Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Spring has arrived

March 30, 2010

Spring has arrived. There are birds and other animals that return or that you start seeing again. There are the sound of frogs. There are lots of baby animals, like calves and piglets and kittens. The grass starts getting green and it’s warm out. Those are pretty obvious. I know it’s spring here when I see someone mowing, though. It seems early for mowing, but I saw someone in town mowing a small side yard (next to a business, I think). Soon the Farmer’s Market will start again.

A New Hampshire rooster and an Orpington hen free ranging

Free range birds

I don’t know if it is because it’s spring time, but we have a few hens who think that roosting outside on our big pile of branches is a good idea. I think these hens are the ones that the roosters gang up on, as evidenced by the lack of feathers on their backs and behind their combs. I can understand why they don’t really want to go into the coop. But the roosters are definitely better than whatever else might come around in the middle of the night. Tim is pretty good at getting them in because he will just pick them up. I’m not willing to do that, so I try to convince them. I touch them, pet them, shake the sticks they are stepping on, and basically annoy them until they decide to go in.

A flock of chickens in my backyard

Happy chickens

Moira is also growing. She seems to be going through a pretty good growth spurt. She is hungry, tired, moody, and clumsy. It’s not really a list that I can make and say for sure she is having a growth spurt. There are days that I feel that way or Aidan does and it doesn’t mean a thing. But I just have this intuition that she is going through something big, some big brain growth and physical growth, most likely. Either that or she’s been eating way too much Easter candy and sugar and that is making her moody. But that wouldn’t necessarily explain the clumsiness, would it?

Moira's bare feet

Moira is a barefoot country girl

I have worked on the garden, but just barely. But when I look at last year’s gardening journal, I see that I hadn’t done much by this time last year, so I guess I’m doing OK. I need to start some seeds soon, maybe order some heirloom seeds. I did weed a gardening bed that has carrots growing, but that’s really all I’ve done. I’ll do more soon and I’ll blog about it, of course.


Still here

January 9, 2010

I know it’s been a while since I posted. I don’t even want to know how long! Anyway we are still here. It’s cold and we have lots of snow, but that’s the nature of winter in Illinois. It’s time to start planning the garden, so I might write a post on that. It helps to figure out what to plant more of, what to not plant at all, etc. I have lots of cardboard in the garage just waiting to kill the newly sprouting grass that will be here in the spring. I have a few seed catalogs and they are fun to look at.

It feels like the middle of winter even though it isn’t. The days are getting longer, though, and that is nice. I like the sunshine (who doesn’t??). I keep thinking about how nice it will be to have the windows open, to hear the million frogs croaking and squeaking, and to see the chickens out doing their chicken things. They are all doing well. I don’t remember if I mentioned that Holly died, but she did. So that means that we’ve lost 3 chickens to predators and 1 to some unknown cause. I have no idea what happened to her. We got home one day and she was bleeding and that was that. There was no visible wound and no other chickens were hurt, so we have no idea. I suppose it could have been something internal as she often laid double yolkers.

OK well that’s all for now. I will try to post more often, but there really isn’t much going on. I do have a few posts I could finish up, like why I’m not a vegetarian anymore, posting pictures of Version 2.0 of our lego house, and a post I started about roosters. I have a lot of things in the works, but just haven’t finished them. I might find some time soon, or I might not. 🙂

Monkey brains and other things

October 9, 2009

I have a recipe of sorts to post. It isn’t really a recipe, more of a meal idea, inspired by another meal idea. I read Cold Weather and Comfort Food at Miss Effie’s Diary. She called her meal Wild Rice Stuffed Squash. I took her idea and changed it a bit, making it more like Tom’s hamburger helper and calling it Monkey Brains. Tim called it “Monkey Brains,” I guess because it looks like eating monkey brains. So that was what we told the kids it was and they were intrigued, just not intrigued enough to try the stuffing in the squash today.

The Monkey Brains had the following ingredients: grass-fed ground beef, onion, garlic, red peppers, celery, zucchini, broccoli, and tomatoes, acorn squash, and wild rice. We also added basil, parsley, salt and pepper. All the vegetables and herbs are from our garden or the farmer’s market. The rice is from a local store called Sugar N’ Spice. Carol, the owner, sells bulk herbs, spices, flour, rice, baking goods, etc. The grass-fed beef is from a family cattle company that is about 30 miles from us, the same people who sold us our cows. Our freezer is full of grass-fed beef.

freezer full of grass fed beef

freezer full of grass-fed beef

So, like Miss Effie, I cooked the rice and the acorn squash while I made the stuffing. The stuffing is really the part that can vary widely, depending on what you have available. It would work with any ground meat, or even stew meat, I would think. She used a white sauce in her recipe and I used a tomato base. She used mushrooms and cranberries, too. Tom doesn’t like mushrooms and we didn’t have cranberries, so that was out. But, then I started thinking about ground beef and veggies and realized that what really sounded good was Tom’s hamburger helper dish. That’s why I called it more of a meal idea than a recipe. In fact, last night it worked out that the squash wasn’t done so we pretty much ate the stuffing, which wasn’t really like stuffing at all, and talked about how we could do something similar with a casserole.

