Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gifts children give, and joy from their thoughtfulness

As an annual tradition, my husband and I take our kids Christmas shopping
(now they are 9, 7 and 4).

The day began with some home made waffles, sliced fruits, smoked salmon, and eggs. I even asked the oldest if she'd like a splash of coffee in her large mug of warm milk. They are being big decision makers today!
We emptied their piggy banks, and visited the local community bank to deposit some money into their "junior savers program" that happened to have a Christmas event scheduled for the kids.  The place was packed!  "Not many kids were depositing. Most people came to see Santa." was observation from my daughter.

The day before, they had written a list of all the people to buy presents for.  So they deposit some, and determine a set amount for spending (ex. 25 dollars for 20 people on the list - one must remember the taxes!), and we visit the dollar store so the kids could participate in "buying gifts for everyone" in a way they can afford. This year, they said they would also like to buy some books at the library's book sale (they are in the $1 range).

We take each of them down the aisles of the store, and ask who is next on the list, and whether they think ______ would like that item they are holding in their hands?   It's funny because the first year, I could see them only putting things THEY would love into the cart. 

"Do you think Uncle Tony really wants that pink jump roooope?"
"Yes. He will love it!"

They look forward to this annual bonanza, and I'm glad to see them grow to have pride in the gifts they give, and experience joy from their thoughtfulness. :)  They sit there and watch as grandma opens the gift and exclaims "oooh a ... ....a loofah! Thank you!", but the kids give a shy smile and skip to the next person. Sometimes I've noticed that Christmas seems to be a day to shower children with gifts so it seems one directional, and I'm glad they can be involved in the gift giving exchange.  
Some families do something similar or have children make crafts as gifts to family. What do you do? 

I, myself, remind them that it is the thought that counts and haven't ever been a proponent of spending insane amounts during Christmas.  But of course, I do get some gifts for friends and the family. I just refuse to spend ridiculous amounts. 
I really could do without presents, and enjoy the seasonal traditions - caroling at the senior home with the family, potato latkes and playing dreidel with our Jewish friends during Chanukah, making "gingerbread" houses out of graham crackers with our friends, cooking prime rib for Christmas dinner, and baking cookies for our neighbors.  Those memories, and wonderful smells are what make our family's Christmas from the heart.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Our Little Coop - Visit

A couple of weeks ago, we went to Mars Cheese Castle right over the border (to buy cheese - of course!)and on our way back home, we visited the home of a blogger in Lake county, IL with chickens.

Our Little Coop, a blog about a local family who is trying to be more self-sufficient.  They have Chickens, Coturnix quails, and Cayuga ducks on their 1/4th of an acre. After only five minutes, we knew we were cut from the same cloth. We talked about canning, and how we stared down this path, and the adventures it has taken us on including my recent plea to the village to allow backyard hens as a sustainable practice.

From their site:

"...attempting to transform our 1/4 acre of land into a backyard suburban farm and homestead. With two small children, twelve chickens, two ducks a few handfuls of quail, vegetable and herb gardens, fruit bushes and trees, we always have something going on around here! Our goal from the beginning has always been to get back to basics, simplify life, reconnect with the earth and each other and above all show people that no matter how small their backyard or space, everyone is able to become more self sufficient and experience the joys of growing and creating. Our hopes are to share with you the knowledge that we acquire along the way and that we make a difference, however small in the lives of others!"

Here are my girls holding a Silkie Bantam on the left, and a... ....a.... oh what is that one on the right.
It'll probably come to me at 3am. The silkie bantam is always a joy to see, because they are true "fuzzy chickens" where the feathers look like Angola rabbit hairs.

Polish crested.  So funny, and cute :)
 I have no idea how they see out of those feathers! 
The rest of their backyard had some raised garden boxes with vegetables.  They also bred all sorts of rare and fun quails for hobbyists.

As it just so happened, our timing was just right to see baby coturnix on the hatch! 
Born that day, they were as small as a silver dollar.

Aiiiiieeeeeeee!!!!!! who could resist these cute little fuzz balls?!?!?!

