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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Maple Walnut Coffee Chia Seed Pudding

Maple Walnut Coffee Chia Seed PuddingI've seen chia seed pudding talked about a lot in the healthy eating communities but have never tried it myself. I do use chia seeds often in my morning smoothies and making a smoothie into a pudding is incredibly easy. All you need to do is increase the amount of chia seeds and refrigerate for a few hours and you get pudding!

For my first attempt at a chia seed pudding, I used the Maple Walnut Smoothie recipe from the new BLEND Smoothie eBook, authored by my friend Alyssa Brantley of Every Day Maven and beautiful photography by Faith Gorsky of An Edible Mosaic. I found so many great recipes in this ebook that I want to try both as a smoothie and a pudding conversion. I love that it has a whole section on coffee smoothies as I frequently add cold brewed coffee to my smoothies in the morning for a little pick me up.

In addition to adding chia seeds for this smoothie to pudding conversion, I made a few other minor changes to the original recipe that are optional:
  • Instead of instant coffee, I made an overnight refrigerator cold pressed coffee using a method I discovered on GardenFork. I used an espresso coffee blend from Third Coast Coffee, my new favorite coffee roaster (sorry Seattle). 
  • Used stevia drops instead of powder because it's what I had on hand (5 drops of liquid = 1 tsp powder).
  • Added Vital Protein Collagen Powder just because it's good for you and am always looking for something to toss it in.
  • I also increased some of the other ingredients to make more servings.

I also wanted to thank Alyssa for sharing some of her props with me that she no longer wanted. The dessert bowls I used for this recipe came from her. Thank you Alyssa!

Maple Walnut Coffee Chia Seed Pudding Recipe

Serving Size: 3-4
Total Time: 15 mins + 4 hour chill time

4 tbsp coursely chopped walnuts (raw or toasted)
4 tbsp rolled oats (old fashioned or quick cooking)
3/4 cup almond milk
 pinch of salt
4 drops stevia
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 dates, chopped
1 cup cold strong coffee
1/2 cup chia seeds
2 tbsp collagen powder (optional)
6 ice cubes

1. Add the walnuts and oats to a blender and pulse until they form a powder.
2. Add all remaining ingredients (except the ice) into a blender and process until smooth.
3. Add the ice and pulse until pulverized.
4. Transfer to serving glasses, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
5. Serve chilled.

maple walnut coffee pudding Ingredients maple walnut coffee pudding 1 maple walnut coffee pudding 3

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sugar Free Olive Oil Ice Cream Recipe

olive oil ice creamIt's been a while since I've used the ice cream maker. When I received a bottle of Azeite Esplendido olive oil in the mail from Seattle's own Esplendido Douro, I knew I had to make ice cream. I've never made or even had olive oil ice cream before but is something I've always wanted to try. Ice cream is typically loaded with sugar but I wanted to try making one with honey instead.

Raw honey contains a lot of beneficial nutrients but many of those nutrients can be damaged or lost if the honey exceeds 100 degrees. I wanted this ice cream as nutritious as possible so I added the honey only after the ice cream was cooled down to around 96 degrees.

Olive oil also has many health benefits. It's said to reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of all kinds of diseases. You can read more about the health benefits here. Esplendido's olive oil is cold-processed to retain nutrients and made from pesticide free olives grown in the hills of Portugal, overlooking Douro Valley. In their first year of business they won a gold award from the New York International Olive Oil Competition. I'm not an olive oil expert but I have done an olive tasting before and can taste the difference between a good and bad olive oil. This olive oil is better than your average olive oil. It's very fruity and I was pleasantly surprised by the peppery finish. It worked great in this ice cream recipe and would be a good olive oil to use for salads, dips, bread dipping or to finish off any meal. You can find their olive oil around the Pacific Northwest but are planning to expand to other locations in the near future. You can also order through their website if you can't find it locally.

curdled ice creamIf you've never made ice cream before, it's really really important you don't overcook it, no really. I knew this. Yet, in my attempt to get a good photo of the temperature reading while it was cooking, I let the first batch cook a little too long and the result was a chunky, nasty mess. The first batch, it ended up going into the trash. The mixture went from perfect to chunky so fast. Luckily, I hadn't added the honey and olive oil yet so I was just out a couple of cups of milk, some cream and egg yolks. The second batch turned out perfectly.

