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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Catching up

It’s been forever since I’ve posted.  Where does the time go?  We’ve been busy of course, but I didn’t think we’ve been busier than usual.

September 19th was our first Pasture Anniversary!  It was a year ago that day that we bought our beloved piece of land.  We didn’t have a great big celebration, but we took time to look at some pictures and reflect on what a wonderful dream come true it has been to buy or little slice of heaven on earth and to see how far we’ve come in one short year.  The pasture looked like a moonscape last year.  We were going through an exceptionally severe drought, but the land had been abused and not respected.  Now, the entire pasture is covered in thick green grass.  Next spring, as long as we get some rain, we should be able to start cutting hay.  Long-time residents of the area have often stopped and told us that before this property was divided into 10 acre parcels, our little piece was one of the most beautiful hay fields in all the area.

I’ve started a new job, which contributes to some of my writing neglect.  And hubby will be starting a new one next week!  October has been a huge month for new jobs in our household.  And we are so very grateful!!  What a change from the last couple of years where we each endured being laid off and the worries of trying to find a job.

I might have mentioned before that I make my own coffee creamer.  I started reading the ingredients on the bottles of the popular store-bought ones, and holy cow, some of those words were kind of scary.  So I started making my own.  I still use products from a can, but the list of ingredients is very simple:  one can of evaporated milk (contents = milk) and half a can of sweetened condensed milk (contents = milk and sugar).  To that I add 3 teaspoons of vanilla (real vanilla, not imitation extract).  It does taste different than that chemical-laden store stuff, but I’ll tell you what, I can’t stand that stuff from the store now.   It just tastes like plastic compared to my homemade.

Six weeks ago, I also endeavored to start making our bread instead of buying it.  We’ve talked about doing that for a very long time and just hadn’t made it happen yet.  The first week I tried a recipe that made two loaves.  It was pretty good.  We couldn’t eat the second loaf fast enough and it got moldy…unlike the store-bought bread that sat in our cabinet for FOUR WEEKS and never had a spot of mold on it.  That’s way more gross that bread that has mold on it!!  The next week, I tried a new recipe for oatmeal sandwich bread that I found at King Arthur’s flours.  I made a few modifications and we have had a winner!  I’ll tell you what, even our dogs know the difference between the homemade and store-bought stuff!  Now if that doesn’t tell you something… I use our kitchenaid mixer to make the dough and then let it rise, punch it down and put it in the loaf pan, let it rise again and bake it.  It’s getting easier every week as I get it down to a routine.  And once the dough is made, you can get other stuff done in between the risings and baking.  I tell you, it is wonderful stuff.

This week I made a second batch of bread dough and made Apple Surprise Rolls – little circles of dough filled with chopped apples, walnuts, brown sugar and cinnamon.   What a yummy treat - great for breakfast, snack, any time really. 

In the garden, I have three cucumbers growing, but I don’t know how productive they’ll be this late in the season.  I have a zucchini squash with at least one zucchini on it.  The pepper plants never really died even though I quit watering them when they quit producing.  So I started watering them again and they are full of blossoms.  Go figure.  We’ll see what they do.  I noticed I have two tomato plants that came up volunteer by the cucumber plants.  And dead basil plants have come back to life!  Plus there are a gazillion little baby basils that are coming up from seeds that fell.

We also picked up some cabbage and broccoli plants from our local general store this weekend.  I had every intention of growing my own cabbage from seed, but it never happened.  Argh.  I’ve never grown cabbage or broccoli before, but they are cold weather plants, so we’ll see how they do in our mild winter climate.  I also have some southern variety garlic to plant.  Obviously I need to get busy in the garden again! Oh happy days !

We have two new “barn kitties” that showed up in the last two weeks…just days apart.  Guess word is out in the kitty kingdom that we are a safe haven for wayward kitties. One little black kitten that we’ve since figured out is a boy, is so tiny – honestly he can’t be more than 8-10 weeks old.  It just frightens me to think of what he went through to make it to us.  Even if someone dumped him, to be out in the world all alone and that little is just awful.  Pretty quickly, he has let us pet him and now lets us hold him.  He’s starting to come running every time we get home from work or come outside.  He’s the sweetest little thing!  Hubby started calling him Kicking Bird (another Dances With Wolves reference), KB to his friends and family.  A couple of days after he showed up another little kitten showed up.  This one is a little older, but not much.  She’s orange with leopard spots and probably about 4 months old, maybe.  She’s much more shy.  She used to run the second we walked out the door, but now she hangs around a little closer every day.  When she sees KC getting attention and he’s purring, you can tell she wants to come be loved on too.  I’m sure she’ll be cozying up very soon.  We’ve made a box of paper shreds for them to “nest” in and also and box with some straw.

