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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hello 2010, Come On In!

Hello 2010, I have been waiting for you! I knew you would get here eventually. You just had to go about it in your own way. Well I have a spot all made up for you. You can even stay a year if you want to.

These were my homemade gifts to my family and close friends this year. I made two quart sized soup mixes.

Then I added applesauce, plum jelly, pear or peach butter and jalepeno jelly.

We put them together in assembly line fashion. A slow assembly line. These graced my dining room table for over a week waiting for the point when I could make the fudge to add to the matching tins.

The presentation was nice but the trays themselves flexed when you picked it up so I hot glued every jar to the tray and then used basket wrap and a blow dryer to shrink the wrapping. It didn't fix the problem but who complains about home made gifts. At least it isn't done out loud.

They turned out all right. Next year I am going to find some kind of boxes to put them in. Maybe 1/2 sized wooden crates. They will be a lot more secure that way. I think every one liked their gifts. I made 12 of them and it took a lot of time but it seems more fitting for me to give of my garden than spend so much time and money on things they probably won't ever use. Been there, done that.

Monday, December 21, 2009

First Poultry Loss This Morning

We had our first poultry loss this morning. My husband noticed that one of our hens was craning her neck and 'gasping' for breath last night. We raced into the house and started trying to figure out what it could be. She still wanted to roost with the others, moved around like normal but kept opening her mouth wide and arcing her neck.

I raced in the house and spent the rest of the night trying to figure out how to help her. It hasn't been too cold the last week so we left her in the coop where she was certain to have less stress. We got up at 5:00 this morning to check our forum board questions for answers to no avail. Doyle also headed to the chicken house and she was dead on the floor. I think he is going to try a necropsy on her to see if anything obvious was the culprit. We were pretty discouraged. We knew things could go wrong but we had a false sense of security because we have had such good luck with all the chickens we raised this year. I am sad but I also know that on the 'farm' anything can go wrong.

All of the other girls look good this morning. Begging for treats is the norm for them. Doyle's warm oatmeal during the bitter cold snap must have singed a nice memory in their minds' as they mob you when you walk in the door. We will keep a very close eye on them to make sure nothing seems to be amis with anyone else.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New Bird House

A neighbor brought this beauty into my work as a Christmas gift. What a wonderful suprise! His craftmanship is amazing. He even made it look like my chicken house, complete with two barnstars on each side.

It is feeder on the front side and the birds can dine in the 'run'. The back side is a bird house for shelter. Some lucky bird is going to each right near his home!

I was so excited! Dave made my whole week. I asked him if it would weather enough to be used outdoors and he told me it was barnwood from the barn next door, should weather just fine!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Feeding Birds

I have been busily refilling bird feeders around here. When the harsher weather comes I feel the need to supplement their diet and make it easier for them to sustain life.

I have an assortment of different feeder. Some large and ugly such as this one.

And this one.

I have pretty good variety of diners today. Here you see the Western Goldfinches. I have also been feeding Juncos, Red House Finches and Black Capped Chickadees. All are fun to watch. I am going to build an oriole feeder to attract them to stay around too. Apparently they like jelly and citrus. I can accomodate both.

The chicken ladies even like to come out and see what is going on. They don't love the snow but they do love to be running around. Here they are with a bare patch of grass, grazing. They also like to peck at the paint on my house. Yikes! Might be time to repaint.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Almost Full.... Boy that happened fast!

It sure didn't take me long to fill up my new pantry. We finished the floor to ceiling shelves over a two weekend stretch and I started moving from the old (small) pantry into the newly converted guest room pantry about six weeks ago. I needed a place to store the fruits of my labor and the only place I had to expand into was the hardly used guest bedroom.

At first I suffered guilt and anxiety over my decision. Then I got over it.

As I started to move into my new space I realized I had hit the storage bonanza. Not only could I store all the food I had canned and preserved but I could feed my need to collect large quantities of store bought as well.

Now all my oversized appliances had a home, my canning jars had a home and my large party serving junk had a house too. Yeah me!

But now that you have seen all three functional corners (the door is housed in the fourth), you can see that I am completely out of room. How the heck did that happen you ask? Well I might have mentioned higher up on this post that I like to collect food. Where I once was hampered my lack of space now I have lots of places to stash things. Seriously, who needs 20 boxes of rice at a time? Apparently I do. I also have a weakness for Costco and all things large sized. It's an illness which means I am off the hook because I really can't control it. Really.

