Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A year end tid-bit

Well, this picture really has nothing do do with anything, I just like it. No, it's not my clothesline, either. However, I have been wishing it were nice enough outside to hang clothes on the line. But alas, 'tis winter.

I found my fruitcake recipe. Today. Stuck in between some cookbooks that I KNOW I moved and looked through. So I'm wondering what kind of lesson I'm supposed to learn here. I did call mom and got the thing made. Good as always.

Had a nice Christmas. Kids got way too much stuff from family, as usual. My daughter has some money she's been saving and it's burning a hole in her pocket. She had plans to go spend it on this or that, but she got everything she wanted to buy for Christmas, including a digital camera. So who knows now?

We're puppy sitting for some friends who went out of town for the week. They recently adopted two Chocolate Lab/Huskie mix puppies. They're really adorable dogs. Toby (our Golden) is kind of perplexed, but seems to enjoy the company. I think it'll be good for him.

My blood pressure has been up lately. I'm not on medicine or anything, don't need to be. But I do need to learn to relax, and I need to drop some weight.

Speaking of which... most people seem to make those silly New Year's resolutions, especially about weight loss. I never do. Don't make the first resolution. Why? Because, statistically speaking, probably a good 90% of resolutions (and I think that's being cautious) get broken soon after they're made. Having made resolutions in the past, and broken them, I decided a few years ago that I don't need that kind of guilt and disappointment with myself. So... no resolution, no guilt. Works for me!

Hope this post finds you all well and enjoying the 'interim' before life really gets back to normal next week. Me? I have a list of errands as long as my arm to do this afternoon. I have a tree to take down and decorations to put away. I need to study for a class I'm teaching for k-1st grade boys at our Co-op starting next Monday. And I need to do laundry. Which brings me back to the picture at the top of the page. Hmmm, I guess it did have something to do with this post.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Crisis

HELP! I CAN'T FIND IT! Time is slipping away and I can't find my fruitcake recipe. No, this is serious. I can't find it. I know I had to have taken it out to make the shopping list, but now I don't know what I did with it. I'll cook just about anything on the stove, mix things together, create my own thing... but baking, NO WAY! There's just too much to screw up. Somebody please say a prayer that this empty headed lilly-muggins finds his stupid fruitcake recipe.

Melora says that if I don't find it, it'll just be a chance for me to make my own cake and make it better. No, huh-uh, can't do it. If I don't find it this morning, I'm gonna have to... (dum, dum, duuuuummmmm) Call my mother and ask her if she remembers it all. Oh help.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Baby, It's cold outside

"In the deep midwinter, frosty wind made moan.
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone."

Those words, from the old carol "In the Deep Midwinter", pretty well describes what it's like around here. Wowza it's cold. Woke up this morning to 1... that's ONE... degree with some serious windchill. Went out yesterday and filled the bird feeders, poor souls. I about froze my hands off in the process even with gloves. High today is predicted at 18 degrees. Snow moves in tonight and may leave us with 2" and 1/4" of ice. Fun, fun!

Been slow around here... gotta bake and do laundry today... probably need to wrap some presents, and I have yet to get in my yearly viewing of "It's a Wonderful Life".

Busy, busy, busy.... Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I think this is just FUNNY!

I had seen this comic a long time ago and thought it was amusing then. Now, after having discovered my affinity for poultry, and having recently helped kill and clean some, I think it's hilarious!

Actually, what got me looking for it again was my need to send a thank you to the guy that 'took me under his wing' and showed me how to process chickens. I thought of this picture and knew I had to find it. It just says it all.....

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Twas the Week before Christmas

Well, here it is a week before Christmas. Not a lot going on around here but I thought I'd write something anyway.

We've broken into several jars now of the homemade applesauce. It's really good and the kids devour it.

I have a little bit more shopping to do for my wife and a friend, but otherwise, we're done. Yeah! I used to enjoy getting out in the crowd and mess and shopping for presents, but I guess I'm getting older and now I just think it's ridiculous. I don't have much patience anymore as well. I suppose my kids take all I have, so when I do go shopping, be it for groceries or gifts, and the line is a mile long and there are only three lanes open and another 24 closed - at 6:00 p.m. - I get a little testy. Most of the time these days, I try to psych myself up and remind myself not to get in too big of a hurry.

This weekend I'll be making "The Fruitcake". Yes, a real bonafide fruitcake. No rum flavor. It's full of dates, pecans, and candied pineapple and cherries. It has a boatload of sugar and just enough liquid and flour to hold it all together. Truly, it's more fruit than cake and it's very good. "WHY on Earth," you ask, "would I make fruitcake?" Well, it's my mom's recipe. She used to make it especially for my grandfather. But after he passed away some 10 years ago, she decided she couldn't do it. Didn't even want to look at the tin she put it in. Well, my sisters weren't going to do it and I wanted to. So she handed the recipe to me - the original piece of paper! She no longer has the recipe in her possession, it's mine. It really is good and does a fair job of redeeming the bad rap that fruitcake gets. I'll probably also make Santa's Thumbprint cookies. No, not peanut butter cookies with a kiss on top. These are the real thing, too. A sort-of oatmeal cookie with almond flavoring, melted chocolate on top and a pecan half. My personal holiday favorite.

I'll be singing next Wednesday evening as part of the worship team at our Christmas eve service at church. Check out my church at www.mccth.org. Melora and I attend the Exchange service on Sunday evenings. To get an idea of what we 'put up with' sometimes in our pastors... check out http://reson8.org/stuff/video/. Here, you'll see a selection of some really fine acting and general goofiness. Really funny stuff, especially if you know the people in the videos. But I think even without that familiarity, you'll find them pretty humorous.

Hope all is well with you and yours. Take some time and enjoy the season. Watch some of those favorite Christmas movies, listen to some old Christmas music (or some new), eat unhealthy stuff - and enjoy it.

Merry Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Peachy Eggs

For those who don't know, I organize a local fresh-egg group (for lack of a better way of saying it). It's kind of like an egg CSA (consumer supported agriculture). I'm writing this post for those in the group that would like to know a little more about where their eggs come from. But of course, anyone can read along.

We get our eggs from an Amish man and his wife in Parke County, Indiana. There's a pretty good sized community of Amish up that way. His name is Mr. Peachy. So yes, they are literally Peachy eggs.

Mr. Peachy has approximately 320 Golden Comet hens. That's one in the picture above. Isn't she pretty? Golden Comets are a decent sized bird, known for their cold hardiness, and prolific laying of large, brown eggs. These birds belong to a breed of chickens known as sex-link chickens. Ok, before you get worried, this is totally on the up and up... Sex-link chickens are breeds of birds developed by crossing two different breeds for various reasons. One reason may be simply to obtain the best characteristics of both parent bird breeds in the new breed. Another, more common reason for developing sex-link breeds is that you can tell a pullet (female) from a cockerel (male) just about as soon as their down dries after they hatch. The sex of the bird is linked to their down color - sex-linked. These chicks are born with the males and females having different colored down. This is a great thing if you work in a hatchery and need to fill orders for nothing but pullets. It saves both time and money. Most non sex-linked chicks all look the same, so you have to pay a professional chicken sexer (how would you like that job?) to look at each chick to determine it's sex. And that's not an easy thing to do! So, Golden Comets are a cross between a Rhode Island Red and a White Leghorn - or 'Legern' as some country folks might say.

Mr. Peachy uses very organic, sustainable methods for raising his chickens. During warmer months, the chickens are pastured on grass by means of a chicken tractor, sometimes called a chicken ark. A WHAT? Yes, a chicken tractor. Here's a picture of a dad moving his nice looking tractor....

Chicken tractors come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are quite small and one person could move them easily. Some are very large, have wheels, and require a real tractor to move them. The purpose of these contraptions is to house the birds safely, while being able to provide them with as much natural food as possible. This usually requires that the tractor be moved a couple of times a day for smaller models, to only two or three times a week for larger models with more 'pasture' area. Mr. Peachy has a larger tractor and movable electric poultry netting (solar powered I'm sure). Yes, there is such a thing as electric poultry netting and it works the same as electric fence. The voltage is lower, but then again, the chickens aren't as big as a cow. Mr. P. says he moved the birds a couple of times a week. For more pictures of chicken tractors, click here.

