Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I Don't Want a Cell Phone

But I have a cell phone.

But I don't use it.

Well, I use it when I want to use it.

But no one has the number.

Well, my husband has the number and so does anyone who has my children when I don't.

I don't have the number memorized.

But it is written on blue painters' tape and taped to the back of the phone.

I don't check messages.

I often forget to turn it on when I say I will.

I like not being able to be reached.

But I like having a way to call someone should I need help.

I don't text.

But I feel a little sorry for folks when they text my home phone and I never get the message.

But not bad enough to consider learning to text.

I don't want a smart phone.

I'm already on my computer more than necessary.

I don't want to be lured out of reality more than I'm already lured.

My reality needs me.

I don't want a cell phone.

But it kind of feels like I'm the only one.



For those of you with questions:
1) No, I shouldn't start sentences with the word "but".  But I like to anyway.
2) Yes, I always let my husband know where I'm going in case I forget to turn my phone on.
3) I have an old model tracfone that I spent about $30 on.  Each month, for $10 I get continued service and a bunch of minutes I never use.  Cell phone tip: a phone that's rarely used looks new for a very long time.
4) When our kids learn to drive, they will get a nifty tracfone, too. Pin It

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Nesting Spurts of Semi-Ridiculousness

One day last week, mid morning, I followed a link on facebook.  It was about making 30 days of freezer crock pot meals for busy, back to school days.  Hmm.

I tend to avoid crock pot recipes in general because 1) most crock pot meals are meat-based and two out of the five of us don't like meat and 2) I don't want to spend time in the morning (or evening, for that matter) putting things into the crock pot because it's often hard for me to get going in the morning- I don't need one more thing to do.

But freezer crock pot meals...that would mean thawing them the night before and just dumping them in the crock pot in the morning.  They would provide occasional meat meals for those of us to like meat.  They would provide me with a sense of control over meal planning which makes our busy fall seem less daunting.

Sadie and I printed out about seven of the recipes, made a grocery list and we headed out to the store. We got home around noon.  I told the kids they were on their own for lunch (they loved the idea of multiple snacks instead of lunch) and I set up shop.

Side note:  Sometimes, I feel like I am incredibly lazy (and I am) but then other times, I have these crazy notions and launch into adrenaline-driven activity.  There's no rhyme or reason to it.  I just have to ride the wave.

I set up a raw meat station, a veggie chopping station, a cheese station, and a bagging station. I got out my sharpie for labeling, lined up my recipes, elicited some kid-chopping help, and jumped in. Six weary hours later (the adrenaline wore off after the one and a half), I left the kitchen with 15 dinners prepped and in the freezer.


Then, for fear that I would forget what I froze and had available, I made a list for the side of the fridge with a few side ideas and what, if anything, I needed to have available to go with particular meals.  Yes, most are chicken-based.  Yes, using gallon freezer bags to freeze meals takes up very little freezer space (much less than 8x8 or 9x13 pans which is usually how I do it).  No, I have no idea how anything will taste since I haven't tried any of these before.  I basically followed her recipes except that for the Chicken Curry, instead of adding peas to the freezer bags, I'm going to add our frozen chopped spinach at the end of the cooking time.  Also, I'm going to add some frozen broccoli to the end of the Chicken Curry cooking time.


Some of the meals are contained in that box with some rolls and tortillas (to go with the meals) on top.  

Part of this has to do with the nesting phase I'm currently in.  Moving from summer life to homeschooling life is a pretty drastic change for me.  Instead of birthing a baby soon, I'm going to be birthing a school that needs to run semi-smoothly for all our sakes.

And so, I've been squirreling away food, purging and donating unwanted items, repainting rooms (notice the kitchen color change?), rearranging bedroom furniture, vaccuuming curtains (yes, it's a thing) and pulling our books together.

My prayer is that when it comes time to switch gears next week, I can quiet my mind and body and focus on the glorious task at hand- learning with my children.

Does anyone else nest when there isn't a baby involved?
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Monday, August 17, 2015

Beekeeping Self-Talk in August

In our third year of beekeeping (a.k.a. attempting to keep bees), my beekeeping self-talk banter goes something like this...

