Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday Already? Pic Round Up

This is the first week since I started my blog that I didn't post until Saturday.  Definitely didn't hit my goal of three posts a week this time around.  But that's okay!  It's just a goal.  And living life takes precedence to blogging about life.

I enjoyed visiting with Bryan's grandparents the first half of the week, and spending time at Between the Rivers the second half.  (With some overlapping of both occasions!) The week kind of flew by.  Time has a tendency to do that I'm  noticing. 

There is so much I want to share with you from Between the Rivers.  I even started a post or two.  One of what exactly Between the Rivers is, and one on the Atl Atl.  (Never heard of that?  Don't worry, I hadn't either.  But it's neat!!!)

But, as I was writing, something would come up, so I'd have to hit save and then I never got back to them.  Never fear.  Those posts will get published eventually! 

Since it's Owen's birthday today, and my computer time will definitely be limited, those posts won't be today though! But they are coming.  

In the meantime, here are some teaser photos for those upcoming posts.  It was a great week!

Sunday, May 25

It's only Sunday evening and already the kids are exhausted!  Little Ellie Bean didn't make it through evening service at church.  Bryan snapped this great picture of her.  Kind of wraps up how we are all feeling this week!

Monday, May 26

I've decided the biggest reason I miss my iPhone (well one of them...) is the ability to take panoramic photos.  Our iPod Touch is a Generation 4, and just doesn't have that feature.  Thankfully my husband still has his, and he took this awesome one for me on a walk we took.

You can see the camp set up in our field.  Well, this is part of the camp.  More campers arrived later this day and on Tuesday.  I told you it was a  busy week!

  Tuesday, May 27

This is me trying to use a combination of my iPod and Photoshop to create the allusion of the panoramic shot. I think I made it too skinny though.  This time it's of the parking area.  You can see our barley hay planted in the field too.  It's up now!

Wednesday, May 28

Jeffrey worked with Grandpa and the man teaching blacksmithing today.  He LOVED it!  He made an S hook.  And was so proud of it.  He got to help heat metal until it was red, beat it with a hammer into shape and use a wrench to twist.  What five year old boy wouldn't love that?

Kind of makes me want to dig out the old smithy supplies we have on the farm and set up a forge of our own.  What a great opportunity!

Thursday, May 29

Jayme spent the week working on a large project.  A bow.  She started with a large piece of maple, and used hand tools to cut it to shape and size.  Here she is sitting and filing a rough patch.

 She has blisters on her hands to show how hard she worked.  I think she put in 11 or 12 hours over the course of three days on this, and then took the four hour arrow making class on Friday.  Her bow is beautiful! 

But...she scraped it too thin in one spot and now it has a hinge--a really weak spot that will break if it's shot too much.  Thankfully the instructor was able to bind it with wood and sinew and he thinks it'll work fine for her after it dries. 

Friday, May 30

We joined in camp potluck and campfire fun last night.  Ellie and Sydney snuggled up close after dinner and enjoyed listening to the guitars and drums. 

Saturday, May 31

Owen's birthday!!! I can't believe he's 8.  Know what else I can't believe?  It's almost 8:30 in the morning and the kids are all sleeping still (except Simon).  They NEVER sleep in that much.  I told you we were all tired!

Since it's Owen's birthday, I wanted to share a picture of him.  He snuggled up next to me on the couch at 1:00 a.m., and crashed.  I tiptoed out to snap a picture, and even got some eyeballs. 

Here you go--my sleepy 8 year old! (Who was born shortly before 8 a.m. in Moses Lake in 2006...)

And since that's not a very good picture, you get a bonus.  Another shot from Friday night.  Owen LOVED the music even more than the little girlies.  He was waving his arms to the music and bouncing up and down.  So here's a better picture of my oldest son--on his last evening ever being 7.

See--too much partying at night leads to sleepy mornings! 

We had a wonderful week, and are going to enjoy birthday celebrations today.  Have a terrific weekend! And I'll be back next week!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Picture Round Up: May 18-24

Can you believe May is almost over? Next is June, which is the midpoint if 2014. Wow!

