Saturday, October 20, 2012

Where have I been?

Good question.

I wonder myself sometimes.

Where have I been?  Hmmm.  I've been around the house pretty much.  Busy homeschooling my girls.

The boy is off to the local school to reek mayhem with 30 other students.  Well, no, not really.  He's a good kid.  The girls and I have been busy studying Shakespeare's Cymbeline, the founding of Connecticut, Indian's, Columbus, the 6 Days of Creation, Renoir, Debussy, Nature, Peter Rabbit, pillowcases, factors of 10, how to count money, and how to double recipes and, oh yes, canning.  Lots and lots of canning.  

Oldest helping me juice apples to make apple cinnamon syrup.

Ah canning.  That is exactly where I've been this late summer/early fall - in the kitchen.  Sometimes it feels as if I live here.  I have done the most canning this year than any other year.  In fact probably more canning than all the other years combined.  I'm sore.  I'm tired.  I think my right eye is wandering and I've got cuts and burns galore.   Guess I'm not very good in the kitchen if I have those huh?  But what I also have is a very big feeling of accomplishment. 

One batch of 5 for pickles that I ended up doing.

Green beans and white beans coming home from a local farm.  I think there's pickles in that box too.

There's one batch all jared up ready to go in the cellar.  I think I ended up with somewhere near 40 quarts this year.    I only did 15 last year.  Between giving them out and eating them they didn't last us past March.
I ended up doing 90 jars of tomatoes, 40 jars of pickles, applesauce, green beans, plums, asparagus, beets and greens, more squash (I really needed more squash like I need a hole in the head), peaches, carrots, peppers, jams, juice...etc.  I'm sure I'm missing something.  I canned up about 500 jars this year.  That's right five hundred.  Even I have to say WOW!
 I am so proud of all I've done.  I've even canned food from my own yard!  How cool is that.

My yard.  There's somewhere else I've been.  Do you have any idea how entertaining it is to watch chickens and ducks interact.  The end of last school year we acquired 10 new chicks to add to our 5 hens  and 3 ducks that we already owned.  The older chickens/ducks went outdoors and new chicks into the basement under the heating lamp.  I wasn't so sure I'd keep those chicks, or at least they'd end up in the freezer, so I told the kids to leave them alone.  They weren't interacted with near as much as our first group and so one of my first mistakes came about.

When they were almost feathered out I put them out into the chicken house, fenced in -under a heating lamp.  The big's and little's could now interact but not touch.  I gave the chicks another month or two (don't remember at this point) and we integrated the flock.  Even at this point we weren't sure who were boys and who were girls.  That took another month or two itself.  We watched for larger combs, saddleback feathers and the telltale nubs of spurs.  It looked like we had 3 roos, but we had a couple of late bloomers so we actually ended up with 5.  Half!  Five girls, five boys.  I don't know if that's normal odds for hatching chicks in an incubator but it was kind of funny.  The only unfunny thing was I decided to give 2 girls to a friend and keep the other 3 girls.  Remember I said they weren't properly socialized.  Ya...not so friendly.  Ahhh, oh well.  

Small bantam roo.  The only bantam out of the whole lot.  I have no idea what kind he is.

Two other roo's we had.  We ended up keeping the one in the background.  We call him King.  He's the most timid of the group of boys which suits me just fine.  The Bard Rock one in the forefront he was the leader till I took him to the local feed store to sell.  Way to aggressive for my taste.
 We have our 5 girls whom we all love.  Molly the Plymouth Bard Rock, Lilly the Buff Orpington, Tiger the Americana and Spike and Red the Rode Island Reds.  Red is my favorite.  =)  But don't tell the rest of the girls that.  With our 5 plus 3 new girls and 3 ducks we are getting about a dozen eggs a day right now.  My darling hubby takes the extra to work and we get $5 a dozen.  Right now I'm sending about 3 dozen every other week.  That more than covers feed, I love that!

We also have our rabbits, though this summer was a bit sad with the loss of our buck Kakashi, my oldest's pet.  We had a couple of hot days in a row here and even though we gave each of the rabbits frozen water bottles I think it was just too much for the old guy.  He was 2 years old, but really should have lived to about 4.  It was a horrible horrible mistake on my part.  I've learned since that there are misters you can buy and install on your cages to wet your rabbits down and it helps them to stay cool.

