Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tucked in...

The storm earlier this week drove us to make some moves on animal winter housing.  For whatever numerous reasons there were several things that weren't done.  After several years of mistakes in winterizing the animals we have learned alot...and we still have plenty to learn. 
One thing I had to get used to was the idea that animals (like us) live in more confined ways in the winter. 
We like to support our animals living in a manner that suits their natural tendencies.  We put our hens and meat birds on pasture in the summer.  Our pigs have a large range of woods and pasture three seasons a year.  We use our goats to clear woodland so they always have over an acre of brushy undergrowth they are working on.   The reality is that snow and electric fencing don't really mix too well and animals like the pony require careful turnout in the winter so they don't hurt themselves on icy patches.  Everyone has a decent enough coat (or thick enough skin..and fat) to endure the cold but they also require some decent shelter from stiff winds and wet precipitation.  Basically, being cold is OK, but being wet and cold and drafty is not.  I can relate!  After discussing the whole winter "confinement" matter with several other farmers--who also pasture their meat and dairy critters-- over time, I became more comfy with the  idea of cozying everyone up for the winter.   Plus, by the end of winter, we have a nice huge pile of manure that can go on the gardens!!!
Slowly we worked up to a small list of winter residents that forced us to learn a whole new set of skills and practices.  Right now we are housing:

3 Alpine Dairy Goats
2 Large Black Hogs (sow possibly expecting)
1 medium pony
1 6 month old Dexter heifer
8 laying hens

So there are surely many ways to care for your animals in the winter but I thought I might share how we do it...which is forever the spirit of the ol' Grange Hall.  The way that farmers have been learning, and doing and sharing since the early days of farming.
The hens, per my last post, are living in the lap of luxury in their solar heated hoop house accomodation.

To winterize the goats we use sheep fence (wire 5 inch square mesh) and make a smaller sized corral around their house.  This fence is not electrified and they stay in no problem.  We throw in  evergreen boughs all winter for browse.  They get straw bedding which is deep packed (we dont change it til spring) and they get hay and a little extra grain.

The pigs got moved into a large stall in the barn which they lovingly share.  That gets mucked twice daily and they get some hay bedding which they also munch on. 

The calf is in the next stall over.  She gets tons of hay...mucked daily and ideally brushed daily---trying to make her super tame for milking...thats my goal anyway.  It seems to be going well.

The pony wears a blanket and lives mostly in his stall although he gets walks and turnout into the snowy pasture--which he loves to roll in.  He also gets dengi to supplement his forage diet and help him enjoy eating a little more in the face of declining dental health---oh getting old is tough.

We keep a little NPR or some such on the barn radio to keep everyone company -- and well informed -- and we, so far, have been pretty happy with how everyone is faring this winter.  We finally feel like we have the beginnings of a "system" down.  And we can reasonably afford our grain bill (ahem).

Of course--just when things are getting familiar--your sheep farmer friend calls to lure you with her 12 prospective blue liecester X lambs...just a couple wethers...beauuuuutiful fiber.....easy keepers....OH DEAR!  Are things about to change...again??

The corner...

Last night I came home to find my dear husband had assembled our Christmas gift to ourselves...a bookcase.  We read a lot and so we can never have enough bookcases.  This one had a particular purpose.  The kid's school work collection has grown to enormous proportions and needed a way to organize it better due to a few things Santa left such as...

a microscope...W. has been asking for one for a while now so he can study things.  Santa also left a whole bunch of art supplies (Thank you Stubby Pencil Studio and Soulemama!) My dad has been designing, cutting  and making a special place for those.  I'd love to take you on a tour of our shelves as soon as I get them organized the way I want.

In other news....we are officially NOT taking a vacation.  W. was getting out of sorts when his daily rhythm was disturbed.  He has been begging to do work (same kid that asked for a sweet treat and got a bin of spinach.)  So yesterday I ordered his 1st grade books.

My baby is growing up so fast.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Chez Poulet Redux: Part Deux

Typical our style.  Its 15 degrees..dusk approaching..a nor'easter bearing down on us...and...voila!  We bust out the chicken house in a 3 hour push. 
It aint pretty...but it will do.  The hens are moved in, thanks to my 7 year old chicken catcher.  I would put her up against any 60 year old poultry farmer any day...she's fast, accurate and fearless and she can carry up to 4 hens at a time, upsidedown, two per hand.  She's incredible.

We are already psyched about shortened water and grain hauling trips...
And I am dreaming about slipper-footed runs just steps out the back door to fresh eggs.

salvaged rebar and slab wood and retired 4 year old greenhouse plastic=free chicken house

everyone tucked in for the storm...including us!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Scrumptious Saturday...early: A cup of coffee...Theme and variations

I will not be posting on Saturday for Scrumptious Saturday...
It is Christmas.
So I am posting early.
I love my family.
I enjoy coffee.
Hence my recent comment about my compost heap providing caffeine for the neighborhood scroungers.
All coffee grinds go in to the heap.
A few weeks ago my sister-in-law came over for our traditional Thursday night cooking class. 
As a little treat, we made one of my favorite drinks...

