Every time you feel in God's creatures something pleasing and attractive, do not let your attention be arrested by them alone, but, passing them by, transfer your thought to God and say: "O my God, if Thy creations are so full of beauty, delight and joy, how infinitely more full of beauty, delight and joy art Thou Thyself, Creator of all!
- Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain

You can’t get to joy by making everything perfect. You can only get there by seeing in every imperfection all that’s joy.
-Ann Voscamp

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Barn Tour

OK, this isn't technically a barn, but it's our barn! It was originally designed as a commercial chicken barn in about 1963. It was used for that purpose for about 2 years, I think. It is one long building with four separate rooms in it.

This is the chicken coop. Here's Molly gathering eggs.

This is a picture taken form the other direction.

This is the room just outside the chicken coop. It contains feed and other odds and ends, and also has shelves to store canning jars. Lots of them. It will also soon contain lots of hay and a milking stand for me to milk the goats on.

This is the rabbitry. We have the fourth cage almost ready. It will hang with the other three and then we'll separate the girls. In a few months they'll have families!

This is the future goat barn. It has a door to the outdoors where they'll have a small amount of fenced in pasture. We'll add to it as we can, but omigosh that fencing is expensive!

This fall we're supposed to get electricity to the building. I sure pray that happens, because if not, it's really going to be difficult to do evening chores in the winter! We'll have to keep the kerosene lanterns handy! Let's all hope that doesn't have to happen!

Friday, July 30, 2010


This is Katie.

Katie's much too busy to have a proper photograph taken.

She's trapped a chipmunk in this "pipe" thingy.

She worked on getting it out for most of the morning.

I think the chipmunk was laughing from a safe vantage point somewhere near his back door.

Katie's a funny dog. More funny neurotic, not so funny hahaha. Watching her dig for this chipmunk was amusing though.

One of the "funny" things about her is that she's afraid of gun shots and fire works, and anything else that sounds remotely like either. Recently she decided that thunder fits in that category. Usually she runs to the house as fast as she can when she hears one of those scary noises. This summer she decided that fire works were actually things to chase, even though she's terrified. That seems strange to me, but it's true. When she's finally finished chasing them, she runs inside and hides in the basement or her bed.
One evening a couple of weeks ago, Katie was asking to go out. It was around 10:30 PM. She ran out the door, hackles up, and started to growl and bark. She ran to the barn and back growling and barking furiously. Just then I heard a sound like something heavy and metal falling or being knocked over (I thought). I told Dan that Katie was really mad at something that was outside. I was sure there was something there that wasn't supposed to be. Dan then thought he heard a gun shot. He decided that whatever it was that was out there had just been shot at by a neighbor. He got on his bicycle to find out what it was, and my sister and 12 yo daughter followed him. The girls started to get a bit scared as they were heading down the neighbor's long driveway because everything was so quiet except for Dan's whistling. As Dan approached their house he called out, "J______! J______ ?!" Just then the other neighbors shot off some more fire works. Needless to say, the trio of curious folks headed to neighbor number one's house quietly turned around and came home. Katie was busy thinking she was chasing the fireworks out of our yard. When they all got back to the house we had a good laugh! But Katie hid in her bed, completely tired out from all her hard work defending us from the big bad fire crackers!

She also chases large birds "out of our yard" as they fly over. The birds are just minding their own business. They certainly don't think they're being chased, but Katie is so pleased with herself when she's "chased" them to the edge of our property. I do feel that the chickens are safe from any large birds who might be hunting them with Katie out there though.

The cool thing about Katie (well, one of them anyway) is that she's never chased any of the chickens. She has occasionally helped us herd them. She's even herded them on her own on occasion. At one point she decided that they shouldn't go onto the drive way, so she would herd them back into the grass whenever they did.
A couple of years ago we had our chickens free ranging and they decided they'd rather lay their eggs in the raspberries than the nest boxes. Once in a while Katie would come to us with an egg in her mouth and gently lay it at our feet. She never broke any, and she would even show us where they were!

