Monday, February 28, 2011

Spring?????

The daffodils are budding. I heard frogs and birds singing this morning. There is mud everywhere. We've had thunderstorms, and this morning it was almost 70 degrees out. I know the warm temperatures aren't going to last, but all signs point to spring! I am so excited!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Game Over - A creative writing assignment by Kellen

"Game Over", the TV screen blared. I had just died AGAIN; but just in time for I was playing my 15 year old Nintendo 64 before my family and I went to a friend's house. "What ever." I thought, because our friends have a Wii! I look forward to this every week, a night of fun, talking, and video games! As we leave our house, I think, "This is going to be EPIC!" My prediction comes true that night, for after about 5 hours of hanging out we start home. As we drive, I think, "I need a Wii."

The next day after school, I call a meeting of children, and propose, "We're going to get a Wii!" "Yeah!" W00T!", and "Boo-yah!" where some of the responses I got. We pooled our money together, and ended up having about $30. As the Wii cost about $265, we had a ways to go. So, we sold stuff, and sold stuff and sold stuff, and ended at about $100, still a ways to go. We scoured the house for change, drew one of those thermometer chart thingy-ma-bobs to watch our progress grow. We sold more stuff, earned money and had about $150; still a ways to go.

We dreamed. We picked out which games we were going to get. We kept moving up the chart. Then, nothing; absolutely nothing. We couldn't find work, got all the change in the house, sold all our stuff that we were willing to part with. We thought we would never get the $115 that we needed. Therefore we waited, and waited for nothing, or something, or anything! Then we got $70 dollars in change our grandparents had put in a piggy bank since we were little. Then we were celebrating! Just $45 dollars to our goal! Then we went through another week of nothing. As I watched TV one Friday, it hit me! We still had over $60 dollars in Wal-Mart gift cards!

On Saturday we called the bank, as most of our money was coins, we needed cash. They said, "Yeah, just bring them down, we can cash them." We drive down, but they lied! They wouldn't take our coins. Therefore we went to Coinstar, the coin to cash machine! Armed with bills, and gift cards we went to Wal-Mart. As the cashier checked us out, I was literally  bouncing with excitement!  As I held it on the way home, I was visualizing the games. When we got home, and Dad set it up I turned it on and played, and played, and played, and played for 7 hours to be exact. I played and loved my Wii and still do as I play it to this day.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Trip Down Memory Lane - Like a Momma Bird

Originally posted in 2006, this is one of my favorites, and one whose moral I try to remember daily.

Outside, on our make shift patio, a bird built a nest in one of my baskets. She may be a wren, but we aren't sure. There were four eggs in it. We watched her sit on those eggs. Then we saw four babies, so ugly they were cute; no feathers, just skin and beaks. We watched the momma feed them while the dad sang a few yards away, trying to divert our attention away from the nest and precious contents. We watched them grow and now they are gone.

I watched them a lot. I could see the nest out my kitchen window, and I spend a lot of time in the kitchen! Awhile ago, momma started placing the food just a bit outside the nest, encouraging her babies to venture out to get it. It struck me how the instinct given to her is so amazing. She seems to know just what to do. It got me thinking about parenting.

The momma has nurtured those babies, keeping them warm in the eggs, bringing food, and keeping up the nest. The parents have guarded and protected their young, yet all the while preparing them for one thing, to leave the nest.

Are we preparing our young to leave the nest? Sometimes I think we get too caught up in the daily stuff and lose sight of the goal. It is hard to imagine the kids as adults. Hard to see past the dishes, diapers, and laundry. Hard to find the balance of nurture and discipline. Hard to know exactly what each little one needs to learn before venturing into that big wide world. Momma bird seemed to have the perfect balance. I know baby humans are much more complicated than baby birds, but isn't that our ultimate goal; to train our kids to be adults, to function on their own?

It strikes me that God gave momma bird the instincts she needs to train her young. I wish it was as easy for us humans, but I guess that is by design. Raising our kids is yet another area of life that we simply can not do alone. We are not enough. We have to rely on Him and teach our kids to do the same. Find our strength and wisdom in Him and teach our kids to do the same. To trust that He will work all things together for the good and teach our kids the same.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Quiet Week on the Farm

It has been a quiet week on the farm. Nothing too exciting to talk about, and a lot of times that is a good thing. It has been a rainy dreary week that makes me just want to sit on the couch with a book all day. Not that I've actually done that, but I sure have wanted too.