Almond Cold Brew

First you need Cold Brew Coffee

1 c. coarsely ground coffee (as if for a French press)
2 c. cold water
(or a similar ratio)
1 quart jar
cheesecloth, strainer, or coffee filter, French press 
or a combination of the above.

Place coffee and water in a quart jar (yes, all mixed up.) 
Cover and give it a good shake and then let sit for about 6 hours on the counter.
Strain the coffee through the filtering method into another clean jar.
Keeps in the fridge for 2 weeks.

Cold brewing gives you all the caffeine and a smooth taste without all the acid or bitterness and stomach turning parts that make coffee not so delightful.

  • To make regular hot coffee mix in a ratio of 1 part coffee to 3 parts boiling water (alter to your preference.) 
  • Heat straight up for super strong coffee.
  • Mixed with sweetened condensed milk 50/50 it makes what they called Cafe Bon Bon when I was in Spain.
  • To make Almond Cold Brew mix about 1 part cold brew to 4 parts sweetened vanilla almond milk. (I usually use  Blue Diamond Almond Breeze.)
  • Mix one part cold brew, one part chocolate syrup, and 3-4 parts hot milk for a nice mocha.
  • Mix in as some of the liquid for a baked chocolate recipe to make a chocolate espresso item.
What else can you make with Cold Brew?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wordsmith Wednesday

Today I have two shorter picture books that are great for a wide age spread.  Like, at 30-something, I enjoy them as much as my 4 year old.

The first is:

Whale Snow by Debby Dahl Edwardson and illustrated by Annie Patterson

This is a great story about the Inupiat of northern Alaska.  It is a story about community, traditions, food and feelings.  There are so many excellent messages and learnings that can be drawn from these pages--it is a very worthwhile read.  Check out the pronounciation glossary in the back of the book and the amazing watercolors that really capture life on the edge of a frozen ocean.

Lucy's Christmas by Donald Hall and illustrated by Michael McCurdy

Travel back to New England to share this warming story that highlights the strenght of family and the joy of community and simplicity in celebration.  We read this every year and every year mine seem to get more from it.  The joy and excitement of making simple gifts is all wrapped up here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter eggs...

This is our first chicken owning winter that we haven't forced eggs...
and they are getting scarcer than hen's teeth around here.  
We broke down and bought eggs from Frankferd's due to the Christmas cookie baking that went on this weekend...20 dozen cookies for my husband's staff uses up quite a few eggs.  
Let me be the first to say if you buy eggs, they "pale" in comparison to the rich dark yellow eggs of summer.  I love the eggs when the chickens have been eating lots of grass and eggs.  
In winter, we have them in a shed.  We tried to put a run on to the side, but the ground froze before we got a chance. The shed has deep litter composed of hay and leaves from the yard.  We saved a garbage can full of leaves for mid winter when their litter will need a refresher.  
We've been getting a few eggs every day.  I am careful to get them around noon so that they have been layed. but haven't had a chance to freeze. (During a blizzard I had a few days were I couldn't get out there last year, when I went to wash the "naturally refrigerated eggs" they all cracked from being frozen.) 

Summer chores:
Feed Grain
Use the hose to fill up the waterer.
Give Scraps

Winter Chores:
Fill a 5 gallon bucket with hot tap water, one gallon at a time.
Boil a tea kettle full of water.
Lug both down to the shed
Wedge your way in so the chickens don't escape.
Use boiling water to defrost the waterer so that you can open it.
(careful...don't scald the chickens)
It helps if you also manage to bring the scraps to distract the girls from the water.
Use the bucket to fill the waterer.
Fill up the feeder.
Collect eggs
Get out.
While I'm down there, I also dump out the compost which often has animal foot prints around it.
We must have some well caffeinated wildlife around here.

The eggs may not be as dark as the ones in the summer, and a bit more difficult to come by, but they are still better than any egg I've ever bought.  

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sneak Preview....

We are excited to (sort of) announce the culmination of what has been a buzz in our home for a couple years.  Its a project my husband has had on his to-do list...mulling around in his head.   With things on the farm quieting down for the winter and his day job being a little less chaotic, he has been placing himself firmly in front of his development machine to produce what we hope will be a great resource and tool for bloggers-like-us. 
We are going into a "beta" phase and I wanted to invite all of you along, if you like, to join us.  If you would like check it out....

Just log in and create a password and, once you get your invite, you are ready to start "Re:laying" your favorite blog posts or news pieces to share with all of us.  You can also vote on posts.  The most popular posts for the day float to the top of the page. The general theme of the site is "home-centered living" --- there are several subcatagories within to sort your posts.

Anyway--check it out...mess around with it and throw up a post or two if you like.  

We are planning for a REAL Beta Launch after the first of the year so this is the true sneak preview just for you!  We are adding new features every day and tweaking here and there so check back often.  And our apologies in advance if you run into any glitches.  If you would like to give any feedback or suggestions for improvement, logged in users can "contact the squirrels" under your user name.  We'd appreciate it!

