Sunday, March 30, 2014

Chicken Plans

...are moving right along! We will be getting our 20 babies the end of April! While I'd love to get them sooner, travel and a hard winter make for a delayed start. Speaking of winter...we are to have snow today. And then 72 degrees on Tuesday.  Bipolar much, mother nature??

Dan has been hard at work planning our coop. We spent the other evening poring over our chicken books for guidelines on the design. Yesterday, we stopped by 84 Lumber and Home Depot to check on lumber and their she'd kits. I'm not 100% sure which direction we will go, but we are getting there.

We will be starting our seeds today. A little late to the game, I know...but, I'm anxious to get my hands in the dirt. I'll leave you with our sunset Thursday evening. And when I went out to snap the picture...I heard PEEPERS!  Spring just might stick around!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Seasonal Eating

If you can't tell by now, I'm a big fan of local, seasonal foods. I haven't always been this way. But, the more I learned about our food system, the more passionate I've become.

Eating seasonally can seem a little overwhelming at first. Who doesn't miss tomatoes in the winter or butternut squash in the summer? But a tomato in the winter has zero taste. And if you live somewhere where there is snow, it's been trucked thousands of miles to get to the store.

While we've been a member of some sort of CSA for almost 6 years now, our garden last year is really what pushed us fully into seasonal eating. When you get 10 crook eck squash at a time, you have to become creative. Or hope that your neighbors like them as well!

I love cookbooks and pinning recipes on Pinterest, but I generally turn to one cookbook when I'm looking for new and fun ideas.

The recipe is divided by seasons and is wonderful. Even if you don't follow a recipe exactly, it gives you fresh ideas. And one of the authors is from West Virginia!

What's your favorite cookbook?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

CSA Wednesday

Back to our normally scheduled CSA box from our friends at Fish Hawk Acres! This week brings greens, carrots, scallions, and potatoes. The scallions smell heavenly!

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Last Hurrah

I love butternut squash. And pumpkin. And delicata squash. I love all fall squash, really. We harvested a few butternut last fall. And by a few, I mean 27. Thank goodness for our root cellar!

As we are preparing our cellar for the next season, we've been working our way through the remaining butternut and potatoes. I decided today to whip up one of my favorite recipes using butternut: butternut squash and black bean soft tacos.

Start out by chopping up a medium sized butternut squash. Since this recipe can take a little time, especially with kids, I chopped my butternut up this morning.

Dried beans are the most economical option and I soaked mine overnight. I cooked them up in the pressure cooker this morning as well. If I forget to throw them in a bowl of water overnight, I can do a "quick soak" which entails boiling the beans for 2 or 3 minutes and then letting sit covered for an hour or so. 2 minutes in the pressure cooker and I have black bean perfection!

The butternut squash gets a coating of some olive oil as well as cinnamon, cumin, and salt. Roast at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes and smell the delicious aroma in the kitchen!

I sauté up the garlic and onion with some butter and add in the black beans. And although we have a huge container for the cinnamon, there's not a lot in it. We reuse our containers and fill it at our local co op. The cinnamon smells fantastic!

The meal wouldn't be complete without some shredded cheddar cheese and homemade tortillas!

Black bean and butternut squash soft tacos

1 medium butternut squash
Black beans equivalent to one can
Small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Salt to taste

Shredded cheddar cheese

Peel and cut butternut into bite sized pieces. Lightly coat with olive oil and cover with cumin and cinnamon. Bake at 375 for approximately 25 minutes. 

While squash is baking, sauté the onion and garlic. I prefer to use butter, but any method would be fine. Add black beans to pan. 

When squash is done, remove from oven. Assemble your soft taco and enjoy! 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

We're Back!

After a lovely week away from home, we are back. Today was spent catching up on laundry, baking bread and granola, and getting ready for our week. I'll be back to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow ;-)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Flagstaff CSA

Traveling across the country won't stop me from a CSA post! Except this week is the Flagstaff CSA. My mother in law is a member here and yesterday was her pick up.

The pick up for her CSA was a bit different. The Flagstaff CSA has a shop that you go to to pick up your share. The shop also has eggs, meats, honey, pasta, and chocolate you can purchase. 