Tuesday Tim took the kids to Homeschool Day at the Capital. It is a day for homeschoolers in our state to come together, present a little about homeschooling, and learn about our state government. While there my family toured the Supreme Court, and performed with our homeschool band. Tim is the band director. They had a great time. I stayed home with the youngest two because Vivian was sick. Thankfully, her illness was just a twenty-four hour thing.

We've started some more seeds, and we even had a tiny window of opportunity to till the garden. An opportunity that we missed. It happens the same way every year. Many of the cold weather vegetables can be planted very soon. In fact, I know people who already have some things in. Our soil is heavy, and stays wet a long time. I start watching for the garden to be tillable mid-February. It could have been tilled last Sunday while I was at work and Tim was at church. In fact, Tim planned to till it when he got home. It started raining while he was at church. It was down pouring by the time he got home. It has rained daily since, and I see more rain in the ten day forecast. Not looking good for my early crops. I miss them every year, and by the time we dry out enough to till it is late for things like peas.

We cut the youngest litter of pigs this week, downsized the sheep population by one, and took a load of metal to the recyclers. Metal prices are up, and we have a lot of scrap metal around here. We are hoping to get as much in while the prices are high as we can.

There really is no typical week around the farm. There are always lots of different things going on depending on the season. There are exciting times. There are frustrating times. There are sad times. Every now and then there are quiet times. They don't happen often, but it is kind of nice when they do.



The picture really doesn't have anything to do with this post, but isn't a post always better with a picture? It was taken last Saturday (the last sunny day we've had) by Dusty Hurley of Love Happiness Photography while she was visiting the farm. This impromptu family portrait is only of part of the family as Tim was at work and Vivian was shopping with Mamaw. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Trip Down Memory Lane - Starting Seeds

The weather has been gorgeous here this week, and I have the gardening itch bad. The outside garden itself is too wet to till. I am waiting patiently (sort of.) My gardening activities now are limited to clean up outside and starting seeds indoors. We start our seed in our bath tub. Below is a post from February 2009 explaining how we set it up. We have since added more lights and reflective blankets to use the sides of the tubs too. You may note that it is now 2011, and the bathroom still hasn't been remodeled. There are always too many farm projects to get done to worry about the house. Besides it is working out great to start my spring seeds, and it is a great conversation starter when someone, especially someone who knows this story,  comes to visit and notices the glow from my bathroom. 


When we bought this house, the master bathroom needed quite a bit of TLC. We made some repairs, and started on a remodel. House projects are not top priority around here. They are superseded by farm and garden projects. The bath remodel went slowly. After being here for a summer, we realized that what would really be best for that space was a major re-haul involving removing the garden tub, expanding the laundry room, and creating a breezeway to a garage the currently does not exist.

Needless to say, that project has not even approached the top of the to do list yet. In the meantime, we are left with a very ugly bath room, and a garden tub that we do not use. I thought the tub would be the perfect place to start some seeds. 

It was space we weren't using. It is an out of the way part of the house, and messes from the dirt and watering could simply be washed down the drain. Keeping in mind some tips learned from Phelan's Box and from the recent tutorial at Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op, we set out to turn the tub into a seed starter. 

Using a gift card, we picked up two fluorescent shop lights and some ceiling hooks. Tim put the hooks in the ceiling. Then he attached the lights using twine. The lights were hung very low, and will be adjusted upwards as the plants grow. We used twine because it was freely available to us. If you have to buy something, chains may be a little easier to work with. 

Next, we wanted to use something reflective on the bathtub sides, to help the plants get all the light they can. What you see in the photo is a solar blanket. This is an item that we once used on back packing trips. They aren't expensive, and this particular blanket, although still very reflective, was pretty much shot for use in backpacking. I cut the blanket in half so the bottom of the tub would not be covered and water could still drain.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lamb Recipes

Lamb is a popular meat world wide, except for here in the United States. It is so delicious. It is a red meat which we Americans love, and it is nutritious.  I wonder why it has not been popular in this country.