Thanks for joining us on this ride.  We are having so much fun with it and we hope you will too!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Scrumptious Saturday

Winter is here.
It's in the cold brisk morning air when I bring boiling water (to defrost the waterer) and hot tap water down to the chickens in the morning.
It's in the snow that falls every day.
It's in the two hour delays that good ole hubby calls in at least once a week.
It's in the bells ringing in front of red kettles outside stores.
Yes, it is here.

And so is gingerbread.
One of my favorite winter treats.

Gingerbread Pancakes
1 c. flour (I use 1/2 all purpose and 1/2 whole wheat)
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 Tbs. sugar

Stir together.

Mix in
1 egg
1 Tbs Molasses
1 c. milk

Heat up the griddle and oil well.  Pour on by the 1/4 cup.  When the edges get bubbly, flip it over and cook for an additional minute or so and serve...oh the toppings...syrup...powdered sugar...blueberries... Which brings me to..

Blueberry gingerbread
1/2 c. butter
1 egg
1.5 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 c. blueberries
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. molasses
2.5 c. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 c. milk
3 Tbs. sugar

Cream the sugar and butter.  Add in the egg and molasses.  Stir in the spices, salt, and baking soda.  Stir in the flour.  Stir in the milk.  Fold in the blueberries.  Pour into a loaf pan and sprinkle with the 3 Tbs sugar.  Bake at 350 for 50 min or so.

I have about 20 pounds of frozen wild Maine blueberries in my freezers. 
Oh how I love these treats!

Again I am sorry about the lack of pictures, but so it goes...

Let me what you cook to remind you of the Holidays.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter Dinner

This is how just about every dinner starts at my house in the winter:

Its really quite amazing the things you can do with these three things.  Stirfry with rice.  Boil and its soup.  My latest favorite is steam in stock and the puree into a yummy sauce that goes over just about anything.   Where would I be without carrots and potatoes??
I must say though, we had some peas from the freezer (which I ration and cherish during the winter) and boy did they taste good!!!  Its the thing about seasonal eating in the northeast.  By the time March rolls around we are really craving the green stuff.  Thankfully due to the hoophouse we are not too far from fresh salad greens at that point. 
But this picture--its something I get pretty used to seeing for the next couple months.  So if anyone has any ideas to share about what to do with carrots, onions, potatoes and the occasional celery...just drop it in the comment box. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Twinkle Twinkle

We started a new unit.  We have been in a bit of an between curriculum levels intermission for the past few weeks.  Focusing on family, home, and the holidays.  We've become a bit informal.  It's amazing me how the kiddos are begging to "do work" in our old more structured way, so I've added some structure by doing a unit study on "Stars."

We've talked about the Christmas Story and how the Star of Bethlehem played a role.
We've read a Scholastic Science Vocabulary Reader about Stars and Constellations.
In the back of the Science Reader, there was a vocabulary section.  We studied what each of the terms were.  Then W. was able to sound out the vocabulary words using the phonics he did for Kindergarten.
W. typed out his vocabulary list for me.  
(I love all the sneaky silent "e" sounds)

Pretty cool I think...
For comprehension I made a read and draw a line to the picture work sheet for him.
We read stories about the constellations from different cultures.
We made a star craft for our front door.
W. then "taught" (as she already knew the song, but it gives W. great pride to teach his sister) C. "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."  They sing it at the top of their lungs in the car wherever we go.

I always have to include some baking into what we are doing.  Today we are going to bake Christmas cookies.  I was thinking of making a bunch of stars and then making a constellation with them.

I just won a prize from Soulemama (yeah, I'm a winner) and chose to get as part of it, an outer space color card set.  You get to color in the card before sending it.  I wonder who the lucky recipient will be?

Sorry about the lack of battery charger broke so I don't have working batteries...oh so is the modern life.  My dad has some really cool old cameras from the pre-digital problem.  Then again, it is so much easier to download pictures.  I'm not sure which side of the progress fence I am on when it comes to pictures...If I want a great picture I am for the old film ones anytime, but for the blog, digital is wonderful...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Its a deliberate choice we make to do things...the "hard" way.  Is the hard way better? 

There must be something better about it, because we keep doing it that way, in the face of an easier path.  We've reasoned that in some cases its better for us.  Eating whole foods that are more laborious to prepare rather than processed foods with their strange ingredient lists and excessive packaging.  In many cases it saves us dollars.  Processing firewood to heat our home and hot water rather than picking up the phone for an oil delivery.  And in some cases, it meets those criteria just feels right.  Making our own cheese, or growing our own vegetables and meat.  All of these things seem pretty accessible and frankly, aren't that difficult.  Despite the extra effort that is involved, we continue to feel compelled.  We find enough value and satisfaction in it that we want to go out there and do it...and we're not alone.

You feel compelled to do it even when it is 95 degrees out, or the mosquitos have started a blood bank, or its sleeting and 20 degrees and the animals need water.  And those are the days that try your choice.  When half of the bucket spills down the back of your boot as you negotiate an icy patch.  When you're drenched in sweat and you still have hundreds of feet of picking left or when you get home from a long day at work and you realize that you didn't meal plan well and any well made dinner is at least an hour or more away and you decide to feed your family eggs with cheese and cut up carrots--again.  Is it still better?  Usually my answer is yes.  But I'm no homestead hero.  I fantasize about heated water buckets and, on a stagnant summer day, I love to sit in front of a big fan.

