Thursday, September 30, 2010

The start of something beautiful....

... usually means something ugly.

This is the start of what will be a beautiful chicken coop! It only has supports and a roof so far, but soon it will have a back, nesting boxes, and a couple of roosts for my girls to enjoy the winter in. We are still trying to figure out how to run electric out there for the lamp and water defroster this winter. But aside from that, we are just waiting on funds (we do everything we can in cash, even big projects).

I can't wait to see how it is going to turn out.... and hopefully it will come just about the same time my girls start laying!

signature

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Local Living Days

This is where normally I would post about all the wonderful things I was able to find at market... but today, it is even more local than that! Every bit of this is out of my own back yard!

Most of my garden this year was a failure. I don't say that lightly. I had more failed crops this year than all the other years I have gardened combined. And that has been very hard on me. I have gotten a few zucchinis, some carrots, lettuce, a few cherry tomatoes, peas, herbs, and a few yellow squash out of there... but other than that, my harvest is limited to what you see in this basket. For a whole year. OUCH!

I have to admit though, this is a beautiful basket!! On one side we have sunflowers, jalapeno peppers, our only three ears of corn, and a bunch of dumpling squash. On the other side we have current tomatoes, our own crop of green beans, and a small batch of pesto basil. Hoping the mild weather these last few days will hold so we can get another small batch of basil and green beans like this.

I love gardening, but on years like this it is hard. I have thrown more rain soaked crops, split tomatoes, and rotten squash away than I would ever like to repeat... and the rainy week has not helped my gardening mood. However, I am excited to say that we are looking towards building a hoop house over two of the garden beds, and seeing what we can bring out early next year. It can only get better from here!

signature

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Oh BOY!

Bring out the blue, green, and orange! You 'boy' feelers were right!

It's a boy.

I have very mixed feelings knowing that I won't ever have another girl, but at the same time, excited that Logan and this baby (current top running name 'Trent') will be able to do all those 'boy' things together.

It's funny though... EVERYONE (including me) thought it was a girl. I had my doubts dealing with all the run down sickies these last few weeks (boys are harder on my body), but I still thought it was a good chance that this was a girl. But nope! He's a boy and he's not shy at all.

signature

Tidbits of HomeSchooling

After the drama we have had with our animals again. It has been a week of extra attention for our remaining rabbit, Sophie, while she recovers from her ordeal (which she is, very well). Cyan and Alex have both been spending lots of time out there pampering her. They give her treats from the garden, pet her while she stays in her cage and made her a nesting box so she can keep warm as the days get cooler. (And just in case she does have more babies, perhaps these ones will survive. :) )

This morning I woke to a adorable scene. :) Cyan, reading her rabbit a book about a bunny.

I snuck up on her to take a picture. I only got a couple of shots before she stopped to ask me what I was doing, but wow. It was SO cute!

Our Autumn nature table. Logan was thrilled to be able to help me and add candles to the table today. I picked out books to read from the library, and he enjoyed lighting and then blowing out the candles at dinner time. We collected green acorns in the library parking lot today and came home to add that to our new scene.

What a beautiful time of year it is!

signature

Sunday, September 26, 2010

So anyone want to guess?

In just a couple days we will go for our ultrasound, and we will get to see if we even the gender score in the house or if we tip the scales to the boy side even more. Anyone willing to hazard a guess?

signature

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Little Autumn Celebration

Happy Autumn everyone!

I wish I could say that fall feels a long way off, but we have been in 'fall' weather for weeks now. So it's just the date that felt long in coming. We are celebrating very quietly this year. Normally today is the first day we would bake a batch of our pumpkin muffins or pumpkin bread, but this year is a bit more low key. Tonight we are enjoying a fire and a box of Turkish delights. These are a treat I get each year when traveling with my girl friends to Lake Chelan. About an hour from Chelan is the Liberty Orchard's factory. It is the place where Aplets and Cotlets are born. This year I got to learn a little about where they came from and some of the history of the confections themselves.

