Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Farm Trouble

 We are slowly trying to build on our sustainable lifestyle, and as you all know we have chickens. Well the last couple of weeks have been very difficult. We recently hatched out our first set of eggs in late June. Last week 6 of the 7 that we had were attacked and eaten out of the coop. We secured what we thought was the weak spots on the coop and run and the next day we discovered that we were wrong and there were other weak areas that needed to be fixed...and lost 3 laying hens. 

While fixing the coop Matt had to chase down a fox in early afternoon that decided to grab one of our hens and try to run off with it. The story of the fox actually has a funny side...our cat chased down the fox too when he saw Matt going after it! Kind of unbelievable, and I wish I had been able to see that. He is a really cool cat, a great mouser, and squirrel hunter! But chasing down a fox...that's pretty cool.

For now we have fixed the weak spots and the chickens are protected again, the one chick we have left has a new friend to keep it company until they are big enough to go into the coop with the others, and we have more eggs in the incubator getting ready to begin a new life. It is really hard to lose chickens, from a financial standpoint, because of all the time, care, energy, food, etc, that we put into raising them, but also because even though they are livestock and have a purpose we really do love them and they each have a distinct personality and being able to watch them grow and provide for us is a really wonderful and enduring trait. Each one is named, each one is loved and each one is remembered. 

In the last few weeks we have also been talking about adding goats, probably just 2, to help with the brush, overgrowth and neglect of the property. We have been here for almost 4 years now and clearing out our overgrown woods is proving to be a very daunting task. We keep toying with the idea of getting help of the furry sort, but losing goats would be so much harder to deal with than losing our chickens. There are so many issues, like fencing, a guard dog, keeping our pets/animals in our yard, keeping other animals out of our yard, and doing it all without killing them or having something kill ours. It is a balance, just like everything else in life.
I don't know what it is about this year, I have seen more wild animals this year than ever before, hawks, owls, squirrels, rabbits, deer, fox...I love nature and love that all these animals are hanging around our house, and woods. It is great to know that our woods are alive. We even have a honey tree! I want to respect and preserve the balance that we have, but I also want to be able to control what lives here.

So in the spirit of balance we have decided to re-home these guys when we catch them instead of killing them. There is a wonderful National Forest not far from our home with lots and lots of place for them to live happily...and I don't feel guilty of cutting his life short.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Helping Hands

I truly love these days, the days that my little ones ask to help out. It doesn't happen often, and when it does it is usually to help out in the kitchen. Most of the time I am too busy, distracted, or frustrated to have them "help" me out, then I feel really bad about not including them. So the other day, while the older two boys were out with friends I decided to let these guys help. No, it wasn't easy and they really didn't listen very well, but they helped, they had fun doing it, and we will be doing it a lot more often. We were making Old Fashioned Banana Cream Pie. They squealed with delight when I told them they would be cutting up the bananas for the pie. The very idea that I allowed them to use a knife was so exciting for them, all of a sudden they grew up before my eyes, concentrated on their task and the seriousness and focus is just too cute. Chores, keeping the house clean, getting the kids to willingly help out and keep the house running smooth has been very difficult over the last few years, so with a new school year just around the corner and me needing to focus on planning.
This day of help has really made me think about how to structure our new year, and lots of hands on learning will be incorporated this year in the form of Home Economics course for all the kids. My husband recently came across a post that recommended 10 minute cleaning sessions which sounded promising in getting them to learn gradually and hopefully begin to, dare I say, enjoy the idea of a clean house. I wish I could remember the site it came from it was a great article. My favorite part was the idea that fun things could be added to the "jar of chores" one might pick 10 minutes of reading instead of a cleaning chore. She wasn't very specific about how many times she did this, but I am thinking that if we could get a total of 30-40 minutes of cleaning per day even if it isn't a perfect 30-40 minutes a day it is better than the close to no cleaning per day that we usually get, right?

We are still working on becoming a family that yells less and loves more and I think that this trial run of restructuring our life will only help to make that a reality. Update: We are still striving to have a week free of yelling and honestly I don't think it has happened yet, but we have had a few days in a row that were free of yelling and any progress is progress. We will keep working...

The Banana Cream Pie was wonderful by the way...and on a side note do you see the amazing bowl of big beautiful tomatoes that came out of our garden.

