Chicken Coops

Saturday, August 20, 2011


At our small homestead in Little Flower, we decided a couple of years ago that because we go to pretty great lengths to eat food grown without chemicals it was odd that we used chemicals all over the house to clean. Chemicals, in fact, that caused watery eyes and runny nose just to use them to clean the tub or the sink. That doesn't even include the warnings on toilet bowl cleaner. So, we set out to find some information on making our own cleaning supplies. The resources abound. While some of the places we looked are lost to the recesses of inaccessible memory, one of our favorites is The Urban Homestead (Expanded & Revised Edition): Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (Process Self-reliance Series) and we love it! It has a ton of ideas for all over your urban homestead.

Today, at the Irvington Skill Share, we'll be manning a table dedicated to our cleansers. It may be less exciting than the paper seedling pots of last year, but we hope some folks like it. In fact, you'll likely have been there already if you are reading this post as we'll have posted the link on the table so you can access the recipes below. Thanks for stopping in and good luck with your own journey whether it be one toward sustainability, local sourcing, and even urban homesteading. Those of us here at Little Flower Farms are glad to be on the journey with you.

The Goods!

Glass Cleaner:
50% distilled white vinegar
50% water

If for some reason you need it stronger, make it 75% vinegar. Great for glass, metal, or anything you want to shine.

Surface Cleaner:
75% distilled white vinegar
25% water
1T of liquid castile soap
A few drops of essential oil, for scent, if desired (Lemon smells great and helps with the breaking up of grease as well.)

Shake well before each use. Great for kitchen counters, porcelain which has no soap scum buildup, and floors. The fats in the castile soap help break up grease.

Wood Polish:
50% distilled white vinegar
50% olive oil
A few drops of essential oil, for scent, if desired (We like lemon!)

Shake well before each use. Great for any wood surface, apply sparingly and work in vigorously.

Tub Scrub:
Add liquid castile soap to baking soda slowly, while stirring, until the mixture has the consistency of cake frosting. Add a few drops of essential oil for scent, if desired. (Tea tree oil is a great one to kill germs. Or, get a "thieves" blend for great smell and germ killing)

Good for removing soap scum. Also works passably well as a laundry detergent (though not nearly as well as the next recipe). Pure Borax also works very well as a tub scrub.

Scouring Powder
Baking Soda
Essential Oil of your choice

Mix a few drops of super delicious smelling oils in with some baking soda and scour away! Simple! You can also cut a lemon in half and dip the cut end in some baking soda and use it like a scouring pad to clean stainless steel. It'll shine like new!

Laundry Detergent:
2 parts washing soda
1 part baking soda
1 part Borax

Mix thoroughly. Use 1 cup for large or heavily soiled loads, 1/2 cup for regular loads. Add 1/4 cup liquid castile soap to each load. The castile soap can be mixed into the whole batch of detergent, but it's hard to get it all blended.

Now, in our home, it is Frank who researched and made the cleaners. I, then, made these labels. Use them as inspiration for your own label making!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


How have we been so long in posting on this blog? It's hard to say. What you can know for sure is that we've had our hands in the earth and our feet carrying us around the local farmers markets. While we can't speak to the networking of all 800 of the folks who came to the Skill Share, there have certainly been many amazing things to come from the event. Plans for this year's event are already underway and you can bet the details will be posted here once they are fully decided.

For now, we would love to know if you've done anything new that was inspired by your time at the Skill Share. What say you?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spicy Vegan Chili

We used black beans instead of kidney beans in our Spicy Vegan Chili. Some kidney beans have a toxin, so if you use them, please read the cooking precautions in Tips and Notes from that follow this recipe.

Colorful and spicy, red bean chili is nearly a whole meal by itself. It's full of beans, of course, but also tomatoes, onions, peppers, and garlic. Use chipotle pepper if you can for a smoky, rich taste.

Active time: 45 minutes. Total time: 3 to 8 hours, plus optional 6 to 10 hours soaking time. Makes 12 servings, 1 cup each.

