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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Garden Update II

Basil is finally taking off.

Red Deer Tongue lettuce

Green Beans

Snow Peas (and weeds! I guess I know what I'm doing tomorrow.)

Beefmaster tomato

Red and Green cabbage and Cauliflower

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Garden Update

These first three pics are of the tomato plants that froze. After all the foliage froze and I removed it, they grew suckers and are now blossoming.


early girl baby tomato

The rest will have to wait until tomorrow because I can't get them to load right now. Sometimes it gets to be such a waste of time.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Spinach Artichole Dip

Our local whole foods co-op makes an awesome spinach artichoke dip. I've long wanted to create one like it. With the spinach growing well, it was time! This is it! There is no noticeable difference between this and the co-op's except that mine turned out slightly thinner than theirs. This stuff rocks! My fave ways to enjoy it so far are with sea salt pita chips and in a whole wheat tortilla. I'm sure I'll find many more.

The ingredients:

about 4 cups spinach, loosely packed
1 can artichoke hearts
3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
juice of one lemon
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch scallions (about 10)
1 roasted red pepper, skin and seeds removed
about 1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. fresh ground pepper

Disclaimer: I don't measure, so these are approximate. However, it's a very forgiving recipe and you can do this all to taste.

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until minced. If you want certain things smaller, add them first and gravitate toward those ingredients you want chopped into larger pieces. Adding part or all of the lemon juice and mayonnaise with the first ingredients will help them whiz through the processor blades more efficiently, especially the spinach.

When you're finished, you should have this creamy, delicious party in a bowl, just waiting for your taste buds to show up. Yummy!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Growing Young Animals and Old Hens

I was away for a day, and things really seemed to grow in that small amount of time, but then again I was really busy for a couple of days before that. I guess I failed to notice the progress that was happening last week. The garden has grown a lot, and the bunnies and chicks have too. Here's a picture of the bunnies. They're almost ready to begin weaning. The does will be bred again this week, after the bunnies are five weeks old (on Wednesday). A week later the weaning will begin with the heaviest ones. By the time they're seven weeks old they'll all be weaned and the does will have 2 weeks to rebuild their reserves and grow their new litters. By the first week in August each doe should have a second litter.

I forgot to take a picture of the chicks. They're now over two weeks old. They've graduated from the small cardboard circle I created in the brooder house. Now they have the whole thing to roam in, and I made a wire screen to put in the doorway so they have fresh air and can see out when it's warm. They seem very happy with the arrangements. They love to look outside and are very lively, "flying" onto the tops of the feeders. It's really entertaining to watch them.

We lost one of our old hens today. Actually we had to "put her down" as she had a prolapsed vent beyond treating, and was egg bound with broken bits of egg coming out. Because they're getting old, we're having some egg problems. I don't know if this happened really fast or we didn't notice it when it started. I feel pretty lousy thinking we may have missed some earlier sing that things were going awry. However, it's possible that it happened quickly and there were no earlier signs. Since the chickens are older and have been through a few molts, they're laying larger eggs. Sometimes this fouls up the works. Also, sometimes two eggs may try to come through at the same time. If an egg has a wrinkle or a flat side it may be that two eggs collided on their way out. Sometimes the larger eggs begin to have thin shells and break easily. This happens because the hens have the same amount of shell material to cover the larger eggs. A large egg with a thin shell might break just inside the vent causing all sorts of trouble.

Umm...that's not what I meant to talk about in this post. I apologize if that was TMI.

Any way, I hope the rest of our old hens make it for a few more weeks until we have time to butcher and can them. I hope to have some really great canned chicken to use this winter. These old hens have over an acre and a half to range in and look very healthy. People comment that they're the prettiest flock of chickens they've seen. Unfortunately that's probably because some of them aren't laying anymore. Most of them still are laying though, and they do look real pretty right now. I'm not at all grossed out by the thought of eating these old girls. I love their summer diet of plants and insects. It makes me happy to think of eating some great soups and casseroles with this meat and homegrown veggies. :)

Next post: garden pics, I hope.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

First Salad and Mango Dressing

Tonight we're having our first real salad from the garden. Yay! Spinach, lambs quarters and itty bitty Tom Thumb lettuces thinned from the row. Yes, I'm growing lambs quarters (or rather it's growing in my garden). We love it mixed with our salad greens, so wherever it pops up I let it stay until it's about to seed out. Officially I guess it's a wild edible that happens to be growing in my garden.