Now that's a cool dog! "Funny", yes, but way cool!

Chicken Update II

The chickens seemed quite happy this morning. The hens were busy fighting over their favorite nest box, piling into it in 2's and 3's. It's funny to watch them in their "motherly" nesting mood. They almost seem broody as they sit to lay their eggs. I observed them while sitting, and they certainly don't seem to be bothered by mites or lice of any kind.
I made a permanent door in the fence to let the chickens out to free range. It's patterned after the doors and latches we created for the rabbit hutches.

Here's the new door closed.

Here's the door opened.

It is held opened by the same latches that hold it shut. Here's Molly trying to show the chickens the new door. It took quite a while to convince a few of them that it was safe to go through that hole.

The happy chickens free ranging to their heart's content. As long as that's NOT the gardens or potted plants!

I have so many things I want to post about! I have a series of photos of our crazy border collie/lab, Katie that I want to share.
I also want to take you on a virtual tour of the barn.
I have another recipe and a meal to show you.
I want to share some sweet things my twelve year old has been up to.

So, stay tuned for more!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jumping the Gun

I'm sorry if any of you read that last post and went to any effort to provide me with any answers. Please dis-regard that for now. I'm back to not knowing if anything is wrong or not. I just spent another half hour with the chickens. This time I was looking (with a magnifying glass) for any eggs on feather shafts, mites or fleas. I didn't see anything at all except a few grains of sand here and there and some ordinary chicken dander. Nothing else. Thank the Lord for that! So, maybe I just caught them when they were all in the mood for a good scratch? Heavens, I don't know...
I didn't know it yet last night, but Molly had already put a feeder with laying mash in the coop yesterday. We also just let them all out for a while to free range. Boy are they happy chickens! We are now on chicken shepherd duty, to keep them out of the garden! I sure wish we could teach Katie to do that job! Actually, we probably could, but she's much too busy with the squirrels to be bothered with actual work. :) If anything changes, I'll be sure to let you know!

Chicken Update

Before the chicken update, I just have to share my laundry pictures. I'm so excited to have my clothes line fixed, and praying it holds this time. Since I have my clothes line, my 5 year old decided she needed one of her own.

I found this one in the lilac bush near mine. :) So sweet! It's being used again today. My 7 year old hung laundry on it while I was hanging a load today. This time it was clean and part of the load I was hanging. The clothes in this picture aren't clean. Dani explained to me that she wanted some laundry to hang on it, so she got some dirty clothes wet so she could hang them. :) They just do the cutest things!

After spending about an hour and a half today just watching my flock (which I should do much more often) I have found out what's going on. Today it all became clear. The incessant scratching (which I noticed for the first time today), the broken feathers and bald rears, the general ragged, fluffy appearance of their plumage...MITES! So that's at least part of what's going on. After about an hour and a half of observation, I've figured out that they must have pulled their own feathers out. They're not picking on each other at all, only themselves.
Dan always says that it's my job to see anything unusual about the animals because he doesn't notice things like that. Well, I've failed my job! This seems like something I should have picked up on sooner. But, now what? As soon as it dawned on me that mites were the culprit, I added sand and wood ashes to their favorite dust bath spot. I really have no idea what else to do at this point. I'm going to do some research to see if I can find any answers. If anyone has any suggestions for me, I'm oh so ready to hear them! Thanks! :) And hugs to all you smart homesteader types!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Garden Status, and Other Stuff

I pulled all the beets yesterday. This is how much I got. It looked like a fairly large amount to me...

