Monday, June 9, 2014

Adventures in Summer Cooking (with Cora)

Hello everyone! Hope you are doing well in blogland! I'm going to stop apologizing for my absences and just let you all know that, whenever I possibly can, I will update the blog with our (mis)adventures LOL. As you all are, I'm sure, we are extremely busy trying to make everything happen.
This summer is going to be a wild one - since Mark is a teacher, he is off for the summer, I am currently unemployed and the kids are home for summer break too - this is the first summer we've ever had, where everyone is here! This is the summer of projects. We've already finished building the raised beds and planting most everything (still need to find a spot for those gourds). We've also decided to expand Cora's bee garden - originally, we were going to create a simple raised garden bed to help support the bees (and other pollinators) - however, we've decided that most of our backyard isn't very functional for us. Eventually, we are adding a back deck (when time and money allow) - our large vegetable garden and apple trees (and likely the chickens/turkeys) will remain back there - but instead of having just a mess of weeds and grass that we need to mow down, we are thinking of changing that into an entire garden space to support butterflies, and honey bees etc. I've been compiling a list of plants to add to our space - plants that will bloom throughout the seasons and will provide both nectar and pollen sources. It's exciting for us. Imagine looking out over the deck and seeing all these amazing flowers and pollinators making their way around. LOVE LOVE LOVE it.
Now that we have four hives - yes FOUR! We need to make sure that we are giving them all of the natural goodness that we possibly can. Speaking of bees - guess what we did for the first time EVER...Captured our first swarm!!!! It was scary, exhilarating and exciting all wrapped up in one bee cluster!
Our neighbors (from about a mile or so down the road) - the ones that provide our hay to us, showed up in our driveway and asked if we could help them out. The wife is allergic to honey bees and they were pretty sure there was a swarm in their tree. Mark and I suited up, grabbed a box and away we went - it took about an hour to get there, capture the swarm and get those girls home. It went amazingly well for our first swarm capture - especially since the property owner was watching us. We feel like we deserve a badge or something lol. There should be like the homesteader collection of badges (I slaughtered my first chicken, I captured a swarm, I ran into the barn without shoes and didn't get worms) - we also feel like we should create a list of things we thought we'd never say to each other like "Eew, the cat is eating the goat's placenta"...but that's another story. We combined the swarm with an existing hive that had gone queenless....and they seem to be getting along really well. We need to take a look at them girls later this week - we are hoping that one of our beekeeper friends will be able to make his way over here (Friday?) to take a look at our hives, offer suggestions etc. Also this weekend we volunteered at the BCBA/OSBA Summer Beekeeping Symposium. It was at Miami University and had a bunch of great breakout sessions - we really enjoyed helping. BTW - if you haven't heard of BEEpothecary - you should go check them out. Great people - Great products!
Anyway - I have so much more to share...and I will! Promise! But for now, I'll leave you with a project that Miss Cora and I are working on today...HOMEMADE MARSHMALLOWS! That's right, homemade! We have them made and right now we are waiting to cut them - I'll let you know how it turns out...Here's the recipe that we used:

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Nonstick spray

Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.
Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.

For regular marshmallows:
Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

So far, they taste amazing - I just hope we can finish the last step of getting them cut and tossed with the cornstarch/powered sugar mix. Fingers crossed!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Farm and Garden Update