Now that winter is setting in, our farmer says he's moving the birds into a large greenhouse he has. It has a dirt floor that he'll cover with wood shavings or other bedding. This is the first year to try this, but there are several benefits to it. Chickens need sunlight in order to lay eggs. During the winter, they typically slow down their egg production simply because there isn't as much sunlight. But in a greenhouse, what light there is will be completely available to the birds. Further, it will help keep them warm. Yet another benefit is that, though they won't have grass to eat, the warmth will encourage insects to work their way up through the ground and the chickens will eat them. Any other feed the chickens get is organic as well. Mr. Peachy assures me that the birds will each have several square feet per bird to move around. More than in a traditional egg production CAFO.

For anyone who's never had one of these eggs... wow, are they something! Golden yolks that make your food look like you surely must have added food coloring. They're rich and very delicious. Of course, this color might not be as bright during the winter, as the birds will have fewer, if any, greens to eat. Mr. Peachy thinks the chlorophyll in the grass is what gives the egg yolks their deep color.

Mr. Peachy also sells whole chickens, ready for the roasting pan or the freezer. Organic, pastured, healthy, no antibiotics.

So now you know a little bit more about where our Peachy Eggs come from and the methods used to get them. Hope it's been informative and helpful!

Slouching Away From Prosperity: Dan's Perspective, Part 2

I suppose it's probably a good idea to define what I mean by prosperity, since it can mean several different things. Prosperity isn't all bad. But what I mean in this context is the more general understanding of the word in American culture. The gaining of material wealth and symbols of our financial prowess (does anyone have any of that right now?). Truly, prosperity can mean other things. A person can certainly consider themselves prosperous as they view the shelves full of canned food from the harvest. They may feel prosperous as they see the new lambs in the pasture each Spring.... but alas, these notions aren't typically shared by most of our culture. No, the prosperity I'm pointing to is the mindset that traps people into thinking they need more, must have more, should work longer to afford more, can't go without more, have to keep up so someone else doesn't get more. In a word, materialism - the pursuit and acquisition of 'stuff'.

Christmas, since it's almost upon us, can be a time when materialism can really run rampant. For example, a Wal-Mart employee was literally trampled to death in a mad stampede of people rushing the store on Black Friday, all trying to get a deal. Sad. No pun intended in this paragraph, by the way.

My wife and I have a Christmas Club at the bank. Each paycheck, a certain amount is set aside and we get a check along about October to spend on Christmas. Really, it's just a built in safeguard against going broke at Christmas, since we're not disciplined enough to set the money aside ourselves. The bank does it for us. Ehh, nobody's perfect. Anyway, our Christmas Club isn't huge, and we buy presents for everyone on our list with that amount (ok, plus a little more). But it's still less than some people we've spoken to spend on just one of their kids!

So here are some ways we're slouching away from prosperity this year.

We're doing something different with Christmas this year. To avoid the 'glut' of presents on Christmas day, we decided to help our children appreciate the season a little more and mix things up. Each Sunday of Advent, I gather the family around, talk about one aspect of the Christmas story (last week the Angel and his messages, this week Mary and Joseph's obedience), light an Advent candle, say a prayer, and then the kids get to open one present. On Christmas day, they'll have stockings to open, and two or so nicer gifts we're saving. But they'll enjoy the season more as we go along. PLUS we're taking the focus off of 'stuff' and putting it back on the true reason for the holiday.

Another step, and a big one, I think, that we're taking this year is as follows. My family (Mom, sisters, etc.) have gotten to the point where buying for everyone is really more of a chore, than a joy. We don't need anything, and our 'wants' are pretty expensive sometimes. We've decided that we're going to spend the money on a needy family this year. For whatever reason, the rest of the family thinks they still need to buy for my kids "because they're little". We've bought mom a little something too. Otherwise, we're buying presents for a mom and her two daughters who live with the mom's mom. That's more like it. Something real, substantial, helpful.

Those are just a few ways we're working on removing the materialism from life this holiday. No, we're not perfect. The wife and I spent more than we intended on the kids, but we're not broke, either. We're working on it. I challenge you to try it too.

More to come....

My Neck of the Woods

In my memory and way of thinking, this has been an unusually cold late fall/early winter here in mid-western Indiana. Usually the bottom doesn't fall out of the weather bucket until January. But this year, after a late autumn (I still don't have all the leaves raked in my yard because the trees took so long to disrobe), winter seems to have come early. Ok, maybe the bottom hasn't completely dropped out, but at this time of year, we're used to high temps in the upper 30's most days. For a few weeks now, it's been averaging ten degrees lower. AND we've had snow. The most we could normally expect is a light dusting before Christmas. But here in the past few weeks, we've had probably two or three inches. Yes, it falls, melts some, then falls again, but still... Now I know some of you up in the great frozen north are laughing at me now because you're already sitting on eight or ten inches of the white stuff. But for us here, it's kind of unusual, this early in the season.

The other day, my daughter had a friend over, and despite my feelings about cold weather, I took the four kids (my three plus one) into the woods behind our house. I caught some of it on 'film'...

Sadly, this small woods is slowly being overtaken by Chinese Honeysuckle. That's it above with the green leaves and red berries...

It was pretty chilly... about 25 degrees or so.

This is my water garden - well, what's left after the flood this past summer. It's frozen on top. Notice the impression of the oak leaf in the ice after one of the kids took it off the top? And the little blob of orange in the lower right corner... that's the head of one of the goldfish, very much in a state of torpor.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I'm So Crafty

And by that, I don't mean sneaky or conniving. I mean "crafty", you know, I make things. For example, my wife saw a picture of a wreath in a flier recently and said she'd like to have something like that. Could I make it? Um, yeah. Quick trip to Hobby Lobby and voila!

Also, being that I shave my head, it sometimes gets a little chilly in the winter around the house. I have a nice fleece hat for outside, but it's just too hot for indoor wear. So I made one. Knitted it in just a few hours and had it done. It fits great and I like it quite a bit. As a matter of fact, I'm going to knit one for the older of my two sons in a camo green. Here's my hat:

I'm pretty doggone pleased with myself. The wife loved the wreath and I'm keeping warm!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What gets me through the Winter

Being the 'jack-of-all-trades' that I am, one of my many interests is bird watching. I have two 'bird buffets' in my yard, both with multiple feeders hanging from them and homemade squirrel baffles. I keep my birdbath thawed through the winter with a water defroster made especially for birdbaths. I even have a "Mother Nature's Monitor" (seen here), so I can listen in to all the sounds outside, when it's cold.
What really does help me feel better about the blah's of winter is this little bird... the Dark Eyed Junco (pictured is the male). They spend the summer up north in the Yukon and northern Canada, but make their way to 'warmer' climes in the fall. They'll be here for several months, then one day in March or April, they'll be gone. They are members of the sparrow family and are ground feeders, preferring to forage for seeds, etc. They are very unaggressive and usually will flock together in groups of 6 to ten or so. Females look like males, except they are a little more gray, rather than charcoal like the male.
I guess I think these birds are cute. They hop around on the ground, making dark spots on the snow with their bodies. They're just nice to see and watch. So, that sort of helps me through the winter, it's something I can look forward to because of the cold weather, not in spite of it. If it didn't get cold, they wouldn't be here, so I appreciate the cold.... just a little bit. And they make me feel happy.
Hope everyone has a wonderful Holiday and has a great time with family and friends!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Slouching Away From Prosperity: Dan's Perspective

