Chicken coffee klatsch

Not much to say about this other than chickens….

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Chickens running from me as I employ Blueberry’s method of herding them. That is to yell CHICKENS! while coming at them. It’s not a method I recommend.

 

Blueberry has named this guy (gal?) Peepers.  We aren't sure what kind of chicken he is as he was the "free exotic" that we got with our other chickens from Murray McMurray.  Frankly, the way he looks and moves, I think a Roadrunner snuck into the mix.

Blueberry has named this guy (gal?) Peepers. We aren’t sure what kind of chicken he is as he was the “free exotic” that we got with our other chickens from Murray McMurray. Frankly, the way he looks and moves, I think a Roadrunner snuck into the mix.

 

This is Bob.  Obviously he is not a chicken.  He is my 15 year old cat who often lays across my laptop when I'm trying to work, blog, surf, whatever.  He contributed to this post by getting off the keys.

This is Bob. Obviously he is not a chicken. He is my 15 year old cat who often lays across my laptop when I’m trying to work, blog, surf, whatever. He contributed to this post by getting off the keys.

 

I think this is my favorite picture with the black and white Jersey Giants and the White Rocks.  I like to imagine them around the water tub giggling and telling stories.  Probably about the dorky chicken who just stepped into the middle of the clean tub depositing dirt.  Thanks for nothin dude.

I think this is my favorite picture with the black and white Jersey Giants and the White Rocks. I like to imagine them around the water tub giggling and telling stories. Probably about the dorky chicken who just stepped into the middle of the clean tub depositing dirt. Thanks for nothin dude.

 

 

 

All Women are prissy, backstabbing cows: A rant on farmgirl tough

Ha!  Made you look.  Don’t you hate those types of statements that make it seem as if we can all be shoved into one specific box?  Some of my very favorite stereotypes and flawed logic statements (courtesy of Buzzle) are:

I’m Christian, so I must hate homosexuals.
I’m German, so I must be a Nazi.
I’m an atheist, so I must hate the world.
I’m Mexican, so I must have hopped the border.
I’m rich, so I must be a conceited snob.
I’m a guy, so I must only want to get into your pants.
I’m young, so I must be naive.
I’m from the Middle East, so I must be a terrorist.
All Italians are in the mob.
All Irishmen do is drink and beat their wives.
All Farmgirls are tough.
Whoa…wait a minute.  What about that last one?  All Farmgirls are tough.  Why is that on the list?  Well, let’s talk about it and my difficulty with the word tough.
courtesy of wikipantings.org

Rosie-totally farmgirl tough
courtesy of wikipantings.org

A few weeks ago, our houseguest Mr. C., Sheldon and I were all sitting around the kitchen table playing cards.  Suddenly out of the blue, Mr. C. asks me if I have a tattoo.  I reply that I don’t (I’m sure with a whatyoutalkinboutWillis kind of face) and go on with the conversation.  But, something about that exchange sticks with me.  Finally, a few days later, this was the convo between Sheldon and me in bed (hot steamy scene NOT about to ensue):

 

Me: Hey-why did Mr. C. ask me about a tattoo?  That seemed really out of the blue.  Where did that come from?
Sheldon: Well, sometimes you come across as tough.
Me: Tough?  What the FDashDashDash does that mean?
Sheldon:  You know.  Tough.  I don’t know.  Tough.
Me: You say that like it’s an insult.  Like I must have a tattoo because I’m rough, tough and barely a woman.  Where is this logic going anyway?
To which I think Sheldon responded by snoring.  End of convo.  To be fair, it wasn’t his argument.
But, I cannot tell a lie.  This whole interaction first with Mr. C. and then with Sheldon just grated on me.  I’m not a dip swillin, curse word flinging (well not every day), hard chargin broad.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with tattoos but I have no interest in them.  I have a handbag collection that I refer to as “my precious babies.”  I can’t stand it when my eyebrows are ungroomed.  I love pink and would wear it daily if I didn’t look like an idiot trying to cram into my 4 year old’s clothes.  I love manis, pedis and kleenex commercials.  I often drive the tractor singing the theme from Green Acres in my head all the while imagining myself as Eva’s character.  Why the flock is someone calling me tough????!!!!
courtesy imdb

