Buying local, supporting small businesses and local farmers whenever possible.

DIY Dog Food

Hello Readers, Web-Surfers and Up-All-Night-Internet Junkies!

Welcome back to Locally Grown Life.  Thanks for checking in and taking the time to read my words.  Today I am posting about homemade dog food!   Now hold on right there.  Some of you are signing off now and getting ready to google Jennifer Lawrence.  Yes, she’s amazing, but she’s not going anywhere, so read on!

I started making my own dog food about four years ago.  My little orange mutt pup had skin rashes and allergies.  My husky pup was having stomach issues that were alarming.  She readily ate any food we put down, which was a sign of starving, shelter life.  But her body was not processing it well at all.  She had serious episodes of diarrhea, lethargy and dehydration.  We tried special foods given to us by our veterinarian, but nothing would soothe her tummy.


Notice Husky Pup’s Adorable Ears


Notice Orange Mutt’s Big Eyes

The vet suggested I make them chicken and rice for a week to see if the skin rashes would stop and to let my husky’s stomach heal.  Heal from what, you ask?  Heal from the processed slop that is laced with preservatives, stuffed into cans, packaged and shipped to warehouses around the world, waiting for the unsuspecting pet lover to purchase it.

I always make sure that the food we eat in my house is as organic and healthy as possible.  I take my food philosophy from a great book called In Defense Of Food by Michael Pollen.  If you ever want to really know what is in your food and what you put into your body, read that book!  I make sure that my husband and I get tons of juice, fruit, veggies and lean proteins.  We are very careful with what we put into our bodies, so why would I not do the same for my pups and for my children whenever they come into this world?  Within two days of making their food, husky pup’s tummy was humming and orange mutt was no longer scratching.


Happy Babies

When you flip over a can of conventional dog food, you have mostly unpronounceable words, corn and animal by-products that are not fit for human consumption.  What most consumers don’t know is the pet food industry is derived from the human food industry.  All the waste product from our agriculture system gets collected, repackaged and slapped with brightly colored labels sporting smiling dogs and cats with shiny coats and white teeth.  That waste product can be filled with diseased animal parts, husks of seeds, and contaminated materials that would otherwise be thrown away.  The bulk of the pet food industry is about making money from a substance that would otherwise be discarded.  Corn is a filler used to bulk out this awful stuff.  Dogs cannot digest corn, so why is it in dog food?  Because it’s cheap.  Also, this ‘food’ may have been sitting in this can for years.   I call this the ‘scraps on the floor’ method.

I know some of you will say that your dog loves this stuff!  And that is probably true.  My dogs would eat light bulbs and dryer sheets if I let them.  And the average toddler would eat french fries and pixie sticks until he passes out.  Dogs are survivors.  There is a reason they have endeared themselves to humans over the course of history.  They want to survive.  Yes, your dog may like eating this stuff.  That is because it is filled with additives to make it palatable, food coloring to make it pretty and sodium to make them like it.  This is the same concept used in the fast food industry.  You can eat fast food all you like and save money now.  Or you can eat good, real food which is more expensive and pay less in blood pressure medication, obesity complications and health care later in life.

Once I got into the habit of making dog food each week, I discovered that it was fairly easy and not particularly time consuming.  It seems like a bigger commitment than it is.  I bake and cook on Sundays anyway!  I just incorporate 25 minutes to make the dogs’ food as well.  I did a cost analysis of canned dog food to homemade dog food and the good news is that it’s much cheaper to make it at home.  I am saving just about 4 dollars a week.  That may not sound like a lot, but it adds up in the end.  I also don’t have a bunch of cans to recycle, so score for the environment!

My dogs are incredibly happy and healthy.  I am constantly told that they must be puppies, but they are 5 years old this spring.  Orange mutt has seasonal allergies still, but her skin issues are gone.  Husky pup is happy and thriving.