We ended with three baby goats this season. I was thinking we had one more mama - but she doesn't seem to be doing anything - so maybe she wasn't bred afterall, or maybe she lost the pregnancy. The three little ones are doing amazing though. They are running around the pasture - chasing after each other, driving the grown ups crazy. At first, it seemed like some of the grown ups weren't fans of the little ones - but it seems they have accepted them as part of the flock. I'm not sure if we are keeping all or all of these - it seems it would make sense to keep the girl - but the boys are so damn cute. We'll see...there's only so much room at the inn....and frankly, I'd love to get a donkey. Mark's not going to let me get a donkey AND keep all the goats.
We've been gardening a lot these days...building our raised garden beds, with trellises (we still need to add another bed to that area and four of the trellises - but we are getting there. We also need to build a permanent bed for asparagus - our seedlings are doing amazing and we'll need to get them transplanted soon. We decided to grow the asparagus from seed because we aren't in a rush to get them (it takes 2-3 years to get the plants producing) and from what I've read, if you can get them to establish from seed, you have a stronger plant and bigger yield etc. We also need to build another bed for Cora's bee garden. Last year at Mother Earth News Fair, we bought Cora a bunch of seeds to create a garden all her own - the seeds were selected to encourage pollinators to visit - so she should be seeing all types of butterflies and honey bees etc. We also got a bird bath to put into the bed - we will put colorful rocks in there so the bees have space to land and get a drink, without drowning. I'm really excited about that garden...Cora and I sat down and planned it all out, what to plant where etc. I'm hoping it is beautiful (I'm sure it will be). Yesterday, we transplanted 32 of each of the following: broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage to the raised beds in front. We also transplanted 36 brussels sprout plants and planted a row of carrots and a row of beets in the back garden. Finally, we planted 10 pounds of potato "seeds". I love that we've been able to most everything in the beds using our own compost. OH! We also have three large pots for lettuce and spinach mix. Whew! YAY food.
I mentioned in a previous post that we ordered additional trees etc. Shortly before those items shipped, we decided to cut back a bit. Mainly because of money. We had a lot of money going out for our crazy goat deliveries and rough winter, so we decided to not get the asparagus crowns (and our seedlings are doing WIN!), we ordered 1/2 the grape vines - we originally were going to get two sets, but figured that one set would be good enough, we decided against that tangerine - because that is an indoor, wouldn't it be cool type of tree, more of a novelty, than a necessity so it went on the back burner. I think that was a smart decision. We've got time to do all of this stuff - I get the "I wants" and I want it all to happen at once...but this is our home, for a long time.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I was right!

Sweet Pea delivered some time through the night! A single baby, I'm not sure if it is a doe or buck yet (I'll check later today). That's how it should go though - she's a champ and so far wins the best mommy of 2014 award. She had her baby cleaned up, she was nursing, her placenta was delivered and she was mommy talking (unique voice for her baby to recognize her, from other goats).
You can't see it very well in this photo, but it has a dark ridge on its spine. A real cutie.
I feel good that we are starting to know what we are talking about when it comes to pregnancy and birth. It should be a natural thing, but that's not always the case - sometimes they need assistance. I'll try and get a non-red toned picture later today...the red is from the heat lamp. It's still cold here...Spring...where are youuuuuuu????

Monday, March 24, 2014

No kidding?

It's that time of year kidding time. As I've mentioned in the last post, we are having issues when it comes to goat kids. The first two mothers lost their babies. However, since then, we had one of our angora goats deliver twins. Twins! Frankie Blue (that's right, we have a female goat named Frankie and a male cat named Alice - we don't play the typical gender roles here when it comes to naming animals) gave birth, completely unassisted to two bucks. They are so cute. One was good to go, right from the start. The other, which I believe was the first one born, had a little tougher go around. He was cold when we went out there. We brought him inside, snuggled him against me with a heating pad covering him up. Mark brewed a cup of coffee and gave the goat a bit, mixed with sugar, to get him some much needed energy. Mark also milked Frankie and we were able to get some colostrum into little Bandit (named for the black circles around his eyes). He perked up and was able to get back to momma quickly. This year, Frankie was able to get both boys cleaned off and was interested in getting them nursed, unlike last year, where she basically ignored Sweet Pea for the first few days.
Here we are, nearly 5 days later and the boys are doing great. They spend some supervised time in the farm yard with their aunts and uncles. They are playing and hopping around - it's really a fun time for baby goats.
Now, Sweet Pea and Itty are supposed to be delivering. Sweet Pea has a full bag, sunken sides, loose vulva, and as of my last check (about an hour ago) a little goo coming out of her who ha - all the signs of pending delivery (in fact, I assumed that last night around midnight we'd be dealing with new kids in the barn) - but we are still waiting. I'll keep making barn checks and hopefully we will have a couple more healthy deliveries soon. So I thought I'd share some animal pictures with you...

Bandit and Decaf, playing in the pasture

Decaf - sweet boy with blue eyes, just like momma.

Bandit - he's smaller than his brother, but more independent

I just think this is cute - this is Itty (on the far side) with her son from last year, Coffee. You can generally find them together, snuggled up like this.

