Friday, October 31, 2014

Stocking the Pantry

I've shared my love of my pantry. I am terrible at meal planning. Really and truly horrible. Every time I try it, we end up wasting more food than eating it seems. So, I prefer to have my pantry stocked with staples.

A friend recently told me about a food buying club. We generally get our bulk foods from a co op. But! We can order food from the same place as the co op for much less. I was sold! I placed a large order on Monday and picked it up today.

We got two types of rice, black beans (which we hope to grow our own next summer), salt, some spices, sugar, peanut butter (9# worth), green and red lentils, applesauce, frozen peas, steel cut oats,  raisins, dried cranberries, and a 50# bag of flour. It feels so nice to have our pantry full now! Do you meal plan? Shop in bulk?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

On the Needles - October 30

Wow. October 30 already! Where has this year gone?! I'm glad I got the kids fall hats knitted a few months ago. I think hats are my first love in terms of knitting. I plan to knit each of my kids a new hat each year. Hopefully they can pass them onto their children one day! I knitted them before I started this weekly update, so here's a picture:

I got to work this week on Dan's slippers. Wow. He has big feet. You know what they say about big feet! They need big slippers! Gosh...what were you thinking??

He didn't give me specifics on color, so I chose some blue and gold and WVU. Speaking of WVU - ESPN College Game Day is in Morgantown this weekend for the game! Anyhow... I apparently ordered twice as much yarn as I needed to for this project, so I will be able to make something else blue and gold. What do you think I should make?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Farm Gathering

I got to have a mom's day today! In the middle of the week! Can you believe it? When I heard about a local food expo going on in our area, I was interested. Since it fell on a Wednesday, I wasn't sure I'd be able to make it. But, as you may or may not know, my hubs is pretty sweet. He took the day off to hang with the kids :-)

I knew it was going to be a good day when I found out Fish Hawk Acres was going to be catering the event. The $10 fee was more than worth it for the lovely breakfast and lunch we had! The idea for the expo was to bring farmers and buyers (as in restaurants and stores) together to learn more about the opportunities to mesh local foods.

I met up with my friend Laura from Sweet Wind Farm and Cheri from Bonds Creek Farm. We attended a morning breakout session on alternative certifications for farms. It is a costly process for a small farm to become certified organic. A farm can follow organic practices and instead of shelling out the moolah for that organic label, they can become certified naturally grown (CNG). It seemed like a viable option for small farms in the area!

Then it was time for lunch. Yum! I may have had seconds of dessert. No judgements, please....

The first afternoon session I attended was for fruit production. There were so many good points raised in this talk! What's the first thing that sells out at a Farmers Market? Fruit! This talk focused on berries, mainly strawberries, blueberries,  and raspberries. It really got the wheels turning for Dan and I to work with our wild black raspberries to increase productivity. The canes are already there, so there's no cost involved other than our time. And we absolutely adore the berries. In case you don't remember the loveliness that is wild black raspberries...

The last talk of the day that I listened in on was by a poultry professor with WVU on raising backyard birds. He was a great presenter, even though Laura and I didn't agree totally with what he was saying. It opened some good dialog, though!

There was a "pop up" market outside after the event. I picked up some more honey and grabbed some honey chapstick. I'm hoping to start making my own soon, but this is pretty fantabulous for now. And I came home to two happy kiddos!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

On The Needles - October 25

I showed a sneak peak of some yarn I got earlier this week the other day...

The yarn is from Knit Picks. They were having a sale and well, I couldn't pass it up. And as an aside, you never ask a woman the size of her stash ;-)

The brown will be for some felted moccasins I'll be making for my mom and the blue and gold are for a pair of slippers just like mine for Dan. He told me he didn't care what color I used, so I chose WVU colors!

I didn't get a chance to cast on until Wednesday night and so I don't have much progress to show. Here's part of the first gold slipper:

It's actually a pretty quick knit. I hope to be starting some felting in the next week and a half or so! With cold weather on the way, I want to make sure everyone in the house has warm tootsies!

What's on your needles this week?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Library, How I Love Thee

We are big public library fans. As long as they have a big selection of Berenstain Bears books, we are good to go. They were a favorite of mine as a girl and now the kids have all my old books. They teach such awesome lessons in a fun way. Did you know that PBS also had a TV show? It's cute, but it drives me batty that they don't follow the books too well. Even Kole notices!

Anyhow...One of our favorite libraries has a special on their DVDs. You can rent 10 DVDs for 2 weeks for just $5! I don't know where else you can rent them for that cheap. And they have a good selection.

Today I picked up some new walking exercises to try out as well as plenty for the kids. I found the one Berenstain Bears we haven't yet seen. Dan wanted me to pick up The Lego Movie and I found the original Willy Wonka. The Johnny Depp version is a bit creepy. And Frozen. I do believe we are the last family with kids under 10 to not have seen Frozen yet.

