Thursday, June 28, 2012

Brown Paper Packages... These are a few of my favorite things!

Though they weren't tied up with string, brown paper packages have been bringing lots of fun and new life to our house lately...

What could this box have in it? It arrived on Tueday

Ooooh! 37 Buff Orpington chicks!

Hatched and immediately shipped, the chicks can live for 24-36 hours on the nutrition they get from eating the yolk of their egg before making their way out.

A delicate little fluff ball.

Much like this one was just two weeks ago. This is one of Blackie's chicks, as featured in this post. Feathering out and growing larger, they are becoming very pretty with speckles of grey, black and brown.

And we are very happy to find that they are non-agressive toward the newest chicks and so we have chicks of four different ages all rooming happily together in the brooder.

Another exciting arrival by post were the seeds for the medicinal herb garden. It's getting a bit of a late start but I'm hoping that they can at least get established even if I am not able to harvest anything this year. Most of them are perennials or self-seeding annuals. See my 2012 Planted list on the right to get an idea of the variety to which I look forward.

Kent and I are also trying our hands at growing mushrooms. Kent has selected trees and cut the logs at the right time of year to innoculate with the fungii. He'll be plugging the logs with Shitake, Blue Pearl and Lion's Mane mushrooms but it will be a year before they'll be growing and ready to enjoy. In the meantime, I requested a countertop mushroom patch. Here are the shitake mushrooms that are already starting to grow. This will produce successive harvests of mushrooms over several months. I can't wait to pick the first mushrooms and immediately use them in dinner. How fun will that be!?

And last, but not least, today's mail brought a new queen bee and her attendants for one of Kent's hives. He added her right away. In a couple of weeks he can check to see how she's settling in.

So many new and exciting things we are learning and experiencing!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bet You Can't Eat Just One

What's crispy, chewy, salty, sweet, peanut-buttery and chocolate?

Her pic, not mine. Mine didn't turn out as picturesque.

These got four thumbs up from the four-man crew at our house tonight.
The pretzels really did stay crunchy and the salt on top was just the perfect touch. I agree with her assessment that you need to give them a bit of a pat down before you bake them.

So go ahead, you know you want to bake them now!

Gardening is Good for the Soul

There is bound to be a lot of entries about gardening on the blog because it's that time of year and gardening is a big deal with us. Looking at then and now pictures or seeing lush green crops in photos is nice but does not convey the full effect of the gardening process.

The hours spent hand howing lime into the soil. Baking in the sun. Drinking greedily from the hose. On your hands and knees digging, planting, weeding, thinning. The well-developed appreciation for the fact that God and not you make these things grow and prosper. Or not. The warmth of the sun and rain in its time is less about what to wear today and more like breathing. It becomes a part of your daily existence. It's a very connected feeling. Connected to the land, the crops, the weather and especially to our dependence on God for all things.

 The wonder at planting something you've never grown before and watching it come up unlike anything you expected. This is buckwheat. Not at all what I thought it might look like.

 The tomato plants that you stripped down to two leaves and and gently buried you realize have now become strong, lovely plants with tomatoes already setting on them.

 Bean teepees. Constructed with hope and expectation soon to be vining

With plants just emerged from the dry seed you placed in the ground

Tiny plants with the promise of large, crisp heads of cabbage,
hard as it is to believe when you put their fragile roots in the soil.

Now straining against their protective covers and looking strong and healthy.

Trust. Hope. Wonder. Gratitude. And so many lessons to be drawn about life.  So much potential in a small dry seed. How stripping branches and burying a plant may seem harsh but actually causes it to be stronger and more fruitful. The net of protection that keeps away the enemies that would devour. The strong framework that gives support to the plant that would otherwise fall on its own.

Life itself began in a garden. Tending the garden was the job God gave to man. Work with God's design and you will be rewarded and amazed. Work against His design and sooner or later you will be humbled. It is hard to feel far from God when one is tending the garden.

A couple weeks ago I realized I was still mourning the loss of fruit on our trees this year. Not a single fruit tree on our property will be producing this year due to a cold snowy spell that happened just as everything began to blossom. Did I believe I was owed a fruit harvest? Last year we reaped that which we did not sow. And while we appreciated it and there are still apples and peaches preserved and dried. Although, or perhaps because, we rely greatly on the produce of our land to supply us for the whole year, it seemed that I felt I was entitled to MY fruit. I asked God to forgive me and determined to thank God, even though "the tree does not blossom".

