Monday, October 5, 2009

My Blog Is Moving...

I've been working on a new look for my blog. Since Blogger wasn't really letting me do some of the things I wanted to (like have pages for certain topics) I decided to switch to Wordpress.

From now on I'll be posting over at This page will stay up for awhile as a jumping off point but please change your links for updated posts. I'm sorry for the inconvenience but I think it will be worth it.

I posted some new pictures of what's going on around the farm so head on over and check it out! I hope this is a step in the right direction...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Funny Vegetables

Check out this monster tomato!! It was the highlight of my morning. I've been canning for 12 hours now! Luckily, I'm done with the hard part. Now I can sit back and relax and just switch out the canner every so often. Yahoo!

These are my pitiful little onions...I'm still not sure exactly why they flowered instead of growing. They are so cute that I almost don't mind except that they're already gone! Don't they look almost like little purple light bulbs?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Bottomless Bucket of Tomatoes (sigh)

It may never end! Okay, maybe it will, but I'm afraid it won't be this weekend. A batch of spaghetti sauce with meat calls for 30# of tomatoes. I already used approximately 30# from our garden and got 12 pints out of it instead of the 9 that the book says. I have enough left from our garden to do 1 more batch. The neighbors, Brian's aunt and uncle, offered him what was left in their garden. He brought home one basket full that turns out to be just shy of one batch worth - and there is probably one or two more batches left down there. So add that all up and I have a minimum of 3 batches left to do, assuming I get to them before they rot.

The hard part is not the actually canning it is prepping the tomatoes. There are so many different ways to do this but here's what I've been doing:

Put a few tomatoes in boiling water for 30 second to a minute.

Scoop them out and in to a pot of cold water with ice in it.

Pick them out one at time and peel off the skins with my fingers. They slip off quite easily.

I take a knife and cut of the top or scoop out the top and the bit of green inside (it depends, some of the smaller ones don't have much to scoop out).

Then I tear them in half (like an orange) and use my finger to scrape out the seeds. If it is a very small tomato I just squeeze it in my fist to squish out the seeds and liquid.

All the good parts go in a big pot. I feed the rest to the chickens!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fall Festival: My Favorite Fall Recipe

Share your favorite fall recipe at LifeasMOM. All participants will be entered for a chance to win The Autumn Book by Susan Branch.

This is somewhat of a repost but I can't help it, the following truly is my favorite fall recipe. It is great because you eat it at all three meals and dessert.

This recipe came on the back of my electric bill and gives credit to Bernice Hass:

Apple Bread

1/3 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
2 c chopped apples
1 c sugar
2 Tbsp sour milk (or buttermilk, I use a little milk and vinegar)
2 c flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Topping: 2 Tbsp butter, 4 Tbsp sugar, 1-2 tsp cinnamon

Cream shortening & sugar. Add eggs & beat. Stir in sour milk, vanilla, flour, baking soda, & salt. Add chopped apples and nuts. Put in greased bread pan. Add topping and bake at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes. MMmmm!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall Festival: Gone to the Dogs

Now it’s your turn! I’d love to hear all about how you and your family amuse yourselves as the seasons change. Do you have special activities that you do with your kids? Are there certain movies that you watch during the fall? Do you have fall crafts, games, books or field trips that you enjoy? Share your favorite autumn vacation spots at Daily Dwelling.

Today's theme is all about fun. For me, the fun part of fall is feathering my nest by doing the things I shared yesterday. I also enjoy decorating my porch. I set out pumpkins and tie cornstalks to the porch posts. Dressing up is fun too, although I don't always do that now that I'm a little older. Last year I went up to the bar dressed as a hippie. It was great because I love to people watch and I could do a lot of it with those big glasses on!

For us, for now, our dogs are like our kids. So, one of the best parts about fall is watching them play and have fun. Good luck trying to rake with them around!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fall Festival: Feathering your Nest

How will you be feathering your nest for Fall? What do you to get ready? Decorations? Winterizing? Stocking Up? Preserving Fall Produce? Harvesting Said Fall Produce? Cleaning? Organizing? Overhauling your Calendar? Whatever you do to ready your Home and Hearth for the new season, we want to know about it at Hoosier Homemade where Liz is offering up a fun giveaway of sewn fabric pumpkins to fall-ify your home.

Fall is one of the busiest seasons around our farm, tied only with Spring. This year I'm welcoming Fall with open arms and have been enjoying the tasks that come with the season. Here are a few things we do to prepare for the colder months:

  • At the top of the list, canning is in full swing. I'm putting up corn, tomatoes, and apples all within the next few weeks.

  • As the garden offers up the last of the vegetables it is time to clear away the dead plants and prepare for spring. I've been weeding one last time, then I'll spread some compost and mulch the whole thing with straw. The garlic goes in and dormant plants (strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb) can be transplanted.