This weekend we were excited to have Bryan's grandparents and my sister Mindy and brother-in-law Drew (and Drew's parents) for a big get together.  We had some BBQ chicken, steak and hamburgers and plenty of filling sides. What a fun way to kick off a long weekend! 

It's been a good week. Let's look at some highlights...

Sunday, May 18

Look at those blossoms! The plum, cherry and apple trees are beautiful! Looking forward to an abundant harvest this year. 

Monday, May 19

We took a nice walk.  Here are our three girls--Jayme, Ellie & Sydney.  You can see Jeffrey in the background.  Bryan even got home early enough to go with us!

Tuesday, May 20

Jeffrey finished up his school books for the year.  He loved completing the last page! Look at that huge grin.

 Now just a couple more kids to go. We should be done with school completely in 2 more weeks! I'm ready for summer break. 

Wednesday, May 21

An early morning walk out towards the junk pile with my little girls provided them opportunity to play in their "trampoline." Yup--that's a plastic bed liner for a truck.  They love to get in it and jump.  

Thursday, May 22

Look what my sweet Jayme bought for me at the library book sale!!!   My favorite book by Joel Salatin.  I've seriously read this one about three times.  I highly recommend it.  The principles in it can apply to any business--not just farming.  If you have a family business, or would like to, give it a read if you get the chance.

Friday, May 23

Aunt Mindy and Uncle Drew came bearing amazing dress up clothes for a late birthday present for Ellie.  She loves them so much, and looks adorable!  She also received a great black hat with flowers around the brim that's she has been wearing this weekend.  Thanks to Drew for taking the picture and sending it to me.

Saturday, May 24

So many picture opportunities today...visiting with Great-Grandpa and Great-Grandma in the motor home, walking around the farm with Aunt Mindy and Uncle Drew....playing games together....what family fun! 

With all those choices, what will I pick?

Ready for it?

The tent city that is being set up at Grouse Creek.

Between the Rivers is happening again.  Though it doesn't technically start until Tuesday, the instructors have been busy setting up camp.  It was nice to spend time talking to some of them this afternoon.

If you look closely you can see that a framed plywood bridge has been decked out on top of the log bridge.  It's a bit easier to cross for those who aren't used to walking on logs. 

There'll be even more tents set up tomorrow and Monday. 

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!  Bryan has Monday off and we're having his mom out for lunch.  Do you have any plans?

Friday, May 23, 2014

A List of Homesteading Skills

A while back while blog hopping, I came across a great post at this blog. She had found a list of 121 homesteading skills to be mastered put out by The Prairie Homestead.  Then, she went through and crossed out all of the skills that she had. 

I loved the idea, and wanted to snag it.  I thought of some different ideas to add to the list too, so my list is now longer.

Since looking at a list of crossed off items can be hard to read, I instead broke it into a couple of categories. With the attitude of working as a team here at the farm, I've chosen the following categories:

Things either Bryan or I (or both!) can do well.

Things either or both of us are working on but need more practice with. 

Things we want to try.   

Things we aren't interested in, or are just not ready for. 

Ready?  Me too! Here we go: 

