Monday, June 29, 2009

Brian's Project: A Tractor Post

"So... since you're always looking for interesting pictures for your blog, you should come outside and bring your camera" says my husband when I arrived home last night.

"Is everything alright!?" I said, a little worried.

I went out to see what he was talking about. Turns out his project for the day involved tearing apart our main tractor, a JD 4010. We put a lot of money in to this tractor last year and had joked that it was not allowed to break down ever again. The only thing left to break was the hydraulic pump and it really needed to be replaced awhile ago. It died out in the hay field the other day so Brian hauled it home. He had to take off the entire front axle to get the pump out. The pump itself costs $1200 so any money we can save on labor is great. I'm so glad Brian can do stuff like this!

Here is the tractor where it sits until the pump is replaced. That red thing in the picture is The Bone Creeper. Brian asked for the creeper as a Christmas present last year and he uses it a lot.

Here is the front axle!

What kind of projects are going on at your house?

Menu Plan Monday

Toast or cereal with fruit for me, eggs for Brian.

Mostly PB&Js + pretzels and/or lettuce & peas from the garden + string cheese (same as last week unless I get creative)

Monday: Walleye Parmesan with Homemade Garlic Shells

Tuesday: Lil Smokies with Homestyle Mac & Cheese

Wednesday: Hot Dogs & Hamburgers with Baked Potatoes on the grill

Thursday: Chicken Tenders (from a bag :P) and Hashbrowns

Friday: Homemade Pizza & Breadsticks

Sour Cream Raisin Cookies (may go in our lunches) and Easy Apple Crisp with Ice Cream

Check out what everyone else is eating over at Menu Plan Monday.

What are you eating lately? I'd love some new make ahead recipes and have some to share as well.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Year's Worth of Strawberries

Old bath towels are great for covering the countertops when canning. No worries about making a mess! This is where we were crushing the berries and that is all of the foam we scraped off after boiling.

Our filling station and some of the finished product.

This is called working double time.

I'm spending the day with my Mom and sister today. We met at our favorite berry farm just after 8 AM and started picking. 30 pounds of strawberries later we headed for home. My Mom hulled all those berries while my sister and I went to Meijer for more pectin. Of course we also stopped by the bathing suit section, etc., etc. but we finally made it back home.

That's when the fun began. We had a pretty good assembly line going. One would crush, one would stir 2 batches at a time, and the third would manage the canner and jars. We pumped out 2 batches before breaking to attend my cousin's graduation party. It was nice to see some family that I don't get to visit with very often.

Back at home the jam making continued. We also sliced some berries to freeze and left the 12# that we picked last week in the freezer for shortcake throughout the year.

All in all, here is our bounty:

25 pints jam
13 half pints jam
8 4 oz. jars jam
20 cups crushed, frozen berries
2 qts. sliced frozen
10 cups "foam" to use right away

If Brian and I used 1 pint every 2 weeks (which we won't) we would have enough for a whole year plus some for my Mom and sister (who don't use much) and plenty to give away. I'd say this was a success. :)

About half of the finished product.

Do you can your own jams or jellies? Do you do enough for a whole year? This time we went to the U-pick farm but I'm hoping to have enough of our own someday. Does anyone grow all of their own fruit for jam?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fitness Friday

Fitness Friday was started last week by Amy over at Muddy Boots. I see she hasn't done a FF post yet today so it may not be an ongoing thing. However, I've been working my butt off and I'm ready to talk about it!!

I haven't mentioned this sooner because I know how I am. I get all fired up about things and forget them the next week. I didn't want to talk about working out if I was going to quit. Well, not this time!! I started Jillian Micheal's 30 Day Shred Workout on Monday, June 15th. I've worked out Monday - Friday for two weeks now.

I heard about the shred from several different places right in a row, even from one of my new favorite blogs Cents to Get Debt Free.