How do you calmly include your children in daily tasks in your family....

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Pecan Pie

I love pecan pie! It is one of my all time favorites. I used to like making pecan pie too, but my husband didn't like eating the pie that I would make because it wasn't his Grandmother's pie. The regular way was too sweet and sticky to him. So for several years I would try to work on it and figure out the right texture and consistency to make one that we both like. Tonight it finally happened!

Pecan Pie
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 cup of sugar
3 eggs slightly beaten
3/4 cup of corn syrup, honey, or other syrup
2 1/2 cups of ground pecans(I left some larger chunks so that it wasn't too finely ground and had no chunky texture)
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Soften the butter, cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs and blend well. Next add the syrup and vanilla and stir to combine. Stir in the pecans and mix until they are evenly incorporated into the mixture. Pour into the pie shell and cook for 40-45 minutes. When the pie is puffed up it is ready to come out of the oven.

One thing that I did differently was to use brown sugar Rapadura, actually instead of white so the pie is darker in color, and has a little more of a molasses flavor in it.

In the future I would like to experiment with other syrups to see if substituting honey, sorghum, maple, or molasses, would be an option over corn syrup. I know it's still dessert, but if we can make even small adjustments, it will be helpful in our overall health.

This was a great pie! Try it and let me know what you thought...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Chickens: Results from the first hatch.

So here they are! Our new brood. 10 chicks out of 12 eggs all healthy happy and thriving so far. There is one Copper Maran, a couple of Copper Maran/Australorp, a couple of Copper Maran/Easter Egger mixes, and possibly a couple of Copper Maran/mutt chicks. 

The whole group

Sunshine our Copper Maran
Add caption

What projects do you have hatching this summer?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Successful Hatch!

Success! This was our first attempt at incubating eggs. It is/was a very exciting and anxious 21 days! Early this morning our first baby chick was born, and since then at least 3 others have broken their shells. This guy is active, curious and running around the incubator like crazy pecking at everything he sees.

 Most of these should be Olive Eggers. It will be very exciting to see what we end up with. Two are Copper Maran eggs and I really hope these make it through the hatch.

I will post progress over the next couple of days:
We have a poll going in the family on how many eggs will actually hatch. We have 12 total.
Matt 4
Jacob 5
Michelle 6
Noah 7
Nathan 8
Evelyn 10

Evelyn  is very optimistic,  and I am hoping she is right, but I guess I can't count my chickens before they hatch, lol!

Friday, July 5, 2013

New Salad Creation: Fruity Summer Spinach Salad

Tonight's supper lead to the creation of a new salad. It was a really light, yummy summery salad to go with grilled salmon. We don't often eat fish, when we do it is usually a treat. Tonight Matt decided that grilled fish of some sort sounded good. I looked up several recipes for a salad to go along with it for a light side dish and salad was what I thought of, but couldn't find what I I improvised.
There are several salads that have strawberries and spinach and it sounded good so we started with that, then I cut up a couple of peaches threw in some blueberries, added a cucumber and made a dressing with red wine vinegar, poppy seeds, and honey. On top to add texture and crunch I added some toasted pecans. It was sweet, tangy, fruity, and well just plain delicious! It was a great side dish for the fish also.

Fruity Summer Spinach Salad

Fresh Baby Spinach Leaves
1 chopped cucumber
6 chopped strawberries
1-2 peaches
handful or two of blueberries
Broken  Pecan pieces roasted in butter

a little sugar or honey(sweeten to taste)
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
1/4 cup of white grape juice
tablespoon of poppy seeds
1/3 cup of salad oil of choice

Whisk together sugar(honey), red wine vinegar, and grape juice. Slowly add the oil and whisk all the ingredients together, add poppy seeds and pour over salad just before serving.

I think this would also be good with avocado, mango, celery, pears, cranberry, feta, or blue cheese depending on the fruit combinations. Just by adding a couple of different things this salad could be adjusted for lots of meals.

Fire grilled corn, avocado, mango, tomato, fire grilled jalapeno, would make a great southwestern salad(needs a different dressing, will have to work on something)

Pear, strawberry, blue cheese/Gorgonzola, walnuts

Avocado, strawberry, cucumber

This is a great summer salad for whatever is in the refrigerator...I love that kind of cooking!

Experiment and let me know what you come up with...