Thursday, July 31, 2014

Chicks!

While finishing cleaning the barn from this morning's milking, my phone started ringing.  I answered, and was surprised to hear from the local post office.  My chicks were in!  I could go get them before they opened for business by ringing the service bell in the back. 

How exciting!  I ordered from Ideal Poultry this time around (they could get me chicks the fastest and had the lowest shipping cost).  I was expecting them tomorrow--they were shipping from Texas after all.  But they made it overnight.  Yeah!

Jayme was awake, so I left her with the sleeping littles, and headed for our small town.  I rang the bell, and could hear the chicks peeping through the door.  A couple of minutes later, and I was on my way out of town with a box of a dozen little chicks. 

When I got home, Jayme helped me get a temporary brooder set up.  If you remember, we are hoping that our broody hen (who lost all of her chicks before they hatched) will adopt them.  But, from all of my research, it appeared that they needed to be introduced at night for the best chances of being accepted. 

Jayme helping to unpack the chicks and dip their beaks in water.
It was 6:50 in the morning.  A long ways until night.  So we set up a little brooder area in the utility room.  Since it was supposed to be over 100 today, I decided we didn't need a heat lamp.  The utility room stays really warm--no opening windows or fans in there.  The chicks have done well all day, so I think that decision worked.  They haven't been huddling too much, and are peeping like crazy!


 We have 4 Golden Sex-Linked (our first time going with this type), 4 Ameraucanas (the blue and green egg layers) and 4 more Black Australorps (my dependable layers). They are supposed to all be pullets.  Only time will tell.  Well, I know the sex-linked ones are, but there are 8 others that will have to grow a while before we know for sure. 

As Owen, Jeffrey, Ellie and Sydney woke up, they were sure surprised! Simon really wanted to dive in, so we've kept him out of that area today. 





Some of the chicks have been named already.  We have a Chipmunk, a Beakie, a Sand and a Louis.  Other names have been thrown around randomly throughout the day, but I'm not sure which chicks they belong to yet. 

Tonight we'll see if our adoption effort works.  Otherwise, we'll be brooding these babies in a trailer turned chicken coop that's on the farm.  I'm voting for adoption to work though, it'd be a lot easier!

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Baldy's Backup Plan

Well, 21 days have come and gone.  Several days ago.  And we don't have little chicks.  When we candled the eggs, it looked like there were no longer any viable chicks.  How sad.  But our hen is still sitting patiently. 

The backup plan?  After reading a great post on getting a hen to adopt babies, we got her moved to an old squirrel cage that was in the basement from when my dad was a kid.  And we moved her eggs.  And we ordered 12 baby chicks.  They should be here on Friday.

We were a little worried that she'd try and go back up to the nest box.  But thankfully, she's very content here.  
Baldy has a small feeder and waterer in her new digs. 

I'll  let you know how our chick adoption process goes.  The good news?  We have a plan C if needed--just brood the babies ourselves.  Hopefully we won't need to go that route.

Any tips on getting a broody to adopt babies successfully?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sweet Cherries!

We have a single pie cherry tree in our backyard.  Every few years we get a decent crop.  But pie cherries aren't very tasty to sit and devour.  They kind of need some sugar.  And a pie crust.  Yum! 

So when a neighbor called my parents and asked if we all wanted to come up and pick some of their abundant sweet cherries, we were excited!  We planned on doing it Friday, but with Jeffrey ending up needing stitches, we didn't make it up until Saturday. 

It was worth the wait!

Sydney approved cherries!
Bryan was able to come picking too.  He picked a bunch! And he doesn't even like cherries.  Thanks honey!

It was such an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.  And now we have some sweet cherries in the freezer.

And my kids--who normally just get one colon cleansing a year when the plums get ripe...well, they got that process started early this year! :)

Do you enjoy cherries?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Jeffrey's Stitches

Friday was one of THOSE days.  You know the kind.  Where everything absolutely goes wrong.  The kind of day when you wake up in the morning and have no idea what is in store.

It started off fine.  We even got out of the house on time for the final day of VBS.  Pretty impressive!  When we came home, we went straight to my mom's to eat lunch. 