For those not familiar with the workout it goes like this:
There are 3 levels, progressively harder.
Each level is a short warm-up, 18 minutes of hard work, and a short cool down totaling around 22 minutes.
You do 3 minutes of strength, 2 minutes of cardio, 1 minute of abs and repeat 3 times.
Each 6 minute circuit features different exercises so it is NOT BORING, which I like.

I stuck to level 1 for the first 6 days. Tuesday I moved to level 2. I confess that I didn't work very hard Tuesday morning because I was confused and slow to grasp the new moves. This could have been avoided by watching the segment first but I thought it might scare me off. Instead I watched it on fast forward afterward, pausing for the moves that stumped me. Wednesday, despite getting up @ 5 AM in hopes of working out, I was only able to squeeze in about 10 minutes total. I worked extra hard for that 10 minutes to compensate! ;) Today was the first time I really got in to level 2 from start to finish. It was challenging and I was fighting hard at the end just to finish.

I can honestly say I have never physically worked this hard before, at least not consistently. It is addicting. I can't wait to get up and get started. I feel so good afterward and think this is a big part of why I've been in a really good mood lately.

As for physical results, I am already seeing them. Day 2 I weighed 134.8#. After one week I weighed 132.4#. I won't be surprised if I gain or level off as I build muscle but I'd like to be around 120-125 like I always was until the last couple years. My clothes fit a little better already.

I haven't changed much about the way I eat although I am watching my portion sizes and avoiding mindless eating and stress eating. I'm trying to add in more fruits and veggies and have realized that I eat A LOT of bread.

What do you do to stay in shape? Have you ever taken on a regular workout? Were you happy with the results?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I really did do a Menu Plan!

I really did, I just never posted it. Okay, I also never finished it. Better late than never. Here it is:

Mostly frosted shredded wheat.

Mostly PB&Js + pretzels and/or lettuce & peas from the garden + string cheese

Monday: Leftover Spaghetti and Quick Cheese Bread

Tuesday: Meatball Subs/Toasted Bread with Parmesan

Wednesday: Hot Breaded Chicken Salad (this was great to take to the hay field)

Thursday: Lil' Smokies (for me)/Hamburgers (for Brian) w/ Cheddar Potato Strips

Friday: Marinated Steak and Baked Potatoes on the grill

Strawberry Shortcake w/ whipped cream or ice cream

What are you eating this week?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cut Off From the World

Okay, I don't consider myself to be very high tech. I haven't used my ipod in 6 months and I refuse to text message. However, today I felt so cut off from the world it was scary, and I was having major withdrawals. Our internet is only working off and on so if I'm missing for awhile that will be why. We can no longer pick up a good signal and there is nothing the company can do to fix it so we're looking for a new service provider. Every time I turned around today I couldn't continue with my plans because I couldn't get online. Here's what I mean:

I wanted to preserve my garlic scapes but I didn't remember how they said to do it on that website I looked at the other day.

Since my Mom, Brian, and I picked a bunch of strawberries on Saturday I was dying to try Abbie's Strawberry Shortcake recipe but couldn't get the page to load.

I was planning to browse recipes for this weeks' menu plan and knew I wanted to make Quick Cheese Bread with dinner tonight. Luckily this thing started working. The bread is in the oven so I'll keep you posted!

More importantly, the builder was here repairing the shed that burned and I needed to write him another check. I had to tell him not to cash it for a few days since I couldn't get online to transfer the money from our savings to our checking, or to update our check register and compare the online banking with our Quickbooks.

Maybe I really am addicted to the internet like my husband used to claim. Of course he doesn't say that now, he's too busy fighting me for the computer so he can check the weather, browse craigslist, drool over tractors on ebay, and watch the grain prices on our local elevator's website. Oh, what is this world coming to!?!

Where do you spend your time online? Do you rely on the web like we do?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Herbs and Our Front Porch

I picked up some herbs from two different places lately and finally planted them today. The planter boxes are something that my Dad was getting rid of. I think he made them from old deck lumber. I painted over the brown paint so they now match our porch. There were already drain holes drilled in the bottoms. I added some hay and then a mix of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite.