courtesy imdb

Fast forward many weeks and I’m still masticating on this idea.  Let’s face it-if you want to homestead on a quarter acres or a thousand acres, you must have a degree of mental and physical fortitude.  Why just this morning I killed a spider in my kitchen without even squealing.  If that doesn’t show development along those lines, I don’t know what does.  However, the word tough seems to have a connotation in this exchange that I simply cannot wrap my mind around-like it’s an insult.  And to be fair-it’s not just this exchange.  Go Bing the words tough farm girl and click on images.  The amount of weirdness that comes up from the web is a bit off-putting, to say the least.  Which to be fair to Mr. C. tells me that lots of folks hold a similar viewpoint when faced with someone who doesn’t exude softness on a daily (sigh, sometimes not even weekly) basis.
So, what’s a homesteading girl to do?   I cannot imagine how anyone-male or female could live this life and still maintain that 24/7 stereotypical idea of feminine beauty.  Much like baseball, there’s no crying in homesteading.  But for women, I think the standards can be incredibly unfair.  Yes, I haul 40 lb bags of dirt along side my husband.  Yes, I spend hours cleaning the chicken coops.  Yes, I drive the tractor, move the rocks and Lord help me, have participated in the demise of farm animals.  I suppose that makes me tough, but why does being tough carry the implication that I am not soft, lovely and womanly?  I do not know.  Sigh.  Why do I keep writing these blog posts that have no real solution?
For me, it all goes back to why we do this…The Blueberry.  A lovely little girl who loves tutus but has no compunction about picking up a worm and shoving it in my face.  Hopefully she will be better equipped to face a world where dichotomy in women is more embraced and we don’t all have to fit into a specific box to be pretty, womanly, smart or capable.  My hope is that one day someone will refer to her as tough and she will smile and say thank you while changing the oil in her tractor in her couture gown.  Seems totally realistic, right?  Let’s hear it for #farmgirltough!

Earth Day 2013 Activities & Thoughts

As I thought about writing this post, I chuckled a little bit.  I had to actually Bing for confirmation of today being Earth Day because let’s face it..as homesteaders, EVERY day is Earth Day!

image courtesy of earthday.org

image courtesy of earthday.org

However, if people want to use Earth Day to give away free stuff, then I’m more than happy to take advantage of that!

Free Stuff:  Many thanks to MissiontoSave.com for pulling together a pretty cool list of free stuff available today.

Free Entrance:   It’s National Park Week!  National Parks across the US are offering free entrance this week.  Not sure where the closest Nat’l Park is to you?  Use the handy locator to find one.  Sure, many of us feel like our homes are already filled with wildlife-why would we want to go to a park to see more?  Well, because it’s free!  And it’s a great way for our kids to understand the importance of not just their parents, but us as a nation preserving large sections of land for all to learn, enjoy and appreciate.

Free Lesson Plans:  Speaking of our kids, The Educators’ Network has made available free lesson plans/ideas for teaching our kids about Earth Day, climate change and beyond.  the Green Living Section of About.com also had some good general info from the history of Earth Day to more activities for kids.

On a more serious note, here’s my Earth Day disclaimer: I really do find the idea of a single day (or even week) celebrating the Earth as laughable.  I decided to just delete my rant here about how every day should be Earth Day.  Instead, let me just say that I am honored and blessed to be among the growing network of people, families and farmers who are trying to get back to a life that is more respectful of the Earth God has created for us.  Thank you for all you have taught me and all you will teach me.

Talking to our kids about tragedy: One homesteader’s take

Well, my goodness.  It’s been a helluva week.  First the tragedy in Boston and now when I turn on the news, I hear about the fertilizer plant in West, Tx that killed multiple people, injured countless others and leveled many many homes and businesses.  It is enough to make a parent want to put their kids back to bed and shut all the curtains until ..oh, forever?

While being a hermit may sound appealing, the hard truth is that this is the world we live in now.  Horrible people do horrible things on a massive scale.  Dangerous facilities that aren’t supposed to be dangerous can erupt in a mountain of fire when conditions are right.  As I thought about this, I have to draw upon my own professional experience.  I’ve counseled hundreds of people through loss, grief, sadness and change.  However, I’m not a counselor by education or trade…it’s merely part of my “day job”, so instead, I want to share with you decisions as parents we made in our home.  Regardless of terror, nature or accident, the bottom line is that innocent lives are lost every day for various reasons….and we need to be prepared for how to talk to our children about that.

Earlier this week as the news of the Boston Marathon broke, my first thought was to a couple of my oldest friends whose son runs the marathon every year.  Typically they go to Boston to cheer him on and my gut reaction was for their safety.  As Blueberry attempted to look over my shoulder as I looked up race checkpoints and tried to figure out when their son might have crossed the finish line (he’s just fine btw), I realized that she was picking up on my worry even if she didn’t see any of the video or pictures of what was happening.  And then this morning, she was sitting with Sheldon and I as we watched the morning news when they broke in with an update on West.  As much as we want to shield and inoculate our children against the horrors of a modern world, we simply cannot.  It’s everywhere…and even if we go on a no TV/Internet diet, let’s face it-our kids all know how to read worry on our faces.