We'll be eating it with this dressing I made last week. I can call it "my recipe" now because it's been messed with considerably. I can never keep a recipe the way I found it, so most of them become originals. ;)

Maple Mango Dressing

flesh of one mango, or about 1c. frozen mango (I used frozen)
1/2 c. water (I used less, adding it at the end to get the consistency and intensity of flavor I wanted)
1 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp onion powder (or some minced onion or chives, as much as you want - I used a handful of chives)
a handful of fresh basil
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional - I left it out)
about 2 T pure maple syrup (adjust for sweetness of the mango, and to taste)

Add all of the ingredients except water and half of the maple syrup to food processor and pulse until smooth and creamy. Adjust maple syrup for desired sweetness. Add water to reach desired strength and consistency.

This salad dressing was heavenly! My mouth is watering right now. I've got to go finish dinner. Enjoy! :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Quieter Week Than Usual

Yesterday afternoon I said goodbye to my eldest two children for a whole week. Their dad drove them to camp. It was HARD seeing them go! They've been looking forward to camp for months now but I have to say that I don't look forward to it quite as much as them. It's almost too quiet around here!
I had all the chores to myself yesterday evening and today, but since it finally rained watering the gardens didn't have to be included in that today. It was so nice to see the plants getting a nice drenching.
Something seems to be feasting on the broccoli and cabbage in one of my gardens, but not the other. Hmm... I sprayed them with Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap and water tonight. With the rain it probably won't last long, but it did seem to help when I sprayed them a couple of weeks ago. I'm really not sure how often to apply the soapy solution to the plants, or if I should do it when the actual edible parts of the plants are forming or not. I'm not even sure which plants to use it on and for what pests. I guess I'm going to have to research that, but if anyone has any info for me I'd be grateful. Hint, hint. ;)
Today was a super laid back day for the little girls and I. Dan is still not back from bringing the kids to camp. He spent the night with my aunt and uncle before dropping them off today. It's a 5 to 6 hr. drive from home, so he enjoyed not having to make the whole trip in one day. That meant we could take the whole day at our own pace. We all slept in a bit more than the animals would have liked. I think they got their breakfast by 8:30. I'd planned to do some "school" with the little girls when we have rainy days, so we spent some time on that this A.M. Hattie and I reviewed some multiplication rules and ways to think about multiplication, and then reviewed the factors of 0,1,2,5,10 and 11 up to 12x. She actually likes flash cards and had a great time. :) It's always a treat for the teacher when her pupils enjoy learning! Dani and I worked on addition and reading. She did a great job reading to me, though she still thinks that she can't read. I can't wait until it dawns on her that she is reading! :) One of these days she's going to make the connection and she'll be flying solo like a fledgling leaving the nest. In fact, tonight she was saying things like, "Mom, if there was a b at the beginning of stop instead, it would say bop, right? And if there was a p at the start of go instead of a g, it would say po, and if the o was in front of the g, it would say og!?" I'm thrilled that she's starting to "get it".
After our "school" they helped me chop some rhubarb for making a rhubarb crisp tomorrow and we ate a lunch of peanut butter and rhubarb strawberry jam sandwiches and apple slices, watched a movie and worked together to make chocolate cupcakes for a snack. By then we were ready to get out for a while so we made a quick trip to town for a few groceries and a slice of pizza.
We got home with enough time to get the chores done before it was too dark to see in the barn (I'm so glad we're getting power to the barn this summer). The girls visited the bunnies and gathered eggs while I finished up.
We ended the evening making a town with lots of towers out of all the building blocks we could find. We really packed it full of fun and relaxation. I feel rejuvenated and ready for another week. :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Change in Plans

