Cookie day and a lesson on captivity

We have a friend of Sheldon’s staying with us right now as his family makes the move from DFW to this part of the country.  He’s a very nice guy and we’re enjoying his company although The Blueberry is under the impression that we invited him here to be her exclusive entertainment provider.  How do I know?  Well, this was the convo in her bedroom the other night:

“Blueberry-it’s time to get ready for bed.”

“Where are the boys mama?  I want to go hang out with them.”

“Well, Daddy is outside putting up the animals for the night and Mr. C is downstairs.”

“What is Mr. C doing?”

“I don’t know-maybe talking to Mrs. C?  Why?”

“Because I want him up here.”

“Blueberry..he is our guest, not our captive.  We can’t make him do everything we want.  It’s not polite.”

“Captive?  What’s a captive?”

“Well, it’s someone who is held against his will and forced to do what the people holding him want him to do.”

“Mama…I think I’m a captive.”

So, begins day 3 of her captivity because of the ice storm.  It’s not terribly bad here but if I don’t have to take her out on the roads, I just figure why bother.  Sheldon went into work this morning and because we park our cars outside it took no joke-30 minutes of scraping to get all of the ice off his truck.  I think it was between 1-2 inches thick.  That is good times!

To pass the time, we have done some sledding down one of the hills (who needs snow when you have faster ice?!), we’ve played Kinect games and now we’re currently enjoying Mary Poppins…

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Someone call Amnesty International…look at the deplorable conditions our captive is facing…

…but in a few minutes we are going to begin making reduced fat oatmeal raisin cookies.  These cookies are one of Sheldon’s very favorite and they always satisfy my need to bake when the weather gets cold like this:

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/4-1/2 cup applesauce (I give a broad range here because you just need to watch your mix.  Start with the smaller measurement and add more if you notice the mix is too dry)

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

2 eggs

2 teaspoons cinnamon (we are cinnamon junkies in this house)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups uncooked oats

1 1/2 cups AP flour

1 cup raisins

Parts that I have riffed on:

I’ve made these many times omitting the butter completely.  In that case, just increase your applesauce to one cup.  The cookies will have more of a cakelike texture but they are still awesome.

I’ve also substituted 1 cup of dried cherries, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, etc for the raisins

I’ve successfully included chia and/or flax seeds without any complaints from The Blueberry…In fact, I think we’ll be adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup of flax seeds today.  Because I’m adding the flax seeds, I’ve decreased the oats by about 1/2 cup.   If you haven’t yet discovered either of these seeds, I STRONGLY recommend that you check them out.  The health benefits for these seeds are just phenomenal and they can be snuck into all kinds of baked goods.  The chia seeds have a bit of a slimey texture in some wet applications, so I probably wouldn’t add them to eggs, but hiding them in cookies, cakes and crackers-super genius!

Preheat your oven to 350.  Cream together butter and sugar until it looks fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time and then add vanilla-this becomes your wet mixture.

That's not dirt on my mixer, I forgot and added the cinnamon early while the mixer was on.  Not. Genius.

That’s not dirt on my mixer, I forgot and added the cinnamon early while the mixer was on. Not. Genius.

In a separate bowl, mix together your flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.  Then incorporate this into the wet mixture one cup at a time.  You don’t want to overmix it because flour will begin to form gluten which can make cookies a bit too tough.

Once your flour mixture is in, mix in your oats and dried fruit by hand until incorporated.  I then use the 2 spoon method to drop them on to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat.

I like big cookies and I cannot lie..

I like big cookies and I cannot lie..

They don’t spread out, so pretty much how you plop them onto your sheet is how they come out.  Bake for 8-12 minutes depending on oven.  If you omit the butter, they won’t get terribly brown, so try a small first batch to see how long you really need to cook.  Let cool on a rack and then stuff them in your face.

nom nom nom nom

nom nom nom nom

According to Calorie Count, it’s about 41 calories per cookie with sugars and fats both under 9 grams respectively (fat under 2 grams)  Adding in the flax seeds adds some fat but it also adds a very nice amount of protein and fiber, so while it is not quite like eating a celery stick,  it’s still healthier than eating a full fat cookie.  At any rate, I can’t blog any more because I need both hands free to shove em in.  Happy baking!

Baby its cold outside

Not much to say but holy smokes I’m cold. We’ve had some snow but mostly freezing rain as you can see by the pic. I wish it was fluffy snow but alas, its just all frozen precip but all bipeds and quadrupeds both inside and out are happy and warm.

A Liebster Award? But, I don’t know 11 people!