In fact, I actually wondered that in a Facebook status a while back and got some good feedback.

#1 The cost.
Yes, lamb is more expensive. The cost of lamb puts it in the category of a special occasion meat for most family budgets. I know it would be if we didn't raise it ourselves.

#2 Never Had It
Well that is an easy fix. Go try it. But then we get back to #1. Most of us aren't going to spend the money on pricey meat we aren't sure we'll like. *sigh* I wish I could invite you all over to try some lamb.

#3 Didn't Like It.
What??? Lamb is tender. It has a wonderful flavor that isn't too strong. I don't know how you could not like it, unless you just don't like red meat in general. But then a friend pointed out, and I think he is likely right, that perhaps people have actually tried mutton, not lamb, and not liked it. That does make perfect sense.

When comes to sheep a little bit of time makes a huge difference in taste. Lamb is a sheep less than a year old. It has a wonderful flavor. Mutton is a sheep over a year old. Mutton has a stronger taste. The older the sheep the stronger the taste.  At its worst it tastes almost a metallic. I do not like it at all.

So people, if you try lamb make sure it is really and truly lamb. Lamb will make your mouth water. Mutton does not sit well on the unaccustomed American pallet.

Those were the main objections to eating lamb. Well, except those who said lambs are just too cute. Lambs are terribly cute, but then so are calves, piglets, and chicks. They all are adorable, but then they grow up and lose their visual attraction to become much more attractive steaks, hams, chicken, and lamb chops on our dinner tables.

Cooking lamb really isn't much different than cooking other red meats. In fact, I use beef, venison, pork, and lamb interchangeably in a lot of our meals. The techniques are essentially the same. The tastes are a bit different, and different herbs and spices may work a little better with one than the other. The differences are subtle. If you can cook beef, you need not be afraid of cooking lamb.

A couple of tips about lamb. It pairs well with mint. It will get tough and dry if cooked to well done. Lamb will also cool quickly. Keep it moist and hot by cooking it to medium at the most, and serving it with the cooking liquid.

Curried Lamb Chops
I fix lamb chops on the grill most times, but last week I was in the mood for curry. Lamb pairs well with curry. I tried to look for a recipe, but couldn't find exactly what I wanted, and ended up combining two recipes to create the dish you see on the left. Below is how I made it.

Lamb Chops
Oil
Curry Powder (or make your own)
2 Carrots chopped
1 Head of Broccoli chopped
1 Onion, chopped
1/4 C Flour
4 C milk

Heat about 2 TB of oil in a large skillet on medium high. Sprinkle both sides of the chops with curry powder. Brown chops in hot skillet for about 2 minutes on each side. Remove chops. Add onion to skillet and sautee until onions begin to soften. Add carrots and broccoli. cook about five minutes. Sprinkle flour over the pan contents. Stir and cook about a minute. Add milk slowly stirring constantly. Bring to a simmer and add the chops back to the pan. Continue to simmer for about 15 minutes for medium cooked chops. Serve over rice.



Leg of Lamb
If this were pork, it would be an unsmoked ham. My favorite way to do any large piece of meat is in the crock pot. Season it. Turn on the crock pot and forget about it until dinner. This particular leg half is about five pounds, and is seasoned with salt, pepper, and mint. It cooked in the crock pot for about 8 hours on low.

I love how tender meats come out cooked this way. Crockpot roasts aren't quite as visually appealing because the meat doesn't brown nicely. You can sear the outside of the roast in a hot skillet first to brown the meat. Or if you want to roast the leg, do so at 325 for about 30 minutes per pound for medium.


I thoroughly enjoy lamb. It is certainly an under rated meat in this country. I encourage you to give lamb a try if you have the opportunity. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Friday, February 11, 2011

You Might Have to Be a Farmer to Understand

 You might have to be a farmer to understand the dread that comes on a frigid morning when there are new babies on the farm. You've given them straw, and provided heat lamps. You've done everything you know how to do to keep those fragile little ones warm.

Though you try your best, sometimes when the temperatures have plummeted into the teens or lower, you go out in the morning to find your best wasn't good enough. Then you get to spend the day with a pit in your stomach wondering what you could have/ should have done differently to help that little one make it through the bitter night.