PS~ I took these pictures before I finished the 98 jars of applesauce, those apples are no longer on the floor, thank goodness.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Still Busy!

I have been on blogging hiatus but still busy like always.  I decided that I was going to run low on applesauce so I contacted a local orchard and they still had lots of apples. Silly me.

I bought 5 boxes of apples and proceeded to make 98 more jars of sauce. At least now I have something else to add to my homemade Xmas gifts besided just jelly.

They were nice apples and I really like that they were grown semi-locally, about an hour away. I used Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith. Only one Granny Smith to four of the others. I think it turned out well enough.

The staging area for cooling jars was my mudroom. It was hard to not share some every time someone came by. I suppose that is what I made it for.

And finally the funny shot of the day, my Cat in a Hat! Seems old Rusty liked napping in my birthday sombrero. Go figure.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An Idaho Moment

This is something you don't see every day. Thank goodness! Goats being herded down the highway in rural America. These goats are used to eat noxious weeds in our state. There are many herds similar to this one and apparently they earn their keep.

There are fat ones, skinny ones, and even some very young ones thrown into the mix. I thought this was worth sharing as I have only seen it one other time. They actually stopped highway traffic to move these goats to a new place and cars did not seem to faze them at all.

I promise to be back to a normal blogging cycle soon. I am suffering from end of the season blahs and trying to get ready for the holidays all at the same time. I suppose I could start sharing my snow pictures with you as that seems to be all there is to see right now. Hope you all have a wonderful Turkey day!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Trying to Live By This Creed


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

~Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

When I was a little kid my mom had this hanging in our one bathroom. I have grown up reading this poem and it has always spoken to me. Except the part about Taking Kindly to the Council of the Years. I do not subscribe calmly to that part. But the rest I like a lot. When life seems a little hectic or untethered, I go back to my mom's bathroom, yes she still has this hanging in front of the potty, and I read it a few times over. At different times, different parts of the poem jump out at me. 

I love this and really need to get one of my own. I probably won't hang it in my bathroom although it seems to touch many who frequent my mom's. Aww heck, maybe I will hang it in my bathroom. Think I can get the mean girl in my life to read it? She really, really, really needs to. Maybe I will leave it for her to find.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

All of The Sudden It's Winter

Winter has finally come to my neck of the woods and I can honestly tell you that Jack Frost is not high on my list of faves right now. Dang it, I forgot how cold winter is. I thought I was ready but maybe not quite yet. My raised bed garden is looking pretty sad right about now. Part of my heart sings about that and the other part is in a schizophrenic depression. It changes hour by hour.

The chickens weren't totally sure the first time they came out into the snow. Funny thing was I couldn't figure out what was wrong with the chickens. Silly us. We were all having a brain malfunction!

We added this little shelf and mini fridge to the chicken house this morning. We figured that with both of us working we would not always be available for egg dispersal. Now we have serve yourself. This also solves the problem of having too many dozen in the fridge inside the house. This will easily hold more than I care to stock. I thought I would let my daughter make a money can for the folks that want to pick up eggs this way.

This ought to work like a dream. There are actually some folks in my town who live rurally and have a full size refrigerator out by the highway. People are welcome to just help themselves. I have always wondered if everyone pays or if they get stiffed with any regularity. I haven't had the nerve to ask them yet. I figure this will be somewhat more controlled. Only those we want to know about it will.

And just for fun a cute picture of one of the boys! They are so darn sweet! We play with them every day and every day shows strides in what they learn. No buyer's remorse here~

Thursday, November 12, 2009

FOOD, Inc.

I pre-ordered this movie several months ago and finally got it in the mail. If you have not seen FOOD, Inc., you must. I have struggled all summer with raising my own meat to eat. We raised meat chickens in the spring and now again in the fall. The beef we eat comes off our place. And our pork is raised 30 miles away by a man who does a small amount every year. I still cried at the time of process and feel bad each time we eat it. I do know that what we are doing is the right thing for my family. Raising your own, in my experience, has not been a money saving experience. It costs more to feed animals well and to keep them healthy and happy. Our egg layers live in what has been coined the Chicken Taj Mahal. And as far as chickens go, I think they are happy as clams.