Then we got invited to pick sweet cherries.  Jeffrey went home to change out of his spy clothes (they've been dressing up all week like spies) and came back to Grandma's covered from head to toe in blood.  Cinders bit him when he was trying to leave.  

We got him cleaned up, and called the doctor.  They were booked, and recommened we go to the minor emergency clinic.  After an evaluation there, the doctor referred us to the local Children's Hospital for getting it stitched.  Because of how close it was to the eye, and how fearful Jeffrey is of needles, she wanted the option of sedation, which only the hospital had.

So we left again.  And in the meantime, I made one of the hardest decisions I'd ever made.  We had Cinders put down.  This was the second time he bit one of the kids hard enough to draw blood.  The first time was only a 2 on the bite scale, and it didn't require any special attention.  This time around, it had moved to a 3.  And was really, really close to both eyes. 

I didn't want to wait for a chunk of skin to disappear or anything.  Or have the baby bitten.  Or have a kid lose an eye.  Or a visitor attacked. Cinders was becoming more aggressive, and it wasn't worth it.  I loved Cinders--he was always my dog.  But...I love my kids more. 

Back to Jeffrey.  He was a trooper in the hospital.  Child Life came around with an iPad, and he enjoyed playing a game called Balloonimals.  That's an app I'll definitely be purchasing in the next few weeks!
Jeffrey with medicine on the wounds to stop the pain and help clean them out.

He did better than I thought he would until it came time to give him the medicine to make him "loopy."  It was in a syringe with a sponge on the end, and looked like a huge needle for a shot.  He finally calmed down and allowed it to go in his nose.  

Once that kicked in, he was a champ.  The doctor stitched him up.  Three on one side, and five on the other.   When we were discharged, he couldn't walk straight.  And he was hilariously loud and just not like himself.  He liked his band-aids a lot. 


And he's been healing for the past couple of days.  He goes to our pediatrician tomorrow for a follow-up and to check for infection.  I don't think he'll have further problems, thankfully! 

I have also learned that our family is not at a stage now where having a dog is a good match.  We will not be getting another puppy--at least not while we have little ones in the house.  You just never know.  Dogs are dogs.  And they act like dogs.  Regardless of training and love and everything else you give them.  Sometimes they just snap for some reason.  We'll never know why.  But I learned my lesson a very hard way.  

It could have been worse.  The Lord really provided for our family during this time.  Jeffrey's eye wasn't affected.  The inside of his nose wasn't punctured.  Grandpa was able to watch the kids while Grandma drove Jeffrey and I to the doctors.  And Bryan was able to leave work and meet us at the hospital. And I'm thankful for those things.  


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

In the Little House books, Pa used to say it a lot.  "Make hay while the sun shines."  It's a saying I've been thinking about lately, and I think applies to much of life--not just making hay. 

There are so many things that are hard, that are really easy to procrastinate on.  But you know what?  We've got to make hay...get it done.  Then we can rejoice in the fact that the job we were dreading is done.  

The Lord is good to provide us with the strength we need to tackle a tough task.  And He'll help us with our attitudes if we ask.  Being a grumpy worker is no fun--for anyone!

Summer is a busy season on the farm.  There's a war with weeds to be won in the garden, cherries, service berries and strawberries to pick, chickens to be taken care of and cows to milk.  But we've got to do it while the sun shines--winter will be here before we know it. 

And that is when life can slow down a bit.  Until then, we do what we can each day, and slowly check off our to-do boxes.  Keeping a steady pace is better than rushing one day and having to recover for two or three.

On another note...

This week, we did make hay at Grouse Creek.  But I can't say that I did much of anything.  My step-dad used the tractor to swath, rake and bale. 

Can you see the bales of barley hay? 95 of them were added to the winter feed supply this week!
I was going to help him pick it up today, but some early morning rain meant it had to be picked up sooner rather than later, and I had to take the kids to VBS.  Thankfully my mom jumped in and drove the truck, and the hay got into the barn to dry out a bit before joining the stack.

I think we should have enough hay now to winter the cows.  That is a huge blessing!  Just need to find some straw now for bedding and pick up a couple ton.  By doing it now, we avoid paying higher prices in the winter.  And we don't have to move hay or straw with snow on the ground.  There's something to be said about preparing for the coming seasons in advance.

