Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Chicken Kind Of Post

I think I'm over due to post some pictures of the chickens. So here are some updated ones that I thought were blog worthy.This is Chief. Megan calls him Big Guy, and he really is! He's a silver laced chochin that we got as our "free rare chick" from the hatchery. He is the sweetest thing so far. I hope he stays that way because I would love to see what he fathers with our mix of hens next spring. Can you imagine a naked necked, feather footed chick?

If you let the three year old have the camera for a while, you are bound to have at least one really good picture. This pullet rarely stands still enough for me to get her picture. But she sure is underfoot if she thinks I have a treat.

This is our little bantam rooster. So far we just call him Noname (pronounced NO-NAAM-A), but he needs a real name. Any suggestions? I had heard it said that bantam roosters are "half the size with twice the personality". That is definatly true of this little guy.

I'm still not 100% sure what this pullet is. I think she may be a silver laced wyandotte, but whatever she is, she has lots of personality.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fun With The Kids

If there is one thing I don't do enough, it's get out and play with the kids. The other day I let all the house work sit and I just went out side with them. The laundry and dirty dishes will always be there, but my kids won't want me to run and play with them forever, right? I need to remember that more.Do you remember what it feels like to just let loose like this? Just let it all out. No wonder kids laugh so often. They don't let the stress build up.

Thought you could hide this from me did you? HA! Keep trying mom.

Can we PLEASE got for a ride NOW? I've been waiting all day!

Yep, the laundry will always be there. But the kids won't and I need to enjoy them while I can.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Daring Lavash

I did my first challenge this month with Daring Bakers. The recipe was for Lavash Crackers, and we were suppose to make some sort of dip to go with it.

This was my first attempt at making crackers. I was rather excited to try. The recipe turned out more like a thin pita bread than crackers. I may try it again sometime without the yeast to see if that makes a difference. Either way, it is delicious and I will be making it again in the future.

The recipe was for making it either with gluten or gluten free. I thought about doing it gluten free, but I couldn't justify the cost when I had the ingredients on hand to make it with wheat flour.

For my dip, I chose to make a salsa with cherry tomatoes and sweet banana peppers.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Lavash Crackers

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 T sugar
1 T olive oil
1/3 C to 1/2 C + 2 T water
Salt, Sesame seeds and Paprika for toppings

1) In a mixing bowl stir together the flour, salt, yeast sugar, oil and just enough water to form dough. You probably won't need all the water. (I think I only needed about the 1/3 C)

2) Knead the dough for 10-20 minutes, or until it is firm and smooth. Dough should not be tacky.

3) Oil a bowl. Put a dough in the bowl and roll it around to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 90 minutes, or until about double in size.

4) Mist counter lightly with cooking spray. Gently roll the dough into a 12 x15 inch rectangle. You may need to stop a few times to let the gluten relax so the dough will hold it's shape. Be sure to cover it when it is resting. Also, lift the dough occasionally.

5) Place the dough on parchment on a baking sheet. Spritz lightly with water and sprinkle with alternating rows of sesame seeds and paprika. Then sprinkle salt over the whole thing.

Here is what my dough looked like just before it went in the oven:

6) Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees F. for 15-20 minutes, or until the crackers are evenly brown., or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top.

7) Remove from oven and let cook in the pan for about 10 minutes. Break (or tear) apart and serve with your choice of dip.

Cherry Tomato, Banana Pepper Salsa

2 C. Cherry tomatoes
3 banana peppers
1 small onion
1 tsp salt
2 cloves of garlic

Put all ingredients in a food processor and process to your desired consistency. I did mine fine and then used a mesh strainer to strain off the excess liquid.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Planning for next year

Now that my garden is almost done for this year, it's time to start thinking about what I want to grow next year.  I do think I tried to put too much in my space this year.  With the raised beds, it all grew very well as planted, but as things bushed out, it made harvesting rather difficult.  So I'm planning to have two (at least) more raised beds.  This way I can spread things out in a way that will make them easier to manage.  Also, I'm going to plant pole beans rather than bush beans next year.  I think it will be wise to make use of vertical space as much as possible.

So now that I have that decided I am moving on to what exactly I want to plant.  I'm thinking mostly heirloom veggies.  I came to that decision when I found Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Of course I won't be able to get everything from there.  It would cost too much.  But how fun to grow things I can't get elsewhere? 

I'm even planning for gardens beyond next year.  I've been talking to Rob about raising a couple pigs next year.  My hope is to put them in a pen just off the east side of the lawn.  Then in 2010 I can use that space for squash and corn. 

I'm sure I'll come up with more plans as time goes on.  I just love coming up with new ideas.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I Made Soap!