I know for sure that my husband's farmer-grandparents thought ding dongs and spaghettios were two of life's great inventions.  After baking and cooking your whole life over a wood cookstove, all 4 seasons, for your family and a farm crew, a can of "lunch" on an electric stove and a pre-made cake looked pretty darn good.  Interesting, isn't it.  People that wouldn't consider putting pasturized milk past their lips, mowing down a ho-ho with their raw moo juice.  Ah, progress!

Somehow it seems, all of us that do this, this homesteading stuff, we all draw our own lines.  We're, for the most part, doing it by choice.  The ho-ho's and boyardee are all there for us to take advantage of.  But we find value and satisfaction in another turn.  Despite its challenges, we ultimately decide that the more difficult road gets us to a destination that we consider better, or at least, one that we prefer.  And in each little effort to make one or another part of our lives a little more simple, more basic, we notice that we truly appreciate and are grateful for the access to modern conveniences that we have.  And we use them, mindful of their usefulness.  We love chainsaws and toilet paper.  Stuff like that. 

Which brings me to the greatest recent homestead FREE acquistion that had us hopping with excitement.  With much of our small wheat crop still in shocks in the barn, we were tediously and slowly processing little bits indoors in the evening.  It was beyond ridiculous considering the amount remaining to be done.  ENTER our new-to-us thresher.  
We had seen this nifty little chipper-turned-thresher on the interwebs but never figured that we would acutally find one---and certainly not for a reasonable price, like free. 
The great news is that without any modifications, it works pretty good!  We are still in the initial stagesbut....having done this job "the hard way" , we are definitely appreciating a little help from mother necessity.  And so, feeling a little like my husband's grandparents, we indulge, and plug in the mechanical thresher.  Now let me say that threshing and winnowing wheat at dusk in 20 degree weather while kneeling on frozen ground is a far cry, with regard to ease, from grabbing a bag of flour from the shelf at the store (and I might have mentioned that once or twice as I lost all feeling in my fingers)...but the wheels of "progress" were a-churning.  Ah, progress!

Wheat Berries!!!(and a little chaff)

When W. is working...

C. does her "school" too now.
  In fact she is quite insistent on doing "school."  
She has a deep, breathy, husky voice when she first wakes up.  It sounds like she's been a two pack a day smoker for the past 20 years (a difficult accomplishment in her two years...sometimes I suspect "screamer's nodules.") 
She stands on the top of the stairs and demands,
 "Daddy, I go down stairs!"  
soon followed by, "Mommy, I need water and puzzles."  
In my bleary pre-coffee state, I often mistake her "puzzles" with "pretzels" which is then met with a glare of disapproval when I hand her a pretzel.  Soon, I get with the program and hand her the first puzzle of the day.  Often it will be the getting the bear family dressed puzzle that she wants first thing.  
I think of it as a language tool as well as a matching and sorting puzzle.  
She always matches the bear family to what our family is wearing.  
First thing in the morning, she puts on the bears' jammies.  She then looks at our faces and puts on a face that matches (Baby bear is always so happy...Momma bear is usually yawning, and Daddy bear is looking a bit confused.)  
If she chooses it later in the day you never know what the family will be wearing.  She tells me all about the family she has created.  
Then she asks for another.

 Her current favorite is a wooden alphabet puzzle. 
 She dumps it out, and then finds a letter.  Then she finds where it fits.  Next she sings the alphabet song and points to each hole in the puzzle until she gets to the place where she put the letter in.  She then declares what letter she has inserted.  She has begun memorizing the letters and when she is down to a few, she'll yell "Momma where did MY (letter) go?...Oh there you are silly (letter.)"  
In this way she has taken previous knowledge (the ABC song) and expanded it to create a self correcting puzzle.  It amazes me how she does things sometimes.  Usually she will then move to a jigsaw puzzle.  She narrates the process telling all about which part of the animal she is going to put on, or why the pirates are fighting. 
 In my house, it is rarely quiet.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Scrumptious Saturday

Okay, so it's not really a would even be a stretch to call it a stew...
It's a wonderfully starchy filling meal that feels so good after coming in
from a cold winter day.
We are very fortunate that all the ingredients were grown/raised locally.

Beef Bean Barley Soup
One large beef soup bone (optional)
2 cups sliced carrots
1 large onion 
2 stalks celery
2 more cups assorted veggies
1 cup chopped beef (optional)
1 cup barley 
1 cup mixed lentils (golden and green come in my favorite mix)
Water to cover the items
Simmer the beef bone for about an hour in water that will cover it.  Remove any beef leftovers from the bone and discard (or give to the dog) the bone.  Add in the veggies and beef.  Let simmer until everything is tender.  Bring to a boil and add in the grains.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the grains are tender.
Good for you
What did you make this week?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Some Interesting Links To Look at...or not...

