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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mrs. Soup Stays out of the Pot

Last fall Caleb named our chickens by breed. Our barred rock is now affectionately called "Who are you Soup?" I'm not sure where the name came from, maybe from when I was threatening to stew the chickens, but it stuck.

Well, "Who are you Soup?" has earned herself out of the stew pot. We found her nest a couple weeks ago, and she continues to lay eggs in our wagon full of construction garbage. She was even in there Saturday when I went to get a few bags to set out for the trash man, and yes, that is fresh snow in the wagon. (By the way, the trash company is called Country Trash, which I find kind of funny.)

So now a question arises. How long will "Who are you Soup?" continue to lay eggs in the wagon? She has established a great nest, but it is not one we were hoping to keep around. We haven't found the nest spot of "Henny Penny" or "Mr. Vanhowelingen" yet, if there is one. So our little barred rock is our only supplier of eggs.

Maybe we'll get a proper chicken coop built one of these days.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Chicken for Supper

A little over a week ago, while I was eating supper with the kids, a couple stray dogs ended up at our place. Our dog was chained up, and these two were all over her. I couldn't tell if they were being friendly or not, but when they started biting our dog's neck I decided it was time to scare them off.

Since I was holding Isaac I just decided to yell at them through the window. As soon as they heard me they left Sophie alone. It didn't take long for them to turn their attention elsewhere though. One of them caught eye of our red star hen, "Henny Penny", and before I knew it one of the dogs was running across the yard with Henny Penny in its mouth.

Feathers were strewn across the yard, Hannah was in hysterics at the table, and I thought Henny Penny was done for.

I yelled out the window again at the dogs and surprisingly the thief dropped its supper. Even more surprisingly, Henny Penny got up and ran away! She wasn't safe yet though, because the dog that had her turned and started chasing her again.

This time I put Isaac down and went outside. Our wood pile is just in front of our house so I grabbed a weapon and went after the dogs. They didn't seem to mind too much, but Henny Penny - who was wheezing - was able to buy some time and find a hiding spot. The dogs just went and hid under some of our wagons.

I would have liked to stick around to get them off of our property, but I had to be in town to help with our AWANA program. I put Sophie in her kennel and figured the chickens wouldn't be coming out of hiding any time soon. Thankfully, when I got home they were all safe.

These dogs have been back a few times since, and the hens now hide. We are hoping to have our perimeter electric fence up soon, and hopefully that will help with some of the strays.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

No Garden? No Problem!

I'm all about supporting and encouraging others who are beginning their farming journey - we know what it's like! Because of this, I wanted to pass on some contact info for a friend of mine who is starting a CSA. (CSA stands for community supported agriculture where you can buy a subscription and receive fresh produce throughout the growing season.)

The name of their farm is Picket Fence Farm, and they are in Marion Co. as well. Amanda has started up a blog that tells about their journey and also gives information about their CSA.

If you are in the area, love fresh produce, but don't have a garden - check them out. (You can click here to go to their blog.) If you aren't from these parts or if you are from around this are and already have a garden, I encourage you to check out their site anyway to follow their journey and drop some encouragement too.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Whirlwind Construction

Last weekend Ethan and I had made some plans for the upcoming week, but instead we got caught up in a whirlwind of construction. To make a long story short, our house loan was sold and the new bank doesn't want us living in the house during construction. This led to a phone call last Monday saying that we need to have the house done by the end of the month. Keep in mind that we were supposed to have until mid summer to get completed.

Thankfully, my dad had retired at the end of February and had just spent 4 days helping us trim. If we wouldn't have had this done there would have been no way we could get done. And thankfully, my dad is still retired and my parents were able to come again for a few days!

We were able to get quite a bit done with their help. Our mudroom went from completely unfinished to wired, painted and trimmed. I learned how to tile and should have the last wall of the tub/shower done soon. (We need a few more edging tiles.) The last few bits of trim were put up in the house, and some other odd jobs were done as well.

