Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bees in the Broccoli

On nice sunny days, the bees come out of their cluster to forage and take care of some housekeeping.  I've been sick and that caused me to not harvest my broccoli in a timely manner.  On my first day out of the house in several days, I'm happy to see the bees taking advantage of my delay.

Happy foraging,


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday Babies!

Our ladies are getting up there in age, and we knew we would have to address the decrease in eggs as time progressed.  Since our older ladies are our first chickens, we probably don't have the heart to harvest them for meat.  They will more than likely die from natural causes.  I do want to raise some meat birds eventually but that's down the road a bit.  My first meat endeavor will be the rabbits. 

We had already discussed raising some chicks in the spring since it has been a few years since we've done it, but the opportunity presented itself to get some chicks this week.  I just joined a local hobby farm group, and someone from that group was ordering chicks, so I decided to go ahead and get three.  I've never raised chicks in the winter, but I thought it would give us a head start on egg laying in the spring.  So, I'm giving it a go.  We got three new babies today, a silver-laced Wyandotte, a black Australorp, and a light Brahma.  We have been in love with the Wyandottes since we saw them at the state fair two years ago and vowed the next time we raised chicks we would get one.  Now we have one, and I'm so excited.  She is scratching around on the paper towels like she's digging to China. (The photo below was taken before I put down the paper towels.)  We also love the idea of having a solid black chicken so the Australorp fits the bill.  Plus they are supposed to be good layers.  I went back and forth about the Brahma because they aren't supposed to be great layers and are more for exhibition of the feathered feet.  And, we already have a part Brahma chicken, Vanilli.  She doesn't have the feathered feet, but she contributes something the other hens don't, a green egg.  Nate really was intrigued by the feathered feet, so I got one to make him happy.  The Brahma would not have been an ideal choice for me, but if Nate's happy, I'm happy.  So, there you go.  She's really cute though because she already has little feathers/down? on her feet!

I'm hoping since they will be introduced at a young age to the flock that Nappy will establish himself early on and not have the issue he has with the older hens.  Maybe his size will continue to play a factor, but maybe not.  I would love to see chicks hatched from my own hens one day.

They are all so adorable and the little cheeps just kill me!

Happy homesteading,



Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Cat and Her Stove

Our big purchase this year was our wood burning stove.  It has been installed for about a month now, and we've used it exclusively for our heat.  As a matter of fact, our thermostat is turned off.  Not having burned wood before, I didn't really know what to expect, and I had many questions floating around in my mind. 

Would we have enough wood for this year?  Maybe, but probably not for this year unless we buy some.  If we had known we were going to take this step, we could have planned better last year.  We have some wood from the trees we cut down earlier this year, and most of it was split at the time and stacked.  We've been burning this wood, but the stack is dwindling.  Now that we have a designated wood area, I have been working on splitting wood and stacking it, but that wood is earmarked for next year so it has plenty of time to dry.  We have been fortunate in that the weather has been very mild lately and we haven't had to use the insert daily.  This has helped make our wood last longer. 

Would the stove really heat the whole house?  I think we have a disadvantage because the insert faces away from the majority of the house.  If our fireplace were on an outside wall facing into the house, I think the air would circulate better.  So, no it doesn't heat the whole house in the sense central heating does.  I didn't expect it to, but what I've found is I like the wood stove heat better than the central heat.  Our stove does have a blower, so that helps circulate the air, and when I turn on the ceiling fan, that helps even more.  Of course, the room where the stove is installed is the warmest and the house gets a little cooler the further you move from the stove.  I actually like it this way.  One of the reasons we got the stove was because I felt like I froze all last winter with our central heat.  Admittedly, we kept the thermostat lower than most, but I never felt like I was warm.  The whole house felt the same, and there was nowhere "warm" to go.  Now, our thermostat reads about the same as last year, but I never feel cold because I can always go to a room that's warmer than another.  I can feel the subtle difference from room to room, and it's nice.  I guess I'm kind of like the little chicks under the brooder lamp.  If you're cold, go to the heat source.  If you're hot, move away from it. 