  • Last week I dug out the flannel sheets and installed the electric blanket on our bed. Nothing says fall better than that!

  • We're reducing our outdoor chores as much as possible. The turkeys have moved to the freezer, the ewes are off being bred, several steers are ready to go to market, and we culled all the young roosters in order to save on feed. We'll be busy preparing winter quarters for the animals that have been on pasture all summer.

  • Brian and our neighbors are preparing to harvest the fields. They took a part off the combine tonight to have it repaired. Our neighbors hauled in the first of their sugar beets last week and soybeans will probably come off in about 2 weeks.

  • On our to-do list all of the outdoor projects have gone to the top of the list. I stripping and refinishing a cabinet now while I can still open the windows for fresh air and the landscaping needs to be finished.

I'd love to hear what you're up to now that fall is knocking at the door.

Fall Blogging Festival

Where did the summer go? Autumn begins next week. Well, Fall is one of the best times of year, anyway. So, let's make the most of it!

Why not celebrate, plan ahead, exchange great ideas, traditions, and recipes? Join us for a great week of autumn-themed festivities. Five blogs, five days, five great ways to welcome the change of seasons.

It sounds like anyone with a blog is welcome to join in the fun. If you miss Monday there is still plenty of time to participate! Just post a bit about the festival and link to each hosting blog. I'm enjoying the thought of fall this year and am glad to share in the fun!

Monday - Feathering Your Nest
How will you be feathering your nest for Fall? What do you to get ready? Decorations? Winterizing? Stocking Up? Preserving Fall Produce? Harvesting Said Fall Produce? Cleaning? Organizing? Overhauling your Calendar? Whatever you do to ready your Home and Hearth for the new season, we want to know about it at Hoosier Homemade where Liz is offering up a fun giveaway of sewn fabric pumpkins to fall-ify your home.

Tuesday - Falling For Fun
How do you and your family amuse yourselves as the seasons change? Special activities with the kids, movies you watch, crafts, games, field trips, great vacation spots, books to read? Tell us some great ways to kick up our heels at Daily Dwelling.

Wednesday - Fall Traditions
What does your family do every year? A fall vacation? Apple picking? Watching the leaves turn? A visit to the Pumpkin Patch? Special foods? Special events that you always observe? Share your family's fall traditions at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free where participants will have a chance to win a set of 3 Wilton Baking Racks.

Thursday - A Special Fall-Themed Ultimate Recipe Swap
Share your favorite fall recipe at LifeasMOM. All participants will be entered for a chance to win The Autumn Book by Susan Branch.

Friday - Finer Things of Fall
What are the good things you enjoy about Fall? Tells at Amy's Finer Things. Participants will be entered to win a set of fall-themed scrapbook stickers and journaling boxes.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Ewes Have A Date...

Today we took our flock of 7 ewes and ewe lambs to meet their new boyfriends. We split them up over 3 different rams based on who would best compliment each one's physical features. The stocky, big ewes went in with stylish, finer boned rams and vice versa. It made for a long day since the handsome bachelors live almost 2 hours away.
We made a lot of stops on the way back too. We ordered a new back door for the house so that when the builder comes back to install the new front door he can do them both at once. That will be soooo nice. It is hard to juggle paying off our debt with cash flowing the farm and fixing up the house all at the same time. I'm glad we can still fit in some improvements here and there.
We had a gift card for Cracker Barrel so we had dinner there - we even got my Mom and sister to come with us so that was nice. I'm tired, off to bed. Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

5 Roosters = Soup

Last night we took our 2 remaining turkeys and 5 roosters to the processor. The roosters were all Barred Hollands from the batch of heritage breed chickens I ordered in the spring. I had high hopes for the heritage breeds but the Barred Holland is not a winner in my book. The roos are very aggressive, much like the Barred Rock rooster that we gave away to our neighbor last year because he was beating up all the other birds. I watched them for quite awhile during feeding and the Holland roosters would grab feathers out of the other birds for no reason at all. The Buckeye hens were taking a real beating because they are so docile. I'm very happy with the Buckeyes and the Buff Chanteclers so far, more on that some other time.

I googled how to cut up a chicken and studied several of the results. Last time I attempted to cut up some hens it didn't go well. This time I removed both legs and both wings, then I cut the birds through the ribcage on each side. I discarded the back and neck and kept all of the other pieces to make canned chicken soup with. The five young roosters yielded 5 quart Ziploc bags of pieces. I removed all of the skin except that on the wings so it will be easy to pick the meat off later.

BTW, the computer is fixed (at least for now) so we're now back to regular programming. I've been a little unplugged from technology this week and strangely enough, I'm enjoying it. I've been trying some new organizational techniques to help me stay on track around here. So far, so good. Staying on top of things is so much easier than constantly trying to catch up but it still takes a lot of time.
Have you ever canned soup? Cut up chickens? If not, what are you canning or preserving right now?

Monday, September 14, 2009

If I'm Not Here...

