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Chickens: The Gateway Drug of the Homestead


Chickens are usually the first animals on a homestead... and for good reason! Eggs are awesome, chickens are fun, and it is the cheapest way to get into raising your own food.

Why Chickens?

Chickens are inexpensive, easy, and productive. They are fun as pets, and entertaining to watch. They eat anything from bugs to leftover spaghetti, and produce (depending on the breed) an egg a day.

Our Experience

Our first foray into chickens was a stop at the feed store where I bought 3 chicks for a few bucks a piece. I set them up in an unused hamster cage, and they did really well there until they were big enough for the big coop. AFTER we bought them, we did the research and discovered it’d be at least 4 months before they gave us our first egg… so we went to auction and bought 3 laying hens for about $12 each.

We really loved our girls, and unfortunately, a house fire made us get rid of them. But… we are ready to take the plunge again! Here are some details for raising chickens!

jaylin big b

Cost (for 6 hens)

We repurposed an old broken dresser into a coop for the ladies, used a new roll of plastic chicken mesh and some recycled building parts, and viola… coop! In total, it cost about $40. We had plastic siding on top for a roof and 4×4 posts. The whole coop measured 4×6 feet. Of course you can buy chicken coops, brand new or used on Craigslist, and they go from $100 to $1,000!

The chickens will need bedding, and hay or cedar are both good choices. We used hay, because it was cheaper and went a longer way.

Our back yard was fenced, and we let them out for a few hours a day to forage for bugs and grass. One thing to understand is that the place that the coop is will look like a post-apocalyptic wasteland in a matter of days!

Setup: coop, bedding, feeders/waterers:                                            $80

Chickens (3 hens, 3 chicks)                                                                   $45

Feed: 50# bag Layer Crumbles                                                             $15/month

Net:                                                                                                             25 +/- eggs/hen/month

carton eggs

It really doesn’t cost much to keep them happy. String up a head of cabbage and they play with it like a tether ball. Freeze some blueberries in water in a bowl and they have a great summer treat that keeps them busy. Give them a handful of meal worms and watch them go nuts! And the funniest thing… chickens eating spaghetti. It is hilarious!!

Other things that you may need are white vinegar, diatomaceous earth, and essential oils to keep fleas, ticks, and mites away.

The Conclusion

For us, chickens really were the catalyst to us wanting to move to the country and start our own homestead. They are so much fun, and useful! But a word of warning… they can be addictive!

Next on our list – we are thinking either a couple goats or a couple pigs. I think that will depend on what type of property layout that we end up with. Long term, we would also like a cow, but we really need to take baby steps!

If you have livestock, what was your first animal? Would you do it that way again?




Fancy Schmancy (EASY) Chicken Piccata


Happy Monday! It was a busy week at our house, even though we were kid-free for a bit of it. Today I’m sharing one of my favorite Restaurant Copy-Cats is Cheesecake Factory Chicken Piccata. This is one of my favorite going out meals!! I More on that in a minute.

One of the crazy things is that my phone got hacked and I lost ALL of my pics!!! We were in the middle of vacation and everything was gone. I was heartbroken!

The downside to losing all my pics is that the only one I have from making piccata is the finished version I shared on Facebook. Sorry! :/

Fancy Schmancy (Easy) Chicken Piccata
Menu Plan Monday

I printed out my (free) Handy Dandy Monday First Menu Planner and got to work.

Monday- Celebrating Glorianas 13th – she picked Chinese! Bourbon Chicken

Tuesday- Taco Tuesday with Sour Cream Rice

Wednesday- Country Style Ribs

Thursday- Fancy Schmancy (Easy) Chicken Piccata

Friday- Crock Pot Beef Stew

Saturday- Baked Ziti with Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Sunday- Leftovers & Pickies
That’s it for my menu this week. Are you trying something new this week? Share a recipe in the comments!