Things we can do well

1. Milk a cow, goat or sheep.  (Cows). 
Maggie, one of my milk cows.

2. Compost both kitchen scraps and animal manure.  (I feed kitchen scraps to chickens and compost that.  Also use cow manure as field dressings.)
3. Learn how to cook a whole chicken. 
4. Learn first aid and CPR.  (I have taken a couple of classes....and get to practice the first aid part quite a bit with six kids!)
5. Know how to dehydrate foods to preserve for later use. 
Plums drying...
6. Learn how to safely cut down a tree.  (Just for the husband is awesome at this!  Me?  Never tried and have no desire to. I'll just throw the cut up stuff in the truck, thank you very much!)
7.  Make good sausage gravy from scratch.  (Yum!)
8. Know how to drive a manual transmission and/or tractor.  (Way more fun than an automatic!) 
9.  Learn basic mechanic skills so you can fix your tractors and vehicles. (We know basics--always more to learn!)
10. Change a tire and change oil.  (I CAN do it, but am very thankful that Bryan DOES it!)
11.   Know how to properly handle, shoot, and clean a gun. (This is on my need practice list, but Bryan has it mastered!)
12. Learn the laws and regulations regarding hunting wild game in your area through a Hunter’s Safety course. (I have yet to take the class, but know many of the laws and regs, Bryan took the class.)
13. Learn how to kill and pluck a chicken (Bryan does the killing!)
14.  Learn how to fish.
15. Learn how to clean, fillet, and cook fish.
16. Learn how to tell if your chickens are molting.
17. Know how to tell if you can doctor an animal at home, or if it needs to be taken to the vet.
18. Dry laundry using a drying rack or clothesline.
19. Make your own laundry detergent. (I can, but I generally don't at this stage in life.)
20. Know how to build a fire.
21. Cook over an open fire or on a wood cookstove. (When the power goes out, we still have to eat!)

22. Learn how to make yogurt. (We go through a couple gallons of it in a week!)
23. Make sourdough bread and maintain your own starter. (Finally have this one down!)

24. Make basic yeast dough which can be turned into loaves, rolls, buns, pretzels, etc.
25.  Learn how to identify and manage a broody hen. 
26. Make your own jellies and jams.
27. Heat your home with wood or other sustainable sources.
28. Learn how to build and fix fence.
29. Use a water bath canner to preserve foods.
30. Make your own sauerkraut.
I turned this hunk of cabbage into sauerkraut.

31. Forage for wild edibles in your area.
 32. Grind your own wheat for baking. (We get bonus points for growing the wheat first!)
Ellie and the wheat grinder...

33. Repurpose everyday items to save them from the landfill.
34. Learn how to prepare for a wildfire. 
35. Understand the basics of animal breeding.
Rusty Redbull?  Yup--he's essential to our cow breeding plan!
36. Learn how to harvest, split, and stack firewood. (Though my stacking skills need improvement!)
37. Make your own skincare items.
38. Make your own cleaning supplies. (My favorite is a recipe I found at Raising Arrows--Grape Seed Extract, Water and Essential Oils...)
39. Learn how to make butter. (My Aunt gave me my Grandmother's old butter making bowl and paddle...what a blessing to be the third generation using it!!!)
 40. Understand how to identify the weeds in your yard/pastures and figure out which ones are edible.  (Plantain...dandelion...nettle....clover...they are all in our yard!  The pasture I need more work on, along with the woods!) 
41. Learn how to back up a trailer. (Bryan is great at this!)
42. Learn how to make bone broth.
43. Know how to use non-electric lighting.
44. Put food scraps like eggshells, coffee grounds, apple peels, and whey to good use.
45. Make simple meals from scratch. 
46. Know how to protect your livestock from predators.
47. Know how to humanely euthanize an animal.  (Thankfully Bryan does this too!)


