Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Another Winner

I admit it. I am a chocoholic, but I don't care. My wife and I always have a bag of Dove dark chocolates in the cabinet. If it runs low (or runs out, heaven forbid - spit, spit) we get more.

Now, I love cookies. My two all-time favorites are Oatmeal Scotchies and Chocolate Chip. I still remember my grandmother's chocolate chip cookies with much fondness. They were just 'da bomb! So I'm always looking for a good recipe for soft, chewy, tasty, chocolaty cookies. I think I found one and I share it with you now:

2 1/8 cup of all purpose flour (I dunno why, it just says 2 1/8)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons of butter (that's 1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-2 cups chocolate chips or chunks (aww, just say a bag and be done with it)

Cream sugars and butter, add eggs and extract. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda then add to liquid mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.

Place large dollops of dough on cookie sheet (say a good tablespoon plus) and bake for 13 minutes in a 325 degree oven.

I found this recipe on Yahoo! Food. It came along with four other cookie recipes, but I wasn't really interested in them. These cookies are GOOD! Yeah, ok, so there's a stick-and-a-half of butter in 'em. What? Are you eating them for your health or something? EAT THE COOKIE!

By the way, the recipe says you can refrigerate the dough for two days or freeze it, shaped or unshaped, for up to a month.

As a final note, here's a picture of the quiche I made last week and gave the recipe for. It was quite good too.

Winter Finally Came

Ok, well, winter's been here for awhile, but not like this. Over the past two days, we've gotten around nine inches of snow.

Now I realize that some people living in the great frozen north - where driving a car onto a lake in order to go ice fishing isn't uncommon - would laugh mockingly at our measly nine inches. But you must understand that here in my part of Indiana, well, snow just doesn't come in nine inch depths all the time. We usually have one, maybe two good snows a winter in which six inches or so is 'deep'. Other than that, it's flurries, an inch here, some sleet there. But today....

Folks are having trouble getting around today. Our street hasn't been cleaned off yet and my wife has to get to work tonight. Hmmm. Maybe I should go out and shovel some more.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I played Tooth Fairy

Well finally! Yesterday afternoon, after a good 15 minutes in the bathroom staring in the mirror and fiddling, his brother and sister looking on, Eric lost his first tooth. The adult tooth has been coming in for several months now behind the baby tooth. Eric, like his sister, is afraid of pain and hasn't been too diligent about working it out. Anna can take forever to lose a tooth. Eric seems to be on the same path.

Anyway, there was the tooth, ever so small for feeling so big in your mouth. Some blood (no crying or screaming).

So last night, the tooth tucked into a plastic bag and slipped under a pillow, Eric went to sleep eager for morning and the surprise he knew he'd find.

Sometime around midnight, just before I went to bed, I slipped in, took the bag out and replaced the tooth with four quarters. Some would say a dollar for a tooth is quite generous. These comments usually come from older folks who were lucky to get a dime or a quarter. Others would call me a cheapskate. These are the people who's grandparents made sure their college educations were funded by the tooth fairy. My kids... they get a buck.

Well, besides a bit of whining from Grant wishing he had a loose tooth, all has been joyous this morning. That was this morning. Now's another story, but this morning... joy over money for a tooth.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Post feed blues


Ok, some of us aren't tech savvy. I'm trying like crazy to set up my site feed so that my posts will appear on my account. I just can't get it to work. I've looked on blogger help a dozen times and everything I read is either something I've already done, or is written in such jargon that it makes no sense anyway. I'm totally frustrated. Go ahead... scroll down and click on the 'subscribe' button on the bottom of the page... it'll take you forever to load anything, and when it does, it's likely to say something like "this page will never load" or something.

Sheesh... what a headache. SO now I suppose one of my dear readers will look at this and point out one or two steps that I need to do and it'll work perfectly. That'd be just fine with me. Just fine.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What's for dinner?

Well, for lack of much else to say these days (except the fact that I've joined and LOVE it), I thought I'd post a recipe of what the Ferren's will be having for dinner tonight.

Ham Quiche - Yes, it does take a real man to eat quiche. I happen to love it.