The Best (Crock-Pot) Spaghetti Sauce Ever


I have used this spaghetti sauce recipe for many years. It’s easy and everyone loves it. I thought that I had shared it over the years I’ve been blogging, but apparently not!

I came about this recipe sort of because of my Mom. She used to have me stay home to “watch” the sauce on the stove while she ran errands, and it would ALWAYS burn. I don’t have the greatest memory in the world… so it was TOTALLY her fault! Because of this, um, personality trait (?), I came up with a non-burnable Crock-Pot version. This makes enough for a big lasagna and plenty of leftover for a spaghetti night.

Crock-Pot Spaghetti Sauce

2 lbs ground meat (I used pork and beef last night, but use whatever mix you like)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, diced

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 28oz can Crushed Tomatoes

2 14oz cans Italian Stewed Tomatoes, drain liquid into cooker, then rough chop the tomatoes. I’ve totally used kitchen shears inside the can to do this!

1 small can tomato sauce

1 small can tomato paste

2 Tbsp parsley

1 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp salt

2 tsp basil

2 tsp oregano

1 tsp rosemary

1/2 tsp thyme

2 bay leaves

8 oz fresh mushrooms (or 2 cans sliced)

Add olive oil in skillet and saute garlic and onion for about 3 minutes on medium heat. They will get soft (if it’s burning, it’s too hot!). Add the meat, and brown it until done. Drain.

While the meat is browning, I start opening cans. Add the contents of the cans, plus half of the can of water. Especially for the tomato paste, I use hot so I can get as much from the sides of the can as I am able to.

Cook on low for 6 hours, or high for 3. I add some fresh mushrooms about halfway through the cooking process, but you can also add canned at the beginning.

You could do freezer cooking for this, but because of the grease of the meat, I’d suggest cooking and draining the meat before freezing. The rest can be frozen as is, but since it’s just opening cans, I never really do this. I have frozen the finished sauce before, and it thaws nicely!

It’s a great consistency, not too watery. I hope you love it as much as I do!


Shopping Spree


I am in the middle of planning my upcoming 2 weeks of meals. I believe the best way to save money on your family’s food is to plan after you shop the sale/coupon deals.

Today I went to Publix and spent about $108 (I saved $122!). None of it was meat because I get amazing deals at my meat market, and also at Target… who knew? So pretty much, my money today was spent on dairy, a few frozen things, canned veg, cereal, pasta, stuff like that. I also had 2 boxes of gallon Ziploc and a box of Reynolds crock pot liners(wish there were more than 4 in those boxes!) I’d have saved $15 more if my store took a specific competitor coupon… but they are too far to count. 😦

[Target Tangent: If you check their fresh meat, you will find coupons on the stuff that needs to be frozen in the next day or so. You can find AMAZING deals on great meat this way. I bought $6.99 93% ground beef for $1.99 with the $5 coupon on the packages. Also, ground pork for $1.99 and breakfast sausage links for $1.15!]

Anywho, now that I have purchased all of the great deals that I could, I will marry the ingredients that I got with the meat I had previously purchased, and viola… meal plan! These 2 weeks the kids are home on winter break, so I have to add breakfast and lunch for them, as well as factor in Christmas, and an 8th birthday party on Christmas as well.

So, I’ve sat down with my meal planner print outs and I’ll get to work! I have decided to start saving my meal planning sheets, as well as my cook day sheets, so that I can reuse them to give myself less stress on days that I NEED to meal plan for the week, but just don’t WANT to!

Did you get any amazing deals this week? What’s going on your plates?

Blog challenge days 3 & 4


whoopsy… Missed a day there! I’ll make it up today. 🙂

Day 3- explain my day in great detail. 

Monday morning, alarm goes off at 6:55. I succeeded in getting Dave to get the kids up and ready (unusual). Second alarm goes off at 7:33- 7 minutes until the bus comes. I get up, make sure everyone is ready and send them out the door. Go back to sleep.