Sugar Free Olive Oil Ice Cream Recipe


2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup raw honey
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup good olive oil
pinch of sea salt

  1. Heat milk, cream and pinch of salt in a medium sized saucepan over low to medium heat until 190 degrees (just before boiling point), stirring frequently.
  2. Remove saucepan from heat.
  3. Add yolks to a small bowl and whisk eggs while adding a ladleful (about 1/2 cup) of the hot milk to temper the eggs.
  4. Whisk the tempered eggs into the pan of milk and return to heat, stirring constantly (do not leave unattended). Heat for a few minutes until temperature reaches about 175 degrees. Mixture should thicken slightly. Do not keep at or over 175 degrees for too long or you will end up with a chunky mess as pictured above. If you start noticing it get the slightest bit chunky, remove from heat as soon as possible.
  5. Strain the mixture through a fine metal strainer to remove any chunky bits. If it gets too chunky, no amount of straining will fix it.
  6. Cool the mixture to 95-97 degrees.
  7. Stir in the olive oil and honey and chill 4-6 hours in the refrigerator.
  8. Add mixture to an ice cream maker and run until ready, usually 20-25 minutes. 
  9. Serve plain or with your choice of toppings.

ice cream ingredients
ice cream temp
ice cream maker
Disclaimer: I was provided with a free bottle of olive oil from Esplendido Douro in exchange for a blog post. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hatching Shipped Eggs

Hatching shipped eggs is not nearly as successful as local eggs even if you are lucky enough to get the shipped eggs to your door without them breaking. I would recommend buying local if at all possible to get a better success rate. The most common problem with shipped eggs is a detached or displaced air sack.  The air sack should stick to the fat side of the egg which is where the chick's head should be at hatch and if the air sack is not there, the chick will likely not make it out. There are some things you can do to improve your hatch rate of shipped eggs.

Tips for Incubating shipped eggs:
1. Store the shipped eggs in an egg carton pointy side down for 24 hours before incubating to allow the cells to heal and increase the possibility of the air sack reattaching if it becomes detached.
2. Candle the eggs as soon as possible and discard any cracked eggs. Try to keep the fat side of the egg on top when candling so the air sack remains in the correct position. You can try using nail polish or wax to seal minor cracks.
3. Incubate the eggs with pointy side down rather than on their side to allow air sack to remain at the fat end of the egg.
4. Incubate at a slightly lower humidity than you normally would, around 30% as eggs with detached air sacks are not as likely to grow like they should.
5. Candle at day 6 or 7 to check for development continuing to keep the egg fat side up.
6. Start lockdown (stop turning) at day 16 instead of day 18 and wait a couple more days to increase the humidity to 40-50%
7. Cross your fingers. You may need to help a chick out if it looks like they are having trouble.

My shipped egg hatch adventure:

  • A dozen eggs (4 svart hona, 2 ameraucana, 2 jubilee orpington, 2 isbar, 2 olive egger) arrived from Ohio via USPS 2 Day Express and placed in an egg carton pointy side down. 
  • Candled in the evening and only saw an air sack in a couple of the eggs and one of the ameraucana eggs was cracked and set aside, not to be incubated.
  • Placed 4 svart hona and 2 of my own olive egger eggs in the Brinsea Mini Advance and the remaining in a Hovabator I borrowed for this hatch with humidity at 40%.
  •  Candled eggs and saw detached air sacks in nearly all of the shipped eggs, no development visible in any of the eggs yet. No air sack visible in my own eggs (they are dark and hard to see anything).
  • Moved all eggs into Hovabator since eggs could not be placed vertically in the Brinsea after reading about hatching eggs with detached air sacks.
  • Lowered humidity to 30% after more research on hatching eggs with detached air sacks.
  • Candled the eggs. Saw development in 2 of the 4 svart hona eggs and 1 of the shipped olive egger eggs. 1 of the svart hona eggs also appeared to have a blood ring. My olive eggs were too dark to see anything. No visible veins in any of the other eggs but a few appeared to have a larger dark mass at the top of the egg than others. The air sacks are on the top of the eggs in these photos and not visible. Will try to get a photo of the air sack in the next candling.
two of the developing svart hona eggs
  • Saw blood rings in 1 ameraucana egg and in the olive egger egg that was showing development in the previous candling. Down to just two svart honas that are still developing from the hatching eggs. The rest don't appear to be developing. In those that are developing the air sack appears to have reattached. Only saw movement in one of the eggs. The two F2 olive egger eggs from my flock have too dark of a shell to see much but I think I saw some veining when candling at the top through the air sack.
A view of the egg sack of one of the developing svart hona eggs
  • Candled eggs and one of the svart hona's has stopped developing. Only remaining eggs that are still developing are one svart hona and the two olive eggers from my own flock. I removed all the eggs except for the three developing and set them in an egg carton and removed the egg turner. 
  • Increase humidity to 45%. 
The 3 eggs that made it to lockdown