It was so much easier than I thought it would be.  I was worried about using lye, but in truth it wasn't a big deal.  Yes, the safety precautions were necessary.  If something does happen to go wrong with lye, you need to be prepared.

So I made the soap and used a stick blender to get it to "trace".  That took about 20 minutes.  I did take breaks and just hand stir from time to time because the motor on the blender was getting a bit hot.  Even though I only paid $1 for it doesn't mean it's ok to blow up the motor on the first batch.

The soap had to sit in the mold for two days.  So last night I unmolded it and cut it into bars.  Now it just needs 3-4 weeks to harden.  I got 12 medium sized bars from it.  Since it's my first batch I didn't worry about cutting them perfectly even.  I just eye balled it the best I could.I have a feeling I'll be making quite a lot of soap in the near future. 

If you are on my Christmas list, I hope you like soap!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

R.I.P. Rocky

Last night I went outside to find about 1/2 the chickens huddled under the front porch. When I startled them out, a large hawk flew up from the end of the house. Upon investigation I found Rocky, my favorite of the three roosters, headless on the ground still warm.

By the time I got back with the gun, the hawk had left the area. Jade and I buried Rocky where we found him and placed a large stone over the grave as a marker. I promised the girls I would paint his name on it for them.

I knew that predators were something we would most likely have to deal with. I think I was just refusing to believe it might really happen to us. Now I'm afraid to even let the chickens out of their coop. We don't have a run for them yet. The posts are in place, but the fencing isn't up yet. I guess I will need to do that this week and go get some netting to go over head.

I will miss seeing them run around to the front first thing in the morning. They love to sit under the lilacs. But I'd rather contain them better than loose more to a hawk. I'm also considering a great Pyrenees puppy and some guineas to protect and sound the alarm next time.

Friday, September 5, 2008

This weeks musings

People tend to pull together in times of tragedy. It seems there is just something in our nature that draws us near when things go wrong. I've seen this first hand this week.

The Hersey General Store burned early Monday morning. The building was a total loss. It was 139 years old and was the oldest operating General Store in the state of Michigan. It was one of the few buildings to survive a severe fire in the early 1900's.

Historically speaking, for the small village of Hersey, it has been a great loss. But the bigger loss has been the actual store in the here and now. Not just because we all liked to shop there, but because the owner is such a sweet and unique person. She's that rare person that sees the potential and doesn't seem to listen to the people who say "it won't work", or "you'll fail". All she sees is what might be if she tries.

It was about seven years ago when Jamie re-opened the store. It had been closed for at least two years by then. There wasn't much in Hersey at the time. There certainly wasn't anything that would make Hersey a destination that most people would visit on purpose.

The Hersey General Store under Jamie's ownership was so unique that people started to go out of their way just to see this unique little store they heard about from friends. It had a little of everything. There were, of course, the basic staple grocery items. But also ice cream, a deli counter (where you could get a fresh made sandwich that tasted like your grandma made it), gifts and home decor you could find anywhere else. There were fishing items and bait. Soda, chips and candy. But the thing that seemed to keep me coming back were the fresh baked goodies that Jamie's mom, Nancy, made. How could a cookie the size of a dinner plate be so soft at the edges and perfectly cooked in the center? And lets not forget those brownies. As someone who loves to bake, I can't even begin to come close to Nancy's wonderful brownies.

What I'm trying to say, is that the most recent incarnation of the Hersey General Store has been more than just a new owner opening the store. It was the catalyst that took a forgotten community to new heights. It reminded me, and I'm sure many others, that Hersey still has something to offer.

While the loss of the building is heartbreakingly tragic, there is still a future in Hersey and the community is pulling together to prove that now. With a bake sale next week, and a benefit planned for next month, the residents are making it known that we love Jamie and we love the General Store. We aren't going down without a fight.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Would you just look at this little boy?!? What happened? Isn't he still suppose to be my baby? He just looks too old to me in this picture.We were at Meet The Teacher night at Megan's preschool and Braden was completely enthralled with the toy kitchen. He kept trying to cook on the plates and mirowave the ketchup and mustard.

Now this picture is what I harvested from the garden on Sunday morning. We had more than enough fresh veggies for our cookout.
I would have liked for the carrots to be a little bit bigger, but considering the dry spell we have had, I was pleased to get so much. We are still eating leftovers. It's amazing how wonderful truly fresh food tastes.

Just because I think it's so beautiful, here is one of our morning glories that just started to bloom.
Actually they are some of the flowers Jade chose for the garden. Even from the house, that bright blue catches my eye first thing in the morning and makes me smile.

And last, but by no means least, the tomatoes are FINALLY starting to ripen.
I think I will be eating these two for lunch tomorrow.
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