If I'm missing it will be because our computer got a virus last night. Hopefully it will be fixed tonight and back to me tomorrow but if I'm gone for awhile, that's why. So long for now!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Onion Confusion

I planted onions in the spring...

So apparently I've been having a blond moment for the last several weeks now. I've been excited to collect seed from whatever garden plants I can. My onions sent up nice big flowers that now have thousands of seeds in them. I thought great, yippee, I get to save some onion seed. Ummm, no. Well, yes, I get some onion seeds. But no freakin' onions!! I pulled them up today and the aren't much bigger than the sets I planted.
Duh, I guess I should have thought about that. Apparently onions are not supposed to flower in their first year and if they do the bulbs will be very small. The bulbs also won't store well since they have been pierced where the flower stalk pushed up. The only explanation I can find for this is extreme temperature fluctuations during the growing seasons. Yep, we've got that going on here in Michigan.
So what do you think? Has this happened to you? Am I missing something? Is this more likely to happen when you grow from onion sets? I'm so bummed.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Well, We're Back

Very long, but covers the last 2 days...

So we did have a good vacation, it was just shorter than we wanted. We visited Shipshewana on Tuesday. It was nice but the flea market was mostly junk. I heard it is a lot better earlier in the season. The little shops were neat to visit. I thought it would take 2 days but we were ready to leave well before lunch time. We stopped by McGrew Tractor Parts. Brian walked around and looked at tractors and equipment for quite awhile. I was happy as a clam knitting in the truck. I even found the Dave Ramsey Show on the radio.

We drove over to Michigan City and somehow drove right past all the hotels, well within a block of them, without realizing it. We ended up downtown and then we drove along the coast for a long time. We were having fun but it was like something out of a movie. There was nothing for miles. Then we found a sign for the town of "Dune Acres". It was more like Green Acres. There was a nice little town clerk in a sheriff type uniform and you couldn't even get to the actual town because the roads were private. Yet it was in the woods/dunes so not very fancy.

Anyway that guy gave us a map and we found our way back to the hotels in Michigan City. We went out for a nice dinner and stopped at a little ice cream shop for dessert. Today is my birthday so that was a nice way to celebrate. Brian wanted to get me something but I talked him out of it since there are 3 different knitting classes I plan on taking this fall and those are expensive. That'll be a nice present. :)

So then things took a turn for the worst. We got a call about 8 AM this morning from our neighbor. He said one of our ram lambs wouldn't eat and was just laying around. We talked about it and considered our options and finally decided we should go home. We got back around 2:45. The ram was flat on his side and breathing heavily. Unfortunately it was the ram we planned to put in with our ewes for breeding this weekend. After calling our normal vet (out of town) and a backup (out of the office) we hauled the ram to a third vet.

The vet gave him a poor prognosis. We opted for blood work which showed that our ram's kidneys were failing. At that point he was suffering and so we had the vet euthanize him. It was very weird for me to be on the other side of that. Usually I'm the one reassuring the owners while they say goodbye, not the one petting the animal and feeling so bad!

At first the vet thought he was afflicted with clostridium toxicity. We vaccinated him against the disease but I don't think we ever boostered the vaccine so he may not have been protected. However, after doing bloodwork the vet said it was much more likely that the ram ingested a toxic substance from a plant or his feed. Clostridium would have affected the liver and not just the kidneys.

We're at a loss as to what kind of toxic he may have ingested. He is fed hay that we personally cut, baled, and stacked. All of the animals get hay from the same field and are fed the same corn. All of the sheep get the same pelleted supplement and his came from a fresh, dry bag with no mold. Both of our ram lambs have been in a box stall so they were not even out on pasture where they could have chewed on a poisonous weed.

Also, one of our 3 turkeys died while we gone. No obvious reason. I've always heard turkeys were hard to keep alive but these ones were pretty much full grown and have been fine.

To top it all off, when we arrived home after disposing of the ram his new marking harness and halter had arrived and were waiting on the back step. I guess I'll put it away for another year. We'll be taking our flock to another farm for breeding this year.

I'm sorry to be such a downer. Tonight I told Brian I think I'm ready for a vacation - ha ha! On the bright side, our neighbors did take good care of everything while we were gone. Someone even mowed our lawn! That was a great welcome home gift. :)

I took a walk around the farm to remind myself how good we have it. That's were the pics came from.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Vacation: Days 2 and 3

After the tractor pull on Friday night we followed my cousin and her husband in to Indiana. We had enjoyed the pull with them and had made plans to visit some friends together for the weekend. Our friends in Indiana moved there a couple years ago to join their family business, McCoy Dairy Farm. Brian and my cousin's husband had fun talking to the guys, touring the farm, and helping out where they could. Since my cousin is due to deliver her first baby in October and our friend recently had her 4th child us girls had plenty to talk about too. It was really refreshing to see a dedicated Mom in action who manages to balance work on the farm with parenting. She's my new role model! :)

I was really interested in the farm too. That barn in the picture is new - can you believe how wide it is!? Here's the very best part...those of you who have read about my desire for a milk cow will understand. They. have. a. miniature. jersey. cow. Her name is Elaine and I'm in love. First I got to pet her - and then I got to milk her!!! I wish I had taken pictures but I didn't want manure and iodine all over my camera. I spent awhile (maybe an hour?) in the milking parlor helping out. I've always been interested in milking cows so it was fun to try it. It seems like the type of job a person could get very efficient at with practice which is what I like. I told Brian I know where we're going to move if we ever have to rely on my income over his. I'd love to work for a vet down there!