So, as I think about how to address these horrors with our little Blueberry, I try to think about a homesteaders spin.  I cannot speak for all homesteaders, but generally speaking, those I have talked to seem to be straight shooters who are interested in educating and communicating with their children in a direct way.  Most of the homesteading parent blogs/articles that I have read lead me to believe that many are like us-we want to protect our kids but still understand that they need to grow up informed, educated and prepared to face a world without mommy and daddy constantly hovering like a helicopter.  That kind of parenting outlook needs to bleed into how we address tragedy.  If you’re struggling with this concept, I can’t give you the perfect answer.  Only a parent knows what their child can/cannot take.  But I can tell you how we handled some events over the last two years or so.

In some cases, we opted to not mention it at all.  For example, the case of Sandy Hook.  That was a tragedy that as a Mom, I simply could not bring myself to talk about without a high degree of emotion.  Both Sheldon and I agreed that we would not expose Blueberry to any of that coverage, nor would we discuss it as a family.  Articles like this one from PBS agree that you have to make a determination by age if it’s even appropriate to address.

In some cases, we talked in generalities.  For example, the Boston Marathon bombing.  I discussed that something had exploded in Boston and some people were hurt.  I also took that as an opportunity to talk about police officers, fire fighters and countless others who were doing whatever they could to help make people safe.  Boston’s Children’s Hospital has some excellent yet simple advice for walking through this process with your kids from talking about tragedy to helping them cope with frightening events.

In other cases, we talked openly.  As the story of West broke this morning, we didn’t restrict it at all.  At the time I’m writing this post, it sounds like it was an accident caused by just some really unusual circumstances coming together.  It’s a huge tragedy, but one that needs to be understood so that conditions aren’t repeated.   I think it’s important that if our kids can handle it, then they hear about things like this.   Modern, industrialized commerce comes at a cost and this one was a terrible, terrible cost.  The thing that I don’t want to do is get up on my homesteading bandwagon and talk about “we shouldn’t be producing this kind of crap!  It’s too dangerous!  Curses to chemicals!”  Sigh.  It’s too easy to do that when you hear about terrible stories like this caused by chemicals that I wish we weren’t using, but I truly believe that it disrespects the humans who were just trying to make a living and lost their lives for it.

In addition, we’ve had a number of family losses over the last 18 months through the death of a parent to the loss of multiple grandparents.  This has caused us to expose our little Blueberry to death much sooner than we would have anticipated or liked.  With each event, we were able to talk about what happened typically without too much detail, how we hoped that person was at peace and headed to Heaven-that’s our own belief system.  It’s led to a ton of questions, which we have welcomed.  These are often out of the blue and typically are related to death as a process.  The Child Development Institute suggests that parents encourage questions and reassure kids that it’s ok to feel however they feel.  In our case, we have done this, but an unexpected joy that has been born about these questions has been that she has wanted to understand more about Heaven, Hell, The Holy Trinity, birth, love and more.   She’s rarely sad when she asks these questions-it’s more of a desire to understand than a desire to be morose.  As a result, I’m not sorry we approached it the way we have.  At almost 5, our kiddo has a sensitivity that is appropriate for her age, but also understands a little more that life is precious and death is inevitable.  And let’s face it-a handle on death is a necessary attribute for even the littlest of homesteaders.

So, that’s how we have handled both the distant and local tragedies.  Basically the same way we work to approach homesteading.  Directly, honestly, with respect for the beings involved and with the understanding that we don’t know it all.  Would love to hear from some other homesteading parents about how you handle this “messy” part of parenting.   And our prayers continue to go out to everyone who was impacted by the tragic events this week.  Take care y’all!

 

An open letter from Oklahoma regarding the Boston Marathon

I love his line: “…good guys will show up….And they’ll keep showing up.”

proactiveoutside

Dear Boston,

It’s hard to find the right words. But we feel your pain, shock and sadness. Deep within us.

In a little less than two weeks, people from all over Oklahoma City and the state of Oklahoma are going to gather to run the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. It’s a great race, the state’s biggest. And while competition and achievement are high on the list for those of us going, there is a higher purpose for the event: To highlight the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

In a matter of a few days, we here in Oklahoma are going to reflect on the event that gave rise to the Memorial, and later the marathon that bears its name. It was on April 19, 1995, that Timothy McVeigh exploded a huge truck bomb outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168 people — including 19 children…

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Keeping our kids (and us) safe out in the sun: Natural/Organic sunscreens

Original post appeared on Modern Homesteaders-go check them out!