Who is going to split wood?  I couldn't expect Nate to do it all, and I actually thought it would be fun.  The only problem is I can't hit the broad side of a barn with an axe.  My hand eye coordination is really bad.  I took a tennis class in college, and it was ugly!  So, I started shopping for a wood splitter, a manual one not electric.  I could only find a few manual ones that were in our price range, but one stood out more than the rest, The Smart Splitter.  I watched the demonstration videos and read every review I could find.  Nate didn't really want to spend the money, but when I asked him if he was willing to split all of the wood, he changed his mind.  We were both skeptical about whether it would perform as advertised, but after using it for almost a month, I have to say, it is fabulous.  Now I'm the one splitting all of the wood, and I've found it's a great stress reliever after a tough day at work. 

Would the cats like it?  I already knew the answer to that one so it really didn't need asking.  They love it, especially Lucy.  She thinks it is her stove, so much that when you try to move her to add wood, she gets angry and yells at you and promptly moves right back to where she was camped in front.  It's a struggle but can you blame her?  She's almost 18 and what better way to spend her senior years than in front of a warm stove.  Poor Onyx has to find a spot near but not in front of it.   

Would we like it?  Yes, we do.  Now, when the electricity goes out, which it often does around our house, we'll have a heat source other than blankets.

Happy homesteading,



Monday, December 12, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Green Tomato Experiment

It's that time of year again when gardeners start to ponder what to do with all those green tomatoes.  Last year I posted about my experiments here.  The relish was a hit, and I made it again this year, and I have actually used the Green Tomato Cake recipe for some of my green peaches with great success.  Because I want to build a repertoire of recipes, I decided to try some new stuff.  With the plethora of green cherry and plum tomatoes, I made Dilled Green Tomatoes from my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving book.  They have only been aging for a few weeks, so it's probably a bit premature for a taste test, although I'm salivating thinking about them right now.  I'll have to give you an update when I do taste them.  My other preserving experiment came to me via this post:

Leigh decided to can her green tomatoes for frying at a later time.  Now, raise your hand if you love yourself some fried green tomatoes.  My hand is totalling waving in the air!  I didn't can mine, although I would in the future depending on how she says her turn out.  I decided to slice and freeze mine.  I sliced them on my mandolin about a 1/4 inch thick and froze them in a single layer on parchment paper.  I also diced up the shoulder like so

and froze the pieces in a single layer as well.  Once frozen, everything was put in freezer containers.  The diced tomatoes will be used in the Green Tomato Cake recipe at some point. 

You may wonder if my experiment worked, and I, too, wondered.  So, last night, with the last fresh green tomato I had and some frozen slices, I did a controlled experiment.  I did not defrost the frozen tomatoes, but breaded them straight from the freezer and put them immediately in the pan.  I breaded the fresh tomatoes with the same breading.  The frozen ones looked and tasted exactly like the fresh ones.

Yippee skippee.  Now, I can have fried green tomatoes all winter long. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Follow Me!

Howdy!  I just added a Follow By Email option on the blog.  So, sign up and get emails when I post something new, such as this post, which doesn't really contribute anything of significance to the blog's content.  I just want you to follow me by email is all. 

Happy homesteading,


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What a Waste!

While walking through the produce section last week at the grocery store, I saw a huge trash can full of discarded produce.  I asked the boy who was working that section what he was going to do with it.  He said they throw it away.  What?!  This trashcan was seriously full of produce.  I asked him if I could have it for my compost pile, and he said I could.  Together, we loaded up three big boxes and home they came with me.  I would say over half of it was in perfect condition.  I gave alot of it to the chickens and rabbits over several days, which they adored.  There were complete bunches of lettuce, pak choy, kale, swiss chard, carrots and mini pumpkins and winter squash, and all of it organic.  He said I can have as much as I want, just call the day I'm coming to let them know to hold it to the side.  I am still amazed at the quantity that was headed for the trash.  What a waste!  But, I'm glad to take it off their hands, rather than it ending up in the dumpster.  It could be a good source of greens for the animals, not to mention a boost to my compost pile.   

Happy homesteading,


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bee Report Card

My friend and fellow beekeeper, Deborah, came over a few days ago to go through our hive with me.  She has several years' experience keeping bees and I can use all the help I can get.  Last year, neither of our hives made it to winter, but this year we've made it, so I want to make sure we do everything we can to help them make it through the winter. 