From left to right we have Peppermint, Thyme, and Lavender. If the plants do well I expect the Peppermint and Lavender to fill in the box.

Here from left to right is Curly Parsley, Rosemary, Basil, and more Curly Parsley.

We were just talking about how much we enjoy our porch so I thought I'd share a few more pictures. A passerby during early evening might find us sipping iced tea in our Adirondack chairs. We found this table in the garage when we moved in so I painted it to match.

Of course the dogs are never far away. I'm really surprised that Maci hasn't chewed up or otherwise damaged those citronella pots yet. I picked them up on clearance years ago for 10 cents each and just got them out the other day.

The iced tea is cold, won't you join us for a glass!?

P.S. I've finally replied to the comments from the last 3 posts so if you had left a comment you may want to check back there. Sorry I've been slacking lately! :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Good Day

I've really been enjoying life this week. Here are some of the highlights:

I fed the chickens in the rain and felt so proud and content standing in the rain watching them huddle together in the nice dry shelter that Brian and I built. They are getting big!

I came in the house and appreciated how each dog stopped on the landing and let me wipe their feet one by one before they went upstairs.

I've worked up a sweat more than once and feel sooo much better because of it.

Since I've been working so hard I've started out with cold showers and then turned them to hot. This is new to me and very refreshing.

The meal plan is so liberating, I want to do it every week. While dinner is cooking I arrange all the supplies for the next night's meal. Plus, I haven't been late for work because I'm scrambling to pack my lunch. Now I really enjoy getting good meals on the table every night.

I got a letter saying there was a problem with our taxes, got a big refund, got scared that it was a mistake, and almost cried with happiness to find that it was really our money. This, our second year farming, will be our first year paying all of the inputs and borrowing ZERO dollars to farm. This is a dream I'd hoped for years down the line, not something I expected for our second year.

Brian and I fell asleep in the living room at 7:30 the other night. The dogs woke us up so we moved to the bedroom. It was still light out for another 2 hours. We couldn't fall asleep so we just lounged around, watched TV, talked, played with the cat, and put pillows on each other's heads to hide the light. There was no funny business if that's what you're thinking (!) but it was great just to be together in our normally hectic life.

I harvested my first two pea pods yesterday, and boy were they delicious!! Plus I was able to pick fresh garlic scapes to go with our dinner tonight.

I could go on and on. Hopefully these happy times will last awhile, I'm really enjoying them.

What little things are you enjoying lately? Please share!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - New for Me!

Okay, here's a new thing for me. I'm going to try being a part of Menu Plan Monday, a weekly menu plan share hosted by Laura over at I'm An Organizing Junkie. The banner above is linked to her awesome site.
I'm not sure exactly what our week will be like since we've got hay to bale. Here's my plan:

  • Monday
    • Snack
      • Peaches and yogurt
    • Supper
      • Ham Steaks
      • Red Skinned Garlic Mashed Potatoes
      • Chicken Gravy
  • Tuesday
    • Breakfast
      • Rhubarb Muffins
      • Milk
    • Lunch
      • Leftover Mashed Potatoes
      • Hot Dogs
      • Peaches and yogurt
    • Snack
      • Homemade Granola Bar
    • Supper
      • Homemade Chicken Nuggets
      • Boxed Mac N' Cheese
  • Wednesday
    • Breakfast
      • Rhubarb Muffins
      • Milk
    • Lunch
      • PBJ
      • Pretzels
      • Canned corn
    • Snack
      • Homemade Granola Bar
    • Supper
      • Parmesan Crusted Tilapia
      • Roasted Potatoes
  • Thursday
    • Breakfast
      • Rhubarb Muffins
      • Milk
    • Lunch
      • PBJ or Leftover Tilapia
      • Pretzels
      • Canned corn
    • Snack
      • Homemade Granola Bar
    • Supper
      • Spaghetti
      • New Cheese bread recipe
  • Friday
    • Breakfast
      • Rhubarb Muffins
      • Milk
    • Lunch
      • PBJ
      • Pretzels
      • Canned corn
    • Snack
      • Homemade Granola Bar
    • Supper