And now I'm going to go enjoy a few more minutes of quiet time before it's time to tackle afternoon chores.  We are going to see if any of Baldy's eggs have hatched.  What an exciting time!

What are your thoughts on Pa's saying? 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Weekly Pictures for July 13-19

Outside, the air is thick with smoke.  A large fire is burning the middle of our state.  And the wind is blowing all of that smoke east, right on top of us.  The sunlight streaming through the smoke creates an eerie glow around the sun.  Bryan captured this picture in Spokane earlier this week.



We are praying that the fire is soon contained, and for no more homes to be lost.  It's hard to imagine that almost an entire town (Pateros) was burnt.  Please remember the people who lost their homes in the fire in your prayers!

Here are the pictures I took this week.  It's a fun way to remember some of life's little moments!

Sunday, July 13

We've started the processing of gathering hay for the livestock this winter.  I'm hoping to have around 400 bales stored by the start of winter.  That'll be enough to see all the animals through until April or so (when they should be able to be out on pasture again) and keep the bull in until June (when we need him to breed again).  Right now, we have 192 bales.  My step-dad just cut our barley crop, and by next weekend we should have it added to our barn, and it should just be enough to finish out my goal.  (I'm really hoping to avoid buying hay in the winter since the price is usually over $200 a ton at that point...)


Monday, July 14

How do you pit cherries without a cherry pitter?  You use a straw.  Jayme is demonstrating for the camera how it works.  Quick and easy, and no need for another kitchen gadget to sit in a drawer unused most of the year!

Tuesday, July 15

The strawberries at mom's are producing a bumper crop, and Jeffrey enjoys helping pick and hull them.  

Wednesday, July 16

Jayme decided to make chocolate cupcakes for a special snack today.  She put in a filling and everything--what a treat!  Here she is frosting one. Chocolate of course!!! 
Thursday, July 17

We went swimming at my aunt and uncle's for most of the afternoon.  Owen absolutely loved the water!  He's safe now in a life jacket with the neck support that he just stays on his back and goes all over the pool.  He likes to give mommy a panic attack by going to the deep end! 

After swimming, Jeffrey wanted to try out Uncle Danny's manual lawnmower.  He had fun running this all over the yard, and I'm seeing some potential for one of these!



Friday, July 18

Ellie enjoys playing on the counter while I'm busy in the kitchen. Today I had some Legos for her to use.  She took apart a Lego car, and put it back together a few times. 

Saturday, July 19

It's been awhile since I shared a picture of our pup.  He's getting huge (knee high now) and LOVES water.  He also enjoys playing fetch with this particular toy.  Now to just get him to drop it more consistently... He's a cutie!

Any exciting times for your family this week? 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Chicken Butchering at the Farm

Alright...it's been almost a week since we butchered, and I'm finally ready to write about it.  Thanks so much to my brother-in-law Drew for all of the photos in this post.  He read my plea for pictures from last Saturday's post, and shared a bunch of them with me.  Thanks Drew!

Warning...this is a post about butchering chickens (hence the title).  There is one picture that shows some blood.  I also use words like killing, butt hole and guts in my description.  If you don't feel like reading, please move on to a different post.  Thanks!


Chicken butchering...the process of taking our birds from this...

 to this...

How do we do it? 

Ah--the secret to our butchering success comes contained in a simple trailer.


Our tri-county area has a mobile processing unit that w use for processing our birds.  My parents helped in the planning stages of this many years ago, and have been using it since it became a reality.  You can learn more about it here.

There are two sections to the trailer.  In the back end, you'll find a scalder and plucker.   Outside of that section, you set up the killing cones. 

A bird is placed head down in each cone, and a very sharp knife is used to quickly slice their neck.  All of their flapping and moving takes place in the cones, allowing the mess to be contained.  A hint from my step-dad Steve...use Pam (or similar) to spray everything before beginning.  It makes cleaning at the end MUCH easier. 

Once the birds have bled out, they are placed in the scalder briefly, and then into the plucker.