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither [shall] fruit [be] in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and [there shall be] no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3:17, 18

And now I wonder to myself, Is this how God gives rest even to the trees and vines? Could we see a larger harvest someday in the future because of the loss of harvest now? I can't know but I do know He has a plan and His way is always good. Am I willing to trust His provision even though my own plan has had a wrench thrown into it? Yes. I will.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What are you so happy about?

Yeah, I'm grinning too! It's radish time again!

 And look at this hive... you may at first note that it has a number of  bees on it. Actually, it was covered with them earlier that day. It had been very hot here this past week. The bees were "bearding", Kent tells me. But you might also note the size of that hive. When I first pictured them here on the blog there were two hives of equal size.

Hmmm.... now there are three hives and one is quite large. That's because Kent had to add on to the hive that was brimming with honey and split another that was growing in population. I think he's doing a great job with his new apiary skills.
He also got to try his hand this past week at capturing a swarm. The vagaries of bee swarms being what they are, he did not ultimately succeed in capturing it. However, he gained good experience and confidence by trying. At one point he was 20-25 up a ladder in a tree in the dark to try and gather the bees from where they had clustered for the night. I myself stayed on the ground praying for his safety and convinced that I wouldn't have the nerve myself.

And I also harvested a large crop of brown fur. I was finally able, with Stephanie's assistance, to clip Caleb. The pile of discarded hair was as large as the remaining dog. He actually doesn't look too bad for a home clip job and he seems to feel much better.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

To Everything there is a Season

And this is one of our favorites... Garden time! We've been laboring for some weeks now with tilling, and expansions. Planting and mulching. And we're starting to see things come in very nicely.



Or north side expansion filled mainly with squash family. It is not fenced but our Amish friends tell us that wildlife is not very keen on squash because of it's prickly vines and leaves. We're giving it a try to see if we can let them romp without needing all the protection that we provide to tomatoes and such.


And they are all up now and getting ready to vine... butternut, acorn, hubbard, spaghetti, sweet pie, black beauty, yellow straightneck and watermelon.


And the east expansion from the main garden is our experimental grains and our sweet corn.


The buckwheat is up and lively. The purple barley is not taking off like I had hoped. The sweet corn is doing just fine but we only planted half the space to start, and then planted about two weeks later so that we can have fresh sweet corn over a longer span of time.


I'm sad to say that the two hens pictured just a couple of posts ago... brownie and blackie, along with a lovely white hen, were all snatched from their coop last night. It was a very sad morning to find only three hens remaining along with Bob Jr., a very distraught rooster. We have moved the coop to our side yard, right under our bedroom window and where an exterior motion-sensitive light will come on. I'll have my 22 loaded and I will use deadly force. Kent is also going to procure some traps. I have 36 baby chicks ariving in less than a week and this carnage has got to stop. So if you hear a charp crack and the sound of a tin can tumbling, that'll be me out sharpening my skills.

Gotta run now and get dressed to attend and serve at a home-style wedding. It's a beautiful day for it!

Friday, June 22, 2012

I'm going to my happy place, I'm going to my happy place, I'm.....

I've become convinced that it's nice to have something you like to do that takes you away from everything else. It doesn't have to be literally "away". You can be "away" in your own home. For me creativity takes me away. (And playing piano. And reading a good book. And working in the garden.)Time has no meaning and my focus is entirely on the project at hand, giving my mind and spirit a break from all the other pressing needs around me. I believe I first mentioned my quilt project here.

No, not this one.
(Click on the pic to zoom in and get a look at the pretty embroidered roosters)

Or even this one.

Those are just some lovely things to look at in our fun quilt classroom. There are eight of us in the closs and Carol, our fun and knowledgeable teacher. Two of my favorite hours every month!

In fact, I should have been working on my quilt blocks this evening instead of blogging. I have 16 blocks to do for our July class and each block has 45 pieces. That makes... um... 10 x 45 is 450 plus 6 x 40 is 240 and 6 x 5 is 30.... so... 720 pieces! Yes! Each starched, pressed, pinned, sown, trimmed and pressed again. I made one block so far. It took me 3 hours. So 3 x 15 more blocks is 45 hours of homework. Yikes! I've got to go!


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Chickens, Mr. Tweedy, do not plot!