The dad of the family (Kevin) runs his own HVAC company, so if you're looking for someone local when your AC goes out, or your heater needs work, here's a fellow homesteader and backyard poultry lover you could give some business to!  Not a paid plug - Just loving on my fellow human!  All in all, it was a great time. My kids didn't want to leave,and loved playing with their son and daughter. Coming from a town that doesn't allow backyard hens, I couldn't help but be a bit envious. Imagining what life could be like, I jokingly asked if the home next door was for sale. They said it actually would be put up for sale soon.  To quote Shakespeare, "tempt not a desperate man!" technically wo-man.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Making Blueberry Jam

Sometimes, I am caught off guard- and suddenly realize how much of a blessing it is that my children gets to see where some of their food comes from. As I recall, a neighborhood child saw me pulling a potato out of the ground once, and exclaimed "potatoes come from the ground?!?!"  I let them give it a try, and it was like finding buried treasures for them.

I'm convinced that once you realize how these foods are made, how long they take to grow, and how much work comes into harvesting them - you grow a definite appreciation and value. Along those lines, every year we try to go on a few day trips that involve some U-Pick establishment to save money, and give us excuse to go on a road trip. So let's mosey on over to our recent adventure.  Picking blueberries, and making blueberry Jam.

Every year we try and make it over to stateline blueberries in Michigan City, IN.
The place is owned by a teacher, and she spends her summers running the U-pick and the rest of the year well, obviously - teaching.  I have seen over the years her small children grow up from manning the small hut/house to now driving the picker.

Here's Pepino picking blueberries.

Here's a branch to show you how ripe the berries were, and how LARGE they were!
We ended up with about 30 pounds of blueberries. 
Some for us, some for grandma and grandpa, and a little more for us. 

  Here's the Blueberry Jam recipe 

4 1/2 cups blueberries
1 package powdered pectin (or if you bought the larger container of pectin, use 2 tablespoons)5 cups sugar
1/3 cup lime juice

Crush blueberries one layer at a time. Combine crushed blueberries and powdered pectin in a large saucepot. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Stir in lime juice. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 15-20 minutes in a boiling-water canner. Yields about 6 half-pints.

Sounds easy enough...
Here's Momsi washing the berries.
 I caught her just as she looked at the camera. Awwwww what a face.

Here's the jam thickening after all the sugar and boiling.

A cooled spatula showing the consistency of the blueberry jam.

Made several batches, and glad to say every jar sealed properly. I encourage anyone to try this recipe at home. Probably one of the easiest jams I've made and the children grow an appreciation for the amount of labor and fruit that is involved in just making 1 jar of Jam.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Raw Flax Seeds

A co-worker/friend of mine was on the raw diet.  I never knew much about flax seeds except that it was something hip right now. However, come to learn there is a lot of flax seed in her raw foods she would make. She gave me a few of her raw foods she had made in the dehydrator, and truthfully some were really good, and some were - meant to be baked (sorry! you know I love you!!)

Well, she gave me some flax seeds in a container, and when I got home I sprinkled them on the ground.

Some may argue this is my usual face as I'm gardening. 

Soooo  update on that experiment:     The flax flowers are now blooming, and they are beautiful!
(albeit small) and you get to harvest more flax seeds!  I've also bought a bag of flaxseeds, and I'm trying to incorporate it into  more of the foods I make,
as you cannot deny the high fiber content (among other health benefits) of those teeny little things! 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Our village is discussing sustainability measures!

UPDATE: since this blog post was made, the trustees have proposed the seperation of the BYC ordinances from the other sustainable measures to be discussed on 7/25.  Therefore, depending on what the trustees decide on 7/23, any of what is posted below may not be discussed at all on the 7/25 planning commission meeting.

If you were planning to come to the 7/25 meeting in support of any of these measures, please susbscribe and further notice will be given as it is known.

 The Village trustees have decided to have open forum on whether the Planning Commission should allow residents of Mundelein several new sustainable city planning ideas.  These include: apiaries (bee hives), wind farms, backyard chickens, and urban farming among other sustainability practices.

There has been quite a bit of heated debate among our own trustees on whether to allow some of these measures.  I understand their concerns.  I'm sure the people who first introduced recycling ran into push back, and push back.  The trustees in their ambivalence have decided to allow the public to influence the decisions of the planning commission, and then the end result of what the planning commission compiles will be voted on by the trustees on a future date.