Well, I guess if I blogged more often, it wouldn’t take so long to catch up!

Until next time, worms rock.

Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday's Fancy 8/31/12 Remembering Maggie

Today's Friday's Fancy is in honor of our beautiful fur baby Maggie, who passed away quietly at the age of 10, surrounded by her entire family on August 20, 2012.  Rest in peace baby girl!  You will always be momma's girl!!!

One the most recent pics of Maggie.

Maggie LOVED corn!!! Eating it, sleeping on it, whatever!

Maggie and Ellie at Haystack Rock in Oregon.  She ran so fast on the beach, you'd have thought she was a puppy again!

One of our first great pics of Maggie - she loved riding in the car!

Maggie says Hi Momma!  She was a momma's girl!!

Maggie with just a few things to play with.

Maggie says Momma, those are the funniest looking dogs I've ever seen!

Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday's Fancy, August 17

Good night, where is the time going?!  Although I don't mind it zipping through this brutal August heat.  ;)

Here's a few pics to celebrate Friday!!

The only time the three have been in such close proximity! And look at the toys!!  These kids are SPOILED.
Is there a better view than from the seat of a tractor?  :D

Pasture looking MUCH better after being shredded...now for some rain.

Big boy loves piles of grass!

All tuckered out and stealing sissy's bed!

Cisco, meet your neighbor, Peaches.

Until next time, worms rock.

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"The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn't matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark." ~ Barbara Hall

Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Few Favorite Recipes and One Mess of a Pup

A friend at work said I needed to post a few of our favorite recipes on my blog, so I’m obliging.  Truth be told, I’m just so darn excited someone actually read my blog and is asking me to share more.  Tee hee hee.

Since hubby and I are both all about planning ahead, we like big batch cooking.  We buy big packages of chicken breasts at Costco and marinade them for several days and then grill them all at once.  We can “feed” off those for several days (talk about a quick, easy dinner – change up your sides or put the chicken on a salad and you have a different meal each night!) or even put some cooked chicken in the freezer for future “convenience” meals.

We have two marinades that we really like, and both produce tender, flavorful grilled chicken that does not get dried out on the grill like chicken breasts have the tendency to do.

KC Farms Chicken Marinade #1


1/4 cup lime juice
1/3 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Mix together in a bowl and pour over the chicken in a ziplock or container.  This is good for about three large breasts.   We always double and have even quadrupled this recipe.  Best if it marinades at least overnight, but even better if it has a couple of days.  (We think the vinegar, lime juice, garlic, and cayenne do a good job of “preserving it”.)

Another marinade we have been using that is becoming a household favorite:

KC Farms Chicken Marinade #2


1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tblsp extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
Sea Salt
Cracked pepper
6 rosemary sprigs (we used dried rosemary because my rosemary plants weren’t big nough yet to take this much fresh and crush it with a mortar and pestle – I don’t know how much exactly…is there such a thing as too much rosemary??)

Mix together in a bowl and pour over chicken in bag/container – just like previous recipe.  Again, this is good for about three large breasts, so we double this one every time too.

One of our favorite go-to meals in the crock pot is Mexican Steak and Beans!  I’ve posted about it before (It Helps To Be Organized When You Live In The Country, May 3, 2012), but I didn’t post the recipe, just the process.  It is really convenient to mix everything the night before and then just put the meat in the crockpot and dump the rest on top of it on your way out the door the next morning.

KC Farms Mexican Steak and Beans


Beef flank steak (we just use about ½ pound for the two of us, and have more beans and rice than meat)
1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 small can diced green chiles
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon snipped fresh oregano OR 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

Cheese and sour cream, optional

I mix the tomatoes, chiles, onion, garlic and spices in a bowl and them put them in a quart jar the night before.  In the morning, I just put the flank steak in the crockpot (I spray with Pam first) and pour the tomato mixture on top, spread it around, covering the meat and turn the crock pot on.   

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 7 to 9 hours or on high-setting for 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours (depending on your slow cooker settings).

We have a rice maker with a timer, so we set the rice up to be done at the same time and voila, dinner is done when you walk in the door after work!

Remember when I mentioned before how hard it is to find good help?  Well get a load of this!