A blogger I follow, Herrick Kimball - the Deliberate Agrarian, recently posted some thoughts about the effect of the current economic situation on the world of pro sports. Another blogger followed up with some thoughts that included not only sports, but actors as well.
Here's the low down. You see, none of the people in our country are gonna make it if the current landslide continues. Sports, movies, or any other entertainment that relies on corporate sponsorship to keep it up and running. Here's why:
Of course all of NASCAR is corporate sponsored. I mean, look at their cars, they're rolling billboards, for crying out loud. Football teams, baseball, basketball, golf, tennis... they all get corporate sponsorship. Now, companies are beginning to hurt, there just isn't as much extra money going around for them to throw at these things, so they begin to pull out. As a result, events get cancelled, or at least aren't aired on the boob-tube (tv), the fans get frustrated and everything goes to pot. Movies are about the same. It takes a lot of money to make a movie, and many actors are just so WAY stupid over-paid (like their sporting counterparts), it isn't funny. Many of them could run a small nation on what they make for one movie. Fortunately, I'm not red-neck enough for NASCAR woes to bother me any.
I've never been a sport fan. That's not to say that I hate or loathe sports. I have been known to enjoy a day at the baseball game (Indianapolis Indians - minor league). But when you're actually at the game, you don't have to watch the game if you get bored. You can laugh at the drunk making a fool of himself three rows down. That said, my motto has always been "Football fields were made for band practice". So the potential demise of sports franchises doesn't really bother me. As a matter of fact, there have been some years that I've deliberately kept myself ignorant of the names of the teams playing in that greatest of sporting worship services, the Superbowl. Last year, I couldn't have cared less that the Colts won. And that's nearly heresy living here in Terre Haute, where the big boys come to camp each summer. (Yeah, that's a lot of fun... a whole month of nonsense).
Movies, I like. But not enough to be all upset if they slow down making them. It's been more than six months since I went to a movie, and that was "Prince Caspian". They're in the theater such a short time now anyway, it's like you'd have to go every week to see them all, if there were actually that many worth seeing - which there aren't. Fact is, I usually rent movies, and rarely a movie that I've not seen before, or at least heard good reviews for. So, I wouldn't be hurt if Brad, or Tom, or Angelina, or Julia, or George... couldn't afford their bazillion dollar house in the hills (if it hasn't burned down yet). I don't begrudge them their lives. But excess in anything is never good - we call it gluttony.
I've always kind of resented professional athletes for their often money grubbing ways, threatening to strike if they don't get so many more millions, etc. Actors and actresses that make millions per movie, for what? Play acting! And some of them not that well. Yes, you can argue that each of them, athletes or actors, have taken their skills to a higher level and should be compensated in kind. But at what expense? What about America's educators? I home school, but I still think that teachers should be paid a lot more for their work. There's just no arguing that. What about the homeless shelters and free clinics that take care of thousands of poor and needy every year? Some of those places barely keep their doors open. What about ministries and organizations STILL working to rebuild homes and lives after Hurricane Katrina, and now in Texas after this summer's hurricane?
Here's an idea.... How about we make a rule that caps the salary of all actors and athletes (of whatever flavor you like) at $1 million a year. I think that's being pretty doggone generous. If they want more money to live on, they can go get a job in the off season and work like the rest of us. Any money they generate over that goes to charity. Yes, that's way oversimplified, but you get my meaning.
So what will Americans do if their favorite team isn't on tv each week (sorry Keetha and Greg)? Some may go back to other forms of entertainment - bootlegging, cock-fighting... eh, maybe not. But perhaps more people will discover the library. Maybe folks will decide to learn a new craft, plant a garden, spend time with family... Well, that's probably being too hopeful. I'm sure the TV gurus will find more inane blather to fill the time with. But I can hope.
For anyone offended and wonder just what I do for fun... I read books, garden, knit, cook, preserve food, listen to music, and watch movies from time to time. On a less frequent basis, I go camping and hiking, fishing, and spend time outdoors. I'm not saying we shouldn't have pro sports or movies, not saying that at all. But there's just too much real living to do to pay someone else to watch them do it for me. If I wanted sports, I could go play a pick-up game myself.
I suppose the summary of all of this is: Everything in moderation. What does it say about us as a nation that the potential for the economy to really hurt pro sports makes us so upset?
To read the original posts, go here, or here. As an aside, I know the pic at the top of the page is from Norway. But I thought it just looked funny... NASCARs sliding down a ski slope.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I am NOT encouraged!

Ok, 9:00 a.m on November 21st and the temp is 21 degrees. It's gone up two degrees in the past 20 minutes or so.

Anyone that knows me very well will know that I HATE WINTER! I hate being cold. I'd rather deal with being hot in the summer than being cold in the winter. That's just me.

A good friend in Michigan, up above Traverse City, said he's got 4 inches of snow on the ground with 6 to 8 more by weekend. Yeah, ok, but I don't exactly live in northern Michigan, do I?

We had some pretty good snow flurries last night, as well as a few on Monday morning. I doubt we get anything significant before January, but still. I haven't seen flurries this early in the year since the snow of Halloween '89 (remember that? - Melora was a senior in HS and she, her sister and a friend went trick-or-treating as carolers).

Ok, yeah, I like snow for Christmas, though around here that seems to be more the exception than the rule, which makes it really special when it happens. I remember actually praying for snow on Christmas as a kid. But after January 1, that white stuff is just not welcome. Sure, kids love it, and a nice, clean blanket of the stuff is pretty for awhile. Then people drive on it. It turns to slush (if it doesn't freeze again), it gets blackish-gray and it's just gross. I say we skip winter and go straight from Fall to Spring. I know, I know... there's too many seeds and plants that need a hard freeze to germinate and grow. I'm just saying...

I will tell you this. About two or three months ago... back when it was still nice and warm and sunny out... I was in the back yard doing something (don't remember what) and I had this funny thought race through my mind: "Blizzard. We're due for a blizzard." And I could see the yard full of snow. Made me a little worried actually. I barely remember the big one of '78. Snow drift up to the top of my swing set in the back yard. Let's hope it wasn't a premonition I had.

All that, and I still have leaves to rake. Silly Silver Maples and Bradford Pear took forever to shed leaves.

Stay warm, my friends!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NOT for the Squeemish!

Today, thanks to some home school friends, Audrey and Eric Beachy, I had the awesome experience of learning how to butcher a chicken! So be warned, this isn't gonna be pretty!

I got to their house at around 8:20 a.m. and accompanied Eric to the hen house. After looking over the flock, he and his kids caught the few birds they were going to keep. The others, we took by the legs and carried to the edge of the garden... where waited a board with two nails sticking up about an inch apart. Each bird, in turn, was held by the legs and wings and their head placed between the nails. Then the axe. Quick. Done. I even used the axe quite deftly. Below is what is left, after the birds bleed out, which was done while we held them, so they wouldn't run all over in their 'death throws'. I warned you, it isn't pretty!
Next came the part that most people really hate. The scalding and plucking. For the 'farm challenged' among my small readership, scalding a bird in hot water helps relax the skin so that the feathers come out nice and easy. Usually there are some small, almost hairlike, feathers left that you burn off by passing the bird over a small flame. Unfortunately, these birds are in the process of molting and had numerous pin-feathers that we had to scrape off with the back of a knife. Grossed out yet? Here's a pic of Eric dipping a bird in the water before plucking.
After that, it gets messy. Yes, chicken butchery is as smelly as you've been told. I almost lost it once, but I bucked up and just backed away from 'the bucket' a bit. This was the tricky part. Eric had to show me how he wanted the birds cut up and how to gut them. I've cut up a chicken before, but I've never gutted one. So that was a really new experience. Let me tell you, not pretty. Put simply... gall bladder bile is very green indeed, and the gizzard is an incredibly tough, muscular organ - it's amazing. I also saw undeveloped eggs, which was pretty cool.
In all, we butchered 7 birds: 2 roosters and 5 hens. Below is a photo of the chickens we left to cluck and scratch another day. The rooster in front is an Austrolorp/Phoenix cross, five hens, and one itty-bitty little peep. See it there behind the brown Buff Orpington? The little whitish spot....
So... would I ever do this again? Yes, I would. Why on Earth would a person do all of that? Well, there's something to be said for knowing where your food came from. Knowing that it lived a healthy, happy life, full of sunshine, fresh grass, lots of juicy bugs... for a chicken, that's a good life. No antibiotics or hormones either.