Low and behold, it made a whoppin' 3 pints of pickled beets! I also canned salsa, 3 pints again. I guess it was a 3 pint batch day. It struck me sometime during the process of canning these 2 batches of food that this wasn't really worth it, at leas in some ways. I could have put these things in the fridge, and we would have used them up long before they'd gone bad.
On the other hand, I'm gaining experience. Now I know that a pile of pulled beets this big makes 3 pints of beet pickles, and that's not enough to mess with. I need to plant more if I want to can beets. I also know now that a mountain of tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, nectarines and herbs will make 3 pints of salsa, also not enough to mess with again. Lessons learned.
I also gained some knowledge of how l-o-n-g the process will be next time I go through it! So, 6 pints of food, and lots of experience gained.

This was the shell pea harvest today. I decided it was time we enjoyed some of them fresh, so I let the family at these (about half a gallon of peas in the pod) during lunch. They're gone now. The pea vines are beginning to turn brown, and the sugar snap peas don't taste very good any more. I guess I'll soon be pulling them out too.

Here are the hazel nuts we collected this past weekend. The spiny outer hulls are beginning to dry up, but they were green when we picked them. You need gloves to collect these, because they're a bit cactus like. You also need some type of protection to get the outer hulls off. I used some surgical gloves.
Here they all are. I'm glad to be finished with that. The little "spiny things" (I'm so intelligent!) get all over the place. The worst place for them to be is in the ...umm...elbow pit? I don't actually know what that part of the body is called. :) So any way, here's the bowl of hazel nuts that still have to be cracked open to get the nut meat out. It's quite a process just to get a few nuts, but I guess I'm "nuts" enough to do it! Things like this are why I have 15 loads of laundry waiting for me in the basement!

Molly found this nest of 5 gold finch nestlings living in our french lilac bush. They have very busy parents! I can't believe they're nesting and hatching chicks already! They're at least a month early, I think. They're supposed to hatch chicks when the thistles go to seed. I guess this year that's happening early as well.

In other "farm" news, the rabbits seem to be reaching maturity. We have two girls still in the same cage, and one of them was a bit "frisky" this morning. By September they'll probably be ready to breed.
I'm feeling a bit frustrated with the chickens at this point. We've got egg eaters and vent pickers. I'm not sure what in the world is going on, but one thing is for sure. As I've said before, no more mixing flocks for us! We've had so many headaches over the chickens since we did that. These things haven't ever been a problem for us before. We're actually considering trimming their beaks to stop them from the egg eating and vent picking. We're also considering forcing them to molt early. This all seems a little harsh, so we're not sure yet. If we don't try the beak trimming and forced molt, we'll probably do away with these old hens this fall and start over with new chicks in the spring. That would mean about 18 months "eggless". If we keep them over winter and then start over, maybe we can still get enough eggs through the winter to only go about 8 months without our own eggs. I don't know...What do you all think?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fun Weekend

This past weekend we went camping as a family. I want to share some pictures of the fun we had, but it takes so long to upload! I'll have to share more later. For now, here are four of them.

Molly's getting to be good at using the kayak, and a fairly good swimmer as well, so she has slowly been given more freedom to roam as long as we are within shouting distance. She and the other kids had a lot of fun in the kayak. Dani was the only one who wasn't allowed a solo attempt yet. She went for a nice ride with me though.

When she and I were out we got very close to this loon, and many others. It was so much fun to have the experience with her.
We did some fishing. Dan was the only one who caught a fish, a nice rainbow trout.

I was more successful in the wild food gathering category. Dan and the kids even helped. We got some raspberries and pin cherries. When I have enough juice from them I'll make jelly. We also picked another 10 cups of blueberries, and a gallon and a half of hazel nuts. That won't be very many when they're hulled and shelled, but they'll be nice to use for something.
Back home, things weren't fairing as well. We came home to a house full of flies and a missing cat because someone left an upstairs window open (without a screen on it). We also had a dead hen in the hen house. There was no clear reason for her death, so I guess it remains a mystery. The rest of the chickens seem fine, thankfully.
So, today I have a TON of work to accomplish at home, lots of tired muscles, lots more freckles, and a VERY THANKFUL heart. God is good, and life is an exciting journey!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Carrob (or chocolate) Chip Cookies

I made these cookies a few days ago. The word cookie, some may find misleading. They're not a typical desert. They're more of a breakfast bar, or a filling snack. They're lower in fat and sugar than most cookies. They're soft and dense rather than chewy or crispy. Dan and I really enjoy things like this, and I feel good about offering them to the kids when they're hungry between meals.