I just wanted to touch on the apiaries(bee hives) and backyard chickens for a moment, since they are the ones the trustees couldn't agree on, when I went to observe an earlier meeting. They were split 50-50.


While I am neither for nor against apiaries, I truly do understand the reasoning for them in sustainable city planning.  There is a huge problem going on.  Just do a quick search for "colony collapse disorder", and the results are more alarming than zombie apocalypse.

Häagen-Dazs ice cream has a "save our bees" campaign 

This is a video from 2007, and the narrator says 

"you may not have heard much about it, but you will".
It is now 2012, and some still have not heard of colony collapse disorder. 

I am unsettled by this very real fact that honeybees are

 dying all around the world at a shocking rate,

and without some help on our end, we could be facing some very

scary food shortages from lack of pollination.

In response:
The Waldorf Astoria is now cultivating bees in their densely populated new york roof.
Towns and villages are changing ordinances to allow them for the greater good of protecting our food supply.
The city of Chicago is very densely populated, and they are encouraging people to build and maintain apiaries. 

Backyard Chickens:
As readers of my blog know, I am partial to having backyard chickens.  
Listed below are the most common concerns voiced by people against having pet chickens.
I've tried my best to include facts, and sources.

Myth:  Chickens are noisy.
Facts:  The main rule for keeping urban chickens is “NO ROOSTERS ALLOWED.”  Hens do not make a ruckus in the morning like their male counterparts and they are fast asleep in their coop by the 
time the sun goes down. (As you probably know, hens do lay eggs 
without the aid of a rooster.) Hens make a soft clucking noise 
that is less noisy than a barking dog or a leaf blower.

Myth:  Chickens are messy and smelly.
Facts:  Chickens themselves do not smell. This is a fact.  It is only 
their feces that has the potential to smell which is also true of feces 
from dogs, cats, rabbits or any other animal that is outside. 
A 4-pound laying hen produces 0.0035 cu ft of manure per day.  According to FDA, an average dog generates ¾ of a pound of manure a  day that cannot be composted because of the harmful bacteria and 
parasites (hookworms, roundworms and tapeworms) that can infect 
humans. This waste is considered a major source of bacterial pollution in urban watersheds.  Source:
The reason people fear an odor problem is because their only experience with chickens, if they have any at all, is on a farm or commercial poultry operation. Under these circumstances, hundreds if not thousands of chickens are sometimes kept in crowded conditions with poor ventilation and without proper cleaning.  As a result, ammonia can build up and these facilities can stink.  There is a huge difference between these environments and the the very popular and rapidly growing sustainable backyard chicken movement.  

Myth:  Chickens attract rodents/predators. 
Facts:  The truth is that rodents already exist everywhere, and are attracted to any unprotected food source like bird seed, dog food, cat food, open trash cans, fruit trees, and even koi ponds.  There are preventative measures (chicken feed containers and coop designs) to nearly eliminate this concern.

Myth:  Backyard chickens will decrease property value. 
Facts: There is absolutely no evidence that keeping pet hens within 
the ordinance guidelines would have any affect on property values.  This is property rights issue and while it is necessary to protect neighbors from any potential nuisance, homeowners should have as much freedom as possible with minimal government interference.  If property values decreased with backyard chicken keeping, why would major cities like Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Madison, WI, Denver, support backyard chicken keeping?
Urban chicken keepers, like all good pet owners, are concerned about how their chickens might be affecting their neighborhood. They want their chickens to be a positive experience for everyone and they make 
an effort to keep an open dialog with their immediate neighbors to ensure any concerns or issues are addressed. The American Poultry Association advises that the rights of neighbors must be considered 
when raising chickens in the city, and that structures and materials  used should blend into the neighborhood’s existing structures. Chickens can be kept in a yard so inconspicuously, that it may not be apparent that chickens are even around. There are eggs to share, and a chicken coop in the neighborhood can actually be a conversation starter, and thus it can enhance a neighborhood community.

