Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Never Thought I'd Say That

Since starting the farm there have been a lot of things done or said that I would never have imagined. Two days ago was the one that I think has been the funniest so far.

Me: I have a confession
Husband: (looking quizzical) Okay?
Me: I shaved Teresa's udder.
Husband: (looking confused) Okaaayyy.
Me: I used your beard trimmer.
Husband: (laughing) Did you clean it when you were done?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Teeny Tiny Egg

Last week Rob brought in the smallest, cutest egg. I have no idea which hen laid it.

Here it is next to one of our "normal" sized eggs. Not only was it really small, but it was almost perfectly round as well

Only about an inch long. Just over 1/3 the size of the other egg. So we wondered what was in side it.

The little blob to the right is the little egg, the big blob on the left is the normal egg. The yolk wasn't even whole and firm like it was suppose to be. The kids thought the whole thing was pretty cool.

Monday, March 22, 2010

My Favorite Egg Basket

Before I ever had my first chick, I found this basket at a flea market for just $1. What a great buy.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bye-Bye Bees

I had suspected that my neglect of the bee hive last year might cause me some trouble. Unfortunately my worst fears were confirmed today.

When we got the goats last spring, we weren't really prepared for it. At least not in a time management sense. We had to really adjust our routines and learn a lot. While that's not an excuse, it did cause the bee hive to be horribly neglected.

With the nice weather we have been having the past couple weeks, I thought I would walk back to have a look today. What I found was a an empty hive. Or rather, a full hive with no living bees in it. The bees were dead and the hive was occupied by a pair of mice. So no picture today.

I took the hive apart and chased off the mice. There was very little honey left in the hive, and I do know that they had a good deal of honey toward the end of the fall. It makes me wonder if they met their demise recently. A few of the combs had an inch or so of honey left near the top.

As much as I would like to have my own fresh honey, I am thinking I need to hold off another year before trying again. We have goat kidding to learn and duck housing to build. Plus we are going to raise some bacon this summer. I don't think it would be fair to the bees to add them to the mix knowing I may be too busy to care for them again.

Maybe next year will look better.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Movie Everyone Should See

For me seeing this movie was a confirmation that I'm doing the right thing by trying to live a more self sustaining life style and buying what I can locally. The things done in order to feed our low cost, high yield, I want it now appetites were sometimes shocking.

When I got this movie I was prepared to take the information with a grain of salt. I was expecting it to be an extremist politically motivated movie. I was pleasantly surprised. It was very obvious that the intent was to educate people. That was one of the things I loved most about this movie.

For anyone who believes they have the right to know where their food comes from and how it is produced, they need to see this movie.

It's available from or you can buy it from or any number of retailers. You can also check out their web site .

Edited to add: In rereading it sounds like I didn't find the movie at all politically motivated. That's not what I meant. It's just not as blatant as I had expected. There is a lot of politically motivated stuff in the movie. Most of it, I feel, conveys the film makers intent to educate the public on a subject he feels strongly about.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Cake He Wanted

All Braden wanted for his birthday was a Mario Party cake. Do you know that no one around here makes a cake with Mario on it? I checked everywhere near me. My mom who lives an hour away checked near her. I was in a panic. The boy would NOT pick an alternative. Well, that's not entirely true. He said if he couldn't have a Mario Party cake, then he wanted a Mario Kart cake. :o/

In the end I read a bout a technique where you take a coloring book image and put it under a piece of clear plastic (I used a zipper type bag) then pipe the image in reverse on the plastic. So when it's done, the image as you want it will be against the plastic. After you have it all piped it goes in the freezer.

I was so afraid it wasn't going to come off the plastic. In fact, it did break coming off because apparently cream cheese frosting doesn't freeze hard. But as you can see, it came out OK and we had a very happy three year old.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ghost In The Car

A few weeks ago my husband rolled his car. (He's OK, he just got banged up and bruised.) Since then, the car has been sitting out by the driveway under a blue tarp. We've barely given it any notice sitting there until Friday morning.

So let me set the scene. It was sometime between 6:00 and 6:30 am. It was pre-coffee. I had just gotten Jade (9 years old) up for school. Everything was normal. She was dragging herself into the kitchen for breakfast, and I was watching the news wishing school had been canceled so I could go back to bed and vowing to set a late start time to our school day next year. You know, a normal Friday morning.

Then the ducks started raising a ruckus. Well one duck really, our Pekin "Goose" tends to get very loud. But not normally before full light. So I look out and see that not only is he running around making all sorts of noise, but the goats are as acting a bit restless. They see me on the back porch and seem to calm down a bit. So I go back in the house thinking it's just spring fever or some such nonsense.