What a mess this little boy is!!! When we’re not growling over the latest piece of furniture he has eaten, he really does make us laugh a lot. J

Until next time, worms rock.
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Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Furry Kids Have Turned On Us! (aka Our Life With a Four Ring Circus)

It seems that our entire house full of furry kids has turned on us!  For a long time, we have had a great debate going on in our house…did our pets end up with us because they’re totally weird?  Or do they become weirdos after they come live with us?   HA! 

So it’s bad enough living with a puppy…it really is like having a baby in the house.  At this particular time, it’s a darn good thing he’s so cute…

We spend tons of time taking him outside to “do his business”.  And some days, no matter how long you spend outside, he won’t go potty outside, but saves it until you get back into the nice air conditioned house.  Thanks mom and dad. ARGH! 

So last night, we got home from work and the pup had mischievously thoughtfully unloaded half of the clean clothes from the laundry basket and spread them around the living room (that was a brand new trick).  He’s also been destroying redecorating other things for us.  We have discovered that in rough-housing with the “middle child” Ellie, he runs, does a flying burrito through the air, launching himself onto the back of the couch and eats lets more light in through the mini blinds.  (We have witnessed this feat first hand on the weekends.) Oh, and did I mention that to get a drink, he dunks his whole face into the water bowl and slops redistributes the water - all over the floors (and our legs, shoes or the furniture, especially right where you're going to sit down, just nano seconds before you do)?  Or that that a corner of our coffee table is no longer with us? 

After three days in a row of rain, we spent yesterday evening trying to set the two corner posts on the backyard fence and get the next post holes started – the ground is wet and therefore much softer than it’s been in months.  Even though the temperature is a couple of degrees cooler than it has been it was still in the upper 80s and the humidity about 80% or more.  Hot, tired, muddy and soaking with sweat from setting the posts, working in the garden and running a puppy that hadn’t run in three days because of the weather, we were ready to finally go inside and have some dinner and sit down for the first time.  Except in the course of rough-housing while we worked, the crazy inmates inside puppy must have jumped on the back sliding glass door and hit the latch – because it was LOCKED!

I’ve gotta tell you, there was a moment of panic when we first realized what had happened!  Luckily, we had the other back door and storm door unlocked and I also had the keys to the sliding glass door in the fanny pack I just happened to have on (I stuck all the sets of keys in that pocket when the house was first delivered and never took them out).  Our windows are double storm windows that can’t be unlocked from outside – we would have had to break two windows to get in.  Guess we need to hurry up and give an extra set of keys to the neighbors like we’ve been planning to do since we moved in.  Ya think?

Of course, all the furry children had been fed long before we finally got to eat.  And naturally, half way through my salad, the puppy needed to go out.  Since potty training has been a slow, painful process, when he goes to the back door (his signal that he needs to go out), we need to respond immediately.  So I set my salad down in the middle of the coffee table and went to let him out.  My husband did the same and came to the back door for moral support.  Mind you, it’s already after nine o’clock by now.  We usually try to start winding down and get to bed by 9:30. 

Now some might think that setting our food on the coffee table was a dangerous move with the other two dogs still in the house.  But you’d have to know our dogs…we have rules, boundaries and limitations in our house.  We have expectations and they meet them.  Really!  We always eat dinner on our couch; we never use the dining table.  And our dogs don’t bug us or stare or try to get in our plates.  If they walk anywhere near, we simply say “go lay down” and they DO. 

So imagine our surprise when we walked back in the door to find the “eldest child” Maggie, who always follows the rules, face-planted in what was left of my salad, not to mention the pile of it spit out on the floor.  So much for finishing my dinner.  There’s just no way to explain how out of character that was.  I finally settled on a half of an almond butter and jam sandwich as a replacement.

Well, by the time I finished my sandwich and hubby finished his salad (which thankfully survived without attack), it was 9:45.  I realized I was out of coffee creamer for the next morning.  So I whipped that together quickly.  And then I remembered that I hadn’t made my smoothie for the next day either.  I didn’t make one the night before and was starving by mid-morning and reluctantly got a breakfast taco from the cafeteria before I started plowing through the entire chocolate stash in my desk drawer.  So I really needed to make my smoothie.  What the heck, we’re already 30 minutes late going to bed - party night on the homestead. 

