit) as well as information from thousands of other oil believers! Here's some common questions I or others have when they first start out.

Why Young Living?: I chose Young Living for the personal belief that they are 100% pure. I did a lot of praying and asking God to lead me to the company He wanted me to choose and I just felt a calling to choose Young Living. Check out my Facebook page, Agape Homestead's Young Living Essential Oils, here you will learn a lot more about oil uses and business aspects of Young Living and why I went with them.  From their Seed to Seal guarantee to the fact that they grow all their own plants, distill them themselves, are organic, test all their oils multiple times, and have 3rd party companies test them, makes me more confident to use them. They also have several farms around the world.  Many oils say do not ingest and are more for aromatic uses only. I feel safe ingesting these oils and feel safe using them on young and old alike. When unsure about an oil, I always dilute it first, and look it up to make sure it is safe to ingest. I did some research on other companies and just did not feel like they were as pure as Young Living. Everyone has their own beliefs, but this is my personal opinion. Yes, they cost more than the ones you get in the store, but all the work that goes into making one bottle of oils is definitely worth more than they are selling them for. 

What are essential oils?: Essential oils are a non-fatty oil. They are an aromatic, volatile liquid that is in many shrubs, flowers, trees, roots, bushes, and seeds, most often extracted with steam distillation (Essential Oils Pocket Reference, 2011, p, 1).  Here is a great article about essential oils.

Can I use these oils when pregnant?: Absolutely. They are safe to use when pregnant. However several are not recommended to use when pregnant, and therefore you must do your research and figure out what is safe and what is not. There are lots of great charts on Pinterest that will help you out. The Essential Oils Pocket Reference book is a great resource as well. 

Do I have to turn this into a business?: No, you do not! If you choose to sign up as a wholesale member, this makes you a distributor, and gives you the opportunity to turn it into a business, but you don't have to sell a single thing! No monthly quotas to meet and no need to host parties. Once you buy the kit, you only need to spend $50 dollars in a whole year to keep your discount. If you hate the oils and don't want to buy anymore oils you don't have to. You will just lose your discount for the following year. 
The business opportunities are great with Young Living though. Once you start sharing with your friends and they want to sign up you can start to earn money and pay for your own oils and even have a nice paycheck coming in. Whether you just want to use the oils for yourself and your family or you want to turn this into a business, I think you will love essential oils. 

How do I use Essential Oils?: There are three common ways to use essential oils. Ingest, diffuse, and apply topically. The Pocket Reference book is a great tool that will help you know what oil to use and where to apply each oil. 

How do I sign up?!: 

Signing up as A Wholesale Member – A step-by-step Guide

1. Click over to the sign-up page.

2. Select “Sign up as: Young Living Wholesale Member

3. The “Enroller ID” and “Sponsor ID” boxes should already be filled in for you. But if not, enter 1611368 in both boxes or you can enter Laura Lee.

4. Fill out your name, billing address, shipping address, and contact info. (The reason you are asked to list your social security number is for tax purposes. If you make over $600/year selling Young Living products, you will receive a 1099 form in the mail, as is required by law. Young Living will never share this info with anyone.)

5. Create your password and pin which you will use to log in to your account and order your oils.

6. Select your enrollment starter kit. This is where you can specify which starter kit you would like (and you know I think the Premium Kit is the way to go!) – they range in price from $40 on up and you only need to spend $40 to get the 24% discount. Note – you must sign up with one of these kits to become a wholesale member. This is mandatory. To maintain your 24% discount going forward, you only need to spend $50 worth each subsequent year with Young Living on any product in their store. That’s it! You can also purchase other items at this time if you wish.