The next thing I know I hear a car horn go off three times. FREAKED ME OUT! I mean we live in the country that was obviously in my front yard. Um-mm, OK. Now what do I do? I looked out the front window and see that the tail lights are lit up on the Rob's car that is under the tarp. Also the door to his pole barn is open.

Now a sane woman would have either made sure all the doors and windows were locked and waited for her brave husband to get home, or she would have called the cops right then and there. I'm not a sane woman. I'm a farmer and a country girl though. So I got my grandpa's old Marlin .22 and my Ruger.

I don't know what I thought I was going to do. I couldn't remember where my husband put the bullets! (We keep them well separated from the guns for safety reasons.) At least I felt intimidating. Whoever might be in that car didn't know that I didn't have bullets. Of course if he knew anything about guns, he'd know I only had a single shot in the gun. But that didn't matter. I had my dog and I could use the gun as a club if needed. (I did mention my lack of sanity, right?)

So I go out and I'm quite literally shaking in my boots. Ruger is looking at me like "It's a car. Seriously, woman." I swear the dog has a look that said that!! So I cautiously walk up to the car, all the while wondering what I'm going to do. I mean I have the dog lead in one hand and the gun in the other. It's not like I have a free hand to lift the tarp. Not sure I want to anyhow.

So what I did was poke the tarp where the drivers side window use to be and said "You better come out of there now!" Nothing. Then suddenly the tail lights went out, the car "jiggled" and the horn went off again. This time it didn't stop. I freaked out and called 911.

A very nice officer showed up about 10 minutes later and told me it was probably and electrical issue and we should take the battery out of the car. Did I mention I hadn't had coffee yet?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Garden Time! (Almost)

The snow is melting here in Central Michigan. That means it is time to start planning my garden. In the last few years I've pretended to have a garden in a couple of raised beds. This year I'm going to have a real garden.

I want to grow enough beans, corn, tomatoes and cabbage to last us a year. I also want to grow some things just to sneak in something new here and there for my kids. Like beets, brussles sprouts and radishes. And some things are just for fun, like the mini ornamental corn I have that is suppose to make great popcorn.

As if that weren't enough, we have to have some watermelon and how great to have lots of pumpkin. Not only is pumpkin good for Halloween jack-o-lanterns, but also good for the family and the animals.

Speaking of the animals, we are thinking of growing some of our own feed this year too. I was inspired by THIS article at the Mother Earth News web site. So we are looking at growing some feed corn and some sunflowers (which Jade wanted to do anyhow) and maybe some sort of barley or rye just rough sewn in the pasture. We are also going to have pigs this year. That means that there will be squash-a-plenty in the garden.

Squash is a great crop to grow as a supplemental feed crop. It's one of those crops that seems to produce more than a family can use before it goes bad. So on the garden menu will be summer squash, zucchini, butternut, acorn, patty pan, and any other kinds I can find seeds for.

Oh so many possibilities. It's hard to limit myself. Especially since I really have all the space I want for a garden. I just have to remember that I don't have unlimited time to manage it.

What is everyone else planting this year?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

It is so easy, really. I searched the internet expecting to find complicated directions or a long drawn out list of conditions that needed to be met to make it work.

What I found was that sourdough starter is the easiest and most basic of ways to make your own leavening agent for many things, not just bread. But before you can make any of these "things" you have to make the starter.

All you need is flour, water, a non-reactive bowl and a non-reactive spoon. That's it, really. You can add a little honey to help speed up the fermenting if you want as the wild yeast loves the glucose.

Simply put equal parts of flour and water into your bowl and stir it very well. I found I could not get all the lumps out. That's OK, they will disappear with time. Now just let your bowl sit out uncovered until it starts to get bubbly and smells a That's it, you just made sourdough starter.

Some people like to put a little commercial bread yeast in to get things started. You can do that if you wish. Just remember that your sourdough starter will then be a product of that commercial yeast, and not the wild yeasts that naturally occur in your area. Personally, I like the idea of grabbing from my environment what is right there just waiting for me to harness it.