RIP Kakashi

On a happier note we had two litters.  One from each of the females we have.  We did think my son's Dwarf Netherland was a boy, but boys can't have babies obviously.  She birthed four, but only two came to adulthood.  We were able to sell them to the local feed store for $15 each.  Good deal!  Our other female, a Californian, bore 11 and was able to raise 9.  We butchered 8 and I was able to sell 3 roasts to a friend for $10 each.  That helped pay for the cost of raising.  We traded the one boy we saved for a new buck after the death of the old one so I saved money that way.  Lucky mama ended up being a very good mom.  She also went from skittish to a very sweet girl.  She's my favorite.

You can't see mama Lucky, she's at the bottom under her babies.
We also went on some family outings.  We went up north to a friend house who shared the local scenery with us.

The local river.

A local waterfall.

We also went to the beach with family (tho I failed to take pictures).  The week at the beach was fun and a good time was had by all.  We also visited the local watering hole.  AKA the Towne Center Fountain.

My sister visited her nieces and nephew, which was more like cousin play.  We were blessed to have her for a whole week.  Then she moved a whole state away with my parents so dad could have a new job.  That sucks.  =(

Auntie and niece.  Best of friends!

After school started we still got in more family activities.  We went to the 'Wheels and Waves' at the coast where my father-in-law had his car in the event.   The kids got to ride in the car for the drive around show off.  Lol  They had lots of fun!

Oldest with Grandpa in his Cool Car!

Middle and boy in the car with Grandpa.  You can't tell he's excited!
So anyway, as you can tell we've been super busy having lives and doing fun stuff.  Glad I finally got around to getting it put down and posted.  Yay me!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer Goodness

     Well, summer is in full swing and every where I look there seem to be projects and activities to do.  I love it after the shut in feeling I always feel during winter.  I think I over load myself though.  I have canning on the brain and have a list longer than my arm of recipes I want to try for canning.  I think I may need to write them down and prioritize that way I get done what I absolutely have to do and then what I want to do if I have time.

     I did get asparagus done about a month or so ago when they were fresh in season at the farmers market.  I put up about 20 pounds!  I'm so excited and proud of myself.  I got about 17 jars total of pints and quarts.  Four of those being a pickled asparagus recipe I wanted to try.  Two of the jars didn't seal so we had some yummy asparagus soup from the fails.

     I also got about 6 quart jars of yummy strawberry jam done this year.  Yay!  I love strawberries - but not as much as hubby.  I should hide some.  hehe  I did get blueberries picked but I freeze those because they kids love, absolutely LOVE to eat frozen blueberries and I like to have them through the winter for pancakes and muffins.

     I also got some yummy looking HUGE beets from our local Saturday Market and got those canned up.  I don't go through a lot of those through the year as I only use them for borsh.  So 10 jars lasts me all year.

     Our hens started laying eggs last week just before we left for our yearly week vacation with family at the beach.  We are now getting 2 or 3 eggs a day.  We've gotten light brown, dark brown and light blue; the last being from our Americana I imagine.

  We found a dirty white egg in the chicken yard today and wonder who it's from.  We're waiting for the ducks to lay and expected it to be obvious when they do but now I wonder if this new egg belongs to them.   I hear ducks aren't very picky about where they lay, even laying in the water as they swim.  I wish the chickens (and ducks) would label their prizes to let us know who laid what. Lol - wouldn't that be a sight.

     Chicken eggs vs. a duck egg above (via the net).  However, our 'dirty white' egg didn't have a different size from the other's we've been finding.

     On that note our other 10 chicks are feathering out and starting to look like ruffled teenagers....act like it too.  hehe  I 'think' I can tell who will be the roosters and who's going to be hens by the size of their combs - but since I'm new to this we'll just have to see.  A couple of them are going to go to a new home in a couple weeks with a friend of mine.  She has a coop and yard with just 3 chickens and we obviously have more than we really need (thank you kindergarten teacher - lol).  We'll keep one good rooster, any hens that she doesn't take.  Any other Joe's are headed to the upright freezer along with our growing rabbits.  BOY has that been interesting.  A definitely learning experience.  Anyone know rabbits can chew through metal mesh....ya, I didn't.  And right after we went on vacation.  LUCKILY for me my hubby is awesome and had built a house around the hutch's to keep the coyotes away so the offending rabbits didn't get away.  And luckily we had a good friend watching the animals while we were gone and he fixed the hole...temporarily.  Lesson #1 for me - don't keep mama and 9 growing babies in a metal mess bottom hutch - it's not holding well.  We'll have to figure out something to keep the next batch in.

     I harvested my first potato tower today.  One of my sweet girls helped me pull the potatoes out of the dirt.