Scalding heats the birds, allowing the feathers to come off quickly in the plucker.  Be sure not to scald them too much, or you'll end up with a bird that has begun to cook!

You can kind of see a window behind the plucker.  Once the bird is plucked, it gets slid through that window into the other section of the trailer.

This is an overview of the inside.  Here, it was being cleaned and disinfected prior to use.  The window is where the birds come in.  They go first to the hanging racks to be gutted, and then onto the table with the bleach bottle.  That is the quality control section.  The lungs and kidneys get scraped out, and any remaining larger feathers are taken off.  We check for a trachea, any piece of intestine that might have been missed, and for butt holes.  You don't want to have to take a butt hole off a chicken before  you cook it...And since we leave the tail on, it's easier to forget that part. 

Once the chicken has been checked, it's given a final rinse and then deposited into tubs of ice water.  Crushed ice helps to create a freezing slurry that speedily lowers the temperature of the bird.  Since we are licensed to sell, we check the temperature on some birds to ensure it drops below 40 degrees in the given time. 

The tubs being filled with cold water prior to butchering.  Ice will be added shortly. 
After all of the birds have been processed, we clean up the blood and guts while the cooling continues.  Then we bag the birds and weigh them.  A sticker label is placed on each one, and it's taken to one of the freezers.

Then, after it's frozen solid, the bird is ready for sale. 

And that is how we get a freezer full of these.



Sure tastes delicious!

And do you know what I did this time around?

I cleaned and hung onto a pair of chicken feet to make stock.  And when we butcher another 100 birds this fall, I think I'm going to keep more of them!  Sounds kind of strange to say that I'll have feet in the freezer...but the stock that I made with just the single pair in was amazing!

More on that later.

Ever made stock with feet in it?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Memory Hymns for 2014-2015 School Year

Bryan and I had time over the 4th of July weekend to sit down together and select our memory hymns for the upcoming school year.  As we memorize "I Want to Be Faithful" for the month of July, we'll be wrapping up last year's selections.  It's the first time we ever memorized a dozen hymns in a year.  What an amazing way to worship our Lord!

Our current method for memorizing is working well.  We sing through verse one and the chorus the first week of the month.  Then we add verse two the next week and so on.  If there are more verses than weeks, we simply add them in a bit faster--after four days or so instead of a full week.  The kids are picking up the songs quickly.

Throughout the year, we revisit the songs we learned previously to keep the words and tune in our minds.

A quick note on tunes...those of you who know me in real life know that I cannot carry a tune!  In fact, my college piano professor (I took beginning piano thinking it'd be an easy humanities credit...) told me that I had no rhythm and should try singing along with my playing.  Until I started.  Then she quickly said...um never mind!

So what's a tuneless gal doing teaching all of these songs to her kids?  Teaching them the words!  I figure that they can always adjust to the "real" tune when they are singing with others, or in a worship type setting with piano in the background.  The words are more important anyways!  We also always listen to a YouTube video or two the first few days of the month, just to hear what it should sound like. 

My husband has amazing musical talent.  He works with us on Saturdays and Sundays, and is very patient with my invented tunes.  We sound much better on the weekends when he leads us!  But alas, his crazy work schedule doesn't allow time for singing together during the week.  So I do what I need to do--and lead singing most days.

I said all that to say this...don't let a lack of musical knowledge or ability keep you from memorizing hymns. After all, the Bible says we are to make a joyful noise unto the Lord--not a perfect noise.


Here you are...our selections (and the section of our church's hymnal that they are in...):

August 2014
Just As I Am (Invitation)

September 2014
A New Name in Glory (Salvation)

October 2014
At Calvary (Repentance & Forgiveness)

November 2014
Here Am I, Lord (Commitment & Consecration)

December 2014
Go Tell It On the Mountain (Christ's Birth)

January 2015
Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus (Faith & Trust)

February 2015
Tell It to Jesus (Prayer)

March 2015
Lead Me to Calvary (The Cross)

April 2015
He Lives (Christ's Resurrection)  

May 2015
Blessed Assurance (Assurance)

June 2015
Heavenly Sunlight (Peace & Joy)

July 2015
Got Any Rivers (Comfort)

Do you have any plans to memorize hymns for the new school year?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Weekly Pictures

Chicken butchering day here at the farm.  Processing the birds left me tired!  So this will be a really quick whirlwind through our week.  The pictures aren't edited or cropped or anything this time around...but at least they are mostly here!