So I have been on the catch up I got to see some fun things.  I am forever losing great ideas, so in order to let you in on some things I like and keep myself organized...without further adieu, I give you some wonderful wintry links:
The Boyfriend Hat- Totally great simple pattern I have begun in a mini version for W.
Homemade Chocolate Syrup- A tasty staple in our house.  From one of my favorite Blogs! Hershey's has nothing on this!
FREE bread cookbook- need I say more?
Barefoot Books- Oh how I love books...
This is soooo cool!- Jan Brett's website...I love her books and she has a FREE calendar for next year with her artwork! I used to to a great month long language lesson unit on The Mitten when I worked in preschools.
I broke down and bought. something similar..$4.99!  Merry Christmas to me.
For the snow day...or any snowy day in our case.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wordsmith Wednesday

I know I am in good company here when I say that I am always on the hunt for a good, high quality, book that will capture the attention of my 7 year old (and preferably my 4 year old at the same time...a girl can wish).  I was thrilled to see an exciting announcement for a regular book review over at Ink Stains...and so I thought rather than just take, take, I would throw my hat into the ring as well and offer up some suggestions from our book baskets.

Today's feature from our homestead bookshelf is The Moomin Series by Tove Jansson.

The series was originally written by Swedish-Finn author...... in Swedish and published in Finland.  Thankfully, the books were translated to English in the 70's and are now sold in the States. 

The series followes the adventures of a family of lovable hippo-like trolls and their sidekicks and family friends as they experience life in Moomin Valley and beyond!  It probes the imagination and uses intelligent syntax but still isn't so overly complex that it loses a young reader.  We are reading the series aloud.   And when I read aloud I really need a book grabs my attention (and holds it) as well.  The characters are fabulously interesting and whimsical and there are several, so it is fun to keep track of them and their quirky ways. 

Excellent read-aloud or read alone for a fluent reader. 

Also, if you are looking for high-quality books for holiday gifts, check out the books published/distributed by Barefoot Books(link in our sidebar).  I have bought their books at our local bookstore in the past and they are always beautiful, high-quality and contain excellent messages and information.  City Sister is now hooked up with them and offering online purchasing through her online store.  Stay tuned for possible giveaways---I guess I will have to recuse myself from any of those due to the family relationship to the giver...drat!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

At last...

I finally had time to put together some pictures from our adventure to Maine to visit with Country Sister and Co. as well as going over the (many) rivers and through the (again many) woods to the grandparents' home.  So sit back and have a vicarious vacation with the sisters.
Friends and Cousins both

Rose Hip Jelly, Cranberry Sauce, Crackers,
and Goat Cheese

Daddy's Little Girl

No Snow Yet

Tractor Rides

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I've been...

a little absent this past week...thanks to my sister for picking up my slack.  My creative evening time has been soaked up by "snuggle me" requests that result in me waking up at 1pm crunched into one of my kids beds.  It's where I was needed most. 
A busy week of work and school and the barn...but thankfully capped off with an amazing day....I went to bed (in my own bed....with the two girls) so grateful for days like this:

1.  The kids were dressed and fed before 7am, on their own!  Good start!

2.  Family drive to school and then a quick stop at the local chainsaw store to drop our VERY old Stihl for a little TLC, and a peek at the shiny new stuff on the shelves.  I know what my husband is putting on his Santa list. 

3.  Having time to make playdough. 

4.  The cleaning time that playdough allows me.

5.  Roasted Long Pie Pumpkin and SEEDS!

5.  A card game and tea with her...

6.  "Mommy, you 'yarn' while I play the piano"

7.  A phonecall with City Sister.

8.  Stopping back at the repair shop to get the bad news about the Stihl.  Oh Santa, I hope the elves can build something, cause the change jar in the laundry room just isnt gonna cut it.

8. Watching my oldest tack up a really big horse and ride....all by herself

9.  Our own chicken for dinner

10.  Family sing-alongs with Daddy on guitar...even my 7 year old can harmonize on this one!!

11.  My oldest teaching us a all a new contra-dance she learned at school (love that music program) to bluegrass Christmas music.

12.  A witch and a fairy burning off the last of the day's energy

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Scrumptious Saturday

Sorry this is a bit late...We had these for lunch Sunday, before we left Maine, so technically it was this week...So without further adieu...  

My dear husband was taken aback when he found out my family had Thanksgiving Dinner in the early afternoon.  He thought Thanksgiving Dinner should be at regular dinner time between no...the main reason being the target of this week's Scrumptious Saturday. (No, I will not show a picture of a turkey dinner with a perfect looking turkey and display of the table.) Soon, he learned the reason we have such an early dinner is so that you can digest a little, have dessert, digest a little more and then have:

(aka a "help me Rhonda")

2 slices of hearty bread, toasted
leftovers from Thanksgiving Dinner
I use:
mashed potatoes
cranberry sauce
congealed gravy
sweet potatoes

Spread gravy and mashed potatoes on one slice of bread.  Spread cranberry sauce on the other.  Stack/spread/mash remaining ingredients on bread. 