Things we need to practice/are in process of learning

1. Learn how to use essential oils properly and safely.
 2. Make the perfect pie crust.  (Not yet.  I've found many pie crusts that are ok. And I do make pies.  But I haven't yet found the perfect recipe.  I've heard it takes lard.  So when we butcher the pigs this fall, I'll give it a whirl)
3. Grow a vegetable garden in your climate. (  My thumb is not green.  Will be trying again on a small scale again this year. Wish me luck! )
4. Learn how to humanely kill, gut, and clean an animal. (Only done a chicken...want to learn more!)
5. Know how to butcher an animal and the proper cuts of meat. (Have butchered out a ram)
6. Make cheese– simple soft cheeses and hard cheeses too. (Only the soft kinds...)
7. Learn how to cut, bale, and stack hay.
8. Master the art of intensive grazing so you can better manage your pastures (just learning this one!).
9. Make your own soap.
10. Mend damaged clothes so they don’t have to be thrown away.
11.  Master basic carpentry skills so you can repair outbuildings or even build basic furniture pieces.
12. Learn how to use lacto-fermentation to preserve foods. (Only done carrots and cabbage this way...)
13. Learn how to render lard or tallow.
14. Know how to halter-break and train an animal. 
15. Learn how to repair a roof. 
16. Know how to properly prune and graft a fruit tree (need to learn about grafting!)
17. Sew clothing and fabric items from scratch. (I'm trying!)
18. Knit, quilt,  or crochet (Learning crocheting...)
19. Learn how to identify the difference between harmless and venomous snakes in your area (Can't say I WANT to know this, but I should...and I'm learning.)
20. Learn how to sharpen a knife or ax.
21. Learn how to prepare for a blizzard. 
22.  Learn how to work together with your neighbors to accomplish more and foster a sense of community.
23. Store food in a root cellar or in a cool basement. 
24. Learn how to chop ice. 
25. Put together a 72-hour kit for emergencies. 
26. Learn how to cook in a cast iron skillet without a sticky mess.
27. Make your own sausage (Have done just ground, want to learn links!)
28. Live within your means and get out of debt (We started out at over $100,000 in debt and are down now to one student loan at $35,000--huge progress in the last five years!!!).
29. Know basic plumbing skills (like unclogging a toilet!)
30. Make your own paper. 
31. Learn how to tie a variety of basic knots.
32. Know how to clean, dress, stitch/staple a wound in the event of an emergency (Unfortunately, Owen gives us lots of practice...).
33. Learn how to clear pasture and brush.

Things we want to learn/try

1. Learn how to hunt wild game–both large and small.
2. Use a smoker to smoke cheeses, meat, bacon, hams, etc.
3. Know how to assist an animal with a difficult birth. 
 4. Grow a windowsill herb garden.
5. Keep bees and harvest honey.
6. Incubate fertilized eggs and hatch your own chicks.
7. Give an animal an injection (the muscle, in the vein, or under the skin). Thankfully never had to! But should learn so I'm prepared. 
8. Learn basic metal working skills and welding. They teach this at Between the Rivers (which takes place on our property annually.)  It looks neat!

9. Make your own candles.
10. Learn how to darn a sock.
11. Learn the art of no-till gardening.
12. Learn how to candle eggs so you can tell if they are fertilized. (My mom can do this, but I haven't asked her teach me yet...)
13. Cook outside with a dutch oven. (This would be fun!)
14. Learn how to tan a hide (another skill being taught this year at Between the Rivers)
15. Learn how to use a pressure canner and/or cooker.
16. Learn how to identify the difference between edible and poisonous mushrooms. 
17. Learn how to start seeds indoors.
18. Make your own vinegar (Going to try apple cider vinegar this year!). 
19. Learn how to make herbal extracts, infusions, poultices, and tinctures. 
20. Tap trees for maple syrup. (Due to location, it'd have to be birch trees for birch syrup...)
21. Know how to purify water (I know how to boil it!). 
22.  Make your own bacon and cured hams.
23. Learn how to make your own chicken feed.
24. Make your own ammunition, or reload ammunition.
25. Learn how to install/use a composting toilet
26. Use alternative energy sources like solar or wind to power your homestead.
27. Implement natural pest control measures.
28. Learn how to make and set traps.
29. Understand how to propagate plants through root cuttings.
30. Implement a forest management plan.
31. Learn to identify forest problems (root rot, beetles, etc.)
32. Learn to brew kombucha 
33. Make water keifer 
34. Make milk keifer 