The day was perfect, sunny and in the high 70s, and most of the bees were out foraging.  I must admit, Nate and I have been very discouraged with our beekeeping.  It seems like everything that can go wrong with a hive has for us.  So, I didn't have high hopes.  I expected Deborah to open the hive and go running from the scene.  Our bees have insisted on building burr comb on the frames despite our attempt to keep the bee space correct, so the top two supers were connected by comb extending from the bottom of one frame to the top of another.  A few of the frames were also connected by comb.  We had to pry them apart.  Deborah explained that they are going to build comb the way they want to build it, and we have to work around it.  Good enough for me.  But, the good news is the comb we cut away contained honey, so we put it in a bowl for them to collect and restore.  They had almost a full super of honey and more stored in the hive body.  We also had capped and uncapped brood, which means we still have an active queen.  We didn't have any queen cells, another plus.  One thing Deborah noted is the amount of drones in the hive.  Normally the drones are kicked out for the winter since they don't really contribute to the work force and are extra bodies to feed.  The weather has been so warm lately that the hive probably doesn't think it's winter yet, so it hasn't banished the drones.  Their days are numbered though.  One negative was that we have a high number of hive beetles, so we need to address them. 

I checked on them the next day, and they were all over the comb I cut out, collecting the honey and taking it back to the hive.  Deborah explained how to process the comb to clean and separate the wax from the junk.  Once the bees clean out the honey, I plan to get that done.  I see lip balm and other goodies in my future.

Overall, we're looking good for winter.  I would give us a B-.

Happy beekeeping,


Friday, November 18, 2011

From Nappy to Napoleon: The Rise of a Rooster

When got Nappy a few months ago, he was in a sad state.  Nate named him Napoleon because he was so much smaller than our big girls, yet he was expected to be the ruler of them all.  He also had a very funny walk, picking one leg up high before stepping, very military looking.  I started calling him Nappy because just look so nappy.  He was very sick, and he showed evidence of being picked on.  He slept most of the day for the first two weeks, and we really thought he was going to die.  Here are some before photos.  You can click on the photo for a larger view.  Note the dull eyes, lack of tail feathers, only two to call his own, and scabs on his comb.  He also smelled terrible! 

Two months later, under our care, he is really thriving.  His tail feathers have returned, his eyes are bright, he has put on some weight, and he runs around the chicken yard like a playground.  It's amazing how just a clean fostering environment improves health.  While we have no previous experience with roosters, we know he is showing his rooster tendencies.  When a hawk flies over, he makes a trilling noise and all of the ladies immediately stop what they are doing and pay attention.  When we introduced Ginger a few days ago, he immediately jumped on her and started biting her ear lobe.  And he also does a silly dance around her with his neck feathers flared and his wing stretched out.  Chicken foreplay, no doubt.  Although they tolerate him, the other girls still won't have anything to do with him, so he has latched onto Ginger and hangs out with her during the day and sleeps beside her at night. 

While I still call him Nappy, he is becoming the ruler he was meant to be.  Here are some now photos.  I took one with Bella for scale.  She is an amazon next to him.

Happy homesteading,



Monday, November 14, 2011

Roasted Winter Squash Seeds

I've never thought of roasting winter squash seeds before until I came across this recipe a few days ago.  We're having roasted butternut squash tonight, so I thought I would give this recipe a whirl.  One review said not to wash the seeds, so I didn't, one because if washing is not really necessary why waste the time and water to do it.  I did make sure there were no strings hanging from them though.  I started them at 275 as given in the recipe, but after 10 minutes, they didn't seem to be doing anything at that temperature, so I cranked the up to 375.  That did the trick.  They turned out crunchy and tasty.  So, if you aren't saving your seeds, or have saved enough, roast them and enjoy.

Happy homesteading,


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Olive Oil Lamp

Years ago, before Nate and I started this homesteading journey, we bought a kerosene oil lamp.  I don't remember where we got it or what happened to it, but I remember using it and thinking it was really cool.  Maybe there has always been a homesteading seed in me just waiting to sprout.  Anyway, thinking about that lamp today, I started looking around online, and I came across olive oil lamps.  Better yet, I came across how to make one, which I did.  Here are the directions if you want to try your hand at making one.  It's a fun project.

I'm using it now, and it is casting a soft glow in the room, like a candle really.  But the great thing about it is I had everything necessary to make it.  I didn't need candle wicking or kerosene or even a fancy container.  I didn't have to go through the trouble of melting wax for candles either.  And, even though they are called olive oil lamps, you can burn many types of oil, including vegetable oil and animal fat, apparently.  Right now, I'm burning vegetable oil.  For the wick, I used a strip of cotton t-shirt.  I had to play around with it to keep it from smoking but I think I figured it out.  The article says to not let the wick be more than 1/4 inch in length above the surface of the oil, but really the shorter the better.  Basically the wire coil is directly on the surface of the oil and there is barely any wick above it. 