It's really sad to admit that sometimes mid year we will roast a turkey breast or a chicken and make all the fixings for dinner so that we will have leftovers for the sandwich of doom.  Especially on years that we do not host Thanksgiving, thus we don't have leftovers, or sandwiches.
It's that good.

I would love to hear about something that you made this week.  Drop a comment, maybe a picture...or link to your Scrumptious Saturday!

What's your favorite leftover turkey recipe?

Friday, December 3, 2010

On the road...again...

The kids are home.
I am not.
I am in Gettysburg...again.
I have some time on my hands over the next few days and figured that I'd write a little as my dear sister does not have the time...
I finally finished C.'s pink hat at 5 am...there was a fire last night down the road.  I couldn't get back to sleep, so I finished it.  How this came from THIS I do not's one of those things that happens between 4 am and 5 am.
I like it.
It reminds me of 2 things.
1) A cupcake
2) The knitted toilet paper cover my 
granny always had covering her spare roll of t.p.

I started it last trip to Gettysburg.
Tore it out the night before Thanksgiving.
I finished it today...
Not to shabby.

I hope my little girl likes it.  I have already started a mini version of the "boyfriend hat" for W.  
He chose some blue variegated yarn as well as some red alpaca wool for a stripe during a shopping trip.
Can't wait to see what that ends up looking like.

In other news, I have spent the last few hours taking a long window shopping walk.  I ended up buying a whole lot of books at a library used book store here...
I can never go past those without buying.

I found something I really like...
maybe I'll have to take hubby to see it.

Most likely I'll have TWO posts tomorrow.  One for our Saturday ritual, and one for just the day...after all, I do have a few days on my hands.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

First Snow...


Seamus (the Irish German Shepard) wanted to put his paw print in too.

Very interesting place to shop.
Look carefully, the birdhouse is for "jail birds."

Tomatoes that never ripened. 

It was our first snow yesterday.  A day of awe and wonder.  We decided to get rested from our long journey and stay at home, doing dishes and laundry, exploring our winter wonderland and "'nuggling." (C. for Snuggling")

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Check this out!

We've put up some pages that link to recipes and educational ideas...check them out! Have a great day!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Not unpacked yet!

Got home last night after the long drive...We unpacked 20 pounds of blueberries right away, as well as the cooler.  Some things will slowly be brought into the house (laundry, garbage, and a matter of other items.) I will post pictures of the holiday soon.  Right now I got to go to work since I was on the road yesterday.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ties that Bind...

Its a little known fact that the City and Country factions are both intense Northern Exposure fans.  INTENSE!  City own the entire series on DVD, which Country borrowed and watched, two glorious episodes a night, last year.  It was a sad day when we finished the last episode.

Last night as we sat around and talked about yurt plans and farmland and knitting patterns and whatnot, we also hailed and reminisced the greatness of the fictitious Cicely Alaska and its interesting residents and their lives which we became intertwined in for a few years. 

It makes me laugh.  For folks that dont have TV and very little time to spare, we stretched our bedtimes each night for a little bit of easy entertainment.  For an escape to Chris in the Morning and Fleichman and Maggie and Holling.  Its weird. 

But if you happen to not find it that wierd....

Today the sun is out...the frost is hard and the critters are fed.  The cousins are still filling the house with yells and laughs and crashes that we dare not investigate.  And there is a kitchen load of dishes awaiting some sister bonding time.

Scrumptious Saturday

Well, here I am at my sister's house after a sleepover party.  What is a sleepover party at this point in our lives.  It's not like when we were little kids, sharing a room having conversations in our sleep.  Our kids now giggle and run and play together.  They are the ones cuddling and telling secrets when they are supposed to be sleeping.  We are the adults talking and sharing time together.  It is a feeding of the soul, and this is what made a scrumptious meal for the soul this week.

I have made some progress on the hat during our feeding of the soul...I ripped out the part of the hat I had started and restarted again.  I started again on different needles and kept on going; not perfect, but that's okay.  So a different type of recipe I give to you.  Spending time doing something relaxing with people who you find interesting. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Momma is busy but...

Since Momma is busy, C. will be helping out today.

Here's a list of things I'm thankful for:
Pink Princess Jammies
Stools so I can reach and "help"
Empty coffee containers
Pink Hats
Basically anything Pink

Happy Thanksgiving
Love, C.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Friends and Family: Thankfully

Yesterday was a timely and keen example of why almost everyday feels a bit like Thanksgiving... It is not just one single day that is filled with an abundance of simple wonders.  So I suppose the first thing I am thankful for is the gift of being able to see the simple things.  To live where, and how, we do;  a slow and deliberate enough life that the greatness of a small gift that flits by in a second doesn't have any less impact than the big ones.
And yesterday the gifts flowed like a river of riches, some obvious, and some hidden.  For example:

A post office trip yeilded a 5 pound box of Organic Cranberries from our dear friend's Cranberry Bog and a beautiful hand-thrown bowl from their potter neighbor!

Left on the porch of the girls' school for me.  Six enormous Long Pie Pumpkins from another great farmer friend that I can't wait to turn into a couple pies today.

