Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mason jar breakfast

The magic bullet is such a wonderful phenomenon, right?  Who wouldn't be interested in homemade salsa in seconds, or a smoothie you can just blend and take with you in a flash?  You dirty less dishes and get the same end result.  The whole thing seemed genius, but I didn't want to buy it when I had a perfectly good blender in my cupboard.  That's all it really is... a glorified and more convenient blender.

After browsing through Pinterest one day, I saw that someone used a small mouth mason jar with their blender bottom to create their own Magic Bullet!  Genius!  It seemed too good to be true, so I decided to try it.  The article came from one of Martha Stewart's magazines, so if it didn't work, she'd be hearing from me and a lot of other people.  It had to be true! 

Another scientific experiment. 

Who's the genius now?  Well played Martha, well played! 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Independence is great!

Independence is great!

Teaching your own kids to be independent seems like it should be an easy thing to do, right?  Just make them do what they are capable of and they will be positive influences on society in the future (with fingers crossed, of course)!

Yeah right!  What if they "don't want to", or they "can't find" it???  What then?  You have a deadline to be out the door by 7:30 if you want to make the bus by 7:37.  It's 7:29 and she doesn't have her jacket, boots, hat or gloves on.  This is the point where I would typically throw my hands up and say "we'll deal with this another day."  I can't do that anymore.  She's in kindergarten and pitches fits when she can't find things and that tells me we've been doing too much for her.  So, I said (not out loud but in my head) "NOT TODAY!"  I went in the basement with the other two all geared up, got them in their car seats and opened up our garage door.  She knows what that sounds like, so I was convinced it would put a little speed in her step.  Not so much! To make a long story a little shorter, we ended up missing the bus and were 5 minutes late for school.  My little rule follower was marked tardy.  She was so embarrassed. 

I really wish doing things in a timely fashion wasn't so hard for her.  She is such a wonderful kid with so many amazing qualities.  But if I want to shape her into an independent kid, little pushes are necessary, but she makes going against the grain seem like she's the victim in a horror film!  I hate that for her.

While she isn't the fastest kid out there, she is very independent when it comes to reading and writing.  I know I take that for granted most days.  We didn't have to sit down with her and help with words, or finger spacing, or following with her finger.  We started with a Learn to Read series by The Starfall Team when she was 4.5 and she picked it up quickly.  She went to kindergarten, and her vocabulary increased even more.  She is a bright kid.  She reads stories to her brother and sister at night and writes her own thank-you notes.  This year, she even wrote her own letter to santa.  It's quite amazing actually. 

 When she wants to be, she's very independent.  For now, we'll focus on the small victories!  Like the fact that she can tie her shoes!  :)

I love my little pumpkin pants! 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thin shells

As you know, the New Hampshire Ladies are laying now, but one of our ladies has been laying very thin-shelled eggs.  So thin, that when she lays them, they often get cracked on their way out, or as the hen steps out of the roosting bin to mingle with her friends.  

We have tried putting crushed oyster shells in there and have been doing that every other day for about two weeks.  Should we do this more often?  Does that even work?  

What have you all done to help with issues like this?  

Granted, they are fairly young hens.  From what I hear, thin shells are fairly common to new layers.  

What are your thoughts? 

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Country Craftsman

When I was little I fell in love...with chasing my Aunt Ginny's sheep.

I don't know what kind they were, or even if they had fleece (vs. hair sheep which are typically meat sheep.) I loved the woolly smell and their speed, their graceful leaps as they fled the terror that I was.

I also loved "using" my grandmother's spinning wheel.  Much like "loving" sheep..."using" the spinning wheel was more of an abuse on the poor Saxon reproduction my grandmother used "The Country Craftsman."

After much research, I found that they were made by J. Rooney in Littleton Massachusetts.  He researched Saxon spinning wheels after getting home from WWII and began reproducing new wheels based upon ones he saw while in England that were made in the 1500's and 1600's.  He then passed his company to his apprentice.  Once his apprentice retired, the company closed.  My grandmother's is a J. Rooney signed model which apparently makes quite a difference when you go to look for parts.