Five Year Old Puppies

So, here is my recipe for homemade dog food if you’re interested!  I hope you find this helpful.  I use fresh boneless chicken thighs instead of frozen chicken.  When a meat is frozen, it is sold very cheap.  This is tempting, but frozen meats are usually close to turning rancid, which is why it is so inexpensive.  You get what you pay for.  Brown rice, carrots, chicken thighs and sweet potatoes.  That’s it.  This recipe makes enough for my dogs for the week.  I add a natural dry food for carbohydrates and vitamins.  Also, dry food helps to clean their teeth.  There are many natural food brands out there that do not use the ‘scraps on the floor’ method described above.  If you do your research, you can find them pretty easily.

Let me be clear.  I am not trying to shame anyone into living the way I do.  Honestly, if your dog gets fed everyday, walked and cuddled, then they are living a better life than most of the dogs in this country.  This post is about my experiences with this subject in the hopes that it may help someone who might be having these same issues and might be ready to tackle it with real, natural food.

There are many recipes online to choose from, so do your research.  Mine is simple to make and cost effective.  Let me know about your successes and suggestions! I am always up for comments and ways to improve!  Good luck!

Homemade Dog Food 

1 package of boneless chicken thighs

5 carrots, chopped (preferably from the farmers’ market)

1 sweet potato or yam, peeled (preferably from the farmers’ market)

3 cups brown rice

Using a large sauce pot (5 quart or similar), bring 2 quarts of water to a boil.  Add rice, carrots, chicken and sweet potatoes.  Boil on medium high heat for 15-20 minutes stirring intermittently.  Once most of the water is gone, turn heat down to low.  Simmer mixture until almost all the water is gone.  You want to make sure there is little to no moisture left in the mixture.

Once the mixture is done, pull it off the heat and set aside.  It is important that you let the mixture cool properly.  Food handling safety applies here!  Do not refrigerate the mixture until it is completely cool.  This can take a few hours.  If you chill it prematurely, the mixture will spoil.  Putting a hot food into a chiller can cause the exponential growth of harmful bacteria.  I normally make the food in the morning or early afternoon and let it cool all day.

Once the mixture is cool, pull out the chicken thighs and slice/shred them.  Mix in well and even.  It will not look pretty, but it will be very healthy.


Chicken, Brown Rice, Carrots, Sweet Potato

Once chicken is mixed in again, I separate the mixture into small servings.  This will help you gage how long your food will last.  I use small tupperware containers.  The food will last about a week.


Enough For One Week

Again, not the prettiest presentation, but your pups will thank you for your time and effort with less intestinal troubles, less allergies, less vet bills and more smiles than ever.  That’s all for now.

I will leave you with cuteness overload…



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Crazy Girl Who Makes Her Own Dog Food

Hey guys,

So I know my blog is mostly about small businesses and staying local.  This post is a little bit of a stretch, I know.  Hang in there.  There will be a point to it all.  I swear!

When I first became a lucky dog owner, I was lost in fluffy affection and also the cost of vet bills, toys and of course, food.  The cost was something we could absorb, but the amount of cans that piled up because of their food was something I was not okay with.  As an avid recycling girl and all-around environmentally conscious chick, all those cans made me crazy.  Also, one of my pups has a really sensitive tummy.  So, I did some research and discovered the tremendous amount of crap that goes into dog food.  It is filled with preservatives, additives, low-grade crap and lots of corn.  And they cannot even digest corn.

With all this info in mind, I started making their food every Sunday evening.  I know it sounds nuts, but it only takes about half an hour and it is much, MUCH cheaper than buying all those cans.  For me, it is a great choice.  I will post that recipe at a later date.

After making their food, I decided to try to make their dog treats as well.  I love to bake, but my boy and I are not into too many sweets.  I normally bake a bunch of stuff and take it to work, which is always received very well, so it all works out.

One day, I decided to figure out some good, homemade dog treats that I can make that will be healthy and also not too expensive or time consuming.  Here are two of those recipes!  My pups love them.  The basis of these treats is oatmeal, which is incredibly healthy for dogs.  Super easy and not at all complex to bake, these treats are free of additives or preservatives, and have no packaging to throw away.  Check it out and let me know what you think!