That is all hay behind Brian. The picture doesn't do it justice - it was like a wall of hay in all directions.

I think Brian could have stayed all week and I was really enjoying visiting and, I admit, holding the baby. As the weekend progressed Brian and I found more and more things we had in common with our friends there so it was great to talk with them. However, the whole goal of taking a vacation was to spend time together just the two of us with no farming to get in the way. We headed out late Monday afternoon...

More to come soon!

Vacation: Rough Start

We worked and worked and stayed up late on Thursday so we could get out of here Friday morning. We planned to leave by "10 or 11" and pulled out of the driveway at 11:05. Typical! We left separately, me with the horse trailer and a ewe we were going to drop off at the breeder's and Brian with the pickup we were dropping off to be worked on while we were gone. I went to the bank, he made a few stops, and we met up at his uncle's (he is our mechanic).
I parked on the road and got out to check the ewe. I opened the side door on the trailer and was surprised that the ewe didn't startle and jump up. It took me a few seconds to realize why. She must have put her front feet up on the manger (4ft tall) and got her left front foot stuck in a big gap where the manger had rusted out. To make it worse, she tried to get down and ended up in an almost sitting position, essentially hanging from her foot with it way above her head and her toe pointing at the ground, thus make a hard angle at the last joint. I jumped in a straddled her, trying to pick her up so she could free her self. I started yelling for Brian to help and when he got in he was able to pull her foot out.
She would not stand and was shaking, obviously traumatized. I petted her for a few minutes and tried to calm her down. We were only 2 miles away from our next stop so we continued on. At Brian's stepsister's house we stopped. I was supposed to trim her pony's feet. Turns out the pony didn't want to be caught so we didn't get it done. We opened up the trailer and got the ewe to stand but she would barely put weight on her injured leg. She was in no condition to go see the ram so we headed back home. We parked the trailer in the shade, left out some bute (pain medicine) for our neighbors to give her, and put food and water in with her. I hated to leave her but we were running way behind and like Brian said, there really wasn't much I could do at that point. I will say that a newer trailer just moved up on our list.

Our next stop was Wind Racer Farm in Charlotte, Michigan. The farm's co-owner, Violet Hickey, had contacted me recently to say that she had some Blue Slate and Bourbon Red turkeys ready to go to a new home. The turkeys look great and we really enjoyed visiting the farm and talking with Violet and her family. If you're looking for local food in her area I would look her up for sure. We still have not decided if the turkeys are right for us. It is a wonderful opportunity for us to branch out in to heritage turkeys with the hope of breeding our own. On the downside we would have to feed and house them all year. I'd love your thoughts on this!

Oh and pictured here is one of Violet's Buckeye hens with chicks that she hatched herself!

On to Ohio! We rolled in to the Fulton County Fair just in time for the truck and tractor pull. Our friend Rob Foster runs Simply Red so we had fun cheering him on. Of course Brian likes it a little more than me but I finished up one sleeve on my latest baby sweater while I was watching! :)

Next stop: a dairy farm! :) Stay tuned for less talk, more pictures, and a lot more fun!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

NO Knitting Allowed :(

Warning: Lots of whining ahead...

I'm sure I'm not the only one who always feel even more stressed than normal just before a vacation. We still have a list a mile long of things that NEED to be done before we go even though we've been cracking away at it all week. Okay I say we loosely, mostly Brian has been busting his butt. I did help stack a bunch of hay last night, in my defense. ;)

So I made myself this rule...absolutely no knitting and no Ravelry surfing until the house is as clean as I want it to be before vacation. That means pretty much no knitting tonight! Which would be a whole lot easier if I hadn't just picked up my special order yarn for a an upcoming wedding present to be knitted. Oh, and finding a deal today on the yarn I need to make 3 more Christmas presents didn't help either.

(Can't you hear the yarn, "Knit me!! Knnnnnittt me!")
(And yes, that is blogger in the background. I can be lame if I want :P)

I'm not only a little overwhelmed with the to-dos and don'ts but also feeling physically queasy. I've had fast food for 3 of my last 4 meals (!) and I just spent $30 at the grocery store buying all the "convenience foods" that I never buy so that we won't have to eat out for lunch on our trip. Easy Mac, granola bars (I wasn't going to kid myself and say I'd make them between now and Friday morning), Little Debbie snacks (they were 4 for $5 after all), chips, MICROWAVE popcorn (I can feel my arteries clogging), Nutri-grain bars (those are healthy right!?), oh, and applesauce. In cups with foil lids. Are you feeling like this is the blog post from hell yet?

