Sunday, June 30, 2013

God's Plan for us...

Then the Lord said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, 'You must observe my Sabbaths.  This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord who makes you holy.'"

Exodus 31:12-13

Saturday, June 29, 2013

They're Here!!!

My Mommy and Daddy are visiting! They faithfully come every summer for a month all the way to Grand Rapids from Seattle. We love having them here.  When we were renting they stayed at a campground about a mile away from where we lived but now that we have land they just pull their RV around back and hook up to our electricity and water.  We still haven't figured how to hook up sewer but there is another campground about a mile away where they could dump if needed. (We seem to live by campgrounds.)

My mom and dad are continually downsizing and every year they bring more things our way.  This year my mom brought me a wonderful family heirloom... a quilt that my grandmother (my dad's mom) and her sister's worked on with their church in the 1940's.  My dad thinks it was made by the Lutheran Ladies Aux. of Underwood, ND sometime before his family moved to the west coast.  The best part is that my great-aunts and my grandmother have signed it!  I am so pleased to have it and can't wait to pass it down through to the next generation. 

 The quilt
 Aunt Hannah
 Aunt Ida
Grandma (Mrs.  Frieda Schuh)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Read & Write: The Budget Is Tight!

This week I picked up a couple of new books at the library because we are kicking the credit card habit and living within our means and our means are pretty small.  One income and seven people is a practice in severe dollar stretching. Yet, it can be done because we are doing it!

The first pick is Making It: Radical Home Ec. For A Post-Consumer World by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen. The book is divided up into sections; daily needs, weekly needs, monthly needs , seasonal needs and infrastructure (solar cookers, dry toliets, honey extractors).  I'm hoping to find ways to reduce expenditures and if an alternative to shampoo does the job then I'm sold.

My next pick is The Key: How To Write Da** Good Fiction Using The Power Of Myth by James N. Frey.  As we need money, I need to start producing writing that provides income. My first love is fiction so why not harness the power of myth in my novel?

My third pick is a book I already own.  The 2013 Writer's Market Guide.  I am using it to find and enter writing contests and to get my articles, poetry and short stories to the right people and hopefully published.

Of course my writing has to come after everything and everyone else on the homestead so it is a challenge.  But of course, one I welcome. Why not throw one more plate up in the air.

On an ending note... my daughter found out that it costs $175 to participate in our local Homeschool Performing Arts play this year.  Our funds are too tight to contribute to this but she has started a fundraising campaign using Go Fund Me.  If you feel led to help her out you can go here and contribute.  Every dollar helps.

Have an awesome day!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mrs. P Laid An Egg!

That's my girl!  Mrs. P is back to laying!  This afternoon when I went into the barn to check on food and water supplies Mrs. Q ran right up to me as usual but not Mrs. P.  I thought that unusual because Mrs. P is always out to welcome me so I looked around the barn and couldn't find her.  I looked in the yard and couldn't find her.  Then I remembered when I couldn't find Mrs. Q and she turned up in a private corner of the barn laying an egg.  So I went back in and checked in nooks and crannies.  No Mrs. P.  Then I just happened to look under the tractor and there she was. She looked up at me but wouldn't move for me to check for an egg.  When I tried to move her she squawked something fierce and set off Jack and Sawyer a squawking. The noise in the barn was rock concert loud and highly comical.
My son needed to mow the grass so I told him to come out and start the tractor up but not move it.  Surely the sound will scare her and she'll move, right?  NOPE.  She just hunkered down more.  I finally had my son back up very slowly and carefully and only when the tractor wasn't over her anymore did she move.  You should have seen her sass my son for disturbing her nesting place.  But it was good that she was distracted because I was able to swoop down and grab not only her egg but apparently Mrs. Q's too.  I hope this means that she would make a good momma if we want to hatch some chicks. It will be interesting to see where the ladies lay their eggs tomorrow.  I really need to get them a nesting box set up.

On an off note... here is a picture of some of my pantry jewels... strawberry-rhubarb jam!

And while I picked more strawberries today...

