Monday, June 20, 2011

Farm Girl makes Salsa

Its another cooking blog.  blech. i thought this was supposed to be about farming?  Well as it happens, sometimes things don't change very fast on a little urban farm.  in the mean time you have to fill the gaps with urban farm life.  Which, for us, involves LOTS of cooking from scratch!

So, Salsa! Hooray!!  Now is an awesome time of year to make salsa, because tomatoes are wicked cheap.  I bought the ones from today's blog for $.88/lb.  Good deal.

Now salsa is one of those great things that if eaten correctly can be a sneaky way to hide veggies in your diet, if you are having trouble working them in.  And research suggests most of America is.  You can put it on eggs for a good high protein, low sugar breakfast.  Or you can mix it with the afore made beans! Or you can be a normal person and scarf it with chips, thus losing all of the nutritional merit points it gained by being made solely of vegetables.

Now most people think salsa and they think of this:
This is the salsa i grew up on.  It never occurred to me, until i was in my 20s, that this wasn't real salsa.  This is Picante Sauce.  I'm not sure what the difference is, by definition, but im pretty sure it has to do with the fact that normal tomatoes dont come out that smooth... or thick for that matter! I'm not sure how they make that happen.  This is not to lessen Pace Picante as a product. As far as processed foods go, its not doing too badly.  I can name all the ingredients without aid of a speech therapist.  Its tomato sauce, onion, jalepeno, onion powder, garlic powder, water, vinegar and salt. not too bad. Nutritionally, its not the worst thing you to eat.  Its not great, its got a lot of sugar in it (although its not a listed ingredient.  is this from the tomato sauce? Science friends?) So what would be the point of ever switching from this friendly looking jar to making your own?

Well first, the ingredients in fresh salsa look much prettier when photographed:

no, thats not a jalepeno but i didnt have one handy so i substituted pablano.


mmmm look at all that COLOR! See if you just bought your husband a fancy camera for fathers day and you need a reason to use it, thats number one why you should make your own.  The second reason is that its easy as all get out.
here it is, in pictures:

 Take 18 tomatoes (romas pictured, if you use a bigger tomato you'll get more salsa but it will be more tomatoey. also less spicy. that might be a good thing), 12 seranos (that makes a hot salsa with romas,  i'd go 8-10 for med and <8 for mild), two white onions, and 10 peeled cloves of garlic.  Cut the tops off the serranos, half the toms and cut out their little stem-holes.  Quarter the onion.  Lay them all on baking sheets.  Roast at 375* until it looks like:

 Wrinkley tomatoes, charred peppers and onions. good stuff.

Then take it all and toss it in your food processor with 2 bunches of cilanto.  If your food processor is the same size as mine, you will have to do this in two batches.  add a little less than 1 tbs of salt with each batch.

 When its done, poor it in a bowl. Thats all.  Then you get this:

      As opposed to this (pace in a bowl):
So there you go. Reason number two to make your own salsa: its dead easy.  And thats a LOT of salsa.  its about 1.5 quarts (6 cups) of salsa.  The small jar of Pace is about one cup.  

Third reason to make your own salsa: Price.  The cost of one small Jar of pace is about $3.  all of my produce cost a grand total of $5.74 (three lbs of toms @ $.88/lb, $.60 in serranos, two bunches of cilantro @ 2/$1, one head of garlic (i didnt use it all) @ $.5 each and 2 onions @ 2/$1, no tax on food in Arizona).   So for the cost of less than two jars of Pace, I made 6x as much salsa.  

And it tastes better.  And looks better on a chip:

There. thats 5 reasons to make your own salsa. Photos, Ease of making, Price, Taste, Looks Good on Chip.

AND! The whole thing lends itself well to my future fall hobby: Canning!  As soon as my personal crop of tomatoes comes in, there will be canning.  Oh yes. Canning indeed!! In the mean time though, tupperwear containers will have to do. =)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Kids love farms.

One of the main things i didnt want to do when i started this blog was to be a "mommy blogger".   I find the concept super annoying, and for no good reason at all.  I've read some mommy blogs that are hilarious, witty and well written.  Others just seem like a housewife pushing a political agenda that she doesnt even seem to understand fully. I didn't want to be that person.  Dont.  I DONT want to be that person.