Another thing I have read everywhere is that when you feed your starter, you take out "x" amount of starter and replace it with "x" amount of water/flour mixture. Me, I just add flour and water. Then when I take it out to use it, I find I don't have to wait so long for it to be ready to use because I have more starter. For example, if I start with two cups of starter and then feed it by taking out one cup of starter then add in 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup flour, I still only have two cups of starter. When I want to make bread, I then have to take out my starter, add a cup of water and a cup of flour and wait overnight for it to "sponge" so I can use two cups for my bread. But if I just add when I feed rather than take out, I only need to remove the starter I need for my recipe and allow it to come to room temperature. (Did I forget to mention you store your starter in the fridge after it ferments?) I just store mine in an old Mason Jar.

So there are the basics. Now who is ready to make their first sourdough starter? Or who in the Hersey, MI area wants some of mine? I have extra.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Happy Birthday Big Boy

I mention my three kids often in my blog. Not surprising since they are the main focus of nearly everything I do.

What some of you may not know is that Braden, my youngest child and only son, was born early and quite traumatically. Since the retelling his birth story is good therapy for me, I'm going to share it here. I hope you won't mind.

Braden was due on April 14, 2007. My pregnancy had been uneventful for the most part. There was no real reason for us to suspect that anything would go wrong so late in the game. After all, it was my third pregnancy and this one seemed to be much the same as the other two.

The weekend of March 9 we sent our girls, Jade and Megan, to stay with my parents for the weekend. Rob and I saw this as an opportunity to get some last minute preparations done and maybe even a last date night in before the baby was born.

On Saturday we went to Cadillac, MI, which is just a bit north of where we live. The plan was to see a movie, do some shopping and get dinner at a restaurant called Timbers. We left early in the day so we could take our time and just leisurely enjoy our day.

We saw a matinee showing of "Wild Hogs" where I laughed harder than I had in years at a movie. After that we did some shopping at the local Walmart or Meijer. I honestly can't remember now if we went to one or the other, or may we went to both. What I do remember is that while we were shopping I started to have sharp pains down the front of my belly. They were quick and fleeting. Really not a whole lot different than I remember having near the end of my pregnancies with the girls. It was almost like the baby wanted to stretch and was pushing his feet against my belly. So nothing alarming.

Once we finished shopping, we headed to the restaurant. I remember as we walked in the door I had a very sharp pain that caused me to stop in my tracks to catch my breath. That was the first one that seemed to be very different from what I had experienced in the past. Even so, it passed rather quickly and I figured I had just been on my feet too much that day. So we went in with the intention of having our dinner and then going home where I would spend the rest of the weekend with my feet up resting from the days exertion.

I ordered a cup of herbal tea, I think Rob ordered a beer (probably a Guiness) and we ordered an appetizer. While we waited for that to come, I got up to go to the bathroom. Not unusual for a woman who is nearly 8 months pregnant, right?

While in the restroom, I suddenly began to hemorrhage. I was one of the most frightening moments of my life. I remember being on the edge of panic. But somewhere a voice in the back of my mind said "if you loose it now, how long will it be before someone finds you?" and so I somehow kept a level head and went back out to calmly, yet firmly, tell my husband we needed to get to the hospital.

So we head out the door apologizing to the waitress that we need to cancel our order. Since our appetizer had just come up, one of the waitresses threw it in a to go container and thrust it at Rob. He was very thankful for this as it would have been several hours before he would have had a chance to get anything at all to eat.

The ride to the hospital seemed to take forever, though in reality it took less than 10 minutes. I remember struggling to keep my mind blank for fear of what thoughts would be there if I didn't. By the time we got to the hospital they were ready for us. Someone at Timbers had the foresight to call ahead and let them know we were on our way. We were later told that the Dr. had been in the parking lot in his car to leave when the call came in. I'm forever grateful to that person for a calling ahead for us. Who knows how many valuable minutes were saved.

While the nurses took my vital signs, health history and checked for the baby's heartbeat, Rob called our parents to calmly tell them what was happening. My mother told me recently that he was so calm that she wouldn't have known anything was wrong except that he said I was being prepped for a c-section and she KNEW there was no way I would allow that unless something was very wrong. Sometimes I love how level headed my husband can remain in any situation. He was my rock that night without a doubt.

And so my son, Braden James, was born by emergency c-section on March 10, 2007 at 8:17pm. He weighed 6lbs 15oz and was 21 1/2 inches long. Born five weeks early, his lungs were slightly under developed so he was rushed that night to DeVos Childrens Hospital in Grand Rapids, MI. He was there for 12 days.

To look at him now, you would never know the rocky start he had or how close we were to loosing him. We are thankful every day that he is a part of our lives.

Happy birthday little man. Mommy loves you.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Yes, I'm Sure About That.