And recently, I finally found someone who could talk me through the issues it had so it could be fixed to it's former glory...and as a bonus got to "play" in a more mature fashion with an Ashford Traditional...And I made a whole ball of yarn!

So out will come the Old English wood cleaner...and out will come some of my special wood polish.  The company went defunct upon the retirement of it's woodworker, so I ordered a new bobbin from the one and only place that makes reproductions.  In February, it may take a journey back to it's former home to get a tune-up and some further help.  But as the lady who I found that talked me through the wheel's rehab schedule said..."She's a gorgeous old dame, but she sure could use a dermatologist and good hug.  Not too bad for a lady nearing her 50's."

So now I start the process,a thorough cleaning, polishing (I hear the Country Craftsman are very thirsty ladies) and woodworking.  I have set up a corner of my living room for once she starts holding a drive band a bit better and wait until she's going gangbusters yet again.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Stacking wood

This is such a fun time of year for so many reasons.  The kids love the fresh snow fall.  Throwing themselves in it, making snow angels and of course sledding!!  It brings so much joy to their little lives.

It's also, believe it or not, time to start thinking about next years firewood!  J likes to get it green, chainsaw it to the length we prefer, then split and stack it himself.  It needs to be stacked for a good 12 months to ensure it's dry enough to burn efficiently.  We didn't get our wood until May last year, and it's still a little bit damp.  This year, J wants to get a head start on things.  Besides, it's great busy work for him in the winter when he needs to get outdoors and do... well... manly things!  That, and it's much less expensive to do it this way.  You could spend about $250 for one cord of "seasoned" firewood (dried and ready to burn) and pick it up yourself (add $$ if you want it delivered), or you can order about 8 cord of green wood for about $750.  That will save us $1250!  Granted, he has to do all the labor himself, but he actually enjoys this kind of work, so yes sir, I think we'll take it!  We are also lucky enough to share custody of a wood splitter, so if J does all of his chopping this winter, he won't have to worry about it being available to him come Spring, when everyone else wants it.

Stacking wood has started to become one of my favorite things to witness in the winter.  All three kids like helping daddy out with the stacking, but only one of them stays out until the job is done!  That's our big guy.  #3!  He loves doing things just like daddy!
My two boys stacking wood and having fun together makes my heart so warm!  #3 is finally at an age where he is mobile in puffy vests, jackets and pants.  The cold annoys him, but he tolerates it and has fun.  Last year, he would go out and "help" daddy, but it was more like him standing next to a piece of wood and grunt while daddy did all the work.  This year, he actually picks it up...
 and tosses it in!
My big boy is growing up.  J says the stacking doesn't take as long now.  Watch out little guy... daddy might make you do it all on your own next year! 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Peanut butter

I recently got a food processor.  It's something I've been putting off for a long time.  They are expensive, some are large (and heavy) and take up a lot of counter/cabinet space, and other than chop nuts, fruits and vegetables into really small pieces, what else can they do?  The more cooking I did, the more I realize how helpful it would be in my kitchen.  So, I caved and bought one.

Over dinner one night, we started looking at the recipe book it came with and quickly picked out two things we wanted to try making.  The first was banana "ice cream" made with frozen bananas, vanilla and coconut milk.  It was good, but the kids weren't fooled!

The second thing to make was peanut butter (guess who picked that one out?)!  We couldn't do this one right away because we didn't have peanuts on hand.  Once we got the peanuts, I decided to make a scientific experiment out of it.  Well... as complicated of a science experiment that I could handle anyway!  

You see, one of the places we go food shopping has a peanut grinder where you can make your own peanut butter.  Our little two year old thinks it is the most amazing thing out there, aside from his toy dump truck and Lightning McQueen underpants.  Whenever we pull up to the store, he starts with "Mommy, we need peeta-butter??" 