Before I went over today, I had had little interaction with Eric, who is a doctor. But through the course of the day, I found a man who is something of a kindred spirit. He gardens, raises chickens, is thinking about goats, just planted a bunch of fruit trees yesterday... He's a homesteader. On top of that, he's a father of four, a husband, and a committed Christian. We had a very good day working together and talking about life, homeschooling, parenting, animals, gardening, bees, property... oh, just everything that came to mind. It was really a blessing to me to be able to spend a large part of the day there. So I'm thankful.

Oh, and about a half hour before I left, Ethan, the 8 year old son, shot and killed a squirrel with his dad's .22. That was his second squirrel. I understand it takes about two to make a good pot pie. But, since I was there, and it had to be done anyway, I got to watch as Eric cleaned the squirrel, so I learned that too. Melora about gagged when I mentioned the thought of hunting squirrel. She says they're rodents and she just can't do it. Sigh. Oh well.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Knitting the throw

Sheesh. I read somewhere (from another male blogger I think) that every piece you knit should teach you something. Well aint that the truth!?!

I had to undo about five rows of knitting on my afghan because I had about 10 stitches in a row that were backward (of all things) and there was a hole about two rows below that where I'd evidently dropped a stitch. Fixed that, then discovered another hole two rows below where I was knitting. I was able to fix that without undoing anything. Yeah, I'm learning. It won't be too pretty when it's done, so I think we'll just keep this one.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I have more to say than I originally thought!

Well, just an update on life.

There's been a rash of sinus infections going around the town here lately. Neighbors, friends, and family all have had it. And this one seems to be ugly, it hangs on for several weeks. My sister is currently under the weather, significantly, with pneumonia and has been getting sicker, leading up to this current bout, for a few weeks. I caught the sinus infection and still have remnants, three weeks on now. It moved to my chest a couple of weeks ago and I STILL can hear myself wheezing in the night. I've been taking Xopenex that we got for my son last year. I only take it when I need it. It's a nebulizer med and it works. Of course, that indicates that I have asthma. So I wake up in the morning and cough up all sorts of happiness. Yech.

On another note... If something doesn't change, I'm only gonna have one kid left come Spring, cause I'm a gonna knock at least two of 'em in the head! And it's only November. They get kinda antsy, teasing each other, tormenting... gets on my nerves BAD. I didn't have siblings young enough, or close enough in age to have this experience with, so it's new to me. And it's making me crazy. Which leads me to the following.

There's a man at our church that has two grown sons. I've been praying for a long time for a mentor, someone that can help me along this pathway of fatherhood. This man is well spoken of - very well spoken of. I'm told his relationship with his sons is very good and he's quite a godly man. PLUS he has a dairy farm! How awesome would that be? He runs a grass-fed production, which is what I hope to do someday with my milk cow. So not only could he help me be a better dad, but boy could I learn a lot. His extended family hails from Switzerland and he's been over there to visit distant relatives. Anyway, he has a real dairy operation... they make cheese, butter, etc. It's goooood stuff. I was hoping to get to his place and help him make cheese, but my schedule just won't coincide. My plan was to spend the time with him, get to know him a little, then ask him to consider being a mentor. But now I think I'm just gonna drop him an email and lay it out and ask him that way. Nothing else is working out. We'll see how that goes.

Today was a busy day. In addition to doing school with Anna, I put up some veggies. Yesterday was the last delivery of the season for our CSA (consumer supported agriculture) group. We got a head of cabbage, carrots, celery, potatoes, cauliflower, parsley, turnips, and celeriac (it smells just like celery, but it's a root like a carrot). Not only do I have my box of veggies, but there were three more not picked up. Anything left is mine to keep, and I usually end up with an extra box every week or so. Anyway, we split our share with a friend, so she gets a whole box and I get one, plus two of the others. So, I cleaned, cut, blanched, and froze celery (yuck, Baldwin food service ruined Melora and I on that stuff - celery salad sandwiches), cauliflower, carrots, turnips, and celeriac. I'm dehydrating the three bunches of parsley. We had a bunch of potatoes from previous drops. I've put them all in a cardboard box with newspaper around them to 'cellar' them for the winter in the garage. We'll see how that goes. I did the same thing with 9 heads of cabbage. Yeah, we're eating it. I cut up a head a week ago or so and cooked it up with green beans and some ham bits. It was good. I feel like such a real homesteader, it's just really rewarding.

I also am making meals stretch. I bought a small ham loaf last week and baked it with cloves, honey and pineapple. What we didn't eat I froze. It was only one of those small loaf things, but I used some for a batch of ham salad for lunch Monday. I made ham and cheese quiche tonight (love that), and I still have a portion to use later, probably in the crock pot with pinto beans. My kids'll eat just about anything. Four meals from one nine dollar ham! I also bought two roaster chickens at KMart on sale a couple of weeks ago and made one. We don't eat a whole chicken, ever. So I cut the second breast off and froze it and will use it in stir-fry tomorrow night. The rest of it went into a pot and cooked down into broth and meat. It also had onions, garlic, and rosemary which it was originally stuffed and baked with. It'll make some yummy chicken and noodles. Also, don't ever throw out that last tablespoon or two of veggies that nobody eats at dinner. Collect it all in a freezer bag and, when the bag is filled, put it in a pot, add water or broth, herbs, etc. and you've got some great veggie soup. Or add meat to it if you want. THEN you can throw out what doesn't get eaten.

And finally, I just (literally) got a phone call from a man I met through the home school co-op. He's a doctor, has four kids. They have chickens and he's gonna butcher some. I told his wife two Monday's ago that I wanted to learn how to do all that and would love to help. She told her husband and he just called and set up the time and date. I get to help kill chickens. I'm so excited! Now how crazy is that? I'm so easily entertained, huh? But really, it's a skill I will need some day. Just like cleaning fish, which I learned to do this summer.

You know, all this said, I used to feel kinda badly because I'm such a 'Jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none'. I know a little about a lot of things. Have some experience with a lot of things, but don't master anything. That used to get me down. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that just maybe God made me that way so I'd be cut out for homesteading and do it relatively well. I'm finding some solace in that.

I'm homesteading in suburbia. Have a great rest of the week!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

And now for something different...

Well, the past week or so, there were two days where, if one were to look closely, one would see a man, in a house, washing windows. Yes, in fact, it does happen. I even remember my dad doing it from time to time.

My own experience is a matter of necessity. You see, about half of the windows in our house are newer, tilt-in, double-hung windows. I clean them once a year (yeah, ok, so I should do it twice a year, but like you do it that often!!!) in the fall to clean off all the crud from the year so I can see out them during the winter. Why in the fall? Well, I have a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder and winter is a real downer for me. So I need all the sunlight and clear view I can get.

The other windows in the house are old. I have to remove screens and put in storm windows. The job was made more difficult this year by the fact that the storm windows had about 13 inches of dried mud on them from where they sat in the garage during our flood this past June. So I had to get the hose out, in the cold weather, and wash them off. BUT, after several hours of diligent work on Saturday, all the storm windows are in and we're closed up for the winter. Only our large picture window needs cleaning inside and out to finally be done.

As an aside, I happened to break one of the storm windows in the process. I had kept the old storm window from the bathroom window that we'd replaced several years ago, and I got to thinking... long story short, I replaced the broken pane with the old window, and only had to cut a strip of glass off one end to make it fit right. I was quite proud of myself!

And now for something different....

I knit! Yes, it's true. I've joined the growing number of men in the world that take up the sticks and work em like magic. Actually men have been knitters for eons and even had guilds in England back in the day. I picked up the hobby last winter with hopes of one day making myself some sweaters and socks. Those items are a little tricky to start out with, so I'm taking it easy for my first effort. Last winter, I basically just made a couple of pot holders as I learned the garter stitch, stockinette stitch, and purl stitch. I started out trying my hand at some of those stitches again this year and decided finally to quit putzing around and actually make something....

