Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Staying Busy and Mary's latest Handiwork

It is that time of year where we are almost overwhelmingly busy. Schooling, sports, activities, fall cleaning and winter preparation. It is hard to stop and take time for photos and writing.

Softball is winding down. Katie's team won the regular season title, and once this rainy period moves off they may be able to begin the tournament.

Katie at bat

Emily's instructional team still have another couple of weekends to play. She has really enjoyed her first experience playing softball and is a good little hitter.

While softball is ending we are entering the heaviest part of Mary's soccer schedule. Her team is doing well so far in the games they have played. They have a 2-1 record, with only two goals scored against them.

At home I am trying to stay ahead of the cleaning and preparation for this winter. Four kids and three kittens make this a real challenge some days.

I have managed to put away 5 qts of chicken stock and 8 pints of beef stock these last couple of weeks to add to our winter stockpile. We have also stopped buying loaf bread at the store. I am attempting to move to more whole foods in an attempt to improve my own health.

I have noticed that the more I stay away from added ingredients in prepared food the better my stomach is and the less tired I feel overall. My mom gave me her bread maker. This has been wonderful, in that I can dump the ingredients and four hours later have a beautiful, healthy loaf of bread. Trying to avoid GMO foods I have developed the following recipe:

3 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tsp (plus a pinch) salt
1 1/2 tsp yeast
3 TBS local honey
1 cup lukewarm water
1/3 cup lukewarm milk (I get mine from a local, free-range dairy that serves our grocery store)
3 TBS Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

We use this bread for sandwiches and the kids all enjoy it. I find myself making loaves 3-4 days per week to keep up with them.

Mary has really taken to sewing this last year. She often helps our friend teach sewing to younger children and has even helped with an adult class. One of the benefits for us is that Mary is also being taught more advance techniques and learn to complete larger projects.

Recently she took on the job of recovering the cushions for my rocker. After 13 years of continuous use, the existing white cushions were nasty. I picked out the material I wanted (something to bring the colors in the kitchen and family room together) and then Mary went to work. It only took her a few hours at the studio to finish:

A wonderful job and I look forward to many hours this winter sitting here crocheting or reading.



Sunday, September 16, 2012

Kids photography and more new chickens

There always seems to be a camera handy when the children get an urge to snap some pictures. A lot of them end up blurry or dark, but sometimes there are really good shots. I never know when I upload pictures what I may see.

Mary and Robbie are my primary picture takers. They love to snap shots of life around them...

Mary took my camera with them to the mountains over Labor Day and came back of wonderful pictures.

Today I uploaded pictures and found several from the past week around our house.

Those kittens seem to be their primary source of entertainment.

And, last but not least here are pictures of our two new hens that joined the flock yesterday. I believe them to be Australorps. They are only 9 months old and are HUGE.



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Some Pictures and the Looming Winter

The other day I took my camera out and shot some pictures around the yard.

Here are some of the cats enjoying the beautiful weather we are having this week. After playing pounce & climb they find the sunny, soft spot to curl up for a nap.

My three new golden comet hens. They are coming out of molt and are just starting to lay eggs again. Their eggs are HUGE! We will be getting two nine-month-old  Black Stars in the next few days from a neighbor that needs to reduce her flock. That will give us nine hens of various ages...hopefully enough to keep us in eggs through the winter.

My garden was a great disappointment, but the one bright spot were my peppers. Here are cayenne, just beginning to turn red. These peppers are huge.

After months of beautiful greenery, the tomato plants are finally producing fruit. Will I get enough to make some sauce?? We will have to see.

That was it on the garden this year. I have new growth coming up for the fall/winter garden. Trying hard to keep the hens away from the little turnip seedlings. My beans and peas are looking strong, growing inches a day!

Checked out the long-range weather forecast for the area a few days ago. The Fall weather looks great for growing, which is good because the winter forecast is a harsh one for us. Cold and snowy through January & February. I don't know how much growing I will be able to do, except in the garage if this forecast proves true.

Since I am southerner I do not like driving in winter weather. I like to hunker down with the family and a fire in the fireplace until all the white stuff melts away. With that in mind I need to make sure we have supplies put away for this winter. We need to find a weekend to go out to the farm and collect firewood. I want to pick up a kerosene heater for the bedroom area. Been through power outages before and while the family areas stay warm with the fireplace, the bedrooms never warm up. I also want to make sure we have a full, spare propane tank on the grill.

Food-wise I still need to focus on flour, sugar, honey, and butter. With these raw ingredients I can make breads & pasta to fill out our meals. I recently picked up a booklet all about sourdough and am going to (hopefully) get a starter going for this winter. I am already planning on a lot of soups and stews, with bread. Easy, filling & cheap.



Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Fall is Coming

The temps are still warm and it isn't officially fall yet, but we can tell it is coming. My instincts are that of a squirrel, the days start getting shorter and I start thinking about our wood supply, canning and putting away food in the freezer. After several tough winters financially, having everything in place by November is very important to me.