But, since I have kids, and i am a mommy, they are bound to come in sometimes.  This is one of those times.

Urban Farms lend themselves really well to good parenting.  This is not to say im an awesome parent, but the chores, the being outside, the science involved etc all make for good lessons.  When so much of your life seems to be revolving around your TV or your computer, an urban farm makes better parenting almost an inevitable outcome.  Does that make sense?

So on Thursday (before we made the soda, but after we went to the home brew store) we stopped at Tucson Village Farm.  Its also on Campbell but several blocks north of the home brew store.  I swear we live on the east side, but for some reason all the places i blog about are on Campbell.

Anywho, if you have never been its super sweet.  We got to look at the veggies they have growing there, Maggie milked a mechanical cow.  Micah dug in some dirt.  Maggie, Micah and I dug for worms in the vermiculture "tank"

 If you ever find yourself with some spare time, i recommend going to this place.  The employees are amazing.  The girl at the worm habitat hung out with me for a few minutes to talk about composting.  The kids, meanwhile could not have been more entertained.  Whats not to love about a fake cow that moos when you milk it?  Check out their website, they have some pretty cool family activities throughout the year.

So the kids had an amazing time.  And you might be thinking to yourself "ya well your crazy kids live with chickens. of course they want to roll around with worms."  and i can see where you are coming from.  Except today i got the impression that farming is interesting to kids from all over.  Not just my crazy kids.

Maggie's birthday was today.  We had her birthday party and we had 4 kids who are not my kids at our house today.  The party was little mermaid themed.  We had little mermaid Pinata, mermaid table cloth, pin the crown on the mermaid, mermaid banner etc.  

But without fail as soon as each kid got there the first thing they wanted to see was the chickens.  Aaliyah, our oldest niece, was there first.  She went out to see the chickens every single time a new person got there.  Kids love chickens.  

Now, im with you when you are about to say "kids love all animals, your chickens are nothing new Katie.  Show me something compelling."  

How about this, Luis's mom brought us some compostable material and all the kids were fighting over a chance to roll the compost!

This is Emily, Aaliyah and Cassidy looking at a big pile of decaying matter with Marie.  More than that though, they are actually actively trying to locate maggots! This was BEFORE we ate! they went and ate right after this.  This is a 7 year old, a 9 year old and an 11 year old.  Tweens! BEIBER LOVERS!!! (I dont know that any of them actually like Justin Beiber, im just assuming).

Then Emily and Aalyiah both worked on rolling the compost to get it nice and mixed up.  Aaliyah was willing to do it every few minutes if we had asked her.  Kids like compost! Ya its pretty gross, but kids dig gross things.  Plus its a great time to explain concepts to them like life cycles, organic matter, HALF LIVES!  You know how you have always looked for an opportunity to explain a half life!  How will your child go into kindergarten without grasping the concept?  (im actually not even sure half lives are involved in composting. but i feel like the would be an easy segue at least.)

These were the bigger kids though, littler kids dont really get AS into the compost, mainly because its so far over their heads.  Litterally.  They cant see into the bin.  The littler kids got more into the gardening aspect.  For her birthday, maggie got some little kid gardening tools (trowel, hand shovel, big shovel, rake, hoe, gloves and little wheel barrow).  All the little kids were out in the back yard a few minutes after the presents were opened:

This is a loose interpretation of gardening, mind you.  But its cute none the less.  And yes, my nephew IS wearing a princess crown.  He's secure. And even more than that, yes i AM trying to make my son look more and more like a farmer every day.

There you are, kids love farms.  

I have had people talk to me a little about my blog since i started it, and normally its about the clothes line.  Saying that they have decided to use one now after reading about them.  And while that is totally awesome, i hope someday to hear someone read my blog and decided to build a raised bed garden, make their food from scratch and (giggles of glee) raise chickens!!  Think about it.  My family describes me frequently as "climate controlled" and "doesn't like to go outside" and i am doing it. So you totally could.  Plus then people would think you were crazy and kids would think you are awesome.  Who wants to talk to adults anyway? =)

Happy farming! 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Farm family makes soda.

i preface this post with the understanding that making soda does not necessarily scream "FARM!!" but its part of that whole "from-scratch" "diy" mentality that goes into urban farming.  Therefore it is fair game and i get to post about it.