So here it is. An afghan I found on the Lion Brand Yarn website (http://learntoknit.lionbrand.com/). I went to JoAnne's and bought my yarn and appropriately sized knitting needles, rushed home, and cast on.
It's not going to be a huge blanket or anything, but it'll be cozy. The yarn I have is actually called 'Claret'. Pictured is the color 'Cilantro'. I'll be sure and take pictures to share later on. Here's hoping I don't get screwed up and really mess it up. But at least it's a project and it thrusts me into the world of 'real knitters'. Yee-haw!

Special thanks to Joel B. for showing me how to peel an orange using a spoon, way back in college. It just came in handy with the kids.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Today I went to a free, public seminar at the West Terre Haute branch of the Vigo County Public Library. This diminutive building was the setting for the kitzchy (how DO you spell that word?), monthly meetings they call "Coffee Thursday", complete with coffee and cookies. The wife and kids tagged along, because they thought they might do some school whilst I was in my meeting. However, never having been to that particular branch, we didn't realize that this would be near impossible. The meeting took place right out in the open and there isn't any other space or rooms... so there was talking and noise. Remember, I used the word "diminutive". Not much school got done there.

The seminar was on beekeeping. The speakers were an older couple that have been beekeepers for two years. They had 12 hives, but this past summer, a flock of barn swallows ate the bees of 6 1/2 of their hives as they left the hive to forage. Bummer.

I can't say that I learned a whole lot more than I already knew about bees. Oh, some little tidbits and facts I learned, but not too much more that was useful and helpful. One or two bits of info, is all. But it was still fun and entertaining, sitting there with a group of old women and one mom with her infant and young daughter.

I went to this "Coffee Thursday" because I do want to try my hand at beekeeping some day. Papaw did it when I was a kid, and I use honey in my bread baking, and in sweetening tea, etc. We also put it on cereal, etc.

It's very healthy for you you, honey is. If you buy honey produced within 50 miles of where you live, it'll help your allergies a lot. It's a natural antiseptic and can help heal wounds. It's just an amazing thing. Honeybees weren't native to North America and had to be imported to pollinate fruit trees brought from Europe. The first captive hives came to America in 1640.

A bee may travel as far as 3 miles from home to collect nectar and pollen. Each bee only produces 1/12 teaspoon of honey in it's short 40 (or so) day life. And, a bee could fly around the world on two tablespoons of honey! Isn't that just amazing?! The average hive, at the height of the honey season, may contain 60 to 80 thousand bees, with upwards of 100,000 not being impossible. A hive usually loses some members during the winter and starts the nectar season with somewhere in the neighborhood of only 40,000 bees. A queen can lay up to 1,500 eggs a day, lives for up to five years, mates with up to 8 males, on one nuptial flight, and, because of her size and job of egg laying, does absolutely nothing for herself. She is fed, cleaned, cared for, and her waste removed by attendant nurse bees.

Anyway, I may try to find a mentor next Spring to show me the ropes and give me the ins and outs of beekeeping, first-hand.

As a point of interest, I usually buy a 5# jar of unpasteurized honey for $14.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Day After Election '08

May God, out of a heart of compassion for His children, have mercy on this nation.

'Nuff said.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bread Baking

You may or may not know, depending on what posts you've read of mine, that I make all our bread. Well, ok, on those very rare occasions when we have hot dogs (gaaack) I might buy buns. But otherwise, since last winter, I decided to save some money, get healthier and make our bread. I use a recipe given to me by my mom-in-law. It's a whole wheat recipe that you can put together and use your bread machine to knead and do the first rise. That's great 'cause I don't have to do the kneading!

I have a friend that's very into healthy eating. She makes all her family's bread, to the tune of five loaves a week, though she usually gives one away. She also makes tortillas, waffles, pasta... all that stuff. And she uses her own fresh ground wheat. She heads up a shopping group that orders wheat berries (that's what you call the grains) from a company and has them shipped bulk to save money. There are quite a few people in this group. They order hard and soft white and red wheat, spelt, kamut, and I'm sure several other grains. These usually come in 50# bags or 45# plastic tubs. Now, you have to have a grinder in order to use this stuff. My friend has a grinder. It's niiiiicccee! Expensive, but nice.

Let me pause here and answer a question you may have.... One loaf of bread takes about three-and-a-half cups of flour. The grinder grinds about 8 cups of berries at a time, which yields about 12 cups of flour.... That's a lot of flour! Doesn't it all go bad before you use it up? (There, right there, that was the question. Did you catch it?) First of all, you typically don't grind it all at once, because it would lose much of its vitamin content due to time. However, you can prevent this by freezing the flour. More on that later. But no, the wheat and grain berries don't go bad as long as you keep them dry and pest free (no bugs please). When archaeologists uncovered the tombs of the Pharaohs in Egypt, there were some tombs that contained pots with wheat berries in them. Much to the scientists' surprise, these berries were STILL viable and sprouted when planted, after centuries in a tomb! Some of the folks in the ordering group went a little overboard with the Y2K scare and ordered a BUNCH of wheat berries. I guess some of them are still using the last of that supply with continued good results. Now, didn't God just know what He was doing?

Anyway, this friend of mine, Tomi is her name... she called the other day and said that there was an extra 50# bag of hard white wheat left and wondered if I'd want it. She said she'd grind it for me if I could put it in my freezer. Um, let's see... fresh, whole wheat flour.... 50# of berries for $27..... Yeah, I'll take it. So I went yesterday and she let me use her machine to grind the last little bit of berries so I could have the experience using the machine (it's a Nutrimill if you want to know...http://www.pleasanthillgrain.com/nutrimill.asp). She also gave me about 12 cups of soft white wheat flour for use in no-yeast baking, like for cookies or pastries. So now I have a ton of whole wheat flour in my deep freeze which should last me well through the winter.

I've been using store bought whole wheat flour for my baking up to this point, but even the 'whole wheat' from the store isn't really whole wheat. It doesn't contain the bran or the germ, which is where most of the nutrients are. So I've been adding wheat germ when I bake. NO MORE! I was so excited about this flour that I came home and baked a new loaf last night, even though we still have part of a loaf left. This loaf baked up so high and nice, it's amazing! I think I'm ruined when this flour runs out. Maybe I can be like the widow that fed Elijah during the famine and it'll never run out......

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dat don' happen too of'en 'round heah

Well, something rather unusual took place at our house today. We had three meals all together as a family. We were all up and at it this morning and sat down together to a breakfast quiche. Then, I made some homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese for lunch, which we all ate together. And supper rolled around with taco salad for all. We usually do have dinner all together. But three meals all sitting at the table together just doesn't happen often.

Other than that, I have a sinus infection with some accompanying chest congestion. I feel poopy.