Our summer garden was pitiful due to several reasons. It seems even more important to have a decent fall garden. With some luck and using cold frames I am hoping our greens will make it through the winter. With just greens, eggs, and flour as our basics we can have great starts for many winter meals. I have also planted turnips, partly for the greens and also to replace my small potato harvest.

After losing a few of our hens over the summer, we have brought home three more Golden Comets. This brings our flock back up to seven. My goal is enough eggs for our use and some to sell to help pay for the feed. After six months I don't think our family could ever go back to store eggs. 

This time of year kicks off the last rush of activity before winter quiet settles over us. Between our own home garden, the farm, picking up some extra work as a nanny and homeschooling it has been extra crazy. But crazy in a good way. DH took the children away for the long holiday weekend so they could spend some time in the mountains and I stayed home to try to catch up on things around the homestead. 

One of my preparations for the winter was to re-paint the kitchen. The old, stained white paint was depressing generally, and more so during the winter. I got this chore done this past weekend....

I spent months playing with different color combinations. I am really happy with the way this project turned out. Of course it makes the family room off the kitchen look that much grungier...



Friday, August 10, 2012


We have had an exciting opportunity come to use over the last months. While we are still living in our neighborhood home and slowly building our backyard "farm", we are also investing our time and know-how into a 4-acre farm that friends have moved to over the summer. 

Our friends were looking for a place to build a small hobby-farm and start a farmer's market business. I was looking for a way to increase our own self-sufficiency beyond what is possible where we live. My dream has been a larger garden, milk goats, bees and an orchard. My friend's  land either has or will have all those things, what they don't have is the extra labor and kitchen know-how. A win-win for both of us!!! 

So, along with the wonderful opportunity it has also been a great summer of building community in our neighborhood. Several other families also 'farm' on other land. Some help at family farms and others are like myself and share land with another. Sometimes it seems like food has been flying back and forth across our neighborhood. Visiting with the neighbors has allowed us to discover different talents within our neighborhood. It has been awesome to discover all of this after 14 years living here.

I've really enjoyed this summer and am very excited about this future journey. The kids are thrilled with the idea of a larger area to farm and the goats we will have. They also love my friend's kids and it is like we are becoming one big family. 

Our homeschooling journey is about to enter a new dimension as we also add farming to our lives. I will hopefully be able to share all the new and interesting things we do.


Monday, July 16, 2012

New Kittens

Last night, while we were eating dinner our hugely pregnant cat decided to go into labor...

She gave us a front row seat to the feline birthing process. Almost effortlessly she had 7 beautiful kittens over a 4 hour period. All four of the boys look just like their mother. The three dark ones are the girls, incorporating more of their father's coloring. Feline genetics is very interesting.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Busy Season

Spring came in a rush this year. It seems like the bushes and trees could not flower and leaf out fast enough. If I blinked or took a break it went from an early March landscape to May. A lot of rain and warm weather has pushed our season up, but it is also causing me to get behind with a lot of garden work. The in-ground garden beds have not been dry enough to work for a couple of weeks. And I am really feeling behind in that regard.

The rest of our homestead has taken off and I am staying busy just trying to keep up with all the upkeep (and washing of the muddy clothes that goes along with the rain).

The garden I planted in January has hit its stride.

I am harvesting lettuce everyday just to keep up.

The broccoli is beginning to put out florets and my Swiss Chard has finally gotten beyond the little seedling stage. Our pea plants are looking strong. Such a beautiful green...waiting on the first flowers and then peas.

My container garden is also doing well.

I also have lots of small containers of herb seedlings that look wonderful. They should be ready for transplant when I can finally work in the garden again.

Yesterday, I was able to add three hanging grape tomato plants.

Last year I started shopping for my tomato plants too late and could not find any of the grape tomatoes we loved so much. So, when I saw these yesterday I knew I had to grab while I could. I can always find larger slicing tomatoes and romas, but these tasty little tomatoes are much rarer. They are also a staple in our pasta dishes when we have them.

When the rain comes I have been busy inside. Of course a lot of it is just trying to keep up with muddy clothes, shoes and floors, but I have been playing in the kitchen some too.

I ground my own pork to make homemade Italian Sausage. Buying a roast on sale made this treat about half of what it sales for in the grocery store and oh so good. Didn't even need a fancy grinder as my food processor worked well enough.

After successfully making sausage I had to try my hand at ground beef. Found a chuck roast on manager's special making it MUCH cheaper than ground beef prices...

We had some excellent hamburgers from this batch of ground chuck. I'll admit it was a little chunkier than store-cut ground, but still yummy.

Here is my latest project

This is a Shitake Mushroom growing kit. I am just getting it started. It had to sit in the refrigerator for 5 days and I now have to soak it in water for several hours. Then, it will sit in a corner and work for us!!! If the directions are right, we should start harvesting in about 3 weeks... Mushroom & Spinach Quiche anyone?


A family of six living and learning. You might catch us outside in the mud or working on crafts. We always seem to be on the go, come on and join us.