Oh, crap, hubby is home. I'd better quit whining and feeling sorry for myself and get something done so I can spend 5 minutes with him before we both crash! TTFN, and don't worry, I'll have much more positive things to say in a couple more days! :D

Monday, August 31, 2009

We've Got Milk!

And no, Brian did not buy me a cow. The lovely folks at Hampshire Farms gave us a call awhile back and announced that they had A)finally started a very small cow share program and B)had a drop off location just down the road from us! I've looked in to other cow share programs and even beg Brian regularly for a little Jersey of our own. You can read about all of that in my Real Milk? post.
This cow share is truly the best setup possible for us at this time. We got a first gallon 2 weeks ago. I poured the cream off and made butter. Has anyone else tried the trick of making butter out of heavy cream by shaking it in a jar? You know how it takes forever? Well... real, fresh cream doesn't take forever. In fact, I barely had time to pull up a blog while shaking and I heard a thump. Holy cow, my butter was already done!
I'm just going to drink this gallon since we won't have much time to make anything with it before vacation. In the future I'd like to try yogurt and even cheese.
If you're local and you'd like to join the program I can put you in touch with Hampshire Farms.
Do you have any good recipes or creative ways to use raw milk?

A Weekend's Work

This is what I accomplished over Saturday and Sunday...

33 quarts of pears in all. They are chuck full of pears too since I hot packed them, the only one with much free space is that one there in the front since it was my last jar. Yesterday was my Grandma's birthday so I took 3 quarts back to her (they're from her tree!).

When pears were finally done I literally ran to my knitting...I was having withdrawals. I whipped up this little booty for my friend Maria. One more to go and I can seam them up and they'll be done.

I hope you had a great weekend. Back to work today for me. We'll be busy getting things done around here all week and then Friday morning we head out for vacation!! Wahoo!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Peaches, Pears, Beans, Oh My!

My Mom came last weekend and helped with the peaches, I think we got 19 quarts in all. That was from 1 1/2 bushels of "seconds" peaches and I would guess we lost about 1/2 bushel of them to rotten spots and bruises. I picked 2 bushels of pears at my grandma's on Sunday. The blueberries in our area are done already but there happened to be a blueberry farm near my grandma's that was still open so I stopped and picked almost 5 pounds of blueberries. Then I swung by our friends' house on the way home and picked a 5 gallon pail full of green and yellow beans. They said take all I wanted but that was plenty for me!!
Today is the day to catch up on all of this. I might renew our Netflix for the season so I can watch instant movies while I sit here peeling and slicing.

Have a great Saturday. Are you canning anything this weekend?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Thoughts on Marriage after One Year

Can you believe it has been a year already!? That's what Brian said to me this morning and he is right, this year just flew by. Lately, I've had a chance to take part in a lot of conversations with my friends about marriage. We all agree that we get so tired of everyone acting like things are perfect or, at the other end of the spectrum, of people getting divorced after only a few months or years. A lot of us younger couples never get to hear much about those who have struggled through things and managed to stay together. Of course, people say "marriage is so hard" but that doesn't help much. Without going in to a lot of detail, I'd like to share a few of the things Brian and I have learned in our first year of marriage.

Dealing with the hard times...
-Don't just think you'll never get divorced, you'll live happily ever after, and that's that. If you had asked me last year if divorce would ever cross my mind I would have said absolutely not unless there was cheating or abuse involved. Let me tell you, I had serious doubts this year that I never saw coming.
-Sure, some couples are "perfect". But I guarantee you, if you open up to your close friends about marriage issues you will find out that many, many couples go through more serious rough patches than you had ever guessed. Our issues paled in comparison to some of the things my friends had gone through, and I felt so much better knowing that a lot of other people have struggled too.
-Fight!! Please, please, just fight! Okay I don't mean scream and yell and definitely don't start slapping. If something is on your mind - tell your spouse. If a topic comes up in conversation and you feel uneasy - let him (or her) know. Don't just let it go and build and build. I used to think all the little spats we have were a sign of a poor relationship. Now I feel like that is all part of working things out. I've seen more than one friend keep everything bottled up and when they finally let it out it was much, much harder to deal with and recover from.
-Don't be afraid to ask for help or advice. It is hard to tell what is going on when you're so involved. Go to a pastor or an older couple and ask for their thoughts. We have avoided discussing our marriage too much with our own parents and friends who might judge just because their opinions might be too biased. ;)