Things we aren't interested in or aren't ready for yet 

1. Assist with foaling, kidding, lambing, and/or calving.  (If they need help, my plan is to cull.  I don't want to make it a habit!)
2. Trim the feet of your goats and sheep.
3. Learn how to save seeds. (I'm not here yet! Want to have a successful garden for a few years before I try to worry about this...)
4. Build/use a greenhouse or cold frame to extend your growing season. (Same with #3, this will move to want to learn in a few years, but not yet!)
5. Learn how to make and apply whitewash.
6. Learn about aquaponics or fish farming (We have the creek for fishing....maybe someday?)
7. Shear a sheep and process the wool. (There's a reason we went with hair sheep when we had them...)
8. Learn how to spin wool.    
9. Learn how to use vermiculture (composting with worms) to create nutrient-rich food for your garden (I'll just leave the worms in the dirt, thank you very much!)
10. Make your own fishing lures or spears.
11. Learn how to weave.
12. Learn how to make natural dyes.
13. Master the art of home brewing (we don't drink).
14.  Learn how to make baskets. 

There you have it.  I have lots to learn!  If you know how to do the things on my "want to learn" list, feel free to pass some advice along!  

I know I forgot somethings.  Anyone have any additions for me?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Buttermilk Bliss: Pancakes!

These pancakes are delicious!  They are seriously the only pancakes I make that the kids will eat without syrup.  Pancakes that are good plain? You know that's a winner!

Once again, this recipe stars buttermilk.  A whole quart of it.  This recipe is why I started making my buttermilk a half-gallon at a time.It does make a lot of pancakes.  I haven't ever counted how many. But enough that every time I make them I end up with some in the freezer.  Bonus breakfast!

I found this recipe from House of Smith.  Then I made just a few changes.  I use half whole-wheat flour (white whole wheat).  I also just mix everything in one bowl.  I melt the butter first in a large bowl, then add all the wet ingredients.  Then I stir in the dry ones.  It seems to work.

If anyone knows a reason to use two bowls, let me know.  Maybe I'm missing out on something awesome.  But I sure like to save on dishes!
Yummy, thick buttermilk bliss!

To whip up a batch, you'll need:

1/2 cup butter (melted, in a large bowl)

Then add:

 4 eggs
4 cups buttermilk (1 quart)

Stir really well. Then add:

2 cups unbleached flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup sugar

Stir everything together.  Batter will be thick and lumpy, but be sure to get all the dry ingredients incorporated.

Cook on a hot griddle until bubbles form, then flip and cook a bit more.  (Just like you'd cook other pancakes.)

That stage is Jeffrey's favorite.  He LOVES to make pancakes!

Ah yes.  Pancakes.  If you'd like to see a picture, hop over to the House of Smith website where I found them.  They have lovely pictures.  Otherwise, just imagine a fluffy, beautiful pancake. 

Serve with butter and syrup.  Or peanut butter.  Or jam.  Or just eat them plain and enjoy the buttermilk goodness.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Weekly Round Up In Pictures

Weekly roundup...version May 11-17

Sunday, May 11

Mother's Day!

I didn't take a picture...oops!  Too busy enjoying my crew.

Monday, May 12

Simon is a hat boy! He actually left it on for a while...Thanks to Jayme for taking this picture.  You can see my shoulders--I'm holding the cutie!

Tuesday, May 13

Sydney's hair is FINALLY long enough for a ponytail.  Now to get her to leave in the rubber bands...

She wanted me to put her shoes on her so we could go outside. 
Wednesday, May 14

This is the day I mentioned in my last post... the day that involved cleaning grossness in a closet.  I also took a picture of the mess, but decided to share the good part of the day instead.  Having a blast in Grouse Creek!

Thursday, May 15

The girls worked together to water the baby calves.  It's so nice to have good helpers with chores!

Friday, May 16

Thanks to Jeffrey for taking this picture.  We tethered Annie (our heifer) to mow down the grass by the barn.  She did a good job.  

Saturday, May 17

Ellie volunteered to straighten the pantry for me.  I accepted.  She did a great job emptying it out, wiping out the shelves and putting everything back.

I hope you had a great week as well!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Creekside Respite

After an unexpected hectic morning earlier this week, that included the words Easter Eggs, closet, maggots, cleaning and ew! (don't ask!), what's a mom to do?  In order to keep her sanity, this mom decided to feed the crew a quick lunch and make haste for the creek for some much needed playtime. Praise the Lord it was a really warm day!