So, all you will need is oatmeal, eggs, cheese and a little olive oil.

egg 1 copy

Then you should pour yourself a glass of wine when you realize you are actually baking dog treats…lol.


Pre-heat your oven to 350.  The raw oats (2 cups) go in a medium size bowl.  Take two eggs and mix them in good.  Shred about a cup of cheddar, or any kind of cheese, and mix that in.  Once you have a ‘batter’ it should look something like this.  Again, this is easy stuff.  Not brain surgery.

egg 3 copy

Drizzle the mixture with a little olive oil for cohesiveness.  Also olive oil in small amounts is good for their coats.  Once this is all mixed, lay it out on a cookie sheet that’s been covered with parchment paper.  If you don’t have parchment paper, a greased cookie sheet will do.  Spread it out about half an inch thick.  Like so.

egg 4 copy

These treats are not pretty or stylish.  They will not get listed in Maxim’s 100 Hottest Dog Treats of 2013.  But they are filled with protein and they love them.  Bake these for about 20-30 minutes.  Honestly, as long as the egg is cooked, you’re good.  I accidentally burned these one day, and they dogs loved them even more.

When the edges are getting golden and the cheese and egg are obviously cooked, take it out and let it cool for a bit.  Cut into squares.  Keep these in an airtight container and they will last as long as normal cookies last.  And dogs don’t mind anything being stale, so they will not go to waste.

photo 4

A variation on this same ‘oatmeal’ theme is to switch out the cheese for peanut butter and the olive oil for honey!  Your dog will think you are a genius!  Take the same amount of oats (2 cups), only 1 egg (the peanut butter is rich, so only 1 egg is needed), half a cup of peanut butter and some honey.

egg 5

Combine everything as before except for the honey.  You will find the peanut butter easier to work with if you zap it for a few seconds to make it all melty and fun.  Like so.

photo 1

Once it is all mixed, lay it out flat, just as before.  The last thing you do is to drizzle the honey over the already laid out batter.  This will help with the cohesiveness of the treats.   This treat is just as good for them, but it is more crumbly than its cheesy counterpart.

photo 2

Bake for the same amount of time, let it cool and cut it into squares.  Again, these will last, your pups will be filled with goodness and you will not have much packaging to discard.  These treats are easy, cheap and just take a little bit of time to make.

photo 3

The internet is filled with sites dedicated to making your own dog food and treats.  Some recipes use chicken stock, some use whole wheat flour, some use meats and cheese.  It is really a personal call.  I make these because my boy always has oatmeal in the house and they are super quick and easy.  If this is something you want to do, check out all the recipes online and decide which one you like best.


I am lucky that I have the time during my week to do this for my pups.  Honestly, as long as you give your pup a roof, some love and enough to eat, they will be happy.


Local Jules

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Farmers’ Market Spotlight

Hey Inter-webs,

Good morning!

I hope this post finds you well and happy; eating an apple, some grapes or a fresh tomato, enjoying the sun outside or sipping some tea, keeping warm inside.  Wherever you are, I hope your senses are filled with happiness and fresh air.  I just got back from an hour-long hike with my two pups in the chilly, California winter! No snow for us, but a crisp, clean wind and the bright, cold sun always make for a beautiful experience.

Big Dog enjoying the winter sun.

Big Dog enjoying the winter sun.

Little Dog doing the same.

Little Dog doing the same.

Upon returning home, I remembered that, stashed in the back of my fridge waiting for me to slice it up, was an amazing avocado.  I am lucky to live in a state where so many foods are grown and locally distributed every day.  The Los Angeles area itself has nearly 100 Farmers’ Markets in and around the area.  On any given day, you can find a market if you know where to look.

Typically, I get my avocados, and everything else, from the Studio City Farmers’ Market.  Ace Ranch Avocados is part of why I get up in the morning. Ace Ranch is a certified organic, family owned small business located in Escondido.  Their avocados are always outstanding.  You can get them for the same price as in the grocery stores, only the product is far superior.  I have never had a bad avocado from Ace Ranch.  You can find them in Studio City!