Myth:  Chickens will create a health hazard.
Facts:   In the US,  there is no need at present to remove a flock of 
chickens because of concerns regarding avian influenza. The U.S. 
Department of Agriculture monitors potential infection of poultry 
and poultry products by avian influenza viruses and other infectious 
disease agents.
H5N1 virus (Avian Flu) does not usually infect people, but since November 2003, 
nearly 400 cases of human infection with highly pathogenic avian influenza A 
(H5N1) viruses have been reported by more than a dozen countries in Asia, Africa, 
the Pacific, Europe and the Near East. Highly pathogenic avian influenza A (H5N1) 
viruses have NEVER been detected among wild birds, domestic poultry, or people in 
the United States.  Source:
Research shows more diseases can be spread from dogs and cats than from chickens.
Dogs and cats can spread parasites, bacteria, fungi and viruses to humans. Rabies,Cat Scratch Fever, ringworm,Roundworm, hookworm, tapeworm and Giardia intestinal are intestinal parasites that can be passed to humans from pet waste.  There are also a number of tick-borne diseases that can be brought home from dogs and cats like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Chickens can actually keep your yard healthier because they eat ticks and insects. 

Myth:  Backyard Chicken Keeping is a fad.
Facts:  Chickens have been domesticated since 10,000 BC and have 
played an important part of life ever since. Many of our grandparents 
had victory gardens and knew how to grow vegetables, can food, and 
raised their own chickens. 
Raising hens in the backyard is a tremendous opportunity for parents to teach their children about the responsibility that comes with caring for a pet and because of their small size and friendly demeanor, young children can easily handle hens without the fear of being bitten.  
Backyard chicken keeping requires extensive planning and preparation. You can’t just go to the pet store to get chickens like a dog or cat or any other pet.  It takes a great deal of time to conduct all the research, build a coop, acquire all the necessary feeding and watering supplies and then to finally get the chickens themselves.  
(all myths and facts were from this PDF: Backyard chickens - Common Myths)

Now that those concerns are out of the way, why do people want them as pets?  To try and keep the answer short and sweet, mankind has always lived with the help of animals.  In the chicken's case, they would eat food scraps, produce poop that fertilizes plants, lay eggs, and provide meat (backyard chickens are no-slaughter within the village).  Back yard flocks are smaller than the farmers had in the past, but then again - so is the land the people are on. According to the proposed ordinances, the chickens must stay in their coop and runs, so it is the equivalent of having a rabbit in a backyard hutch.

It is an interesting time to be meandering about on this earth.  We are understanding the consequences of our actions, and taking measures and planning to stop harming our living conditions.   Fear of the unknown could be calmed by knowledge, and facts, but only if there is mutual respect and an environment fostering communication.  

My personal belief is: the sustainable city planners that we hired are the experts.  If we paid them for expertise, why not listen to them?  My 
hope is that these measures all pass in some way, with regulations and ordinance guidelines.  I've always been an advocate for the greater good.  Sometimes it's harder to do the right thing than to "do it the way we've always done it".

and a big thank you to the village of Mundelein for even considering these new measures.  :-)

 For a list of all the new zoning changes, and considerations by camiros city planners, click here:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

It's Mulberry season!

My earliest recollection of mulberry eating were at Peterson park in Chicago.  It was there where I saw a row of the trees completely littering the ground.  Black little things all over the ground. I asked my mother or father if they were edible, and once I got a green light, I never stopped eating them.  I've come to know over the years that my grandmother would even make a tea out of the leaves that was supposed to help diabetes to some extent.  Koreans have an affinity for the mulberry as a herbal medicinal plant.

I realized over the years where they were mapped around the city, so I could come back to them when it was season.  My brother and I would return home with purple stained fingers, clothes,and mouths.  Friends or classmates would think we were crazy when we ate out of any trees by the school, and question how sure I was that it's not poisonous.  I took mental notes that the berries that turn white/light purple when ripe are way sweeter than the ones that turn black, and they wont stain your clothes!

I pretty much made a pact with myself that whenever I had kids, I would teach them all about all this food that grows all over the place that is barely eaten.  In this photo, not only are my children picking from the trees, but our neighbor's daughter as well.  I've had the joy of inadvertently teaching the neighborhood children.  Some from further down the block were surprised to see me harvest a potato out of the side garden one year.  "Potatoes come from the ground?! ewwww!"