By the way, I have to say that the celery from my garden has flavor. I mean serious flavor. Nothing I’ve ever had at the grocery store compares. I don’t know if it’s the variety I planted (not sure what variety it was as Scott the Farmer gave it to us) or the soil or just the taste of organic celery. I really don’t know, but I know that it has lots of flavor and it doesn’t take much to add flavor to a dish.

This post is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade. Go ahead and click to read more interesting posts about food!


Homemade food

September 11, 2009

We’ve gone to several carnivals and fairs this summer. The latest was in the small town closest to us. The kids love to get lemon shake-ups, which is basically lemonade that is shaken, I guess. I suspect these are made with corn syrup, but I am not sure. It’s some kind of sugary water with ice, squeezed lemons, and cut lemon. The vendors also sell lime and strawberry shake-ups. The kids love these so much that they’ve been asking us to make them at home. To my surprise and delight, Aidan said the ones that his dad makes are much better than the ones at the carnival. Tom usually makes them with stevia, water, and lemons. Sometimes we use honey or cane sugar. I really think that better ingredients make better food, and it seems that the kids agree most of the time.

The one exception seems to be Taco Bell. Aidan has commented that Taco Bell has the best taco meat. I just cannot make taco seasoning like Taco Bell. However, I saw a packet at the store and looked at it and figured out why I can’t compete: MSG. Using MSG is cheating. It’s saying that you can’t make your food flavorful, so you have to cheat by giving it an extra boost. Needless to say, we try to avoid MSG. So now it’s time to avoid Taco Bell (not that we go often, but they just built a new building in our town so it’s been a treat for the kids, though I’ve pointed out that the food is not new, just the building.

Yesterday I bought some tomatoes from the farmer’s market and combined them with the ones from our garden. The sauce is halfway done since I peeled and seeded the tomatoes yesterday. The last time I made the sauce I also used fresh basil and parsley from our garden and it was super yummy. Tom ended up using some of it with some ground beef, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, peas, and green beans. It was like Hamburger Helper from scratch and it was delicious, not to mention way more nutritious.

I also made my own honey mustard dressing yesterday. I had considered buying more honey mustard dressing at the grocery store yesterday, but then I looked at the ingredients again and saw high fructose corn syrup was listed second or third. I figured it would not be hard to make my own and that mine would be completely sweetened with honey rather than high-fructose corn syrup. It had three ingredients: plain yogurt, dijon mustard, and honey. That’s it! Easy and yummy.

The other foods I would like to cook today are chicken noodle soup and curried butternut squash soup. We have a defrosted chicken in the fridge and some chicken stock that Tom made from the last chicken we roasted. These chickens are from a lady that lives nearby. Eventually we will be eating chickens we’ve raised ourselves. I expect our flock of 23 will reproduce nicely come spring.

As far as the curried butternut squash soup goes, I will be using the following from our garden: butternut squash, celery, and chives. The onions will be either from our garden or the farmer’s market (it’s hard to keep track of where it’s from once it’s piled together on the table!). I’ll post the recipe later, once I test it out again. It’s a recipe I found online and modified. I haven’t made it in a while so I’d like to test it again before I post the recipe. I might have to make it in steps since we are heading out of town for the night. I’ve found it works well to do things in steps, like peeling and seeding the tomatoes and then putting them in the refrigerator until I’m ready to make sauce. I think I will probably cook the onion, celery, and garlic part up and put it in the fridge so I can finish the rest later. After all, the squash isn’t going to go bad any time soon!

This post is part of Fight Back Friday.


Mysterious beetle

September 5, 2009

Back in April, I saw this really cool, neon green beetle in the garden. I looked online to find pictures but was unsuccessful in figuring out what kind of beetle it was. Today, however, I was looking up other beetles to see what kind of beetle is living in our playroom (ewww, I know!) and managed to identify the green beetle as the six-spotted green tiger beetle. It seems to be a good guy for gardens because they eat ants and other bugs, but not plants. That’s very good news because this is one beautiful insect, as you can see.

Six-spotted green tiger beetle

Six-spotted green tiger beetle

Three questions

August 27, 2009
Moira with her new bike

Moira with her new bike

Whenever I’m eating something, especially something with vegetables in it, Moira will ask me three questions.

First, she asks, “Is that from our garden?” Sometimes the answer is yes and that’s the end of the questioning. Sometimes the answer is that one thing is from our garden and something else is not.