7. Set up your *optional* Essential Rewards Program (ER).
Now don’t be confused by this next step. Buying one of the ER kits is not a requirement to sign up as a wholesale member! This is a rewards program you can opt into to start earning money back to help pay for your oils. At this point, you can skip this step by selecting: ‘No, thank you. I plan on enrolling in the Essential Rewards Program later’. If one of the ER kits looks valuable to you then by all means get one in addition to your starter kit but please understand that you cannot buy an ER kit in lieu of a starter kit. This program is the most economical way to purchase your oils and other products. I belong and am already on my way to getting some free oils with it.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Living the Crunchy Life

I got called a hippy the other day by a friend, I know it was a joke, but it made me proud! It's not something you usually want to be called (I prefer the term crunchy), but when you live a lifestyle like ours it's like a rite of passage! It means you made so many changes in your life that people are starting to notice. My friend called us hippies because we try not to eat corn syrup anymore. In my head I was thinking you don't know the half of it! Like the fact that I haven't used shampoo and conditioner or face wash in over two months (baking soda, vinegar, and castile soap are my replacements). I brew my own kombucha, ferment things for fun (and health reasons), make my own jam, raise chickens (for meat and eggs), grow our own vegetables, make my own elderberry syrup, use essential oils and try to avoid conventional medicines as much as possible.

This lifestyle is definitely not easy, and we're only at the beginning stages! My next goals are to make my own bread, make deodorant, replace my body wash with either something homemade or with less ingredients, raise a pig, and make my own toothpaste. When you live differently you get a lot of people who think you are crazy. They might even call you a hippie ;). People are going to judge you, but that's okay. If this is how you feel like you should be living and this is your calling in life, you need to listen to God. Not your family members, friends, or people who read your blog that you don't even know. Hopefully, as time goes by, your friends and family will accept you for who you are, you might even encourage them to make a change in their own lives! If not, just know, that if this is where you feel God calling you to be, you don't need to change for anyone!

Things on the homestead are going well. I feel continually blessed each day in the ways Christ is working in our lives. We are getting between 2 and 3 dozen eggs each week and are able to sell most of these. Last week we sold out. The egg sells buy all of our feed and we are left over with a little bit each month. It's by no means what we need to live, but it is encouraging that we are not losing money raising chickens. Our baby chicks that the momma hatched are growing fast. Hopefully, we will be able to get them out of the pen soon so they can roam free. Right now they are too small and they need to stay in with the momma. I am sure she is anxious to be able to roam around as well. Inside we have 25 baby chicks that we are anxiously awaiting to get outside. They are growing quickly and will be ready to go out to pasture in about a week or two. Cornish Cross Hens live very short lives (about 8 weeks to be exact) so we hope to give them the best 8 weeks of their lives possible. Soon it will be time to cull them and freezer bag them for selling and for own meat supply. It's hard to not become attached to them as you watch them grow. It's interesting to think of what God has planned for your life. I never thought I would be raising chickens, and now I have 40 of them. My desires for my life have changed so dramatically in the last few years. It's not always normal, but it's our life and I love it!

After separating them. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Essential Oils Special!

If you have read any of our blog posts already or you know me, you know I love Young Living essential oils. I recently signed up to be a distributor, mostly for the 24% discount I get as a distributor. Now that I have been doing it for a few months and using the oils, I must say I love them! This month I am offering this book to anyone who signs up with the Premium Distributor Kit. This book is a wonderful resource when you are starting this new journey. It has all the Young Living Oils in it and has uses for all them. It has diagrams for vitaflex body points, and how to do the raindrop massage. This kit is so wonderful! It includes 11 5ml sample bottles of oils, a diffuser, and a few other goodies, this kit is valued at $300 for only $150! 

Whether you just want a healthier way to take care of your family or you want to go beyond that and teach others about these wonderful oils as well as earn an income for your family, I can help you! Please email me with any questions you might have @ I would love to talk to you more and all about the opportunities you can have as a Young Living Distributor. 

Premium Starter Kit

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spring is Here!

Links in this blog may be affiliate links. By clicking these you help to support our blog and our farm! 

