Essential Traditions/Real Food Real Frugal

The archives for the old Essential Traditions blog and the old Real Food Real Frugal Blog

Enjoy Life

I’ve been contributing here at Finding Beauty for several months now, and more often than not I post faith posts. It’s just what is in my heart, where my thoughts lead, the kind of life I lead, and it’s kind of just what I do. It overflows from me. I’m so thankful for that!

This weekend, though, is a full one. We have some major life things to take care of, and the resources to do so, and so they need to be done while we have those resources. It’s a priority thing, and it keeps us accountable to one another and to the Lord.

But, do you want to know a secret?

It’s going to be lots of fun!

I can’t wait to spend the day today, and most of the weekend, taking care of some things we really need and will benefit our family life in more than just the immediate. We get to spend the day in town and probably eat out at least once. That’s a very exceptional rarity in our house.

As we are taking care of the necessary, I get to have some great family time and some fantastic “breather” moments. One of the things we plan to take care of later this year? Us. Our family. We are making some super sacrifices right now while my husband attends school, and things are stressful all the time. We deal pretty well; we are a faith-filled family, strong in the Lord and full of the Holy Ghost!

But even we need a refresher. You know what? That’s okay!

Sometimes the enemy likes to come in and convict me that my rest might be idle hands. It’s not idleness! When I start to feel the pull of weight on me, it drags me down. This is not about “me” time or not getting the things I need. This is about working hard and fast and faithful, and forgetting to rest this body, this soul, this spirit. It’s essential to life and happiness, and the Lord wants us to enjoy this life!

The Lord Himself commanded rest. I’m very much looking forward to ours.

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Top Ways to Save Money in Shopping For Food Storage Supplies

Food storage can mean different things to different people. When most people think of “food storage” they think of containers used to hold leftover meals for future consumption. These are great to have, but they are not the only ways to store food. Many companies are starting to think long term. What happens if there is a natural disaster? Will you and your family have enough emergency rations and water to make it through until normal processes are restored? Most people would say no.

Many of these foods are freeze-dried and can include three, six, and even twelve months of food, for up to five adults. These meals are made specifically to last up to 25 years, in many cases, and are great to have around the house in case of any type of disaster. The meals can vary, but in most cases, they use a mixture of shakes, oatmeal and granola for breakfast. Lunches and dinners can include different pasta dishes, soups, and even chicken, for a variety.

Along with long-term food storage, they also offer short-term meals. These can be great for impromptu snow storms, when getting to the store can be dangerous or when stores run out of necessities.

Food is important, but what about drinks, including water? Everyone needs liquid and can help. They have milk substitutes, orange drink, and even chocolate milk, as well as apple juice. They even have water bottles with special filtration systems, making even bad water good again.

Options Available

Some families require different options than others. They do offer gluten-free food meals, as well as meal plans for vegetarians, so no matter what you enjoy eating, you will find something with this company.

Purchasing food storage supplies from is a good choice because they provide high quality meals that actually taste pretty good. Their food lasts longer than other companies and they have decent prices. They are sure you will enjoy your meals, but they do offer a return policy if you feel your needs weren’t met. They even offer free shipping in some cases and have promotions, such as give-a-ways and special prices.

Along with free shipping, there are also payment plans, so you can always have the emergency rations you need. Please visit for more information.

About the Guest Author

Agnes Jimenez is a professional blogger and writer. She writes for many online establishments and supports those ones that offer alternative lifestyles to consumers.  As a frugal living and self-sufficiency advocate, she recommends for those budget conscious individuals who want to get big savings in shopping for food storage.  You may follow Food Insurance in Twitter.

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Greenhouse, Aquaponics & Farm – 04/02/12

It’s been a couple of weeks since I updated about our greenhouse/aquoponics progress.  Still not a lot going on, just keeping on keeping on 🙂

On March 23, 2012, we moved our ducks out of the greenhouse and into their new pen.

Their new pen is made using an old trampoline frame turned upside down and with chicken wire around it.  The pool is a cheap kiddie pool we purchased at Dollar General.  Their house is the plastic playhouse that was Riley’s that he’d grown out of.