Have a day.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chickens 'n such

Well, I don't have anything exciting going on. I AM going today to pick up a Kimbal Spinet piano that we're getting for free. It needs some TLC (crayon on the keys, scratches, water stains), and it's been sitting in a garage for goodness-knows-how-long. But we're getting it free and it can be tuned (let's hope). Now all I have to do is figure out a way to tell my mom that we don't want her to teach my daughter how to play. See, she tried to teach me... and I can't play. Get it? Besides, if Anna were to get upset with Mom because Mom's pushing her or something, that wouldn't be good. Better for her to be upset with someone unrelated. Sheesh, what a pain.
But I digress. Let's talk about chickens for a moment, shall we? OK!
The beautiful bird in the picture is a Barred Plymouth Rock rooster. Plymouth Rocks are dual purpose birds, meaning they are good egg layers and good meat birds.
Did you know that it is unnecessary to have a rooster in order for the hens to lay eggs? Yes, it's true! No need for the obnoxious, living alarm-clock with spurs. You can have a whole flock of chickens and not one rooster and still get a bunch of eggs. This is good news for the person who thinks they'd like a small backyard flock, even in town. They can have 3 or 5 hens to give them a nice supply of eggs (and fertilizer) and not have to worry about annoying their neighbors with a rooster crowing. Indeed, most towns will allow small backyard flocks, but ban roosters. Some towns require a permit or written consent from the neighbors before you build your coop.
A young female chicken is called a pullet and a young male, a cockerel. They don't become hens and roosters until they're a year old or a little more. A capon is a neutered male chicken - it's been caponized.
As for the rooster's crow... Well, you can't teach it not to crow. However, I think there is a surgery to remove the rooster's voice box. But really, I mean c'mon - you got money to spend on that? There are some breeds of roosters that are somewhat more quiet than others, but they all make noise. A hen isn't exactly quiet either. She will cackle and make a racket when she lays her egg, when something startles her, or when she's excited about some tidbit she's found to eat.
While there's no scientifically based nutritional difference between white eggs and brown, there are a lot of people that will swear by one or the other as being far superior. Me? I like browns. Don't know why. Well, ok, maybe it's because I grew up with white eggs from the store and using brown eggs makes me feel further from the store and closer to the farm. Yeah, that's probably it. You can usually tell what color egg a chicken will lay by looking at it's ears, located just behind and a little south of its eye. A white or light colored ear usually indicates white eggs. A red ear means brown eggs. There are eggceptions, though (sorry, couldn't help it). The breeds of chickens know as Araucanas, and Ameracaunas are sometimes called "Easter Eggers" because they lay egg with shell ranging in color from pink, to light green to blue, with shades in between. Again, no nutritional difference. BTW, Araucanas are just about the oldest breed of chicken in the Americas.
There are several words used in association with keeping chickens: Hen house, run/yard, coop, pasture.... A hen house is just that. It's the building the birds are kept in at night or in bad weather. It's where they sleep and lay eggs. The yard or run is an attached, usually fenced in area where the chickens can go outside and get some air, scratch around, take a dust bath. Both the run and the hen house comprise the chicken coop. Pasture is just that. It's any area where the chickens have more freedom of movement outside and can forage for food.
But how do I raise chickens, you ask? There's several ways. The old timers, and some folks nowadays, free range their chickens. Usually they have a small flock and they let them roam at will about the property. Chickens won't go too far afield, away from their roost and nests. Others pasture their chickens either with a chicken tractor or a largish pasture attached to the coop and house. A chicken tractor is a hen house on wheels or sleds that can be moved every so often (usually daily) so that the chickens, confined in a movable fenced yard, can graze over new grass and spread their fertilizer around the place. The advantage to these types of chicken management is that the birds forage and do most of their own food acquisition. Yet another way to keep the birds is in confinement. Either in a small house and run, or kept completely in a barn or house. This is generally not good for the birds, as it prevents them from getting much natural forage (if any), prevents them from getting the sunlight they need for vitamin D production, limits their exercise and can lead to feather pulling, picking, and fighting - out of sheer boredom. Also, it requires the farmer to supply all of the chicken's food.
Most breeds of chickens you can buy these days from a hatchery have been bred for egg or meat production. Through careful selection, the natural tendency for a hen to want to sit on eggs and raise them - called 'brooding', or 'going broody'- has been mostly bred out. There are certain species that still tend to go broody a little more than others. In all breeds, you'll sometimes find an old cackle that decides she wants to hatch her eggs.
I could write so much more, but that's probably already more than you ever cared to know about chickens... if you've read this far. Maybe I'll do some writing about cows......

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Something different

Well, not much has happened in the past few days, so there's not a lot to write about. A neighbor friend of ours bought us tickets to the annual Kiwanis pancake breakfast, so we went there this morning. One of the perks of homeschooling... we got to all go out for breakfast.

Something you may not know about me - I'm a Superman fan. I've always like the Man of Steel and enjoyed reading his comics (though I rarely bought one as a kid). But I just think Big Blue is cool.

I've been doing some reading lately. A week or two ago I finished a book by an archaeologist/philologist (a person who studies languages). The book was written in the 80's. I actually forget the name of the book, but his two other books on the same subject were called 'America B.C.' and 'Saga America'. His position is that Bronze Age Europeans actually traversed the Atlantic and visited North America centuries before Lief Ericson did, as our modern history books tell us. There are actually numerous sites in Canada and the U.S. that are near copies of European Bronze Age dolmen, stellae, burials, etc. These folks would have come over before the last ice age would have made that kind of sea travel impossible. Many of these are inscribed with early Celtic, Scandinavian, and Basque writing, called Ogam and Tifinag inscriptions. Most archaeologists have dismissed these inscriptions as mere decoration or 'wear and tear' of centuries of weather. However, to the trained eye, they tell a very real story, relaying the voyages and accomplishments of European traders and kings - most notably, a Norse king named 'Woden-Lithi'. Sorry, but I can't even remember the author's name right now. Good reading with a lot of pictures to illustrate his points, though.

Another book I'm looking at right now is called 'The Irish in Ireland'. It's a brief history of Ireland from pre-Celtic peoples, to more modern history. It's VERY brief.

I've got my eye on a couple of other books to read when I'm done... A new book just out called 'Liberal Fascism' which shows how many of the policies of liberal politicians through American history are actually rooted in Fascism. It's a scholarly work, and not the ravings of a craze 'Right-Wing Bleeding Heart'. The author doesn't leave off without a word or two about the need for some caution and care by the more conservative side of politics.

And finally, 'The Good Old Days'. It's a collection of interviews, diary entries, testimonies, letters, etc. of Germans involved in the real front-line killing of the Holocaust during WWII. I understand it's not for the faint of heart. But I'm always fascinated by peoples' personal stories, and especially when I can find out the answer to, "What in the world were they thinking?"

I get these books at the library. Good thing too, or I'd be flat broke, have no space in my house at all, and have a very unhappy wife.

All of these right along with the two or three other books unfinished on the shelf to pick up at leisure, several books borrowed from a friend, some homesteading magazines, and a couple of other books I checked out at the library. Go figure.

Well, I guess I did have something to say.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Good Fall Harvest

Well, it's been a long couple of days. I put up four more pints of pickled beets, froze about five quarts of green beans (don't have a canner yet), froze about three quarts of broccoli, cut up and froze ten or twelve Corno di Toro peppers, and now... Applesauce! Above, you see the apples, all cut up and cored, cooking in a pot, skin still on - need the pectin, you know. I have one of those corer/cutter things that you push down on the apple. But a year or two ago, a friend gave my wife one of those nifty things that have a handle you turn. The apple is pushed through a blade or two and it cores and slices it into uniform pieces. There's even an arm with a blade to peel it if you want to use it. It's a wonderful little tool. Highly recommend it.
After the apples are good and soft, you run 'em through a food mill. I got mine from Rural King for about $20. It's an invaluable tool and it's a whole lot easier than pushing it all through a strainer/sieve.
This, then, is what you get. Add some cinnamon to taste and put it into hot jars with hot lids and stick it in the hot water bath.
Process them babies for twenty minutes......
And voila! Applesauce! If you're curious (and more for my own information as much as anyone else), 3 pecks of apples -or 3/4 bushel - will produce 10 quarts and one pint of applesauce, give or take. I had a small tragedy during the hot water bath. One of my quart jars cracked along the bottom. I heard it happen but didn't know which jar it was. So I had to take them all out at the end. I found the broken one. Unfortunately, all the applesauce in it ended up in the water as I pulled it out of the pot. Well, live and learn. It could have happened because I didn't have the jar hot enough for the water, or maybe there was an inherent flaw in the jar during manufacture. Oh well.

Today, I'm making apple butter (sorry, no pics - it took forever just to upload these pics). I'm using one peck of apples (the left over from the bushel I bought). So far, 5 pounds or so of apples have produced 5 1/2 pints of the yummy dark brown delight. I've got another 6 pounds or so of apples in the crock pot cooking right now. By the end of the day, I'll probably have another 5 or 6 pints. Boy, is it yummy... sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. I love this stuff!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Letter sent

Well, after about two or three days of writing, revamping, and rewording, I finally put together a letter to the land owner that I thought was professional, appealing (as in "Please give me this property"), and tasteful. I had Melora read it and she thought it was good. So it went in the mail on Monday. He should get it tomorrow or the next day. Here's hopin', ya know?