Our favorite library is also linked up to a larger statewide digital library. I have an older Kindle and it works great to download some books on to read. And they have Berenstain Bears!

It really helps to have those resources around as a homeschool family. And for a homeschooling family that lives 35 minutes from the library.

We also love our mail man. Our driveway isn't for the faint of heart, but he delivers our packages rain or shine. If we aren't home, he leaves us a note in our mailbox that there's a package on the front porch. I was really excited for today's box! Be sure to check back tomorrow to see what I've cast on :-)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Reflections

Oh, Monday, you tease. My day started out with this pretty sunrise:

Over the weekend, I noticed a weird looking spot on my tooth. It seemed to come on quickly and had me kind of weirded out. I called the dentist when the office opened at 8 AM. Could I be there at 8:30? Why sure...says the girl still in her pajamas brewing some tea who lives 20 minutes from the office. I scrambled around to get ready and was out the door in under 5 minutes. Having short hair comes in handy!

When the hygienist was cleaning my teeth, she said the spot by my gum line was a cavity. She said it's common for people who take good care of their teeth after "years of brushing." I wasn't sure if I should feel good about that or old. All my other teeth looked good...until the x-ray. I'm going to throw this out there...I'm a terrible flosser. There. I said it. I don't floss every day. Or even every other day. Let's just leave it at that.

So, I have one cavity in between two teeth and a few more getting their act together. My dentist told me that with regular flossing, I should be able to stop them. So, regular flossing it is. Who's with me??

In other Monday news, the "rectum wrekcer" egg I shared on Facebook over the weekend was indeed a double yolker. And I love how orange the yolks are from free ranging!

That's the only dose of sunshine we saw here today. Unfortunately. I should probably sign off as I'm writing this, in secret, on my phone while Little J is jumping in her bed. That's what I get for allowing her a late nap.

How was your Monday? Let's take the floss pledge together!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Morning Commute

I thought I'd try something a little different this morning. I videoed the chickens yesterday morning as they were released from their night time prison, aka the coop. Enjoy!

And as a side note, please ignore my sounding like I'm running out of breath on the way back up. I'm getting over a cold.

The Morning Commute:

Let me know what you think! It took almost an entire day to upload the video. We do have DSL out here in the sticks, but that doesn't always equate to high speed :-)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rex, The Drunken College Roo

Earlier this summer, Rex, our young roo started acting strange. He'd fall back on his legs and almost sit down. It got progressively worse to the point where he would fall down and spent most of his days under the deck. He was supposed to be out wooing his ladies! And swooping in to save them from any aerial attacks (thankfully, we've had none, but still!).

I checked the coop for empty beer bottles. I made sure he wasn't toting a brown paper bag. He sure was acting like a drunken college kid. He was fine otherwise - comb was nice and healthy, poop looked normal, and no other signs of illness. He still ate like a pig. So, I went off to Dr. Google. Since he was the only member of the flock with an issue, I ruled out the common things like Maerks and coccidiosis. It appeared he was suffering from a vitamin E deficiency.

I'm in several Facebook groups, one of which is a natural chicken care group, moderated by Susan Burek. Susan is a trained herbalist and is an advocate for a more natural approach to chicken care. I posed the question on the page as to what was the best course of action. Some people had dealt with a similar scenario and some people ended up having to cull their deficient chickens. I really didn't want to do that, so I tried the other suggestion:

Yes, that's infant vitamins right there. Oh, and the dogs rear end. Hey, that's what happens when I forget to get a picture in the daylight. I was told that if it was a vitamin deficiency, a couple of drops of Poly-Vi-Sol (without iron!!!) should do the trick.

So, we tried it. Poor Rex, defender of his brood, fell over when we went to pick him up for his first dose. We noticed some improvement in him and so we continued for a few days. We didn't ask our neighbors to give it to him while we were out of town over the Labor Day holiday, but we picked back up when we got home.

And you know what? He's improving! He now goes out and ranges with his ladies during the day. He squawks when he hears the telltale screech of a hawk. He still occasionally bumbles, but we are on the up and up.

He's on the right above. He's a really pretty guy. He's a Buff Orpington and is a deep yellow color. He's big in comparison to our hens. And he's pretty docile. He has to be to stay around these parts!

*I wanted to share this because I know many times people are looking to try more natural approaches to animal care. It worked for us and if you ever run into a vitamin deficient chicken, I hope it works for you as well.

Sharing over at The Homesteading Hippy for the weekly blog hop!

And here as well!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

On The Needles - October 16

Guys, I am really loving this weekly knitting update. It really keeps me on track with my projects!  I hope you are enjoying them as well!