Finally, after 10:00, we headed to our room to get ready for bed.  Twenty minutes later (and almost an hour late), we’re finally climbing into bed (and I have to read for a while – I have never been able to just lie down and go to sleep).  Hubby sits on the edge of the bed and starts to adjust his pillows, and his hand hits something wet.  Wait a minute, wet and our bed do NOT go together.  Well, it seems that the cat yakked on our bed.  Are you kidding me?  So now we have to change the sheets and of course the mattress pad is gross too – but it thankfully kept the mattress safe and clean.

We just started laughing, almost hysterically, at the comedy of errors that is our life with our furry kids, especially yesterday.  Never a dull moment on this homestead!

Until next time, worms rock.

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Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Nothing Beats A Homegrown Tomato

This past weekend, we canned tomatoes for the very first time.  And not only that, they were tomatoes we grew ourselves!!

"Two Socks" recently adopted us and she keeps a close eye on the garden for us!

Aren't all those fresh veggies just gorgeous?!!

We were going to attempt this on Saturday, but after spending the entire morning taking our three ring circus (aka the three canine furry kids) to the vet – the puppy for the first time (oy vey!) – we were too exhausted to start in the afternoon.

It's hard to find good help! :)
So on Sunday we dove in.  First I washed all the tomatoes and weighed them in batches.  I’m REALLY glad I thought to do that.  Since we've never done this before, I realized that would be a good way to help us track how many jars we will need in future endeavors.  It’s tough to gauge that when you’re a newbie.  While I had plenty of jars washed and ready to go, I didn’t want to heat more of the dome lids that we would need.  Maybe they’d be fine, but I just have this thing in my head that I don’t want to repeatedly heat the lids before they actually get used in the full canning process.

We ended up with 30.5 pounds of tomatoes!  And that's not counting all I’ve been eating in the last week or so.  They are so gorgeous and I’d forgotten how INCREDIBLE a homegrown tomato tastes.  They actually have flavor, unlike those you buy at the grocery store. 
Next, we boiled a pot of water on the stove to blanch the tomatoes for about 30 seconds.  The skins on these are a little thick, so sometimes it took maybe 15 seconds more.  We did this in small batches. 

We had a cooler of ice water ready and once the tomatoes came out of the boiling water, they went immediately into the ice bath.  We discovered that if we left them in there a few minutes to really cool them down all the way through the skins really slid off very easily. 

I sliced them horizontally and scooped out most of the seeds. I then cut them up into chunks.

Once they were all diced, we put about ¼ of them into our big enamel stock pot and mashed them with a potato masher while bringing them to a boil to create some good juice for the whole batch.  Once they came to a boil and the juices were released, we added the rest and brought them to a boil.

Now here’s where we hit a snag.  It was 103 degrees plus really high humidity outside…in other words, miserable.  We thought about setting up our outdoor cooker at the end of the house covered by trees, but that would also mean carting pans, jars, etc., etc., back and forth.  So we started the water bath canner on the stove inside.  That just didn’t work.  After about 45 minutes, the water still wasn’t boiling!  We were getting frustrated.  The tomatoes were ready to go and so were the jars and lids.  I finally put the lid on the tomatoes and turned the heat off.  I didn’t want to turn them into sauce!  We gave up and quickly set up the outdoor propane cooker.  I swear, in addition to the larger burner/flames, I think the 100+ temps fired that sucker right up and in 10 minutes or less the canner was at a full rolling boil (granted the water was at least very hot from its eternity on the indoor stove).  We actually got two pots going and were finally in business!  So lesson learned, you just can’t beat the little portable propane two burner outdoor cooker when it comes to canning.  Someday, we plan to have a nice deck that is covered.  Ideally, it would be great to have a covered carport with an outdoor kitchen set up – counters, water, etc.  But honestly I’ll take any space that’s covered to keep that brutal sun off our heads. 
We ended up with 15 pints of diced tomatoes (in their own juice) and two pints of just juice.

One of our favorite parts of canning is hearing the lids “ping” after they come out of the canner and cool down.  We always joke that “another jar got its wings”.  J
In addition, we put 11 pounds of home-grown tomatillos into the freezer in bags of one pound each.  Making verde sauce or canning those was just too much to tackle in one day and I had read you can just freeze them whole.  I think what I’ll do is thaw them out as needed and make fresh batches of verde sauce when we need it.  I can even make a batch on a weekend and use it for a meal during the week.

With the next batch of tomatoes, I’m planning to make rosemary basil “sun dried” tomatoes in our dehydrator.  Tomatoes are quartered (or cut into sixths or eighths, depending on the size of the tomato), then marinated in olive oil, smashed garlic, fresh basil and rosemary and salt and then dehydrated.  Don’t those sound DIVINE?!   Stay tuned…I’ll let you know how those turn out.