Did you miss us?! It's been over a month since we have posted anything! That's far too long. That doesn't mean nothing has been happening on the homestead. It's quite the opposite! Now that school is back in session I (Mrs. Agape) have been very busy with homework. I am taking an agriculture class as well as a class on cultural diversity in early childhood education. Two very different classes, but they are both wonderful. Mr. Agape started a new job at a auto repair shop. He went to school to be a mechanic, later got a job on a farm as the mechanic but then fell in love with farming. However, he knew he didn't want to grow 100's of acres of rice and decided to go back to being a mechanic at an auto shop due to water restrictions on the farm since we are experiencing a drought here in California. We have been truly blessed with this new job. God is good! All the time! As part of our journey to a healthy lifestyle, this month we decided to avoid any food that has High fructose corn syrup and corn syrup in it. This has been a difficult journey since almost everything has it! This has forced us to eat at home more which has saved us some money too. We already made most of our meals from scratch so this part was not too difficult, but having to replace food that we had in the fridge like bread, ketchup, soy sauce, whip cream (I love it in my coffee), and ice cream (a must have for Mr. Agape). I am really wanting to get one of these to make homemade whipped cream and this to make ice cream. We definitely have to read all the labels to make sure it's not hiding in there.

Things on the farm have been even busier. Our Buff Orpington went broody and has been sitting on some eggs since mid-February. Last week Wednesday they finally hatched! She had 6 eggs but only 3 hatched. When we opened the other three, only one had anything growing in it, but it was severely underdeveloped. The other two had nothing in them. She is a wonderful momma and takes such great care of her chicks. They are so cute! They love to kick straw into their water and run away when momma tries to keep them warm. It's so nice not having to make sure the temperature is right for them or having to clean them. We were absolutely blessed to have a broody girl! We decided to separate her and put her in her own brooder house to sit on the eggs. I am glad we did, this way she doesn't have to worry about them getting too far away and the other chickens can't bother her.
One day old!

Cuddling with momma

Fresh straw for the chickens to kick around.

We were able to plant our garden the last two weekends. We have a great group of friends at our church who were willing to come out and help for the day. They helped us remove some of the cover crop and roto-till the ground. At the end of the day we finally rented a larger one, since our little one was not doing the job. Our poor friend had used the little one for a few hours and never complained, once we had to do it we realized how hard it was! Renting tools is a great idea and was much cheaper than we had expected. Next year we will do that first thing! We decided to do furrow watering again this year. Furrow watering is where you dig ditches and plant everything on the mounds. This encourages a deep root system and once the plants are developed you only have to water once every week or two! In the garden we have 8 varieties of tomatoes, 2 squashes, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, lots of corn, chives, basil, beans, sunflowers, rosemary, and onions. Many of these seeds were ones we get from our membership in the Seeds of the Month Club. It is so fun getting the envelope of seeds each month and seeing what they sent us. I pray that we will have a plentiful harvest, but we know God is the best farmer out there and He is the one who will decide if our plants will grow or not. On Monday we had a reporter come out and she will be writing an article for the local paper about our farm. We pray this will provide some customers for all of the wonderful produce we are growing.
Our friends helping clear the cover crop.

Finished results

We are getting lots of eggs, between 3 and 5 a day and have sold a few dozen and given a few dozen away as well. They are nice to have to give to friends or to trade for other goodies. We might trade for some goats milk soon. We also purchased 6 Blue Andalusian's in the beginning of February so we will have some more egg layers in a few months. In 10 days we will be getting our first delivery of broiler chickens. Broilers are meat chickens. We will be raising them in our front and backyard and moving them everyday. They take about 8 weeks to grow full size and then we will process them, freezer bag them, and sell them.

Fresh Eggs
We are enjoying our Young Living Oils and have been using them for so many things. This week I have been battling a cold and have not used any cold medicine at all! Some of the oils I have been using that are helping a lot include Thieves, R.C, Raven, Eucalyptus, Lemon, and Purification. Last night I had a glass of water with peppermint in it, when I woke up coughing I would take a few sips and the coughing would go away. I am so happy to have a replacement for medicines that usually make me feel worse anyways. It has been less than a week and I am pretty much feeling completely better.

What has been happening on your homestead? I'd love to hear about it! If you have a blog you would like to share, leave the link in the comments so I can check it out!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

My Dream Country Girl Wife

My dream country girl wife is someone who loves me for who I am, someone who adds to my crazy ideas, but is not afraid to tell me when I've gone to far. My dream country girl wife is someone who will lovingly help me with chores around the farm, someone who isn't afraid to get dirty planting the garden, or cleaning out the chicken coop, or helping you cull chickens! My dream country girl wife is someone I met 4.5 years ago! Let me tell you a story.