Interestingly enough, you won't find anything at the Liberty Orchard's factory labeled "Turkish Delight" but both founders were Turkish and they based their recipes on a Turkish speciality called "Locoum" or "Loukoumi". Apparently, someone in England called them Turkish Delights to make them more marketable to English speaking countries. Still very popular nearly everywhere in the world, these confections have been being made just across the mountains for the last 90 years.

Of course, we are planning on watching Narnia to go along with our 'sweeties', and we may even heat up some fresh apple cider too. Tis the season, after all! Bring on the pumpkins and scarves! :)

Hope everyone is having a beautiful Autumn day!

signature

Feeling a bit bi-polar

I spent most of yesterday being really out of sorts about the whole rabbit thing. I cried, and I brooded, I hugged and hugged and hugged my children. I even took a nap and slept for 2 hours in the middle of the day. Then I woke up this morning to a whole belly of squiggly baby and a phone call to schedule my 21 wk ultrasound. I went to a party this afternoon at a roller rink and got to sit and chat with other knitting mamas as our kids played in the cleanest roller rink I have EVER seen, and have pretty much been in a good mood since. Right now we are getting ready for a celebration of the Autumn seasons official beginning and we are lighting a fire. I am in a great mood. Just feeling a bit bi-polar.

Our male bunny has gone to his new home and we have been pampering Sophie all day long with treats from the garden and she seems to be fine. She may be pregnant again, and for that reason, I am setting Alex to making her real nesting box, although honestly I hope she doesn't have to use it. For now, we are all doing well and thank you for the thoughts and well wishes. I really needed it yesterday, but it seems the healing was done. Farm life sure is interesting sometimes... teaches you all sorts of things you never thought you would need to know.

Blessings for this fall day every one!

signature

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sometimes, on a real farm...

I don't know much about rabbits. We bought these two as pets, not as breeders. We bought two females because they are less hostile being together, and we went primarily off information from one small library book and what the lady at the feed store told us for their care.

About a month ago, the girls started fighting. I thought it was because they were too stimulated because they were close to the house and the kids had been outside playing right next to their cage (which would stress anyone out). I talked to two different people at pet store and feed store about what we were experiencing and they said it sounded like my girls were stressed. So I moved them to a cute little nook in the back of the yard, made sure to give them time on the ground and lots of fresh food from the garden.

The behavior continued. In fact, this last week it got worse.

Realising I knew next to nothing about rabbits, I decided they just didn't get along and I was going to get rid of one. We set up a place that would take Ariel, our smaller orange rabbit (who bites us when stressed too) and had plans to get that done this weekend.

Little did I know, I was asking ALL the wrong questions.

This morning we woke up to a gruesome scene. 9 dead rabbit babies... most of them flung out of the sides of the rabbit cage, and Sophie (our big grey rabbit) sitting in her own pulled out fur at the back of the cage. The second I saw the fur I knew what happened. We don't have two girls. We have a BOY and a girl. Ariel is a boy. And Sophie has been trying SO HARD to get away from him so she could have her babies in peace. She has been fighting and fighting for the last week and we had no idea what for. I seriously thought it was a rabbit personality clash.

I feel so bad. But honestly, how could I have known? Even if I had researched the care of rabbits to the teeth (like I usually do, but I bought pet rabbits. Not farm rabbits.) then how would I ever have guessed that my two female rabbits would have babies? But crap... I feel SO bad for leaving her in there.

So we are healing, again, this morning. And I am really starting to understand why people don't always want the farm life. Some days it can be hard. Really, gut-wrenchingly hard. This one happens to be hardest on me... The kids are fine for the most part. Even Cyan. When I explained it, she held Sophie, wrapped in a towel, for about an hour and a half sitting on the back porch. She fed her clippings from the garden and in time the sweet rabbits whole body melted into the relief of being safe and eating without her tormentor chasing her around the cage. And as Sophie started to relax, so did Cyan. And Cyan seems fine now. No big scars from this one like the chicken deaths. She knows what happened, and why, and now that we are doing something about it, all is right in the farm life world.