Enjoying the good times...
-We started a new thing a few months ago that I really, really like. Almost every night we turn off the TV and computer, sit down the knitting or paper, and just talk to each other. It sounds silly but we really didn't give each other a lot of undivided attention until we made a point to. Even 5 minutes makes a difference. We just level with each other about how we're feeling and if things are going right or not.
-Do what the other likes. I've sat through a lot of tractor pulls (not that I don't enjoy them but they aren't my first choice for entertainment) and Brian has listened to me ramble on about my garden and my blog. Do what you both like too (for us it's relaxing on the front porch or going to the rodeo).
-Laugh together! I love it how we both try to impersonate a funny thing the cat did that the other person missed. We can't help but laugh when Brian is running around the house in his underwear and cowboy boots with a cookie sheet in hand trying to kill one of our many bat invaders.
-Ask each other's opinion. I am so in awe of Brian sometimes when I expect a smart remark and he gives me a serious, thoughtful response instead. At the same time it feels really good when he says, "What do you think we should do?" and values my feedback.


I think we're more in love than ever. We're truly best friends, and are very well matched. Last night we went out for our anniversary. Brian confessed, "Umm... I still haven't got you anything." Oh thank God!! I had spent the last hour on Google trying to figure out what I could make/buy/do for him since I hadn't thought of anything yet either. We went out to eat and drove past the movie theater on the way home. "I had halfway thought of asking if you wanted to see a movie..." I trailed off. "...yeah, there wasn't much on when I checked earlier and..." he said. "...and I'd really much rather go home and relax" we decided. :)

We have done so much this year besides get married that I think we came through it very well. We've dealt with the barn fire, a lot of family issues that come with buying the home farm, starting a business (farming), fixing up the place, and stretching our budget to the max in order to avoid taking on any debt this year. Oh yeah, and remember I'm trying to learn how to grow and preserve most of our food while Brian runs in five different directions catching runaway cattle and fixing the semi. Maybe the best recommendation would be to live in an apartment the first year (with maybe just a cat), work 1 job each, and go to the grocery store more. ;)

I hope you got something out of this, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on marriage.

P.S. Sorry no "new" wedding pics, I'm trying to dig some up but they're all copyrighted with the photographer so I'll have to ask about that.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It Has Begun...(drumroll please)

What is IT? Canning season that is. And no, that's not why I've been missing. I've been missing because my blogging addiction has given way to a Ravelry addiction which has led me to begin knitting everyone's Christmas presents now, while I'm still motivated and sort of have the time.

I promise to post more soon. My order of peaches came in tonight which will lead directly in to apple and tomato seasons which might clash slightly with the vacation to who knows where that we're taking the week of Labor Day. That will all keep me busy but it will give me lots of blog worthy material too.

I leave you with this. Anyone who can tell what it is gets an imaginary pat on the back from me. :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Okay here goes:

Monday: Cornmeal waffles with bacon and fried zucchini

Tuesday: Sloppy Joes for Brian, hot dogs for me, with chips and watermelon

Wednesday: Baked Rotini with homemade garlic bread

Thursday: Steak on the grill with seasoned buttered noodles

Friday: Going to my cousin's wedding - no cooking for me! :)

What are you eating this week?

Today's To-Do List

Monday is my day off and I'm staying super busy! This is more for my purposes but in case you're interested, here's what is on my agenda:

-Can more green beans (they're on the stove now)
-Bake bread
-Call the builder
-Call the plumber
-Call on prices for an automatic cattle waterer
-Balance the checkbook/pay bills
-Find the title for a trailer we're selling
-Call the orchard to order peaches (Mmmm!)
-Scope out vacation destinations online (this is coming up fast!)
-Make the weekly menu plan
-Make granola bars if time allows
-Finish knitted baby shower gift and make progress on wedding gift

The bathroom needs to be painted and the landscape worked on but it is incredibly hot and humid/sticky so I won't be doing either of those things today. I'm hoping to bust through the rest of the list so I can just knit and work on the bread.

I'd love to hear what you're doing today! :)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Busy Day, We're tired

So I may not have mentioned it yet but both Brian and I's moms are moving or planning to move. Brian's Mom has to be out of her house by the end of August. It isn't as bad as it could be since she moved out of there and in with her husband quite a few years ago. It has been really tough for her though because Brian's Dad and brother have both passed away and a lot of there stuff was in the house and had to be sorted through. We also had a lot of stuff left in the house from when we lived there before moving to the farm. If you haven't heard, Michigan's economy bites and almost no houses are selling. Someone actually came to Brian's Mom and made her a really good offer on the house - it wasn't even for sale. I think this is meant to be and I'll be so glad when it is done.

My Mom is planning to move closer to us next spring. Right now her and my little sister live about 45-60 minutes away from us. My sister will be graduating from high school next year. So far we haven't found a house for them but we're really hoping one will open up very close to us. I grew up with my Aunt right next door and loved going to visit. I keep saying I don't want to have to drive, when we have kids and they wear me out I want to say, "Go see your Grandma!!" and mean it. They're aren't many houses around us so we'll see what happens.