We go to the creek every year, but this year I noticed something different.  For the first time ever, Owen was pulling himself out of the water when he got cold.  He'd go sit on the grass for a little bit and then dip his feet back in.  He's NEVER done that before.  I thought it was awesome!

Owen backing out of the water...
It's a new way that he is showing he's learning, and gaining independence.  He doesn't have to wait for me to realize that his feet are purple and he probably needs to warm up a few minutes.  Nope.  Just did it himself.  Way to go Owen!

The other kids had a blast.  Well, most of them. Simon was locked in his car seat on the grassy banks and even though he REALLY needed a nap, he decided it'd be more fun to watch the action and let out a squawk every now and then to let us know he didn't think he should be in his seat.  But he survived. And even smiled a time or two. 
Ellie, Owen and Jeffrey

Everyone else had fun.  Even the puppy.  He surprised me by loving the water.  He'd chase sticks in and run up the bank.  Poor thing was exhausted when we got home, and didn't even want to go on a walk later.

And Sydney?  Last year she was really too young to get in on the splashing.  She made up for it this year!  She realized she could jump off a small rock into the water and that she could walk along the shallow parts really easily.  There was no stopping her, and she definitely didn't want to go home.

Sydney enjoying the creek.

Me?  I got over the whole cleaning incident and really am thankful to live at Grouse Creek.  The time spent there was just what I needed to relax with the kids and get my attitude back in check before going home and jumping back into chores and routines. 

Sometimes we all just need a break!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Newest Additions at the Farm...

Folks, I'd like to introduce you to Bacon, Sausage and Ham--the newest critters to join life at Grouse Creek Farm. 

Jayme, Ellie and Sydney were able to ride with Grandpa to go pick them up.  They were really excited! The piglets sure can squeal when they're scared.  You really understand the phrase, "Like a stuck pig" when you hear it. 

These will be our first pigs ever raised on grass and dirt.  We are hoping to provide them with an area where they can act like pigs while they gain weight, instead of being in a small concrete pen.  By keeping their stress levels low, and their needs met, we should have some really tasty meat this fall.

Speaking of their needs, since the cows have been back out on pasture, we have an abundance of milk.  I see three little piggies who will enjoy having their grain soaked in it each day.  What a blessing!   

You might be wondering about their names.  Yup--we sure did name them after our favorite cuts of pork.  We teach our kids early on that while we take good care of the animals in our care, they will eventually end up in the freezer.  They know where their food comes from.  Which I think is essential.

When you don't know where your meat comes from, you don't notice if it's been adulterated.  You don't realize that your chicken has been bleached or your beef has pink slime.  I'd much rather explain the process of butchering an animal that we have raised than have them think that meat comes from little packages in the store.

Let's raise up the next generation to realize that food doesn't come from a store.

And as we do that, we'll enjoy some cute pigness. Yup.  They crawled right into their trough of milk-soaked grains and slop.  They won't be small enough to all fit for long. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Saturday Picture Round Up

Let's start right in with some action, shall we? Simon thinks we should.  Here is a picture of him from Sunday, May 4th, sitting on the workbench in Daddy's shop.  He was pretty proud of himself!  Except we wouldn't actually let him chew on stuff he found.  That bummed him out.

Monday, May 5th

In addition to the stinging nettle soup, I made dandelion burgers.  The kids were much more willing to try these. They reminded me not so much as a veggie burger, but as a fritter.  I think I'll make them again.  If I can stand ripping the petals out of the greens...that took forever!  Good thing I have helpers.  Also have a recipe for dandelion cream soup I want to try...definitely in a weed eating mood!

Tuesday, May 6th

Beautiful weather at our house usually equals water play.  Owen loves it.  His absolute favorite thing in the world is water, and he'd stay out in it until he turned blue and purple if we'd let him.  Here he is working his way across the lawn to the water.