Here's the recipe:

mix well

1/2 c. oil*

1/2 c. honey

2 eggs

1 t. vanilla

mix in a separate bowl

2 1/3 c. whole wheat flour**

2 t. baking powder

1 t. salt

1 c. chopped nuts

3/4 c. carob chips or chocolate chips


Bake @ 350 for about 10 minutes

* When I made these last time, I doubled the batch and used 1/2 c. oil and 1 banana. You can use all or part pumpkin or apple sauce in place of the oil as well. They all work out very well to cut back on fats, and they taste great.

** You can use part white if you want to, or part oat flour, or measure scantly and add wheat germ or flax seed meal, almost anything works.

*** I added raw sunflower seeds to the mix as well.

By the way, if anyone has any good suggestions on how to use up raw sunflower seeds (or roasted, for that matter, since I can do that too) please let me know. I bought 50 lbs. of them about a year ago, shared with friends, and still have a 2/3 full five gallon bucket in the freezer (as well as a bucket of wheat germ). I admit I went a bit over board. Now I put them in and on everything! I'll show you the freezer, since I just cleaned and organized it.

Ummm...yep, "BAD" turkey waiting at the bottom. Since I watched Food, Inc, it may be waiting a L-O-N-G time. And ace hardware buckets...really food safe there...but any way, there ya have it!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Garden Progress

The main garden is doing fairly well now, especially considering that I really don't know very much about gardening at all. I am learning a lot this summer, and over the winter I plan to set aside plenty of time for looking through those seed catalogs and planning, and for learning all I can. Now I just need more garden to work and plant. I was weeding and picking peas in the rain today, and I was surprised to find that I was really having fun! I do keep remembering that the bugs haven't been bad this year though, and I don't know if it would still feel like fun when the black flies are on the attack!

This is Hattie and Dani's garden. as of a few days ago. It has since been weeded (finally).

The beets have actually survived three deer "attacks" and are still growing well. We've been eating some in salads. There haven't been any more deer nibbling on them since I sprayed the leaves with a mixture of cayenne pepper, water and eggs. Unfortunately, it also means that we haven't gotten to eat any more of the greens either. I wasn't sure about using the eggs, but I did read that it was almost guaranteed to work, so I decided to try it.

And these are the mystery peas. I was sure that I'd planted stringless sugar snap peas, but now I don't know. The pods, when small, DO have strings and are bitter. If I let them go until they're fat and round, they have about 6 to 8 small peas in them. The peas themselves are sweet and tasty, but develop so slowly and the pods contain so few that I'm sure they're not a shell pea. I think I just chose a poor snow pea, but I'm not sure. SO, I'm letting the peas develop as much as I can and shelling them even if that's not what they're for. We all agree that we're not eating those pods.

I've decided that we're going to go with all open pollinated or heirloom seed next year if possible, so I'm sure I won't end up with these again anyway. I just purchased these peas from the grocery store.

And finally, here's my new spinach under it's shade cover. It actually seems to be growing really nicely since I put the cover over it, but something is helping itself to a meal here and there. I haven't been able to see what it is. Hopefully we'll get to use some of it soon ourselves. I planted two types. One of them is definitely doing better than the other. One was called Bloomsdale Long Standing. I think that's the one that is growing slower and had less germination. I can't remember right off what the other was called. I guess it won't matter next year since we won't be using either of them any way.