You might have to be a farmer to understand the overwhelming sense of relief when your morning goes differently. You've dreaded going out, afraid of what you might find. You've approached the buildings where the brand new babies reside, and hesitated at the door. You've cautiously approached the pen, and glanced quickly to see if you spot any babies that have fallen overnight. Relieved, you take a closer look. You might even start counting to double check that everyone is accounted for, and then there is an audible sigh of relief as you realize that they all made it through the night.

This morning was such a morning. *sigh*

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Farm Project of the Day

I think one thing that you may never expect about farm life is that there really is no such thing as a boring routine. Just when you think you know what you're doing the farm shakes things up. Maybe the chicks you're expecting in the mail don't come on the day you plan. Maybe you get an unseasonal bitter cold snap. Maybe the sow you knew would farrow soon, but hoped would wait a day or two for better weather, will farrow on the most bitter night in weeks. Likely, all of these things and more will happen together in the same 24 - 48 hours.

That has been the last couple of days here. It has been bitter. The lows have plummeted into the teens with the highs in the upper twenties. We lost a lamb, likely due to the cold. Tim was home yesterday, and we spent the day working on projects, some of which didn't go as planned and didn't get finished. Lydia, Kellen and I spent most of the morning getting the brooder pen ready for chicks. Since we were expecting the chicks yesterday, that project really should have been completed, but that is how it goes sometimes. We were working under the buzzer, expecting the Post Office to call any minute to let us know the chicks needed to be picked up. We got the project done, and spent the afternoon hanging close to the phone waiting for it to ring. It never did. 

The call got me out of bed this morning. I grabbed a bagel and a cup of coffee from the pot Tim made before he left for work. Then I woke Kellen up just enough to let him know where I was going, and off I went. I got the chicks, got them settled and did my morning chores. 

Then it was time to motivate the children to get their morning chores complete, and to start on school. After I finally got them back on task, I sat down to Facebook and to contemplate what I wanted to get done today. There are lots of projects that need worked on, and I knew I would want to be able to check frequently on the chicks. I was concerned about them staying warm enough in this weather. As I was considering the options for the day, Kellen burst in the front door with a piglet all wrapped up in his hat. 

He had found it in the outside part of the sows' pens. There was some confusion about whose piglet this was, and how it got there. Turns out the sow who we thought would farrow any day, and hoped would wait for better weather, farrowed last night. This piglet, and one who was not so fortunate, somehow made their way into the wrong pen. Well, as often is the case, the farm determined my plan for today. Today's project had become newborn pig care. 

This piglet had me worried. She was very weak and cold. We wrapped her up, held her close, and still could not get her stop shivering. She had almost no sucking reflex, and we ended up giving her Kick Start with an eye dropper. Lydia held her almost all through school, and named her Charlotte. We kept her wrapped up and laid her near a sunny window. She slept for a couple of hours then still shivering off and on. 

When she woke up the change was remarkable. She got up and walked around, and nosed at things like any healthy piglet will do. 


video
Then she started the grunt that means, "I want food." She went after the bottle with vigor, and then promptly fell back asleep. I am not saying she is home free, but I am very pleased with her progress. Now, the hard part will be getting Lydia to let me put the pig back with its mom.

Ah, farm life, it keeps you hopping, and makes life interesting.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Because Underwear Really Isn't That Important

Once upon what seems like another lifetime, I had the laundry in my home under control. I faithfully would gather all the laundry in the house, and have it washed, dried, folded, and put away in a matter of a day, or sometimes two if we had a lot going on. Somewhere along the years of adding children, animals, and activities, I have lost all control over the piles of dirty laundry.

Loads of laundry are still washed, dried, folded, and mostly put away, but on a more sporadic basis. No longer is laundry gathered religiously for laundry day. The motivation for starting laundry is no longer the day of the week. It more often is the pleading of a family member claiming that they have no clean pants, shirts, or sometimes even underwear. The rule has now become if you need clean clothes, and are over the age of ten, wash it yourself. If you're under the age of ten, get your laundry to the laundry room for mom to wash if you have any hope of ever having clean clothes.