4 eggs
1/4 lg. green pepper, finely chopped
1 1/2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. shredded Swiss, mixed with 2 T. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
3/4 t. Italian seasoning
1 c. diced ham
1/2 med. onion chopped
1/2 c. mushrooms
2 green onion tops, chopped
Bacon and parsley for top

Mix eggs, milk, pepper, salt, seasoning, onion, onion tops and green pepper well. Add shredded cheese, ham and mushrooms. Pour into a 9 inch prepared pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. Crumble 4 slices cooked bacon on top. Sprinkle with parsley. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

This recipe is credited to one Joyce Benbow from Marion, Indiana, as printed in the 'Heavenly Dishes' cookbook. Published by Walter's Cookbooks, for Brookhaven Wesleyan Church... back sometime in the early 90's.

Ok, so now you have the recipe... here's how I do it. First, I'm out of bacon - scratch that. Second, I usually don't add the mushrooms. I like them, but I just don't put them in. I don't have Swiss on hand so I'll use some sharp Cheddar and Monterrey Jack I have. Measure pepper? Nah, just dump some in. Oh, and I'll add some 'fresh' (meaning not frozen), finely chopped broccoli to this too.

Want something different? Use ground beef instead of ham and replace 1/2 c. of milk with mayonnaise. Don't want a pie shell crust? Cook 1 cup of rice, combine it with one egg and a little bit of soy sauce. Press it into your pie plate and bake it for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. There, there's a healthier crust for your quiche.

That's why I like quiche... you can put just about anything at all into it and it's gonna be good. We love this stuff. Of course it helps that I get fresh eggs from a farmer every week, but still, it's good food. Sorry I don't have a pic... maybe I'll post one soon. I've been intending to create a "Ferren Favorites" cookbook of my own anyway with pics and recipes, etc. I need to start that.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

What is my problem?

Crimony Pete! It must be part of my "Jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none" (JOATMON?) nature. I start things and don't finish. It seems that I'm rather notorious about it at present.

As you can see from the above picture, I've got several books, all in a different state of un-read (like un-dress). Two movies I've been watching off and on for days, two knitting projects... and I picked up some double pointed knitting needles yesterday to try my hand at that! I've also got two other books on the shelf that I haven't begun yet, but are awaiting my perusal at some point.

In my own defense, it's not uncommon for a knitter to have several projects going at once. Also in my defense, I did just finish a book yesterday called, "Watch For a Cloud of Dust." It's a fun, memoir type book containing the musings and recollections of a southern veterinarian. Fun reading and some good laughs.

I think, as I sit here, that perhaps my habit of going from one thing to another may have something to do with the season. It's winter, and as I've said in previous posts, I hate winter. I soooo need spring to come. All in good time, my pretty, all in good time. But what I mean is, that I'm restless and anxious for warmer weather. Ergo, I am restless in my activities, not settling for long on any one thing.

Alas. I remember back in college once. Of all things, I decided I wanted to go and reread a rather lengthy book I had in a class once. It's a wonderful book called, "Witness" by Whittaker Chambers (thank you Dr. Alan Snyder, wherever you are!). But I had other classwork to do, a social calendar to keep, my public to address... er, well, ok, maybe not that. But I had other things to do as well. I found myself feeling all uptight and bent out of shape and couldn't figure out why. Now, hang with me, there's a point to all this. I decided to visit my psychology prof., Dr. Judy Huffman. Those of you in Marion and know her, give her a shout for me. Anyway, I unloaded on her and told her what was going on and asked for help. As I'm talking to her, she takes a pad of paper, a red pen and draws a red flag on the paper and waves it at me. In a nutshell, I was overdoing it. Giving myself too much to do and expecting things that weren't necessary. She gave me the ability to allow myself to put the big ol' book away and not finish it, AND not feel guilty about it.

Well, I don't feel very pressured to finish any of those things in my picture. I started them for pleasure and I'll finish them for pleasure, not pressure. So I don't really feel badly about having so many unfinished tasks, but it did strike me today that I've really got a lot of things wanting my attention. Things that just aren't all that important.

I may just put one or two of those books away for awhile.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bits and Pieces

No, there's no real reason why I posted a picture of a Polish rooster, I just thought he was funny looking. Someone recently told me that he likes my chicken pictures. I'm praying that someday I'll post pictures of MY chickens.

