Thursday, January 26, 2012

Winter Snacks

In the winter we feed the chickens a little treat, especially on cold days. We cook up 1/2 cup of barley and feed it to them while it is still a little warm. Anyone who has used barley knows it expands when cooked, so 1/2 cp becomes close to 3 cps after making it a great cost effective treat.

We do this for a couple of reasons. First, the chickens really slow down laying in the winter and we have found that warm barley helps bring it up a little. Second, we have an egg eater or two in the flock and for some reason the incidents of egg eating goes down when we feed them barley. And third, everyone knows something warm in your stomach warms your whole body and outdoor chickens need extra warmth whenever possible.

Today I decided to add a little something extra, and got a rather interesting and somewhat disgusting surprise. Today when I cooked the chickens barley I added a 1/4 cp of yellow flax seeds. We add flax to a lot of our salads and stir fry meals and find them to be quite tasty so I thought the chickens would enjoy them too. I figured the protein would also be good for them, and I know the oil in the seeds is good for their eggs.

The discovery came when I turned of the heat and gave the post a stir. The liquid was thick, thicker than normal. Barley has a coating on the kernel, much like oatmeal, that causes it to clump together one it cools off. But this was still boiling and it was far thicker than normal. I assumed it was from the flax seeds, ignored it, and set the pot aside to cool before I took it out to the chickens.

After some time had passed I stirred the pot again and found the liquid was now the consistency of uncooked egg whites. Apparently it got thicker as it cooled and now the cooked barley and flax seeds were suspended in this mess. In essence I had created the perfect fake snot complete with boogers. This is something I never suspected would come from boiling flax seeds.

I wasn't going to waste the barley or the flax seeds so I took the pot out to the chicken coop and poured the mess into the wet food bin. At first even they seemed a little leery of this new concoction but after the first brave hen tried some and went back for more it became the normal feeding frenzy. I think tomorrow I'll just sprinkle the flax seeds on top of the cooked barley. No more snot for me or the girls.

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Year's Resolution

I gave up making New Year's resolutions a long time ago. Maybe it was because I chose goals that were unreachable or perhaps they were goals I simply didn't really believe in. Either way I found failing at my New Year's resolution disheartening and so I just stopped making them.

For the first time in years, after much thought and some goading from PeterC, I made a New Year's resolution. I decided I was going to change the way I have been keeping the accounting records of my business, Chestnut Tree Creations, on Etsy. For the last three years, since I opened the store, I've been tracking money spent on everything and money coming in from the store, but I didn't know how to calculate whether I was actually making a profit or not. If my old way of doing things was any indication I was $20,000 in the hole and that just didn't make sense.

Here is where the goading comes in. PeterC suggested I learn and use double entry accounting to record everything. He tried to show me how it worked but I wasn't able to grasp the concept. I have since decided that he and I speak a different language when it comes to mathematics and general concepts. We needed an interpreter who speaks both languages and could teach me to speak the same language as PeterC.

I, of course, headed to the internet. After two very frustrating days of reading page after page of accounting 101 and basic book keeping rules, I knew some of the terms but I really didn't know how they linked together. So back to PeterC I went, but again we failed to clearly communicate. I don't do well with simple hypothetical numbers, preferring real world examples. PeterC, like all teachers prefers to simplify the numbers to make everything come out all neat and tidy in the end.

Luckily we have a friend who is an accountant and he was more than willing to trade his knowledge of accounting practises for some custom sewing work. Our friend spent an entire evening going over basic ideas of accounting and he used examples from my business to give the ideas some real world meaning. It turns out he is a very patient man and was perfectly willing to repeat the same answers over and over again in different ways until I finally got it. So back home I went with my head full of knowledge and a ream of notes. I was convinced I would be able to set up a few pages of spreadsheet to track my business records.

The next day, it was way to late for me to work on the books the same evening, I pulled out my notes and found out that I only understood about half of what I had written. Oh, the writing was legible but the combination of words didn't make much sense especially when compared to the information in my head. But I did have enough information to at least know what I was looking for on the internet so I pulled up my spreadsheet program, my internet search engine, and started building a set of accounting spreadsheets.

A couple of days, and 18 spreadsheet pages, later and I had something that looked like it would work. I sent a copy off to our friend to look over and I made my first attempts at using the new books. That resulted in some changes and a few more pages to be added to my books, but over all I was pretty happy with the end result. A few days later my accounting tutor pointed out some changes that he thought should be made.

That was Saturday. Yesterday I sat down with my spreadsheet, his spreadsheet, and poor dear PeterC at my side and finalized my accounting records template. We ended up making several changes that resulted in 24 sheets in my workbooks, but I think it will be a more accurate way to tell which items I am loosing money on and which I am making a profit on.

My initial test entries, based on my year ending inventory, depreciation, and the few sales I have made already suggests that not only will the books work but I will even make a profit this year. It will be nice to see a profit, even if that does mean I have to register as a company and pay taxes. It will be an accomplishment and the realization of one of my goals - to own my own company selling things I make.