  • Two eggs have started to pip. One olive egg pipped this am but has not made much progress in the last 8 hours. The svart hona has also pipped but it's on the side, not from the airs sack. I've repositioned the egg so the pip end is on top to reduce the chance of it drowning.

  • Today is officially HATCH DAY. I was expecting some chicks to hatch out overnight but no luck but both made a little progress and the humidity dipped down to 20% so the membranes got a little dried out. I decided to do some manual intervention on the svart egg as it had not yet broken through the membrane for air. I poked a hole in the membrane and pulled it back a bit to help it breath. I gave it about 8 hours and it had made no progress at all so I decided to do some more intervention and pulled back nearly all of the shell from the membrane except for a bit on the bottom and put it back in for a few hours. Still no progress so I pulled back the membrane about halfway down. I didn't want to pull it all the way off in case the yolk had not been absorbed. After a few more hours she was trying hard to get out but seemed stuck so I helped her some more and found the yolk to be absorbed and she finally was free. She seems to be doing well so far. The other olive egg didn't pip until late afternoon but is making quick progress and might be out by morning.
F2 olive egger zipping around the egg


  • The day after hatch day and the other olive egger made it's way out some time over night so all 3 that made it to lockdown made it through the hard part. 
  • Unfortunately, my two olive eggers have some foot/leg issues. The last one that hatched had curled toes on both feet so I made shoes out of masking tape to keep them straight. It should only take a couple of days to straighten the toes since I caught it early. The other olive egger wouldn't stand up when walking and would walk on her hocks. I fed them some vitamin water and wrapped her legs in vet wrap to help protect them. She's already doing much better. Not 100% but definitely standing up more than she was before.
The three amigos

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Buying Bulk Beef by Hanging Weight

If you've never bought a side (1/2) or 1/4 of a cow from a farmer before you may be in for a surprise when you get the final bill. There is more to it than just the hanging weight price that you are quoted from by the farmer. There are also killing fees, butcher cut and wrap fees and possibly tax on the butcher fees depending where you live. I'm hoping this information will give you a good idea of what to expect without being too confusing.

We ended up splitting the 1/4 cow with someone else. Being this is the first time buying meat like this, I didn't think it would all fit in my freezer. When we brought it home though we could have kept it all and it would have fit in the freezer with no problem. Since we got all ground beef they stack up nicely.


Live Weight:
A live cow before slaughter can weigh between 1,000 and 1,800 pounds. The farmer may or may not give you this information.

Hanging/Dressed/Carcass Weight:
This is the weight of the slaughtered cow (head, hide, blood, unusable organs, and hooves removed) that is hung before it is dry-aged. Hanging weight can be between 600 and 1,000 pounds (approximately 60% of the live weight). This is the weight the farmer will typically charge you for and is usually between $3.00-$4.00/lb. Cut and wrap fees from the butcher also use this weight and can charge between .40-.80/lb for the cut/wrap fee.

Finished/Packaged/Cut/Take-Home Weight:
This is the weight you actually take home that the butcher has cut and wrapped for you. It will vary based on what cuts you get as well as the breed and if the cow was grass fed or not. This is usually between 50-70% of the hanging weight.  If you want the bones or any organs, you will need to let the butcher know.