Making this lamp made me think of the button lamp Ma Ingalls made in The Long Winter
"If only I had some grease I could fix some kind of light," Ma considered.  "We didn't lack for light when I was a girl, before this newfangled kerosene was ever heard of."

I would love to hear your thoughts on this project.

Happy homesteading,



Monday, October 31, 2011

Adios, Microwave!

Since and because of Leigh's post on My5acredream, we have nixed our microwave.

Up until our yard sale a few weeks ago, we had two microwaves.  One came with our house and has been stored in the attic, and the other we brought with us.  I had planned to sell the one in the attic, but after reading Leigh's post, I decided to try to sell both of them.  I've used microwaves most of my life, so selling my microwave seemed like such a radical concept to me.  Plus, I didn't know how receptive Nate would be to getting rid of our microwave, but once I explained the reason, he was on board.  

Getting rid of such a convenience appliance took some getting used to.  It's so easy just to pop leftovers in and heat them without thinking about it.  I had to re-adjust my thinking and planning.  Several times in the first week I caught myself turning to where the microwave sat to use it.  One adjustment I made was to buy a toaster oven, which I now use to heat leftovers and bake small items.  It has already come in handy, and I know it will continue to do so, especially in the summer, because I can use it instead of the big oven to bake, and better yet, I can take it out on my deck to keep even more heat out of the kitchen.  I'm still also hoping to use my Sun Oven more as well.   

Even Nate has made adjustments at work.  He says he uses the toaster oven at work, rather than the microwave to heat his lunch. 

Now that I'm used to it being gone, I don't really miss it.

Thanks, Leigh for the eye-opening post on microwaves! 

Happy homesteading,


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Picture Post!

We ordered our wood burning insert and have finally started getting our wood organized.  I'm so excited to have this project underway because the wood has been piled in several areas of our yard that I have pinned for other projects.  I have been moving wheelbarrows of wood daily and the pile is growing.  Nate has become quite the wood splitter too!

I don't think I shared with you the finished "barn" yard yet.  It turned out really well.  Vanilli can scale the fence, so we clipped her wing.  We decided we hated t-posts.  I can see the economy of them if we were running 1000s of feet of fencing, but for this small project, the wood posts fit the aesthetics of the yard and our tastes much better than t-posts.   

Is that a jungle bird?  No, it's just Napoleon roosting in the willow tree.  For the past several nights we have had to retrieve him and put him up with the ladies.  They are getting used to each other.  He is not being picked on, so I think they knew he's a he, but he hasn't stepped up to the plate and asserted himself yet.  His tail feathers are growing back and his neck feathers are starting to come back in as well.  Maybe he just wants to be "purdy" first. 

As of today, our newest addition to our motley crew of hens, a Red Star.  I'm thinking of naming her Ginger.  Pearl, our Black Star, has been a tremendous layer, so I hope she will be as well.  I know better than to buy a bird from the flea market, but I just feel so sorry for them.  Vanilli was a flea market rescue, and she's turned out to be a fabulous bird now that she's in a healthy environment.  Ginger looked healthy, bright eyes, nice glossy feathers, but when I got her home I realized she is missing a digit off one of her talons.  It's totally amputated.  I think we are destined to find and care for messed up birds.  They seem to find their way to us. 

Finally, my thoughts exactly!  Snuggle up and find a warm place to sleep.  Winter is coming.

Happy homesteading,



Friday, October 21, 2011

Warm and Toasty

When cold weather hits, my thoughts turn to knitting.  Last year, I knitted both Nate and myself a pair of slippers, but by season's end, they were toast.  They were knitted with a chunky yarn, and they didn't hold up well at all.  Plus, I didn't like the way they felt on my feet.  So, this year, I decided to try a different pattern.  I've never felted anything, but have wanted to since I started knitting.  What better way to try felting than a nice warm pair of slippers.  I had some fisherman's wool on hand and with the beauty of Ravelry, I found a pattern to try.  At the time, it was free, but  now I see she's charging for it.  Either way, here it is:

The slippers, being only 19 rows, knitted up fairly quickly.  I also learned some new stitches, which I enjoy.  I think this sets me up to finally tackle a pair of socks.  Here they are knitted but not yet felted:


And here they are after felting:

The fit perfectly, and are very comfortable.  I will see how well they wear over the course of the winter.  Now, Nate wants a pair.