Until next time, worms rock.

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Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fences and yogurt

Missed Friday’s Fancy because I was sick.  L   But I’m better now.  And never fear, I’ll include a few pics here.  J

I feel like we had a pretty industrious weekend.  We got our backyard fence started!  Yay!  It’s going to take a while. The ground is super hard right now…oh if we could get some rain.  It’s been hotter than blazes, but not as bad as last year, we have to keep reminding ourselves!  Anyway, I digress - back to the fence.  So the first 8 ft. section is up.  We made a modification to the design as we started working on it this weekend.  Instead of a two rail, it’s going to be a three rail, because it’s also going to be 6 ft. tall (another modification).  We found this great roll of fence at the Tractor Supply Store last year that was 5 ft. tall (needed it in the back yard of the rental house because there was only a three ft. tall split rail between our furry babies and a nasty, very dog-aggressive Rottweiler next door).  It was great.  Taller than 4 ft., but not extra tall 6 ft.  Well, we can’t find 5 ft. tall fence to save our lives now!  So, we’d rather go taller than shorter because deer and our darling puppy when he’s full grown will be able to clear a 4 ft. fence EASILY.  And a 6 ft. fence is really better around the garden and orchard.  And that’s the master plan: eventually the backyard, front yard, garden, chicken/duck runs and orchard will all be fenced and connected with gates. 
We’re using treated 4x4 posts and treated 2x4 rails with wire fencing.  The wood will all be stained cedar for color and as a protective sealant. 

Here’s a pic of our first 8 ft. section (minus the fencing yet) and post for the first gate.

Here’s an example of what it will basically look like.

It was so hot out this weekend, it made it difficult to work outside for too long a period.  We’re hoping to find a 5 in. auger that we can use on our neighbors’ tractor to dig the holes in the near future.  They have an auger now, but it’s a large one…too big for 4x4 posts.  It would be good to have the smaller one around, then either one of us will have it available in the future.
On Saturday, I also made my first ever yogurt start from an awesome starter called Viili.  I learned about it from Cousin Jammie – thanks Jammes!  I ordered it from Cultures for Health (www.culturesforhealth.com).  Great website – lots of really cool info!  This yogurt culture is super cool because it’s mesophilic – meaning it thrives at room temperature instead of needed constant heat.   And you can use your current batch to yogurt to create the next indefinitely with a little care.  So on Sunday, I made my first batch of homemade yogurt.  I only sampled a little taste before I put it in the refrigerator last night before bedtime.  But it was smooth and creamy and mild.  Homemade mozzarella on tap soon - mozzarella/ricotta kit arrived just this morning from http://www.cheesemaking.com/. This is going to be awesome!

I’ve been making smoothies every night and putting them in the freezer for the next work day.  (Why didn't I ever think of putting them in the freezer before?!)  I started getting hungry mid-morning which usually led to me eating junk and/or candy to tide me over til lunch.  So now I’m making a smoothie with frozen and fresh fruit, yogurt, a little milk, a touch of honey, protein powder and some ground flax.  If I took them out of my insulated lunch bag, they would probably be thawed and drinkable by mid-morning.  But I kind of like eating them with a spoon like a fruity ice cream treat.  J  Plus, they take me longer to eat, so it really fills me up.  Now I’ll be able to use my homemade yogurt!
On tap this week – we’re hoping to make a little progress on the fence each day…it may be only getting one hole dug or a post set or rails installed, but something.  And next weekend we have GOT to get our first batch of verde enchilada sauce made from our tomatillos and can some diced tomatoes!

Isn’t this one of the prettiest tomatoes you’ve ever seen?!

 Until next time, worms rock.
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Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Soap Box Time

I have a few grumbles to get off my chest this morning…

It’s so disheartening to see how we seem to have lost our way in this country.  My current disquiet stems from the wet carpet we found in the house last night.  (We had a VERY brief, but intense rain storm yesterday evening.)  We started investigating, at 9:00 p.m. of course, and can only figure that the vent stacks above the furnace/air conditioner and hot water heater on the roof must be leaking.  They probably weren't sealed on the roof.  Also discovered a lot of water between two storm windows in another room, so we’re guessing the outside windows probably aren’t even caulked either. 
Guess that’s what one should expect with a brand new house, right.  NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Why don’t we (in general) build anything with pride anymore???  We don’t learn trades or crafts?  We want everything fast, cheap and easy, no matter the ultimate price (which we can’t see in the short term, so we don’t even consider it at all). 