So all of this means that we needed to get all of our stuff out of both houses. Today was the day. My Mom and sister brought what was left at their house. They met me at Brian's Mom's house and helped me get the rest of the little stuff. Now all that is left is some furniture and a few things for Brian, plus he has to get stuff out of the shop there.

We worked at our house ALL DAY to organize the upstairs, haul everyone's old crap out, and move our stuff in. Every one in Brian's family left stuff in our attic. We tried to save some of the important things but at this point I feel like they should have come and got their things by now. Our porch is packed full of junk to go out to the trash. I hate throwing it all away but who is going to want a box of old waders, shoes, and mouse poop? We set aside anything salvageable to donate.

We did find a lot of cool pictures and old letters - I'll share more about that as soon as we have time to look through them. I'm so glad we're one step closer to make this house our home, instead of free storage for everyone else.

After that Brian and I moved 75 bales of hay in to the neighbor's mow. I almost never have to move hay anymore and it is HARD when you haven't been using those muscles. Then I took a shower and made another batch of homemade oreos. Now I'm going to check some blogs and knit until I fall asleep.

Have a great night! What cool things have you found in your house? Did you work hard today or get to relax?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pressure Canning Green Beans

I spent the day with my Mom yesterday and she taught me how to pressure can for the first time ever. I went in to this completely blind and was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was. Now I have a new skill to add to my list! Yay! Thanks Mom!

While this is in no way meant to be a guide to pressure canning I'll share a few pics and the basic process. That way if you find someone to teach you it won't be so mystifying.

The black pot has a strainer in it and boiling water. The silver one is the pressure canner with a few inches of water in the bottom. We snapped the beans in 2-3 inch pieces and removed the ends. Next, we rinsed them under cool water and put them in the black pot of boiling water. Once the water comes back to a boil they stay in for 5 minutes. At that point we pulled out the strainer, allowed the water to drain back in to the pot, and poured the beans in to the plastic strainer in the sink.

Then it is time to put the beans in the jars. I used the end of a wooden spoon to arrange them and filled them almost to the neck of the jar. The jars will get very HOT. Duh, but I'm a little slow.

You use the liquid from the black pot to fill the jars. Leave about 1 inch of headspace. Wipe the rim clean, then place the lids and rings on as usual.

Here's the fun part!! Put them in the pressure canner and secure the lid. We used the canner's owner's manual and the Ball canning book to figure out the specifics. For our canner we need moderate steam coming out of the little hole on top for 7-10 minutes. At that point we put the little weight on top of that hole. Stick with me here... each recipe calls for certain pounds of pressure. For our canner the piece with the black top equals 5 pounds and each silver ring is five additional pounds. So we put one ring on the black piece and set that over the steam hole. When the pressure reaches 10 pounds the steam comes out forcefully enough to rock the little weight back and forth. Once the weight starts rocking your processing time begins. I set the timer for 25 minutes.

When the time is up you just turn off the burner and wait. There is a little button thing on top of the canner that sticks up as long as it is holding pressure. When the button drops the pressure is gone. Then you can tip the weight sideways to check it. If no steam comes out it is safe to remove the lid. It took a very long time for the jars to cool, much longer than jam from what I remember. Therefore it also took a long time for them to seal.

By the way, 5# of grean beans from my garden = 4 full quarts. Not bad! :)

Do you pressure can? Isn't it fun!? What is your favorite food to pressure can?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

County Fair Fun!

These pictures aren't the greatest but I wanted to share all the fun things that happened last week at our county fair!

Our niece bracing her lamb.

Our other neice, Jill. Her sheep was being very stubborn and holding up the class but Jill handled it like a champ.

Jill setting her lamb's feet in the proper place. She ended up winning her class!
Our nephew showing in the Cloverbud class. The little ones are supervised by an older helper and no ribbons are awarded. It is a great way for them to learn.

The best part: my caramel apple!!

It is hard to tell in this picture but this steer weighs 1800 pounds!

Aren't the sheep cute in their pajamas!

We went up on Sunday night to see the animals and exhibits. Then we went back on Tuesday to watch our nieces show their sheep. They did great and I learned a lot from watching.

Do you attend your county's fair? What's your favorite thing to see or do?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More About That Sheep... Update

This is a continuation of yesterday's post about a lamb we found dead. It might bore you but I thought some people might be interested in what we suspect to be the real cause of death, especially if you might raise sheep of your own someday.

We happen to have a relief vet at work this week so I shared my story of the dead lamb with her. She, of course, thought about it a little more logically than me. She pointed out that A)There is no way that all those intestines should have come out even if she had started a major coughing fit and B)Even if they did come out, that wouldn't have killed her. We hear about vaginal/uterine prolapses all the time and the cow or sheep simply lies there until the vet comes to put everything back in. The only way the prolapse itself would have killed that lamb is if there was a lot of blood loss or other trauma to those parts. I didn't see any blood or evidence of that when I found her.