10:30 wake up to discover that Dave is asleep on the couch and the kids have gotten into the cereal. I clean up the mess, check on the chicks, put a load of laundry in the washer, and drink some water. I do the dishes that didn’t get done last night, start the dishwasher.

We get dressed, and head out the door. Stop for hot dogs, and head to the park with the 2 little ones. We eat there, feed the squirrels (or chipamunts, according to 3-yr old David) and then stop at the met market for some ground beef for supper. We then head home to meet the bigger ones from the bus since it’s a half day.

I check email, see one from the Ybor Daily Market and see that I’m approved to sell bows, hats, and booties there. Yay!! I start working on some bows and send the 7 year old out to feed the chickens and rabbits. 2 eggs. 

I take the 9 year old, Grayce, to the grocery store for a few more things, and we have a learning trip. She says “you don’t have to always try to teach something”. To which I replied “everything in life is a learning opportunity.” Yes. I Actually said that. We talked about the differences between name brand and store brand, how to figure out which drinks would be a better buy, and why we don’t buy the $1 bag of chips. We head home.

Dave starts working on dinner while I work on bows, and only needs a little help from me to make the shepherds pie. It’s on the table at 4:51. A little early, but it came out really good. After dinner I do bath time for the filthy boys, settle in to watch some Street Outlaws and work on afghan stars, and send the kids to bed. Finish 4 stars, snuggle up to Dave, almost fall asleep, and head to bed at 11.

Day 4- the meaning behind my Tumblr name

Since I don’t have a tumbler name, I’ll tell you about my email/Facebook name. brandeekins came about when I had my first email address. A friend of my ex and I were talking about possible names. He suggested brandeetypeperson and I thought it was cute, but really long. I wanted to keep the feel of that- something with my name, but cuter. That’s when I thought of brandeekins. It’s been that way ever since. 

Blog Challenge : Day 2



10 likes & dislikes. 

Likes: reading, myriad music, ice cream, spaghetti, crafting, the north,  helping people, making lists, hockey, football

Dislikes: rudeness, bad words in music on the radio, racism, spicy foods, eggs (ironic since I raise chickens), fake friends, basketball, bugs, scary movies, guns

There’s my lists! More later, and day 3 tomorrow. 🙂

30 Day blog challenge: Day 1



I’ve decided to do this challenge. It’ll be fun, I think! 

Day 1: basic things about me…

I’m 39, mom of 2 boys, and soon-to-be step-mom to 5- 2 boys and 3 girls. 

I was born in upstate NY (Canada adjacent), and grew up in Tampa, Florida. 

I’m an unemployed nurse, and full time crafter. I knit, crochet, and make bows. I have tried quilting, painting, card-making, scrapbooking, and sewing but I’m better at what I do now. 

I have always loved to write, and I’m glad I have a blog to let all of the words out of my head. 

I love music of many kinds, I love the smell and feel of a library book in my hand, and I’m a girly girl at heart. 

I fall in love too easily, and I am still friends with so many of my exes. 

I am most afraid of being alone. 

That’s it for now!

Carrying On


It’s been quite the day here at home. I had a phone “interview” at the hospital I worked for last year, and I am praying that I get it. I finally feel like am getting my health back to normal, even though I still get winded pretty easily. That’s my other prayer – that I am able to DO the job once I get it!

I have so many crafty projects, but they just aren’t paying the bills! I have made some new bows (and a new post on the Hook N Stick blog – ) and currently have 32 out for sale with a couple different people.


I have “consigned”, for lack of a better word, my bows so that I can have a wider reach for customers. It seems to be going ok, and that makes me happy.

I did get a commission for another American Flag afghan. It’s been awhile since I made one, so hopefully it won’t involve too much cursing! I charge extra for them because of all of the work that goes in. I’m glad that they still get sold, though. Medicine doesn’t buy itself!

I appreciate all of your thoughts and prayers. Really.