Saturday, April 11, 2015

Betty Crack Corn and I Don't Care!

Yep, looks like you're out of cracked corn, ma!
Yep, this Betty cracks corn. Not for fun of course, but in the event that we are out of cracked corn and we have whole corn, I can just pull out my handy dandy grain mill and replenish the stockpiles.

I didn't know the simplicity of this concept a few months ago of course, when my birds refused to eat whole corn and instead started cannibalizing their own eggs, but that's beside the point. The point is that I stumbled on this awesome gadget here quite by accident. Through researching how to grind our barley into flour and how food mills work, I thought I might present you all a post about such a subject.

So here is our lovely grain mill scattered into the pieces I found in a bucket in the basement, discarded for just such an occasion. I won't bore you with the anatomy but if you're interested in being politically correct, check this website out. So, moving forward! I fumbled with the pieces a bit, but got it together and attached it to the kitchen table. Out of this first-time experience, I found you need to have a few things with you besides your bucket of grain:
  • 9"x13" clean pan
  • clean dish towel
  • Quality assurance, folks
  • empty clean bucket (same size as your grain bucket)
 Set the pan under the grinder wheel and drape the cloth on top of the wheel (otherwise you'll be cranking at 1mph and still have a floor covered in corn). Below is a simple photo progression of how the grain actually gets cracked. **Don't think I'm talking down to anyone here; I did plenty of research and was REALLY frustrated at not being able to see the fine details of how it works. Keep in mind that my blog is meant for "them city folk" or newbies who are visual learners like myself.**

The left plate turns clockwise with the siphon inside. You can see some corn already cracking.

Too coarse; I had to adjust lots of times before I found what was going to work for the birds.

This is the ideal setup.

Top view from the hopper.



...still cranking...

...more cranking...

The process is incredibly simple so don't think cracked corn is anything special besides and extra drop of sweat. To the top right is a handful of the texture close to what my birds prefer, yours will be different if your birds are as picky as mine but its just about identical to the stuff from the feed store. I'm not crazy about cracking my own corn, but as I mentioned before, in the case that we have whole corn and none cracked, I know that I can sacrifice twenty minutes of my time and get a gallon done to toss in the mixture. Self-reliance is just a fancy way of saying that Hubby and I can improvise really well instead of buying the quick fix.  And as they say, "Happy hen, happy den" right?

Just for kicks, I sent the same handful seen above through the mill one more time (incredibly messy because the flour dust got everywhere) and then another time, each time adjusting the plates to be closer and closer. Nothing remarkable here, just a bit more powdery corn. It came out each time very dusty and still very coarse so I wouldn't recommend making any cornbread from this method.

Of course, there's tons of grain mills out there and this is only one of them, probably a much lower-end model too. We want to get another soon, and grow the grain to mill in it, but that's a long way off. For now, we are going to be growing corn and will likely post a video from start to finish once we finally get our corn shucker.

Does anyone else crack their own corn? What about barley or wheat? Any success? Any tips we can use?

Betty Crockett


A Visit from the Apothecary

Not that anyone has an apothecary anymore, but every once in a while its nice to be able to pamper ourselves with some homemade goodies!

On my awesome Pinterest page, I've been looking for all kinds of simple homemade products that you can make yourself with at least half of the ingredients already in your pantry. I've really surprised myself at how easy some of them are--like homemade Febreeze? Or homemade deodorant? I'll give anything a try!

What I found myself most interested in was making chapstick, but I couldn't order the essential oils in time for this experiment. "Why", you ask? Well, because this was yet another snow day that I was bored out of my skull and wanted to be crafty and learn yet another life skill because I'm crazy like that.

What I had ordered a week before this was a jar of shea butter, coco butter, and beeswax pellets from the Essential Depot via Amazon. The reviews online were a bit iffy on the beeswax and although they all have their own unique aromas, I personally did not find them offensive. The company sent them very quickly and I am very impressed with their quality.

So onto the research! In the many recipes I found, I knew I wanted to make at least one hand lotion and one hard lotion bar. My hands get horribly dry between dishes, yard chores and ceramics at work and there's only so much money in the grocery budget for Nivea Soft (which until now has been my lotion of choice). The recipes are very clear and leave tons of flexibility to experiment with scents.