I didn't get any pics of the squash or tomatoes. Some of the squash looks like it's actually going to blossom, but I feel like it's too late in the year to actually get squash by fall? One of the tomato plants has tomatoes growing on it. They're about the size of peas today. I'm not sure if they're too far behind to grow into actual nice size tomatoes this year or not? It's fun to see them growing, anyway. I have a zucchini and squash plant that were given to me almost at the point of death. They've stayed alive but never really thrived. The funny thing is they get a lot of blossoms, but they fall off. I don't know if that's because they were just too far gone, or if that's something that happens to squash. Hopefully some of you can tell me the answers to these questions? ;)

One more question:
Does anyone have information for me about where I can find organic produce that's locally grown to buy/barter for? I've heard somewhere that there's some kind of a group that you can pay a fee to get a certain number of deliveries of whatever is being harvested each week. I know that a friend of mine in Two Harbors belonged to something like that. I think I might be interested in something like that until I get more garden space to grow more stuff in greater quantity.

OK, that's all!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Wild Harvest

First, I've put the recipe for the raspberry vinaigrette in the previous post, so don't miss that if you want it.

Molly and Sam got the opportunity to go blueberry picking with some dear friends of ours over the weekend. They brought home over 11 cups of berries! I must say I was surprised that they managed to pick so many. I guess they're growing up. We used 2 cups for buttermilk pancakes. I used the applesauce pancake recipe that's posted in this blog, but replaced the applesauce with canned pumpkin since we were out of applesauce. It was fine with the switch. I also used fresh sweet cream buttermilk from Lake View Natural Dairy. Yummy! The recipe really makes a LOT of pancakes, so unless you'd like a ton left over, you may want to half it if you decide to try it. Our family of 6 can eat a LOT of pancakes and still have plenty left over.

I didn't get a picture of the kids with their berries, but I did get one of the family's harvest yesterday. They picked 7 cups of june berries and some mushrooms (bolete's and chanterelle's) and cut some chamomile flowers for drying. We dry the mushrooms and use them in stir fry's, soups and whatever through the year. They're fantastic, especially the chanterelle's. They have a delicious nutty, naturally salty flavor. Mmm!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing

Here's that recipe for the dressing in the last post. Unfortunately, I'm a dump in a little of this and a little of that cook, so I can't give you exact measurements, but I'll try.

In a food processor, place the following (all approximate measurements):

2 oz. balsamic vinegar
2 oz. apple cider vinegar
2 oz. olive oil
1/2 c. raspberries
a sprinkling of sea salt
some raw sugar (or sweetener of you choice, or none at all) to taste

Whirl in food processor and taste, adjusting as necessary.

I'm not often a recipe user, and pretty much just make what sounds good to me. All I can say is, we loved it. Hope you do too!

Dan's Birthday Dinner

It was Dan's birthday on Friday, but we really didn't have time to celebrate, so we had a birthday dinner yesterday. I had LOTS of fun cooking for him, and made a huge mess of the kitchen! :)HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABE!! WE LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We had this wonderful salad with fresh lettuce, onion, pea pods and sliced beets from the garden and organic cucumbers and peppers. I made raspberry vinaigrette dressing with fresh picked raspberries. It as a great salad! I think I'm going to go get some more as soon as I'm done here.

I made two apple pies. There's about half a pie left, and the rest I think I'm wearing on my tummy! Unfortunately that's my fat collecting area. It's caused more than a few people to ask if I'm expecting, or when my baby is due. The REAL embarrassing moments are when touchy people actually pat my non-prego belly while asking! Ugh!

We also had potatoes that I grilled in foil with olive oil, basil, sea salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese and MEAT! Oh, I'm wearing the potatoes now too! They are my downfall!! I have an excuse: I'm Norwegian. Aren't potatoes a food group all their own?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Food, Inc.

OK, all I can say is that I watched Food, Inc. a few nights ago. I've had blogger's block ever since. I SO want to say something about the topic of the food we eat, but it just turns into this wild crazy rant, so I can't. But I can show you all what we ate for supper after I watched the film!