I am thankful to have a full day with only the work of home to do and to focus on my family and our togetherness. 
And we can't be any more excited as we anxiously await the arrival of City Sister and family and all of visiting and playing and knitting and cooking and eating that will ensue! 
Well, I am off to turn those cranberries into some sauce...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The calm before the storm...

It is early.  Very early.  My little girl had trouble sleeping last night and needed lots of comfort.  I was unable to get back to sleep so I begin writing.  It's a busy day around here.  The day before we take off to visit with the family for Thanksgiving.  Reminders are being given left and right.
Remember to take the hay out of my car.
Remember to take my car to work.
I'll clean your car while you're at work.
Don't forget to buy chicken feed on your way home.
You're not packed yet...what do you want?

Yesterday was my work day so I was planning on it being very busy so I spent the good part of the weekend in preparations for the big trip.  I did 8 loads of laundry, folded and put them away.  I also packed the kids and myself.  Groceries were purchased for the ride.  I keep putting up mental post-its up by taking things out and putting them by the door.  Rose hips and jelly!  Caffeine!  Mint!  Pear Butter! Books to read!  Feed the Fish!  

I had some cancelled meetings yesterday when I was at work and was able to come home and get things ready for the ride as well.  The little baby chicks were moved to the new shed.  This was a long process for I had to cut tons of wire that was holding the big chicken's cage roosts.  Then I moved the cages to the revamped shed and put the little girls in.  This process took about an hour.  Upon getting home past 7:00PM, the Hubby and I went out and got the big girls and put them in the shed.  The new set up allows for them to see each other, but avoids the nasty hen pecking of the little girls.

I am also so fortunate to be having a friend and her little ones over today.  That will wear the kiddos out so that they are nice and tired tonight.  I want them to go to sleep early tonight so that the grand adventure tomorrow will be a restful one. We're going to cook something yummy!  We always appreciate little treats along the road.  

So I will get to see my family tomorrow!  Country Sis and I are going to have a little knitting lesson, cooking fun, a mad search for the turkey roaster and most likely will laugh until we cry about getting the turkey from the pan to the platter.  

Monday, November 22, 2010

Comfort in Balance

After a long Saturday of getting it all done, I found myself happily engaged in the mundane.  Everyone in the house went to bed by 830 I think, which left me alone with 5 loads of laundry, bills to organize, and a ton of great bluegrass music.  I think I fell in love with bluegrass in college, or maybe just after.  Lots of good memories tied up in it and, there's just something about it that goes right with a wood fire and a simple chore.  So, what I expected to be a slog of an evening turned into a real treat.

Sunday evening was a planned treat.  I have been waiting to fill my yarn coffers for holiday knitting.  Waiting.....somewhat patiently.  Sunday afternoon was a quick trip to the yarn mecca of Maine.  I couldnt even wait for bedtime to cast on.  The oldest pulled out the Mancala board (she's a bit of a shark) and promptly whooped her dad several times while the fish and rice cooked and I stood at the counter counting stitches.  But when they were tucked in, I made myself a nice cup of Chai and curled up on the end of the couch for a spell.  The familiar click of the needles and a little simple math for pattern modification.  Its a sure sign that cold weather is here.  As much as the cold itself really.  Meditative, consistent, and productive.  Cozy hats for my girls and some rejuvinating peace for me. 

The best weekends are the ones where we find that balance.  Where our chores get done and progress is made and we are tired at the end of the day.  But not so tired that we can't enjoy a simple board game, or a knitting project or some good music.  Even if just for a little while, before the heat of the night stoked fires lulls us to rest. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Scrumptious Saturday

Does something scrumptious have to be for dinner?
I don't think so...
Here's my typical breakfast
Homemade Yogurt
Homemade Granola

For the Yogurt
I make 1/2 gallon at a time (makes 1/2 gallon yogurt.)

1/2 Gallon Whole Milk (NOT ULTRA PASTEURIZED!!!)
1/4-1/2 C. Live Culture Yogurt (I used a culture starter the first time around and now save 1/4-1/2 cup for the next recipe)

Heat milk to 185 degrees in a pot (the point at which it starts to foam a little).  Take off heat and put pot in a sink with a little cold water and ice in it so that it cools rapidly (do not put water or ice in pot!)  Cool to 115 degrees. While waiting for it to cool, put a metal cookie sheet on the counter top.  Put a dishtowel on top of the cookie sheet and then an electric heating pad on low.  Get out VERY CLEAN containers (glass works best) that will be big enough to hold the milk (I use 4 pint containers).  Once your milk has cooled to 115 degrees (finger can be put in milk for about 10 seconds) mix in the yogurt in very well with the milk.  Pour into the containers and put tops. Put the containers on top of the heating pad.  Cover the whole cookie sheet, yogurt jars contraption with a blanket.  Let sit with the heating pad on for 6-10 hours (depending on how sour tasting/ thick you want your family likes 7 hour yogurt.)  After incubation is over, put in the fridge overnight (as it cools it will thicken some more.) ENJOY...if you like Greek Style, line a sive with cheesecloth and place over a bowl.  Put yogurt in the sive and refrigerate for a day or two...