Ace Ranch Avocados

Ace Ranch Avocados

The Studio City market is near my house and has a wide variety of produce- all locally grown.  The market itself is open on Sundays from 8am-1pm on the corner of Ventura Blvd and Ventura Place.  Rain or shine.  Look for all the tents, families, flowers and free samples of citrus, strawberries and apples!

This market has everything.  All sorts of vegetables, fruits, nuts, cheeses, olive oils, breads, meats, soaps and flowers.  Also arts and crafts such as paintings and jewelry are showcased.  This market has a kid-friendly section for those of you with little ones.  If you have a furry little one, there is a pet sitting area where nice, animal loving people will watch your dog while you are shopping as only service dogs are allowed within the vendor area.  Please visit the link below for any inquiries and make sure to hit this market if you are ever in the area!


There are many other markets around town that feature wonderful foods.  Yes, you could go to Walmart and get all your groceries, but then you are paying the big guy who outsources all their goods outside the community. It is convenient, I know.  But the piece of produce you are consuming is inferior to that of their fresh, locally grown counterparts.  Some places in this country have no other choice but to buy produce from big chain stores.  Their local climate or lack of farm land gives them no choice.  This is not the case in California.

Buying from Farmers’ Markets assures that your money goes directly to the makers of your food.  It does not get spent on plastic bags, marketing, diesel fuel or shipping.  Your purchase does not contribute to the massive carbon footprint left by big, consumer giants.

Your food is fresh from the markets, meaning it wasn’t carted over here from Peru a week ago.  Peru is lovely.  And I will eat their fruits and vegetables the next time I am there.  But if I am in Cali, and I can eat foods picked more recently, and support the little guy, I will do it!


Me, Big Dog and Little Dog taking in the sun in the poppy fields. California has so much to offer.

Wherever you are in California, there are local farmers needing your support.  Your body will thank you!   The following link will give you a full listing of markets in the Southern California Area.


The link below will help you, wherever you are, to locate farmers’ markets if they are available to you.


After our hike this morning, the pups passed out in the car on the way home.  Not a care in the world.  This is normal.


Sleeping, happy dogs.

Now, after a great hike, I’m filled with a locally grown avocado stuffed into an amazing grilled cheese.  I am ready to take on the world!  Or just to nap.  Yes, a nap is a strong possibility too.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy day,

Local Jules

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A Spinner’s Ideal Fiber – The Digging Dog Farm

Hello Hello!

Welcome back and thank you for stopping by!   Back online now after a long hiatus of writing for other venues.  I am so sorry to have neglected you, Inter-webs.  I promise to be better!

Now on to my newest find, a lovely little farm in the heart of Virginia.  The Digging Dog Farm.  Widely known in the area for their superior wool fibers, this family owned small business is exactly the type of outfit I love to feature.  So the small business spotlight is on this purely beautiful, well run farm.

Diverse Colors

Part of the flock enjoying their afternoon meal in lush grasses and shady trees.

The Digging Dog Farm is home to a diverse flock of happy, healthy sheep.  Featured breeds are Romney, Border Leicester, Coopworth, Blue-Faced Leicester and all associated crosses.  The farm itself is run with care and precision, with the welfare of the animals at the top of the list.  I was lucky enough to visit this farm twice in this past year.  All these pictures were taken by Local Jules, so sorry if they are not perfect!

Each animal has a name, not just a number.  When I was there, the two shepherds were naming off each animal with affection and love and detailing the habits and behavior of each.  The flock crowded up to the fence, happy to see their caretakers and hoping for something to eat.


Jefferson, the resident wether (altered male companion) who keeps all the lambs company.