Also, its my blog and i can post about anything i want to. so there.  thhhppppppp *raspberry blowing*

Ok so yesterday was our "day off" (i had to work in the evening so not a REAL day off).  We usually spend our days off milling around places looking at cool stuff.  Yesterday we went to the home brew store again because i wanted to take some time to look around, see if i couldnt pick up a new hobby.  cause God knows i need more hobbies.

Here I am outside the store.  The employees are super friendly and generally very interested in any weird cool thing you are doing.  So i like to tell them about my farm and chickens and bread/cheese making. They always at least pretend to be interested. Which is nice.  The guy told Luis and i that we didnt look like typical hippies.  I thought it was funny.

Anywho, while we were there i asked about their soda making kits.  This is a soda brewing kit, not so much a "get some sugar water and add CO2 to it" thing. its a little more "beer-y" than that.  I don't really like beer at all, and i wanted to do something fun that the kids could get involved in.

So, we asked a bunch of questions and eventually ended up leaving the store with one of these:

Essentially a 5 gallon bucket with a spigot on it. This is to funnel all of the soda into the bottles.  It also comes with your choice of soda extract (We picked Red Birch Beer! Yum! Sorta like rootbeer in taste), and a yeast (the guy recommended campaign yeast so that is what we got).

The first step in the process is to take 1/4 tsp of your yeast and dissolve it in 1/2 c. warm water.  The set it aside.

So the next part of the process is to heat up 1/2 a gallon of water to 130*F.  Then you remove from heat and dissolve five cups of sugar in it.  Yes you read that correctly, five cups.  Makes you think twice about your soda doesn't it? Except your soda has HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) instead of sugar.  I'm told that HFCS if worse for you, but for the life of me im not sure why.  That nice lady on the corn syrup commercial says its nutritionally the same as sugar.  And shes got a popsicle. so i believe her.  But either way i put 5 c of real sugar into that water, along with 2 oz of the extract.
Next, you take the pot and put it into a shallow bath of ice water to lower the temperature to 90*F.  You should stir it during this time, because sometimes the sugar you thought was dissolved will suddenly have crystallized on the bottom of the pot, just because it got cold.  Jerk sugar. I knew i should have used HFCS. Drat.  Once its cooled down you add in your yeast mixture.  Then you need to put it in the big bucket and add water until the whole thing is 2.5 Gallons.   For us this meant adding an additional 1.75 gallons or so.  a little less i think.

Then is the fun part.  You should have some sterilized bottles laying around.  If you dont, the home brew store has some, and they will let you buy them, but then you'll have to sterilize them yourself.  then you connect your little hose bit to your spigot.  The end of the hose bit looks like this:
That little nose that sticks down there should be pressed flat against the bottom of the bottle.  It works like a coffee maker where it needs pressure on it in order to open up the flow.  then as the bottle gets close to being completely full you just pull down on the bottle, the pressure lets up on the nose and the flow stops so you can take the hose out without it squirting everywhere.  There is also a nozzle on the spigot that turns off the flow from the bucket.  This little regulator guy will only protect you from whats built up in the hose.

the switch out.

The first bottle

So easy a child in her underpants could do it
Aaliyah helps out!

So after you have all your bottles filled, you have to cap them, and wipe them down (as they are bound to have sticky stuff all over the sides!) and put them in a box:

Now store the box sideways, and you just wait for a few days.  In this case we will probably be waiting about two days.  So the birch beer should be ready in time for maggie's birthday.  

You might be wondering, what happens in those two days? is this flat soda? what in the heck is going on here?  and i will tell you.  So you remember the yeast we put in there?  just like with real beer, yeast is responsible for the CO2 in this soda.  The best way it was ever described to me (by my mom's fake husband) was "yeast eats sugar and poops CO2.  So essentially the yeast is in there burping and farting up a storm to make my birch beer nice and bubbly!  

You will never look at beer the same way again will you?  Burping farting yeast is all you'll see when you look at it.  I'm glad i could give you that visual.  

Anywho, so thats pretty much it.  I'll let you know how it turn out since we intend to drink it for Maggie's birthday party tomorrow.  I'm going to make some home made vanilla bean ice cream so we can have birch beer floats and let the kids chase the chickens.  Birthday fun for everyone!