...Taylor posed for a family picture with her husband, Tigger, and all their children.

She will always tell you that Tigger is her husband but a couple of days ago she said she wanted to marry Mickey (mouse).  When I asked, "What about Tigger?" , she looked at me strange and said, "You mean I can only marry one!?"  Oh, boy... I sense trouble ahead when she gets older.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Rainy Day Is Welcomed!

I awoke this morning to the glorious sound of thunder rumbling and rain falling.  This was wonderful in two ways;first, it drowned out my two roosters crowing- my normal alarm clock at dawn and second it meant an inside day!  No one needed to mow or weed or pick strawberries.  I only needed to take care of chickens and let's face it... they kinda take care of themselves except for daily food, water and egg collection. (And my little peepers occasionally like to fly to the top of their fencing and sit on it and then fly off the fence into the yard, so I do check on them frequently so as to avoid my garden being eaten by teenage chickens.)

Our rainy day was spent quilting downstairs with homeschool friends and planning for next year's schooling.  My older two daughters and some of their friends have been meeting weekly and bi-weekly for some time making their first quilts.  Today was a daylong push to finish up the projects.  One young lady finished quilting hers today and we got the binding ready to sew up.  Now if my two can finish up their quilting we can bind theirs and shout a "Hurray, we're done!"  At this point in time I don't think any of the girls will take up quilting as a permanent hobby. 

I also spent sometime researching science curriculum for Seven.  She has decided to attend Grand Rapids Community College after graduating (in two years) to earn an associates degree in photography.  Since she is going the college route I need to make sure she has what is needed credit wise so she is eligible for entry.  After looking at what we have already accomplished and what we were planning on doing, science came up as the weak link. We are on track for everything else. She will study biology this year and chemistry next year  (Apologia- I think.) and then we are good. (Provided I can get her through algebra two and geometry.  Math is her downfall.) She will also need to be studying for the ACT.

I had to laugh at Seven when I told her we'd need to do biology in a little more structured format.  She was very concerned that she will have to dissect something.  But I told her not to worry they have computer programs for that now days.  Of course she will still be required to help with the chickens when the time comes.  Not exactly dissection but a close second. Oh, how I wish they had computer programs for that when I was her age.  I was totally freaked out by dissection.  I made my lab partner do the entire thing. Still shuddering about that.  There is a good reason I am not in a medical field other than as a herbalist.  Yuck.

The sun did eventually come out a bit this evening but quilting all day can actually tire a person out.  I did point out to the girls that they should be thankful to live in this time period and in this country or they might be (or have been) sitting in front of sewing machines day in and out getting paid very little for their work. They groaned at the thought and suddenly were very thankful for their current lives.  Perspective is always helpful.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Can't Wait For Cherry Season!

You know why I can't wait for cherry season?  Because then my strawberries will be done.  Now don't get me wrong. I have a love for strawberries and I will appreciate all the hard work my girls and I put in harvesting and prepping them for putting up come say as soon as August but right now I am strawberried out! 

When cherry season comes I will go to my u-pick farm.  Pick as many as I plan to need for pie filling, canning, jam, freezing etc. and then go home and put them up and be done with it.  I will not have to harvest for days on end because I'm unwilling to see any go to waste. This will change in the future of course because we plan on putting in cherry trees but for now I must u-pick off property and be happy for a bit of recovery from those blasted strawberries

Today Andi Rose and I picked for at least two hours and then Seven spent just as much time cleaning and hulling them. Tomorrow we have guests coming over for a quilting day so when we get a chance to pick again on Wednesday I imagine it will take us just as long. I guess the plants are making up for last season's miserable crop.

 Okay, I'm off to bed and hopefully I don't dream of strawberries!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Hiding Out With West Side Story and Tips!

It is nearing 90 degrees today.  The first hot hot day of the year and it is muggy to boot!  I am beating the heat by hiding out downstairs and watching West Side Story with my older girls.  Seven, my oldest daughter, just finished a week of "Show Camp".  It was five days of acting, singing and dance training culminating in a stage performance.  For the singing portion of the performance Seven's age group did Something's Coming and Tonight from West Side Story so when I found the movie at the library I checked it out.  She is quite excited to watch it.  I was going to skip it but the basement is so cool and comfortable. I'm considering this my afternoon siesta!

