These days it is difficult to really understand what is in our food and how it is processed. It is especially hard to know how animals are treated when used for meat, milk, eggs, or other animal products. In many commercial operations, chickens are often caged without access to the outdoors. When egg production slows, food is withheld to force quicker molting to return to maximum egg production. Chickens are often debeaked to prevent pecking injuries. Commercially raised chickens are rarely able to practice normal scratching and preening practices in the limited space they are given. They also have high rates of foot injuries from standing in cages their whole lives. There are definitely some practices that are better than others, but it is important to know what to look for. Here is a summary of what egg labels mean in the grocery store.
What do egg labels mean?
Cage Free: The cage free label is used for chickens living in a warehouse without cages. However, they may have 1 sq ft or less of space. Cage free chickens may have a higher mortality rate than caged birds. This may be due to pecking injuries or disease spread in a small space. They do not have access to the outdoors and can be debeaked to prevent injuries.
Free Range: Free range chickens have access to the outdoors, however, they may not actually use that outdoor space and it can be a limited time during the day. To be considered free range, a farm just needs to provide some sort of outdoor space connected to their covered barn. Unfortunately, many times that space is not accessible by most of the birds.
All Natural or Farm Fresh: There are no standards or regulations set on using the term “all natural” or “farm fresh”. These labels don’t mean anything.
Hormone Free: Chickens can not be given hormones in the US. If your egg label reads “Hormone Free” that is simply a marketing term and does not mean those eggs are better than any other available in the store.
Pasture Raised: Pasture raised chickens spend the majority of their time outdoors and have a safe indoor place to sleep. Our chickens would be considered pasture raised, and this is the term I would look for when buying eggs elsewhere.
Organic: To have the organic label, the eggs must come from a certified organic farm. The chickens must be cage free and have outdoor access, but they can be debeaked. In many family farm cases, the label will read “From Organically Fed Chickens” or something similar, because the investment to become certified isn’t worth it for small farms.
Omega-3 Enriched: This label doesn’t mean anything as far as living conditions. It only means the chickens are fed a diet with added Omega-3s.
We are proud to have pasture raised, organically fed chickens. We are lucky to get enough eggs to sell a few to cover some feed costs and provide others with eggs they can feel good about. Our eggs generally have dark orange yolks, a sign that they are truly pasture raised and free range more than they eat grain. The eggs come in various sizes and colors, which varies by breed. Store bought eggs generally have a pale yolk, indicating a grain fed chicken.
It is also important to know that while store bought eggs generally have an expiration date a month away, they are often already 30+ days old. Fresh eggs will often be perfectly good 3+ months from when they were collected. As eggs age they are better for hard boiling. Store bought eggs peel easier than farm fresh eggs because they are older. For fresh eggs, try steaming them instead of boiling. They will peel great! When in doubt about how old your eggs are, you can test your eggs with the Float Test. To test for freshness, put an egg in water. If it sinks it is still fresh. If it stands on end, it is still good but should be used soon. If it floats, it is no good. You might be surprised at how long your eggs can last.
Food labels really can be deceiving, so I hope this has given you some clarity in what to look for. It might just make you want to get a few chickens of your own! If that’s the case, check out our Chicken Basics article. Support your local farmers and happy egg hunting!
Another month has flown by, and we have more photos to share! August was a busy month for us on the homestead, but also very rewarding. The weather has been great and we have been able to get quite a bit from the garden while also enjoying the camper and boat. We started the month by harvesting a big batch of green beans.
We were also able to spend a few days camping. With Ryan’s work we are even able to camp during the week sometimes, so we took advantage of that. You can’t have fun without a little bit of work though, and both cars and the camper have required a bit of work this summer (not even counting the F100 truck work Ryan has been doing).
August 14th is our wedding anniversary and this year we celebrated 7 years! We spent the weekend out on the lake and finished the day off with pizza and ice cream on the boat. The kids had a great time and spending the day as a family was the perfect celebration.
The boys are becoming more independent and Micah weaned this month. It is a bit easier for me to leave them home for little while. Ryan always does great with the boys, but going out is a little more guilt free now that Micah doesn’t need me all day long. I spent a nice long time on a Hobby Lobby shopping trip. I got all kinds of goodies to help decorate the house and make it feel a little more “grown up” along side the toys and sippy cups.
It has been a beautiful month around here. I’m excited for September though, it is one of my favorite months. While the weather gets cooler, the tourism slows down and our town begins to feel a little bit more like home. Fall is coming but we still have plenty of nice summer days to enjoy, and I hope you get a chance to enjoy too!
I picked up a dresser a couple of weeks ago at an estate sale and couldn’t wait to get it painted and put into our master bedroom! We haven’t had a dresser in our room before and it has added much needed storage. Last year we put Micah’s crib and rocker in the master to keep him close, especially because he had acid reflux and would often wake up coughing or gagging. Keeping him close was a blessing, but now he is doing well in his own room and we have a bit of space back.