No one learns to build and create something that will last a lifetime anymore.  Because that’s hard.  It’s too much work.  You get dirty.  Instead, stuff gets slapped together and then they move on to the next customer.  What do they care that the dishwasher wasn’t installed properly and leaked water all underneath the new kitchen cabinets?  Or that those windows leak water into the house.  Or that the plumber’s putty is all coming out from around the drains in the sinks.  Or that they forgot to install entire electrical outlets.  Or that the linoleum is loose and therefore bunches and tears when you try to move furniture and appliances around.  Or that they ripped the linoleum while building the house but just sort of glued it back down (that’s the ONLY place where the linoleum is glued down, by the way).  Just slap some paint or sheetrock over it and no one will ever know, right?  Why is that the standard now, instead of doing things right?  Why does it just BARELY meet minimum code instead of done right and exceed minimum code?  And we’ve seen this in every house we’ve lived in.  Doesn’t matter who built it or where it is. 

So if that wasn’t enough to be on my soapbox about, this morning as we’re driving to work, on the way to drop hubby off (at least we can carpool into the big mean city – YAY!), we drive right by the county’s office for public assistance, and see two women and six kids piling out of a brand new Lincoln Navigator.  Now perhaps shame on me for jumping to conclusions, but we see this over and over and over again - this was not an isolated observation.  People in line using their food stamp debit cards to buy food and then paying cash in a separate purchase for their beer, cigarettes, etc. that can’t be purchased with the card.  Where I come from, you make a choice between spending the money you earn to buy food for your family or spending it on the likes of beer and cigarettes.  And why do many of them have thousands of dollars in tattoos and iphones and new(er) cars?  Where I come from, you have to make a choice between cell phones/tattoos/entertainment and paying your own rent – not expecting someone else to pay the rent for you.
I’m sorry if I offend anyone’s charitable sensibilities.  We give plenty and often to a variety of charities.   But I don’t appreciate being among the only 50% in this country that are paying all the bills while the other 50% pay none of them.  And before long folks, if we don’t do something different, those of us paying all the bills will be in the minority.  We personally went through two job losses due to layoffs and many other horrible, financial pitfalls in the last two years.  But we never stopped paying taxes through all that.  We never stopped paying for our own groceries and rent.  We buckled down, pared down and got through it somehow (and are GRATEFUL to both be gainfully employed again!!!!!!!).  I never even sought or received any kind of assistance while I was putting myself through school as a single mom.  Probably could have qualified.  But didn’t try.  I worked full-time, went to school part-time, raised my son, kept a roof over our heads and food on our table.  It wasn’t easy, but it was definitely doable.

We’re headed in a bad direction these days.  Makes me want to be more self-sufficient than ever.  The more we can do for ourselves, provide for ourselves, the better off I feel we’ll be.  Because the gravy train is going to crash sooner or later.  Our economy, our national debt, our sense of entitlement, our laziness is going to catch up. 

Okay then.  I’m done.  Just had to get that out.  Will return to our regularly scheduled homesteading adventure tales next time.  ;)

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"The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn't matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark." ~ Barbara Hall

Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday's Fancy, June 8

Yay!! Another pumpkin!!

Wednesday's harvest

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"The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn't matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark." ~ Barbara Hall

Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Friday's Fancy

I'm starting something new on my blog.  I've seen several blogs that have Wordless Wednesdays with just pictures.  I'm going to try a "Friday Fancy" and post my favorite shots...maybe from the last week, maybe older.  It will probably not be completely "wordless" as I may have captions.  But you get my drift.  :D

We planted this geranium in memory of our dear Sassy right after she passed in February 2011.  It survived the winter and came back strong this spring, blooming for the first time this year on our 7th anniversary!!  Thank you Sassy girl, we miss you too!!!!

Corn progress!

Pie pumpkin

Beautiful pumpkin is growing every day - just don't remember which variety this is.  I LOVE pumpkins!!!

Our baby boy!

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"The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn't matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark."    ~ Barbara Hall

Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Strange Dogs

Maggie thinks these are the strangest looking dogs she has ever seen!  :)

Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.

It Helps To Be Organized When You Live In The Country

It helps to be fairly organized when you live in the country…especially if you still have a job in the city and commute every day. Our drive is actually almost the same distance as we have been driving from the suburb where we were renting. The drive takes just a little longer because we’re no longer traveling 75 mph on the wide open toll roads.