Question number two is, “Is that from the Farmer’s Market?”

At first she just asked those two questions and if I had to say no twice, I would then tell her that the ingredients were from the grocery store. I felt guilty if I had to say that.

Today I was eating a salad with baby romaine, walnuts, apricots, shredded Parmesan cheese, and honey mustard dressing. It was a pretty healthy snack and I was enjoying it until she started her questions. Today was the first time she asked question three, which is, “Is that from the grocery store?” The answer was yes. All the ingredients were from the grocery store. None of them were local, either, which is a subtlety she hasn’t yet figured out. Soon she will be wondering where the food at the grocery store comes from.

When I told her that all the ingredients were from the grocery store, she was clearly upset. However, the next part of the conversation went like this:

Me: Are your goldfish crackers from our garden?

Mo: No.

Me: Are they from the Farmer’s Market?

Mo: No! (laughing at this point).

Me: Are they from the store?

Mo: YES!

Me: Well, tonight’s dinner has venison from Scott that he probably hunted himself, onions from our garden, celery from the store, and potatoes from the Farmer’s Market.

She seemed satisfied with that. I am satisified with that for now. I hope to cook more and more food that comes from our garden or our land or that of our friends and neighbors. Next summer I hope to have an even bigger garden and to figure out this canning business. I’m sure it’s not hard, but it takes time. In fact, it takes uninterrupted time, which is something of which I have a shortage. Next summer, though, the kids will be a year older and that will make things a bit easier. Plus, Mo will keep me honest.

What do I love?

August 25, 2009
Aidan giving Mo a ride in the wagon last autumn

Aidan giving Mo a ride in the wagon last autumn

I found this article via Deborah at Antiquity Oaks. The main point is that people should focus and write about what is important to them, what makes them happy. Deborah posted her own list of what’s important and I thought I’d share mine. Incidentally, I also read another article that it’s better to have a loyal audience than to post everday. I’ll add a link if I can find it again!

First, I admit I check my stats. I find it interesting to see how people get to my blog, what search terms they use, what other blogs they read, etc. I have noticed that if I write a bunch of posts about cats and kittens, I don’t get as many hits. But you know what? That’s OK with me! And that starts my list:

  • I love cats and kittens. (As I type this, I have big old Riley on my lap and Swirly, Junior curled up by my legs!) I feel such an affinity for cats. I love their soft fur, especially the softest fur behind their ears, their little meows, their whiskers, their fastidiousness, their independent nature. I love the way they play with things and the way they wiggle their butts when they are about to pounce. I love that they have such a great sense of hearing and smell. I love their rough, sandpapery tongues. I just love them and I will write about them even if I know no one will read except my grandpa, who will roll his eyes the whole time since he hates cats as much as I love them.
  • I love my children. Love isn’t really the right word because it doesn’t even come close to the whole body and soul experience of being a mother. I don’t write about them as much because, for me, parenting is so personal and also political. My parenting style is outside the mainstream, but I love the way we do things. I just don’t feel like explaining or justifying that aspect of our lives. I do love that we are not sending them to school and that their education takes place on our farm and in nature. They have learned so much about animals and the circle of life since we moved.
  • I love watching the chickens. They aren’t playful and cuddly like cats, but they are fun. Sometime they are silly because they take themselves so seriously. And I love telling Chicken Joe he is a handsome rooster. I think I tell him every day. I also love the sound of a young rooster learning to crow. It’s not a pretty sound by any means, but it still makes me happy.
  • I like to sit outside on a beautiful day on a blanket with the kids, watching the animals, working in the garden, and just relaxing.
  • I care about the planet and the food I put into my body and into the bodies of my children. While there are certainly improvements I could make, I am at least aware of what we are eating and try to avoid horrible chemicals that shouldn’t be in food in the first place.
  • I love thinking about the way these things are all connected. Homebirthing, breastfeeding, eating and buying local food, gardening, raising our own meat, unschooling, homesteading. It’s all connected and it’s all good for us and for the planet.
  • I love to read, love books and libraries. I used to read just about anything and stick with it once I started, but now I am picky. There just isn’t enough time to read a crappy book. Yet, if I am bored or tired, the back of a cereal box will do nicely for reading material.
  • I care about animals and how they are treated, how they live, how they die. I do not want to eat eggs from a hen that shares a tiny cage with 6 or 7 other hens, can’t even spread her wings, and has a horrible quality of life.
  • I like planting and working in the dirt.
  • I like repetitive motions, such as sweeping, crocheting, rocking. They are very soothing.
  • I care about my friends and family (though at the moment they wouldn’t know it because I’ve been horribly out of touch since we got back from Phoenix). I want them to be happy and joyful and loved.

First egg pictures

August 12, 2009

OK, I managed to get the pictures off the card from my camera. Hooray! Tim insists that my camera is fine and that I just need to charge the battery now. I will try that and see how it goes.