I was pretty disgusted with the thought of eating anything, so I thought of the least processed, most home grown and raised things I could, and we ended up with this fried rice.

organic brown rice, organic quinoa, home grown onions and pea pods, home raised eggs

It was delish, and even the kids liked it!

At this point, I'm done, because it's either that or rant insanely...

Thankfully, I believe there's a God in heaven who's eventually going to make sense of all this. Until then, God help us to live in a way that respects His creation and sustains this earth and the life on it.

Genesis 1:26 - 31

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all[b] the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. 31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.

I've been contemplating what God's idea was compared to what we've done.

OK, I ranted just a bit...;)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bear Tree Park

Sam and I got to have a "date" at Bear Tree Park yesterday. We had about an hour and a half between dropping the little girls off at Bible school and picking Molly up for swimming lessons. Here are some pics from our morning together. It is such a treat to get one on one time with the kids!

Hattie's Tadpole Update

It has taken a really long time for Hattie's tadpoles to become frogs. I think that conditions just aren't the best and it slows them down. We were keeping them inside the house and their progress seemed better. I think because the temps stayed even. The problem with that was when the tadpoles turned into frogs they disappeared! I'm pretty sure they just jumped out of the tub. So, we decided they had to go outside. First they were in an area that got sun in the afternoons. They weren't doing well there so we put them in the shade full time. They're doing better there and slowly turning to frogs and disappearing. This doesn't make the kids happy, but they were thrilled to hold this little guy yesterday. I wonder if he "jumped" last night? I zoomed in on him to let you get a look. He's really smaller than this. This has been a pretty neat science project!

Pretty cute little guy!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Aphid Eating Insects and Garden Progress

I never was able to find neem oil for the plum tree, and my husband brought me back to reality when he reminded me that we didn't plant the tree and we have no idea what kind of plums they are or if they'll ever mature in time to eat, SO DON'T go overboard. When we plant the fruit trees you can learn all about the possible pest problems and organic measures of control. Ok, yep, thanks hun. Point well taken, and now I get to see what God's own design for nature does with the aphids, which is actually way cooler that getting rid of them.
For instance, there are these ugly little insects eating the aphids. Will they do anything to the tree after they're done with the smorgasbord? Stay tuned, and if I notice anything I'm sure I'll let you know.

Then there are these lovely lady bugs. It's fun to go out and see them doing the useful job they do just by eating! I know they're not going to do any damage, so I welcome them. They seem to be out in the morning and gone soon after.
And this very welcome creature. These three insect varieties are really working wonders! The aphids really seem to be disappearing, and it's interesting to watch, to use as a science lab for the kids, and to photograph! So, I guess it's been a blessing in some way.

Here are the onions as of a week ago. Did I plant them too shallow? Are they ok sticking out of the ground so far? They've grown a lot since this pic and stick up even farther now.

Baby spinach!

Baby pea pods, even baby plants are darling! All squeaky clean with no blemishes!

Wild raspberries will soon be ripening in our yard. It seems that things in general are slower in our yard than many other places. I've seen a lot of ripe berries other places. I've also heard that the blueberries are already ready, so if you want to pick I guess it's time. What a great year for it too, no bugs!!

The apples are really growing fast now.

And, I've got blossoms of the tomato plants! Yay!
I guess that's about it for now. I have to go and provide taxi service to all my kids. Yesterday I locked the keys in the van at Holiday, and had to walk all over town, then borrow a car and drive home then back to town to get the van...BIG fiasco! A 2 hour trip to town became a 4 hour trip. I got nothing done and so here I am, ready to do it all again minus the keys locked in the car.
9:00 leave home
9:30 drop little girls at Bible school
10:50 pick eldest up from friends house
11:00 drop eldest 2 off at swimming lessons
12:00 pick up all the kids from various activities (at different places at the same time) Ok, the big kids might not be thrilled with how long they will have to wait for me. I, on the other hand, will be kid free for 50 whole minutes!! ;)