Monday, June 8, 2009

Poultry Update - Cattle Panel Shelter - Pics

Well, the eggmobile sits empty. Part of the reason we finished it when we did was because the rooster was getting so mean I could hardly get the eggs anymore. Once the birds were out on pasture I could easily gather them at least once a day. Sadly, the hens must have learned to eat their eggs during that week when I wasn't collecting them very often. I first culled the rooster and one hen that I suspected as being the culprit. Unfortunately, the eating continued and we were forced to cull the remaining 5 hens. I am very glad that this happened with such a small flock and not the large one that I hope to have in the future. Lesson learned here: no matter what - get those eggs!!

So, now we have around 121 chickens and no eggs! I haven't decided yet if I'm going to buy a few layers to get us by or just get our eggs from a friend for now. If I bring in new layers now I'll have to mix them with the heritage breed flock when they start laying. If I don't get any now then I'll have to stop trying to build a future client base by handing out free eggs.

The heritage birds moved from our basement to a small brooder in the garage to the old laying flocks quarters in the garage. The colored rangers went directly from the basement to the laying flock quarters then to the cattle panel shelter just in time for the heritage birds to follow. We could have turned one of the two brooding lights off by now except two of the colored rangers have developed pretty nasty sores on their tails so I have them in the small brooder as sort of a hospital pen. The one with the worst sore died this morning, I'm hoping the other pulls through.

The heritage breed chicks are doing great. We had a power outage last week so I brought them in the house to keep warm. Despite my efforts they all piled up and one of the Buff Chanteclers was dead in the morning. The remaining birds are thriving in their new, spacious quarters. You can read more about the breeds I selected and why in my post about that.

I took out some dry straw for the colored rangers in the cattle panel shelter. They've been out there about a week but I only let them out of the shelter and in to the fence this weekend. The electric net has to be working well in order to contain them. Otherwise they can put their head through and push right out.

See the one sprawled out there in the middle? They sure are good at making me think something is wrong. He was just relaxing, of course.

This morning's rain showers tore part of the roof off. I secured it with more baling twine. Pretty fancy! :)

Happily lounging on the fresh, dry straw after I repaired the roof.

I need to have a better feeding and watering system in place for next time. This big feeder from the eggmobile is the only way I can keep food in front of these buggers.

Some prefer to scratch around and explore.

Napping peacefully.

He's trouble, can't you tell!

Here you can see the different colors. Most are dark red but there are some light, almost buff, and some with this neat pattern.

The turkeys are right at home in this small chicken tractor. We found two of these on craigslist and paid $15 total for them.

Aren't they cute!? They really are the sweetest birds I've had.

How are your birds doing? Have you ever tried pasture raised chicken? I am so excited to taste it, although I am really worried about preparing it and working with whole chicken since that will be new to me.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Are You A Twit?

LoL, I just had to pose my question like that. If you've listened to the Dave Ramsey show lately you'll get it. Anyway, what I mean to say is "Do you Twitter?" or Tweet or whatever? I decided that I would not get in to that because Lord knows I don't need another reason to sit in front of this blasted computer. However, since I'm staying up later for summer I find myself craving communication. Blogging is great but it doesn't really supply an immediate fix like AIM used to do back when I used that. Then I think how nerdy I would sound, "Oh yeah, I heard on Twitter the other day that blah blah blah". I already mention my blog way too much in real life.

"Seriously, I found the best recipe on this woman's site that I blog with..."


"Well, I don't care if you think eggmobiles are weird. Everyone that I blog with thought it was a great idea!"


"Honey, look what so-and-so's husband built (showing him pics on blog). Do you think you could build one of those for me?"


"Gosh, do you have your pumpkins planted yet? Okay good, neither do I. I was getting worried because all the people who have blogs that I read have theirs planted already."

