Saturday, December 27, 2008

It's that time again

(Here are the girls in some Ethiopian dresses Frederica bought them! And see the messes they love to make.)

David and Dad are getting us manure. It feels like it's been forever waiting on someone to be able to get some. One of the plus sides of unemployment I guess. Now that the coop is done and Christmas is over and we are almost well again with the exception of me we can track down a source of manure. I teased David about telling the people that I would take all the manure they could give me. It turns out David didn't have to. They were so excited that David had told them we might be able to come back for a second load this afternoon. The man said if his wife knew they wanted this much manure she might take to calling us to come get some. I hope this works out! The last people we dealt with had great manure and a front loader but just couldn't be bothered to answer phones or returns calls except sporadically. David is outside right now unloading the trailer load of manure on our swale.

We have 10 apple trees and 10 blueberry bushes we have heeled in waiting to plant. My Dad has as many blueberry bushes across the street for us and about 7 fig trees. I'd like to come up with some more money to order a few pear trees, autumn olive and mulberry trees as well. Our plans are to turn our large front hill into a kind forest garden. This year I plan to plant the swale in winter squash and watermelon with perennial herbs in between like comfrey. The hill is to be planted in the fruit tree and berry bushes. I plan on planting various herbs and mulching around the base of the trees. And then we want to loosen the soil all over the hill and plant clover and other herbs and nitrogen fixing plants. The soil needs a lot of work in some areas.

Next fall I'd like to get around to planting daffodils and narcissus around the trees as well. Eventually I'd like to fence the area in and let ducks run in it once the plants are more established. They can fertilize it, weed and mow it and lay eggs. And if we plant it right it should provide most of the ducks food. I'd like to put a few bee hives in to pollinate the trees and provide honey.

I hope to go ahead and order the ducks this spring. They might use a chicken/duck tractor versus the coop till we can move them to the front lawn. In the meantime I hope to let the kids herd them to the areas in the woods that hold water and breed mosquitoes. Fintan calls them leaks. We can't sit near one side of the yard in the summer without getting eaten alive. Of course it's the nice shady spots that are mosquito ridden.

We got 3 Americauna hens the other week as well as an Americauna rooster. The rooster is younger than the hens and still has some pin feathers around his face. When we introduced them to the rest of the flock a black Silkie rooster promptly let the new rooster know who was in charge. I don't think it will take the new rooster long to realize that he is actually twice the size of the other roosters and not half grown yet. In the meantime he kind of stands in the corner a lot looking sad and the hens sit in the nesting boxes a lot with their backsides facing out. I hope they come to like it a little better soon! The kids love the blue and green eggs though.

I just finished reading Bill Mollison's Introduction to Permaculture and loved it. I think I like it as much as Gaia's Garden. It had some really wonderful plans and ideas that I hope to implement with the chickens. It will involve having several runs off their coop rather than just the one I had been thinking about. We will rotate the birds access and plant grazing crops for them in the other runs/yards. I have no idea how much light we will have in a lot of the yards for planting. Our plans for that part of our acre still involve a lot of thinning of the woods. But we could at least plant things like lettuce and buckwheat. The greens would supplement the chickens diet. Their manure would fertilize the soil in preparation for the next crop.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Straw and stuff!

You can see the new feeder and waterer here. That is Robin Hood in the background making a landing.

This is Loud Mouth. He was a very bossy busy little guy from the beginning always very alert to checking out what's going on. He has a little harem of two Porcelain d' Uccle hens, Tiny and Tick. They are all really tiny. The smallest of all our birds. Even more so than the other D' Uccles. I am not sure if that is typical or not.

This is the left side of the coop as you come in the door. They love all the straw! The entire coop is roofed but the left side only has the wire between the studs as you can see. We will eventually totally enclose it once we get around to putting in a large run. But I didn't want to have it fully enclosed before we had a run done.

This is Click and Clack. We really don't need two Golden Necked d' Uccle roosters. However they are really cute. They are always together. I don't know how they figured out from the beginning that they look the same but they did and they like to hang out.

We have a coop!

It's finally finished. Yippee! We just need to go buy some straw and some better feeders suited to a large coop. It took a while to transfer them all and coax them in. But they love it. Oh, and it's snowing today! The chickens are cold. I can't wait to fill all those nest boxes with straw.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A long cold winter?