Well, the mid-west is in the midst of its annual winter Arctic blast. We got about two inches of snow overnight and the temp is supposed to drop to -1 tonight with windchill as low as -25. Now that's cold. Crazy cold. Did I ever mention that I hate winter?

If you've been following my blog, you may recall reading that I had thought about asking a man at church to mentor me a bit in terms of fathering, etc. (read it here). Well, I asked him about it in a very 'no pressure' way a few weeks before Thanksgiving. We decided to pray and think about it. Then the holidays came... He was finally able to catch up with me about two Sunday's ago and told me he'd be happy to meet with me. We made no concrete plans for what our time would be like or how often or anything. We'll play it by ear. So yesterday morning, I drove the half-hour to his farm, ate spelt biscuits and real butter (he's the guy with the grass fed dairy operation - go check it out here). We then went to his basement and sat in front of the wood stove and talked for quite a while.

Come to find out, not only does he have three kids, but they are about the same ages apart as our kids, daughter first, then two sons, just like us. Their third was a surprise, as was ours. And their second was, umm, a challenge, as is ours. Hmmm, coincidence? I think not. Needless to say, I think this will be a good thing for me. As Spring approaches, his work will increase as the cows freshen and he starts milking again, but he said I'm welcome to come any time, pull up a stool and talk while he works, or join in and help! Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause. Well, ok, I don't want to sound sacrilegious. It's all a God thing. Truly.

My wife has been given a pretty cool opportunity. She's going to be teaching 5 clinical students for ISU, beginning next week. She'll work with them one day a week on the med-surge unit at her hospital. Now, teaching a clinical, working full-time (36 hrs), and working on her MA is going to keep her busy. But I'm ok with it. The extra income will help us get our house ready this year as we hope to move in the next 12 to 14 months. The experience will look very good on a resume, and it gives her a foot in the door at ISU, should she apply for a job there. Plus it's only for 11 or so weeks.

I think that's about it for now. Oh, I'm working on knitting a sweater. Still haven't finished the throw I started back months ago, but that's ok, it's not too great anyway.

Is it too early to plant some lettuce? Just kidding.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Little Contradiction?

I recently ordered two books on Amazon. One I'd read about on a Homesteading site or in a magazine somewhere. The other, I saw at a Barnes & Noble recently. They both came to the house within days of each other, and both ended up on our coffee table side-by-side.

The result was somewhat humorous.......

HA HA HA HA! Ok, what gives? Well, the first book, "The 'Have More' Plan" is a book that was written back in the 50's (I believe) by Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, a couple that left the noise and pollution of New York City for a life in the country. It was their effort to educate others and help people see what kind of life there was to be had in living in the country. If you can get past the dated pictures and weed through the bad advice (like using DDT laced pesticides on your garden, or battery raising chickens), it's not a bad book at all. The Robinsons were actually recommending a life of country living, aka homesteading, as being a life where you could 'have more'. Not more in terms of cars, house, clothes... wealth as defined by culture. But rather, a wealth defined by hard work, good food, clean air, family, and self-reliance.

The second book, by Peter Walsh of TLC Channel fame, is his take on regaining control of your 'stuff'. This isn't another "how-to-organize-you-closet-in-fourteen-easy steps" book. His whole premise is that our culture has become one of 'stuff acquisition' to the point that our stuff now owns us rather than the other way around. People's lives are falling apart due, in large part according to Peter, to their homes being out of control. The one place they should be able to go to recuperate, recharge, and regain some sense of themselves is so full of junk, they can't think straight. He doesn't talk about how to store things. He talks about getting rid of things. Cleaning up, clearing out, mastering the stuff. He looks at the reasons behind why we keep all the things we don't think we can part with, and challenges us to make hard choices.

Well, even before I got the book, something in me snapped. I started cleaning out. (Which did help my mood a bit- see the previous post). I went through all kinds of stuff and took tubs of papers, catalogs, magazines, household stuff, nonsense... all to the recycle center or Goodwill. Our computer desk is actually cleared off and doesn't look a wreck. Melora has room for her school books on the shelves, my sock drawer isn't so full I can barely shut it, and our kitchen is a lot more empty of plastic containers.