You ever heard of this-the Liebster Award?  Well, I hadn’t heard of it until recently, but I’m so charmed by the fact that Eileen over at Simply Homesteading nominated me for this award.  Thanks girl!

While I was waiting by the door for my cash like prizes to arrive, I jumped on The Bing to read a little more about the Liebster Award.  Basically, liebster is a German word meaning darling or sweetheart…so one can easily extrapolate that this is a nice recognition to help give care and attention to fledgling bloggers.   Eileen blogs on it much more eloquently, but I’ll sum up instead: it’s the blogging world’s version of a chain letter, except it’s with the best of intentions.  So, without further ado, allow me to get on with this!

My 11 random facts:

1) I have to sleep in a neat bed.  I often make it again right before getting into it.

2) I have a class M drivers license.

3) I am OCD about my eye brows.  They. Must. Be. Neat. At. All. Times.

4) I loathe putting away laundry.  Like, I’d rather bathe a plague ridden leper with scabies (no offense if that is part of my readership) than put away laundry.

5) I adore The Blueberry, but sitting at her karate lessons (as I am right now) bores the ever living poop out of me.

6) I hate talking on the phone unless I’m being paid for it.  No, not like a 976 operator.  My day job involves consulting on the phone and via web.  I love doing that.  But sit on a phone saying nothing, I’d rather do number 4.

7) I have inadvertently taught my child the art of deal making because she tries to negotiate for everything.  Sheldon is afraid that she is going to grow up and be in sales.  I think worse things could happen.

8) When I was a little Shellie, I dreamed of being an Astronaut.

9) I cannot make an Apple Crumble to save my life, despite many many many efforts.

10) It’s been on my short list to go back to school and get my Masters for like 10 years.  Needless to say, it’s a long short list.

11) I have a significant bug phobia.  Like screaming, yelling, run away run away phobia.  Yeah, I know I live in the country.  Life is full of little ironies like this.

Ok, now here are my answers to the questions given to me:

  • What color shirt are you wearing right now?  Black, but technically I was wearing purple when I first read this.  Did I get this one right?
  • What is your favorite day of the week and why?  Friday night because it’s family movie/mommy wine night!
  • If you could do without one piece of electrical equipment what would it be?  My smart phone.  I have been known to be standing out in a field looking something up…not easy to do with even a tablet.
  • What would your perfect yearly weather be?  Oh my-I love all seasons.  Fall and Winter are my favs.  We live in a moderate climate here in Missouri, so I’m good with all!
  • If you had unlimited acres, unlimited money, how many different kinds of animals would you have?  Hmm..I don’t have a good answer to this bc we have enough acreage to have what I would want.
  • How many photos of family do you have up in your house?  Uh, I don’t know…some?  More than 3, less than 20?
  • How many hours a day are you on the computer? Be honest!  Well, during my “work days”, it’s close to 8.  During “Mommy Fun Days” and weekends, it’s closer to an average of 1 or less.
  • If you had unlimited money what charity would you support?  Hmm..I struggle with this one too because I think people can always give to charity even if it’s just time, extra stuff or good press.  We typically support the churches that we like, a local homeless shelter by the name of Souls Harbor in Rogers, AR and various womens shelters and pet rescues.
  • How many hours of sleep do you get?  Ugh.  5-7 at best.
  • What one chore would you never do again if someone else were to do it exactly as you do?  Dishes.  Laundry.  Cleaning the litter boxes.
  • What is your favorite store to shop at?  What’s shopping?  Seriously-I do most shopping on line.  Does Amazon count as a store?

Ok, so if I have the drill right, from this point, I’m supposed to select 11 other bloggers (with less than 200 followers) who blog in the same type of areas as us to nominate for the Liebster Award thereby continuing to spread the love and traffic with other bloggers.  Alas, this is my challenge.  This blog is literally minutes old.  I think the ink is still drying on my domain agreement.  So, we’re still getting to know the other bloggers out there.  In addition, because our lives are dual (like so so many of you), I blog both about homesteading and work stuff.  As a result, I’m going to break with tradition a bit and just give you some other blogs that I think you should look at because I think these folks are awesome and they deserve the recognition.  She’s not on the list, but I like her blog, so check out Simply Homesteading too please!  And if these folks feel like it, here are my 11 questions that I would be curious about:

1) Are you a country or city homesteader?

2) Why do you do it-the homestead/farming/back to basics life?

3) If you could go back in time a year, what would you change?

4) If you could have any super power, what would it be?

5) Imagine it’s your last meal on earth…what would you have?