Ah, the sun.  It feels so good against the skin of my bare arms.  Until I remember that I haven’t applied sunblock in 6 hours and every little scratch from that chicken wire that I’m working feels like a million bee stings.  Enter in that essential summer tool: sunblock.

infographic_sunscreen_web_small

Sounds easy enough, right?  But, it’s really not.  Many consumers are simply unaware of the toxic soup that they are applying on their skin every single time they open a bottle.   We’re not just talking kinda bad stuff…we’re talking chemicals that have the potential to increase skin tumor risk, disrupt hormone balance, sprays/powders that coat little lungs, and products that don’t work well enough to provide any actual protection from the sun.  If you are interested in reading about some of the products that failed to past muster with the Environmental Working Group, you can see their hall of shame here.

Homesteaders generally seem to be a more informed bunch of folks, but even we struggle to make the right choice in balancing good for us and good for our pocketbook.    In our research, we have found that both the EWG’s recommended list and this resource on The Daily Green offered some alternative options to the super pricey bottles.  You are still going to pay more than you would for the cheapo drug store kind, but the benefits absolutely outweigh the risks in this case.

I’ve also seen some recipes for homemade sunblock, but I will be honest-I’ve been a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of ingredients to give it a try.  Would love to hear from our readers if you have cracked the sunblock code!  Happy spring!

Do homesteaders make better parents?

The shortest blog post in history: yes!

 

Ok, seriously folks.  In the last 24 hours, I’ve read two things in relation to parenting that gave me pause.  One was a Yahoo article about a teenager who has eaten nothing but Ramen noodles for the last 13 years.  As a result, experts estimate that she has the health of an 80-year-old.  Where the heck are the parents here?  I refuse to accept the fact that a parent has been unable to course correct this eating spiral over 13 years.  I’m sure it hasn’t been easy for these parents, but my goodness.  Where is the accountability?

The other thing I read was not exactly new news, but I saw one of my more conservative FB pals post an excerpt from Bill Cosby’s famous Pound Cake speech.  Much like the Bible, I think people can use this speech and twist it to their own needs, but for me, it’s all about parental accountability.  As a parent, this speech resonates loudly with me.  I don’t see parenting as a uniquely white/black/red/polka dot issue.  It’s hard freaking work being a parent regardless of color.  Add in social inequity, poverty or ignorance and that job just got a whole lot harder.  But parents still have to be accountable.

And then there is my family.  Budding Homesteaders.  Want accountability?  Try Homesteading.  The ultimate accountability.  It’s not just our precious children or grandchildren, but I like to think that whether you are homesteading on your urban rooftop or on your 1000 acres, you have entered into a contract to do things right for your land, your animals, your plants, your family, your friends…all of it.   It’s all about choice and the consequences of those choices.

Now, does this mean that I think all farmers, ranchers, homesteaders are better parents?  Of course not.  The same jerks exist everywhere regardless of lifestyle.  But dang it, I’m sick of hearing about parents buying their children’s love with stuff.  I’m weary of seeing parents convince their children that they are the center of everyone’s universe.  I’m over hearing parents tell their children that bad behavior is a product of bad environment and not bad decisions.  I wish more parents loved enough to be strong.  To be that mean parent.  To realize that our children are capable of making decisions, taking responsibility and feeling accountability.  Making affordable mistakes is all part of learning and certainly something that we do here every single day as homesteaders.  So no, I am not so arrogant to think that homesteaders are better parents.  I think today’s post was more rant than information, but perhaps there is something to this way of life.  Maybe this lifestyle can teach our kids a thing or two about accountability even if we aren’t always perfect parents.  It is certainly my prayer for our future.

 

 

 

Spiders and beetles and bugs, oh my! Exploring alternative home pest control options

This was originally posted on Modern Homesteaders-go check them out!