I had thought that perhaps I would have more time this week but you can tell from my lack of posts that I didn't.  We suspended school for the week for Seven to do her camp but between shuttling her back and forth and yard work and strawberries, I went to bed late and tired every night.

I canned two batches of jam.  Strawberry and strawberry-rhubarb!  I forgot how much work goes into jamming.  It certainly isn't hard but it is time consuming.  Hulling the strawberries, washing jars, boiling lids, cooking the fruit, waiting for the hot water bath to boil. One tip I learned... always have all your jars washed and ready to go before hand.  Don't start your batch while you have jars washing.  The timing just doesn't work out.  Luckily for me I wasn't too far apart with times and I managed to keep my remaining jam warm but not burnt until the last of the jars were ready.

Another tip... when your baker daughter has acting camp and you think you'll help her out by buying her a boxed brownie mix from the supermarket instead of having her do it from scratch as usual... don't!  Chocolate cardboard... that is what we ate.  We are certainly spoiled by yummy baked goods from scratch! 

Tip three... Know why real farmers wear boots not flip flops?  I do... chicken poo is not always solid and can be quite messy. Ask me how I know.  My foot and right flip flop have never been sanitized quite as much as after that fiasco.

Tip four... when one of your "free ranging" chickens is no where to be found check the furthest, darkest reaches of the barn underneath a pile of bikes.  That is where she will have gone to make herself comfortable and lay an egg!  That's right... my Mrs. Q has resumed laying.  Actually all my adult hens are laying again except for Mrs. P but Mrs. P is growing all her feathers back and she is looking quite nice.  She is even changed in rank.  Mrs. Q is under her now.  But they get along just fine.

Here's a question for my readers with more chicken experience then I.  Is it possible for the backside of a chicken to cluck when an egg is getting ready to come out? I could have sworn clucks were coming out of both ends when Mrs. Q was in her corner.

Finally, in making up for the days I didn't blog (Friday's read and write) I'm reading the latest issue of Mother Earth News and have two books I found at Costco to add to my list of books to read: Bootstrapper; A Memoir- From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm by Mardi Jo Link and Tasting and Touring Michigan's Homegrown Food by Jaye Beeler.  I hope I can find them at the library.

Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bubba Gump's Strawberry Co.

Yep, we're in the middle of strawberry season and we are feelin' like Forest Gump.  We've had fresh strawberries, strawberry shortcake, Oat-Fashioned Strawberry Dessert, strawberry ice cream and with today's pick I think the family is finally ready to let me make jam.  So tomorrow I'm jammin'! I believe I have enough for a batch of strawberry-rhubarb jam and just strawberry.  I might even try some syrup making.  I've never made a fruit syrup before. Hmmm....

Anywhoo... I would have never guessed we'd get so many strawberries from our two small patches.  We still have them coming.  We are picking only the ripest and then we let the patches sit for a day and then pick some more the next.  We may not have to u-pick many or at all this year.  (For berries to freeze for smoothies.)

The smallest patch is around two x four feet and is filled with Ever-bearing.  They fruited all through the summer last year.  The larger patch  is around three x fifteen feet and I believe these are June-bearing.  When we moved in last year they were already done.  But both patches are really turning out the berries.  I pull one of the kids out to pick with me because my back gets too sore to do it all alone purely because of the mass of berries and the time it takes to get them all picked.  (I have a new appreciation for migrant workers who do that day after day for very little $$.)

Even the chickens are getting a little jaded about the fruit.  They are getting all the too ripe or bird eaten, or wormy or any other reason that the berries are rejected berries. Tonight we went to put them in for the night there were still berries on the ground that they hadn't finished off.