My Real Life Example for 1/4 Cow

Hanging weight of 1/4 grass-fed beef per farmer: 191.5 lbs
Farmer's price: $2.50/lb (I got a super deal)
Butcher Cut/Wrap fee: $.57/lb
Kill Fee: $15
Finished Weight from butcher: 116 lbs (60% of hanging weight, all ground beef wrapped in 1 lb packages) + 14 lbs bones

To the farmer:
$480 (192 lb x $2.50)

To the butcher:
$15.00 (1/4 of kill fee)
$109.44 (192 lb x $.57 cut & wrap)
$1.25 (disposal fee)
$9.63 (tax)
$135.32 Total

$615.32 Grand Total
$5.28/lb ($612.30/116 lbs) Packaged Price Per Pound

Note, the butcher rounded the hanging weight to 192 but the farmer did not.

This is what the 1/4 cow processed in all ground beef along with 14 lbs of bones looks like. It didn't take up as much space as we thought it would. I thought they would charge extra for the bones but they didn't appear to.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

2016 Northwest Flower and Garden Show

We always enjoy going to the NW Flower and Garden show in Seattle. Last year's trip was more rushed and we didn't get to spend as much time as we would have liked at the show. This year we had more time to stroll around the show. We arrived first thing on Saturday morning and there was already a pretty good sized crowd. We decided to head straight for the garden displays, my favorite area, before they got too crowded. We were really impressed by the creative displays this year.

My favorite display garden was Southwest Serenity by West Seattle Nursery. They won a silver medal for their display but I think they deserved a gold. I later found out they deservingly won the People's Choice Award. I took the most pictures at this display. I loved everything about it, the rock formations, cacti, succulents, flowers and especially the peaceful looking bed.
Cacti Southwest
SW Bedroom

A close second favorite was the Tiny Tetons display by Nature Perfect Landscape and Design in Olympia. They did win a gold medal for their display. I thought it was very creative and beautifully done but was one of the smallest displays at the show. It was very picturesque.
Tiny Tetons

Here's a few more photos from some of the other displays.
Rainforest Got Mail
Whaling Co

These are a few vendors that had some nice product displays.
Lemon Verbena Woodenware
Cold Frame

Our favorite local nursery, Pine Creek Nursery, had a display at the show for the first time. It sounds like they had a lot of fun and may be back again next year.
Pine Creek Nursery

You may know I'm a big chicken fan and it was fun to see a couple chickens at the show. Glad they came out of the SaltBox Designs coop to say hi.
Saltbox Designs Chickens

A few vendors hand out freebies like GroCo compost made with Loop and several packets of pollinator seed mixes. We look forward to going back to the show again next year.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Tomato and Pepper Varieties 2016

An assortment of last year's varieties (Dester & Latah not pictured)

I'm growing more varieties of tomatoes than I did last year as if 15 wasn't enough. I've got 22 varieties started. I'll just be putting one plant of each in the garden but have started 3 of each and will be selling off the extras. Last year I only did 3 varieties of peppers but am stepping it up this year and doing 11. Almost all of my tomatoes and peppers were received through seed exchanges or saving seeds. All are heirloom varieties unless otherwise noted.

EDIT: I couldn't resist some new seeds I got so I added a few more so I'm up to 22. I'll have to plant a couple in the front yard to make room for them all! One of the new additions is Indigo Cherry Drop which I have been lusting after at The Herbfarm garden since last year but hadn't been able to find it anywhere but managed to get a few seeds from The Herbfarm Gardener so they'll be in my garden this year.