"The hives look great!  This is going to be the best year ever!"

"Wow!  We've already been able to split several hives and we even caught a swarm- we have six colonies this summer!"

"Wait.  All of sudden, they've stopped building comb.  This one doesn't even have a queen.  We'll give them more brood to raise a new one.  They'll do fine.  There's still a lot of summer left."

"Oh my word.  The hives look lousy.  They're not building comb.  The colonies are small and not booming like they should be.  What are we doing wrong?  What should we be doing instead?  Okay, we'll start feeding light syrup to encourage building and then soon switch to heavy so they can store more for winter."

"They're all going to die again this winter.  I just know it.  We can try to combine colonies to bolster them and keep feeding them but they're likely going to all die.  We stink.  Beekeeping is hard."

"They won't die.  They'll be fine.  The bees know what they're doing.  They'll figure it out.  The more hands-off the better.  Well, except for all those ways we could help them along.  What was all that I read three years ago?  When in doubt, offer food, right?  I'll just make more syrup.  Maybe they just missed us while we were away.  Yep, that's probably it.  Everything will be juuuust fine."


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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Vacation: Is it worth it?

My extended family goes on vacation together at the end of July every year.  It's clearly the best time-choice considering that we go up into Canada and spend a week on a lake there.  Late July means less black flies, hot sun and warm water.

And yet no matter how hard we try, it's a crumby time of year to get away.  Every year, Jamey tries his hardest to take into consideration when we'll be away as he plants corn.  He plants different varieties and staggers the plantings, always attempting to hug either side of vacation week.  Instead, every year, we are up late the night before leaving husking, blanching, cutting, and freezing corn.

The tomatoes love to send us off on our travels, too.  It's as if they're using all our well-timed and planned energy against us and instead fight their darnedest to see us off.  And so, the day before we leave (when I should be packing) I'm washing, de-stemming and halving tomatoes to be thrown in the freezer for when I return.


Then there is all the preparations needed for leaving that has nothing to do with packing and preparing a week's worth of food to take along.  One teenage family friend to come and feed/water the pigs, ducks, chickens, and cat (and collect eggs).  A neighbor to gather mail, pick ripening corn and mow for us (they were so gracious to offer to mow).  A cousin's son to cut, bunch and put out sunflowers to keep Sam's business going (Sam paid him, of course) and not waste the yellow beauties.  Oh, and the hamster (did you know Sadie now has a hamster?) was passed to a friend to be hamster-sat (not to be mistaken for the action of sitting on a hamster).

I know that people who live on real farms rarely go anywhere and I completely understand why.

And then there's the coming home.  The long drive overnight to avoid traffic, lines at the border as well as bathroom and food stops (most everyone is sleeping).  After crashing into bed for a few hours of sleep, we're up working hard to unpack and make up for all the time lost while we were away.

My first order of business was to check on our peaches- were they still there?  Well, it appears that our strange carpet tacking strips did the job and kept peach-hungry critters at bay!



We harvested peaches and winter squash, picked tomatoes and peppers, tended to the animals, unpacked and did load after load after load of laundry.  Sam and I worked on getting more sunflowers out by the road.  The hamster needed collecting and we checked in with friends and neighbors who helped hold down the funny farm fort while we were away.




But it's not over yet.  The next several days meant batch after batch of tomato sauce, canning and freezing peaches, sticky floors, piles of dishes, tired legs and feet, and one dehydrated body (why do I always forget to drink when I'm working in the kitchen)?

So.  I pose this question to you.  For all the preparation before and all the catch up work after, is going away worth it to you?

For me, it is.  It's a hiatus.  It's a dream within a dream. It's time to reconnect with nature, family and myself.  And, truth be told...I'd do it six times a year if I could.

 view from the boat

 view from alone time in the cabin

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Blueberry Almond Coffeecake

I love a good blueberry coffeecake and I thought my blueberry-coffeecake-life was complete with this recipe.  But then I stumbled upon this one here and discovered that I have enough love for both.  It is moist, chock-full of blueberries and topped with a sugary crunch.  If you have blueberries about, give this one a try and join in the love.