Anyway, now I have a ton of pictures to post but I will just do a few for today and then some more for tomorrow. So here are some of the first egg we found. This was found in the accidental garden right near the house.

First egg laid near house

First egg laid near house

This is the egg after we put it in the refrigerator. The other eggs are from the store, but are also pasture-raised.

The egg on top is the first egg

The egg on top is the first egg

This is from when we cracked open the first two eggs. One of them had a double yolk. I know this isn’t a very good picture, but it’s the best of the ones I took.

First two eggs cracked

First two eggs cracked

And here is a picture of the roasted chicken we had. It was the first time we ate food we’ve raised and butchered ourselves.


Roasted chicken

First egg

July 28, 2009

I found the first egg today. I am pretty sure it is the first one ever, but not 100% sure. I know that Lula Mae has been making noises for over a week now and that today she was sitting/squatting in the accidental garden, right next to the house. I went out to see what was up and possibly interrupted the egg laying process (is that possible to interrupt it in the same way that a woman’s labor can be interrupted by stress or danger?). All three chickens, including Chicken Joe the rooster, were making lots of noise. That was why I went out to see what was going on. I guess it was as big a deal to them as it was to me.

We also worked in the garden a bit today and picked a couple of tomatoes. One was eaten by the kiddos and one by the chickens when we left it unguarded. Silly chickens! Anyway, more tomatoes are turning red so that is great news. The sugar snap peas seem to be dying off int he heat, which I think is normal. The carrots are finally doing well, but Moira wants to pick one every time we go to the garden, so we don’t really have any to use in meals. I need to plant more carrots for fall and then remember to plant more next spring. The winter squash are taking over the area between the tilled area and the raised beds. I guess they didn’t get the memo that they were supposed to spread into the tilled area? Silly squash!

I will post some pictures tomorrow, as soon as I get them off of my camera. I also have a picture of a dead, half-eaten copperhead snake that Tim ran over with the mower. We left it out and something ate some of it last night. It’s a lovely picture and I know everyone will surely tune in to see it once it is posted. Right?

Summer update

July 22, 2009

OK, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Really I haven’t. We’ve just had such had such a busy summer that I almost wish I would fall off the face of the earth just so I could get some rest. Things are still busy, but in a couple of weeks we should be back to normal; that is, no one travelling and no one visiting. That is part of why I haven’t posted much. The other reason is that we have lost some animals and that is upsetting and not fun to post about.

We lost two of the New Hampshire hens one evening at dusk. The kids and I were out of town, so things were quieter, I’m sure. Perhaps that is what gave the predator the nerve to get them so close to the house. We also lost two of Mama Cat’s kittens and one of Little Gray’s. We found a dead kitten on our lane and buried it and we assume it was Muck. The other, Muggy, just disappeared. Her other two kittens, Stinky and Vicious, are still around and Vicious has even gotten to be pretty friendly with the other cats and with us. Of course, it could just be that she is in heat! I am quite sure Mama Cat is pregnant again, too.

Little Gray’s kittens are cute and playful and friendly. In fact, I have Swirly Junior on my lap right now. He sleeps inside with us at night and we all love him. We did lost Scotchy Junior, about a month ago. He was under the couch and got stuck in the mechanism for the recliner. We didn’t realize this until the next morning as we were getting ready to go away for the weekend and I was making sure all the kittens were outside. It was horribly, horribly sad and I feel guilty that a kitten died because of our own carelessness.

Anyway, the garden is going OK. Things are growing despite my almost total neglect. I’ve used some lemon basil from the garden twice and made a yummy chicken dish. We have green tomatoes, lots of herbs, cauliflower and carrots. I need to plant more for fall, so maybe next week I will find some time to do some more planting. I did lose all the corn, probably to some deer that ate it while the kids and I were out of town. I think that the kids are a great deterrent to animals that think of coming too close to the house.

The chickens are doing well. The Buff Orpington chicks are growing and are now in the coop/dog kennel thing. It is working well enough for now, though it won’t work well for winter. We are still planning on building a coop, but it it turning into a fall project rather than a summer project. We have at least two Buff Orpington roosters, possibly a couple of more. I think that Lula Mae is getting ready to lay very soon. She has been making lots of noise and clucking when she goes into the coop at night. Her comb and wattles have grown and gotten quite red, which is also another sign. The other hen, who we have named Holly, doesn’t seem quite as ready, but I think she is getting there, too. Chicken Joe wasn’t crowing much when we still had the other rooster around, but now he is crowing very nicely.

That’s all I have for now! I will post more pictures someday soon. I have to take some first! I think next week things will be calmer, despite the fact that Tom will be out of town. I will be home with the kids and Tim and will try to play catch up with the garden, the mowing, and the blog.