Chadwick Cherry - Indeterminate - 80 days - Love Your Land 2015
Chocolate Cherry - Indeterminate - 70 days - Saved Seed from Tomato Festival
Indigo Cherry Drop - Indeterminate - 65 days - Herbfarm Kitchen Gardener
*SunGold - Indeterminate - 60 days - Seed Exchange with Gratefulseedsaver
Red Pear - Indeterminate - 70 days - Seattle Seed Co 2014
Super Snow White - Indeterminate - 75 days - Saved Seed from Tomato Festival
Sweet Pea Currant - Indeterminate - 62 days - Seed Exchange with Lisa Russell
White Ivory Pear - Indeterminate - 75 days - Seed Exchange with Lisa Russell
Garden Gem - Semi-Determinate - 65 days - New hybrid from Seed Exchange with Jennifer Leigh

Black Beauty - Indeterminate - 80 days - RoundrockFarm
Japanese Black Trifele - Indeterminate - 80 days - Saved Seed from Tomato Festival
Jaune Flamme - Indeterminate - 70 days - Seed Exchange with Sarah Moran
Latah - Determinate - 55 days - Saved Seed
Martino's Roma - Determinate - 70 days - Seed Exchange with Lisa Russell
Orange Roussellini - Determinate - 80 days - MIGardener
Reisetomate - Semi-Determinate - 85 days - Seed Exchange with Tasha Grafton

Ardwyna Paste - Indeterminate - 75 days - Saved Seed from The HerbFarm
Brandywine (red?) - Indeterminate - 80 days - Seed Exchange with Big Family Homestead
Cherokee Purple - Indeterminate - 80 days - Seed Exchange with The Rusted Garden
Homestead - Semi-Determinate - 80 days - Urban Organic Gardener Seeds of the Month
Kellog's Breakfast - Indeterminate - 80 days - Seed Exchange with @youpaynow
Garden Treasure - Indeterminate - 75 days - New hybrid from Seed Exchange with Jennifer Leigh 

Preparing to plant the tomato seeds into 6 cell packs


Peach Habanero - Seed Exchange with HomeGrownGourmet
Purple Jalapeno - Seed Exchange with Big Family Homestead
Scotch Bonnett Orange - Seed Exchange with The Rusted Garden
Padron - Seed Exchange with @youpaynow
Giant Jalapeno - Plant from Aaron via Duvall Homesteaders

Mulato Isleno Poblano - Seed Exchange with The Rusted Garden

Emerald Giant Bell - Urban Organic Gardener Seeds of the Month
Lunchbox  - Saved seed from The Herbfarm
**Orange (bell?) - Seed Exchange with Kathy Pinkas
Purple Beauty Bell - Mike the Gardener Seeds of the Month
**Red (bell?) - Seed Exchange with Kathy Pinkas
Shishito - Seed Exchange with HomegrownGourmet

*This seed is from Germany and supposedly dehybridized and probably not sold in the US. 
**These seeds came from a seed exchange and labeled orange pepper and red pepper. So I'm not sure what exactly they are. Could be bell peppers or sweet peppers I really don't know but I wanted to find out.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Olive Egger Chickens

I wanted to post some information on olive egger chickens and the Isbar x Marans cross in particular because there is not a lot of information out there about this cross.

Olive Eggers and Easter Eggers are considered colored egg laying mutts of the chicken world. They are made up by crossing various chicken breeds and lay a variety of colored eggs, typically blues and greens but have seen pinks and grays on occasion. I have 2 easter eggers and 3 olive egger layers.


How to create an olive egger: 

Black Copper Marans, Easter
Egger and Olive Egger Eggs
You will need to breed a blue or green egg layer with a dark brown egg layer to get an F1 (First Generation) olive egger. The most popular breeds to use are the Marans or Welsummer for the dark brown and a Cream Legbar or Easter Egger for the blue/green egg.

Dark brown layers: 
Common: Marans, Welsummer, Barnevelders
Rare: Empordanesas, Penedesenca
Blue/green layers: 
Common: Cream Legbar, Easter Eggers
Rare: pure Ameraucanas, pure Araucanas, Isbars

If you breed an F1 olive egger with an F1 olive egger, you get an F2 but that F2 could lay any colored egg from blue, green, pink, olive,etc.