For her share of the week, there were shelves of produce with signs telling how many of each the member is allowed. She got oranges, sweet potatoes, fennel, lettuce, carrots, onions, and chard. And it all looked lovely!

I'm looking forward to next week when we get our box from Fish Hawk Acres!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happy Spring!

Happy, happy first day of spring! While we are certainly enjoying our time in Arizona, I am anxious to get home and start our plants!  Have you started yours yet?

Yesterday, we ventured into Sedona and took a 4 hour train ride through the Verde Canyon. The evening was topped off with some lovely pizza from a local joint in Cottonwood called Bocce. Arugula and prosciutto, anyone?

The views are just spectacular here. I was excited on our drive to Sedona, though,  to see some nice green grass and leaves popping out on the trees. It's starting to look like spring out here!

At the train depot, there was a group from a wildlife rehab center. They had three raptors: a red tailed hawk, kestrel,  and peregrine falcon. It was pretty cool to be so close to the birds. There is a record of a peregrine killing an eagle around here! Powerful little birds.

Enjoy some of the views of Sedona!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Grand Canyon

We visited the Grand Canyon today.  And it is ah-mazing. Breathtaking. It looks like a painting. It was such an awesome experience and the kids loved it!  Cross that off the bucket list!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Where in the World...

...are we this week?  Any guesses?

Some hints:
》It's not West Virginia!
》It included a 4.5 hour flight.
》I'm not adjusted to the time and am posting this while my kiddos sleep on either side of me.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Free Ranging Chickens

Chickens are on my mind all the time lately. Now that we are for real going to get some chicks in a few weeks, I've been in hyperdrive reading, reading, and reading some more on their care and housing. One of the things that has been getting the most of my attention is how our girls (and boy(s)) will spend their time outside of the coop.

Since the beginning, my hubs has been 100% a fan of free ranging. Two of my favorite blogs, Chickens in the Road and Cold Antler Farm, are free range fans. Suzanne at CITR often says she doesn't know exactly how many chickens she has at a given time. Jenna at CAF has found some broody hens hatching chicks in her barn. And both are well aware, and share on their blogs, that free ranging does mean that you will probably lose some chickens. The chickens, however, get to live the perfect lifestyle - searching for bugs, dust bathing, and just being a chicken. Feed costs are reduced since the chickens can forage for some of their food. I've read that chickens can be good insect control and with some supervision in the garden can be excellent management for slugs and other bugs. And the yolks from free range hens! I've never seen a more brilliant orange.

A lot of the books I've read all advocate some sort of fencing or run. The runs can be as fancy or basic as you want them to be. Some people landscape around their coops, which is beneficial both to the chickens and the chicken keeper. Some people allow a "supervised" free range, or only allowing their chickens to free range when they are outside with them. Predators can still be a problem, even with humans around, but securing chickens in a run lessens the threat.

Are you as torn as I was? I spoke with the farmer who is hatching our chicks for us and she told me that we would lose a few to predators and while this is sad, it helps teach the remaining chickens to be more alert. She free ranges her chickens and said she had a hawk get away with a few. But, she said, once the other chickens were aware of warning signs of a hawk, they are able to get away from it.

After some serious talk and thought, we have decided to free range our birds. Our neighbors are far enough away that they won't be a nuisance. And our main reason for getting chickens is for the eggs and eventually, meat. I'm sure we will become attached to them, as we do any animal. But, at the end of the day, we will know that they are living a life that is most suited a chicken.

I'll be sharing along every step of the way - we have a general idea for our coop and I'd still love to do some landscaping around our coop. And I'll share how we plan to protect our garden as well as provide some shelter for our birds from aerial predators.

How about you - do you free range your chickens?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

CSA Wednesday

Mother Nature is reminding us today that it is indeed still winter. Temperatures were near 70 yesterday and today they are to plummet to the single digits as a low. But at least I can count on Fish Hawk Acres to cheer me up!

Potatoes, turnips, celery root, beets, salad greens, apple cider, parsnips,  brussel sprouts,  and dried shiitake mushrooms round out this week's box. The brussel sprouts are getting ready to go in the oven and salad is being made. Take that weather!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Let Your Secrets Fly Away

The kids and I have been enjoying nature walks in the afternoon since the weather has been so nice. We try to keep an eye out for things that have changed day to day. Yesterday, as we were walking down one of our many hills, I saw something purple.