6) What do you wish someone else could teach you?

7) What do you take in your coffee?  Sugar?  Cream?  Baileys?  (Yes to all three for me in case you were wondering)

8) If you could visit any country, where would you go and why?

9) Last thing you learned that you were afraid to learn

10) Do you shout out the answers to Jeopardy questions like me?

11) What’s your secret vice?  I don’t mean vice vice people.  This is a nice girl blog.  I mean like cookies.  Sheesh.

Ok, that’s it!  Without further ado here is my list of people that I just think you should check out because their content and writing is worth it:

1) My Eclectic Life  Excellent blog on lots of topics.  Duh-the name?

2) Burleigh’s Waiting  This is the story of one of my new favorite families and their journey to adoption from outside the US.

3) The gorgeous food porn of my pal Lisa at What Lolita Eats

4) The work seriousness from a seriously awesome lady at Pamela K Henry & Associates because just like me, this blog isn’t only about homesteading.

5) The Dad point of view at Homestead Dad.

6) Simply because one of the first things I read on this blog was about her dog peeing on kale, I must also say The Yellow House.

7) Because she’s a Missouri girl too, check out Wolfwoods

And while I could pick some others, I am struggling with coming up with more blogs because as my title alludes, this blog is like 2 minutes old.  But check back later and I will be able to sing the praises of even more folks.  Ok, that’s it!  Don’t wait at the door for your prize money-it ain’t coming.  But do think about spreading the word on the blog-o-sphere and help other bloggers be found!

Do Homesteaders get depressed too?

As I was scrolling through FB this morning, I came across a post by The Bloggess who was talking about an article on CNN/Parenting’s site titled Xanax makes me a better mom.  Now, I think this is probably a hot button issue on all sides, but I do have to say that I felt like the original Parenting article took a pretty soft approach to a very hard problem…sometimes it sucks to be a parent.  And sometimes the level of “suckage” is just too damn much for some parents.  I like what Jenny (The Bloggess) had to say in regards to getting through the day-do what you gotta do and no one should judge you for it.

However, it also made me realize that the challenges might even be harder for those of us trying to homestead, or at least move towards a more homesteading-like life.  Let’s face it-this lifestyle can be isolating.  I went from being in a very large city with friends just a short car ride away.  Now, I have to drive 40 miles just to get into town in order to even get to friends being a short car ride away.  The distance makes building lasting relationships a bit challenging.  Sheldon works in that city 40 miles away and right now The Blueberry attends school there a few days a week.  It makes for a quiet house during those days.  Sprinkle in the fact that while we have neighbors on our dirt road, they are almost all bachelor men, it makes for a bit of a lonely day alone on the farm with just the animals for company.  Sheldon hears that and thinks I’m crazy…if he could go a week without ever uttering another word to a human, it would be his best week ever.  For me-I’m more of a social creature, so I crave my interactions be they on the phone, via web or when I do get to drive into town.  It’s those little things that keep me going through lonely, blue times.

I think to those stuck in the city but longing to be free, our lifestyle can seem idyllic.  Wide open spaces, plenty of honest work to do around the farm and house, and no neighbors to see you when you sit nekkid on your back deck (not that I’ve done that or anything), but just like everything else in life-it’s not all sunshine and roses.  I would love to see more homesteading/hobby farming families talking about this.  How to balance a person’s need for social interaction with a more isolated way of life.  Blogging is a great way to tap into a wonderful and supportive community, as you’ll see in a later post of mine talking about a Liebster award.

I’ll be frank-I’m not sure how to wrap this post up.  I’m still happier here than I would be shoved into a tight little neighborhood where I can hear my neighbors and smell the traffic.  However, I still struggle with the loneliness at times and frankly, there is not much of a fix for it most days.  It just comes with the territory.   I guess I’m just going to put this out there to anyone who might read this blog…let’s be honest about it as farmers/homesteaders/parents/people.  Sometime it ain’t easy being us!

It’s time for the chicks to get out, part II

Well, the chicks were safely moved out to their brooder in the “garage.”  They all made the journey well and did just fine overnight.  We had a bit of consternation trying to get the temp right.  Is it one brooder light or two?  Is it tarp on or off to stop any heat loss?  Do we have enough insulation or too much?  At any rate, they all did just fine.  We did notice that the change of scenery was not pleasing to them (apparently they have less short term memory than a goldfish) since we noticed that there was not a single peep out of them on Saturday.  However, they were all cheeping and moving around happily by Sunday.