What I do know is this: If, as a country, we do not do something about the inhumane ways animals for food are raised and processed, we will be in bigger trouble than we already are. If school do not do something to make meals for children healthier, our kids will continue to gain weight and take on obesity oriented diseases. At what point did it become common place for an apple to cost more than a $.99 hamburger. Families are doing what they can to put food on their tables, the food industry is changing what that food is. There is a petition you can sign to change the food served in schools. Hungry For Change can be found here and is a great way to begin getting involved.

We have chosen to continue our adventure into homegrown and home raised. We will keep on doing our part at our level to have a healthier lifestyle. Those of you in cities also have options. You can join CSAs, which are Community Supported Agriculture options. You can chose to spend a little more at the grocer to buy healthier and fresher foods and leave behind some of the more convenient foods. Eventually this will cause the store buyers to stock healthier options and leave out the cruddier ones. They are only going to stock what people are purchasing. Frequenting farmer and growers markets are also a wonderful way to support the local farmer and to feed your family from local sources. So much food these days is grown in other countries. I am trying to go for a 100 mile radius. Simply keeping it within the USA is a noble approach too.

Maybe I sound like a raving maniac and maybe all of this sounds like an unreasonable attempt to take on a giant. But as a nation we took on the Tobacco industry and we won, to some degree. But it is heading in the right direction. It can be done, it just takes us caring about it at home.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Boys are Here!

Well, the newest additions to our little farm are here! The boys came yesterday and are all installed in their new (temporary) corral. They had an hour and a half trek from their old home to ours and they seem to have made the trip very well. Here they are still in the horse trailer, unsure of how happy they are to get out into the unknown.

We let them stay out in the yard for a while to acclimate to their new surroundings. It's probably colder here than where they were born so we have them in a temporary area until we can get them into the barn. The meat chickens are still in that area of the barn so the boys had to wait another week to get into their new digs. We are also going to change up the barnyard a bit to accommodate both donkeys and pygmy goats. They can't live together as the donkeys play rougher than goats do.

So far my nieces and our granddaughter have come to see them and seem to be pretty excited. We did not let them in with the donkeys yet but as time goes on we will introduce them and all should be great. No need to traumatize the poor boys anymore than they have already suffered. When they are comfortable with the new digs, we will let the kids touch them.  Until then, the boys get a reprieve!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My New Favorite

I have a brand new favorite in my life. Ok, so it's a brand new favorite in my 'kitchen life'. The chicken, goat or donkey life has nothing to do with this. Except on page 155. The chickens would most certainly take exception with page 155. I won't show it to them. They are on a need to know basis and they just don't need to know about fried chicken just yet.

I love cookbooks. This is utterly amazing even to me because I don't really like to cook. I cook but I just don't enjoy it. Maybe when I have a new and pretty kitchen I will like it again but for now that's on hold. But I love, love, love this fun cookbook. The Pioneer Woman Cooks is a gem as far as practicality goes. I like to know that what I cook will likely be eaten. I would even go as far as to say I would also like them to like it. Is that asking too much? Thank you, I didn't think so either.

Ree Drummond, the author is a great photographer and her writing is well worth reading. I know, who actually reads a cook book, right? Well I did. Start to finish and I smiled through almost all of it.The rest made me laugh out loud. My husband thinks I have officially gone around the bend. He may be right.

A friend directed me towards the Pioneer Woman blog earlier this year and I visit often. It's fun to read and great to look at too. Plus it motivates me to cook, yikes..... did I just say that out loud?

I am so going to try this sometime this weekend. It looks very doable. 

The Pioneer Woman also has a recipe site now called Tasty Kitchen and it is great. It's just starting up but I can see how this will absolutely explode over the next year. It's all that and a bucket of bees. (Bees are my other new favorite but don't tell my husband yet. He thinks it's just a phase I am going through.)

So if you haven't had the chance to check out The Pioneer Woman Blog or her new cookbook yet, I suggest you do. It is well worth the trip and Ree did not pay me to say that. In fact, I seriously doubt she knows I am writing this or will ever find out for that matter. She seems busy.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

To Live and Breathe a Garden

This past summer my husband's niece and her boyfriend scored a job as garden builders and keepers for a saw mill in Montana. This family owned mill wanted to provide farm fresh food to it's employees on a regular basis. The kids are very earth oriented and this was something they dove headlong into. The lived on-site and this was their job everyday all day long.

It gets colder earlier and stays cold later into the spring in Montana, so they concocted ways to extend the season on both ends to accommodate a variety of more tender veggies.


This photo shows the saw mill in the background. The scale of this garden must have been enormous. If they do it next year I may have to go check it out myself. You know I am intrigued by huge gardens.