Please, please tell me you guys talk like this too. Maybe we should have kids so I can at least blame it on them that I am so sheltered. It isn't that I don't have friends in real life. I just really don't like going out and sitting at the bar or pretending to have a big social life. I don't like making plans much at all, then I feel like my whole day or weekend is already gone. Hmm, great, now I sound super anti-social. Oh well!

So, back to my original question, do you use Twitter? If so, what do you think about it? Fun? No? Educational? I really don't want to just report what I'm doing all the time but if Dave Ramsey is on there then it must have some potential to be interesting. I'd love your thoughts!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Gone To The Dogs

I started working on curtains for the living room last night. I left the fabric all spread out after getting sidetracked with the frost warning. This morning I found this...

Which quickly turned in to a belly up "I'm sorry Mom but I'm wagging my tail and I'm cute" pose...

I think it is safe to say that this project has officially gone to the dogs!

If you've been around here long you know this is nothing compared to the havoc our dogs can create. What do your dogs (or cats) do to push your buttons!?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

If You'd Like It To Frost In June...

Just plant the majority of your tomato plants. Go ahead... sorry I don't have time to help you, I'm too busy covering my garden with a thick layer of straw!! ;)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Canning Rhubarb, and more planting

I'm trying a new theory. Instead of eating within the seasons, how about preserving each season so I can have it all year long. Case in point: last year I made the heck out of rhubarb muffins for a couple months. I've been craving them for about 10 months now. I like to can as much as possible to save freezer space for meat so I thought I'd try canning rhubarb. It was the easiest canning experience ever!!

I had a bag of rhubarb that must have weighed 10 pounds. I could have run it through the food processor like I sometimes do but cut it up by hand instead. It is easier to work with and looks nicer. Plus, I didn't feel good and sitting in front of the TV with the cutting board for 2 hours made me feel like I accomplished something. Anyway, I chopped it in small 1/2-1 inch pieces.

Add 2-4 cups of sugar to each 16 cups of rhubarb. I used only 2 cups because I prefer a very light syrup. Toss together in a big bowl and let sit for at least a few hours. The natural juices will seep out and create it's own syrup.

After setting for awhile it is time to get the canner going and jars ready. Then heat the rhubarb and the juice in a pan until boiling. Boil for 30-60 seconds. Transfer to jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe the rim and seal. Process for 15 minutes.

The Ball canning book says that each 16 cup batch will produce 8 pints. I had about 40 cups but only ended up with 13 pints, not the 20 I expected. The rhubarb must have cooked down quite a bit. There was not a lot of syrup but all the jars sealed and I expect them to store well. I already opened 1 jar to make muffins and I was very happy with the product. I'll share the rhubarb muffin recipe as soon as I find the one I used last year.

In other news, I planted out some more seedlings tonight. 35 Waltham 29 broccoli and 17 more Amish Paste tomatoes, bring the total AP tomatoes up to 25 surviving.

Tomorrow is my early day at work so off to bed I go. Enjoy! :)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Growing Challenge Check-In: Planting

My garden isn't small but I didn't have any room to plant corn. Our neighbor Jeff was kind enough to come by with his tractor and rototiller and make the above long strip of garden for me. It is between the pasture fence and the road. We had to put the fence far off the road to make room for snow in the winter but can still use the space all summer.

I planted 5 different kinds of corn the first day. I still had some room so in went 2 packets of sunflowers, hopefully to use in granola bars this fall. Well, there was still a ton of room left so I just kept planting. All the peas and beans went in. Then watermelon, zucchini, and squash. There is still room so I added eggplant seeds and may stick in some eggplant seedlings to fill it up. I'm trying to plant less valuable crops there since I wouldn't put it past some idiot to drive through it or pick from it. The tomatoes and other crops will stay in the main garden. Plus, now there is room in the main garden for pumpkins!!

Here's the complete running list, new additions in bold, the rest are updated.