I'm not complaining though, I have waited with anticipation for these berries and I will enjoy the "fruits" of my labor later this year when the season is done and I have put up berries sitting in my freezer and larder. I'm really trying to get out of the habit of buying things out of season so I know this strawberry window is short.  The it's on to cherries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, apples and tomatoes.  There is also a farm about an hour north of me that does gooseberries, currants and a few other less known fruits.  I may be stopping by pick some of those goodies up.  I can't wait till I have my own.

What are you doing with strawberries and what are you planning on putting up?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Dead Heads and Oil!

For most of the spring I have been working on the vege gardens- planting, weeding, watering etc. but it is evident that my attention (now that everything is in the ground) needs to turn to our flower beds.  They are overrun with "wild flowers/herbs" that aren't supposed to be or weren't planted there. They looked good for a time but now I must do a massive weeding.

I started to today with dead heading my roses.  Most of the trimmings went into the compost pile but there is one particular rose that smells soooooo...... delicious that I take the old petals that I've dead headed and pull them apart to put in a vase.  They smell amazing even after they have dried and turned a bit brown.  I like to think of it as free, natural room fragrance and also "repurposing/reusing because that is, you know, trendy and all that!

I also made time to start my plantain oil.  Plantain is a common herb.  Most men with lawns would call it a weed. How ever is a great external skin soother.  It can also be used internally and eaten but I'm focusing on external right now.  I harvested it very carefully- NOT.  I just ripped the leaves off some of my many plants, took them inside to rinse them, pat them dry and then I let them sit overnight.  (Okay mine sat for a few overnights until I could get to them.) It is important to let them air dry for at least 12 hours to let some of the natural moisture leave them so mold or fungus doesn't grow while steeping. 

Next chop up the herb leaves.  I do not have "mad" knife skills so I just tore mine up.  I put them in a mason jar, poured olive oil over them until they were covered and poured a bit of vodka on top to keep airborne mold at bay.  I covered the jar and shook it and then removed the cover and rubberbanded cheese cloth on the top of it.  Now it will sit on my nice sunny warm kitchen shelf for two weeks to steep.

After it has finished steeping I will strain the herb out (the alcohol will have evaporated out by then) and I will have plantain oil to use for 1st aid and for salves.  Yeah!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

God's Plan For Us- Father's Day

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother"- which is the first commandment with a promise- "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on earth." Fathers do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:1-4

Happy Father's Day everyone!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Little Local Chalk Art

Byron Center Chalk Art Festival!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Read and Write Fridays: Herbs, Strawberries and a Book or Two

I had such glorious plans for yesterday. Plan number one was to pick strawberries and make jam.  Well you would have thought I was the wicked witch.  The looks my family gave me when I showed off my bounty of fresh picked gems and told them it was time to be jammin'... you would have thought I was going to make liver and onions.  I was quickly put in my place and told that a better use would be strawberry shortcake.  My daughter even volunteered to bake the angel food cake.  Okay, fine.  The season did just start. 

Plan number two was to harvest some of my plethora of plantain for use in an herbal salve.  But my day ran amuck and I ran out of time.  (Good thing I didn't try to make jam.)  So today I made it a point to make sure to harvest plantain. Which brings me to my read and write subject:  My current reading and reason why I'm learning that what my husband considers a blight on his lawn is indeed a blessing.

The new copy of Mother Earth Living (Natural Home and Healthy Life) hit the shelves of my local library and I quickly snatched it up. It's a good read but by far the best article in the July/August 2013 issue is Backyard Bounty: 8 Healing Weeds. Dandelion, Chickweed, Sheep Sorrel, Yellow Dock, Plantain (not the banana) Chicory, Burdock and Clover are all covered in the article along with pictures.  It was this article that made me realize all of our "fat grass" as my four year-old calls it is actually plantain and plantain is useful! Score! I also realized that a "grass", for lack of a better word, that I and the kids had noticed was sheep sorrel, also useful.  Of course we have dandelions and clover but we also have chicory in the "back 40".  The only things missing, or I haven't found yet, are burdock and yellow dock.