If you breed an F1 olive egger with a dark brown layer or blue layer that is called backcrossing.
  • Backcrossing an F1 to a dark brown layer can be done to darken the olive egg color but you have a 50/50 chance of getting a brown layer
  • Backcrossing an F1 to a blue layer can be done to get a lighter shade of green but again you have a 50/50 chance of getting blue or some other color depending on the breed of the blue layer.
Here's a handy chart that explains olive breeding, sourced from the Olive Eggers Facebook group:

The Easter Egger vs Ameraucana vs Araucana Debate: 

You will frequently see Ameraucana or Araucanas for sale and the majority of the time they are mislabeled and are actually Easter Eggers. Pure Ameraucana and pure Araucanas are rare and carry two blue egg genes. One good indication you are buying a pure breed is the price. If the price is much higher than other breeds sold they may actually be pure breeds. You can get more info about the differences between these 3 on Fresh Eggs Daily.

You are not guaranteed an olive egg unless you cross a pure dark brown laying breed with a pure blue/green laying breed that carries 2 blue egg genes (homozygous) like a Cream Legbar, pure Ameraucana or pure Araucana. Since many of the blue/green layers are created from a mix of breeds, there's not a guarantee you'll get olive and it is possible to end up with a brown egg. I found this to be the case with Isbars. I thought it was a two green egg gene laying breed but after further research discovered they were created by crossing Rhode Island Reds (brown layer), New Hampshires (brown layer), and Cream Legbars (blue layer). The breed should have the brown egg gene bred out but many people are finding brown layers in their flocks of Isbars. The Cream Legbar is homozygous for the blue egg gene which is why it's a popular choice for olive egger breeding.

My Olive Eggers:

I had my broody buff orpington hatch out 5 olive egger eggs that I got from a friend at the end of the summer that were an Isbar roos crossed with Marans hens. Two of them turned out to be boys and three were girls. All the olive eggers seem to have a body shape closer to the marans but the coloring and eyes of the Isbar. One of the two blue hens has a bit of black leakage on her back. They started laying eggs between the ages of 24-25 weeks. Unfortunately, one of them is laying light brown eggs which got me doing more research because I didn't think that was possible. I found many others reporting brown eggs from their Isbars and it is due to their Rhode Island Red and New Hampshire brown egg genes being expressed and not bred out properly.

If you use an Isbar for your olive egger crosses, you aren't guaranteed an olive egg. The chances of getting brown eggs also increases if you cross two olive eggers together or cross an olive egger with a dark egg layer. This is frequently done to try and darken the olive egg color.

I will say the Isbars are a beautiful breed and come in blue, black and splash. I ended up with 2 blue and one black for my layers but the black one is the one laying brown eggs so I guess she isn't truly an olive egger. The blue olive eggers eggs are a nice dark olive/tan shade. I may try crossing my black olive egger roo with my easter eggers to see if I can get the egg color a little more green.

I do not sell olive egger chicks or hatching eggs as I do not have any pure blue laying breeds. My only roo is an olive egger so his offspring could end up laying brown eggs.
Blue Olive Egger Roo
(Blue Isbar Roo x Black Copper Marans Hen)
I decided to give this guy away to a new home.
Two roos wasn't working out very well.

Black Olive Egger Roo
(Black Isbar Roo x Black Copper Marans Hen)
Blue Olive Egger Hen
(Blue Isbar Roo x Black Copper Marans Hen)
Black Olive Egger Hen
(Black Isbar Roo x Black Copper Marans Hen)
Unfortunately she did not get a blue egg gene from her
Black Isbar dad so doesn't technically qualify as an olive egger

Monday, February 08, 2016

Seed Swaps - Free Seeds

I've become addicted to seed swaps over the course of a year. There are so many different ways you can get seeds besides buying packets online or at your local big box stores. I can't even count the number of seed swaps I've participated in the last year. I'm sure it's over 20. I should really slow down because there's no way I'll be able to plant everything I have. Those of you that are new to gardening and don't think you have much to share, it really only takes one packet of seeds to start. Some people will even freely give out seeds, asking nothing in return. I want to share with you all the various ways I've swapped or been given seeds.