Both the older kids still have lots of questions that I can't answer, so I sent Alex down the street to the library to get a bunch of books on rabbit care. We are taking "Ariel" to his new home today, and Sophie is breathing a sigh of relief that she doesn't have to defend anything anymore. As traumatic as it was, it is now over, and she is more content than I have seen her in weeks.

signature


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mama Trip!

I just got back from a three day retreat with my homeschooling mama support group. What an amazing weekend! The entire time we were there it poured rain off and on... so it ended up being a weekend of movies, chatting, and cooking good fall foods. It was blissful!

Weekends like this keep me so filled up with hope for a good school year, and I always come home eager to try new fun things with the kids and confident in my ability that homeschool is the best choice for us. These ladies are my village and I adore them with all my heart. I am so privileged to know each and every one of them.

Of course, for me, going over the mountians couldn't be complete with out stopping at one of Washingtons apple orchards! Beautiful isn't it?

And guess what?? (For Erika and Katie especially) I learned to KNIT!!! I (some how) pick up more stitches than I have any idea how to drop, and my knitting is still CRAZY tight, but I did it... and I have a 10 inch piece of wool cloth to prove it. :) Yep, I stole the kids finger knitting yarn. Today I was a good mama and went out and bought some of my own. I also got two 'in the round' sets of needles and I am excited to say I want to try my own hat for the new baby as soon as I get the hang of casting on.

signature

Saturday, September 18, 2010

How about we make a glass sippy cup?

This sturdy jelly jar has just morphed into the coolest new sippy cup in the world!

You know those ideas you have forever and you just don't know how to pull it off? This was one of those.

I have been trying to figure out how to do this FOREVER! And then, in chatting about the idea to my best friend Sarah (who had been thinking about it as well) she figured that you could just use a drill with a bit large enough for a straw and decided one day just to make one. I had been trying to figure out a completely plastic free way to do it (and I still may eventually) but for now, I am totally thrilled with Sarah's idea and I love that Logan has a to-go cup that isn't made of plastic (he only has one anyhow... because I am mean and he only uses glass at home. lol!)

So enter the tall 10 oz jelly jar. Small top (so it doesn't get mixed in with any of my large top canning jars) and it's the perfect size for kid cup holders! How cool is that?? (Yes, I bought some for Sarah too. Cuz she's brilliant!)

Oh and the best thing about these jars? They have a small 'label spot' which you can use a glass etching kit and etch each kids name right on them. Personalized, non-plastic spill resistant cups that won't take on smells. I don't know that I can get any better.

(If I figure out a plastic free version, I will be sure to post it. Whatever the lid is made of, these babies are going with this set of glass straws (which is what brought up the whole idea in the first place!))

signature

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tomato, Chickpea, and Feta Salad

From front to back: Sweet 100 cherry tomato, Sun Gold cherry tomato, Yellow Pear tomato, White Current tomato, and Sweet Pea tomato. All fresh from the garden and ready to be made into something! The largest one that was ripe was around an inch across. The rainy weather has not really allowed the larger tomatoes to ripen at all, but the cherries are ready to go and any bit of sun we get, I seem to get more cherry tomatoes. And I am not the only one in my area, because in my CSA box, I got two brimming pints of cherry tomatoes. Good thing they are my favorite, because I am kinda swimming in them. ;)

Most CSA's will try to give the customers ideas on how to use the products they send. They will always give recipes with things that are not normally seen in the grocery store, such as Chantrelle Mushrooms and Romanesco (a friend of cauliflower). Having a CSA share is a great way to try new things that would be too tender to ship or are more difficult to grow on large scale. Many farms around here specialize in a few things they grow every year, but you wouldn't find in a store. The farm I worked for grew small chokeless artichokes, Sun Gold tomatoes, a really amazing variety of carrots, and Ozette potatoes (WA only native potato). They were known for these items and people would wait for them each year to come into season.