Jester stays real still when the babies come near him - like he's afraid he will crush them or something. I love the sweet smile on Bandit's face, as he snuggles his nose into Jester.
In other news - we were able to get a bunch of seeds started! 322 of them to be exact (50 tomatoes (3 varieties), 54 asparagus, 34 cauliflower, 36 broccoli, 36 cabbage, 36 celery, 36 Brussels sprouts, 16 jalapeno, 24 green pepper) - WOOT! 

Above is the rack that we built to start our seeds on - we need to grab another 4 ft. shop light to go for the bottom shelf. I thought the window would be enough light for the top shelf - but I worry it won't be enough - we could probably just put shade tolerant veggies up there.  We need to get some thing in the ground, once it warm just a touch more. Just things that like cold feet :-)
Ok - time to go check on a goat!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Do you know what I saw this morning?

...a real live crocus! A few of them actually! Do you know what that means? SPRING! The flowers seem to realize that the snow is (hopefully) gone for good. Nervously, I checked the forecast this morning and saw this:

50's and 60's and we'll pretend that the 48 on Saturday will actually make it above 50. This is very exciting to everyone in Ohio (and I'm sure elsewhere too). We've been kept inside too long. We're all cranky. We've gained too many extra "winter pounds". We need to be in the dirt, dirty hands, dirty feet, sweaty foreheads. This is the time that we stretch out from underneath our woolen blankets and do something. Although, if you ask my dogs (both asleep in separate chairs, breathing that heavy sleep breathing) they are hoping for a couple more days of hibernation. LOL. 
This weekend had its ups and downs. Mabel, our very experienced dairy goat, had some issues with her delivery this weekend. She was working and pushing and just could not open up to get her baby out. We called the vet and she came to delivery a dose of oxytocin - it worked, she opened almost immediately. Unfortunately, the one fetus that she had was already dead. Not from the delivery, it was already dead and from the look of the placenta, it had been dead for a couple of days (which explains why Mabel was trying to expel the baby, even though her body wasn't really ready for delivery). The baby was deformed though. It had more of a fur-like fiber, than the regular hair that I'm used to seeing - it also had an extended lower jaw and missing teeth. This is two babies now lost. It's sad, so sad. This is not what we signed up for...ok, I guess it's all part of being a farmer. But last year births were so simple - most giving birth when we weren't even in the barn, they would just sneak and drop a baby and we'd be like - who does this one belong to?!?! So far, two births have ended with two calls to the vet, one c-section, two dead babies. Disheartening, to say the least. I spoke to someone else at Mark's work and she too is having issues with her goats - in fact, she has lost three of her nannies - UGH! At least we still have our girls - just wish they had their babies too. :-( Hmmpht. We still have 2, maybe three more girls that should deliver, although they are our angoras/angora crosses, not dairy. We are having an autopsy done on this fetus though - just to figure out if there is something going on with the entire herd - or if it is just a fluke. Either way, I'm kinda done with all the death we've experienced this year. I wonder how many others are having goat abortion/deformation issues out there??
In good news - with this warm weather coming and, frankly, the date on the calendar is telling me we are about 7 1/2 to 8 weeks away from Mother's Day...also known as my preferred planting day! My goal is to have our seedlings ready to be put in the ground that weekend...which means we need to get the seeds started inside in the next couple of days! In years past, we have tried a number of different methods to starting seeds. We've tried setting up a table in front of our front window, where the morning sun shines through...but we ended up fighting the cats for that space - who, apparently, thinking that our seedlings were planted for them to lay on. Grr. We tried planting in the basement, but got some funky mushrooms trying to fight for planting space. So this year, we built a seed starting rack.We built a simple rack, made from 2x4s The rack has four shelves - each shelf is 4 ft. long by a foot deep. The bottom shelf is about 6 inches from the ground, shelf two is 18 inches above that, shelf three is 18 inches above that and shelf four is 2 feet above that. The bottom threes shelves have shop lights, on chains, so we can adjust the distance above the seedlings. The top shelf doesn't have the lighting, but we can put more shade tolerant seedlings up there and just set the rack near a window. Another great aspect - we added castors to the bottom of the rack - then we can move it around, as needed (including to the porch to harden the plants). Today, my plan is to mix some dirt, with peat, alpaca poo, bunny poo and compost and get ready to plant - although Mark and the kids will likely help actually plant the seeds. Time to make a plan for what needs to go in first! I wonder how many seedlings we can actually get on there!? Hmmm....more details to follow on that. 
Enjoy spring everyone! We deserve this one!!!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Is it Easter already?