Well, I must say that today is very anticlimactic. After my work this week to prepare for the home school picnic, I had to cancel at the last minute. It became apparent last night that Dani had pink eye. I didn't think it would be a good plan to spread it to everyone else. Today I seem to lack motivation. My afternoon and evening suddenly feel a bit empty. That's putting me in the baking mood, so I think I'll go and make a gingerbread. And some whipped cream to go with it. Then I'll bring some to my hubby down the road. Ooh! I just got a phone call from a friend. Her hubby just caught a bunch of lake trout and is going to sell them to the Angry Trout. On the way past, they're dropping a couple of lbs off for us! I guess I'll save that gingerbread for dessert! Now I have to think up a good veggie dish to go with it. Too bad I'm not getting much of anything from the garden yet. One tiny handful of spinach is about all I'd get right now. A salad or some greens would be so good with fish...
I know what I'm going to do now! Rhubarb strawberry jam! I've been meaning to get at that for a while. I'm going to use fresh rhubarb and a couple packages of strawberries I've been saving in the freezer. The motivation seems to be back! :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

One of Those Days

I'm still thankful for my life, even after yesterday afternoon. It would be at least mildly entertaining for someone else to read about so I thought I'd post.
Keep in mind as you read that I'm trying to prepare for company on Friday evening. I've invited all the home educating families in my area to a picnic and "farmish day" at our house.
The day started out pretty well. I felt good about how much time I had to finish all of my tasks for the day. I need all the time I can get (which is why I'm sitting at this computer for the second time today. I'm an excellent procrastinator. It's a real gift of mine.) Things went really well until about noon. I went out as usual to do the animal chores. I got to thinking that it hasn't rained in quite a while so I decided to turn on the sprinkler in the kitchen garden. I checked on the chicks and all seemed well. After that I went to the barn, opened up the chickens and threw them some scratch. (Molly comes along a bit later in the AM and gives them fresh H2O and gathers eggs.) Then it was off to the goats, who insist on being next. They get a flake of alfalfa and fresh water in the morning. Of course, I have to sit and talk to them for a while. I use that time to look closely at them and make sure all seems well.
Finally it's the rabbit's turn. They get fresh water, the does and bunnies get their feeders filled with pellets and they all get their hay racks filled with timothy hay. Sometimes if I feel particularly nice and the goats want to share their "candy" I give the rabbits some alfalfa.
Yesterday I had to also clean the goat barn so our company wouldn't object to the smell too much. That took quite a while, but I was still mildly on schedule. The kids pretty much equally helped and hindered the process of doing all these chores. They did a little work and also a lot of begging to hold bunnies (requiring some supervision on my part).
After finishing up in the barn I came to the house to get the kids rolling on their chores and posted about my thankfulness for this life. OK, this is where things began to go south...
I checked on the chicks again only to find one dying and many others getting pasty back sides. This meant I had to become nurse and gourmet cook for chicks. I got out my grain mill and coarsely ground corn and oats in equal measure, and mixed that 50/50 with chick starter. Then I grabbed the mineral oil and q-tips to clean the little chick bottoms of the dried poop. I think I've dealt with the last chick butt this morning. I hope. This took too much time, and in my mind I was thinking, "This wasn't supposed to happen today!" I dealt with that all afternoon, off and on.
Of course, nothing in the house got done (by me) except two loads of laundry. Sometime in the process I'd decided to clean and re-fill the hummingbird feeders. I accidentally spilled on the floor (yep - big sticky mess). By now I (even procrastinator extraordinaire) was beginning to feel a bit panicky. I was putting the hummer feeder back when I looked up to see...a wolf in my yard! Only it wasn't. It was about a 120 lbd. Alaskan Malamute/wolf mix wearing a collar. First thought was the chickens. Where are they? Oh no, I think we have a problem! The kids and I yell at the dog to "get out of here!" Dog does the opposite, coming right to us.
Panic panic...
my, you are sweet!...
what am I going to do with you?...
Tie dog to picnic table...
Ignore dog...
pet dog...
Finally, I left the dog tied to the picnic table and got ready to get daughter from riding lesson. As I was getting in the car I saw the neighbor driving slowly past and hoped he was looking for the dog. I put the super cute, friendly schedule breaker in my van and drove to the neighbors with him. Sure enough, the neighbor had been dog sitting. SO happy that I'm done with that problem, but tears behind my eyes as I have gotten nothing done that I needed to do, because there were too many things I NEEDED TO DO!
Then I found out it was only Tuesday when I'd thought it was Wednesday (I'd known that in the morning, but I lost a day sometime in the chaos). I was in the yard jumping up and down and shouting "hallelujah!" And here I am...
Still thankful for this life, and pleased to have gained a whole day that I'm going now to keep using wisely, I hope! :)
OK, that was very long, like my day yesterday. I apologize, and hope someone out there liked reading it. Have a beautiful afternoon!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Thankful for This Life