I will admit, we had let ourselves lapse into a little bit of laziness at our previous house. We were tired after work, and would sit down to just chill for a “little bit”. In actuality, that translates into watching tv and playing on the computer/iPad for most of the evening. But when you don’t own the home that you’re living in, you don’t spend the time, money and energy in putzing around working on little projects inside and out. And most of our crafts and wood working materials were still packed away.

Now that we’re living on our homestead fulltime, there are chores to do when we get home. But the word chore is a misnomer because we positively love being outside tending to the garden and working on little projects all around the homestead. We also really enjoyed observing our bees (but that enterprise took a sad, sad turn – more about that in a future blog).

In getting used to our new routines, we are trying to stay organized and get as much done the night before to make our mornings a little less hectic. Last night, I got everything ready for my lunch except for my sandwich. I like to make my sandwich fresh in the morning – it’s just not as good to me after it’s been in the refrigerator all night and then in my lunch cooler half the day. This morning, I grabbed my containers out of the fridge, made my sandwich and was ready to go!

When you live out in the country, it’s a major ordeal to get one or two items for a meal. While we can make a pit stop at a store on the way home, it’s not preferred since it seems that everyone else is there too! Something I have done for a long time (and have fallen in and out of the habit over the last few years), is to make a menu for the week. I can then make a grocery list based on that menu and in one shopping trip will have everything needed to make a week’s worth of meals. It also helps eliminate the “what should we have for dinner” conversation every single day. When we have a plan, we just look at the menu and say, “Okay, tonight we’re having ___” and get busy cooking.

I also might add that the meals on our menu need to be relatively quick to prepare. After working all day, getting home and trying to get something done, the last thing we want to do is spend hours in the kitchen cooking dinner. But we also want to eat as many whole foods and stay away from as much processed food as possible. Now that we have the storage space and extra refrigerator and freezer capacity, we are buying in bulk as much as possible. For one, we believe in being prepared and ready for anything. Also, by planning ahead, we can reduce the number trips we have to take in to “town” – time that takes us away from our homestead and into crowds of people and traffic…now THAT is a chore!

Last night I got everything ready for Mexican steak and beans in the crock pot. I mixed together a can of diced tomatoes, a can of diced green chiles, several spices, and half of a diced onion. I put this mixture in a quart jar and into the refrigerator.
mexican steak and beans tomato mix
Then I measured out brown rice and put it in a plastic container and the appropriate amount of water in a cleaned out (and repurposed) orange juice container. The crock pot and rice cooker were set out (oh the JOY of having lots of counter space now!!) and ready for this morning.
crock pot rice cooker
This morning, after making my lunch very quickly (thanks to last night’s efforts), I put the meat in the crock pot, dumped in my tomato mixture, put the lid on and turned it on. Then I poured the pre-measured rice and water into the rice cooker and set the delay timer. Voilá, with less than two minutes of work this morning (and really only a few minutes more of prep work the night before) dinner will be ready when we get home! All I have to do is add a can of pinto beans to the crock pot (they just need to get warm) and serve. We really enjoy this meal. It’s quick and easy and really good. I need to get more adept with my crock pot – there’s nothing like having dinner done when you get home from work! Not to mention that we’re free to work in the garden and around the house for longer because dinner is already cooked.

Not every day will go this smoothly. But we are really going to work hard to spend a few extra minutes in the evening getting ready for the next day and keep our mornings less hectic in the mad dash to get out the door. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort - it’s all about creating a new habit.

Until next time, worms rock and bees rule.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Homestead Dream Realized and a Bee (Beginning) Story

Well it seems like forever since I’ve posted a blog here! It certainly was not intentional. We’ve just been so overwhelmed getting everything ready for the house to get to the homestead and then getting us to the homestead! Why does any construction project have to be so wrought with frustrations and disappointments? I guess that would have been a huge upside to building for ourselves – we could think through all the little things and do them right. Like where light switches are located and air system vents and not just building to meet minimum code, but better than that. But, if we were building ourselves, we would still have had to get some kind of temporary housing so that we could be on the property, and it probably would have taken us five or more years to complete it. Not to mention every free moment would have been consumed with building a house. This way, we are there, we have a brand new house, plenty of space for all our stuff and yet we are purposefully living below our means. Instead, we can focus on all the other things we want to add to our little homestead: fencing, a carport, a woodwork shop, a chicken coop and run, a duck coop and run, a rescue bunny retirement home, cows, more bees, fruit trees, expanded garden, a greenhouse, a barn and corral…whew! The list goes on (doesn’t it always!).