... well, they had to learn sometime.  It was either going to be then or the back of the bus.

Sometimes I am caught off guard by my daughter being proactive and asking "Mommy, are these poisonous?" as she points to some unfamiliar berry by the sidewalk.  My response to most of them is
 "I'm not sure, so let's assume yes until we find out".  That goes for mushrooms and any foraging, too. Always better to err on the side of caution.

Here we have administered the "lay something on the ground, and shake the branches furiously" technique, which has the kids scrambling for berries as though a pinata had burst.  Kel asked me to try making a Jelly/Preserve out of this.  I told her I'd give it a try, and currently the mulberries are sitting in my freezer waiting for a day that isn't 100+ degrees.

Our haul. Not much, but the small tree at my friend's house gave the kids enough mulberries to snack on, to take home, and childhood memories for a lifetime.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Being called to Greatness

While volunteering for a local sustainability expo for villages and townships, I found out someone in my village had brought up backyard chickens with my village.  I was surprised... really surprised. At first I was a little disappointed that it wasn't me who brought it up to the village first, but knowing myself I honestly wouldn't have. I've always been called to greatness it one way or another. People who want interviews for newspapers, once even the Rosie O'Donnell show called me, but I was hesitant.  I've never been one to bask in that lifestyle.  One slip up on my behalf, and a whole movement goes south. This includes when I did an internship for Daewoo Automotive and their launch in the USA. Newsweek called me to interview, and my lack of self confidence was probably obvious through the phone.  I even so far as told them other interns might be better to interview. Front yard gardening is something I had to consider for more than two years before I started to lift my shovel, because if I did it wrong - the whole community might pass an ordinance against it.  Maybe it's just in my nature.  However, I've decided within the last year that it's about time I stop denying the "calls to greatness", and start living life this is the only life I'm going to live. LOL

I was soon overcome with the realization that I would have to join forces with whomever it was and help them on their way!  WAIT! WHOMEVER YOU ARE!!! THERE IS SUPPORT IN THE COMMUNITY!!!  I recalled back to all the other towns I've watched.  I've waited, and seen some succeed and some fail...  In all the ones that failed, the advocate may have pushed too hard.

I kept in contact with the Village Assistant Administrator Michael Flynn, and he told me what date and time the next village meeting was, and advice:

 " Send the Mayor and Board a letter supporting the allowance of chickens on residential property, explaining why you feel this is a good idea and would not be disruptive to the neighborhood.  Also include any specific comments to the proposed regulations.  This will give them advance notice that there is support for this idea.  Then come to the meeting on Monday,  June 11th and comment in person.  It is always more effective if the Board sees and hears a well-spoken advocate explain their position. "

I Posted in Backyard Chicken facebook pages, and an online community at in addition to making a public facebook event:

I typed up a little ditty and had my friend Tony revise it with me, so it could clearly state a THANK YOU to the village for considering it, and why the village should allow it, pros, cons, etc.    I even worked a little with the sustainable city planning consultant the village hired. To my surprise, she already had proposed wording for backyard chickens and beehives in my village.   ....TOOOOOOO FREAKIN COOL.

A few of my friend showed up with me that night wearing our chicken campaign sticker, and I went up to the mic trembling:
not the most flattering image of me, LOL but I'll take it!
 Here's the wording I used in my letter which I gave a copy to all Village board members present:
(btw the lady in the background was possibly my fave)

Monday, June 11, 2012

To my village representatives:

Hi, my name is Holly Kim. I'm the Marketing Manager at the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Healthcare, and a mom of three. I’m here to encourage you for considering Backyard Chickens.

Since I've moved to Mundelein, several friends have also moved here. We love it… it's quiet, and safe. There are outstanding bakeries, delicious restaurants, award winning pizza, and a buzzing farmer's market that started last spring (btw Aurelia Spicuzza deserves kudos for her excellent job of rounding up volunteers). We’ve also noticed a brewery opened up here, and they just held a beer tasting last weekend. Yes, Vernon hills may have a bunch of malls and chain restaurants, but we notice and prefer the authenticity and care of ma and pa stores. As the downtown is being built, Mundelein can be known as a nexus of independent bakeries and restaurants. What a draw to join the community in Mundelein!