But, another learning experience….I noticed when Blueberry and I were out on a walk with Kya, when we came back to put her towards the garage I noticed a funky smell.  I honestly have to say that my first thought was “hey, I didn’t know my neighbor toked up.  I never would have guessed that.”  But then I noticed that the “toke” smell was coming from my garage and since I know that my husband and I do not partake, it had to be either the cats (and seriously-where would they score pot anyway?) or something else…

Well, short story shorter, one of the brooder lights had fallen down and had started to smoke the hay.  Yikes!  Everyone was fine and we were SO blessed that I happened to be walking by and did not just assume that the smell was my neighbor was just smoking a joint on his porch.   However, we had even more learning from that:

1) While the barn cats were completely unable to get into the brooder, they were in fact able to mess with the cord coming out of the brooder, and that was just too much temptation.  Someone messed with it and knocked it around ultimately leading the brooder light coming off the teacup hook that Sheldon had it on, leading to….

2) The Brooder light needs to be securely fashioned so that a bump, lump or swipe of the power cord can’t knock it off.  A teacup hook was probably not the best choice, but sometimes the engineer of the house doesn’t account for outside influences like nosey cats.  And while everyone is getting used to their new surroundings, you should…

3) Check on them often.  Don’t select a spot that is so inconvenient for you to get to that you don’t go out to peek every few hours.  Thank God that I happened to be walking by.  While the smoke detector would have eventually caught the smoke, it would have gotten pretty thick in the brooder before it went off.

4) Alfalfa hay smells like pot.  Yep.  Not exactly a learning because I noticed it the first time I put it down in one of Kya’s spots, but when there is some heat applied, it really smells bad.  Like my college roommate’s boyfriend’s apartment bad.   Oh, and for the record, we don’t actually think my neighbor smokes pot.  I just always assume it’s someone else simply because I can’t stand the smell.   Peeeyeeeeuuu.

 

So, that’s it!  We’re making bread and cheezie weezies today out on Blueberry Acres Farm along with a huge batch of red sauce.  Also working on sources to bring in some additional fill dirt because we’re hitting some rock layers in our garden.  Hope you are having a great day-happy homesteading!

It’s time for the chicks to get out!

So, we recently received a batch of chicks from Murray McMurry hatchery.  It was a fairly small order as we are hoping to be able to propagate our own brood going forward.  But wait…what about those chickens that you already had you may ask?  Well, that first batch of chickens included one fabulous chicken named Lana who we think is a Plymouth Rock, a couple of Polish (aka Tophats) roosters (do NOT recommend), and a big bunch of Silkies.  We decided to cull the herd and gave the Silkies away.  Who knew these were such beloved pet birds, but we discovered quickly that they were.  No thanks to pets who walk around with poop on their legs.  After we got rid of the Silkies, we noticed that the three remaining roosters were merciless with Lana.  Every time she went out to the yard, it was like a bad 70’s porn all over again.  She stopped wanting to stay in her yard and would roam around by our house just to get a break from these 3 idiots.  As a result, our 3 roosters became 1 rooster a few Sundays ago.  Whew.  All of that to say this…we needed more chickens!

So, enter these cute little babies.  In preparation for our order, Sheldon had built a very nice brooder that they would live in for their first many weeks until they were able to go out into the enclosed on all sides (and top) yard before ultimately moving into one of our chicken coops.  Did we have a learning from that first chick experience?  Oh yeah we did-a bunch!

1) If you are ordering your chicks, perhaps be smarter than us and don’t order them to arrive in January.  Too freaking cold.  Chicks have to be kept at temperatures ranging between 70-95 their first few weeks and this is a hard temp to maintain in a brooder that is outside.  Which brings me to….

2) Determine in advance if your brooder can maintain a 95 degree temperature in all weather.  We found out quickly that ours could not despite solid construction and insulation.  Experienced chicken farmers I’m sure already know this, but us chicken noobs had no idea.  We needed our brooder to be located inside one of our outbuildings where it would be better insulated from the elements.  It’s now inside the building located closest to our house so we can easily access it to check on these demanding little boogers.  If this isn’t an option for you in advance, you’d better have a…

3) Plan B before your chicks arrive.  For us, we were able to quickly transition them to our basement bathroom.  It was far from ideal, but we were able to maintain temperature and conditions easily just giving up the second bathroom in our house.  Not perfect, but it wasn’t the end of the world.  And I don’t think they minded:

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Holy smokes these birds dirty up everything quickly…

There were some things that we did right…um, not much but we did have thermometers that we could keep in there to constantly (and remotely) monitor temperature.  We also made sure that we read up on keeping chicks safe, warm and happy.  It’s not just about opening up the box and randomly dropping in food.  You also need to make sure that you are using bedding that is appropriate to their age (start with newspaper and remove it within first week for leg development), using chick grit (NOT the same as chicken grit) and frequently (oh so frequently) changing out their water because they throw more stuff in that water than our 4-year-old.