Green eggs and ham anyone? So looky what we have here! Last year, our "Easter Egger", so their breed is called, laid pink eggs that seemed to have some sort of hypercolor ability - when you would get them wet, or hold them tight in your hands, they would change color. Very strange. So far this year, we have a consistent white egg layer (Andy, our Blue Andalusian), our three brown layers are laying here and there - not sure if those four eggs came from one bird or a mix of the three ladies and now we have one egg that is a beautiful blue/green color. Great job Hedwig! She's a beautiful bird and a sweetheart. So glad that, for now, we won't have to be buying eggs at the store! Awesome!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

More on the Chicken Tractor

It is complete (sorta). The chicken tractor is out in the yard and the birds are in it...Loving their new space and all the grass that comes with it. We still need to make some tweaks on this...we were able use some of the fencing that we already had, leftover from other projects, and fence the yard area. We need to add some sort of door, to keep them warm in inclement weather (which I hear is coming back tomorrow for a couple of days). The roof is just a tarp, stapled on place all the way down one side and partially down the other - the flap at the bottom, allows us to lift the tarp and put in clean food/water. We've roped the containers from the cross bar, to keep them 1) level and 2) off the ground, so the birds can easily reach, but hopefully lessen the filth that only chickens can make (you chicken people know what I'm talking about here). We will convert the roof to some sort of plywood - with a hinged area and probably be wheeled, to make for easier moving (it took three of us to move it yesterday).
For those of you who don't raise birds, or are thinking about getting birds - the reason for something like this is to combine the free range and caged ideas. Unfortunately, we cannot just let our birds wander...we have a smaller property (they'd always end up at the neighbors), we have hawks and just isn't safe; however, if you leave them in one space (for example, our current coop is a stationary building with a fenced yard) - they tear up the yard so quickly, that they essentially live in a mud/dirt swamp area. This moveable coop - chicken tractor allows you to move them regularly. Once they have been on an area and clipped the grass and (ahem) fertilized the area, you simply move the structure to a new area. If you move it slow enough, the birds will just move with the structure. You can move them onto your garden beds to help weed, or once you've put the garden to bed for the season, you can put the tractor out there and they will eat the leftovers and again, fertilize the beds for next year...and fresh "pasture" means less grain that you need to supplement with. WIN WIN. They seem happy in there - running around, testing their still-growing wings very cute.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Building a Tractor

...and CHICKEN tractor!
Our meat birds were quickly growing out of their coop, in the basement. We decided this morning to move them into a side yard, off the chicken coop outside. We blocked the doorway between the two yards so that the larger layers won't hen-peck the newbies. All of the birds are getting to know each other through the safety of a fenced yard.
We were hoping to get the chicken tractor completed yesterday - but it just took longer than expected. Here are some photos We are trying to use up as much of our scraps as possible...leftover barn siding etc. We will need to paint the whole structure. We also need to add a roof - the one side will be hinged, so we can get in there and put in clean food and water for them. There is a roost bar on the other side.
The extension off the front will be fenced in - so we can let them run around have have access to all the fresh grass etc. They will also go into our garden to add fresh poo to the garden areas. We'll be able to move them to areas that we need cleaned out for raised beds etc. It'll be so good for them and us!