Blueberry Almond Coffeecake (adapted from Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2001)

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 cups fresh blueberries, divided
1 1/3 cups whole milk (or buttermilk)
4 tbsp. butter, melted
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 large eggs

heaping 1/2 cup whole almonds, chopped in food processor
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.  Add 2 cups of blueberries and combine gently.  Set aside.  In another bowl, whisk together milk, melted butter, almond and vanilla extracts and eggs.  Add to the flour mixture and stir gently until just combined.  Pour batter evenly into a 9 x 13 inch pan coated with cooking spray and sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of blueberries on top.

In a small bowl, combine chopped almonds, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle evenly over the batter and blueberries.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until a knife in the center comes out clean.  Enjoy warm, room temperature or chilled.


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Monday, July 13, 2015

A Long, Summerly Post

I know I've been a bit quiet lately.  It's not because there hasn't been much going on...it's the opposite actually.  Below is a glimpse into our summer thus far. 

Our gardens are doing great thanks to plenty of rain and time to keep after the weeds.  I know I've said this before but if you want to maintain projects like a big garden, you have be home to care for it. This is our new side-garden.  We moved it up beside the house when the pigs needed space. Since it's up by the road and right next to our house, we keep up with it better and get to enjoy looking at it out our windows.


(back garden)

During a weekend of company, there was a cherry pie that was overlooked in the fridge.  Having been inspired by this friend, I chopped the whole pie up, gently stirred it into slightly softened vanilla ice cream and refroze it.  I might just bake pies to chop them up from now on.  Swoon.


Our zucchini plants are producing like crazy. One day, I set out to quadruple my zucchini bread recipe to make 8 loaves (the number that fit in my oven) only to discover I had calculated wrong and was in the process of mixing up enough for 16 loaves.  Suffice to say, I'm done making zucchini bread for the summer.


Speaking of zucchini, we've discovered baked zucchini fries.  Cut them into spears (slicing away the seeds), coat them in beaten egg and dredge them in seasoned bread crumbs.  Bake them on greased cookie sheets for 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees (or until they start to brown) then dip them in ketchup or tomato sauce (as you're eating them). My six year old even likes them and that's saying something.



While our blueberry bushes are producing a small handful of berries every few days, it feels like a tease so we went blueberry picking.  I am so thankful for pick your own places that don't spray.  And we lucked out- the morning we went was cool and cloudy and the patch was empty.  We were able to pick along side the owner- a sweet, sweet lady- who gave me some blueberry growing tips amid lovely conversation.


Is there anything better than getting to hang your laundry outside?  Even if your mama has the clothes pin basket at the other end of the line?  I think not.



Peaches.  Will we ever get to eat them?!  The odds seem to be against us as either we lose the blossoms to late frosts or critters climb up the trees and eat every blessed one the day before we intend to pick.  This year, the frosts didn't get them and we wanted to make sure the critters don't either because they are LOADED under all those leaves.  So.  We saved the tacking strips from our carpet runner on the stairs and lashed them to the trunks.  Try and climb up them this year, you greedy buggers!




Not only were we able to split some of our bee colonies this spring but Jamey caught his first swarm this month. If I can remember how, I'll post the video soon. I wasn't home so he kindly set up his phone to document the event so I could see.  The swarm was probably one of our own, but it gave us another split, so all our hives are now full- three top-bars and three Langstroths.  And bees are busy everywhere.
 




Do our pigs look bigger to you?  While fully pastured pigs do grow slower than pigs raised on grain, it's rewarding to see them fill out and know that they are eating excellent cuisine.  In addition to being rotated through four paddocks in their yard, our friends bring us leftover garden produce from their CSA business and farmer's market stand.  Below you can see them feasting on summer squash. When they're not eating like people, they enjoy all the weeds we can send their way.  Weeding has taken on a whole new purpose around here thanks to them.