Well, the two books do look rather contradictory sitting next to each other. But when you know what they're both talking about, they're not too far off from each other. In their own ways, they both seem to say, "Less is More"!

Some Serenity Please

Something's been happening to me lately. Oh, actually, it's probably been a few months now. I don't really understand why. I feel like I'm going a little crazy.

See, I hate being cooped up in the house, and winter... well, I hate the cold, brown, grey of winter, and I tend to stay inside if I can help it. Admittedly, I suffer a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Days when the sun shines help.

The effect of winter on my mind is a sense of insanity. I feel anxious. I get short tempered. Easily frustrated. Lazy. I find myself clinching my teeth, and occasionally wanting to scream. Even my driveway looks different in the winter, greyer, harder, more dead (if that's possible).


I do get out of the house sometimes. That helps. Melora and I get a sitter for the kids and get out once in awhile, and I try to get together with my friend once a week as well. Sometimes I just need conversation with an adult. Kids are fine and all, but they aren't adults, you know what I mean?

My in-laws are on their way to Florida where they'll be for the next few months. They called the other day and were in Chattanooga, TN at a hotel for the night. It was sunny and 60. My heart sank. I felt a deep pang of longing and a little bit of envy.

What do I need? Spring, that's what. I need to get moving. I need some sunshine. I take vitamin D daily. I need to stretch my legs and see some beauty, growth, life. That's not likely to happen for awhile though.

I guess you could pray for me if you think of it. And if you have any suggestions, I'd be happy to hear them.

Friday, January 9, 2009


Up until recently, I'd never considered the possibility of raising/owning a rooster or two. Fact is, I was set against it. Of course, I don't even own chickens - yet. But I was thinking about the future when I do. I didn't want the bother of having to watch out for the old boy so he didn't flog me. Because none of the eggs the hens would lay would be fertile, I'd have to order new chicks every year to raise for meat.

Not very sustainable, is it?

I like the site, They have some forums on which I posted a question about aggressive roosters. Was it possible to have a rooster that wasn't a menace? How many hens per rooster? BOY did I get some responses! This thread is still getting responses a week or more after I posted it. People have given me all kinds of advice on rooster-to-hen ratio and what to do with a mean rooster, as well as some stories of their own adventures. If you'd like to read the thread, click here.

So what's the verdict? Well, first of all, I need to read up and select a breed that is typically known for gentleness. Buff Orps are a good start. However, chickens all have different personalities just like we do. So even the gentlest breed of bird can have its crack-pot. Some would advocate a good quick grab of the neck and shake for any roo that showed his colors with me. Others say a mean roo is a tasty roo and never tried to flog anybody when it came out of the stewpot.

I think I will try it. I figure if I can get three broody hens to sit on clutches of 5 to 8 eggs, once a year, I could quite easily raise enough meat to put into my freezer. Why spend money, time, and effort with a brooder and chicks, when a momma hen will do all the work for me, not only hatching the eggs, but raising the babies too? Of course, I am very idealistic at times.

FYI. The rooster in the picture above is a Dorking. This ancient breed was brought to England by the Romans. It is a heavy bird with a large, square frame, single or rose comb, and fifth toe. The American Poultry Association recognizes Silver-Gray, Colored, Red, and White Dorkings. The British also recognize a Cuckoo variety (from They are a decent layer of medium white eggs and are a dual purpose breed (meet and eggs). I know, I know... more than you cared to know.

On another note, Grant, my youngest, has been sick the past two days. Some vomiting and a little fever the other night. He's acting fine now (which means loud and playful), but he was acting that way yesterday too, before he got sick twice last night. Yech.

Got some flurries here the past two days but the sun's shining now. It's supposed to get really cold in the next week. Yep, it's January.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Slouching Away From Prosperity: Dan's Perspective, Part 3

Well, here it is, part 3. If you've read the first two parts at all, I commend you. There are other people out there, writing much better stuff on the subject than I. But then again, they aren't writing my perspective, now are they?