As for everything else... Since our house is one of the drop spots for our CSA, any boxes left over at the end of the day are mine. I hit the jackpot yesterday with three boxes! We split our share with a friend, so when there's an extra box, we give her one whole one and we keep one. So today, she got a box and I got three (ours plus two extras). I've been a busy boy today. I put up three freezer bags of broccoli, five quart bags of green beans, and probably six or eight bags with two Corona di Toro peppers cut up in each. Of course, except for the peppers, I had to blanche everything before freezing. PLUS, I still have some beets to pickle tomorrow. I also have two HUGE turnips. What the world am I gonna do with those? I don't eat turnips. I remember my dad taking one and eating it raw with salt... yeeeccchhh. All of that, not to mention the bushel of apples I bought yesterday to turn into sauce and applebutter. Yeah, I'm busy, but it's worth it.

Not much else to say. That's all for now. I hope to have something to report soon about the farm.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Not much to say.

Isn't she purty? That's a Guernsey cow. Not my first pick of a milk cow, but nice to look at nonetheless.

No news about the farm. Haven't even written the letter yet. I suppose it's probably because it requires me to sit and think for a while and I can't even come close to that with my three raving lunatics running around.

We're headed to the apple orchard on Monday, where I'll buy my usual apples for applebutter. But this year, there'll be an additional purchase as I intend to make applesauce. My boys can go through a whole jar in one sitting, so I think it behooves me (no pun intended) to look into ways of cutting that cost a bit. Making my own unsweetened and cinnamon applesauce might just do it. Gonna be busier'n snot.

Also of note, Grant turns 4 on Monday. He's quite excited.

Melora got another "A" in her Masters' work. She's doing exceptionally well and I'm quite proud of her. She stresses out so much about stuff though. I do try to help her see things more clearly and rationally. HA! Listen to me!! Ain't dat a hoot!?!

Well, that's all for now. Until next time, be well, do good work, and keep in touch. (Thanks Garrison Keilor).

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Farm Sweet Farm?

Well, this is a picture of the house that stands on the 80 acres I most recently wrote about. It has a wrap-around porch on the back. We didn't get out of the car to look around because Melora was afraid someone would yell at us for trespassing. But my sister-in-law did look in it. She says it's rough and needs work, but the woodwork inside is beautiful, and the house has potential. Yeah, I can see that. The property is wonderful. Lots of big trees, mostly oak. Pasture all the way around the place with new looking fence. The posts were straight, the wires were tight. There may have been cattle there within the past several months, but nothing there now. There isn't any one big barn. There are a couple of smaller barn type buildings that were storage areas. But oh, could I see myself living there!
Ok, here's just a sample of how my brain works... I've already envisioned how we could take down the two smaller barns and reclaim the wood to use on a newer, bigger barn, placed in a more accessible location. I've even thought of having a ''Painting Party" to get it painted once it's built. I've envisioned where the garden will go, where the fruit trees will go, where the chicken house will be.... I know, I know, I'm crazy. I got to the point where I asked God to help me think more realistically about this place so I don't go all idealistic and get super depressed when it just won't work out. I didn't want to pray that way, but I did it anyway. Melora said I needed to really pray about it if I was serious about wanting it, because she's not convinced. She liked it well enough, but there are a lot of 'what ifs'. We both know that it would take a miracle for us to be able to afford it at all and then have enough money left to actually fix the house up. Prices, despite the market, are sky high around there.
I tried all weekend to get ahold of the man that owns the place. Melinda (sis-in-law) said they're Christians and really nice people. So, I think what I'm going to do is look him up on the net and write him a letter. Tell him who I am, what I'm looking for, what my dream is, what Melora and I want for our kids, what we want our homestead to be (a blessing)... and then ask him about the property. What's the worst that could happen? He could say "No, it's not for sale," or "I'll take $850,000 for it". Either way, we don't get it. On the other hand.... he could be really touched by my dreams and hopes, and decide he wants to be nice and bless someone. Yeah, it's a long-shot, but nothing is impossible with God. If that's the farm He has for us, it'll work out. Otherwise, I wait and keep looking. No big deal. But we do have a friend who is moving over that way and seriously would want to buy half of it from us to build on.
Anyway, that's where I am with all this. I'm just waiting and trusting. Gonna write my letter soon and send it off. We'll see. (Thanks for reading Keetha!)

Friday, October 3, 2008

80 Acres

Well, my sister-in-law called last weekend and said she was driving through the country. She was on her way home from taking some reference pictures of donkeys to paint a picture for Martha Stewart. Yes, I said Martha. Long story. But it's pretty awesome, no?
Anyway, she drives by this farm and is immediately drawn to it. Discoveres that the big ol' house is empty and begins to look around. She immediately calls me. She thinks she knows the owners. I look it up on Google Earth (after my sister-in-law gets the street right so I can find it.) Wow! It's like the farm of my dreams. No it isn't the picture above. But she does know who owns it. The grandfather of one of her art students. She does some checking and gets me a name and number. She thinks the man would be willing to sell but has the feeling he may want to sell all 80 acres together. 80 ACRES!?! There's an old two story house that reminds my sister-in-law of her grandparents' home, fenced pasture (lots of it), many large, mature trees all over the property, and a few outbuildings/barns.
Ok, for those of you who haven't even considered moving in the past year or two, or who don't know what property in central Indiana may be going for (even with the horrible housing market)... Within the past several months, I found 10 acres of land for sale not far from this farm going for $12k an acre! So... 80 acres. And considering that 1/4th of that amount would be more than ample for my needs. It would SO have to be a God thing. But how awesome would it be to have acres of land on three sides of you to buffer you from anyone or anything else. The surrounding land is all crop land anyway. Nearest neighbor? About 1/4 a mile down the road (just like I like it). This place is out in the country about a 10 minute drive from Melora's parents. It'd be 20 to 30 minutes from any hospital Melora might want to work in.
I tried to call the man several times yesterday with no luck. I'll try again today. Of course I realize that even if he wants to sell, the house might not be liveable, the price will be outrageous, and we're in no place to move now anyway. But that property is all I've thought about the past several days. With just a few exceptions (namely the lack of the barn where it ought to be) and no pond, it's pretty close the farm I see in my head... very close! Of course, nothing is impossible with God. What on Earth would I do with 80 acres? I'd use what I needed and just enjoy the rest of it I guess. Maybe use the back 10 acres or so as a hayfield after a few trees were removed. I've been praying for a farm for a good while now. If this is the one God has for me, then He can work it out. Maybe the man will be impressed with my goals, our homeschooling, and our Christian faith. My sis-in-law says they're Christians too. I dunno. I'm trying (against my true desires) to be realistic and realize that this likely won't happen and not to get my hopes up. But it never hurts to call and ask.... We're going to Sheridan today to visit my in-laws and attend the "Harvest Moon Festival" they have. Oh yeah, I'll be driving by the farm.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wow, long time

Well, it's been quite awhile since I've posted. Hmm, I guess I quit because no one was reading it and I was just writing for myself. But maybe that'll change.

I've recently become the coordinator for an egg group. A what? An egg group. See, there's this Amish farmer named Mr. Peachy that has a bunch of chickens (I mean a bunch!) and he sells the eggs. They're organic, free-range. He sells 'em for $2.50/doz. which is reasonable if you've checked prices at the local grocery for organic eggs. Basically, I take orders collect the money and let him know how many eggs to deliver to each of four drop sites around town, twice a month. What do I get out of the deal? Free eggs! Yeah for me. The first egg I cracked yesterday had a double yolk. I'm pretty eggcited.

My sister-in-law called me last weekend raving about this farm she saw with a great farmhouse and 80 acres. The granddaughter of the man that owns the place is one of her art students and said that he wants to sell it. I think I'll call the guy. Even though a fourth of 80 acres would be ample for my needs, and the fact that 80 acres with a house is probably so much more expensive than I could hope to buy... I'm still curious. It's up close to Melora's parents. I've looked at it on Google earth. Can't tell much about the house, but the property looks wonderful. Sigh. Someday I'll have my farm. I'm trusting that God will answer this prayer of mine. Some days the desire is so strong, it hurts. I know I'm asking for a lot of work and effort. But I've got three strong, healthy kids to help me and a supportive wife.
Speaking of the wife. She's working on her MA in Nursing Education and is just about half way through the program. I'm very proud of her. She's doing so well and is going to make a fantastic instructor. However, I think I should earn some sort of degree too... after all, I'm learning at least half of what she is just because I read and edit all she writes. But it's fun and we have a good time talking about stuff she's learning.
Maybe it won't be so long before I post again. Have a day.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Update and such

Hey, well, it's been awhile. Since I last wrote, I've rendered lard and built and began using a clothesline.