Speaking of pigs, I only wish I had done some videoing the other night.  Spock (the largest pig) took advantage of the electric fence being off (the line had become grounded in an inconspicuous place) and lifted a large gate with his snout.  He pushed it open and waltzed his way over to the chicken yard where he lifted that gate off it's hinges.  When we saw him, he was happily slurping up the chicken scraps we had thrown in their yard. Jealous much? Jamey chased that pig all over the back yard, somehow managing to keep him out of the gardens where he surely would've discovered the corn and hunkered down.  After watching the chase for a minute, I came to my senses and grabbed the metal bowl we use to carry scraps outside.  As I approached Spock, cowering in the weeds and trying to hide from his pursuer, I said, "Spock, get in that gate!" He, along with another pig who sneaked out as well, promptly walked back in the gate.  I'd like to think he was obeying me but likely he wanted scraps and was tired of the chase.  A working electric fence is our new best friend.

When we're stuck inside, our new favorite pastime is coloring beautiful pages from this book. We make photocopies of the pages so we can enjoy the book longer.  It's calming and aids well to conversation and read-alouds.


And last, but not least, let me introduce you to our new ducks.  They are Khaki Campbell running ducks.  They flutter and fly as much as chickens or maybe even a little less so.  We started with the four you see below but we lost one the very first night, likely to a predator.  After an intense game of chase-the-untame-ducks-around-the-yard, we corralled them into the chicken duck tractor where they'll live full time for awhile until they learn to call it home.  Then we can hopefully let them out each morning after they lay and shut them in at night.

We've only collected one egg so far (they've had quite the transition) but we hear they're excellent layers.  Their conversation is as, if not more, entertaining than that of chickens.  If they prove themselves worthy, we may increase their numbers instead of the chickens next spring.



I have two recipes to share that will hopefully come soon...this post is already long enough.  I hope you are having a wonderful summer!  Here's to hoping the second half will crawl along instead of fly by like the first half has :-).

Blessings,
Jane
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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Weird (to us) Looking Gardens

Ever since we've lived here (ten years this January), we've used the no-till gardening method- using lots of straw, leaves and grass clippings to keep weeds down and moisture in.  We had several very successful years using this method.  Our gardens thrived and were a pleasure to walk around in since our shoes never got muddy!  But the past couple summers life has gotten busier and we slacked on making sure there was enough mulch put down.  When you don't lay a thick enough layer of mulch the weeds NOTICE and they take full advantage of your full schedule, lack of mulch, and they. take. over.

So this year, we decided to till and hoe.  Because of this we have strange-looking gardens because...well, of the tilling and hoeing.  This may not be weird to you, but it sure looks weird to us.


The gardens still aren't perfect.  There are still a few weeds and other garden-relating things hanging about but to us, they look rather neat and tidy...in a dirty sort of way.




The pros are that we don't have to go hunting for mulch and hoeing out small weeds is a breeze.  The cons are that moisture isn't readily available under the (nonexistent) mulch (although we've had a wet spring which has helped) and our shoes get muddy when we walk the rows after it rains.


sunflowers (which we never mulched)

It's been a welcome change of pace and our gardens look more "normal" to others.  We occasionally mulch with grass clippings as we have them but I'm still not used to our gardens' new look.  Don't get me wrong- I like it. I just have to remind myself that you can't judge a garden by its naked paths...or something like that.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Gratitude

Every once in a while I happen upon a most overwhelming feeling of gratitude.  Sometimes it comes out of the blue and other times something happens that reminds me of all I have to be thankful for. This week I'm swimming in it.  I hope that in the midst of your life- whatever it looks like- you can feel a smidgen or an ocean of it, too.

I'm thankful for preteen boys who make chickens jump for sour cherries.



I'm thankful for little girls who love picking mulberries and...


...who take their job as cherry stoner very seriously.



I am thankful for the ridiculous amount of beauty that surrounds me and for those moments when I actually take the time to appreciate it.




I am thankful for the promise of things to come.  All I have to do is wait.




This week, I am even thankful for weeds.  {A true sign I'm drowning in it.}


But most of all, I am thankful for the gift of life and the family I'm entrusted to care for and be loved by.



It's almost too much. Pin It
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