I could even invite that other lady from the HFCS commercials to maggie's party!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Approaching chickens like an ostrich.

After several days of solid pouting over the fate of Betsy (now generally referred to as "that ROOSTER!") i had finally accepted there may be a boy in with my girls.  I was trying to determine what the best next step was and I had ALMOST psyched myself up to sending him to be rendered (aka killed and turned into something that is recognizable as food rather than pet). I say almost. I am still not sure.  I was almost at peace with my fate when all the sudden i saw THIS!

now you dont have to be a chicken expert to look at that and think "that looks like a boy..."  but in case you are NOT thinking that i'll point some things out.

These two features are HUGE in sexing a chick.  A large comb and long wattles are indicitive of a rooster.  The younger these features appear the more likely it is that they are a roo.  Also, coloring is important: Red=boy.  This girl has some pretty pink wattles and comb but her hatchmate has very pale features. But not matter what, until a chick crows or lays an egg, its gender is still pretty well up in the air.  You can guess your little heart out, and probably be right, but you wont know for SURE until one of those two things happens.

So in this picture you see Ruth.  I now suspect Ruthie is a Roostie.  This would make sense why she was stealing food from the other one that is probably a rooster.  Only another roo could get away with that.  Either that or when they are young it really doesn't matter.

I posted Ruth on the aforementioned forum and was told not only is she a roo but she is NOT a barred rock. Which i have always thought she was.  I pulled her from a cage labeled "barred rocks" after all.  But the chicken people say "no a barred rock has yellow legs"  This is true they do.  The forum people say my barred rock girls/boys look like they might be black sexlinks.  The problem is a black sexlink is only striped if its a boy. and all of those in that bin were striped.  I have "pocket veto'd" that assessment.  they arent BOTH boys.

Tonight i took a close look at Ruthie's legs and they look like they are yellow with a black patch on the front (a sign of a female Barred Rock FYI).  but the yellow is very light and only starting to develop.  I spent a few minutes in the coop holding each of my girls, petting their little heads and watching them fall asleep in my hands.  They've only just started to develop into big chicken girls.

So what have i taken from all of this?  No one knows for SURE until they crow or lay an egg.  There is no sense in getting all in a tizzy over "probably"s and "most likely"s.  I've decided to bury my head in the sand and assume EVERYONE is a girl until proven otherwise.  No more posting them on the forums.  They are all good girls.  Until one of them crows.

Now in some cases this will be harder than others, like when you compare Betsy to her hatchmate Dorothy.

But ultimately, chickens are like everything in life:  best approached with an open mind and hope for the best.
Wallowing in grouchiness and worrying about how you'll get rid of a problem before you're even POSITIVE its a problem does no good.  Someone once said "Worry is interest paid on a debt that never comes due." As you might know, I'm against paying interest (but totally for Cash Back Bonus Awards!) and so I will wait it out and hope for the best!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Farm girl makes beans.

Growing up in Grand Island Nebraska, I didn't get a lot of access to good Mexican food.  I know this will shock you, but the heartland of America goes to Mexican restuarants called "Carlos O'Kelly's" and feels they've had Mexican food.  Now, while the midwest can farm with the best of em, they don't do beans like they ought to.

Part of my interpretation of "farm living" involves being able to provide for yourself and for your family in a sustainable and self sufficient way.  So i know cooking refried beans doesn't scream "farmer" to most people, but to me its a sign of one's ability to sustain ones self.

About a year ago, Luis and I took two families out to buy groceries with some money that we were given by our church with the understanding that we would use it to "feed the hungry in Tucson and beyond."  We chose to meet the families we were helping personally and take them shopping ourselves.

The first family was a mother and daughter.  Both were overweight, neither could cook.  They bought poptarts, milk, frozen dinners, ground beef, bread, chips, prepared foods, hotdogs etc.  There were literally zero vegetables in the whole cart.  Looking at what they bought i remember thinking they were going to rot from the inside.  I also thought we had bought them food for about a week.  The cart was about 1/4 full.