It's funny how things progress. When I first met my wife, neither one of us wanted this lifestyle of raising farm animals and tilling the ground. My wife and I met on a dating site, like many do these days, we quickly fell for each other and started dating 2 weeks after we met. Why wait when you think you got a keeper? We took our time with the dating process though, we knew marriage was a big deal and a decision for life so we took our time deciding if this was who we wanted to be with for the rest of our lives. I was a mechanic on a local farm, and she lived an hour away from me and was a caregiver. One day my friend posted a book on my Facebook page, I think as somewhat of a tease, but crazy me, not knowing what it was about, I ordered it because I liked the title, it is called "Born-Again Dirt: Farming to the Glory of God" by: Noah Sanders. I got the book and slowly read through it, not because it wasn't interesting, but because I am a slow reader and would easily lose focus. I read the book and was so excited that you could actually farm to the glory of God and the way He actually designed it! So I pursued farming. This is now what I wanted to do, but on a bigger level, I wanted 5,000 acres and combines and tractors! I am not sure what my fiance thought of me at this point, but soon she read the same book and fell in love with this idea of farming.

I ended up marrying my dream country girl wife at the age of 23 in 2012, it was the happiest day of my life! Little did I know that the days were only to get better! After we married, we watched a few documentaries including Food, Inc. and Fresh, which are about farming. If it's done right it can actually heal the land instead of hurt it. The next book we read together is called "You Can Farm" by Joel Salatin. That book really got us inspired to start farming somewhere, this also changed our views on farming and makes us desire to be grass farmers and practice rotational grazing that will heal the land with any animals we get in the future.

So we asked my boss if we could plant a few things on some of his land, and he said yes, we planted corn, tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, peppers, and pumpkin. This experience got us so excited that we were actually involved in something! Our minds were craving for what was next, my friend from work was raising chicken eggs in an incubator to be hatched for a science experiment for his kids. He had asked us if we wanted the chickens after they hatched because he could not take care of them for long, since he lived in an apartment. I crazily said yes, even though we lived in an apartment as well, and had no room for these birds!

We took the birds at about 1 week old, we got all the necessary supplies and raised them in our bathroom, not knowing what the next step would be. By the grace of God, two weeks later our cousins called us and said that one of their rental houses on some land would be available soon! We were so surprised and happy. We moved into the house and we quickly got to work on building a chicken run and coop, Our dreams were coming together, this was a beautiful stepping stone!

We still live at this rental house but have plenty of room for our chickens. We now have 12 hens and 1 rooster, a nice sized garden, and we are going to raise pastured meat chickens on our front and back lawns this upcoming Spring! a lot is happening!

Our chicken run area.
All I can do is thank God for his plan unfolding in my life! My wife and I had no clue that any of this would even come close to happening! I am so grateful that I married my dream country girl wife who loves helping me around the farm and loves engaging in crazy ideas with me! You know you got a keeper when she doesn't get embarrassed that you wear your muck boots to the store! She loves me for who I am and I love her for who she is! She has been the greatest inspiration in my life and without her I don't think I would have ever started farming.  Thank God for my dream country girl wife!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Pastured Poultry Shelters

Here at Agape Farm we are all about trying new enterprises and finding sustainability in the way we do things, so this year we decided to give a go at raising pastured poultry. We decided to follow the proven design of farming entrepreneur, Joel Salatin.

History of the Floorless Shelter:
Years back, when Joel was raising meat birds as a child, he needed more room to raise these birds. His business was doing well and his father gave him the idea of placing the meat birds in floorless shelters in the pasture. Placing the meat birds in a floorless shelter opened up a whole new ball park for raising birds! Joel quickly found out that by having these birds on pasture they eat less food because they get 15% of their diet off the grasses and bugs in the pasture. Having these birds in a shelter gave them unmatched protection from predators.This design of a floorless shelter quickly took off in the mind of Joel as he began to implement this design on larger scales, Joel says that you can tell if a venture is good if it is scalable, and scalable it is! Joel currently has dozens of these shelters that measure 10' * 12' * 2' high, and each shelter holds 75 birds. The reason why this method is so scalable is because the size of the shelter can easily be reduced and put in someones backyard and still hold the same profit per bird and still be sustainable!