Well, anyway…You're at a convergence of time where you're about to make zoning changes that will affect the future of people living in, and moving to Mundelein. Back Yard Chicken enthusiasts and their supporters are a group of people, including families who are intelligent, eco conscious, financially responsible, have pride in home ownership, and love for community and neighbors. Just within the last year, my friends and I have thrown a chili cook-off where a portion of proceeds go to scholarships for the area high school seniors. We’ve held a bicycle safety day free to the community through the volunteer group, the Jaycees. We’ve even helped out at the Loch Lomond fishing derby. You’ve seen our faces. We love giving back to the community. So, as you know, we are definitely not the Beverly Hillbillies!

Allowing backyard chickens will build a good resident community in Mundelein of responsible 
and educated adults who raise responsible and educated children that love their neighbors as themselves. Knowing that, who wouldn’t want to live here?

I know you're worried about people being irresponsible. People are always going to be people, but that's why BYCers also consider ordinances. Nuisance animal ordinances already cover smell, unsightliness, and noise. Here are some common concerns:• What about roosters? – in Backyard Chickens, there are NO ROOSTERS ALLOWED!!
• What if someone has 50 chickens in their backyard? Well, BYC has to come with policies such as maximum of 4 or 6 (as Evanston has decided).
• What if people have smelly or loud chickens? Then have a ticket written up!

I also do not want to live by something that smells horrible, or is crazy loud. Responsible pet owners are responsible. That’s why we have ordinances!! I will freely say BYC aren’t for everyone nor should it be. Pet potbellied pigs ARE allowed in Mundelein, but truly how many families have them? Not everyone wants a pet pig, and along those lines, not everyone will want to raise chickens.

The Botanic gardens recently had a “Chickens in the Garden” session, and it was completely sold out. Month of May, Williams Sonoma started an agrarian section to their website selling coops, and even Walmart started selling coops! It makes sense as a win-win-win. We reduce food scraps going to landfills, the chickens give us rich delicious eggs with beautiful orange yolks that my kids love, and the poop is high in nitrogen for composting to use in the garden.

Your consultant Arista Strungys has created proposed regulations as part of the new zoning for Mundelein, which would allow backyard chickens, and the company you hired for city planning CAMIROS comes with a background in knowledge and research in long term eco conscious efforts, and sustainable practices. They are the experts, and know this is more than just people who want a fancy pet. The movement transcends political parties, ethnic backgrounds, and ages. In the past, self-sufficiency was encouraged by our government. It was even our civic duty to have chickens to be considerate of our resources, and waste.

In conclusion, this is something that can be well regulated. There are existing nuisance animal ordinances that already cover smell, unsightliness, and noise. This is a part of a growing movement of long term sustainability and stewardship, and will draw a growing number of really good people, and families who are looking for a community like this to move into. You’re doing the right thing by considering it.

For all the reasons above, my friends and I who are local residents would be in favor of this, and ask you to please pass the proposal for backyard chickens in Mundelein.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Holly Kim

Certificates and Credibility:
In the process of receiving a Conseration@home certificate
Member of MidfEx (Midwest fruit explorers)
Horticulture lab assistant in high school
Northbrook Garden club scholarship recipient
Studied Permaculture and self-sufficiency
Edible Landscape Blogger
Urban Homesteading Blogger
Runs two facebook pages: Edible Landscaping Chicago and Urban Homesteading Chicago
Kids are in 4-H
Volunteer and board member for the Jaycees for the last 5 years
Volunteer in community for Mundelein and Loch Lomond

Local densely populated Illinois towns/villages/cities that do allow backyard chickens:
Oak Park
Naperville Saint Charles
Downer's Grove
West Dundee

List of Major US Cities and local states that allow urban hens:

To  my surprise, the board seemed receptive, and I was told later that backyard chickens was something they had been kicking around, themselves.   This was a plot twist I never expected...
It was all positive vibes, and I will be planning our next steps to getting Backyard Chickens passed in Mundelein. 

Vive la Revolucion!