I also obtained the latest issue of Mary Jane's Farm at the library as well as two books.  One on the writing life called Pen on Fire.  And the newly released 1st novel of Bee Ridgway called The River of No Return.

What are you reading?  What are you writing? What is growing wild on your little piece of the planet?

My harvested plantain
 One of many plantain plants growing on our property. 

 My plantain drying overnight

Sheep Sorel

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Working With What God Gives Me

Just a quick morning post.  Gonna work with the bounty that the Lord has given me today.  I'll be picking strawberries from our two patches and hopefully will secure enough for a batch of strawberry jam or strawberry rhubarb jam.  I also will be infusing some plantain oil today for use in a healing salve in a couple of weeks as well as exploring what else is growing "wild" that I can harvest and use.  (My poor delusional husband calls these things weeds.) I love foraging on my property.  God has so richly blessed us with all we need if we just open our eyes to see it!

What has God given you?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Eggcellent Adventures of Mrs. P and Mrs. Q

I have two defect-ies from my flock of older chickens. You all know about Mrs. P., she's the one that I isolated for awhile in the brooder box because the other chickens pecked a hole in her.  I don't know that I shared about her name though.  She is Mrs. P. because I kept calling her P names but couldn't remember which one I gave her; Prunella, Pricilla, Prim, Primrose, Penelope, Perdita all came out of my mouth at one time so since the P was constant... Mrs. P.

Anywhoo... I put her back in after she healed up only to find her out of the area again and obviously picked on again.  The feathers she had started to re-grow were gone.  I figured that if she was comfortable out in the greater regions of the barn then so be it.  I put out food and water dishes for her and called it good.  The next morning when I went out I was surprised to see she had flown back over the little fence in the barn to roost with the other chickens.  I figured it was her choice, so be it.  But later that day she had left the flock again.  This time she was missing all her feathers on one leg.  Poor thing.  She has not gone back to the flock since. She has left the flock for good of her own choice. She still stays near the others just on the other side of the fence. She will occasionally leave the barn to forage outside but never leaves the vicinity of the barn.  Since I have no gardens near by I'm cool with my free-ranger. She likes to roost on my husband's bike/bike tire or on top of our chipper/shredder.

Mrs. P

Once Mrs. P left, the flock started picking on the next lowest in the order.  So a couple of days later I was not so surprised to find that Mrs. P had a friend who joined her in the free-range of the barn.  Hence Mrs. Q was named.  I like to watch my P's and Q's ;).  I just added more food to the dish and figure if they're happy, I'm happy.  The only problem with Mrs. Q is that she has chosen to roost on the steering wheel of the tractor.  My husband will be displeased with the gifts left on his seat.

Mrs. Q

Chickens certainly do have minds of their own.  Every day brings something new. Before we made some nesting boxes out of old cardboard boxes, the hens didn't like the crates we provided and weren't laying (so we thought).  My husband and Reagan were out in the barn one afternoon and watched one of the hens fly over the barrier fence into the barn and worm her way under a ladder and behind a lawn mower near the side of the barn.  She went and sat down there.  My husband went to retrieve her. (This was before P and Q were free-ranging.) and was surprised to find a stash of eggs- Five total!  Silly chickens!

So now, even though the hens are laying in their new boxes, I still check every nook and cranny in the barn for eggs.  It should be especially fun to find Mrs. P's and Mrs. Q's eggs.  They are not currently laying but perhaps soon.

I also wonder how long till another chicken defects from the flock.  Soon I may have the trouble makers free range and the nice ones get the chicken yard.  My husband keeps finding excuses not to put them on the chopping block.  I'm thinking a chicken pot pie would be nice.

As for my chicks... they are still happily peeping along.  They have trained themselves to go into roost at night so all I have to do is close the door now instead of catching each little chicken, putting them in and having someone stand guard to keep them in until we were done.  Andi Rose even said she heard Snowball, our little rooster, try to crow yesterday.  She said it was not a peep but not a big guy call either.  I'm sorry I missed it.

One of the peepers in the chicken tractor

Reagan takes a selfie while photographing  the chickens!