In The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pa told Laura how they could expect a long cold winter when they came across the biggest muskrat house he had ever seen. He said the animals always knew what was coming. Right now our squirrels are working frantically all day to bury acorns all over our lawn and garden. My Dad has noticed it at his house as well. Fintan even made a squirrel feeder. He cut out a rectangle in an empty cream container and filled it with acorns and set it up on a log for the squirrels. It's really amusing to watch. I'll look out the kitchen window to see one eying the house before and while burying his loot. They seem genuinely concerned about us catching them or knowing where they are storing all their acorns.

I am fairly confident we won't have to scour the yard this winter for their acorns though. I have been working this past few months to put aside our own food for the winter. We have canned food and dried food from the garden and stocked up from the store and Farmer's Market. It's really helped with David's job loss to have a full pantry to help with grocery expenses.

Last night David made some curry. I asked him about one of the ingredients because it looked like apple slices in it but it was my dried eggplant. We were both really impressed with it! I had been thinking that I was not going to bother planting eggplant next year because I just can't think of a lot of ways to eat it fresh. But I started slicing and drying them this summer because I hated to see them go to waste. I am so glad I did. They really added something special to the curry with their taste and their texture. We had chicken in our curry but we could definitely make a vegetarian curry and not miss the meat all that much if at all.

We didn't appreciate the tomatillos that I planted all that much either till the end of the summer when we realized what a great salsa verde we could make with them. They are definitely being planted next year as well. I was pretty disappointed that the purple tomatillos weren't really purple. Only a handful ever turned purple and I know I was very careful about keeping track of them seperately from the green tomatillos.

So how are your squirrels acting?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Baking Day

We are grinding our wheat and baking the bread..for those in the family who can eat wheat. We have a Country Living Grain Mill that David attached to the counter. We got it years ago but never used it much because it really needs to be firmly attached to something very sturdy to be able to use it and it's time consuming and exhausting.

He ground about a gallon and a half of flour and that was enough for me to make 6 loaves of bread, 2 1/2 dozen bread rolls and 2 full size loaves of banana bread. We also made 2 dozen gluten free sweet potato muffins this morning. Here is a picture of the yeast bread and rolls. I didn't have a big enough bowl to mix up the bread and rolls so I tried making a giant pile of flour directly on the counter and slowly mixing in the liquid ingredients. I am not sure if that was really easier. I am hoping I can stretch this out over the week. I need to make some gluten free banana bread once we get the kitchen all carefully cleaned up. 5 small children really eat a LOT of food.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Juice Feast Update

Just thought I should update. I finished up 5 days and then ate only raw food for 2 more. I feel pretty good!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Day 5

I am having this delicious juice right now. It's exactly what I wanted for a break from sweet. It's tomatoes, celery, cilantro, jalapeno, garlic with a little salt and cumin. Mmm I love Mexican food and this is my substitute. I don't think there is any way to juice avocado though. It's a pity. The tomatoes and jalapenos are from our garden too.

I feel good. A little tired off and on. But still light and full of energy most of the time.

I had really wanted to go to the Dekalb Farmer's Market today after Liturgy but can't. We can't even make it to Liturgy. We have no gas. Well we have some but only enough to get around to places immediate to us. When my Dad picked us up at the airport last Monday he had to siphon gas out of his boat and added a little ethanol to it and put that in our van. It sounds like our town is one of the worst affected from gas shortages in our area. There is one gas station in town open right now and the line is backed up down the highway. Each day someone else has a little gas and they sell out in a few hours.

David get's to work because he drives a different car to and from work and people are supposed to return the tank full when they return a car. Lately they have had some people not returning it full and not bothered by the idea that they will be charged $5.50 a gallon to refill it. Why not? That's only a dollar more a gallon than the going rate right now in our town and they don't have to hunt down a gas station and wait in line to fill it either. No, David had to do that Saturday morning so someone would even be able to rent one of the cars. It just hard to believe that when David moved here about 10 years ago that gas was UNDER a dollar a gallon!

So I guess we are lazy. Neither of us has any interest in him going out and spending the morning waiting in line for gas hoping to get some. We will refill the van when it gets easier. In the meantime he can get to and from work. My Dad has a job down in Atlanta right now so he can fill up his own tank down there when he goes. And he is going right by the Dekalb Farmer's Market and I can give him our grocery list and he can get some stuff this week. Here come the bushel of apples and 25 lb bag of juicing carrots! It's the cheapest place to buy any of this stuff. The problem is there is no where to really store large bags and boxes of bulk food. I have a 50 lb bag of potatoes and a 50 lb bag of onions on the kitchen floor right now, right next to a 6 gallon bucket of brown rice.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Day 3

We still have 27 chickens. Yay! I am amazed they all survived.