     Found lots of worms - great; and slugs  - not so great (and who immediately got fed to some very happy ducks) and even a group of garder snakes... what the heck?  So here's my first time lesson on this.  #1 - don't mix types of potatoes.  For some reason my reds and blues went bad.  The only think I harvested was white.  #2 - I harvested too soon.  I basically got the same amount of poundage from the many potatoes I harvested which all look like 'new' potatoes, so their small.  Not worth my time and effort.  So the second tower stays for a while longer.  I'm going to start another tower (or two) again as soon as I get some more seed potatoes.
     The rest of my garden seems to be doing well.  The 8 tomato plants our friends brought us are BOOMING!

     Huge huh!  Tomatoes are there, but just green.  Beyond this bed (which I over planted with tooooo many plants - poor things) is another bed with 6 smaller tomato plants that I started from seed.   I'm so proud of myself.  These guys are gonna be heirlooms.  Can't wait.

     Here's my sweet girl showing you my half empty bed.  Darn peppers.  Lol  There are three mini plants there you can probably see one of them; those are my bell peppers.  So I took the rest of the open space there and planted carrots.  I have two other beds.  One with beans that won't grow higher than 6" and aren't bearing anything (after planting and replanting twice).  This bed seems like it was totally wasted.  The other bed I did peas and they turned out pretty good except I should have used vertical string for them to climb.  I used some old wood set at an angle in an upside down V.  For some reason they won't grown at an angle.  I'm getting lots of yummy peas from the plants though.  I love that my kids will go out there and eat right off the plant.

     So here's our backyard with raised beds, chicken coop and run (yes I know that the run is crooked) and rabbit house behind that.  I have a hope for more beds for next year and each thing I learn from and I'll do better next year.  Wish I could figure out how to deal with these evil moles tho.....

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring is springing!

Lots and lots going on for our busy family.  I've been busy with my ducks and chickens.  Boy are they getting big.  I've moved them outside on a permanent basis now, but on a temporary basis in our rabbit house.  Our very sweet neighbor has offered us one of her old chicken houses (she had 2 and bought another).  It's actually a really nice house, probably better than what we might have built on our own.  We'll be getting that this next week when hubby has a couple days off to coordinate it.  I needs to be moved whole so we're going to be wrangling up some muscly friends.  The fowl are enjoying the outdoor immensely tho.  I had started with just taking them outside to corral in a fenced pen then at night taking them in to sleep in their buckets in the basement.  Well, after that taste of freedom I couldn't keep them in their buckets.  The chickens began exploring my basement (and poo-ing EVERYWHERE!)  The ducks at least couldn't get out - but BOY did I hear about it.

I think I bought the noisiest water fowl available.  Here's some pictures of the chickens and ducks enjoying their first day out of the basement.

It was funny to watch them.  At first all they did was huddle up and look around like "where has the big human put us now?!"  Once they realized they were walking around on edible stuff they were as happy as... chickens on grass.  =)

I made a cute 'sunflower' cake for Easter.  That was fun.  Here's a pic with my Zman.

I did some more work in the yard.  Getting seeds and plant starts planted.  I think I'm a bit too anxious about getting things growing.  The weather here in our part of the world seems mild, but also seems to take foreeever to warm up to growing season.  We even have rain on the 4th of July.  I think I might have killed my bean plants, the 3 I replanted from the inside, but I think the pea is still giving it a try.  I also bought 4 strawberry plants.  Poor things, I need to get them planted soon.  At least the rain is keeping them watered.  Lol

Here's my miss P helping me out

I took some old boots my Zman grew out of and planted some spring appropriate flowers that I knew could handle the weather. 

I am also now, the mother of an 18 year old.  I cannot believe how quickly time has flown by.  I made him a zombie face cake since that's his obsession right now.  I even dyed the inside red.  =)  He said he loved it.  And if I may say so myself, it turned out really tasty!  You can't tell because it's dyed green but the frosting is a white chocolate and I did a strawberry white chocolate filling.  Yum yum! 

Winter is over, spring is here and I just realized we have less than 2 months left of school.  Holy cow!  Boy does time fly.  I better go spend these fleeting minutes with my kids.  Talk at ya'll again soon.

God Bless!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Orange Marmalade, Potato Towers and Kids in the Mud

Well, I guess I'm having a hard time keeping up with the 'once a week' posts.  I don't think I'm doing half bad tho; especially since I've never blogged before.  And my diary keeping as a young girl went for a week then inevitably fell by the wayside - or under the bed.

So, in trying to keep track of the 'what have I been doing to keep going towards my goals' goal I had set for myself - here we go.