Of course since the whole water play was rather impromptu, this was before we decided to change into swimsuits...

Wednesday, May 7th

Since I shared this photo already this week, I decided to play around with it in Photoshop.  I used the oil paint feature and adjusted some items until I liked the way it looked.  It's Ellie playing with magnet dolls during our special time.  We sure had fun! And she looks cute painted. 

Except I better not actually say that, because knowing Ellie she'd go find some paint and paint herself.  And paint her little sister for good measure.  Getting into mischief is much more fun together you know. 

Thursday, May 8th

Look what my wonderful husband had delivered as an early Mother's Day present!!!  They are beautiful!  The kids love running over and smelling them.  Now to keep them out of Owen's reach.... These are supposed to continuing opening up the blooms until Sunday, at which point they'll be fully opened.  What a fun surprise!

Friday, May 9th

Look Mommy...I got dressed!  All by myself. 

And doesn't she look beautiful?  My little girl is growing up! And loves necklaces. 

Saturday, May 10th

A busy day!  We worked hard in the morning finishing the chicken coop.  All that's needed now is the enclosed run outside.  We'll work on that as time and funds allow. There are some other projects that take priority for now.  

This afternoon, my younger sister Katie and her friend stopped by for a while, and we had a fun dinner at Mom's with them.   My chicken-nettle lasagna will wait for tomorrow.  It was nice to see family. 

After dinner, but before dark, we went in the old chicken coop and caught the rooster and all our ladies.  Then we packed them to the new coop in milk crates.  That would have made an awesome picture!  But...I was busy catching birds.

Jeffrey, Ellie and Sydney all helped outside opening the coop and handing us boards to use as milk crate lids.  Jayme was such a helper inside watching Owen and Simon while we got it done! 

It took a while.  When we came in, it was bedtime.  Sydney and Ellie asked to sleep on the floor of their room.  So we made them a big blanket bed and here they are...Ready to sleep after a long day of farm work.

I hope all of you mother's out there have a wonderful Mother's Day tomorrow!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Buttermilk Bliss: Ranch Dressing

It's been a while since I posted about my love of buttermilk. I still use it frequently and have moved from keeping a quart in the fridge to keeping a half gallon.  It plays a starring role in this recipe.

In our quest to eat more real foods, salad dressing is a topic that has come up repeatedly. Our top choice is ranch. Hands down. 

Hidden Valley ranch to be specific. 

And though I've tried and tried to find a recipe that was simple and real, we just never liked the taste as much of the bottled kind. So I kept buying it. And looking at all the nasty ingredients in disgust, trying to figure it out.

Until now.  

I finally concocted a winner. 

It's husband and kid approved!

And the best part?

There are only 3 ingredients.  So it mixed up really quick!

1. 1 cup mayo
2. 1 cup buttermilk
3. A tablespoon (or so) of the 21 blend organic season salt from Costco. 

Mix well in a jar and serve some over a tasty bowl of salad greens. 

Except you should probably be careful pouring when you mix it in a wide mouthed jar. Otherwise you might drown your greens and need to dump some off on another salad!

It doesn't taste just like Hidden Valley, but it was really good! And I'll be making this one again.  And FINALLY taking ranch off of my shopping list!!!

Are you a ranch lover too? 

Special Time

One of my favorite times of day is called special time. This is a half hour chunk at the end of quiet time dedicated to me spending one on one time with the child who's day it is.

Only a half hour may not seem like much, but we've all really benefitted from it.  It's the refectory amount of time for great fun and conversation.

What do we do at special time? 

That depends.

Each child gets to pick the activity every time it is his or her day.

This week, Ellie selected her magnet girls. These magnetic paper dolls are a lot of fun. But, since Owen and Simon can eat them, they can't make an appearance in the living room very often. 

At quiet time though, Simon is napping in the playroom and Owen is chilling in his room with his iPad. Perfect opportunity for the smaller toys. 