We currently have an antique white farmhouse bed and end tables. We also have a small fireplace and mantel. The room is a light lilac color (husband approved) with a darker purple accent behind the bed. The pine dresser definitely didn’t match the room, but it was a steal at $50. I already had paint to match the bed, so after $10 in primer and sanding pads, we were ready to go.
Of course, I couldn’t have gotten the job done without my helpers. Harrison helped take the hardware off, sand the drawers, and even helped with paint. Micah helped me give the dresser a good cleaning after sanding. They might slow the job down a little, but they love to help and I would never turn that down!
The key to a good coat of paint is a good primer, especially when you are trying to hide dark spots or knots. After a light sanding and coat of Zinnser 1, 2, 3 primer/sealer, I used dutch boy self priming paint in Antique White. This is my favorite shade of white and is currently the color of our kitchen, as well as several pieces of furniture.
My original plan was to replace the hardware. The bronze hardware made the pine dresser look dated. I looked online and in stores for new hardware, but everything I liked was in the $5 range, which would double the investment in this dresser. I decided to try spray painting with some paint I had on hand.
I actually love this hardware in this color more than any of the expensive options I looked at. It seems very elegant with a new coat of paint. This is also the first time I used this krylon spray paint, and it is love.
To finish off the project, I made a little trip to Hobby Lobby. I haven’t had a place to put my Precious Moments and didn’t find much online for ideas. I know they aren’t as popular now as they once were, but each one has a special place in my heart and I want to display them. I found some nice grey crates that contrast nicely and they could actually be hung up on the wall if we decide to go that route.
I really like how the master bedroom is coming together. We have slowly been adding to the room to make it our own and with 2 crazy boys, we look forward to bedtime now more than ever. I will be doing a little update on the rest of the room soon, so stay tuned!
If you have a garden, I hope this summer has been good to you! We have had our garden just take off over the last month. We have been lucky to have avoided many pests and weather problems. I hope we can have a garden like this every year!
Our zucchini has already given us enough to make 3 loaves of zucchini bread. I made 24 muffins and put them in the freezer for the kids to eat over the next few weeks. We’ve also been eating broccoli and sweet peppers from the garden, but they haven’t produced the way I would have liked. The cucumbers and tomatoes on the other hand, have so many fruits started that I fear we will be eating them all winter long. The pumpkins are beautiful, but I have struggled with getting the fruits pollinated. They have been growing to golf ball sized pumpkins and then falling off due to a lack in pollination. It will be interesting to see if we get any pumpkins by fall.
The real winners are the green beans. I have picked about 4 lbs of green beans so far and we have been eating them nearly every day. I froze a pound of them before we left for Micah’s appointment because we couldn’t eat them fast enough. I am currently picking about 8 oz every 1-2 days and the 4×4 box hasn’t even started producing. They are delicious.
The cucumbers are just starting to get to a picking size. Harrison loves to check on them. He was showing Ryan yesterday that you need to move the leaves to see them. Harrison spends almost as much time in the garden as I do. The cucumbers are going to start being ready by the dozen, so I see some canning in my future.
I like to measure how much produce I pick, just for fun. However, I will never know how much broccoli or carrots we get. The boys pick them as soon as they look ready and eat them right in the garden. Yesterday the boys passed around a great big carrot. If they all grow to that size by the end of the season, I will be very happy.
This homesteading adventure is relatively new to us, but we have enjoyed doing it as a family. Harrison has been a part of the garden from the very first seed. He has really learned how to take care of the garden and now he knows what kind of sweet rewards you can get.
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Micah was seen at the UW hospital yesterday for a bladder dynamics study. The test (called a CMG for short) measured the pressure in the bladder as well as bladder capacity and muscle use. We discovered a couple of things from this test, with mostly positive results. The test itself went well and took about 2 hours. Micah was lightly sedated and likely won’t remember it. Child life brought toys and books to keep him occupied. Keep in mind that I am not a doctor and this is my understanding of the results, which may not be perfect.
The urologist was trying to find out whether Micah has a spinal or brain disorder that prevents him from being able to empty his bladder. He has all of the symptoms of a neuroligical issue called a neurogenic bladder (similar to the bladder issues found in children with spina bifida or other spinal injuries). He has a large bladder capacity but doesn’t fully empty it. On his last x-ray study it looked as though he had high bladder pressures and a thick bladder wall, leading the doctors to believe he couldn’t feel how full his bladder is.
The CMG found that it does seem as though he can’t feel how full his bladder is. A typical 16 month old will fill his bladder completely with 80-100ml. Micah’s bladder took 180ml each time, about double what a normal bladder would hold. The good news though, is that once it is full enough to be uncomfortable in his abdomen he has the ability to use the muscles to partially empty the bladder. That would not be the result if he had a neurological issue.