Happy homesteading,


Tuesday, October 11, 2011


One could call me and Nate neat freaks.  Our house is tiny, and with a tiny house comes a responsibility to keep clutter to a minimum.  A place for every thing, and every thing in its place; otherwise, chaos and disorder ensues.  I thrive on order, and when things get disorganized, I go batty.  Of course, there is always an exception to the rule!  Our exception is our attic.  Yikes!

A few weeks ago, we decided to clean out our attic and have a yard sale.  Mind you, we have lived in our house for almost nine years and have not once cleaned out the attic.  Occasionally, we'll bring a few things down and get rid of them, but for the most part, stuff goes up and doesn't come back down. 

As of today and the exception of some of Nate's motorcycle parts, we have emptied our ENTIRE attic into our house, and it looks like a bomb exploded!  And I've gone through every cabinet and closet in the house to rid them of unused, not needed stuff.   The clutter is driving us crazy.  But, it has put me in a purging mood because it's not going back up there.  I have made countless trips up and down the drop down ladder.  If it doesn't sell, it's going to charity.  Perhaps it can do someone else some good because it's not doing us any good stored away.   

So, this Saturday is D-Day.  I'm praying for good traffic and sales.. 

Happy homesteading,


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Winter Heating

Fall may finally be here, and it's welcome.  The air is crisp outside, and the windows are open to embrace it.  Fall has always been my favorite season, a nice reprise from the tortuous heat and humidity of the summer.  Our house was built in the 1940s, and it has a lovely fireplace, which was converted to gas-burning by a previous owner.  We've always hated that the fireplace is gas-burning, and we have not turned it on more than once or twice in the nine years we've lived here.  About five years ago, we had someone come out and inspect the fireplace and chimney to possibly convert it back to wood-burning.  He told us the entire firebox had to be rebuilt, and the amount he quoted was out of our price range at the time.  So, we let it go for the time being.  We've also considered a wood-burning insert for several years, but we've never taken the time to research them until this year.  We have a good amount of wood saved and aged from the trees we felled this spring, and I would love to make even better use of money already spent.  Plus, our house is so small, we could heat the whole thing with a wood-burning stove.

Once we started researching inserts, we decided to have the fireplace and chimney inspected again.  I asked the inspector to inspect with the idea that we would just use the fireplace as is without an insert, so if we didn't get an insert this year, we could at least burn some fires.  He told us other than a few places in the firebox that needed to be retouched with fireplace mortar and a few places at the top of the chimney that needed some attention, everything was in good shape.  Our chimney has a terracotta liner from top to bottom and he said it's also clean and in good shape.  We think the first inspector was just trying to con us.            

I'm still researching, but I have found an insert I like and it's EPA-certified and it qualifies for a tax credit.  Did you know it's hard to find a wood-burning insert that qualifies for the tax credit?  It has to have at least a 75% efficiency rating, and most of the wood-burning inserts that are sized for our home have around a 63% rating.  Most of the pellet-burning stoves I have seen qualify, but not the wood-burning stoves.  I have considered a pellet-burning stove, but I think the availability of pellets is limited around here since we really don't have extremely cold winters. 

What are your thoughts on wood-burning vs. pellet-burning stoves? 

Happy Fall,


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chicken Antics

Cool Hand Luke is one of Nate's favorite movies, so he is always quoting lines from it, especially as they relate to the chickens.  We suspected Vanilli would be the one to scale the new fencing, and sure enough, I found her on the top half this afternoon wreaking havoc with the tomatoes.  I called Nate and told him she busted out of general population and was roaming free.  His response was, "Cool Hand Vanilli, we have a failure to communicate. That will be three days in the hole."  We've never clipped wings before, but I think we will clip hers to keep her in the bottom half for her safety from hawks and the chopping block.  I can only take so much tomato thievery and general seedling destruction from scratching.  In the off season, I imagine they will have full range of the yard, but while things are growing, the bottom half will have to be home.