Seedlings still under light (they really need to get outside but the weather is poor):
Amish Paste Tomatoes
Green Zebra Tomatoes
Waltham 29 Broccoli
Ping Tung Eggplant
Long Purple Eggplant

In the main garden:
Red pioneer potatoes- 10# - growing well, need straw
Red onions - 8-10" tall
Dwarf Grey Sugar Peas (hybrid) - 1 20' row - 8" tall
Asparagus - mostly gone to seed, some still coming up
Black seeded simpson lettuce - 1 20' row - up
Black seeded simpson lettuce - 1 20' row planted 4/27 - up
Sugar Ann snap pea - 1 20' row planted 4/27 - 4" tall
Victoria Rhubarb - approx. 25 seeds planted 4/27 - didn't come up, disappeared!
Amish Paste Tomato seedlings - 10 planted out 5/25 - 2 died, others holding on

In the long garden:
Country Gentleman sweet corn - 1 packet - planted 5/25
Golden Bantam 8-Row sweet corn - 1 pkt. - planted 5/25
Carousel mini ornamental corn - 1 pkt. - planted 5/25
Strawberry popcorn - 1 pkt. - planted 5/25
Japanese White Hull-less popcorn - 1 pkt. - planted 5/25
Mammoth Grey sunflowers - 1 pkt. - planted 5/30
Buff Valentine (Contender) bush bean - 3 pkts. - planted 5/31
Sugar Ann snap peas - remainder of 1 pkt. - 5/31
Laxton's Progress 9 garden pea - 3 pkts. - 5/31
Tall Telephone garden pea - 1 pkt. - 5/31
Blacktail Mountain watermelon - 1 pkt. = 5 hills - 5/31
Butternut Roosa squash - partial pkt. = 2 hills - 5/31
Black Beauty zucchini - partial pkt. = 2 hills - 5/31
Ping Tung eggplant - partial pkt. = 2 hlls - 5/31

Around the farm:
Heritage Raspberry - 4 canes planted 4/26 - doing great
Strawberries - a few blossoms, only half dozen plants survived winter without mulch
Gooseberry and Currants - 2 of each - planted last year - huge w/ small berries forming!
2 Red Haven Peach trees - planted - all fruit trees are healthy and green
1 Harrow pear tree - planted last year - only tree with blossoms
1 Bartlett pear tree - planted
1 Montmorency Cherry tree - planted
1 Gala apple tree - planted
1 Golden Delicious apple tree - planted
4 blueberry bushes - planted last year - greening up
Mature apple trees - small apples forming!

Here's a pic I snapped from where I sat planting the endless patch.

Also, this is the broken hoe that I've repurposed to help me plant. It makes a great little tool to cut rows in the soil. Then I just drop the seeds in and pat over them with my hand.

I've enjoy reading many of your garden updates and how everyone's plant are flourishing. What's your favorite garden tool? How do you plant your seeds?

Sewing with Mom

My Mom was nice enough to drive out for a visit on Sunday. We spent the day sewing a new scrub top for me. I bought the pattern and the fabric a while ago but wasn't sure how to cut out the pieces. I have made curtains and even pajamas but this top was by far the hardest thing yet. My Mom is an excellent seamstress. She even made my bridesmaids' dresses for the wedding so I knew this top would be a breeze for her. It turned out pretty good. Thanks Mom!

Today is the start of my new work schedule. I only have to work Tuesday - Friday this summer. Yay! That means more free time for all the projects around here. I wanted to spend this first day off out in the garden finishing the planting (expect an update soon). However, Mother Nature decided rain/storms sounded good today. I actually planned ahead and went to Jo-Ann Fabrics yesterday to stock up on supplies for today. On the agenda: cut out a second scrub top and work on curtains for the living room. Those who follow the Git 'Er Done posts will appreciate that once curtains are done the living room will be finished besides rewiring!

I have a couple other things up my sleeve for today as well so if I get that far I'll let you know. I've had a sore throat since about 10:30 PM last night so I'm going to take it easy and see how things go. I've taken some vitamins and will fight my urge to garden in the rain. How are you spending your day? Is it raining? Do you sew much? Any sewing projects you recommend?