The urologist believes Micah has Hinman’s syndrome. The other name is non-neurogenic neurogenic bladder. Clear as mud, huh? Simply put, Micah has bladder dysfunction for an unexplained, non-neurologic reason. It is likely just a developmental mishap which also affected his ureters and kidneys early on during pregnancy. This diagnosis is better than a neurological disorder because there is hope that he will be able to train his bladder to empty. He has muscle control to some extent and we hope to teach him how to use those muscles once he is old enough to understand potty training.
In the meantime, we will do our best to keep Micah healthy and free of UTIs. If he begins to get UTIs or further kidney damage he will need catheters several times a day to help him empty his bladder, with the hopes that he will eventually gain the ability to control urination without a catheter. Once he has control over bladder pressure, he will be able to have the surgery on his ureters to fix the reflux issue. This will likely be done around age 5, or whenever he is fully potty trained.
While we are relatively happy with the conclusions of the test, we are still concerned about his kidney function and size. The issues Micah has in his urinary tract were probably caused by the same early developmental mishap, which leads us to the Hinman Syndrome diagnosis. On the positive side, the urologist thinks this was more likely a developmental mishap than an inherited gene. She does not believe we should have to worry about Harrison or any future children’s urinary tracts with this diagnosis, but we will stay on the lookout for any alarming signs.
We are finally at a point where we can stop searching for a diagnosis. Micah has hypoplastic kidneys with VUR and bladder dysfunction. He has a diagnosis and treatment plan. He will only have to undergo routine ultrasounds and blood tests to check kidney function every 6 months without any other major testing. He can stay off of the antibiotics and avoid catheters unless he starts to get UTIs. He will have surgery around age 5 to further prevent kidney infections.
I know sometimes the terminology becomes overwhelming if you aren’t dealing with this issue yourself, so if any part of this seems confusing I would be happy to answer any questions to the best of my ability. This has been quite the journey, but Micah is mostly just a happy kiddo.
I have a major love affair with Instagram. I love choosing a photo every day or two to show off what we have been up to. As a bonus, it is hooked up to Facebook, so the pictures can be seen on Scott Family Homestead there too. I know not everyone has Instagram, so I thought I would do a little recap of what July had in store for us.
We started out the month with a week of 4th of July celebrations. We went to the fireworks and 2 parades. The kids are at a great age for holiday celebrations and they had a blast. We went up north to Michigan and enjoyed great weather at the lake.
The chickens and ducks have been laying eggs like crazy. They have been happy and healthy. Hoping not to jinx things…we haven’t had any predator issues since the bear in the spring. We have had some deer in the yard, but they have stayed out of the garden, so I’m happy.
The garden has been such an adventure this summer. Ryan has been super helpful with weeding and watering. We have had some great successes and some failures, but we are learning a lot. The zucchini, cucumbers, green beans, and tomatoes have been a major success. The carrots, pumpkins, and broccoli need a little more time, but they look great too.
One of the most exciting events of July was purchasing our Little Blue Truck. It has been a good project for Ryan and I can happily say it is up and running. The kids love it and have been “helping” dad work on it.
This spring we made a promise that we would really enjoy this summer with the kids and pack it with as much fun as possible, but also time at home. We don’t often spend weekends at home, but we wanted to enjoy it this summer. We live where everyone else comes for vacation and we have enjoyed going to town and doing the tourist things that everyone else enjoys. It has been a great summer so far and I am looking forward to what August has in store!
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Today we met with a great pediatric urologist who has been studying Micah’s case. We learned a couple of things and have a plan for another test, date to be determined. *As a reminder, I am not a doctor and I am only trying to convey the information as we received it and try my best not to pass on misinformation.*
First, the good news! After turning 1, the chance of UTI in boys with kidney reflux goes down considerably. This means as long as we closely monitor Micah for signs and symptoms of UTI, we can take him off of the antibiotics!! This is such great news for our little boy who gets very sick from those medications.
Now, there are 2 possible issues we are worried about. The first is primary reflux. This means the problem could be VUR alone. That would be solved by ureter reimpimplantation surgery. While the reflux should not get worse over time, it may be possible that the first VCUG (a test with a series of xrays with contrast in the bladder) when Micah was 1 day old didn’t show the extent of reflux on both sides. It did show very clearly that there was no urethral blockage, so that has been ruled out.