The next person was a woman from Mexico who was referred to us by her pastor.  She bought a five pound bag of rice, a ten pound bag of beans, milk, eggs, flour, salt, whole chicken, onions, jalepenos, a HUGE bag of fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes, corn flour etc.  Her items filled the cart about 2/3 full.  They were cheaper than what the other family had bought so she was able to get so much more stuff.  Looking at her groceries i thought this woman could probably eat for more than a month.  Nothing was threatening to expire or give her diabetes or jack her up on sugar.  It was all whole food.

I remember leaving that store thinking to myself: for the most part, America cannot cook to literally save its own life.

So at that point I committed to whole foods and cooking from scratch as often as was practicable.  Now this isnt to say we never eat out or have frozen pizza because we do.  But i dont want my kids growing up thinking that food comes from a box.  This respect of food is what lead me to want to "farm" in my back yard.  I want my kids to know where their food comes from and to be able to prepare it for themselves.  I want them to be healthy and not in college chowing down on poptarts because they cant take care of themselves.

So, beans.  My husband is Mexican, if you didn't notice.  Beans are big for him.  Also the kids love them.  I never liked them growing up, but i always had them out of a can. In the last 7 months or so, i have made a pot of beans once every other week or so.  We keep the container in the fridge and it usually feeds us for about a week.  Sometimes as a main dish, sometimes as a side. either way its all good.

So below are my instructions on how to make refried beans.  Please be aware i am very white, so if this isnt how YOUR nana makes them, i'm sorry.

 First you need dried Pinto beans.   I buy a 4lb bag for about $4.

Measure out about 1lb.  If you dont have a kitchen scale it comes out to just over three cups of beans.  If you do have a kitchen scale, remember to 00 it out after you put the bowl on or you'll have way too few beans!

Rinse them off, make sure you didn't get any rocks.
Next you boil your beans.  I just put in water enough to go about an inch over the tops of the beans.  I also put in two bay leaves because i feel like i should.  I don't know how necessary that really is.

I am told its bad to salt the water at this point because it keeps the beans from getting creamy in the middle.

Also i boil them covered on med-high heat.

It will take about 3 hours to make them be fully cooked.  You might want to have another activity planned for that time period cause that's a long time to be hanging out staring at a pot of beans.

When they are done, take them out and strain them, reserving the cooking liquid.  put the pot back over the heat (med high still) and put down a fat that isnt butter.  Sometimes i go veggie oil, sometimes i go with bacon fat (which i keep in my fridge after we make bacon for breakfast. yes im a crazy person).  Saute some garlic in your fat (i go with 4 cloves) for about 30 seconds. then throw down a spoon full of beans and mash em with a potato masher.

take out the bay leaves too. ima dork.
Keep doing this one spoonful at a time until you have a bunch of smashed up sorta dry looking beans. Oh and between each spoonful of beans i'd sprinkle in some salt. I like to put in some crushed red pepper too but i dunno how you feel about that.  By the end you should have added salt about 7 times and come out to a total of about 2 tbs of salt.  More less to taste. whatever.

Then after you have your crumby mashed mass, you add back your cooking liquid.  I usually end up putting it all back in, but if you like your beans drier you might want to do less.

I find that you always should put in more liquid than you think you need because it soaks back into the beans when you store them. so unless you want dry beans later, more liquid is good.

When you are done, you'll have about a quart of beans.  In case you wonder what that is compared to a normal can of beans, check it out:

Its about three times as much.  Its a lot of beans.  Unless you are my family, then its not really enough beans. I make them Sunday night, they are gone by Tuesday.

But together lets do the math: a can of refried beans it about $1.  It takes three cans to make a quart of beans. That means it will cost you $3 to make what i just made right there.  My four pound bag of beans cost me $4.  So basically it takes 1.33 batches of beans for them to "pay for themselves" in a sense.  

And, on the even more awesome side, you can say you made your own beans.  you'll have a pretty easy and reasonably healthy snack laying around all the time.  And your husband will love you even more! Mostly if your husband is like mine!

Anywho, for me farming was about all things sustainable, and cooking is such a necessary skill it kills me that most of America has lost it.  Ask yourself: Could you cook to save your life?

Sunday, June 12, 2011


So you have seen pictures of my girls before.  All very cute right?

I had mentioned that Betsy gets food taken from her occasionally and doesn't have as many feathers as her girlfriends.  If you didn't catch me mentioning that before, go back and read. Or just take my word for it. I told you about it i promise.