We measured our pasture area and we decided that the size of our shelters would have to be 4' * 6' * 2' high, and hold 15 birds each. We have ordered 25 birds to arrive at the end of March 2014, We will be screwing pieces of plywood to the sides of one of these shelters to make a makeshift brooder house for the baby chicks, we will raise the birds in this brooder for the first 3 weeks and then we will remove the outer plywood and split up the birds and raise them on pasture for the next 5 weeks, We will be moving each shelter to a fresh new piece of pasture each morning, "A fresh salad bar" as Joel calls it.

The Build:

Number one rule in building these shelters: Always use 2"*2" Boards, Not 4"*4", They will make the shelter too heavy!!

Step 1: Figure out the size you need your shelter to be and how many birds you need to house, Each shelter needs to have a minimum of 1.6 Square inches per bird. ex: I went with a 4'*6' Floorplan, 4*6=24 Square feet, 24 Sq Ft / 1.6 Sq Ft Per Bird = 15 Birds, So my 4'*6' Shelter will house maximum of 15 birds.

Step 2: Draw out you design and calculate how much material you will need (again always use 2"*2" boards).
I calculated that I will need a total of 70' 8" of 2"*2" board per shelter so I went a bought 9 8' long boards per shelter.
Main Frame:
Qty 4: 6' Length
Qty 5: 4' Width
Qty 6: 2' Height
Qty 2: 3' Length of door
Qty 2: 4' 4" Width of door

Step 3: Purchase wood and assemble main frame (see picture below), For this you will need appropriate length screws (I used 2.5" long screws), a screwdriver (I used a cordless electric screw gun), and a drill w/ drill bit (optional: I like to pre-drill all my screw holes to prevent wood cracking).
I built both the top and bottoms separate first and then added the 2' long height boards to the top frame and then assembled that onto the bottom frame.

Step 4: Build in door bracing. The door can be any size you desire, I made mine about half the size of the length of the whole shelter. You want to assemble the height supports and the cross beam.
(See picture below)

Step 5: Build door, All this entails is screwing the 3' boards to the 4'4" boards to make a rectangle (The door is a little floppy until you add the outer wood to it.) The door I built is designed to not be hinged, just sitting on the shelter and moved whenever needed for feeding, watering, This way we can remove it completely when it comes time to remove the chickens for butchering.

Step 6: Install Chicken wire around one side of the shelter and a thin wood around the other I encourage you to find used free material for this, I focus on function over form when it comes to something like this. (The chickens aren't really going to mind how their shelter looks). The thinner the pieces of wood the lighter the shelter will be overall, and moving this shelter everyday, you are going to want it to be as light as possible. (See final picture)

And we're all done! More updates on the pastured poultry sure to come! Check out our Facebook for more information on the farm!
This post may contain affiliate links, Thank you for supporting our farm!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Coop

My wife and I built this chicken coop in the fall of 2013. We had no clue how to build a chicken coop but were determined to build one because our chickens were already 14 weeks old and needed a place to call home. So we did a lot of research about different coop designs and how many square feet are needed per chicken. Ultimately we created our own design from all the research that we did and we started.
First we got 4 4*4's and built a brace in the middle of them to hold them together and then around the bottom outer edge we lined it with 2*6's for strength.

Then we installed a piece of 1/2" plywood for the flooring. The next step was to build all the framing for the doors and roosts, we built this out of 2*4's.

We then contacted my brother in law who had connections to peach farmers who hooked us up with old peach props that were pretty much ready for the burn pile, but we knew we could use them, So we meticulously measured and cut each board and screwed it into place. Then all that was needed was to cut the top of the 4*4's to a slant and install the corrugated metal roofing.

 We then installed the roost bars, which were left over bamboo from our fence then hung the waterer and feeder inside. We blocked off the back of the coop where the nest boxes would go until the chicks were a little closer to laying age. We finally put the nest boxes in at about 22 weeks of age and they started laying at 24 weeks of age! We constantly keep a good 4 inches of straw in the bottom of the coop for deep bedding, this also helps keep the smell down by absorbing the pee and poop that comes from the chickens. What the coop turned out to look like was a surprise, we were shocked we built something so usable and beautiful with our bare hands! If you're determined enough you can do anything!! Just go out and get it! The coop's final measurement is 4'*8' and about 4' off the ground and 4' tall.