Surgery can not be done before ruling out a neurological disorder that keeps the bladder from emptying. This would explain why the problem appears to have gotten worse with time. This would also explain why his very first and most persistent symptom has been an enlarged bladder. There may be a syndrome associated with that issue, or it may just be a dysfunctional bladder on its own. While this issue would be a long term problem, most problematic around potty training, it may allow Micah to outgrow the reflux once he learns to control his bladder on a schedule. While we would never wish for a neurological or spinal problem, the idea of avoiding a major surgery that could lead to more complications does have it’s advantages. If it is determined to be a neurogenic bladder, tests will be done to rule out spinal issues and the reflux will be closely monitored until potty training age. If the reflux does not improve by age 4 or so, reimplantation surgery may be required.
The next step is a test that measures pressure in the bladder as fluid is added (a cystometrograms or CMG). It will measure bladder size, pressure, and flow rate. If the bladder does not empty at the appropriate pressure, it is likely a neurogenic bladder. The test is similar to a VCUG. Micah will be lightly sedated and the test takes about an hour. The test will be done in Madison at the UW Children’s Hospital, but it has not been scheduled yet. Sometimes it can be months to get on the schedule, but we should know more next week.
The kidney size and function is something that was determined during development and won’t be changed through surgery or time. It will be what it will be, and we just have to do our best to protect his kidneys as they are. It is disappointing that we can’t do anything as a quick fix, but taking Micah off of the antibiotics should at least make his day to day better.
Thank you to everyone who is keeping Micah in their thoughts and prayers. We are doing our best to stay positive and the support is very comforting.
Beep, beep, beep!
One of Harrison’s favorite books is “Little Blue Truck”. It is a really great children’s book with a good lesson. “Now I see a lot depends on a helping hand from a few good friends.” Harrison was pretty excited to take a trip with his dad to pick up a real life little blue truck.
It has been a dream of mine for a while now to have a vintage truck. Ryan found this 1964 Ford F100 on Craigslist for a great deal. Of course, the truck was a great price, mostly because it isn’t currently running. Ryan is confident he can fix the engine issues (the previous owner says it was just an issue with the clutch). He really didn’t want to get a truck that needed body work, and this one is really great.
This F100 has a long bed and a custom cab, with chrome trim. It’s beautiful. It has an 8 cylinder 292 Y-block engine with a 4 speed manual transmission. <— I don’t know what most of that means, but I’ve been told it’s important. I hope to learn more about trucks and engines as Ryan and I tackle this project together.
It is going to be a bit of an adventure to get this thing running and put back together. Ryan joked that since we didn’t have enough going on we needed a project. For now, it is safely tucked away in the garage. Once Ryan gets it running I will have to learn to drive a manual. I’m also going to need a pig, sheep, cow, horse, goat, and big green toad to help me out when I get stuck in the mud.
We have a lot of half finished projects going on around here and not much time to do them. We are big believers in watching the market for quite some time, finding a deal, and setting it aside for a bit if we have to. We have gotten great deals on cars, our camper, boat, and houses by patiently waiting for the right thing to come along. I hope we will have an update on this beauty soon though, because I can’t wait to take it for a ride. Thanks for reading and check back soon!
My garden is looking promising, even with our short growing season and the excessive rain we have gotten this year. I see buds or flowers on almost every plant and I’m really excited to see what kind of yield I can get!
Everything has sprouted, except the rhubarb. I’m not sure why, but the rhubarb just never came up. Today I weeded it and turned the soil. I planted some green beans in the 4×4 box so it didn’t seem like a waste. There is still plenty of time, so I think the beans will do well.
I had 3 leftover tomato plants that I put in near the cucumbers and they are doing amazing. The tomatoes I planted in the pots are drowning from all of the rain. They just don’t have enough drainage and we got over 10″ of rain in June, 4″ came all at once! Just last night we got another inch of rain. I have not watered the garden since I first planted it.
The pumpkins and zucchini are growing rapidly and I have high hopes for them. Last year something ate most of the buds off of the zucchini, so I’m hoping we have better luck this year with a better fence.
I also have sweet peppers, broccoli, carrots, herbs, and asparagus that are all doing well. I must say, I’m pretty proud! I even picked my first green pepper today. I’ve been feeling very lucky to have this distraction to keep me extra busy. Last night we had a beautiful rainbow after the rain. What a beautiful property we have!
More updates to come soon! Thanks for reading!
Our sweet boy had a rough day today. The results of Micah’s tests were not what we had hoped for. The issues to this point were in the left side of his urinary tract only. This scan showed severe reflux, a large ureter, and a smaller than normal kidney on both sides.
We can not schedule a corrective surgery without ruling out bladder disorders or blockages since it is now a problem on both sides. We also need to have a better idea of kidney function, so new blood and urine tests are being run. The hospital is having a radiology clinic tonight with radiologists, nephrologists, and urologists that will review Micah’s history and scans to better treat him.
We will be seeing a urologist in 2 weeks to rule out other disorders or blockages. Other than waiting on more test results we don’t have much else to report. Please keep Micah in your thoughts as we continue on this journey.