Now that all of the construction is just about complete, I will hopefully get settled in a bit more. I'm planning to do a photo tour when all the boxes are put away. Until then, here's a little sneak peak of the mudroom. We planned it to look like the outside of our house for 3 reasons: 1- So that it doesn't seem like you are officially in the house since it is going to get dirty often with mud and chore clothes. 2- The "rustic red" walls will help hide the dirt that accumulates on mud room walls. 3- We thought it would look cool. :)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Foods I Freeze

A couple posts back I posted about reusing Ziplock bags. These mostly get used for frozen foods so I thought I would post a list of some of my favorite things to freeze. A lot of things that get frozen are leftovers and food that is prepared and ready for cooking (usually made in double batches so I can use one that night and freeze the other). Before I put them in the Ziplock I divide them up into meal sized portions in sandwhich baggies.

Here are some favorites by category:

  • homemade bread
  • cut biscuit dough (rolled and ready to slice in rounds)
  • frozen breadsticks - dough
  • dinner rolls - dough
  • snack breads (pumpkin, banana, strawberry, etc.)
  • cinnamon rolls - ready to bake
  • prebaked homemade pizza crust (these take a 2 gal bag)
Veggies and Fruit:
  • raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, etc.
  • diced celery
  • chopped onions
  • mushed bananas (sale bananas for breads)
  • asparagus
  • green peppers
  • apples
Meat and Cheeses:
  • diced turkey from whole turkeys (for casseroles and soups)
  • ground beef (bought in bulk on when on sale)
  • cooked ground beef (best used in casseroles)
  • cooked diced pot roast (soups, BBQ beef)
  • fried bacon (breakfast casseroles)
  • different types of shredded cheese (bought in bulk when on sale)
  • Sloppy Joe meat
  • homemade pizza slices
  • spaghetti bake
  • beef and homemade noodles
  • BBQ beef
  • lasagna
  • French toast
  • pancakes
  • pizza pockets
  • enchilladas
Sides and Starters:
  • goolash sauce
  • spaghetti sauce
  • pizza sauce
  • refried beans
  • mexican rice
  • Cheese, potato, and ham soup
  • chicken dumpling
  • vegetable beef
  • lentil soup
  • Pasta E Fagioli
  • homemade brownie dough
  • cookie dough - frozen in balls
  • extra frosting
And as far as my other lunch sack storage bags, I have one labeled "plain" for things like cereal for traveling, a "cereal" bag for washed out cereal sacks (basically free wax paper and disposable play-doh, pie making, counter mess making mats), and a "twisties" bag.

So there you go. I'd love to hear what your favorite things to freeze are.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Home Made Wood Bag

In our mudroom we have an indoor woodpile. We use this wood to feed our fire, and then we replenish it so we have dry wood in case it rains. Our wood stove is in the middle of the house, and to get to the mudroom you have to walk around the corner and down the hallway. To fill the stove completely, it takes about 3-4 trips down the hallway, and carrying the wood through the house was making quite a mess.

A few weeks ago I got tired of the mess, and I know Ethan was getting tired of the trips. (He usually brought me the wood, and I built the fire.) I decided to make a wood bag, and it works out quite nicely. It holds enough wood to fill the stove in one trip and keeps wood dirt from being tracked through the house. If we are ambitious enough, we fill it a second time and have it sitting beside the stove ready to feed the fire.

I didn't take pictures of it when I was making it since I barely had enough time to throw it together, but I drew up a rough sketch of what I did.

I used a heavy duck cloth from Walmart (It was 75 % off since they were clearing out their fabric.) and cut out 5 pieces - the handles aren't shown in my drawing.

The base is a long rectangle, wide enough to hold the length of wood our stove holds. The sides are trapazoids, with the base wider than the top. This helps prevents the stack from tipping when the bag is set down. The sides are 9 inches high, making the bag tall enough to hold a stove load of wood. Then I just wrapped the rectangle around the sides, leaving the top open. I attached the handles, and it was done.

It works out great, and I wish I had made it earlier in the season!

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Monday, March 16, 2009

The Great Egg Hunt Continues . . .

Last fall we acquired some chickens from Ethan's Uncle. We have had quite the time with them. If you haven't had a chance to follow along, you can backtrack starting here.

Well, the ups and downs of farm fresh eggs continue. This time we are on a up. Ethan finally was able to get a make shift coop put together a month or so ago. Not too long after we got it set up, he found an egg in it! One problem though . . . it was frozen.

So I got a little hopeful and put a milk crate nest box in their pen. A few days later we found another egg in there - on the ground. No problem though. It was an egg.