Whipped Body Butter

1 cup shea butter
1 cup coconut oil

Melt everything in a double boiler
Put your mixer bowl in snow or ice water to bring the temperature down

Mix well until it is the consistency of Neosporin
Whip the mixture on high speed and remember to scrape the bowl about every 3-4 minutes to prevent lumps

About halfway there...
This is when I added my EO drops, but you can do it at any point after it is chilled a bit. I continued whipping the ingredients about 3 minutes past this point, when it was no longer soupy, but held its shape firmly in the bowl.

This recipe gave me three and a half half-pints!

Whipped Body Butter Recipe
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup shea butter
  • essential oils (to preferred scent)

After adding the lotion into jars, they started to firm up rather quickly. My house is somewhere around 65 degrees F, so if your house is warmer it might take longer. Of course when its hot outside, you're going to want to keep these in a cooler area. I've opted to store my extra jars in the cellar room in the basement where it only gets up to the high 60's in the summer.

 *credit for the original inspiration for this recipe goes to Hens and Honey (who also has a stellar blog, so check her out!!).

All Natural Hand Lotion
Add 1/3 cup corn starch
This next recipe also calls for 1 cup coconut oil and 1 cup shea butter, but it calls for an additional 1/3 cup of corn starch. The reasoning is that the starch takes away some of the "greasy" feeling most people complain about with natural products like this, but I'll be straight with you, I've not noticed any difference. If you take a common sense moment to think about it, you're rubbing plant oils all over your body, so of course there will be a bit of a greasy feeling. The "greasy" feeling doesn't bother me at all and its only really noticeable when I'm slathering it on after a shower at the gym when I'm rushing out the door in a barely-clean sweaty mess. And even better, even if I've put too much on accidentally (you need barely the size of a dime for just your hands) it never shows up on my clothes. I've been using this stuff regularly for two months now and I've yet to see a grease mark on anything!
My recipe made 3 3/4 pints!

All Natural Hand Lotion
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup shea butter
  • 1/3 cup corn starch
  • essential oils (to preferred scent), I used tea tree, eucalyptus, and cucumber
Using the directions above, I really cannot stress enough that when you are chilling the mixture you must stir constantly. If not, it will become lumpy and you will have to spend extra time at your double boiler remelting the mixture. Then you just whip it, whip it, whip it! With my mixer it takes maybe 5 minutes or so, and I really don't know how long it would take to mix by hand, but by golly you'd have the best arms for miles!

**credit for the original inspiration for this recipe goes to Dena at Back to the Book Nutrition (she's got literally tons of other great recipes on her page too).

All Natural Hard Lotion Bars

This is the recipe that I'm dying to tell everyone and their mother about--hard lotion bars! I hate to whine and mope about having cracked hands, but it becomes torture for me and I have been known to get quite grumpy about it. So here is to all the other folks out there who love soft, nourished hands, this one is for you!
1 cup coconut oil
1 cup shea butter and a tiny bit of coco butter for kicks

1 cup beeswax pellets (I added more later)

Put all ingredients in a double boiler (the block is additional beeswax)

Add EO's, mix quickly and pour solution into molds

All Natural Hard Lotion Bars
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup shea butter
  • 1 cup beeswax pellets
  • 1 Tbsp coco butter (optional)
  •  essential oils (to preferred scent) I used lavender and vanilla
These bars are an absolute life-saver! They take a few second to warm up in your hands, but once it starts getting all melty and awesome, its game time! I will warn you however that using coco butter will give your product a slightly chocolatey smell to it (and chocolate and lavender are not the best of buds as far as scents go). If you want a chocolatey smell, then I would recommend using a ratio of 1:3 or 1:1 of coco butter to shea butter and only add a tiny bit of vanilla scent. Use your best judgment, because the coco butter (for me anyways) is really overwhelming and takes only a little bit for that smell to take over. When I was sharing my bar at work, someone said we smelled like we had just left a candy shop! But I cannot rave enough about these bars, they are so fantastic I'll probably give them as gifts just so I can make more with different scents.

**credit for this recipe goes to Laurie at Common Sense Homesteading.

So thanks for hanging in with me everyone, I know this was a super long post. I'm really beginning to fall in love with the idea of making my own products at home, not just because I know what's in everything, but it also eliminates the middle man and I can custom make my own line of whatever I like. Any questions or problems with the recipes, send me a message!

Keep it real!