Last week I shared with you how mommy brain took over and I completely flubbed up a slipper. Well, I got to work and knitted two more this week.

These slippers, called Trim Clogs, are a double thick slipper. They are meant to be felted and put together. Just to give you an idea, here's what they look like together before felting:

I'm working on my photography skills - the light is slightly off in this picture. But, you can see how ginormous the slippers are before felting. This was my first felting project!

You've probably already felted something and you might not realize it! That perfectly comfortable wool sweater that accidentally got thrown in the washer and then the dryer...and came out looking like it would fit your 5 year old? That's felting! Felting changes the structure of the wool fibers through heat and friction. It is an irreversible change (see that - getting slightly scientific on you!). I like it because it hides any not-so-nice stitches in your knitting. Like my gussets. I stink at gussets. I hope to master them so that I can start knitting socks that look a little better.

Anywho, back to the slippers and felting. I did one slipper at a time. I really should have read the instructions in the book first, but there were pictures. And so I thought I could do it without reading. You know, kind of like a husband might. It took a while for my first slipper to felt because I started out with cold water. D'oh! Initially you are *supposed* to put your work in hot water and let it cool down. My second time around went faster. Felting is just like kneading bread dough. But in this case, you end up with nice warm wool slippers that you can't eat :-)

I used a bowl on my kitchen island. This way I could work the slippers and still watch my kidlets play. Have I ever mentioned I love our open floor plan? Because I do!

The transformation is actually pretty cool. You go from a nice, loosely knitted slipper to a thick slipper with no visible stitches.

I put some crumbled up newspaper in the slipper after fitting it to my foot. This will help it hold its shape while it dries. The second slipper felted much quicker since I started with hot water. I've been saying lately that I need to get back to exercising and I think I can check that off the list today!

They're both drying on top of our woodstove now. I'm anxious to wake up in the morning and slip them on! I'll probably add some anti slip something or other on the bottom. They were a lot of fun and I think I'm going to try more felting projects in the future. Next up will be slippers for Dan and then on to starting my Christmas knitting.

Be sure to check back tomorrow - I'm going to share how we helped Rex Roo with his vitamin deficiency!

Sharing over at The Homesteading Hippy for the weekly blog hop!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Our Dye Free Life

It is so amazing the effect, both good and bad, that food can have on a body. I could go on and on about different foods - like, how after a rough day, Dan and I sometimes make a small batch of chocolate chip cookies. Or how exciting it is to have asparagus pee in the spring. Oh wait...was that too much?

I digress. Earlier this year, we started noticing some behavioral changes in Kole. His attention span was non existent. He'd have terrible meltdowns. After a meltdown or once he regained his ability to pay attention, we would try to figure out what was wrong. He would always break down in tears and tell us he didn't know. I began to look at what could be causing it.

We love real food and we eat a pretty clean diet. But, we all have our vices. We'd still enjoy some M & M's on occasion. And the kids love their fruit snacks, especially ones from grandparents. The thing that became quite clear, after examining our diet, was the presence of artifical colors. It wasn't a large amount - we only ran into them in "treats." So, we tried to eliminate them. And you know what? Kole's behavior rebounded and we had our sweet little boy back. 

The problem is that artificial colors are in EVERYTHING. From cake mix to fruit snacks, drink boxes to marshmallows. Yes, marshmallows. They have blue dye. They're white and they have blue dye?! It forced us to clean our diet up even further and we have removed even more of the nasty stuff from our diet. I'm glad I make our own bread, because some bread even has it! Oy.

Kole tells us now that he feels funky when he has anything with it. We are vigilant, but sometimes a treat from family or a soccer game snack (that's a whole different post!) slips in. 

Kole loves his sweets. It must have something to do with the fact that that is like all I ever wanted to eat when I was pregnant with him! He thinks sprinkles are fun. Who doesnt, right? But, sprinkles are essentially artificially colored sugar. So, a no go for us. I ran across some dye free jimmies and had to pick them up for Kole.

He was thrilled and so am I. We made our favorite marble cupcakes and added some sprinkles. 

While a dye sensitivity isn't considered an allergy,  we take it seriously. I am so glad we already do so much in terms of cooking from scratch and eating healthy that the change in diet was not dramatic. I wonder how many children with ADHD or other behavioral problems might just be sensitive to something in their food?

Do you know of anyone with a food dye sensitivity?

Sharing over at The Homesteading Hippy for the weekly blog hop!

And also check out the great posts over at the homestead barn hop!

Monday, October 13, 2014

A New Favorite

Happy gloomy Monday morning!! At least the rain is helping our kale and broccoli. Speaking of growing food, I've mentioned before about my desire to remineralize our soil to grow nutrient dense food. The other day on Instagram, a photo of the current issue of Acres showed up on the feed of Jenny Prince. Jenny is a big advocate of growing nutrient dense food.