Well, that was the last egg that we have seen in weeks, until my parents came. While Ethan and I were at class my mom went to take some garbage to the road for us for trash day. Ethan has a little livestock trailer that we have loaded up with garbage sacks of construction garbage - we feed the garbage truck from this. Well, when my mom went to pull out some bags she found a chicken in the trailer too. And and egg!

We have been checking this spot and the barred rock's twine nest now. It's a keeper for her so far. We have gotten 1/2 dozen eggs from this spot.

So with the longer days, a stolen nest that was found, and hopefully a new chicken coop to come in the spring, we will maybe have "real" eggs again!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Reusing Ziplocks

Yes, I am one of those people that washes Ziplocks! I use them quite often, especially for fresh homemade bread and for freezing food - leftovers, prepared recipe size ingredients, breads and muffins, etc.

Over the years I have refined a system to organize and store these washed Ziplocks so I can keep flavors from mingling and keep foods labeled for freshness.

To start with, the food that goes into the Ziplock is usually in something else like a sandwich baggie. This not only keeps things in usable sizes (so the whole bag doesn't freeze together), but it also cuts down a bit on freezer burn, especially if there is some air space that is hard to work out of the Ziplock. So lets say I dice a bunch of onions to be ready for use in recipes. I will put the diced onions into sandwich baggies, 1/2 cup each. Then these sandwich baggies go into the Ziplock. I know that it would be cheaper to skip the baggies (I don't wash these), but they are quite cheap and I feel their benefit outweighs the cost.

Once I use a Ziplock, I don't switch the type of food that goes in it. This is as much for labeling as it is for freshness. On the label I write the contents of what is going in it and the month and year of the food. When I use everything up from the Ziplock I wash it and put it away. The next time I use it (for the same type of food), I just scribble off the old date and put the new date on.

The way I organize my used Ziplocks has changed a bit. I used to just keep them all together. It got to be hard finding the one I needed since I was getting such a variety of food that I freeze. So now I have them sorted by category in brown paper lunch sacks which are kept in the cupboard. On the bottom of the paper bag I have written what category of Ziplocks are stored in it. When I wash a Ziplock, I just pull out the appropriate brown bag to store it in, and when I need a Ziplock I look in the lunch sack that is labeled for that category.

Now that I type it all out, it sounds a bit complicated. Really, it isn't. I rarely have to buy Ziplocks anymore, and it only takes a second to store and find one. Like I said, the way I do this has changed over the years. I'd love to hear any methods you have.

Maybe for my next post I'll make a list of my categories and what type of things are in them.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Disposable Diaper Tip

If any of you have ever had a newborn in disposable diapers, particularly generic disposable diapers, you have probably experienced what I call a blowout. You know, when the diaper acts more like a chute than a diaper and your baby ends up with a dirty mess covering his or her back. This phenomenon can also happen with older babies too, especially when they are sick.

There are a few ways to avoid this. One is to use cloth diapers with a good cover. Blowouts rarely happen with my babies when they are in cloth. Another is to buy the expensive diapers - the ones that are super stretchy on the top and can get a snug fit. Even though we buy generic, I have received quite a few of the better brands as gifts and have seen blowouts in them as well.

One of the times that I had some expensive diapers cycling through my house, however, I got an idea. These diapers had a little "poo pocket" at the top. it was a little flap that stopped blowouts. So I tried it with my generic diapers, and it works pretty well.

Here's what you do: The first diaper in the photo shows a generic diaper. All you have to do is fold down a bit of the back before you put it on the baby, as shown in the second picture. I'll admit, it doesn't work every time, but it works more than not having it so I'll take it.

Better yet though . . . cloth diapers! :)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Forward Progress

The last few days we have been making progress all across the board. All three of my kids are getting better. Isaac ended up with RSV (which is what the other two probably had), but he got to stay home since his oxygen counts were good. It is nice to have them feeling better now.

My parents have been here since Thursday helping with the house. By the end of today all of the floors should be laid, the upper closet doors on, and the trim around the house in place. Things are really looking nice.

Also, when my parents were on their way here they picked up a washing machine I had located on their route through. For $75 dollars I now have a Whirlpool washing machine with the same drum size and settings as my old one. We picked up a hose clamp, and today I am able to do laundry again!
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