Canning:  YAY, I LOOOOVE canning.  Right now is a REALLY good time of year for buying oranges (or any citrus I believe).  So I made Orange Marmalade. YUMM  The only downside being, after I got it all sealed in jars and done I had a tiny bit left I put into a cup in the fridge to enjoy with my morning toast.  The next day I check it and it's still watery.  =(  Aww bummer.  I had to waste all those canning lids by opening them BACK up and re-boiling the whole batch.  This time I have it right and we've got it all done again.   Sorry the pic is sideways.  Still trying to figure that one out.

Planting:  I have my seeds started, of course cause I mentioned that!  The peas, beans and tomatoes are growing like weeds!  I had to replant then to give them more soil and extra room till I can trust putting them outside.  I started my herbs in the kitchen window in little tiny pots and egg shells.  I got a load of dirt last week and got my 2 planting beds filled in YAY!  I did it in the rain - took an hour, had to pull the truck RIGHT into my yard and Thank you Lord I got it back out!  Lol  I think hubby would have been a bit upset with me if I'd stranded his truck in the mud in the yard.  Lol
Then yesterday I got my potato towers built.  You take welded wire (I used 2"x4" at 3' tall) and make it into a circle and attach it to itself.  You add straw around the outside with dirt in the center and do 'levels' adding potatoes, then more dirt and straw (which I used dirty from the rabbit house because we all know rabbit pellets are GREAT for plants.  It doesn't burn the plants so you can add it right to your garden without fear of burn like other farm animal waste.

The tower as I started it.

Potatoes on the first level as I started it.  I did NOT use store bought but instead organic ones directly from a local farmer.  Store bought has no guarantee if it's non-gmo, and the thing about gmo is it doesn't reproduce well.  You have to constantly buy new.  You can't ever seed save from a gmo crop.  A way the gmo people are making money huh.

And my finished tower.  I have one more to build on the other side of my garden.  This ended up using about 25 potatoes and had 5 levels.  The plants will grow right out the sides and when they wither and die, all I'll have to do is go push the thing over and harvest my crop.  Four pounds of potatoes is said to give you about 25# when harvested.  I have regular whites, reds, and blues in there.  =)

We finally got off our behinds and went and got our kids' playhouse back from a friends house.  The kids were so excited when I brought it home.  Our littlest hasn't ever really ever played with it.  She was only a year old when we moved last year and it's been down since then.  They ALL had a really great time including the 11 year old.  We had to get it all cleaned up first as it was covered in mud!  Sorry no pic, I tried to post one, but it's from my hubby's phone instead of mine and the server won't take it.  Go figure?!

All in all a good week or so.
God Bless!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Life, animals, plants and the weather

I think the weather is teasing me.  Even for where I live this snow/sunshine/hail/sunshine/snow is very weird.  It's got me all sorts of confused.  I started my seeds indoors about 3 weeks ago.  I think I was just hyped to get started.  I guess it's good I have more seeds.  I moved some of the more energetic growing plants to little pots (or milk jugs if you will) to give them room to grow besides the little peat pellets I started them in: beans and peas.

At least, that's what I think they are since my little miss gotta-touch-everything messed with my seed starting greenhouse (aka: plastic tray with clear lid).  Oh well, it's all a learning process.  I suppose I might  be more upset if I had spent 2 or 3 dollars a plant vs. 2 or 3 dollars for a pack of 100 seeds.  Of course this is my first year starting from seeds so we'll have to see how that goes anyway.

On another note the chickens are growing but the ducks are growing FASTER!  Holy cow are they big!!

I think I may need to separate them soon!  And the bigger they get the more mess they make.  Right before I took this picture the duck took a 'squat'.  Luckily you can't see it.  Lol  I have the 5 chickens and 3 ducks in one 45 gallon tupperware with a feeder and HUGE water container.  I have to change that thing twice a day and probably could do with 3 times a day.  We are constantly changing the water to make sure they have clean fresh water to drink.  Its funny, every time we take it out to change and bring it back they act like they're dying of thirst!  I wouldn't change any of this for the world (tho I really think hubby is tired of the smell); I think it's been a great learning experience for the kids AND me.   We really have to get out and get our chicken/duck coop built soon.  Now if the weather would cooperate juuuust a little.

Here's a picture of our largest chicken: Lilly (a Buff Orpington) and our smallest chicken Little Red (cause she's a Rode Island Red).