Sunday, June 6

See how nicely our pigs are growing?  They love to eat their milk soaked grain. Come September, we'll be ready for the delicious bacon.  Oh yeah--and the rest of the pork too.  But especially bacon!


Monday, June 7

No picture today

Tuesday, June 8

Our shopping day for July.  My lovely shoes...they definitely saw better days!


Wednesday, June 9

The kids and I picked strawberries at mom's.  Most of them got frozen, but I really wanted some fresh jam.  Alas, I had no pectin.  So I Googled and found a recipe for pectin-less jam.  I didn't think it'd work, so I didn't bother water canning them, just stored them in the fridge.  You know what? I was wrong, and I'll be making this again!  

Thursday, June 10

On Owen's day we decided to paint in shaving cream for our family play time.  This was clean up time.  Instead of just using rags like we usually do, I brought out a squirt bottle of water.  It was WAY more fun.  Owen could even get in on the action, except he didn't want anything to do with squirting the table.  Just his own head!
Friday, June 11

Look who's king of the chair.  Simon has learned to climb.  And successfully conquered Sydney's little pink chair. So proud of  himself. 

 He can also go up the stairs now.  Which means we have to be extra diligent at keeping the gate shut!


Saturday, June 12

No pictures of butchering.  My sister, brother-in-law and mom took care of those, and I was too tired tonight to bother asking them to send me one.  Maybe I will ask nicely tomorrow and will be able to do a butcher post next week.

Instead you get this one, which I thought was amazing!  My husband took it for me just a couple of minutes ago, as I was candling one of Baldy's eggs.  Can you see the chick head and eye?  Isn't that cool? This is day 10 of her sitting.


Well folks, my bed is calling my name...  Good night!
 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Updating Our Menu

July is here.  Now's the time to update chores, menus, school plans and schedules for the upcoming school year.  By planning now, we'll be able to practice for most of July and August before we jump into school mode the beginning of September.  Ideally all the changes will be second nature by then, and adding school to the routine will be simple.  

We'll see how it actually works out!



The kids were very excited about updating our menu.  Just FYI, here is the thinking behind my meal plan. The post I linked to has last year's menu, and some additional information.

  • We eat the same breakfast and lunch every day of the week (Mondays are the same, Tuesdays the same, etc.)
  • The kids each have a day of the week.  On their day, they were able to pick breakfast and lunch.  
  • Each dinner has a theme.  The kids were also able to pick which theme they wanted for their night.  
  • One snack a day is planned.  (Which is a change--this year we had two, but my kids weren't eating meals really well, so one has to go!) 
  • The snack is something the kids will ideally be able to do most of the prep work for.
  • Jayme is responsible for cooking one breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack this year.  She picked which meals she wanted, and spread them out over four different days. Break for mom, great skills for her!
  • We add seasonal or frozen fruit and veggies to round out each meal choice. 
  • This menu will stay the same (with minimal changes as needed) until next July.  
Why do I menu plan like this?  Good question!  Here's some insight into my brain..

1.  Having a set meal plan saves on time during the school year when I'm really busy.
2.  I'm able to prepare a shopping list that stays the same for each monthly trip.
3.  I'm able to take advantage of savings on items I know I'll need, and don't end up with a pantry full of something we don't actually eat.
4. My theme dinners allow me to be as flexible and creative as I desire.  For instance, Fiesta Night can be as simple as nachos.  Or it can be complex with homemade tortillas turned into wonderful enchiladas.  Some weeks are crazy!  Some are less so.  I have a plan (and ingredients) for them all.
5.  I have a rotation for each of the theme nights.  These are four meals that I know the family will eat.  But...I don't have to stick to them.  I can change that part up.  But having four planned out means I'll always have a backup if I need one!
6.  I'm able to save on groceries!  This method allows me to buy what we need, stock up on what I can, and not go all crazy buying fancy ingredients that'll only be used for one specific meal.  I used to be horrible at that!
7.  The kids know what to expect.  They thrive on routine.  They also have some ownership in this menu.  After all, they are the ones who picked many of the meals.  Makes meal time less of a headache! 
8.  It allows me to commit many recipes to memory.  You try making the same thing every Monday for a year and see how naturally it comes to you after awhile.
9. This plan makes prep work easy.  If we're having oatmeal for breakfast every Friday, I need to start the oats soaking on Thursday.  I can easily see what kind of meat might need pulled out for the next night and let it thaw too. In order to make egg fried rice for lunch, I need to cook it the day before so we have cold rice to start with. Simplifying life is good--especially at this season of my life!
10.  I'm sure there are more, but I can't think of them off the top of my head!