This "homestead life" has all been so good for all of us! It's really great to work for the animals that are working for us. It's giving us all a better appreciation for the food that finally makes it to our table. Hattie was helping clean the goat barn today and we were talking about how she's helping to get the milk she needs (eventually). She's lactose intolerant, so the goats mean healthy raw milk that will be good for her - something she doesn't have available to her now.
Her milk choices consist of pasteurised goat milk, powdered goat milk, or lactose free cow milk. By the time any of those products reach her glass, I don't believe they are "milk" any more. I'm not sure they have any benefits over not drinking milk at all. I can't wait to give her her first glass of fresh goat milk!
All this work for our heat (wood), meat, vegetables, eggs, and (hopefully by spring) milk, also keeps us healthy in other ways. We get exercise and fresh air doing the work. Of course, this makes us hungry so we enjoy our wholesome whole foods much more. It also makes us much more thankful for our comforts.
This lifestyle isn't for everyone. Not everyone can or wants to live like this. In fact, in all honesty there are days when I don't want to live like this. Thankfully most of the time I enjoy it.
I also enjoy having my computer and internet, watching an occasional movie and going out for dinner with my family. I'm glad there are folks who are in the business of providing these things. I'm thankful there are people trying to farm on a more intense level so others can get high quality foods as well. Hopefully soon our government will find ways to make that easier for all of us, and not harder. I'm thankful to live in a land where we have so many choices available to us.
Thank you, God, for the miracle of your creation. Thank you that I get to see it so up close and personal. I don't take it for granted.
Well, that was quite a rambling post!

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Chicks and Growing Bunnies

The bunnies have outgrown their nest box. They're really fun to watch as they begin to explore the hutch.

The chicks arrived this morning! All but one were healthy and well. One arrived dead. I haven't figured out which breed we lost, but it was one of the layers. Bummer.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Goat Cuteness on the Homestead

I'm so glad I chose this breed of goat as my first goats. They're just the right size for me. I can handle them fairly easily, even when they're being stubborn (which they usually are). Cute, for sure, but stubborn. So far everything is going well. For now they're just hanging out and eating, pooping and being entertaining. I was very nervous about hoof trimming, but my first time going it alone went very well. No blood and a good level trim. I highly recommend a hoof plane. It helped a lot in adding the finishing touch to a nice level trim. It's also nice to have a helper. Molly did a great job helping to hold goats still.

The girls love their fort and slide. They play king of the hill, and run up onto it whenever they're frightened by anything. It's very entertaining for the goats and for us.

They're just the right size for the youngest human member of our family. They're usually gentle, but if they get a bit rowdy they're still pretty safe for her to be around.

Oh, they're just so cute! I love them, absolutely!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cuteness on the Homestead

We're talkin' major cute here! These little ones are at my favorite stage. They're 13 days old today. Their eyes are opened, and they're so much fun now. Perfect for snuggling!