So, Sheldon just came back in the house to grab some coffee and eat some breakfast.  Chicks are getting huge and I need them to get the heck out of my bathroom so I can spend 10 hours cleaning it.  Blech.  But, in a few months, we will have a huge bounty of both eggs and bug eaters that will contribute greatly to the overall health and welfare of our family farm…and hopefully we will do the same for them!  Good luck and happy laying!

 

Teaching our children about the circle of life

No, I’m not talking about the song from The Lion King…I’m talking about where our food comes from! So many times I think we forget about the value of teaching our children that hamburger is not actually made in a factory or chicken doesn’t actually come in nugget shapes.  I think it’s so important to teach our children to respect the animal just as they should respect the farmer that grew, raised and processed that meat. This is a big part of why we moved to Blueberry Acres-to teach our Blueberry where our food comes from. By doing so, we hope that we will instill in her a life-long respect for food. Both Sheldon and I grew up in the 70’s where companies were going crazy trying to figure out ways to better engineer our food. Remember Lily Tomlin in The Incredible Shrinking Woman?

courtesy IMDB

Well, that is not what I want food to be like for my child.  A food product that is engineered so past how God intended it.  Our taste buds delight in the fat, salt, sugar and who knows what else, but what are we really putting into our bodies?  Sometimes I wonder if my constant battles with food are a result of spending a couple of decades eating total crap in the name of supposedly healthy meals.  I also know that I’m not alone- weight related problems have reached epidemic proportions.  Self control (or lack thereof) has to always be the first stop in deciding what’s making your butt jiggle like gelatin, but beyond that, you have to ask….are cheesy poufs, diet soda and over processed “health food” making us fat asses?

courtesy of Great Plains Earth Institute…I would add in a section of People eat animals in between them eating the plants and them poo’ing all over everything..

Enter teaching our children about the circle of life as a better way to look at food.   This means some hard lessons for both children and parents.  See that cow-yes, we’re going to eat it.  You know that chicken?  Yep, he was dinner last night.  Not always easy conversations to have with an animal loving kid.  We’ve been building the crescendo for our circle of life lessons since we left the city over a year ago.  We knew we would buy a farm eventually, so we wanted to get Blueberry used to the idea that bacon isn’t just yummy, it’s also pig.  As a result, we’ve had some frank conversations with her about where her meat comes from.  And while we think we’re getting through, there are still times where she has that “oh f dash dash dash” moment where it all comes together and she really gets that we are not just saying it’s chicken for dinner tonight.  We’re saying it’s Lana the chicken for dinner tonight.  So, here are some things that we have done to introduce the circle of life to her-not just in food, but in all areas:

  • We’ve openly talked about death.  Unfortunately, we have had 2 grandparents and 1 parent die in the last 18 months.  While Blueberry only knew one of these people, the deaths hit people she loved very hard.  We took these opportunities to talk to her about how death is inevitable and a natural part of the life cycle.  We also took that opportunity to talk to her about our personal beliefs around Heaven and the afterlife.
  • We’ve talked openly about birth.  While we haven’t opened the baby making can of worms, we have talked to her about how she was born, delivered, etc as part of the circle of life.
  • But, we’ve also used animals and plants to talk about it.  We’ve discussed how dead plants and/or animals provide food for others be it roadkill providing food for scavenger animals or dead plants providing nutrition for live plants in the future.  As a result, she’s beginning to realize that everything has a place in the hierarchy of life.  Let’s face it-we don’t like our kids to see that dead dog on the side of the road.  But, when you can talk about how his body will provide nutrition for others who will live as a result, it takes a little bit of the sting out of it.  Driving home from the store yesterday, we saw a dead raccoon.  She asked if we could say a prayer for it and in her prayer, she included some thoughtful words about its body providing for others.  That realistic but still empathetic reaction sure as heck beats a kid crying over the loss of an animal that she cannot help.

This journey has not been an easy one, nor do I anticipate it to get any easier…especially after she falls in love with her first cow.  I would imagine that there will be many tears shed on that fateful day when the big eyed cow goes for processing.  And while I honestly believe I will be right there with her shedding a tear or two, I firmly believe that by letting her experience at least part of the birth/death circle, she will better love and respect all living creatures for the broad range of gifts that they give us.