Since starting this new CSA I have found that they have wonderful recipes along with their shares! This is my newest favorite. I made a triple batch because it stores well, and I plan on taking it to Lake Chelan with me tomorrow for lunch.

Tomato, chickpea, and feta salad

1/4 cup canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

1/2 cup quartered cherry tomatoes (I halved mine)

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 Tbs fresh lemon juice

2 tea olive oil

1 tea dried oregano

Rinse and drain chickpeas. In a bowl combine all ingredients and salt and pepper to taste (shouldn't need much! Just a warning.) Let sit for at least 10 minutes before eating as it gets better when marinated a little bit (but don't let it get warm).

signature

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Review of Mama K's Play Clay

My kids have spent the last two hours playing with this stuff. It smells AMAZING! Even the lavender (which I am not normally fond of in 'fake' smells) smells incredible. Probably because it isn't fake. Each small ball of play dough is infused with essential oils... making it smell great, and also making it safe for the littlest to play with without worry of ingestion and having to use your poison control number. Each color comes in it's own small resealable container with an attached lid. A favorite for this mama who lost a gazillion play dough tops as a kid and was made to search for them for hours. My children will not be scared in that way. (Just kidding Mom!)

The smells she chooses are an aromatherapy in themselves! Sweet Orange, Burgamot, and Lemongrass are a few of the other scents... awww... makes me feel like playing with them. :) Got a thumbs up from all three kids. (Which is quite the age range.)

signature

Monday, September 13, 2010

Update on just about everything...

I'm sorry for the impromptu break! I am, just like everyone else, preoccupied with the start of school. We got several new curriculums this year and I am really enjoying how the first days of 'not back to school' is going for my kids. (I will review curriculums on my homeschool blog.)

I have also been sick for weeks. The cold I wrote about two weeks ago has still hung on (with teeth). It was bad until this last weekend where it switched from a nasty cough that wracked my whole body to a mild chest cold. That, I can handle. Being sick has effected everything though. I haven't been able to plant my fall crops (hoping to get that done this afternoon, but it may be too late to get any yield from it). I haven't been able to get my house ready for school. We just jumped in and hoped for the best (which is working out fine, but not quite what I wanted). And I haven't really been able to go out and do anything lately. We missed the Elk Rut at NW Trek, and the opening of the new Wolf Exhibit at the zoo. We also had to cancel many playdates and even a couple school classes due to being sick. Now that things are almost back to normal, I have been trying hard to catch up. But it isn't always possible to do everything later.

Belly bean is growing well. I now don't fit into any of my clothes although I am not big enough for maternity yet. I am in that wonderful inbetween phase. Just in the last couple weeks, the babe has really become active. Nothing you can tell from the outside yet. It's little jumps and kicks are like a well kept secret that makes me smile at random moments as a reminder that Bean is well and growing. 19 wks now... almost half way there.

I have never been so grateful to have a helpful family. They can not, of course, cover everything I do, but they have really tried to keep up on housework and even started the frame for the winter chicken coop (pictures to come later). Our bitties will be warm and dry come winter and I am excited about a permanent place for them to roost as well as nice new nesting boxes. We have also started letting them free range in the yard a bit and they have LOVED that! We are only weeks away from our first 'farm fresh' eggs and I couldn't be happier with the way our girls are growing!

The garden is growing well, although the abrupt change in the seasons has taken it's toll. Many of my squash have rotted right on their stems due to being damp and wet for too long and the rain has caused many tomatoes to split where many more have not even taken on the hint of pink. I fear that the frost will come long before they are ripe enough for sauce.

My menu binder has been a God send. Really, it's fantastic! I love not having to go to the store and not having to guess about dinner. It has made the world so much simpler to have all of that done in advance, although it seemed to take forever in the planning. But I have 8 full weeks of recipes, set up with grocery lists and suggested sides. It has been wonderful and I can't recommend making one enough.