I felt like I was getting mastitis yesterday. I had breast pain, aches and chills and a low grade fever but it only lasted about 8 hours. (I initially wrote 8 years. *snort*) I am so relieved I am ok now. I was not going to quit the juice feast because of that but wasn't looking forward to doing it while sick either. I wonder if it had anything to do with whatever I had being so short lived.

I went and weeded in the garden today. I haven't done much out there in a few weeks. I hope to get some fall vegetables planted this weekend. I really really appreciate the areas that were totally mulched. I have so little weeding to do there. It's really great for lazy gardeners.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Day 2 and the chickens

I feel grrreat! I got up this morning with plenty of energy but some sinus yuck. I went ahead and juiced 3 quarts of juice for the day first thing this morning. It took like 55 min. I am surprised. Maybe I timed it wrong? I was just grateful I had time to make it and drink a quart before anyone woke up. I won't try drinking a whole quart at once again though.

I had at least a gallon of juice yesterday and 2 glasses of beet kvass. This morning I juiced 3 quarts of juice and that was several pounds of apples and carrots, a whole thing of celery (what is that called?), 2 large cucumbers, a bunch of parsley and half a cabbage. I plan on having more kvass. I love the sour taste in contrast to the sweet of the juice. I just love beet kvass though. I also did some exercise and dry brushing this morning as well. I like how good the dry brushing makes my skin feel. So far I am not really hungry. I do notice when I go too long before drinking some more juice. I get cranky. That's typical for me.

I am going to see about making some juice and lactofermenting it for a couple of days before drinking it. Some people on a list I am on have done that. I want to check out the recommendations for how to do it though. I really like sour drinks. All greens without sweets like apple and carrot are just gag worthy and impossible to get down. It feels awful in the back of your throat. I think maybe fermenting it will change that.

The boys left the side doors off two chicken tractors last night. There is a pile of feathers next to one. We need to count them and see who survived. There are still a ton of them out of there of course. I don't think too many can be missing. These were large openings so that gave them more of an opportunity to run off into the woods at night rather than be cornered in the tractor. At least we still have both our Buff Orpingtons. Of course the tractor that got closed fully is the bachelor pad full of roosters!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Starting a Juice Fast/Feast

I am starting a juice feast today. I have juiced before and felt so good. The longest I have ever juice fasted before was 10 days. I remember feeling great but just the idea that I hadn't had solid foods in that long a period of time made me nervous and I was afraid to continue. I have done some reading though of people going much longer periods of time and I feel far less concerned knowing others have done it and not just survived but thrived.

I really need to turn around my diet fully and lose weight. The more unhealthy food I eat the more I crave it. I did some reading a while back and learned that celiacs is one of the main causes of the hyperparathyroidism I had. I have known I am sensitive to gluten for probably about 7 years now. But I still struggle to fully cut gluten out of my diet. And recently I started having these disconcerting stomach pains. It was in my upper left abdomen. It wasn't too painful just a constant feeling of being swollen, sore and uncomfortable and then at times uncomfortable enough that I couldn't bend or lean forward and just needed to lay down and rest. When I was laying on my stomach or side it felt almost like I was laying on something. I found that being as strict as possible about cutting all gluten out eliminated the pain and discomfort.

So I am an all or nothing kind of person. The better I eat the better I feel. And right now I feel really motivated to do this. I ate all raw yesterday till I had some cooked vegetables and tortilla chips for dinner. I got up about 6:30 am today and started my coffee and checked my email. I felt good though. I didn't feel like I just couldn't function till I had my coffee. I ended up just not drinking any. I made myself a pint of juice at 8:30 am and decided to just stick with that.

I hope posting this will keep me motivated. I am not sure how long I plan to go though. I'll decide later. My goal is at least a gallon of juice every day and a tbsp or so of coconut oil. I wouldn't worry about 1,500 calories of junk so I don't know why the idea of 1,500 calories or thereabouts in the form of fresh juice seems so odd. I guess because it's so different. But a gallon of carrot juice is 1,510 calories. I think I'll survive.

Monday, September 1, 2008

First day of school AND liturgical year!