So children, would you like to play a joke on Auntie Brownie?

 Oh, this ought to be good!

Hello, Dearie! The chicks and I just really needed a holiday...
You don't mind if we stay here with your for awhile? Do you?

They just crack me up.

Sometimes I think I wouldn't mind a dull moment. Most of the time I'm just trying to keep up around here. The chickens alone confound me on a daily basis. There's the crazy egg sitting, co-op style. Then matching nest boxes. Then the orphan chick that seems to throw everything into confusion. It finally gets adopted by the brown hen and then she doesn't seem to want the eggs she's actually been trying to hatch. I am sad to report a fatality of her first hatched chick by the hen herself. Apparently it startled her and looked like an intruder. I'll never understand. And then there is the abduction of one of my favorite hens right out of their coop a couple nights ago. A trail of feathers lead into the woods. I don't think it went well for her, either. And in a week I'll be heading to the post office to pick up another 36 chicks. I guess that means that the fun will keep on rolling. Now if I could just get Babs to knit a possum trap...

*If you don't get my references, then you need to log onto Netflix immediately and request a copy of Chicken Run for your viewing pleasure.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

We're Going to the Dogs

I introduced Caleb to you a bit ago. Kate also got a dog, Anabelle, a chihuahua puppy. Turns out she and Caleb are great playmates. They wrestle around and love to hang out together. He seems to know just how to play with her and she feels like a big dog, you can tell. Here he is sharing his rawhide with her.

And they do go at it!

It's fun to see them play and makes me so pleased to see Caleb tone it down so that he is better matched to Anabelle's abilities. There's a lesson there for all of us.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

On This, Our One Year Anniversary

I can't help but think about the differences between last year and now. Last year at this time we were sleeping on an air-mattress in a house that didn't have heat, hot water, or a working kitchen faucet. Our trucks would not arrive for a few more days. There was so much to do to make our house a home and even more to make the place a homestead. Much of that has been chronicled here over the last year. And at the one-year mark we find ourselves still discovering, learning and growing. We haven't stopped appreciating this place God has planted us.

Just over a week ago we took our pigs to be butchered. Yesterday I got the fat back as requested. The hanging weights of our hogs were 200 and 205 pounds. And for all that, they were very lean. Just 2.5 pounds of leaf lard and 12 pounds of back fat. I asked them to keep them separate because the leaf lard would provide the highest quality rendered lard for baking and the back fat is more for savory cooking tasks.

I cut it into 1/2-inch or so pieces and put it into my cast iron Dutch oven. I used a combination of information from the internet and advice from some Amish friends. It turned out to be easier than I would have thought.

A few hours later and I had pale golden lard. This was supposed to set up to make firm, white, odorless, tasteless lard suitable for baking.

And it did! I'm going to bake some very special pies with the pints of premium lard. The other jars are/will result in less white, somewhat flavored lard. All of it good and healthy. And the cracklins? I don't know. I froze them up and thought I'd look into possible uses for them.

There are some other things abuzz around here, as well. Kent has been developing a new skill. Yesterday he brought home several thousand head of livestock.

He was able to purchase two thriving hives from a gentleman who is retiring from the beekeeping business. A fellow beekeeper went along to help and they drove them home in the pickup.

Kent had prepared a location to recieve the hives and very soon they will need split into four hives to accommodate their swelling numbers. I see honey in our future! But first I see lots of well pollinated garden plants and fruit trees. These hives are a valuable addition to our homestead.

We've come a long way in just one year. I wonder what the next year holds...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Noah's Lark

I've got a friend who has a really cool son, Noah. He's laid up for a bit and could use a laugh. These are random things that have made me smile or laugh. Yes, they are probably copyrighted. No, I'm not looking to make any money or get famous. I just want a teenager to have a better day.

So Noah, here's hoping these give you a chuckle or two. Or at least a smile. Oh, and ask your mom to check her email. I sent a little known passage, as well. My daughter and I have long laughed over and quoted "The Lamentations of the father."

 Get it? Hu's on first?

When things are weighing heavy on you, remember that you've got friends! Some you haven't even met yet. :-)

And here is a fun clip...

Tim Conway and Harvey Korman - "Dentist"

Oh, and here's a joke:

Did you hear about the kid whose mother told him to put on a clean pair of socks every day?
By the end of the week, he couldn't fit his shoes on.
(CouldN"T. I never could tell a joke.)