Local Seed Swaps

If you're in a relatively large city there may be seed swaps that happen right in front of your nose. We attended our first Snoqualmie Valley Seed Exchange this year. This particular exchange was free and open to the public.  You could join whether you had seeds to trade or not. There were many tables set up with seeds organized by type. They received seed donations from nearly a dozen seed companies for the event including: Ed Hume Seeds, Pinetree Garden Seeds, High Mowing Seeds, Johnny's Seeds, Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, Baker Creek Seeds, Bountiful Gardens, Adaptive Seeds, Territorial Seeds, Wild Garden Seed and the Organic Seed Alliance. In addition to all of these seeds, people were encouraged to add their saved seeds or extra packets of seeds to the tables as well but it was not required. I donated some of my bean and mustard seeds and picked out several varieties of tomatoes, greens, radishes and herbs. This is an annual event here that I'm sure we will go to again in the future.
6th Annual Snoqualmie Valley Seed Exchange

Another local group we participate in is called the Green Elephant Plant Swap group. They meet a four times a year and exchange everything from seeds, hardwood cuttings and plants. We've gone to several of those events and always bring home something exciting.

Hardwood Cutting Exchange Seed Swap

Seed Swap Websites and Forums

Earthineer is my favorite seed swap site. You can search for exactly what you're looking for as well as post what you have for trade. You can then contact the person that has what you want and offer up a trade. I've done a few trades through this site by searching for some particular seed I was looking for. They also have an annual "pay it forward" event in February where you can list seeds or receive seeds for nothing in return and the recipient of the seeds is encouraged to plant and save seeds from whatever they get and pass them on to others next year.

There are a few other sites which I have not yet tried like HeirloomSeedSwap and GardenWeb Forum.


There are several seed swapping Facebook groups but I have only participated in Share the Seed USA group. Other groups include Great American Seed Swap, The Free Seed Exchange, Great American Seed Swap/Trade (different than previous group), Seed Traders for Future Generations, Seed Swap and The Trading Post.


I have several gardeners I follow on Instagram and occasionally someone will post some interesting fruit or vegetable or a photo of their seed catalogs or seeds they just got in the mail and I'll ask if they would be interested in doing a seed swap and 9 times out of 10 they will say yes.

A photo posted by Paula Thomas (@gapey) on


I also follow several gardeners on youtube and there are a few that do seed giveaways every year or several times a year. One of those channels that does several seed giveaways by you simply mailing a self addressed envelope to them is Love Your Land. She posts lots of gardening how to videos and has done several seed giveaways on her channel.

Group Swaps

Big Family Homestead is a youtuber that hosts a group seed swap with groups of 20 people. I've participated in a couple of group seed swaps like this and the way those work is you send in 20 (or however many participants there are) packets of seeds to the seed swap host, as does all the other participants and then he re-distributes all those packets to everyone so you will get back 20 different packets of seeds and you don't know what you're gonna get till it comes in the mail. Those are always fun to do. I've also participated in a group swap via Instagram that fdclinton hosted which had 14 participants. Below was my submission to that swap.

A photo posted by Paula Thomas (@gapey) on

Last year's seeds from the Big Family Homestead swap:
A photo posted by Paula Thomas (@gapey) on
If you know of other sites or ways to swap seeds, feel free to leave your links and suggestions in the comments.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Instant Pot Steamed Eggs

I bought myself a little early Christmas present during a black Friday sale on Amazon. I got the amazing Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker for only $78.50. Little did I know it's more than just a pressure cooker. This thing does just about everything. It has various settings for steaming, yogurt, rice and you can even saute in the thing. Had I known it did all these things I would have gotten one earlier. I've only had it out of the box for 3 days and in that time have made 5 different things in it and have enough leftovers to last me the rest of the week. This is what I've made so far:
  1. nom nom paleo's kalua pig
  2. predomenantly paleo's lemon garlic chicken
  3. instant pot's soft boiled eggs
  4. 100 days of real food's pumpkin purée (I used lakota squash)
  5. nom nom paleo's Mexican Beef
Instant Pot On Fresh Eggs in Instant Pot
I thought I would share my experience with using the Instant Pot to make steamed eggs. You may know fresh eggs are a pain in the arse to peel using traditional boiling methods so I always steam the eggs for easy peeling. I decided to use the steam setting on the Instant Pot to make a few boiled (steamed) eggs to see how it does. I didn't realize the recipe I was following was for soft boiled eggs until I got them out of the cooker. Next time I'll try adding 2 more minutes to the time and that should get a nice hard boiled egg. The 4 minute cooking time I used resulted in a nicely cooked white with a yolk that wasn't runny but more a medium consistency.