We walked down to it and found a deflated balloon with a note attached. The balloon says "Let Your Secrets Fly Away" and the note said to please open.

Some of the note has faded away with the weather, but it was a fun read. A young girl was in love with a boy. She was sad when he didn't return to school this year since he is being homeschooled.  She claimed she wasn't interested in homeschooling, but she has loved him for 6 years. And although she may be young, she knows what love is.

It's fun to try to figure out where it came from. And it was neat to see the girl mention homeschooling since we will be homeschooling our kids. And I have been reading up on the Charlotte Mason approach. She advocates taking nature walks and keeping a nature journal. I'm looking forward to seeing if we find anything else this spring!

What about you? Have you found anything interesting while out enjoying nature?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Bone Collector

Last spring, as the snow was melting, we noticed lots of random animal bones. A skull here, a leg bone there.

This winter has been no different.

Random pieces. Deer fur all over. It isn't a mystery as to how it's been getting here. We know who is responsible...

Yes, doesn't she look guilty? At one point during deer season, she was asking to come in with what appeared to be a deer lung in her mouth. Good try, Lakelyn.

We knew that she was the responsible party for bringing us such lovely lawn ornaments. But we were still curious as to how she was finding them.  Our neighbor was visiting the other day and we mentioned it to him. We are the only people who live on our road and the road condition deteriorates past our driveway. Four wheelers still frequent it though. He told us that hunters are notorious for taking their carcasses and dumping them out the road. Yum, right?

For Lakelyn, it's a fun scavenger hunt. We haven't seen her be aggressive towards other animals, other than tormenting the cats. But she enjoys her steady supply of bones. A few weeks ago, though,  she came trotting up the driveway with a doughnut in her mouth. A doughnut?! Maybe the resident wildlife have started making her coffee and pastries for cleaning up the woods...

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Solar Powered Clothes Drying Apparatus

I grew up with a clothesline in my backline yard. My grandparents had clotheslines. Our first home had a clothesline. I bought a drying rack for using on our porch at our apartment. And last year, for mothers day, I got a clothesline here. I'm sentimental like that ;-)

We've used cloth diapers on both kids and the sun is an awesome bleaching agent for them. And I challenge you to find something that smells better than line dried sheets. One of my favorite things about spring is hanging out the bedding and putting on spring quilts. Gosh, I sound weird, don't I?

We also hung out outside this morning. We saw about a dozen robins in the backyard!  A sure sign of spring. I can't wait to hear the peepers! We did a little work preparing the garden.

So many exciting things coming this spring! And if you haven't checked it out yet, here's my latest Grit blog. And welcome to my new readers! 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Foto Friday

Out my kitchen window today. I'm looking forward to the hills turning green again!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

CSA Thursday

The temperature is starting to rise and I'm itching to get in the garden. Thankfully, to help alleviate some of my longing, we got our box of CSA goodies today from Fish Hawk Acres.

In the spinner is mixed salad greens and spinach, watercress, bok choy, purple potatoes, and eggs. I'm anxious for the weather to break so we can get back down to the greenhouse and see what Pati has up her sleeve!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Heirloom Bean Soft Tacos

We have found one of our favorite things to grow in the garden...dried beans! They are super easy to grow. Throw your seeds in the ground, watch them grow, let them die off in the fall, and harvest the bean pods. Once you shell the beans, they are ready for storage. Voilà!

When I went out Sunday to pick up a few groceries before the projected storm, I had a hankering for some guacamole. I picked up some avocados and a guacamole seasoning packet. I normally make it from scratch, but Dan likes it and I thought we'd change it up a bit. The avocados were ripe yesterday, so "Mexican" it was for dinner.

We try to eat a good deal of vegetarian meals and beans fit the bill. We like bean tacos, so I pulled out our Kenearly Yellow Eye beans out of the pantry and got to work. I didn't soak them overnight, so I did a "fast" soak by covering some in a pot with water and boiled them rapidly for about 3 minutes. I then put the lid on and let them sit for an hour or so.