So... what killed her? For that I called a nearby large animal vet that just loves these kind of stories. I gave him a brief history and told him how I found her. He agreed that she didn't die of the prolapse. The most common cause of these sudden deaths that he knows of is an internal abscess that suddenly ruptures. Say when she had her cough that there was infection in her lungs. Her body may have walled that off and build up a ton of white blood cells in the area. If she got to ramming around (excuse the pun) or kicking her feet up in the air the extra movement could have ruptured the abscess. Once all that infection was released in her body it would kill her quickly.

Then, when she died and her intestines quit pushing food through, the gas in her rumen (part of the stomach) built up and created a lot of pressure. Similar to how an animal on the side of the road bloats up. Since the muscles around her rectum were already weakened from when she was starting to prolapse before, that was the path of least resistance. Thus, the innards probably came out after she was already dead. We'll never know for sure what her actually cause of death was but I feel better knowing that I was right not to be concerned with the hint of a prolapse that she had before. The vet offered to open her up and look for an abscess somewhere. I think that would have been a great learning experience but I opted to go to the fair and cheer on our niece instead.

More on the fair later, just wanted to update on this first!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Disturbing Find and Thinking Like A Farmer

***This post contains unpleasant details and is not for the weak.***

I had a very unpleasant surprise this morning as I made my rounds doing chores. I found one of our lambs - dead. She was the first lamb born on the farm. The cause of death was pretty obvious. She had prolapsed rectally, which basically means quite a bit of her intestines had come out her rear end. She developed a cough when she was quite young and as a result she put a lot of strain on the muscles that hold everything in. She would show a small rim of pink flesh around the rear occasionally. After moving the lambs out to pasture a few weeks ago things seemed to be getting much better for her. I haven't seen her cough for a good 2 weeks and there was no sign of a prolapse beginning. Last night she ate very well right along with the other lambs and acted very normal.

On one hand, I totally blame myself. I should have taken quicker action and treated her with supplements or found some way to eliminate this problem. On the other hand, I had every indication that the problem had solved itself. The thing that really gets me is to think that she must have been in a great amount of pain. I did chores last night before 7 PM and didn't go out there again until this morning. I don't think there is much I could have done had I found her alive but putting her down would have been more humane.

I can see a big change in my thinking since even last year. I love animals and I want them to have the most comfortable, healthy life we can provide for however long that may be. Now I'm learning to balance that with practicality and economics. Rectal prolapse is a known problem in show lambs and it is certainly not something I would want to breed for. If I had fixed this problem and wanted to sell the lamb I would have felt dishonest and sneaky for passing her along to someone else. She probably would have been headed for the dinner table at that point, which is one of the purposes of our herd anyway.

So, while this is a really sad start to the morning, I'm not bawling or feeling like a failure, which is good enough for me!! :)

Any similar experiences to share? How do you deal with having farm animals, if you do?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Freezer Cooking: Twin Meat Loaves

Way back when I was looking for new post ideas the topic of freezer cooking came up. I think there was quite a bit of interest in that and yet I've never posted about it since, until now. I'll try to post some recipes from time to time under the heading and label "Freezer Cooking: ________". I thought I had already posted this recipe as a single loaf version but couldn't find it.

This recipe comes from Farm Journal's Country Cookbook. I got my copy from my Grandma's basement and I love it. It really is appropriate for the way we are trying to live and generally avoids "add in seasoning packet" or "3 cups Bisquick".

Twin Meat Loaves

2 eggs, beaten
3/4 c. milk
1 1/2 c. bread crumbs
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped carrot
2 lbs. ground beef

Break two eggs in a bowl and until well broken. Add rest of ingredients and mix well. You'll have to use your hands to get this done in a reasonable amount of time, or I guess maybe a hand mixer would work. Pack into two greased 7 1/2x4x2" pans - I used my narrow bread pans that come close.
Pop the pans in the freezer for a few hours or overnight. Once frozen, tap the loaves out on a plate or cutting board. Wrap well with tin foil. You could also use the plastic out of a cereal box along with brown paper if you're trying to cut back on foil. Label with black permanent marker: BAKE @ 350 f FOR 1 HOUR.

When you go to cook these you can drop them in the pans frozen and thaw them in the fridge that way. I've cooked them straight out of the freezer and they were still done in just over an hour. I actually cooked one for 2 hours when something happened with the sheep and I forgot about it. It didn't dry out or burn even after all that time so it is pretty much foolproof. I don't eat ground meat at all but hubby says this is one of the better meat loaves he's had, he really likes it.

I usually thaw a bunch of hamburger and make 6 or 8 loaves at a time. It is a great back up for a day when I'm out of ideas. Happy freezer cooking!