Herrick Kimball, a blogger I follow and admire, recently wrote yet another post on the economy and how he sees the nation moving toward a more agrarian lifestyle (read it here). I like what he says, and tend to agree with him.

The point of it all is this. Our economy is broken. And I'm sorry, but anyone who thinks our new President Elect can fix it is delusional. John McCain couldn't have fixed it either (just to be fair). If people are going to weather the coming fury of the storm already broken upon us, we're going to have to learn to live differently than we do.

Back in the 40's, the victory garden was the thing to do. Scrap metal drives, rubber drives.... all early recycling (and we thought it was 'new', it's actually 'vintage' - which may be why recycling is all the rage). Thing is, our country seems to have lost some of its identity, some of its solidarity, purpose of being. We've become a nation of self-centered people and the idea of doing something because our nation needs us to is a little out of fashion. Of course, providing food for your family and yourself is never out of fashion, nor is it really a national 'need' - rather a personal need. But I wonder how many people will actually decide they need to get their hands dirty and plant a garden?

You see, there's something to be said for self-sufficiency. Actually, I prefer to call it God-sufficiency, because I recognize that everything I have is from Him. That's what I like about homesteading. In the process of living the self-sufficient life, you develop a sense of security. Regardless of what happens in the economy, you know you can provide for your family - to whatever degree you homestead. So just what is homesteading?

Well, it's hard to define. Wikipedia defines it as a lifestyle of simple, agrarian self-sufficiency. Well, there's three words in that sentence that beg further definition... A favorite publication of mine, Mother Earth News, defines it thus: "Sometimes we struggle to define the meaning of “homestead” in today’s world. For our purposes, we’ve decided to define the homestead as any home that provides an example of sustainability and beauty, whether it’s a Chicago loft powered by solar panels, a Santa Fe suburban solar home or a straw bale cottage on the Kansas prairie. Many of them raise some of their own food and generate some of their own energy. Some of them are self-sufficient. Some of them are beautiful. All of them, by our definition, are inspiring."

To me, homesteading is the art, mindset, decision, process (all of these) of working toward providing for yourself and your family in such a way as to improve your environment where possible, or at least leave as small a footprint as possible. Now before you think I've gone all 'tree-hugger' let me just say that as yet at my house, there's more of the 'leave the smallest footprint' going on than there is 'improve your environment'. But what I want to emphasize is that anyone can be a homesteader! You don't have to live in the country on 40 acres (or even 5), or have a root cellar, or use an outhouse, or grow solar panels on your roof, or drive a water powered car, or wear hemp clothes. An apartment dweller can homestead by buying up quantities of veggies at a farmer's market or joining a CSA and learning to preserve them. A suburbanite can plant a small garden if only for those few crops they use most often (ie. tomatoes, onions, corn, etc.). We can all turn our thermostats down a little, ours sits at 69 in the winter and 75 in the summer when we actually use air-conditioning (and my wife says that's cold!). Again, laundry on a clothesline can save a lot of money in electricity. It's basically just finding ways to rely less on other people to provide your needs, and rely more on yourself.

Can you read a book? You can learn to garden. Can you surf the net? You can learn to preserve food. Can you push a broom? You can use a hoe and spade. My list of examples is small and probably not very good at inspiring people to think outside the box. But the ways of self-sufficiency are limitless. It takes a change of mind, heart, and attitude... and a little economic hardship might not hurt either.

I'm struck my something that recently happened. Someone I know bought a new home. It's not far from where they previously lived. Their family didn't outgrow the old house, neighborhood was fine, same school district. But they'd been looking at homes off and on for years now. There are three people in the family. They bought a 2500 sq. ft. home with a 3 car garage and a full basement. I don't begrudge them. It's a beautiful home and I'm very happy for them. I just don't understand it. It's a difference in mind-set, I guess.

Well, I don't know what all my rambling might spark in you. But hopefully it gets you thinking about ways you could change your lifestyle and do more for yourself. If for no other reason than economics - a lot of homesteading activities will save you money!

So here are some websites to check out that will give you more than you knew existed in terms of ideas, tips, encouragement, etc. to homesteading:

Mother Earth News


Backwoods Home

Take a gander at those... that should keep you busy.

Happy Homesteading!