You'll notice some hyperlinks in my menu table.  Those take you to the sites with the recipes.  I might not always use the same one, but most of the time I do.  This makes it easy for me to find them when I need them. It also gives Jayme a place to turn when she does the cooking!

So here you are...our 2014-2015 Master Menu Plan!



Day


Breakfast
Lunch
LEFTOVERS FIRST!
Afternoon Snack
Dinner
Sunday



Popcorn
Baked Potato Bar


Monday

Ellie’s Day
Meat, Cheese, Crackers & Pickles
Pasta*
Tuesday

Jayme’s Day
Sausage patty & Egg
Mini Pizzas*
Seafood
Wednesday

Owen’s Day
Grilled Cheese & Carrots
Pretzels & cheese
Fiesta Night
Thursday

Sydney’s Day
Yogurt & Jam/Honey
Asian Night
Friday

Jeffrey's Day
Scrambled Eggs*
PB & J, Applesauce
Jello
Pizza @ Grandma’s
Saturday


 Simon's Day
Quesadillas
Cookies/Brownies & Milk *
Hodge Podge


*=Jayme Cooks!

Baked Potato Rotation:
Cheesy Broccoli

Pasta Rotation:
Spaghetti & Meatballs
Oriental Noodle Delight (Basically homemade oriental noodles, veggies, diced meat and whatever else Jayme feels like adding—she loves making this dish!)
Chicken, Peas & White sauce over homemade noodles

Seafood Rotation
French Bread Crab Sandwich
Tuna Patties (or Salmon) with mashed potatoes and peas
Baked fish with baked potato and broccoli 

Fiesta Rotation
Enchiladas
Tacos or Taco Salad
Nachos
Crockpot Mexican Casserole

Asian Rotation
Mandarin chicken over brown rice with sautéed cabbage

Hodge Podge is basically mom's choice!  Whatever I feel like making, or leftovers or whatever.  Simon is still too young to pick meals, so I also picked for him! (Benefit of being mom!)

I'm looking forward to getting into the groove with our new menu plan!  What works best for your family now for meal planning?


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Flip Flop Failure!

Let me start by saying that I LOVE flip flops.  I seriously wear them almost every day in the summer.  They keep my feet cool.  They are easy to take off (because shoes really just aren't my thing for long periods of time).  And they are easy to slide back on when I need them. 

I used to always struggle with flip flops breaking.  The middle piece would pull out and I wouldn't be able to wear them.  Then I found a great tip online that you can use a bread tab to hold them in.  Now I never travel anywhere without a couple of those in my purse. 

But...bread tabs can't fix everything!  I had a little mishap while pushing Owen's wheelchair and the huge cart at Costco.  I kind of ran over my own foot with the cart.  And managed to slice my flip flop horizontally.  

I managed to finish shopping and checkout, but of course I didn't bring an extra pair of shoes into Spokane.  So after loading the car up with groceries and kids, we went to Wal-Mart.  While getting out of the car there, my last bread tab broke.  On the shoe that wasn't broken.  

So now I'm pushing two carts at Wal-Mart with all the kids, trying to get to the shoe section (all the way in the back of course!) and trying to keep my shoes on my feet.  I must have looked like a sight!  

I've never been so happy to buy a new pair of flip flops in all my life!  That was a crazy few moments!  But Praise the Lord, I made it!  If it weren't for that whole, "No shoes..." rule, I totally would have just run in barefoot.  (Smile). 

Ever have a complete flip flop failure in public?