 One chicken enjoying the new roost bar.

 Nest boxes.
 Our happy flock!

Eggs in the nest boxes!!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Our First Eggs!

A few weeks ago our chicks turned 6 months old. For many chickens this is the ideal time to start laying eggs, unless it is the middle of winter, but California wants to act like it is Spring and be in the 70's and have no rain all month... Nice if you don't like the cold, bad if you want to grow food, go swimming in the summer, or drink water :). Since the weather is being strange our chickens are getting enough light and warmth to start laying eggs! On Wednesday hubby checked all of the coop instead of just the nest boxes and came running into the house telling me to come outside. I slipped on my muck boots and went out to the coop, expecting to see maybe one egg, but instead of one egg we found 5!

 I had been letting the chickens out each morning and since I thought the chickens were too young, I was not looking for any eggs, especially in the corner of the coop. Mr. Agape was only checking the nest boxes at night so it was too dark to see the rest of the coop, so to our surprise when we checked in the daytime we found these 5 in the corner. Thankfully normal eggs have a coating on the shell that keeps them good for several weeks with no refrigeration needed, meaning we can enjoy our eggs even if they have been in the coop a few too many days :).

Some other things happening on the homestead include fermenting the chicken food, planting the greenhouse, making flavored kombucha, and milk kefir. Stay tuned for some interesting posts on those!

Happy egg eating! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sourdough Starter

This post may contain affiliate links which helps to support our farm! Thanks for your support!
Have you ever wanted to make your own sourdough bread but felt intimidated by learning you need to have a starter?  The recipes I had always looked up required a lot of ingredients and seemed too complicated to me. Then a few weeks ago I was on Pinterest looking for a recipe for sourdough starter, as my friend had requested it, and found a wonderful recipe from Growing Up Triplets, I definitely recommend following her. She posted a recipe for sourdough starter that required only 2 ingredients! Can you believe it? I couldn't. Now for the even crazier part, the two ingredients are water and flour! Yes, that's it. Wait what about yeast you might be asking. Well, it just so happens there are all kinds of microbes floating around in the air and yeast is also floating around up there too. It's gross to think about, but this is the way bread was made for a long time before yeast was sold in those little packets. This is also why some bread has different flavors depending on where the wild yeast was caught.

In order to start you just need to put 2/3 cup flour in a glass jar with a wide mouth or a bowl, I use a jar because it is easier to store in the fridge. Add 1/2 cup of filtered water and mix it up. Now leave it uncovered on the counter and 24 hours later add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour to the mix, stir it up and let it sit and in about 24 hours add the 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour to the mix and stir it up again. By now it should have a fermented odor to it and have bubbles growing on top if so it's ready to use!

Sourdough Bread
4 cups of organic whole wheat flour or just white flour
2/3 cup of sourdough starter
1 2/3 cup filtered water
1 T  olive oil
1 T raw honey
1 t salt, preferably Himalayan or Celtic sea salt

Mix all ingredients together in a large ceramic or glass bowl and let sit for about 20 minutes (the batter might be hard to mix with a fork, so letting it sit allows the moisture to be absorbed). After about 20 minutes or so, wet your hands and the counter top and pull the dough out of the bowl. Give it a few rolls and kneads. Place it back into the bowl, cover with cheesecloth or a coffee filter if you used a jar, and let it sit for 12 hours.
After it’s sat for 12 hours, poke it. The dough should retain the dent your finger made (if it doesn’t, let it rise a little longer). Pull it out with wet hands onto a wet counter. Knead a couple more times and place into a greased loaf pan. Cover and set aside to rise about 12 hours.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, remove cheesecloth and bake for 8-10 minutes. Bump the heat down to 350 and bake for 45-50 minutes. The loaf should sound hollow when you knock on it. Remove from oven and let cool. Remove from pan and enjoy!

To keep your starter alive, just feed it the 1/2  cup flour, 1/2 cup water mixture once a week to once a month and leave in the fridge covered with cheesecloth or a coffee filter.