Ok, that is the update for now. Pictures to come...

signature

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Menu Binder ~ Buying groceries

This step for me has been a no brainier for the past three years. I have worked at/with/for the farmers market for that time and being around the seasonal rotations of food it is easy to see what is in season, what is local, and what you can make with it. Plus, I had to be there each week, so picking up groceries was just part of the day and I usually did it on my lunch break.

When I got pregnant I decided not to work for the market this year and it has caused some major adjustment for me and my household. This has been the year of transformation for me from 'Housewife' to 'Household Manager'. And that's no joke. I am delegating more of my 'work' this year than I EVER have before. My children are getting old enough to really be able to help (even my 3 year old feeds the cats every day). Most of the chores are assigned to someone other than me. I just run the house.

I had to step that up a notch when I got pregnant. I am not a happy pregnant person... the whole process kinda makes me feel like I have the flu, all the time. And on top of that, the 'bullet proof' immune system that most pregnant ladies experience is opposite for me. I catch EVERYTHING and usually worse than those around me. But this wasn't meant to be a whine.... this was meant to be a post on how I now buy groceries.

How? I have them delivered. 90% of my groceries now are delivered to my door. To do this with my local/organic/small company ideals intact took some research, but I think I discovered a way that fits them all... and on top of all that, it may even save me some cash (it has already saved me some garbage).

The two main places I use are Terra Organics and SPUD! Organics. Terra Organics is very much like a CSA, but you are able to order on a week to week basis and add things to your share each week from a small list of local items. I have never been upset with their products. You can choose from several different boxes. I get the Pacific NW produce box each week. Most of the things that are in these boxes (esp this time of year) have traveled less than 100 miles to get to me. Last week I had CA grapes on my list for the week. I just emailed and asked them to sub more apples and pears from WA and cut out the CA grapes. No problem! And that made the entire box from my immediate area.

SPUD! Organics is a grocery chain. But one that is dedicated to organics and local living. It is based in Seattle (about 20 miles from me) and they will tell you exactly how far your groceries have traveled on average with each and every order. You can easily stay under 500 miles (my personal goal for basic groceries) and since the average grocery product travels around 1500 miles in the box stores, that is a HUGE impact on our carbon footprint.

The garbage comment wasn't a joke either. Both of these places use mostly reusable bags, if they use bags at all. My fresh produce is usually loose in a green produce box, and the rest is put in a thermo packed bag, inside a larger grey produce box that has a small bag of dry ice in it to keep things like milk and cheese cold.

Terra Organics is always my first stop, because it is more local. I order potatoes, apples, pears, garlic, and onions from there and build side dishes for menu items with the things that are in my box each week. Then I hit SPUD! for the rest of my groceries.

So far, these two places have made it possible for me to create an almost completely local living menu without having to take time from my other daily's (like homeschooling, cooking, and taking care of myself while making baby bits). I feel wonderfully blessed to have this type of service at my fingertips.

I hope all of this info has helped some of you set up a similar plan for your house. It has been SUCH a blessing for me. With all the things that are going on and especially Alex starting homeschooled High school and me making a baby, I can't tell you what a relief it is to have a good laid plan.

signature

Awww... Alton. I so agree...

"We are fat and sick and dying because we have handed a basic, fundamental and intimate function of life over to corporations. We choose to value our nourishment so little that we entrust it to strangers. This is insanity. Feed yourselves. Feed your loved ones. And for God's sake feed your children."

— Alton Brown

signature

Menu Binder ~ Part 3

Awwww... the grocery lists.

The main thing you need is your list of recipes. Those are the glue that holds this whole plan together. If you have those all set, this part goes really fast.