During special time we've walked, snuggled with a short movie, made cookies or played in the water. We've played store, library and baby doll. 

And best of all? No matter the activity it's the perfect time to get a little extra loving in. To have  some special talks about dreams, plans and wishes. And to just enjoy special time. 

It's been one of the best changes  in my day this past year, and a time we will be sure and keep in the future. 

The kids all know what day is theirs, and enjoy planning our time together. What a blessing! 

Now to make it even better and program some choices into the iPad for Owen. That way he can select too instead of just relying on me to pick. 

How do/did you handle special time with your kids? 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Stinging Nettle Soup

It's official. My kids think I'm nuts.

After years of teaching them to steer clear of the nettles that take over our backyard each year, today I was out harvesting some with Jeffrey. We wore gloves and cut off the top leaves with a knife. As our grocery bag got filled, he was brave enough to inquire what I was going to do with them. 

"Make soup" I replied. You should have seen the look on his face. It was priceless! He clutched his hand to his throat and shrieked something about how much it would hurt.

Except it doesn't. I've been reading about harvesting wild foods and learned that a two minute blanch takes the sting out of stinging nettles. 

It worked! After they cooled in ice water, I was able to pick them up and easily strip the tough stems out. Once the nettles were prepared, it was time to make soup.

The nettles in ice water following their blanching.
I used this recipe for inspiration and methodology. But since I didn't have everything it called for, my soup took some unique twists and turns. I used the organic 21 seasoning stuff from Costco in lieu of all of the spices. I added some extra butter.  I didn't use shallots, but dehydrated onion instead. 

After it finished cooking (20 minutes is all), I used my immersion blender to purée it. It turned out rather thin, but absolutely delicious! Jeffrey even liked it. And he was so proud that he helped to harvest the ouchie plants!

Jayme?  She definitely wasn't feeling the soup. She had a hard time getting over the stinging nettle factor. Even though it looked absolutely nothing like nettles by the time it was done. That's okay.  I'll giver her time.  She did take a tiny taste.  And didn't spit it back out. 

The verdict? I will be making it again. I want to expose the kids to more foods, and this one uses a plant we have an abundance of.  The soup is pretty simple as long as I have chicken stock on hand. And the thick cream stirred in at the end? Yum!

Have you ever cooked with nettles or other weeds? I'm thinking if nettle tea next...time to break out the dehydrator for spring! 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Weekly Pic Round Up

Here we go...our week in brief.

Sunday, April 27

Using our awesome noodle maker--I finally figured out how much liquid to use when making whole wheat noodles (a bit more than for all-purpose).  Yeah!

 Monday, April 28

Jeffrey on one of Grouse Creek's bridges.  The creek is getting higher!

 Tuesday, April 29

Ellie painting.  We had a lot of fun painting on paper today.  She decided that black and white newspaper was too boring!
Wednesday, April 30

Jayme just realized how much paint got in her hair while priming the chicken coop.  That MAY have been my fault.  I was holding the paint bucket when she stood up and hit it.  Oops!  Oh well, it's out now!

 Thursday, May 1

Jayme's new swimsuit arrived!  Of course, we had to have some sprinkler play since it was a beautiful day!
 Friday, May 2

Jeffrey holding one of the new baby chicks.  I played with some settings in Photoshop for this one, and turned it grey-scale.  I like it better this way. 

 Saturday, May 3
What's one way you know it's spring or summer here at the farm?  There are building projects going on.  Much to do this year. 

New pig pen.  Check.  New chicken coop...almost check.  Replace our water damaged kitchen floor....scheduled for the end of August when Bryan can (hopefully!) have a week off from work. 

Insulate the shop and add plywood under the metal check!  Here is some of the family up on the roof.  Ellie enjoyed the height the most, though Jeffrey was the best at the ladder. 

More family fun to come next week.  An adventure to the creek on Friday with a picnic and feet dipping (weather dependent...) and hopefully a marshmallow roast in our fire-pit one weeknight!

How was your week?