The other day Vivian (4) says to me, "Mom, I don't have any clean underwear." With I sigh, I realized this means I must do some laundry even though I had other plans for the day. I went to the laundry room to sort out the laundry that was already there, and sent her to gather laundry in her room. I found a few articles to fill her need in the laundry I sorted, and added some other items and started a load.

She brought me the laundry from the hamper she shares with her sister. I was not surprised to find relatively few items of her clothing in the basket, and not a single pair of her underwear. Strange as this may seem, there is a perfectly logical explanation for the phenomenon. Lydia actually puts her dirty clothes into the hamper. Vivian drops the dirty clothes wherever she happens to change. The true mystery here is how any of Vivian's clothes actually ended up in the hamper.

I thanked her for bringing the laundry, and then explained the situation, "You'll have to pick up your laundry from the floor if you want me to wash any of it." She seemed to understand what I was saying, and we both went along with our day.

Later, when the first load was done and I was ready to put in another load containing her needed items, she had yet to pick her laundry up from the floor and bring it to me. When I again explained to her that she needed to pick up her laundry from the floor before I could wash her underwear, she said to me, "Ah, I really don't need underwear that much."

I think it is a sad statement of the state of our household when my four year old would rather go without underwear than put forth the effort to pick up her dirty clothes.

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Creative Writing of a 12 Year Old Boy

I awaken in a small dark room, my brothers, squished up against me. They have not yet awoken. I hear a loud THUD, THUD, it goes. Then very suddenly I am bathed in a shower of light. I am rudely handled by strange beings. I am being moved. I see a small red box, covered in blood with a hole just big enough to fit my head into. Then I am thrust towards the hole. As I am inside the hole, I hear the great WHRRRRR of motors spinning blades. My head is being whittled into a point that exposes my spine. I pass out from the pain. I get jerked awake by the movement of someone pulling me. I feel my head and my spine is whittled into a sharp point. I see a white sheet, and I am thrust towards that sheet. My spine is pressed up on the sheet and rubbed back and forth in a seemingly random pattern. After what seems like hours, I am put back in the box with my brothers. Resigned, I rest for tomorrow, and the continuing of my life as a pencil.

Spoon Rolls

Winter time around here means there a lot of soups and stews on the menu. They are warm, easy, satisfying and nutritious. The perfect compliment to a steaming pot of homemade soup is warm homemade bread. What is chili without homemade cornbread? Beef stew must have homemade biscuits or dumplings, and sometimes yeast rolls are what my mouth is craving. Unfortunately, that craving often comes after it is too late to get yeast rolls done for dinner. Luckily, we have a reasonable alternative, spoon rolls.

My sister-in-law gave me a recipe for Harrow Road Spoon Rolls years ago. If I remember correctly, this is a recipe from a restaurant in Tennessee where her family is from.  They have more flavor than a biscuit, and a lighter texture than cornbread. Spoon rolls aren't exactly a yeast roll. They are perfect though when you're short time, but want a delicious homemade bread to go with dinner.

Harrow Road Spoon Rolls
1 TB yeast
2 1/4 C. lukewarm water
1 egg, beaten
1/4 C. sugar
2/3 C. melted butter
4 C. self rising flour (1 C self rising flour = 1 C flour + 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder + 1/8 tsp. salt)
2 TB cornmeal

Add yeast to lukewarm water and stir. Mix together egg, sugar, and butter. Add yeast mixture. Add flour and cornmeal. Mix by hand with a wire whisk until well blended. Do not use an electric mixer. Spoon into greased muffin tins. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool in pans about 5 minutes before removing from pan. Dough can be kept covered with foil in refrigerator. It gets better with age. (or so I've been told I always bake it all right away.)

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Thanks!

We have incredible people around us. Often times I get caught up in the responsibilities and plans of the farm, and take for granted those that support us. I want to take a moment to say thank you.

We have incredible neighbors who have been instrumental in getting this farm going from the beginning. In the last six months, they have done even more. There are a lot of things that wouldn't have gotten done around here without their help and advice. We are so blessed to have moved next to them.

I am blown away by the support of friends and customers. Not only do these people buy our products, they also   tell their friends about our farm as much as we do! We've been connected to people through mutual friends more times than I can count. We are so grateful.

It is a wonderful feeling to be supported by our community. Thank you!