Friday, March 7, 2014

A fresh start at Fresh Egg's Farm

It's official, I'm a full time farmer and house wife. My contract ended with my last employer and since I wasn't willing relocate, my job ended mid-January. It's strange to not have be at the laptop all day. I still haven't adjusted and its been a month. Sometimes I get that panic feeling of having to check my emails or phone calls - but then I remember that I'm not currently tied to that lifestyle. It's a good thing that I'm not working too, with all that has been happening around here. The Snowmageddon - Polar Vortex (is it Vorti, since there is more than one?), has given as a winter that will go down in history. It has been such a rough winter. The past two days have finally offered us a bit of a warm up - which is wonderful.
We've had a bit of sadness around here too - Steve, our favorite ram, passed away recently. He was such a good boy and an incredibly beautiful sheep. We all miss him dearly, including his pen-mate, Jester. Although he is surviving and keeping on, it's obvious to me that he misses his buddy. We are working with the farm (Marushka Farms) that we originally got Steve and Jester from, to see if we can purchase two lambs, from this year's stock. More sad news came this week - with the excitement of a pending twin delivery from our first timer, Ethel. She was in labor and I realized, as time went by, that she just was not progressing the way that she should. It was time to call the vet. We love our vet - she came out immediately and told us the bad news that the baby was likely dead and that the momma was too small to deliver the baby. We would need to do an emergency c-section. We took her into the vet office and they got to work. We were able to be present for the procedure - which gave us and the kids a learning experience, although sad, it was quite interesting. As the vet progressed through the section - and cut open the uterus - dead tissue began to ooze out of the uterus. It quickly became obvious that the baby had been day for more than a day and she was simply trying to abort it. Also, there was no twin. What we thought was a twin on the ultrasound must have been a dual image for the same kid. Finally, there was now a significant chance that we would lose Ethel too. Due to all of this dead tissue and a mess of a delivery - the chance for infection is great. She spent the first night in the vet's office - and amazed the vets at how much she improved overnight. She came home the night before last and we have antibiotics for her. We also have her separate from the others - but where she can still see them - so she doesn't get too lonely.It seems that she is coming out of the woods - but it's hard to get too positive with this one. I know that loss is all part of having a farm - but this has just been a long, tough, sad, winter. We continue to try to look at the positive though.
My company offered me a healthy severance package, which will allow us to plan and purchase for the future. We have a huge wish list and have been trying to prioritize what we need, when.
:: Chickens
We ordered another round of meat birds - 25 were ordered, 27 arrived. Currently, they are living happy and healthy in a brooder box that we built in our basement. However, they are quickly outgrowing this space and we will need to, hopefully, get an outdoor space ready for them this weekend. We keep changing what we want out of this space for them - so it's time to decide and get it going. We have five layers, along with the two turkeys, currently in the hen house. They are just starting to get back into laying - the first several eggs we got were cracked (stepped on? dropped? too cold??) and had to be tossed - but yesterday we got three beautiful eggs! Uncracked and ready for eating :-) We have an order for several more layers to come in April - this will be a great addition for our family. I'm hoping that we can learn to preserve the eggs better and have less time without eggs or having to buy store eggs (ewww). We are also hoping that momma turkey will get it together and hatch some babies out for us. Wouldn't that be awesome!!?? Turkey babies born and raised on the farm for Thanksgiving dinner!?!?!?!?!
:: Bees
Yep - we are jumping back into bees this year with a vengeance. Last year, if you remember, we started with two hives - a good start for newbie ("new bee" har har har) keepers...but this year we are doubling that. We've been able to purchase 4 nuks from Don Popp's Honey Farm, along with some extra bee boxes, to get us started. The boxes will need sanded and painted...but are good and sturdy. We expect the bees sometime around mid- to late- April. I know that this year's pick up will go better than the last - I will be prepared!
:: Trees and Bushes and Food, Oh my!
I know that we keep saying that we are FINALLY done buying fruit trees etc for the property and I've come to the conclusion that...I just really like the idea of fruit trees and bushes growing on the property. If we have the space, why NOT grow as much as we can?! I mean, if there is too much for us...then there is always trading and sharing, right? So we've put in an order for the following items:
-Two different elderberry plants
-6 grape plants - the nursery refers to them as "red, white and blue" grapes, because each set comes with a set of three plants - Glenora (blue grapes), Lakemont (white grapes) and Reliance (red grapes) - and we got two sets. The arbors will be set for these along the driveway, between the peach/pear/cherry trees and the road.
-Tangerine tree - this will grow inside, during inclement weather, along side of our Meyer Lemon.
-Issai Hardy Kiwi - KIWI!? Did Fresh Eggs Farm just say Ohio????? Welll....these are a type of kiwi that grows on a vine, similar to a grape (you arbor/trellis them, as you would grapes). The fruit is hairless (unlike the Kiwi you are probably used to seeing at the grocery) - inside they are green with black seeds and you can just pop them in your mouth! YUM!!!!!
:: Rhubarb - we found out that our kids are HUGE fans for rhubarb and the couple stalks that we are getting from our one plant, just don't seem to be cutting it. So we are adding another.
:: Asparagus - we got seeds for these last year and they didn't really seem to grow well. We ordered another packet of seeds; however, then I read that it was better (easier) to get asparagus starts that are already established. So we ordered some from the nursery.
:: Walla walla onions - YUM!
:: Brown fig tree - I've never tried growing figs, nor have I even had a fresh fig before; however, these seem to be a staple in the self sufficient garden.
:: Pecan Tree - we already have a pecan tree, but she is old and doesn't produce the way we'd like. We are hoping to get this tree established, before we lose the other one completely.
:: Other Plants - we've also placed and received our seed order for this year. The list is as follows:
  • Amish Paste Tomatoes
  • Pink Ponderosa Tomatoes
  • Cantare Beans
  • Bull's Blood Beets
  • Calabrese Broccoli
  • Catskill Brussels Sprouts
  • Brunswick Cabbage
  • Danvers Half Long Carrots
  • Giant of Naples Cauliflower
  • Utah Tall Celery
  • Stowell's Evergreen Sweet Corn
  • Delikatesse Cucumber
  • Boston Pickling Cucumber
  • Luffa Gourd
  • Birdhouse Gourd
  • Bushel Basket Gourd
  • Tom Thumb Lettuce
  • Deer Tongue Lettuce
  • Blacktail Mountain Watermelon
  • Tennessee Red Peanut (thought these would be fun to try)
  • Jalapeno Pepper
  • California Wonder Pepper
  • Butternut Squash (Waltham)
  • Early Prolific Straightneck Yellow Squash
  • Table Queen Bush Acorn
  • Zucchini (Black Beauty)
  • Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach
  • Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin
  • Riesentraube Cherry Tomato
  • Asparagus (I'm not sure what we will do with these - maybe still try to grow them?)
All of these seeds were purchased through Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds -  this is an heirloom seed company, not affiliated with Monsanto. I think it's important to support these companies, as much as possible. We need to keep our seeds untainted from that GMO mess. Soon, we will be building a seed starting rack - so we can keep them out of the basement, safe from cats (who like to compete for window sun space) and control the amount of light they get (we are hanging florescent lights above the seeds, on each level). I'm really excited about this part! We've needed racks for a LONG time - I've got it planned in my head - just need to do it!