A question I get a lot when I tell people we are going to be home schooling our children is "Are you sure about that?". The answer is yes, I'm sure about that. At least most of the time.

I had doubts about sending Jade to public school from the start. But at that time I had more doubts about my own ability to teach her what she needs to know. At that time I had very few friends in the area, and even fewer with children. None of them were home school families.

Now I'm older and more confident in my abilities as a parent. I have a much larger network of friends, many of whom are home schooling families. I've learned a lot that I didn't know five years ago.

Do I think it's all going to be smooth sailing? Nope. I have no delusions about the difficulties. I just think the benefits will be worth it. I'm looking forward to nurturing my children in a new way.

I know not everyone is going to be supportive of our decision. That's OK, they are my kids and it's up to me and my husband to decide what is best for them. Most of our friends and family have been very supportive, or have at least had manners enough to not say otherwise.

I'm sure many people have doubts. I know I use to. I told many people I didn't think I would ever want to home school my kids. Things change when they start asking for it and give you good reasons too. And when you see your daughter missing out on things she loves and excels at because of her 10 hour school day (this includes her crazy long bus rides each day). Or when she is bored in a school that refuses to challenge her ability. (The superintendent thinks their non-existent gifted and talented program is working for the above average learners.)

We have been lucky that my daughter has had teachers who see her ability and do what they can to challenge her. Unfortunately they also have a full classroom of students to teach. We can't expect them to do more when they are continually given less and less to work with and more and more students to teach.

So yes, I am sure I want to home school my children. I believe they will get the best education they can and that they will benefit from a life style that will better prepare them for life in the "real world" as they grow and mature.

Monday, March 8, 2010

What Do You Do With All Those Eggs?

I get this question a lot. Some get sold to a friend, some are given to family, and some are used to barter with. I've traded eggs for everything from babysitting to fresh produce.

Sometimes we have more eggs than we can sell, give away or barter with. We eat a lot of eggs. He have a lot of hard boiled eggs and often do breakfast for dinner, but my favorite is something I call "Egg Bake Surprise".

To make "Egg Bake Surprise" take some eggs (usually 6-12 depending on the size of my baking dish) and beat them well. Then start adding in anything you feel like using up. I usually go through the fridge and grab leftovers. It's a great way to use up those small containers of cooked veggies that have less than a serving in them. Cheese is a must in our house. I've put just about any meat you can think of in it as well - ham, leftover meatloaf, chicken, bacon, sausages of all kinds - you get the idea. Sometimes I will add in some milk. Seasonings, of course - salt, pepper, garlic, hot sauce. Day old bread is great in there too.

Once you have all your chosen ingredients mixed in, pour it in your baking dish. Bake it at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until the center is set.

Here's one I made recently with shredded potatoes and cheese:
It's a good way to use up eggs without making the same thing over and over until everyone is sick to death of eggs.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Meet Ruger

This is Ruger. We first met him in January at AuCaDo Australian Cattle Dog Rescue in Remus, Michigan. He stole our hearts. Well, mine and the kids. Rob wasn't with us and he took some convincing. But I finally got him to go meet Ruger at the rescue.
Here he is being very watchful. Honestly, he wanted to chase a chicken right then, but couldn't. We kept him tethered with us in the beginning until we knew he would obey us with the animals. He has very strong herding instincts, and needed to learn that we are in charge.

Braden let him out while I wasn't looking one day and he actually had caught a chicken by the tail. As I ran out side I somehow remembered to yell the command "Leave It". He sat right down and let her go. He hasn't grabbed at a chicken since. That was the moment that we knew it was going to work out OK for him on the farm. If he could have a chicken in his mouth and just let it go like that, then he would learn just fine.

Here he is deciding weather or not he wants to deal with the goats or not. See, his herding instinct says "Yes Yes Yes", but his fear of of our large toggenburg doe says "No No No". As it turns out, he stayed out and it was a good thing. The little doe got out and she is very hard to get your hands on. She didn't make it more than two feet and Ruger was right there. It took him less than two minutes to herd her right back into the goat yard. Good boy Ruger!!
Now this was just a really cool action shot. He's a little hyper yet for my younger two kids, but Jade loves to play with him. They get along so good and she loves to help take care of him.

We adopted him knowing he would be a good companion for the family and ended up with the bonus of him having a huge desire to be a working dog as well. Not only has he helped herd an escaped goat, but he also scared off a hawk that was looking at the chicken yard as if it were a buffet. That was three weeks ago and we've not seen any sign of it again since.
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