The owners take rigorous pains to make sure the environment is one of calm and peace for their flock.  Every year The Digging Dog Farm is granted a Humane Certified seal of approval by the Humane Farm Animal Care Program.  Members of the program come to the farm and inspect the operation, insuring that the animals are being raised with care without antibiotics or hormones in a natural environment.  The farm itself is 77 acres, but most of that land is undeveloped forest.  The owners believe in leaving nature alone as much as possible.  The pastures surrounding the house are large and lush, with shady trees and a huge barn for protection against the elements.


Colorful bunch filling their bellies in the lush grass of their pasture.


Comfy sheep under the tree enjoying the snow.

The flock is guarded by farm dogs and also with guardian llamas, peaceful creatures who naturally protect the sheep and raise any alarm if there is a predator in the area.  The farm is located deep in the country, so the occasional presence of bears and bobcats makes the guardian llama essential.


Llama named Girlfriend watching over her charge, a healthy ewe.

Collie and poodle

A collie and a crazy little poodle make for interesting farm dogs!

Happy Lab

A happy yellow Labrador ready to accompany the shepherd down the mile long lane to the surrounding pastures.

The Digging Dog Farm was started almost 16 years ago by an agriculturally minded couple from the Washington DC metro area, Mr. and Mrs. Hess.  After many years hustling through the congested city life, the couple decided they wanted a quieter, more peaceful place to live.  They started their small business in the middle of Virginia with a few sheep from the College of Agriculture within the Virginia Tech University system in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Beautiful Romney Lamb

A beautiful, inquisitive Romney ewe lamb


Enjoying eating in the barn in winter.


A curious Border-Leicester baby.

Now, many years later, the flock is thriving and the fleece produced is selling around the country.  The farm features all natural colors of fibers, from white to brown to grey with all the shades in the middle.  They have fine, medium and long wool classifications weighing up to 15 pounds, from 3-8 inches in length.  These fleeces are purchased by spinners throughout the country and then made into yarns of all colors.  The raw fibers from The Digging Dog Farm are known in the industry as some of the strongest, most reliable materials available.

Beautiful White

A pretty white ewe looking for graham crackers.


Everyone is happy to run in the grass.

Possible buyers can breathe easy knowing that this product is created in a loving, happy environment by this hard working couple.

Digging Dog fibers are featured at Sheep and Wool Festivals along the east coast and also online at http://www.thediggingdogfarm.com.

Spinners from as far away as California, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Oregon have taken a liking to The Digging Dog Farm fibers.

100 year old tree

A very old tree on the property, shading the house and the grounds.

For the small percentage of readers who need raw fibers, The Digging Dog Farm is your place.  Wrapping up my visit, I took a few pictures of the amazing grounds and the natural environment this couple lives in every day.


Sunset on The Digging Dog Farm.


The long driveway to all the pastures.


This is Nathan, one of the original ‘Digging Dogs’ that gave the farm it’s name.

So, congrats to The Digging Dog Farm for being the small business spotlight of this weeks post!  Keep doing an amazing job with your small business and creating a superior product with a happy, healthy flock!

All the best,

Local Jules


Small Business Spotlight – Sea Glass

This week has been filled with busy loveliness.  Right now I have some down time between the crazy things that fill my life.  I am currently munching on some amazing avocado purchased yesterday morning at the Studio City Farmers Market!  But more on these unreal little beauties later.  Today’s post is a small business spotlight!

This last week I was lucky enough to interview small business owner Sandie Markland from jewelry company Windswept Creations located in North Carolina.  Sandie is the designer and hand crafts all her pieces from the beautiful sea glass that she finds on her beloved beaches.


Rough, beautiful sea glass in an array of colors

She explained to me that sea glass is a natural phenomenon that takes place when the waves and the sand interact over a number of years on a discarded piece of glass.  The pieces collected by Markland are between 30 to 100 years old and have been forming quietly on her beaches in the Outer Banks while the rest of us rush through our busy lives.  The amount of history and time within each piece is uniquely stunning.  Markland explained that creating her designs is based in artistic intuition.

“Each piece of sea glass is unique and I let the pieces I select for jewelry “tell” me what to do.  I try to set each piece off to its best advantage…the piece has a way of letting you know who’s inside waiting to be revealed.”