Bella, our Buff Orpington, is a sweet bird and a good layer, but she isn't the brightest of the bunch.  Nate calls her the Big Dummy.  She keeps trying to jump onto the retaining wall, which is now behind the wire fence, and ends up hitting the fence and getting knocked to the ground.  I guess it will take her a few more times to figure it out.

Our bantam (banty if you're from the South) rooster is coming along.  He has been fighting a pretty good respiratory illness since we brought him home.  Having been blessed with healthy birds, I've never dealt with a respiratory illness, so it took me a few days to figure out the problem and get some VetRx ordered and delivered.  VetRx is a natural poultry remedy for respiratory illnesses that has been around since the late 1800s.  We were tempted to take him back, but I knew he would face a certain death because the place we got him was not clean, and I imagine all of the birds are suffering from and passing it around to each other.  I didn't want to subject him to that fate, especially with cold weather approaching.  With some TLC, I think we can get him back to good health.  We've kept him isolated in the tractor away from our ladies.  Each day he's shown a little improvement with an increased appetite and activity level.  His missing tail feathers are growing back, and the wounds on his comb are healing.  I even saw him taking a dust bath yesterday, which is a first.  He smells terrible, which I understand is a sign of the respiratory problem and probably from the dirty farm as well.  Yesterday while scratching around, he discovered the beauty of being under the peach tree, which is the wealth of worms.  We continue to put ACV and garlic in his water, and along with his new, healthier diet, I think he will be okay.  This morning we were treated to his first crow, which really sounded like the caw of a black crow.  It was not too loud and was only two syllables each time.  He crowed about 5 times and then stopped.  Then, a few minutes ago I heard a strang cackle that sounded like a demented giggle and then a squawk.  I realized it was coming from him.  It is really comical to hear.  If he continues to sound like he did this morning, I don't see any reason why we can't keep him.  Actually Vanilli's pseudo-crow is louder than his.  Step aside, Vanilli, there's a real rooster on the homestead now.  He may be pocket-sized and 5 times as small as the hens, but he's all man.  I told Nate we could give him a step stool to service them.  Just back it up to the loading dock, ladies!  LOL! 

Happy homesteading,


Sunday, September 11, 2011

New Additions and Progressing Projects

One evening this week, Nate built my raspberry raised bed, and now I just need to get buy the composted dirt to fill it.  I am trying to decide if I should dig up the canes and replant them once the bed is full or back fill the bed and let the canes root themselves.  My experience with the blackberries tells me they will root just about anywhere they touch, so I imagine they will root if you backfill the bed with dirt.  My fear with transplanting them is that they won't survive.  Any suggestions from the peanut gallery?  The bed is probably a foot to a foot and a half deep, and you can see the canes peaking over the edges.

We finally got started on the fencing of the bottom half.  Having received no significant rain lately, the ground is like concrete.  Nate tried to pound in one t-post, and it was evident that post was going nowhere fast.  He thought it would be great is he could find an auger that attaches to a drill, and he did.  It's called a bulb auger, and it attaches to a regular drill and drills about two feet into the ground.  It made mincemeat of the clay, and we can't believe we've gone all this time without knowing about it.  

Lately I've had my mind on meat rabbits, so I started searching for a breeding pair.  I found a breeder of Champagne D'Argent rabbits about 30 minutes away, but he didn't have anything for me, and he said his doe ate her most recent litter, so he doesn't even have any for himself.  I've searched Craigslist, the state Farmer's Market Bulletin and the internet for breeders near me, but haven't had much luck.  Most of the breeders I find are hours away.  I finally found a breeder who lives about 2 hours away, but she only had a Beveren buck available.  Beverens are considered a critical heritage breed.  Even though I really wanted to find a pair of rabbits that were either breeding age or close to it, I was seriously considering getting the buck, so at least half of my search would be over.  I told the breeder I would let her know by this weekend, and I even went to TSC on Saturday to get a cage for him.  While I was in line I noticed the lady behind me had rabbit feed on her cart.  I started talking to her and found our she has a mini farm/animal rescue.  She told me she had a pair of Chinchillas and a pair of New Zealand Reds for sale.  We drove out this morning and got the Chinchilla pair.  The doe is 6 months old and the buck is 8 months old, so I have about three months before I would breed the doe.  They look pretty healthy, but they are still being quarantined until I can access their health.