1 pound dried kidney beans (6 cups cooked)
6 cups cold water
2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon corn or canola oil
2 large onions, chopped (2 cups or 1 pound)
2 large green peppers, chopped (2 cups or 1 pound)
8 cloves garlic, diced (scant 1/4 cup or 1 ounce)
1 tablespoon dried chipotle or cayenne powder, or to taste
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cans (28 ounces each) diced tomatoes with juice


  1. Clean the beans. If you want to, soak beans for at least five hours. (See the Basic Bean recipe at for details on cleaning and soaking beans.)
  2. In a crockpot or a big pot on the stove, cook beans and salt in 6 cups of water. Your times will vary based on the age of the beans and whether you soaked them first, but this should give you an idea about the relative speed of each way. I usually soak the beans and use the 3-hour way.
    • 7-hour way — Put beans and salt in cold water in the crockpot. Turn the crockpot on low and cover.
    • 3-hour way — Heat cold water in a tea kettle or pot. Put beans, salt, and hot water in the crockpot. Turn the crockpot on high and cover.
    • 2-hour way — Put beans in cold water in a pot on the stove. Cover pot, bring to a boil, then turn down heat to low.
  3. About 30 minutes before the beans should be done, chop the onions, green peppers, and garlic. In a medium pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onions and green peppers as you chop them, stirring occasionally. When the onions are translucent, add the garlic and stir once or twice. Add the spices and stir until the vegetables are coated with spices.
  4. Bite a few beans to make sure they are tender. When the beans are tender, drain them. Add the onion mixture and the tomatoes, stirring to combine. Simmer for 30 minutes to combine flavors. Taste and adjust spices as needed.
  5. Serve with over rice or with corn bread or toast. Optionally, garnish with a spoonful of plain yogurt or chopped green onions.


Tips and notes

  • The FDA recommends always soaking kidney beans for at least five hours and throwing away the soaking liquid to avoid problems with a toxin in some kidney beans. Partly cooked beans can be more toxic than raw ones, so make sure the beans have been boiling for at least 10 minutes before you taste them. Really, you won't need to taste them until they have been boiling for nearly two hours.
  • The tomatoes will stop the beans from becoming more tender, so make sure the beans are soft before draining them and adding tomatoes. If the beans are not tender in step 4, add the tomatoes to the onion mixture and simmer on low so the spices don't burn while the beans continue to cook.
  • It's easier to add hot pepper than to take it out. Start slowly, taste, and then add more. If you do go over your comfort limit, just refrigerated the chili and taste it again the next day. The beans will absorb some of the heat from the sauce, reducing the heat level.
  • This chili freezes very well. It's great to have on hand when you need a quick one-bowl meal.

Gypsy Soup

We omitted the tomatoes from our Skill-Share “Feastival” version of Gypsy Soup, since we were focusing on using seasonally available vegetables. The stock we used was the liquid produced by cooking the garbanzos.

3 Tbsp. olive oil

2 cups diced onion

3 cloves minced garlic

2 cups diced sweet potatoes

½ cup diced celery

¾ cup diced sweet peppers

1 cup diced tomatoes

cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzos)

3 cup stock or water

2 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. basil

1 tsp. salt

1 bay leaf

½ tsp. cinnamon

Dash of cayenne

In a large saucepan sauté onions, garlic, celery, sweet potatoes, and peppers for 5 minutes. Add seasonings, tomatoes, and water or stock, and simmer until desired tenderness. Add chickpeas and and heat through.

From the kitchen of Indianapolis chef/baker Veronica Burrows

Great Northern Bean Soup, Southern Style

Great northern bean soup only gets better when you add classic southern ingredients: sweet potatoes and collards. The soup has a festive holiday look, with snowy white beans, bright orange cubes of sweet potatoes, and streamers of dark-green collards. The potato's sweetness balances the deep flavor of the greens, with lemon juice adding sparkle.

This filling soup is ultra-healthy: no fat and loaded with nutrition. Pack a thermos of soup for lunch during December to help avoid packing on holiday pounds.

Active time: 20 minutes. Total time: about 2 hours. Makes 10 main-dish servings. Vegan.