Besides that things have been busy and crazy.  What is it about death that brings out the best in some people and the worst in others.  I won't bore...or shock you with the details but sufficed to say it's been one craaaazy couple of weeks around here.  I am lucky... very lucky to have gained some new family in this experience.  Great people I should have been blessed with a long time ago if I hadn't been fooled into believing lies.  It's a lesson learned.   

On a lighter note my wonderful hubby blessed me with two 6' by 3' raised garden beds.  I want about 10 dozen more, but it's a start.  Actually I'd love 2 more but I won't complain.  I know he's got to build the chicken house; and for that I'm extremely grateful.  We are thinking about tilling up part of the front yard to plant a bunch of potatoes and corn.  I went crazy with the seed catalog and bought about 5 different varieties of corn.  

Red strawberry corn: 

Blue Hopi:  

Butchers Blood Corn: 

We also got a traditional yellow corn and a Japanese hulless corn which is also yellow.  There is lots more than that of course.  I actually got like 5 or 6 varieties of tomatoes and of cucumber.  Several different lettuces.  Just a huge variety.  I even ended up with asparagus - which I'm not real keen to try yet.  According to directions it takes 3 years of tending them in pots in a green house and you can't harvest any of it but a few in the third year.  We've now committed to staying in this rental property we're in for another year, but who knows after that.

We've put up a couple of things, but it doesn't seem like much.  That's probably typical for mid/late winter.  I'm sure I'm going to crazy busy with putting stuff up come summer.  My hubby did add another rifle to his collection.  A Mosin Nagant circa 1942.  He picked out a nice dark wood one.  Not one of the more collectable ones, but it's nice none the less.

It came with these leather ammo pouches and a spike bayonet.  Pretty good deal from our local sports store of all places.  I guess they're still finding large warehouses of WWII guns and such overseas.  Weird if you ask me.  How can you just misplace a couple million rifles.  I guess the government has such excess it doesn't really need to keep track of such things.  Kind of like when at the end of WWII they just crated up unassembled jeeps and WLA Harley's and left them in shipping containers cause we had produced so many.

 We had a 4H meeting this last Sunday, but I didn't think to take any pictures.  My oldest daughter has decided she doesn't want to show a rabbit but enter her instead in a Agility course.  The little rabbits run up and down a little course.  So far our little Netherland Dwarf is too scared to run (or hop) up and down the course.  I think we started her a bit late with the harness.  Maybe lots of work will bring her around.  Maybe this year we'll just we watching in the 4H Fair competition instead of participating.  I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Our California doe is almost old enough to breed with our buck.  More to come on that.  And pictures too. ~OF the BABIES~  =)

Have a good week all.  Keep the sunscreen and snow boots handy.

God Bless~

Saturday, February 25, 2012

IDC week 3 AND 4

It's been quite a week.  Our family has been in quite a turmoil with my step dad being in the hospital.  I've spent quite a lot of time up there the last week and a half.  I can see now why people hate hospital's so much.

So as far as the Independence Day Challenge I have gotten stuff done in the last TWO weeks since I've been on.  I started seeds in my window.  It's yet to be decided if they will survive since the youngest member of our household loves to get into things and they have been tipped and moved and messed with.  She hasn't dumped them yet... but I probably just jinxed myself.  A friend of mind came over and helped me turn over the ground in the first spot where I will put a raised garden bed.  I'm still a little unsure about the deer and moles around here.

I've been reading a new book called "Lights Out".  Story line follows one main character guy and his neighborhood as they try to survive and overcome life after an EMP.   It's pretty good, but a really long read.

We also added 4 chickens and 3 ducks to our growing little country home.  I hear them happily peeping away in their living room Tupperware bin as I type away.  Each of my kids picked one chicken and one duck.  So we now have an Americana, a Buff Orpington, a Plymouth Barred Rock and a Rhode Island Red for chickens.  Oh yes, that's 4, cause I picked one for myself too.  Looks a bit like a skunk right now, hope she grows outta that.  haha  The 3 ducks are runners?  My oldest picked a blue, (which looks grey to me) my second daughter picked a yellow (which they call white) and my son picked the black.  It was nice they had such variety so everyone could pick something different.  I am really proud of my little one; with just a little coaching she is very gentle petting the birds.

Here's a very poor picture taken with my camera phone.

Well, off to another day.  I'm pretty sure I'm behind on laundry and cleaning.

Talk to ya'll again soon.  God bless!

Papa 1949 - 2012

Goodbye Papa
You left a lot of family behind
We loved you dearly
I hope you knew
So young, yet looking so old
You left us before you should
There's hurt here and anger
Did you know it would be so?
Oh how we'll miss you
Goodbye Papa