Hattie takes a turn...

then Dani.

The "production" side of me is very interested in how each of these batches of young are developing. The batch in this photo are developing slower in every way, and has a definite runt. They're doing fine, just not spectacular.

This is the other batch. Even in a photo it's obvious they're rolly-polly little things. Developing fast and curiously exploring their little home. Yesterday one of these guys was even trying to escape the box. I'm sure that before three weeks they'll all be hopping out of the nest! This seems to be more than average growth, so I think we'll keep a doe from this breeding pair when we're ready to expand.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I Have So Much To Show You!

I finally took a bunch of pictures of what's been going on here. It's getting pretty exciting! Finally, I can say there are things happening in the garden!

Here's the main garden this year. It had still seemed kind of smallish to me until I began trying to fill it up. Now it seems bigger! The old gardens were the two smaller sections to the right. The big section on the left is all new this year. We put black plastic over that section of lawn last summer. In the fall, our neighbor, John, tilled the grass under once. This spring he tilled it over about three times, and Dan once or twice. A huge thanks to you, John!

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I started out way too early this year and lost some things. Squash and tomatoes mostly. This is one of the tomato plants that survived.

This is one that fared the worst. It lost all the foliage and blossoms. However, all those that ended up in this condition started to get suckers. I decided to let them live and see if the suckers would take over and the plants would produce anything.

These are tomato plants that I started and then moved to the garden with these little milk jug green houses on them. They're actually growing quite quickly now. There are five of these.

I've got two basil plants growing in these little green houses as well, with more started basil going in soon. I'm hoping for lots of spinach basil pesto this year, or even parsley and basil if I can't time the spinach right.

Actually, the spinach is only this big so far. It's been in for a while, but it was even too cool for spinach. It's finally taking off. Hopefully it won't bolt in two weeks now!

Cabbage, cauliflower,...

and more tomatoes that I picked up at a nursery. NOT what I'd wanted to do since it defeats the purpose of growing it myself. Not cost effective or organic - the two main motivators for me. However, more cost effective than buying all the vegetables at the co-op (which I'm very thankful to have in our community), and healthier than purchasing at the grocery store since I'll be controlling what goes on them here on out.

The green beans are coming up near the fence line. I'm hoping I can train them to climb the fence. It should make the picking easier when the time comes.

The garlic looks great. I can't wait to make roasted garlic!

The peas are also coming up along the fence line.

In the other garden I've got cabbage, these broccoli plants and...


OK, I'm done for today. I've got more to show you, but it can wait for tomorrow. Have a wonderful week everyone! Have a great time doing whatever brings you joy!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Flowers and Bunnies

I'm really trying to enjoy all the bouquets of wild flowers my children bring me in the spring. I'm enjoying them this year more than I have before. I think it's because my eldest is six now, and I don't anticipate so many of these in the future. As my children grow I've come to appreciate the way they freely express their love for me every day. When they were all under the age of seven, I must confess that I felt rather smothered at times and not so appreciative. Now I have a teen, and I'm trying to soak up all the love and adoration I can before they're all too old to give it so freely! :)

The bunnies are ten days old now, and nearing their cutest. from two to three weeks, they're just the most adorable things! Within the next few days their eyes will open. They're beginning to get the brown noses (and eventually feet, tail and ears) of their breed standard. They're actually growing pretty fast. Today we'll be cleaning out the nest boxes. This has become necessary because they've grown to the point of pushing each other out of the box. Their mothers don't like this at all, and would much rather they stayed put. We have to remove some of the straw under them so they're lower in the box. That should help to keep them in until they're at least three weeks old, I hope. I'll soon be busy fixing up cages for them to go into when they're about six weeks old.

For today, I'm trying to finish planting the garden and get the brooder house ready for chicks that will arrive sometime after next Friday. Oh, and hang out laundry! Hooray for nice weather! The breeze should help to dry them very quickly: much faster than the dryer can! Have an awesome weekend, everyone!