The lard rendering went well. Though I'm afraid I got some 'soy fat'. It doesn't set up firmly like I imagined. It also has a funny taste and smell. Is that supposed to happen?

The clothesline is doing great. I've probably already saved a good bit of pocket change by not using the dryer for the 16 to twenty loads I've hung out. And I kinda enjoy it. The only problem is figuring out how to keep the line from loosening and sagging so badly. I keep tightening it up, but the weight of wet clothes tends to pull it down a bit more. It's not the posts, those are in cement. It's the wires slipping through the U-bolts. I'll figure something out.

I planted my garden. I know I'll regret what I've done later on, but I always think bigger than I should. I planted 9 sweet pepper plants. About 10# of Kennebec potatoes, probably 50 to 60 Texas 1015 onion sets, some mesclun lettuces, (and here's the insane part) 4 cherry tomato plants, 4 Golden Jubilee tomatoes, 4 Fantastic tomatoes, and 8 Romas. I plan to use the Romas for sauce. The Fantastics will be eaten and used along with Goldens for juice and maybe some salsa. I've made a lot of work for myself. I'll also be getting tomatoes from our Crop Share which begins next month. I hope to be able to acquire a dehydrator and dry out some of the cherry tomatoes, besides using them in salads, etc.

I also put some herbs in pots: Spearmint, Lemon Balm, Sage, Rosemary, Basil, and Oregano. Hope that goes well.

That's about all going on here. Spring has been beautiful this year. Last year we had a very late, hard freeze which killed a lot of the flower buds on the trees, etc. The Bradford Pear in my yard had very few if ANY flowers on it. But this year it was covered. Up until this past weekend, we've had unusually warm weather, like upper 70's to low 80's. But last weekend, yesterday and today, the weather has been a bit more seasonal. Only in the 50's today. But they say the temps are to be in the 60's tomorrow and 70's on Thursday. Oh well, I still love Spring. Thank Heaven winter is OVER!!!

We know a lady that homeschools her kids. I hesitate to call her a 'friend', she's more of an acquaintance. She had somewhere around 50 chickens and two Guineas. She says her family doesn't go through a dozen eggs in a month (which may explain the appearance of their health to some degree). They raise the birds for their girls to show at the fair. They have some nice birds. But she hates to see food go to waste, sooo........ They may not be organic or free-range, but they're free and fresh. She said I could have eggs whenever I wanted them. She gave me two dozen last weekend and wouldn't take a penny for them. I dunno. I'm not complaining though. I was able to give one dozen to a neighbor that had mentioned she wanted some fresh eggs. I'll find a use for them somewhere, somehow.

Have a good week!

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Good grief, this picture is big. Well, this was taken at a local State Park on a trail. I stopped and looked up and was amazed at the view of the pines overhead. It made me a little dizzy.

Today is the first day of Spring. FInally! But instead of being happy and thrilled, I'm bored out of my skull. It rained for two days here and the front yard flooded, as well as the back. It's going down quickly, but it's still gross and has turned everything into a mud puddle. The sun shone today... quite brightly. However, the temps and damp earth made it feel a little on the cool side. So I sat here all day bored and, frankly, lonely. I can say that outloud here because no one reads my pathetic blog anyway. You see, I'm kinda frustrated with my best friend lately. Without going into a lot of details, I'm feeling a little taken for granted. That not only frustrates the dickens out of me, but makes me a little sad as well. So now the sun is going down. Got about 41 or 2 minutes of day left, and I'm feeling a little glad for it. That means I'll be that much closer to going to bed and putting this slow, miserable day behind me.

I have decided, however, that I am pathetically low on serious friends. I've got all kinds of acquaintences, but very few people I'd actually call "friends". I guess I should do something about that so I won't have these boring, lonely days.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Land woes

I've been doing a lot of looking over the past months at websites specifically designed to sell farms and land (as well as some that sell other properties). As is the way with American agriculture, there aren't too many small time farms for sale. If there are, they tend to be horse farms, or properties designed specifically for recreational use with just a smattering of pasture.
Of course, none of that matters terribly. With some work, any kind of property can be prepared and used as pasture, garden, orchard, whatever. But it's nice to think you could find a decent house on some property and have one or two things already in place.
Since that option seems to be limited at this point in time (and it's not like I'm even serious about buying right now), I've considered the possibility of buying land and building a home on it. My wife has mentioned how she'd love to have a log home. I could deal with that, I think (seriously!). But then I look at property.....
Anything listed as farm land is rising in price and usually has more acreage to it than I want or need. If there's a property listed as woodsman paradise, that just means there's too much woods on it and it's really not fit for a small farm or homestead... there'd be a lot of clearing that would have to be done first.
Then there's the big strips of land up for sale. You know the kind. They used to be farms or cropland, but the owner is hoping to sell out to some big time real estate developer that wants to turn it into the next "Fox Run", or "Wood Ridge", or "Brittney Chase" with overpriced, over sized houses sitting on 1/4 acre lots, all so close together that you can smell your neighbor's breath when you greet him in the evening when you come home from work. Please. Like there's been a fox there in a decade, or anything close to a 'woods' since the farmer plowed the soil up in the 70's to grow his agribusiness (not to mention how he's plowed down the ridge to nothing)... and like these people are gonna use their Brittney spaniels to chase anything but a ball! Yeah, I guess I'm a little sour.
Folks like Gene Logsdon are my heroes. Gene encourages small farms (he farms 30 acres himself) and says we need more, not less of them. I tend to agree. I want to take my family to the country and homestead. But the way land is going, and a lack of available small farms, it seems like I may need to rely more heavily on the Almighty to provide us the right place when the time is right.
How did you find your place?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Death of Lard

For years, a lot of people have gotten away from using lard in their cooking because it's "fattening" and just has to be bad for you, I'm sure. Everyone, that is, except the old timers and the people that know how to make really good biscuits and pie crust, they still use lard. But much wiser and 'healthier' people these days know they should never use a product that comes from a natural source, can be made easily, and is generally pretty cheap. NOOOO! We must use processed vegetable matter, chock full of partially hydrogenated oils. Let's call it Criscrap, shall we?

Having recently (and I don't know what took me so long) read the label of said Criscrap, I wanted to knock myself in the head for being so stupid. Here I am trying to avoid all kinds of unhealthy stuff and I'm using that stuff to season my skillets and make biscuits. Sheesh, am I stupid.

So, I decided to forgo my cultural bias and ignore my upbringing on the subject and buy a tub of good ol' fashioned lard. I went to my local "Wally-Morgan" supercenter and found a tub of the stuff. Just wondering if it might list what kind of animal the fat came from, I looked at the label. It read, "Contains lard and hydrogenated lard". I wanted to scream right then and there and spent the next 10 minutes, at least, muttering under my breath about the stupid stuff and fuming. So this morning I go to another locally owned store to buy my meat for the week (I won't buy it at that other place anymore. Do you KNOW what they put in that stuff? Yeecchhhh!). I asked the butcher (yeah, a real live butcher, go figure) if they had lard. "Yep," says he, "It's on the top shelf of that cooler over there." OH GREAT! That's what I was hoping for. I go check it out. Nooooo, say it isn't soooooo. More "Lard and hydrogenated Lard". CRAP! Do the powers that be wanna kill us all? MUST they put it in LARD!!!!!??????

Needless to say, I'm vexed. I'm not sure what I'm going to do. Some day I'll have a pig of my own and have all the fat I want, but until then..... I guess I'll have to look harder for some place that has a real butcher where I can get some fat and make my own. I'm so put out.......