I corralled the kids and explained that we were going to make peanut butter out of peanuts.  You should have seen his face when we turned this:

 into this:

It took some time (about 2 minutes), but they all watched in amazement!  Watching something like that change right in front of them was so much fun!  We don't always have peanuts on hand, but we always have walnuts and almonds.  Homemade walnut/almond butter anyone? 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Hot times in winter

Last fall, I built a hot house out of straw, manure, compost, plastic and pipe.  Now I am reaping the rewards.  I know I am not the only one who craves something fresh and green in the winter.

This morning it was barely above freezing, but with the solar window, I thought that it would be warm enough in the hotbox for the tissues in the chard to be enough above freezing for harvest (thus giving me crisp greens, not frozen soft greens.)  And I was right.

Knife and bag in hand, I made my way to the garden and began cutting the bigger leaves of chard, making sure to leave 1-2 small leaves on each plant for growth and photosynthesis.  This time of year you can clearly see why it is called silverbeet in other parts of the world; large beet like roots were sticking out of the ground.

I ended up with just about a pound of chard after trimming off the larger stems and what is more, I have lots of greens to satisfy that need for green.  Sure, I could go to the store and buy chard ($3 for a bunch of conventional at a local grocery so maybe $10 for a pound of organic rainbow chard) but I like the idea that I am able to do this myself.

I am already in the planning stages for the garden...I think I am going to start some seeds in the house here soon and move the transplants out to the hot house as soon as possible.  Primarily, I will be putting hardy greens out now, but come late February when the sun starts becoming a bit more reliable, maybe some peas and carrots...I can't wait.

Linked to simple lives thursday

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Winter Chickens Revisited

(Last year I wrote a post about keeping chickens in the winter.  It was chosen as a spotlighted post for Simple Lives Thursday and has continued to be a pinterest and blog hit.  I have decided to update some of the info.)

We still do all the things we mentioned water, let them play outside, lock them up well, and deep litter.  We have though added a few things to the mix.

1. Water.
If you want your chickens to lay in the winter they need water.  We find that while the hot water works well, they enjoy going out and eating snow once it has frozen.  They get hot water once a day and if they dawdle  or get thirsty later, they have the choice of eating snow.

2.  Light.
We still do not light our chickens in the winter, but in a connection to #1, I have heard of people who do light their chickens in the winter say that putting the light near the water keeps the water from freezing (as long as you use a bulb that is hot, not a florescent light.)

3. Extra food
We have developed a relationship with a local bar/restaurant.  The chef saves salads that didn't sell, veggies that don't look good, veggie scraps from food prep, pasta past it's prime, and other assorted "stuff" that the chickens like.  The chef is great about putting it in a bucket for us and we just go and pick it up.  The owner is happy because it keeps it out of her dumpster, thus saving her money, the chef likes to see food used, and we get free scraps so it's a win-win-win situation.

We also cut their layer rations with corn the guy at the feed store grows on his farm.  He saves non-gmo corn seeds from year to year and sells corn for deer/birds/animal use at the store.  It's less than layer rations, helps with the cost of feed, helps the chickens have extra calories, and keeps money local with local small farmers...another winning situation.

4. Deep Litter.
This year we put most of our leaves in the coop.  They were nice and dry.  There was a total of about 4 feet of leaves in depth at the height of fall.  Now we have about 6 inches.  They are still dry, fluffy, and really seem to keep the place nice and odorless.  I think soon we'll have to start adding straw, but for now, we are not going to until they need a little more.  The chickens have shredded all the leaves and I think this will be some FAST cooking compost.  When we add scraps, we've been adding them to the inside of the coop.  I have already found some of the scraps decomposing nicely in the bottom of the coop.  I've been looking for the article, but a few months ago, I saw an article about a commercial compost operation that was using chickens to turn, de-seed, and debug compost...if I eventually find it, I'll link to it.

So there you go.  I hope this is a help to anyone new or looking for new ideas about keeping ladies in the yard during the winter!

linked to simple lives thursday