Well the other day i'm reading my favorite chicken forum and come across someone who had posted photos of their EE (easter egger) wanting to know if it was a Hen or a Roo.  This is a common question on this forum.  especially for newer chicken owners.  A poster told this person that their EE was a roo.  He said you could tell because his pea comb (the red thing on their faces, hens have them too, but roos are usually bigger and redder among other things) had three distinct rows in it.

*gasp!* Cut to my mental image of the Betsy i had picked up that night when saying good night to the girls:
Don't see it? Well maybe its because you aren't as crazy as I am.  I didn't have my camera that night, so i ran out to the coop with Luis's iPad to get some really awful pictures.  I was determined to have an answer that night.

So i frantically posted my pictures and asked how hard and fast that rule was.  Remember this is Betsy. She's one of the low girls on the pecking order.  She barely started getting feathers that the others had weeks ago! 
I was thoroughly expecting to be told "nope, pullet!" but no responses came.

i waited up until 10.  no one had responded. I was sure i had annoyed them with my silly "is this a roo?!" question, clearly this was a pullet.

The next morning i looked at my responses:

Now this post was very "hes just not that into you" for me.  I read the part that says "your chick is definately a cockerel" but i mentally down played to the "i have had female EEs with a 3-row comb". FABULOUS! there is hope! even though three of you think shes a he...  Then it was followed by this:

 Now is it just me or is this guy leading me on? "oh ya totally it could be if they are black and white or silvery, sure possibly that could happen... but not for you lady. better luck next time."

DARN IT!  I have a cockerel! I can't have a rooster in the city limits!! My friend Leia teased me that my poor chicken (Betsy? Bennie?) must be so gender confused. I was trying to make her play barbies and lay eggs when all he wanted to do was play GI Joe and crow!

Now i have to rehome him.  Sooner rather than later so he doesn't knock up my hens!  So if you know anyone in the Tucson area who is in the market for a rooster,  send em my way!

Here it is, up close and personal.  The comb seen round the world:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Compost: Or How i Learned to Love Maggots

I mentioned before that the compost followed naturally from the chickens.  I had all that poop after all, it seemed a shame to throw it away when people were selling it on craigslist!  It helped that my mom and her Fake Husband had been composting for a few years now, so I had a resource to consult.

When I talk to people about our growing farm situation i get a lot of questions about compost. What is it? how do you do it? is it hard? does it smell bad? etc..

The fast answers would be: "Its decomposed junk." "You pretty much put a bunch of stuff in a pile or bin and turn it occasionally so air can get through it and that's it" "It could be i guess, i did it the lazy way so no." and "yes, at first"

There are literally thousands of resources on composting available and most of them will tell you that you need equal parts "brown" and "green" to make compost work.  Brown being dried stuff (leaves, straw, or in some cases, news paper) and green being wetter stuff (produce left overs, overly brown bananas etc).  Some fancy resources will include manure in their ratios (usually 20% manure, 40% green, 40% brown) and they will all be careful to remind you that you should only use manure from a herbivore: cow or chicken.  My mom's Fake Husband will tell you that it really doesn't matter.  Just chuck it in the bin. Overall you just want the thing to have the dampness of a wet, wrung out sponge.

Mine looks like this:

Visible and identifiable: Straw, banana peel, egg shells, paper, celery.

You can Google all of this information pretty easily if you ever wanted to start composting yourself, but you will find lots and lots of different opinions.  Hardcore people opt for the "big pile of stuff" concept.  Which is essentially making a big pile of compostable material.  This is easily the cheapest way to do that.  Except the smell is going to be much greater, you'll have to "turn it" with a shovel/pitchfork, and the worst: it will attract rodents.  Now, that doesn't bother some people. they have a big enough property to just leave it out there and the smell doesn't get back to them.  And they are big tough guys who don't mind taking a pitchfork to a pile of decomposing gross and stirring it around. The ones who don't mind the rodents are, in my opinion, nutty. But they feel that the concept of a decomposing mouse in their compost isn't the grossest thing ever.  I think it is.  To each his own.

Mines green but whatever.
I took the lazy way out.  I bought a commercial composter.  Now that one i just linked is the exact same as mine, except i bought it at Costco for $97.  I think it was mislabled because even the Costco website is selling it for more! run to the East Side Costco! RUN! Before they catch their mistake!