Just another close up of their pen.  The object behind it with the red tin roof is one of our chicken tractors.

Our new chicks purchased March 23, 2012, by the following Monday we were down to 1.  We think a feral cat got them, but we’re not sure.

These are the chicks we purchased on March 2, 2012.  They will be going out into one of the chicken tractors as soon as we can get a weed eater working and get the tractor ready for them.

Marty’s friend let us come out to their stock pond and catch some perch with the cast net.  We ended up with 48 perch to put in our aquaponics pond.  Yay!  We have fish again!

Added a window to the back wall of the greenhouse to we could get some ventilation in there as needed.  It’s getting HOT in there!

added a bug zapper over the fish pond for some free fish food and to help keep the mosquitoes at bay.

This morning out oldest son discovered this snake in the duck pen.  It a had a hold of one of the duck’s beaks.  We’re not sure what type of snake it is, some have said it may be a water moccasin, but my husband doesn’t think so.  Either way, it wouldn’t let go of the poor duck and Colt had to kill it.

The poor duck is now missing about half it’s beak.  The poor thing!  We’re hoping it will make it as we don’t know if the snake was poisonous yet or not.  I”m afraid we’re going to have to put the poor thing down.  This is one of my LEAST favorite things about farming…losing animals to predators and accidents.

So, that’s been our last couple weeks of farm life!  I’ll update again when I have more to update!

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Greenhouse & Aquaponics System Tour Video

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Aquaponics Update 03/20/12

Well it’s been a week or so since I updated about our aquaponics system.  When I last left off, we were fighting an algae bloom in the fish tank.  This algae ended up killing all the fish and Marty began a serious search for a way to clear up the water.  He finally settled on a home made system, which I’ll have to get him to explain to me so I can post more about it here.  So please be patient, I’ll try really hard to get a post up about it soon.

As you can see on March 12, 2012, the fish tank is still murky and dark.  You cannot remotely see the bottom.  This was after running the water through a diatomaceous earth filter.  Which did not work at all.  All it did was leave a nice layer of diatomaceous earth on the bottom of the fish tank.

On March 4, 2012 we planted some seeds into the grow bed #2, as you can see from this March 12, 2012 photo they are doing well and we have the cutest little veggie seedlings popping up!

Two days after starting the new filter on the fish tank (March 14, 2012), the water is clearing up!  As of today (March 20, 2012) the water is perfectly clear…sorry don’t have a photo from today, but here is a photo from March 14, 2012.

On March 14, 2012 we have quite a crop of seedlings coming up!

I also can’t believe how much the ducks have grown!  We bought them on March 4, 2012 and look at them just 10 days later on March 14, 2012!

We didn’t get a whole lot done over the past weekend, because we went out of town.  But we got home early enough on Sunday to get the grow bed #3 installed.  Then yesterday after Marty got off work he repotted most of the seedings in grow bed #2 and put them into grow bed #3 to continue growing.  When they are big enough they will be transplanted into the garden in our front yard.

Marty found these Dixie cup sized plastic cups at Dollar General for 50/$1, he bought 2 packages and is using them as reusable individual transplant/seedling pots.  The put holes in the bottom of them so the water in the grow bed comes up through to keep the seedlings moist.

In the next few weeks, now that the fish tank water is clear, we will begin adding fish to the system again which will add some much needed nutrients to the system.  We will also be moving the chicks and ducks out of the greenhouse and into chicken tractors pretty soon.  The ducks sooner than the chicks as they have pretty much outgrown the brooder they’re in.  We won’t be moving the chicks out until after Easter, which usually signals our last frost around here.  We will also be getting the garden beds tilled up an ready to begin planting.  So, I’ll come back and update as we have more news 🙂


Quick Aquaponics Update

Sorry I haven’t updated about the Aquaponics system lately.  It’s been so busy around here that I just am not finding a lot of time to update the blog.  I’ll honestly try to do better, but family comes first so we’ll see 🙂

Sunday we finally planted the 2nd grow bed.  I can’t recall what all (types) we planted, but I know we planted tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, peppers, watermelons and broccoli.  All of these are going to be transplanted into the big garden when they are big enough.  So this is what the 2nd grow bed looked like after we got it all planted.