This part is almost directly taken from Sarah and Heather's menu binders which are outlined here. Sarah sets up her grocery lists by recipe, places it in a Word or Excel, and then separates the shopping list into sections of the grocery store she frequents. For example, there are separate sections for; produce, dairy, natural foods/deli (next to each other in the store), and canned goods/middle isles. This makes it easy to go through the store and know everything you need from each section in the order you would walk the store.

This is what Sarah says about her grocery lists:

Items (are) divided by quantity/item/recipe name so that it is easy to edit out a recipe or multiply it for bulk cooking. Also note that ingredients are organized by dept of the grocery store (my grocery store in the order I walk it, you’ll have to alter it for your own grocery store and habits) .

Another thing that I was inspired to take from her method is putting all of the like items together on the list. In 'Week 2' we need 5 lbs of new potatoes as they are a main part of two separate dishes, and two full heads of garlic. When listing them, I place them directly on top of one another, even though they come from different recipes.

Onions with onions, garlic with garlic, new potatoes with new potatoes... it doesn't matter where they are in the list as long as they are together so when you are in that dept you can grab everything you need for the entire week. After all, the goal is to take less time. ;)

Once you have this part done, you have a workable menu plan that you can start using right away.

A working menu plan note: I found that if I took all of the seasonal recipes I had, it made two more weeks worth of recipes... so they are all in an 8 wk rotation now and when the season is over I'll just skip from "Week 6" back to "Week 1" and I won't have to choose between recipes each week. Simplify... it's all about simplifying right now.

Last step, groceries, coming soon.

signature

Monday, September 06, 2010

$50 whimsical remodel

I do a few of these every year. After all, it is much easier to find $50 than the hundreds (or thousands) for a big project and it can make SUCH a huge difference in how your house looks!

As I recovered from being sick (which I am still doing, but feeling much better. Thank you for the well wishes!), I made all these grand plans to fix things in the house. We have had a few months of crazy things going wrong around here and with being pregnant and all I just haven't had the energy to get to any of it.

This beautiful piece in my living room started out looking pretty much just like this... but the doors only opening to strait out and we needed them to fold back to the sides of the cabinet. I had this grand plan of retrofitting a new set of hinges on this baby and it seemed like SUCH a good idea when we bought it.

However, retrofitting this armoire, omgoodness people... was a HUGE job. The hinges fit completely differently than the old ones, so we had to build new internal supports (that Don stianed the same color) to screw the hinges in to that required me to have more supports for the support bars that I just installed, not to mention counter sunk screws that didn't interfere with the hinges we had picked and that had to be supported without having screw holes through the front of the whole piece.

Then I discovered that the bits that I had put in there were set up to have a recess door that was more 'recessed' than the doors I had on there, so we worked with scrap wood and rulers (like, cut up as shims) to put behind the hinges on the supports to make sure the doors would actually go on.

Then we had to put the doors on, a process requiring way more contortionist tricks than I have tried in months. Many things that required leaning, turning, and sitting all at once while trying to balance a large hand drill with a screw bit that popped off continuously on it and a door with a glass front that was balancing on nothing but two small pieces of wood to keep it in place.

After that though, all that was left to do was sew the curtains and put them up. (Yep! I sewed something!!!) I LOVE this fabric and think it brings such whimsy to the living room, which up until recently has been a warm, but dreary place. Now with the reds and fun fabrics, it's getting all bright and inviting in there. I am really enjoying what all our little projects growing to be.

It was really hard, but the end result is a beautiful armoire that lives in my living room, hiding the fact that I finally gave in and brought the tv back into the house after over a year of not having one. Thank God The Man was in a handy mood... cuz he got his fill of 'handy' and 'handy helper' yesterday! I love my man!

I think it turned out pretty darned cute, too!

signature

Friday, September 03, 2010

Sick

I have been very sick this week. I picked up something that turned into a violent cold/flu that has now turned into a persistent sinus headache. I can feel my body fighting to get me back to rights... but it has been a long, tiring week and I am ready for a break from the sickies.

signature