While we were at the farm today, Nate walked up to me and the lady and said, "Look what I caught; it's a pocket rooster."  In his hand was a tiny banty rooster.  The lady said we could have him, and Nate suckered me into letting him take it home under the condition that if it is too loud, it's going back.  The lady agreed to take it back if we decided we couldn't keep it.  I have a strong feeling it will be going back.  In the meantime Nate has named it Napolean.  I've been calling him Nappie because he looks pretty nappy right now.  I can tell he's been picked on because he's missing some body feathers, most of his tail feathers and his comb is scabby.  I didn't really pay too much attention to him at the farm because I was focused on the rabbits, but when we got him home I also noticed some discharge coming from one of his eyes.  I made some chamomile tea and used the tea bag as a compress against his eye.  I put ACV and garlic in his water, and we crushed up some feed pellets for him as well as gave him a big pile of weeds and grass.  I doubt he's ever tasted green food as there wasn't any green in site where he was kept, but he devoured the greens we gave him.  He is in quarantine like the rabbits.

Happy homesteading,



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Vintage Apple Butter

Last weekend, my neighbor, who knows my love of canning jars, stopped by to tell me he scored 20 boxes of jars at a nearby estate sale.  He said he bought them all because his sister had recently expressed an interest in canning and he knew I would want some as well.  Of course, I wanted some!  I had to buy canning jars this year, and it killed me to pay full price for them.  He said he didn't know how serious his sister was about canning, so I only took 1/2 and told him if she decided it was a passing whim to let me know and I would take the rest from him too.  The kicker is most of them are still full of food ranging in dates from 1980 to 2005.  Being full of food, the jars make me feel connected with someone I never met who spent time preserving food.  It also makes me sad that 20 years later it still has not been eaten.  I bet she never imagined they would receive a new start a few neighborhoods over.   

Happy homesteading,


Monday, September 5, 2011

Upcoming Projects and Fall Planting

My apologies for not posting more often lately, but the hot and humid weather has kept me indoors and from having too much to say.  It's so hard to motivate oneself to go outside when it's 100 degrees and 60% humidity.  I am impatiently waiting for the weather to break, but the heat wave seems to continue with no significant rainfall to call our own.  Regardless, I have projects to tackle and fall plants to get in the ground.  This weekend I planted some collard greens, swiss chard, broccoli, brussels sprouts and garlic. I have some lettuce starts in the greenhouse and I hope to get some more started for succession planting.  Everything was planted in the front yard to protect it from the chickens, but hopefully soon I won't have to worry about the birds getting into my back yard plantings anymore.  And, as I was cleaning up one of the beds yesterday, I found this cutie giving me the eye.  This is a good sign, for sure!

I have two projects in the hopper, and we bought the materials for both this weekend, so hopefully they will be completed soon.  The first one involves the chickens and rabbits.  This is what we call the bottom half of our backyard.  A retaining wall runs across the yard, separating it into an upper and lower portion. 

Aside from a few hours of morning sun, it is pretty much shaded the rest of the day by huge overhanging oak trees.  You can see the rabbit shed to the left.  The rabbit shed did not work out like I had hoped, and we realistically can only fit four cages in it, and that's if I stack them.  So what we've decided to do is fence off this section of yard and confine the chickens to this level.  They will have plenty of space to wander, and it will hopefully keep them out of my vegetables up top.  Plus with the tree coverage, they will be more proected from hawks.  We are going to turn the rabbit shed into the chicken coop and the current chicken coop into the rabbit shed.  The current chicken coop will house probably six rabbit cages stacked, so it gives me slightly more flexibility with the rabbits, and it has an attached run that I hope to plant with grass to give the rabbits a space to get some exercise and fresh greens.  This project requires a good rainfall to soften the ground, because it is rock hard right now, but at least we have the supplies on hand and can tackle it when the time comes.   

The next project is a hindsight is 20/20 project.  In the spring we built these terraced beds off our deck for asparagus and strawberries.  By the way, the asparagus is looking awesome, so it must really like this spot.

We also transplanted some raspberry canes to the left of these beds, but I didn't think about how much lower the raspberries are to the terraced bed and how they would be blocked of sunlight by the asparagus ferns.  We need to bring them up to an even level with the asparagus bed, and the soil is so poor by the deck, a good raised bed is really needed anyway.  Building a rasied bed for the raspberries to the left of the asparagus ferns is our second pending project. 

I'll keep you posted on the progress and thanks for the kind words regarding Louise.   