I had to pick up some layer feed yesterday and I saw it on the magazine rack. I'm pretty sure it called my name! So, it came home with me. 

I love me some Mother Earth News and Grit, don't get me wrong. But, boy does this table of contents look yummy! And this! 

For those of you who don't know, before I became known mainly as Mommy, I was a chemist. I worked with a scanning electron microscope in both undergraduate and graduate school. I have a MS in Chemistry. I much prefer being known as Mommy, but I do miss that intellectual stimulation that science gave me. Sooo....This is PERFECT! I love the references to journal articles.

And this article was great! Since we are thinking about getting a cow in the future, I thoroughly enjoyed this. I still think getting goats first is the right step. And a local Nigerian Dwarf breeder has two does available now. Anyone want to contribute to the goat fund? Hopefully in the spring, unless something happens before!

What's your favorite magazine?

Friday, October 10, 2014

On the Needles - October 10

Where has this week gone? Between a visit from an old friend, playdates, and soccer, this week has gotten away from me! Oh, and a teething almost 20 month old.  That's been fun...

I have gotten some time to knit, though! I made two pumpkin hats. They are a fun, quick knit. And they make wonderful gifts. I also made Little J matching slippers to Kole's rabbit and fox. It was my first time adjusting a pattern and it fits her perfectly!

The blue slippers on the left are the first part of my felted clog slippers I am making for myself. Slippers are really fun to knit as well. This is my first felting project and I'm looking forward to it, especially since it will cover up my imperfect gussets. I have to make two of each color and I am halfway there. I would be 75% there, but this happened....

Yeah...those are supposed to be the same size. Oops. That's what happens when you don't take notes. I *thought* I was a lot farther along in the pattern than I was. So, back to square one. I'm sure I could try to rip it out and add in some yarn and fix it. But, I don't have the patience for that. So, while Little J sleeps and Kole cuddles next to me watching a movie, I think it is the perfect time to start on the next one. Happy Friday! 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Baked French Toast Sticks

For lunch on Friday, Kole had some French Toast Sticks. He couldn't stop talking about them. I tried one and, well, it was ok, but not life changing. It was fried and kind of heavy on the stomach.

So, today he was asking if we could make some for lunch. While I'm not afraid of using fat to cook (please pass the butter!!), we don't fry foods. So, I went to trusty Google. I ran across this recipe and we decided to give it a go. I didn't have Texas toast, so I just used my sandwich bread.

I wish I could say it was a smashing success - I thought it tasted great, but Kole told me it was only a "little gooder" than the lunch he had on Friday. I'm sure tomorrow it will be the best thing he's ever had. He is only 4! But, it gave us the perfect opportunity to use some maple syrup - as if I needed a reason! I also had it drizzled on my steel cut oats for breakfast. What about you - what do you have for breakfast on chilly mornings?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Gallon of Pure Love

Yesterday, I travelled to Springs, Pa for the Annual Springs Folk Festival. I look forward to it every year. The biggest reason? This:

Yes, that's a gallon of pure Grade B PA Maple Syrup. I grew up a Grade A gal, but age has changed me. I'm in love with the depth of Grade B now. The real reason I like it? The price tag! $40 for a gallon. We love to support our WV farmers when we can, but my heart will always be in PA when in comes to maple syrup. When you're a maple princess, I think there is some sort of unspoken rule about a lifelong commitment to the real stuff.

There is an Amish community in the area and many have carts set up along the road to and from the festival. We visit the same family every year and that is where we found delicata squash! Yesterday, though, I picked up 2 pie pumpkins to roast. Dan wants to make hard cider and there is a cider press nearby where you can buy gallons of unpasteurized cider. I picked up five gallons, 3 for cider and 2 for drinking. When we start out orchard, one of our goals is to make cider yearly. Kole even asked Dan the other day, "Daddy, can we build our own press so we can make cider?" Now, who can say no to that!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

On The Needles - October 2

I'm thinking each week, I'll post about what's on my needles. Knitting really is a form of therapy for me and I try to do it on a regular basis. I had high hopes of knitting everyone slippers for Christmas. I don't think it will happen, so I'm focusing on getting slippers made for everyone in the house. Kole was up first, with a cute little fox and rabbit. He loves them! I need to add some anti-skid to the bottom, but he's set. Little J wants a pair, but her bitty feet are too tiny. I guess I'll have to try my hand at adjusting a pattern!

We have a birthday party this weekend and I love being able to knit up a quick gift. And I love, love, love this hat. I knitted one for Kole 3 years ago and he still talks about it. I'll have plenty of yarn leftover, so I'll either knit Jenna one or make another gift for someone.

Do you knit? What's currently on your needles?