I pulled the trusty pressure cooker out and got it ready to cook. Pressure cooking beans can take some trial and error. I looked over our manual and settled on 4 minutes to cook them. They ended up a little overcooked so I adjusted my plans and made a refried bean like taco and they turned out great!

Heirloom Bean Tacos

2 C Kenearly Yellow Eye beans, cooked
Small onion
Cumin, chili powder, and salt to taste

Cook the beans by any method you prefer. Cook the onion until soft in butter or oil. Add the beans and 1/4 cup water to pan. Add cumin, chili powder, and salt to suit your tastes. Once the spices are well mixed, mash the beans with a potato masher or whatever you have available. Cook a little while longer to allow flavors to combine.

Put the bean filling on a tortilla of your choice. Add in any toppings you prefer.

We put ours on homemade flour tortillas and topped them with grated cheddar cheese and guacamole. They were awesome!

Monday, March 3, 2014

We Are Getting Chickens!

Ever since we bought our land almost 5 years ago, I've dreamed of getting chickens. I requested hatchery catalogs and pored over them like a kid leafing through the Sears Wish Book. It was on our to do list when we first finished our house. An unexpected baby took precedence, so our plans were put on hold. But, this is the spring we will start our flock!

I plan to share every step of the journey here! I hope to share information and experience, both good and bad, so that other people might find inspiration in starting their own flock. I'll begin today with how we chose our chickens.

As with anything we do, we like to read as much as we can before jumping in. There are a myriad of chicken books out there, but here are the ones we have for reference:

I'm also currently reading Chick Days by Jenna Woginrich. If you don't read Jenna's blog, you should check it out!

One of the first decisions we had to make was what breed of chicken we wanted. We had one major requirement and it was that they be docile. With two young kids, we won't tolerate any aggressive animals. The other things we "wanted" in our flock was bigger hens, cold hardy, and an acceptable laying rate. The breed that stood out to us was the Buff Orpington.

From what I've read, the orpington is a docile breed and quite suitable to be around young children. I even read one woman's story of her young son pushing her rooster around in his Tonka truck. I happen to know a little boy who would be in hog heaven if that happened!

Once we decided on breed, it was a matter of deciding where to get them.  There are a ton of hatchery choices. A homesteading board I frequent suggested finding a local farmer who hatches out chicks to keep it local. And some have suggested that hatcheries as much like factory farms. That is something we want to avoid and as with the majority of our choices when it comes to our food, we want to keep it local.

We lucked out in finding a farmer at our local Farmers Market who raises Buff Orpingtons. We requested 20 chicks earlier this winter. When I went to the winter market yesterday, she said that we could get chicks as early as March 9. We decided to wait until her next hatch date in early April. Dan is somewhat disappointed we didn't go with a hatchery simply because he wanted to get a call from the post office saying our chicks were in. Then he could say he went to the post office to pick up chicks .... Hardee har har.

We fared well in the storm!  Still have power and while we did get some snow, it was nothing record breaking. Temperatures in the 40s this week should help melt it off quickly. And tonight I'm testing out some of our heirloom beans in some soft tacos. If they work out, I'll share the recipe tomorrow!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Storm Preparations

I love my smart phone. I'm able to snap quality pictures with it which is important with two young kids. I use it to video chat with my family. It shows me the weather.

Normally, the temperature is shown in a blue box at the top of my phone. But today, it turned red. And that means one thing. Nasty weather is on the way. A winter storm warning with a possibility of ice accumulation and 6+ inches of snow.

We didn't run our to buy up all the toilet paper or bread (I'll be baking that tomorrow). No, we spent the day at my mom's house splitting firewood. And by we were splitting, I mean Dan and my step dad while the kids hung out with my mom and I.

Living in a passive solar home, we rely on the sun as our main heat source. And how wonderful it feels when the sun does shine! Our woodstove is our secondary heat source, but it has seen a lot of use this winter. With the polar vortex and sub zero temperatures, parts of this winter have been down right brutal. And so we have burned through most of our wood. So, it feels wonderful knowing that a truck full of wood is in our garage ready to keep us warm this week and hopefully for the rest of winter as well.

And while we were gone, this crazy thing happened not far from our house!