Today was our first day of school for St John Chrysostom Academy and the start of the liturgical year. Unfortunately when I got up I heard Isaac crying at 5:30 this morning. He had a fever and had had a "..sad dream. No, a terrible dream!" He is mostly on bed rest today but has done some school regardless.

The day has gone really well. After we finished school and lunch the children did a procession around the house and garden and we sang the Troparia of the Cross. The kids were up late last night making the processional cross and had so much fun. "bang bang bang bang bang bang bang" Then we came inside and had a first day of school cake. It was so good! You would never have guessed it was gluten free with a Splenda sweetened frosting.

I learned that I can do this just fine. All I need is one extra person around to help cook, clean and watch the little ones. Reassuring huh? David was home of course because it's Labor Day. It made it all go so smoothly. I kept thinking about how differently what we were doing would be going if David hadn't take the screaming Emmeline off. She did come in handy though. We used her as an example of the flesh today while reading the Prologue as she threw herself down on the floor and wailed over something.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

See hawk.

See hawk fly.

See hawk fly from chicken coop.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hummingbirds visit

There were two of them but they were so fast! The kitchen table is in the way and I didn't have enough time to run from one side to the next before they were gone.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The boys' haul today

It just makes them giddy to pick all this! LOL That's corn, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, tomatillo, okra, zucchini, cucumber and summer squash.

This is a picture David Benjamin took of where some evil chickens have eaten a small butternut squash. They have destroyed several of them.

Look at the cantaloupe hugelkultur bed. You almost can't see the sad one on the left. The big bed is full of baby cantaloupe. We have one about four inches in length already. Can you believe how fast it has grown just since I posted the last picture of it?

I have dug several new beds today. It kind of looks like we are about to bury people doesn't it? We are zoned for burial actually....

These are some blackeyed peas. I can't wait to eat some of our own blackeyed peas. It really is so much fun gardening with the kids. They are begging for more spots to plant stuff. I only planted that corn and cantaloupe up there for Isaac. The garden just keeps on spreading.

Oh, I can't forget to include the pumpkins David Benjamin picked out. We have one vine that has grown through some shrubs behind a retaining wall back of the pumpkin bed. And this is well past where I planted the pumpkins. The seed packet failed to say how long the vines would get probably because no one would buy them if they knew ahead of time! Anyway, the vine is still growing out on the driveway now. And a large pumpkin is now sitting on top of the metal trashcan! Here they are showing off one of the pumpkins. We have quite a few but this was the first to turn orange.

This is the vine coming through the shrubs and on to the driveway. The vine is coming from an area about 4 feet off the ground.

And here is the pumpkin sitting on the trash can!

This is the area the vine is coming from. We just planted this large area behind the house in corn and pumpkins.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Trivia Night


Fintan Trivia
Persian Rug Trivia
Bible Trivia
Harry Potter Trivia
Dirty Tshirt Trivia
Webkinz Trivia
Dinosaur Trivia
Isaac Trivia


Which arm is Fintan's left arm?
What is Fintan's favorite color?
Which Death Eater killed Sirius Black?
Where would you put a Persian rug in our house? Daddy's nose
Where are germs in our house? Everywhere
How much is Davy Jones' locker worth in kinz cash? 725
What food is on Isaac's T-shirt? Food Some Kind
What is the largest planet in the solar system?
Name two dinosaurs that are herbivores?
How many hairs are on Fintan's left arm? 5, 740
Who led the Israelites out of Egypt?
Where are Isaac's shoes?

Could he be any cuter?

He just played me a "tune" on his Daddy's guitar. And he said he did it so I would know how much he loves me. That I am his best friend..really I am. And he loves me 58% a 1000!

Monday, July 7, 2008

I Eats Chalk!

All I Wanted Is A Chicken Dinner

Is that so bad?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Hugelkultur Compared

I showed some pictures previously of the process of building our hugelkultur bed. I can't remember how many of them I showed. A couple of weeks ago I began to suspect that something odd was going on with our cantaloupe beds. I had had one packet of cantaloupe seeds. I planted 3 hills each in 2 beds. One bed was a hill bed like you might plant with corn and squash. I cleared a rectangle and dug out 3 circles about 18 wide each and enriched it with old manure and alfalfa pellets. We then mulched all over the bed with straw.