We've got our maple trees tapped and slowly but surely, they are starting to fill the buckets up. Yesterday was really our first warm day... and we should continue for the next week to have nice days and cold nights (hopefully, the perfect combination for a nice sap flow). We have to tweak our boiling process - I believe we are boiling too long, or too high or...I'm not really sure.

So what else have I been working on? Flooring and woodwork. UGH - I pulled all the carpet from our living room and parlor - we are working on refinishing the floors in these rooms. It's amazing how much gunk, dirt and dust collect in carpets. The floors underneath are beautiful wide planks - and will be amazing, once we have them all sanded and sealed etc. As part of this room redo - and due to some playing with the budget, we were able to work out getting a pellet stove installed in the parlor - WHAT A DIFFERENCE THIS STOVE HAS MADE IN OUR LIVES! I can't say it enough. It has saved us money - we were spending $90-$180 per week, just on oil...and that was barely enough to keep it so our pipes didn't freeze and we weren't completely miserable (but with the polar vortex stuff I mentioned earlier - it was still so rough). The stove gave us a warm house, yes, but it also gave us an extra warm place to warm up in front of, after doing animals or spending any time outside. That toasty flame was the only thing that kept me from cracking this winter. Love.

I apologize for not posting in a while - but we've been on a bit of a roller coaster ride here and busy busy busy. Hope all of you are doing well in blogland.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 Starts

Today, is a fresh start. I understand that it is simply the day after yesterday, but it seems like the flipping the page to a new year always gives us a fresh outlook on life. 2013 brought the Mother Earth News Fair (and mini vacation) for Mark and me, we raised and processed our own chickens this year, we learned that we did that processing just as Joel Salatin does, we raised our own turkeys for Christmas dinner, Mark started his job teaching at a wonderful school, we've learned more about our home and how to handle things like...septic emergencies etc, Gage has learned to approach the farm in a more positive light and he has also earned the role of class president and found himself a sweet little girlfriend that we all just adore.. Drake, Cora, Tiff and Kait are leading wonderful, positive lives and we are so excited to see what this coming year brings for them. But it also brought great challenges, my dad's heart (..and so thankful he is healthy), Cora's concussion and tonsil surgery (...and so thankful she is healthy), some financial issues, and personal set backs. For this day, we can look forward and see all of the positives that we have planned for 2014.
It's going to be a BIG year for us! BIG.