It’s kind of hard to see, but in all the places marked there’s a little plastic ring cut from a 2 liter coke bottle.  In each ring, we planted a different seed.  These seedlings will be transplanted into the garden when they are ready.  The photo above was taken on Sunday.  This evening, Marty went out to check the greenhouse and low and behold we now have sprouts coming up in the broccoli!!  More proof that the aquaponics system is working!

Aren’t they the sweetest!  We were both so excited to see them tonight!

As for the rest of the system.  It’s still a work in progress.  On February 17, 2012, we added a 250 tank for the fish.  This is simply a kiddie pool with 3 pumps in it.  Here’s a photo:

We also added a couple dozen minnows to the mix.

We all have enjoyed watching them swim around…kind of relaxing!  On February 24, 2012, we added some more fish to the fish take, 7 goldfish, 2 dozen  minnows, and 5 perch.  The next day Marty put a new door on the greenhouse.  It’s a recycled glass screen door that Marty got for free from his boss when he replaced it with a new one.

On the morning of March 3, 2012, we woke up and found that algae had bloomed in the fish tank 😦

Marty’s been trying a variety of homemade filters trying to get it cleared up.  This past weekend, he tried a Diatomaceous earth filter, but even that hasn’t cleared it up.  To make matters even sadder, most if all of the fish have died.  So, we will not be adding any more fish until we can get this taken care of.  Marty’s afraid he’s going to have to shock  the system with chlorine….we’re open for suggestions!!

On a brighter note, we added 14 new family members this past weekend. They are currently living in brooder pens in the greenhouse.  This offers them protection from other animals that might eat them, as well as provide them with the extra warmth they need.

1 dozen new chicks!  Unfortunately we did lose 1, so we’re down to 11.

2 new ducks!  I noticed today (03/08/12) that they have already DOUBLED in size!  YIKES!

Riley LOVES just sitting in the greenhouse watching the chicks and ducks.  He’s in love with these critters already!

So I guess that brings us up to date on the greenhouse/aquaponics system.  I’ll really try to be better about updating y’all!


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Aquaponics Update 02/06/12

Marty had a rare Friday off work, so we got the majority of our errands run then.  We met his brother, Ben in Waco at Homestead Heritage for lunch.  Then made stops at Walmart and Home Depot.  Marty need to purchase some more gravel to get grow bed #2 started.  Me, being a somewhat impatient person, decided to pick up some lettuce and cabbage starts to put into grow bed #1.  The seeds we planted last week just weren’t doing it for me.  I also bought a chocolate mint plant, which smells heavenly!  We also bought 3 dozen minnows for the fish barrel, so we can start getting some fertilization going.  So here are photos of what we did this weekend!

As you can see, we now have grow bed #2 up and filled with gravel.  Nothing planted in it yet.

Before we could plant the starts, we had to wash off all the dirt on the roots.  These are our cabbage plants getting a bath.

See the pretty clean roots.  This is to help keep the dirt from getting into the water in the system.

Now that the roots are all clean, it’s time to start planting them!

Marty used the garden knife to plant the starts into grow bed #1.  Just push the gravel aside, insert the plant and cover with the gravel.

Getting grow bed #1 planted with lettuce and cabbage.

Our newly planted lettuce.

Our newly planted cabbage.

an enlarged view of the newly planted grow bed #1.  As you can see we still are trying to sprout seeds in the back left corner.

Here’s what they look like right now.  We have a few more starting to sprout, but over all it hasn’t been very successful as of yet.  We used seeds that were several years old, so I’m not sure if that was a factor.  We’ll keep trying and watching them.  If they don’t start doing something in the next week or so, we may try again with new seeds.