I also made an experimental hugelkultur bed. We put branches on the ground that were mostly freshly cut. We tossed on pinecones and bark from the pine tree that fell and hit our house New Years day and had been laying in our yard. We tossed on some leaves and we put on a layer of manure. Lastly we tossed old sod on. I use my stirrup hoe and scrape the grass or mostly weeds rather on the ground to prepare a garden bed. The only dirt it pulls up is a thin layer attached to the roots. It looks similar to the sod strips people put in their yard only no one would buy dandelion sod. We placed that on the hugelkultur bed with the weeds facing down and the dirt side up. In my head I thought of it as a garbage bed. We made it entirely out of what people want to get out of their yard and dispose of in some way.

I didn't expect it to do much, at least not this year. But on the top of the bed we used a small shovel and lightly dug in 3 piles of red clay for planting. I had the extra seed so why not? I didn't get around to planting the cantaloupe in that bed till 2 weeks after planting the first. It did come up. I was worried about the plants getting enough water and having some where to put down roots since I planted in them a brush pile basically. Recently though I would glance off the front porch at the two cantaloupe beds side by side and wonder if I was seeing things. Was the hugelkultur really looking better than the traditionally planted one? See for yourself. Here they are side by side:

Here is the hugelkultur bed. Look how gorgeous and green and lush these leaves are? That is a burlap mulch but weeds are growing through. It was the start of an experiment I never finished. David keeps asking me if I am sure I used the same seeds. I used the same seeds from the exact same packet.

And the sad traditionally planted one is here. It looks like it's missing something doesn't it? And this had a 2 week head start.

I think amazing is not an over exaggeration here. I am amazed! I had wanted to apply some alfalfa pellets to the hugelkultur one but never got around to it. They have both received 2 applications of actively aerated compost tea. That's for another post though. One thing that stands out in my mind is how the branches in the bed are supposed to have the ability to hold in large quantities of water in the soil. Permaculture design does place an emphasis on finding ways to help your yard hold water in the soil. I am too tired to elaborate on how and why and I just remembered a hose turned on earlier today/yesterday and wonder if it was ever turned off :( But I now have some exciting plans for all the trees we recently cut down.

Here is a photo of these same beds taken earlier for comparison:

It's taken from the other side of the beds so that is the hugelkultur bed on the left and you can see how the plants are smaller than the ones in the bed on the right. See how lumpy that bed is under the burlap? Not a finely prepared garden bed!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Fun with bees!

The boys decided yesterday that it would be fun to catch bees! I think they are crazy but they seem pretty good at it. No one has been stung...yet. The bugs are all entranced with the big patch of Monarda, otherwise known as Bee Balm, in the flower bed outside the kitchen window. That's the remains of a flower head of one in with the giant bee. And we have a nasty wasp thrown in for good measure. I keep reminding them not to open the jars in the house to try and make myself feel better!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Sometimes he gets it wrong

Isaac loves to use big words. I love to hear Isaac use his big words. This morning he told me he found his cereal a little threatening.

On the subject of cereal, it is so great you can now buy guaranteed gluten free General Mills Rice Chex in pretty much any store. This is Isaac's new special treat. He just loves it. I have no idea what he meant when he said he found it threatening. It was said with a big smile. I asked him two and half hours later what word he had used to describe his cereal this morning. He just gave me a big grin and said, "Threatening."

Isn't he cute?

I was getting Emmeline out of her seat and noticed this little guy in the zinnias and cosmos outside the kitchen window. Excuse the piece of cardboard. It's supposed to be over by the watermelon plant not too far to the right. He is so tiny and he was sitting right on the zinnia leaf underneath before I ran to grab my camera. He is leaning over in the pictures and grabbing the seed head of a cosmos. If you look you'll see the seed head isn't there in the first picture because he had to lean over pretty far to grab it. I guess cosmos seeds are yummy? I wish these pictures were better! It's taken through a grimy window and screen though.

I love having a large bed of flowers right under the kitchen window. It really draws a lot of birds. Later in the season we have hummingbirds. I love how they will hover in front of the windows looking in. None of the other birds seem as interested in us. But the hummingbirds always seem curious. Our regulars are a couple of families of cardinals. Not long before I took these pictures Emmeline and I were enjoying one of the male cardinals sitting atop a tomato stake in the garden.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

For the Baltimore grandparents

This is that sweet dress y'all bought Emmeline. I love how she looks in it. It's such a nice simple old fashioned dress.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Old Easter Egg

David took one look at this and said, "It looks like we left that Easter egg out too long!"