I don’t know about you guys, but I cannot tell a lie.  Once spring rolls around, I start walking with tip toed feet through my house fearful of my first contact with unwanted visitors who come into my house.  While so many things on Blueberry Acres Farm seem idyllic, the reality is that here in Missouri we have winters mild enough and summers warm enough to invite a whole host of creepy crawlies into our lives.  You would think growing up in Florida where the cockroaches fly and were huge would break one of that fear, but alas…no.  I still hate bugs with a passion bordering on phobia.  Or is it a phobia bordering on passion?  Either way, our desire to remain as chemical free as possible has led us to explore some more environmentally friendly options such as:

Dioatomaceous earth (aka DE).  We sprinkle this stuff in many many places.  It’s available online and sometimes in retail stores, but we have found it to be much more cost-effective to buy in bulk.  DE has a lot of other cool applications as well, but obviously if you have something crawling across your kitchen floor, it’s not going to make much sense to sprinkle powder on it, so sometimes you need to spray…

Rubbing Alcohol in various applications.  Get a clean spray bottle and either fill it with alcohol for a quick squirt killer or dilute it by mixing 3/4 water, 1/4 alcohol.  The nice thing is that it shouldn’t leave a residue and apparently bugs don’t build up a resistance to it.  However, since it doesn’t leave a residue, it shouldn’t be relied on for long-term control, just “eek, a bug” moments instead.

Insecticidal Soap Spray  This is another option for spraying but beyond just the “eek bug” moments, this should also leave a residue that will help repel the invading hoards.

Beyond these ideas, Herbal/Floral options abound.  I think every gardener knows the repelling characteristics of Marigolds, but what about using them near your entrances?  Rue is another option for planting near entrances to repel flies and mosquitos.  I’ll be honest-we haven’t considered Rue in the past because it can irritate skin if you rub against it, so this may not be ideal for homes with small humans like ours.   What about those tacky Citronella candles?  Sure, you could use those (I hate em!) but I’d rather plant Citronella/Lemon Grass instead.  It may not pack as much of a punch as those oil infused candles, but I don’t worry about the grass catching my cat’s tail on fire either.  This year I’m also going to experiment with Lavender to see if I can expand it’s moth repelling properties.  My goal will be to make planters of insect repelling plants and decorate my entrances with God’s natural bug dissuaders.

And of course, beyond sprays and sprinkles, some good old-fashioned prevention helps.  Don’t leave sitting water hanging around, especially near high traffic areas.  Mosquitos anyone?  Make sure doors and entrances have a great seal.  Here at Blueberry Acres Farm, Sheldon will be put to work this weekend on that project as we enter into the warmer months.  What are you doing this spring to make sure that the only guests who come into your home are those you have invited?  Would love to hear from you!

A must make recipe for almond junkies: marzipan cupcakes

So, Sheldon is a bit of a marzipan addict. For Christmas, he ordered a big box of those little marzipan fruits just so he (and my Dad) could sit and eat them. Santa didn’t even get cookies put out for him and his reindeer..he got marzipan.

pic courtesy of amazon.com

pic courtesy of amazon.com

As a result, I have been hunting for the perfect marzipan cupcake recipe and thanks to All Recipes, I was able to riff on one of their recipes and create what I think was the perfect almond flavored cupcake for the marzipan junkie in your life:

The crust:

1 Cup AP Flour

3 Tbl White Sugar

7 Tbl room temp butter

1 egg yolk

I used my stand mixer to mix all of these together to form a ball of dough.  From there, knead for a few minutes on a floured surface (or in a wide mouthed bowl if you are lazy like me) until it is smooth.  Wrap in plastic and let sit in fridge for 15 minutes.

The filling:

8-12 oz marzipan or almond paste  cut up (You can get marzipan in big cans.  Recommend that for this recipe)

5 Tbl cold butter, cut up

2 whole eggs

1/2 almond extract

Mix these together until they form a smoothish paste.  The original recipe calls for it to be smooth, but I left mine lumpy (lumps of marzipany goodness) and it was sooo worth it.  More on that in a sec.   Then take the dough and press it into cupcake liners like you are making mini pies.  Go about halfway up the liner.  Pour in the filling about 1/2-2/3’s of the way up the liner.  Then cook in a 400 degree oven for a 20-25 minutes.  Allow to cook on a cooling rack for about 5 minutes (until you can take them out by hand really) and then allow them to cool for another few minutes.  The original recipe called for frosting/glaze but I found that I just didn’t need it.  Because we left the marzipan in chunks inside, it was like having a cupcake with filling and it was awesome.  I would post pics of the finished product here, but frankly they didn’t make it that far.  Yum.  Good luck and happy baking!

Desperately seeking oreos….

Oreo cows that is!  We are ready to add cows to the pasture here at Blueberry Acres and I’m wondering if any of you out there in the blogosphere have suggestions for finding Belted Galloways, aka oreo cows.  We have contacted breeders but are finding that so many of them are more interested in show cows vs. hamburger cows that I’m not confident that we are contacting the right people!  So, other farmer/homesteaders…have you had experience in researching and buying the “alternative” breeds?  We would love to hear from you!

pic courtesy of wikipedia

pic courtesy of wikipedia

 

 

 

Barn-Hop