A soft green shaded glass wrapped in a 14 carat gold filled wiring

Sandie Markland is in the spotlight today for following her artistic dream and making a thriving business out of it.  A piece purchased from Windswept Creations is sure to come with tremendous history, time and creativity.  A beautiful piece of sea glass lovingly fashioned into artistry would mean so much more to me than a cookie cutter sparkler from a department store that has been tried on by 400 other girls!  It will also help to support this small business owner who had the guts to go for her dream and use her art in her everyday life.


Light aqua sea glass wrapped in square Argentium wire adorned with platinum dragonfly

Markland worked for 20 years on Capitol Hill, living in the thick of the city with her husband and her son.  When the senator she worked for was retiring, Markland took the opportunity to stay home with her son, another full time job in itself!

While working part time with plants and gardening, the artist in her came spilling out in the form of stone carvings which she sold successfully at one of the country’s oldest farmers markets, Old Town Alexandria Farmers Market.  Markland tells me that this market has been up and running since 1753 and that even George Washington used to have items there for sale!  I love this detail!!!!!!!


Lavender sea glass wedge


Pale sea foam sea glass wrapped in sterling silver with silver accent beads

When Markland and her family moved to the beaches of North Carolina, they decided to take the plunge and officially start her company, Windswept Creations.  Her business has turned a profit each year, and she is able to walk her beaches, carve her stones, create her jewelry and live the life she designs for herself.  For all these reasons, Locally Grown Life supports and cheers for Windswept Creations and Sandie Markland!

My favorite of Markland’s creations is the pale sea foam piece above!  All pieces are chosen for their individual beauty and character and are hand crafted by the designer.  To see more of her work visit Windswept Creations at the links below and make sure to like her on Facebook!

Supporting small businesses and a locally grown lifestyle,

Local Jules



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Hello, hello!

And welcome to my blog, Locally Grown Life.  The purpose of this blog is to help people connect with and understand the importance of buying, eating and supporting locally grown foods as well as supporting local businesses, markets and the local people in your community, wherever you are.

I am a writer, actor, and amateur chef from the east coast currently living in southern California.  I went through a major realization about food and the nutrition industry since relocating to this area.  I am lucky enough to work at a hotel that uses all locally grown and sourced fruits, veggies, nuts and cheeses.  Watching this transformation in the kitchen and adopting this in my own life for myself, my fiance and my dogs has changed our lives, our health, our energy levels and our pocketbooks.  Now I visit the farmer’s markets every week and all my recipes are based on the local foods I can get each week.

In our very fragmented world, it is easy to do the convenient thing and buy everything at Walmart or Target.  But doing so brings foods that are not as nutritious into the household to your family.  This practice brings home produce that has been picked in large factory farms filled with pesticides.  Then this produce is driven across the country using miles of gas or diesel fuel.  The price you are paying for these goods is in transportation for a product that is not as nutritious and covered in pesticides.

Some places in our country are isolated or constantly covered in snow, so these big superstores are the only place to get produce.  But maybe there is a local farm that sells the meat or the dairy you like, or a local retailer in your area that makes soap or dogfood.  My mom lives in Virginia and she runs a certified humane sheep farm called The Digging Dog Farm.  She provides certified organic wool fibers for people who want to spin their own yarn.  She is another reason I have started this blog.  The purpose of this blog is to help these communities find what is locally grown or produced in their area and to support that local farmer as much as possible.

I would like to help connect people in their communities to local farms, local small businesses, locally sourced restaurants and eateries to help support those small businesses that keep your communities alive.

I know how lucky I am to live in a place where you can get strawberries and asparagus all year round.  Now I would like to help others understand and appreciate buying from local farmers and markets whenever possible and bringing this healthy lifestyle into their own kitchens.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope to help my readers find local farms, local businesses, local recipes based on the local produce, all to help support the locals in your area.

Stop by often and always!

Local Jules


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