As of right now, all is going pretty well.  The only real problem we’re having is getting the homemade bell siphons working consistantly.  That’s driving Marty bonkers, but I know he’ll figure it out.  I think the big problem is that the grow beds and the fish barrel (where the water for the grow beds are pumped from) are too close to the same height.  Next weekend we will probably be changing things around a little in the greenhouse.  We’re going to purchase a kiddy pool for the fish instead of the barrel.  This will be lower to the ground and hopefully make the bell siphon work better.  We’ll see 🙂  We will also be making some worm beds and adding so we can grow our own fish food.  We also plan on exchanging the minnows for some sort of fish we could actually eat.  Perch or Crappie probably.  We just need to get them ordered and purchased.

But we’re sure enjoying the process.  There’s something really relaxing about hanging out in the greenhouse and listening to the water.  That, and I get to enjoy the scent of my chocolate mint plant (not to mention a slight fishy odor now that we have fish in the system!).


Aquaponics Update

Well, it’s been a couple of days since I first posted about our greenhouse and aquaponics system.  Now it’s time for an update.  First of all, we got our first growing bed up and running, complete with the homemade bell siphon.  Here are pictures:

Grow Bed #1

The grow bed is filled with “growing medium”, aka gravel. Seeds are planted directly on/in the growing medium.  But the only problem with the growing medium is that the gravel is dirty and was making our water in the system all cloudy and dirty. Marty had the perfect solution for filtering the water…

Old sock "filter"

He simply slid an old tube sock over the end of the pvc pipe and voilà, a redneck water filter!

a closeup of the bell siphon (the white PVC tube covered in duct redneck of us

In the black container in the back, Marty’s trying to grow a sprout “biscuit” as a trial for growing our own spout fodder for animal consumption.  Broccoli or cabbage is growing (not sure which!) in the black container, and if all goes as planned then they will all sprout and come out in one piece as a thick blanket of sprout fodder.  Marty started these on Sunday and you can already see some sprouting (the little white flecks are where the seeds are sprouting…hard to see in the photo).  Marty punched at least a million tiny holes in the bottom of the black container with a straight pin, so water can flow in and out of it, keeping the sprouts nice and wet.

They LIVE!!

Last night he planted several things directly into the growing medium in aquaponics bed #1.  He planted Copenhagen Market Early Cabbage, Large Fruited Red Cherry Tomatoes, Yellow Summer Crookneck Squash, Bibb Lettuce, Roma Tomatoes, Cilantro, Rock Top Mix Lettuce, True Lavender, Organic California Wonder Bell Peppers and Chives.  We’ll see if we start getting in sprouts over the next few days.  I think he kind of over planted, but we’ll see.  Either way, it will certainly be exciting to actually have some things start to sprout in the growing medium…I think I’m a bit skeptical, but Marty is very optimistic.

The only thing we’re missing from our aquaponics system is the fish.  Marty’s hoping to get some out of our stock tank in the next few days…if he can get home before dark from work.


I’m Such a Ham…

Photo courtesy of nate steiner on Flickr

Ham Radio Operator that is!  For the last 2 weeks, I have been studying to pass my Ham Radio Operator Technician’s test.  This is the test you have to take to get your Ham Radio Operator’s license.  Getting my Technicians license couldn’t have been easier either! I just studied online by taking the Technician practice exams at (, for 2 weeks, for about 30 minutes to an hour a day.  The actual test you take only has 35 questions and with study, is really easy to take. So if you’ve ever had an interest in being a part of the Ham community, I’d say go for it! I had absolutely NO knowledge of electronics and such until I started studying for my test, so If I can do it and pass, you can too!

I chose to get my Ham Radio License for a couple of reasons. First of all it’s a good way of communication when a telephone is not available. Second of all it’s a perfect way to communicate in emergency situations, such as natural disasters. when Katrina hit, there was no power and the cell phone towers were down, Ham radio was the only communications available.  Here are a couple of videos that show WHY
Ham Radio is so important in emergency situations.