I sweeten my yogurt with honey right before serving.  I also top it with...
Homemade Granola
4 C. Oats
6 Tbs butter melted
1/3 C. brown sugar
1/3 C. honey
1/3 C. Wheat Germ
1 Tbs Vanilla
Anything else you like in your granola (I use pecans, but you can use nuts, cocanut, dried fruit)

Melt the butter...mix in vanilla, wheat germ, honey, and brown sugar.  Add in oats and coat well.  Put on 1-2 cookie sheets in a thin layer.  Place in oven at 325 degrees for 10 min. Stir and put any nuts (if using) in with granola...put back in oven for 10 min.  Take out and stir in anything else you want to.  Let cool on the cookie sheet.  Then put in air tight containers, it should stay fresh for about a month.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An unexpected change...

The Dodo did not adapt
When first homeschooling, I needed to feel as if I had it all under control.  I thought it possible to be supermom, teacher mom, clean house mom, and involved in all sorts of things mom...not so much, especially when you add in that I work part time.  I quickly learned that mind frame leads to burnout and frustration on my behalf as well  as the children's.  Instead, we figured out how to work things so they work for us.

Rule 1...all work and no play makes everyone grumpy.
We set a timer for 15-20 min (My dear Charlotte Mason...I love you)
We do the work we allow for that time.
If we are done before the time is out, we can have free time until it beeps (aka mom's cleaning, prep, get stuff done...and W.'s game or play time...C. does what she wants, puzzles, play, coloring etc)
This helps eliminate what Miss. Mason called "dawdle."  I remind W. about dawdle all the time.

Rule 2...Everyone is in this boat together...we all help clean up even if we didn't make the mess.
I quickly got sick of hearing..."but she made the mess," or "I didn't do it."  We are a family and we all help each other.

Rule 3...It doesn't matter if you are right or wrong, what matters is that you do you best and try your hardest.   With W.'s fine motor issues, writing is an issue.  He becomes very frustrated very easily.  We've been doing handwriting without tears, and it is helpful, but I do not expect perfection (although legibility would be nice...W. says he's going to be a "baby in the belly" doctor, so it is fitting his handwriting is horrible.)

Rule 4...Go at your own pace.  everyone is learning here...
C. is learning to focus, W. is learning the 3 R's, I'm learning to be the best I can, and not expect perfection out of myself.

I have learned to let go.  I have learned to adapt. I have lost part of the perfectionist in me.

I slowly am learning how to live in the moment and not try to plan 23 steps down the road...did I say steps, I should say miles.
 I think I am down to about 15 miles.  

All of this in 3 months.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


A not-so-bad fever and headache germ is making its rounds here.  So we are all home today.  My self-motivated montessori 2nd grader is at the table.  She insisted that I print her out a spelling list, a geometry work, math facts, and a writing work.  Seriously. 
The pre-schooler put on music and got herself a snack. 
Its days like this that make me envious of the time that our school gets with my kids.  They get their best hours.  And I get the late afternoon to bedtime hours--which we all know are often challenging and tired times.  And I really don't like envy.  Its a rather yucky and non-thoughtful feeling.

Think about that.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Homeschooling Life...3 months in...

We have been homeschooling in a structured manner (opposed to parenting with learning opportunities) for 3 months now...let me let you in on a big secret...I do not have all the answers.

We constantly revamp the plan.
On a daily basis we fine tune and tweak to see what works.
Informally we will talk and encourage each other.

We started out thinking we'd have a "school" schedule like an institutional school does: Subjects determined by time and day of the week.  Boy were we setting ourselves up with that one.  Instead, we started having W. choose from a list of things he could work on, with a few subjects/projects (math, calendar, phonics, and cleanup) required each day.  We'd go through about a weeks worth of content in a day.  Most of that is due to the curriculum being very repetitious and most of it was about sounds and letters, which we had already learned a lot about naturalistically over the years.  After W. received 5 stickers (one sticker per subject studied) he was able to "play" for the rest of  the day.  Play often was cooking, puzzles, art, shopping or outside play.  I started to think of it as we school in the morning and unschool in the afternoon.

We have almost completed our math and phonics for Kindergarten using the Saxon Curriculum.  While I think it is a great curriculum (lots of review, consistency for predictability, concrete rules for how to do things...) it lacks in imagination and creativity.  We also do not have a science or social studies curriculum...just a plan on what we want to cover this year in those subjects (aka: the curriculum map.)

So here is the newest plan.
1) Finish the Phonics and Math Curriculums
3) Incorporate #2 into the social studies and science we have been ignoring until now (except the incidental learning we encourage.)
4) Celebrate! it's the holiday season...lets make some crafts, explore the world around us, and learn all about the why of celebrations.

In other words: We will use the math and phonics we have learned so far to scaffold learning towards what we have been previously leaving out of our curriculum.

Therefore, I am proposing this above plan for the next 2 months (Mid November to Mid January)  At that time, I think we will re-assess and maybe go into building up our reading and math skills while continuing our journey of discovery.