Speaking of bees, ours arrived! They were delayed, but only by a week. And of course they showed up the weekend we were moving! But we were (mostly) ready for them. I’ll admit I was a little anxious. I’ve never been stung (got that out of the way yesterday). And staying still while you’re being buzzed by hundreds or thousands of bees flying around, well, that just goes against your every instinct. We worked through step by step, spraying them with our sugar syrup, opening the packages, removing the can of sugar syrup they traveled with, figuring out where the queen was and how she was attached (it wasn’t exactly the same as all the literature we’d read), shaking them out of the box, uncapping the queen cage, hanging her in the hive, replacing the bars and putting the lid back on the hive. We were wishing we had a brush to gently move them out of the way to replace the top bars, but then, a stroke of genius…we pulled some of the two foot tall grass stems that are going to seed and used them as a brush. Talk about organic – and it worked like a charm! My hubby was wearing a short sleeve shirt and no gloves (we both had hats with veils) and he didn’t get stung even once. I had a long sleeve shirt on and some white gardening gloves and only got stung once – of all places on the inside of my leg. I guess one landed on my leg and as my legs came together, she thought she was getting squished. The stinger didn’t even make it into my leg though because it was through my pants. This morning you can hardly see the spot anymore. And while it wasn’t something I’d sign up to do every day, now that it happened, I’ve gotten that first sting out of the way and it’s not that big of a deal.

I can’t explain the feeling we had once we were done. We have SO MUCH to learn yet. But it was just AMAZING!! I see why people that get into bees really get into it. From some strange reason, it felt very empowering. If you just learn a little about bees and their world and how they function, they are positively incredible little creatures. We are using top bar hives that my hubby built and we have them set up under a huge pecan tree that’s over 100 years old. They’ll have plenty of morning sun, but have some cover from the intense late afternoon sun during the summer. Our tank (pond) is going dry (it wasn’t dug out correctly) so we put water out for them. We’ll set up a more permanent waterer of some sort in the near future. We hope they like their wonderful hand-built hives and our place as much as we do!

Update: This bar is towards the back.  There are bars that have huge "globs" of bees, and we suspect, bigger pieces of new comb.  But we didn't want to disturb them too much.  We were just checking to make sure the queen had been released.

Until next time, worms rock and bees rule.

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Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Plumbing a homestead

Things are hopping at our little homestead (a.k.a. our little piece of heaven on earth)!  And what a productive weekend! 

Thanks to the help of our fabulous neighbors, who loaned us their truck so that we could pick up a rented trencher, we trenched approximately 500 feet of water line on Saturday.  We’re very grateful to have good soils – not too much sand, not too much clay, and no rocks whatsoever.  We started putting pipe together on Saturday. 

Then on Sunday, our fabulous neighbors came to our rescue again.  They came over and spent several hours helping us lay the rest of the pipe and covering the trenches back up.  There was heavy rain in the forecast for last night into this morning (boy was it!). They knew it was in our best interest to have that project done so that the rains didn’t fill our trenches back in before we got the pipes in, causing us to dig them out all over again.  On top of that they loaned us their tractor and shredder so we could get the grass that was two feet tall down to a manageable level in order to mark out the homesite for the house infrastructure crew that will coming out later in the week. (I do have to say, it hurt my feelings a little to cut down that beautiful grass – but the area directly under where the house is going will be wiped out anyway.) 

Here are a few pictures of the water line progress.

We took plenty of pictures and went through much discussion for these water lines.  We put a lot of thought in to their locations and want it all documented so that in the future, we’ll know exactly where everything is.  We put in shut off valves in strategic places so that if we ever do have problems, we can more easily isolate where they are occurring and make the necessary repairs (as opposed to digging up the entire water system!).  We also laid out the lines to allow for easier future expansion as we add structures and critters.

We did take an extra day off and also managed to install two spigots and fence in 450 square feet of garden space. We have stuff that needs to be transplanted and others to direct sow. But we had to get fencing up to keep the critters out, lest we just serve up and gourmet salad bar for them. J

Only about two weeks left before the house should be ready.  We are so excited about how close we getting to living on our homestead fulltime!  And added to that whirlwind of activity, our bees will be arriving April 14th.  Stay tuned, it’s gonna get crazy around here.  J
Until next time, worms rock and bees rule.

Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.