How Ham radio was used for emergency communications in the aftermath of the Tsunami in South Asia

How Ham radio was used for emergency communications in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

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How To Raise Chickens – Guest Post by Carla Raley

Today, we have a special guest post by Carla Raley!  Be sure to read her bio below and visit her page.  I’m so excited to have her and I’m sure you will love her post!

Photo courtesy of lierne on Flickr

How To Raise Chickens
by Carla Raley

Raising chickens on the small family farm can be a fun and profitable thing to do. There are several things to think about, to ensure success:

For example, I have found that many people don’t realize you do not have to have a rooster to have eggs.  However, without a rooster, the eggs will not be fertile, so if you want to raise chickens from the hens on your property, you must get a rooster. It doesn’t need to be the same breed, a rooster is not picky.  He will breed any hen on your farm, regardless of type or size.

You will need to either invest in an incubator, or buy a batch of hens that will tend to get broody. Bantams are good at this. When you find that you have a hen that wants to stay on the nest, you can add other hen’s eggs to her eggs, until she has all the eggs she can sit on. You can save eggs (at room temperature) for up to two weeks, and put the eggs under the hen all at once, so that the eggs will hatch at the same time. Otherwise, the hen will jump off the nest after she has a few chicks, and the rest of your eggs will be lost. Another way would be to remove the chicks as soon as they are hatched, to encourage the hen to keep sitting. It takes three weeks to hatch a hen’s egg.

Remember, putting an egg under a light bulb will not work. There is a very intricate process of humidity and heat that is needed hatch an egg.

You can also buy chicks from a hatchery. You can order all pullets (hens), or you can go the cheaper route and buy straight run, which means you will get a mixture of both roosters and hens.

Your newborn chicks will need a warm, dry place to grow. You can leave them with the hen, although this is very risky if the hen is allowed to roam, or you can fix up a ‘nursery’ for them.

Here are some guidelines for your chick nursery:

They must have temperatures of around 90 degrees in the beginning. They must be dry; a wet chick is a soon to be dead chick. Sometimes if they get wet, you can revive them with a hair dryer, but the best course of action is to make sure they don’t get wet.

I have also found that it is not necessary to change the litter under the chicks. Start out with clean dirt. Every week or so, add some fresh dirt. The composting process of the dirt, feed and droppings from the chicks will actually help keep them warm from the bottom up. Just make sure the dirt and litter is very dry. Again, dampness kills the chicks.

Always protect against crowding. The chicks will need plenty of room to move around and also to get away from your heat source if it gets too warm. Chicks are bad about climbing all over each other, and smothering the ones on the bottom of the pile. It’s better to have too much room, than not enough.

For the first two weeks, it is best to get chick starter feed from your local feed store that has medication in it. That will keep the chicks from getting a bloody diarrhea that will kill them. It’s also a good idea to buy a packet of powdered electrolytes and vitamins to add to their water. This will make your chicks very hardy.

Keep your baby chicks under the light until they are about six weeks old, or have their feathers. Then, you can move them to another safe, protected space. They will still need to be protected from cold, wet weather, but they do not need the high temperatures they once did. Once they are fully grown and able to fend for themselves and fly away from predators, at least to a point, it will be safe to release them to free range on your farm. To keep from having a large loss after all the work you did to raise them, make letting them loose be later, rather than sooner. If in doubt, keep them protected.

Chickens lay best their first year. The second year, they may not lay as often, although it will be close if they are well cared for, and their eggs will be a little bigger. By the third year, you might consider selling or butchering, and starting over with a new flock.

Raising chickens is an enjoyable, fun and profitable thing to do on your small farm. It’s a good way to introduce chores to your children, as they are easy to care for, and children usually enjoying feeding and gathering eggs. It’s also a calming soothing thing to watch chickens pecking and scratching as you sit on your front porch. It’s an endeavor well worth checking out.


Carla Raley is a Christian wife and homeschooling mommy of ten children. They live on a mini-farm in a small Texas town where they raise chickens, ducks and rabbits, along with their many dogs, cats, and birds.

You can visit Carla at her blogs, Raley Family’s Farm and Book Reviews by Carla.



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