1 pound dried great northern beans
6 cups of water
2 teaspoons salt

1 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 medium sweet potato, diced (about 2 cups)
2 cups collard leaves, sliced into ribbons about 1/4 inch by 2 inches

2 teaspoons lemon juice
ground black pepper, if desired


  1. Pick over beans, removing any non-bean objects like stones or stems, and rinse well. Put in medium pot with water and salt. Cover pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to lowest possible boil. Cook until nearly tender, about an hour and 15 minutes.
  2. When beans are nearly tender, peel and chop onion and add to beans. Peel and dice sweet potato and add to beans. Rinse collards well and cut leaves into ribbons about about 1/4 inch by 2 inches and add to beans. (Save tough center rib for another recipe.) Raise heat if needed to bring to a boil again, then reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes, until collards and sweet potatoes are tender.
  3. Stir in lemon juice and taste. Adjust seasonings as desired. If you like a thinner soup, add water.
  4. Serve hot. Refrigerate any extra.


Tips and notes

  • Collard greens and sweet potatoes are very inexpensive and available from mid-fall through winter.
  • Both are good "vision foods" that may help you keep your eyesight as you age, according to the American Health Assistance Foundation. These dark green and bright orange vegetables have high levels of the antioxidant lutein, which can help prevent macular degeneration.
  • Cutting the collards into narrow ribbons helps them cook quickly so they get tender well before they get stinky.

Espresso Beef Soup

Cook in medium or large round or oval slow cooker

Setting and cook time: Low for 7 to 8 hours

3 pounds beef stew meat, such as boneless chuck, trimmed of fat, cut into 1½-inch chunks, and blotted dry

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

Pinch of salt

Pinch freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium-size onions, chopped

3 carrots, cut diagonally into 2-inch chunks

4 new red or white potatoes, diced

6 small turnips, peeled and quartered

1 cup strong coffee

½ teaspoon dried thyme

½ cup dry red wine

1. In a zippered-top plastic bag or a bowl, toss the beef with the flour, salt, and pepper, shaking off the excess. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm 1½ tablespoons of the oil until very hot. Add half the beef and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker. Repeat with the remaining oil and beef.

2. Add the onions to the skillet and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the cooker and add the carrots, potatoes, and turnips. Add the coffee and thyme to the cooker. Pour the wine into the skillet and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly and scraping up any browned bits stuck to the pan. Pour into the cooker and stir. Cover and cook on LOW until the meat is tender, 7 to 8 hours. Taste for salt and pepper, and serve.

from “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook” by Beth Hensperger, Julie Kaufman

Cook’s Comments: No matter what a recipe’s specified cook-time, you may have to make adjustments. Slow cooker temperatures vary, and there are other variables as well. A leaner, less tender cut of meat may need to cook longer. For the Skill-Share “Feast”ival, I made this recipe with beef cut from shank bones. This was very lean beef, and I cooked it over 9 hours before it was tender.

Many recipes call for browning beef, or softening vegetables, in a skillet before adding them to the slow cooker. Sometimes I omit the stovetop step, and simply put all the ingredients directly in the slow cooker to cook on low. (It saves time, and I’m often just as happy with the results.) --Anna

Cranberry Beef Stew

COOKER: Medium or large round or oval

SETTING AND COOK TIME: Low for 7 to 8 hours or until beef is tender

4 pounds beef (stew beef, shank, brisket, ribs, or combination)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped onion

4 cloves minced garlic

1 amber beer

2 cups beef stock

2 tablespoons tomato paste

12 ounces sweet dried cranberries (these come presweetened)

2 bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more or less to taste

1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil until medium hot. Add half the beef and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker.

2. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic to skillet and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the cooker.

3. Pour the beer into the skillet and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly and scraping up any browned bits stuck to the pan. Add the stock, tomato paste, dried cranberries, bay leaves, and cayenne pepper and bring to a quick boil, stirring to incorporate the tomato paste. Pour over beef and vegetables.

4. Cover and cook on LOW 7-8 hours, or until the meat is fork tender. Taste for salt and pepper.

Adapted from recipe for “Sweet and Spicy Cherry Short Ribs” found at (which came to them courtesy of Sycamore Farm Bed and Breakfast Inn, Terre Haute, IN)