The benefit to mine is that the smell stays mostly enclosed (mostly. i have chicken poop in mine so there is only so much that can be done!). Its on a tumbler so i don't have to pitchfork anything, i just spin it.  That is easier said than done BY THE WAY! it gets pretty heavy when its gets more gross stuff in it.  And its locked and elevated, so no rodents. YAY!

Ok so what does this compost situation look like on a daily basis, you might be wondering.  Well, whenever we prep veggies, or cut up fruit for the kids, or skin a potato, or crack eggs or make coffee etc we just keep the stuff we would have normally thrown out in a plastic container under the sink.  (They do have counter top composters which are nicer looking.  i like this "simplify" one but i'd also take this one with no complaints.  If you need my address just text me for it, i'll let you send it to me.) then when i go out to the coop i use a kitty litter scoop to scoop out all the poop (its my coop poop scoop) i put it all in a bucket.  I also change the straw in the nesting boxes every other day, since they like to roost on the edge of it and poop in it.

Here it is freshly cleaned:
All that straw goes into the compost too.  This minimizes my need for news paper because it acts as my "brown".

Anywho, all those things (kitchen bucket, poop and straw) get tossed into the composter and spun around a few times.  Then i walk away and dont think about it again until the next day.

Although i am a little interested in my compost.  I always stare at it before i put my new stuff in and then again after its been spun a bit.  Like i am expecting it to turn into dirt instantly.  That doesn't really happen.  But when staring at my compost one day i noticed that one of the egg shells looked like it was waving at me.  Actually... it all sorta seemed to be...squirming.... Then i looked at the this little white thing on the lid and realized: Oh no.  Maggots.

I Googled FRANTICALLY.  How could this happen to me? That's so gross! i take such good care of my compost (which, translated could also read: "I take such good care of my bin full of rotting crap!" just in case you didn't catch the irony).   The compost people on line had me split between "eh its fine, they'll help break it down faster" and "YOU HORRIBLE COMPOSTING PERSON YOU PUT MEAT IN THERE DIDN'T YOU!? DIDN'T YOU!?!?!?!"  Well i knew i didn't put any meat in there. So i was safe on that front. but I wasn't totally convinced that i hadn't ruined it.  So i called the Fake Husband.

Me: "I HAVE MAGGOTS!! What do i do?"
FH: "Ya, that'll happen.  Don't worry, when your compost heats up they'll all die.  In the mean time they help break it down."

And you know what? That's true.  Not one week later most of my maggots are gone.  I had gotten used to them.  In fact i swear my compost was visibly more broken down when they were in there.  That's probably not true.  But this morning i went to find one to take a picture for you and I found them a bit more difficult to locate.
I said difficult, not impossible:

 Ya I picked him up.  What now.  I'm just THAT hardcore.  Lets chock this up to the list of 200 things i would never have done a month ago but i do all the time now.

While making that list add: cleaning chicken poop, rubbing a chicken's butt with a warm wet towel and asking "is that too cold? too hot?" and tying a wetted cloth diaper to my face so that i can spread the ground up skeletons of dead sea creatures in my coop to prevent mites in my chickens. (That's a real thing)

So, mostly i picked up the maggot to take a picture for you.  I know, you appreciate my sacrifice.  But this isn't the first one i have picked up.  The chickens like to eat them.  So every now and then i go take a few out and bring them to the girls.  This may be why their numbers are dwindling...

I took it in to the girls to see who would go for it.  No surprise Esther ran right over.  Girlfriend loves her maggots.  She's also the most curious (as i told you earlier) and the least likely to think I'm a predator.  She knows where her food comes from.

This is a little blurry because she shook her head a little as soon as she picked it up, but that blur on the side of her mouth is the maggot.  mmmmmmm tastey!

There you have it.  Information about composting and a lot of gross pictures of maggots.  And the knowledge that if you ever eat one of my eggs there is a good chance that digested maggot is involved in there somewhere.  =) But that's true of all free range eggs.

Chickens love bugs.  and i love chickens.  So by the transitive property, i also now love bugs. Wait... that's not right... I TOLERATE bugs. Like Tina Fey (as Sarah Palin) said:  I tolerate the heck out of them.