Here is my mother-in-law, Vonda, and Tracey harvesting something out in the garden. Huge garden to weed.

I had a few rows of beans that were only 10 feet long. I cannot imagine picking beans when you have rows this long. Yikes, what an undertaking.

The number of unique and standard crops was staggering. The kids said that many folks that received the bounty from the harvest didn't know what a lot of it was.

They had drip irrigation which made water conservation much easier. Jesse, Tracy's boyfriend, has done some large scale gardening in the past. These kids are only in their early twenties, it took me till my thirties to even have a grasp of some of the things they did this summer.

They obviously had a successful season. The garden grew with amazing results and I must say I am impressed. It's hard to impress me and they certainly did. If they do it again, I am going to see.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Major Milestone!

Today marks a major milestone on our little farm. We got our first egg! This means many things to me. First, it means I am not a failure at chicken rearing. That's a huge relief! Second, it means that my chickens are progressing as planned and that winter is not going to impede their ability to earn their keep. And third, homegrown breakfast is right around the corner. I am so excited. This picture shows the freshly layed egg in front of a fake egg placed there to teach them where to lay.

I have absolutely no idea who layed the first egg. It could be one of many. About half of the girls show signs of being ready and only one has been singing the 'egg' song that I have heard. They are 21 weeks old today.

I honestly believe it to be this one or one who looks just like her. The Black Austalorps have been the first to vocalize their rediness!

It could also be one of the Barred Rocks, they seem to show the most interest in the nesting boxes. Maybe I need a nursery camera in the hen house to tell me for sure. But that would be what a chicken crazy person would do.  I am not ready for you all to know that about me just yet.

Isn't it a pretty little thing? Perfect, if not a touch on the petite side. But I can't expect huge ones from a brand new layer can I? Poor girl, this must have been startling. I would freak if I all of the sudden layed an egg.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Natural Pest Control

Not three weeks ago we had a day where it was 94F in the afternoon and 34F the next morning. The bugs and critters never know what to think when it happens overnight like that. Everything goes into survival mode and anything can happen.

Here is my newest form of bug control. These ladies can eat their weight in bugs everyday. And tomatoes, but that is another story. I love to watch them forage for good stuff to eat. They eat weed seeds, and probably anything I plant in seed form in the spring. We will have to see how that goes. I may need to fence them out of certain areas.  But for bugs they have been amazing. We finally let them out to free range when they were 11 weeks old and fortunately that has worked well for us. When we finally have eggs they ought to be fantastic and the color of gold.

Having had such crazy and extreme changes in weather has meant gross things like gnats hatched out again when the weather went from 27F to 60F. I would have rather had 40F and kept the gnats at bay. Hard to be outside cleaning things up when you breath those gross little things in. But the chickens have found them and are doing their best to get rid of  them. The gnats coat the trunks of certain trees in my yard and the girls have figured out which ones. Thank goodness. Prizes for the chick who eats the most.

This is not the best picture but you can see strings of the gnats hanging from it. The bark is completely covered in blue bottle gnats and it looks like the tree is crawling. Once is freezes solid and stays that way for a few days again this will all be over. Sad to say I am ready for it to freeze again. Yuck!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Some little something has me so intrigued with beekeeping. Leah, over at The Burbs and the Bees is a beekeeper and I can say with all honesty that she motivates me even more to want to do this. My husband thinks I am nuts. "Just call the local beekeeping company and see if they will store some on our property. There won't be any work on our part that way." Well it's the work aspect that intrigues me so. I want to inspect the hive and see the bees busily at work, improving my environment. Did you know having a backyard beeyard will help to keep this species healthier and intact. They are in trouble in the USA and many crops depend solely on honey bees to polinate the fields. Your food needs them. My food needs them. They will also help my garden look even better next year.

I am 2/3 of the way through the book in the photo and it is nearly a 'can't put down' kind of book for me. I actually thought reading it would quell my curiosity but it has only made it more profound. More to come as my winter research continues. I need to finish this book so I can read the Raising Mini Donkeys book that came in the mail yesterday. Three more weeks until the boys come to their new home! Can't wait.

About This Blog

We started this blog in Feb. of 2009 to help us stay motivated and to track our progess in the garden. We live on 5 acres surrounded by Idaho farmland. We have wildlife galore and are attempting to attract more in the bird catagory. This is our journal. Welcome!


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