Steamed Eggs Egg Ice Bath

Instant Pot Medium Soft Steamed Egg

6 eggs
1 Cup Water

  1. Add 1 cup of water to Instant Pot and place wire rack (trivet) in the bottom
  2. Place eggs on wire rack, spacing evenly on the bottom
  3. Close cooker and be sure the valve on the lid is set to "Sealing"
  4. Plug in cooker and push Steam button and reduce time to 4 minutes for medium soft egg (6 minutes should give you a hard boiled egg)
  5. When done, place a cool wet towel over lid and move valve to "Venting" to release steam
  6. Remove lid and using pot holders, remove rack with eggs, drain pot and fill with cold water and ice cubes
  7. Lower rack of eggs into ice water bath, adding more water if needed to cover eggs and cool for 5 minutes
  8. Remove and enjoy or refrigerate 
I had one of my 6 eggs crack during cooking. I've seen various recommendations to reduce the chance of eggs cracking which include using a steamer basket, placing eggs in cookie cutters or canning lids.

Semi Soft Boiled EggEgg Topped Salad

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

2015 Chicken Additions

Over the past 4 months my flock of chickens has grown by 6 so I thought I would give an introduction now that they are nearly all grown up.

This is Agnes, a silver laced wyandotte. I always thought wyandottes were one of the prettiest breeds and they are also known to be one of the most docile and friendly. She joined my flock the beginning of October. She was delivered to me by a neighbor who was having trouble with her bullying his other girls. She's a young girl that just started laying so I was happy to see if she would get along with my girls. We decided to just put her in the run with no introduction period to "give her a taste of her own medicine". I was skeptical and a little scared she would get beat up. We kept a close eye on her and was surprised how well it actually went. They didn't welcome her with open wings but there wasn't much fighting other than Lucy but she likes to fight with everyone. Now they seem to be best buds and frequently hang out together when free ranging. Agnes held her own quite well and moved up the pecking order pretty quickly and has settled in around #3 or #4. She's currently my most regular layer but is still laying her baby eggs that are much smaller than the rest of the girls. The first couple of weeks she laid her eggs in the chicken run but has finally figured out the proper place to lay them and now leaves them for me in one of the bottom nesting boxes while everyone else lays in the top boxes. I'm glad I was able to provide a home for her and that she didn't end up in a soup pot.

The other 5 additions are now 4 months old and came to me as fertilized eggs from someone I met in a local chicken Facebook group. Bailey, one of my buff orpingtons, had been broody for 3 weeks and didn't show any sign of breaking out of it. I saw a post on the group about someone having fertilized olive egger eggs for sale and decided to give it a try. I've been wanting to add some olive eggs to my already colorful egg basket. I brought 5 eggs home and gave them to Bailey to sit on. After being broody for 3 weeks, I wasn't sure if she would be up for sitting on some eggs for 3 more weeks. I marked the eggs with a pencil just in case some more eggs happened to appear in her box and I'm glad I did because I found 2 more eggs in her box and was able to remove them.

On day 21 (July 29) all 5 eggs hatched. The day after they hatched I moved Bailey and the babies to a sectioned off corner of the chicken run with a brooder so the others wouldn't bother them. After a couple of weeks I let the babies and mom out with the others, with supervision, until I was confident Bailey would be able to protect them. Luckily Bailey is the top of the pecking order and if anyone even looked at her babies they got chased away. She was a great mom and hope she will be able to raise more babies for me in the future. At about 2 or 3 weeks it was clear I had two boys and three girls. The boys got their combs and wattles well before the girls. Their biological parents are a black copper marans hen and either a blue or black Isbar roo. Only two of them look alike and the rest are pretty easy to tell apart. The girls should start laying in a couple months and the boys are now crowing like there's no tomorrow and starting to get the urge to procreate.

Calypso and Oliver

Izzie and Shylo