Happy homesteading,



Friday, August 26, 2011

RIP Louise

We lost Louise, our Rhode Island Red, last night to what we believe was an impacted crop.  She was our favorite.  She would follow me around the yard and peck me on the back of the leg when I didn't acknowledge her.  She was a talker and loved to scream at me when I stepped inside the coop.  She was our best and biggest egg layer.  We buried her under the peach tree.

Louise: We're so sorry we couldn't save you, and we're so happy we were able to share your life with you and give you a good one. Thank you for all of the beautiful eggs.  We already miss you so much. You were a blessing, and our homestead won't be the same without you. Goodbye sweet girl.  Candace and Nate

Friday, August 19, 2011

Free Books

I have been researching the different e-readers lately and thought I might want one for my birthday.  I have been leaning towards the Kindle, but I've hesitated because I know that money could be used for something so much more useful around the house.  There are so many projects I want to do and spending money on an extravegance didn't seem right.  I have always loved reading; it's a big part of my life.  I grew up going to the library and still do, but the convenience of downloading a book at home called to me.  Plus, I really loved the idea of free e-books off Amazon, and I noticed the Kindle is advertising the possibility of an app later in the year that allows downloading e-books from the library.  My curiosity was piqued, so at my next library visit, I asked the librarian if the library system had an e-book library.  She showed me where to go online.  I had to download a program from the e-book website and the Adobe digital e-reader program.  The website also houses audio books.  Each library system will probably have its own host website, so if you are interested, check with your local library.

The e-books from the library are great, but the selection is limited, so I started wondering if there was a way to download the free e-books off of Amazon without a Kindle.  I had not really put too much time into researching this because I've been busy with other things and I've had books for read, both from the physical library and the e-book library.  But, low and behold, today I was catching up on one of the blogs I read, and she recently did a post on this very subject!  I followed the link for the Kindle for PC app and am now able to download e-books off Amazon, including the free ones.  Here's the link to her blog if you are interested in Kindle apps to use if you don't have a Kindle:

I don't mind reading the books on my laptop, and now I have what I really wanted out of the Kindle, which is the ability to download e-books.  I can put my laptop on my lap desk and read where ever I want, so portability is not an issue for me, and when I travel I would prefer to take a real book with me anyway.  Maybe I'll eventually get a Kindle, but for now, I'm content.

So, happy e-reading,




Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bee Check and Unidentified Vine

Because it has been so hot and also because we have been slightly frustrated with the beekeeping, we recently adopted a new approach:  Let the bees be.  This is our 2nd season beekeeping, and our first season was a total disaster.  This year we've done better than last.  This time last year, we didn't have any bees.  One reason we've been frustrated is because up until recently the bees have been very aggressive, much more agressive than last year's bees.  So we've stayed away.  We know we had a swarm, and I believe I mentioned that the last time we were messing with the hive, the bees didn't seem aggressive.  I know we have a new queen, and she's much nicer than the last one.  So, checking the hive this evening was not stressful like it has been so far this year.  The bees were not buzzing us and gathering on our veils.  We were able to check both brood boxes and the honey super without fear.  I've always been told if you have an aggressive queen to replace her, but nature did that for us with the swarm. 

I'm learning to follow my instincts when it comes to beekeeping.  It's about looking at the facts and clues in front of you (and there as SO many little things to look for) and making a decision based on the given situation and your knowledge base.  No one will give you a definitive answer for any one problem.  Some beekeepers will say we made the wrong decisions, while others will say we made the right ones.  One thing I noticed this evening was the lack of stored honey the hive had, both in the brood boxes and in the honey super.  About a month or two back, a fellow beekeeper told me in times of draught, when no nectar is flowing, and the bees really have no source of food, they will eat their stored honey to survive.  We've definitely been experiencing a drought, so my instinct was to start feeding them sugar water again.  I called my friend to bounce the idea off her, and she said she went to extract honey from a super that was full a few weeks ago, and by the time she went to extract it, the super was practically empty.  The bees had eaten the honey to survive.  She said feeding them would be a proactive way to help them start storing for winter.  So, feeding them is what I'm doing. 

We appear to have a very productive queen evidenced by this beautiful capped brood:

I feel like we are back on target with the bees, and while we are definitely not going to harvest any honey this year, if we can keep them alive through the winter, I have confidence we'll have some next year.  Here's to hoping!

Now, I need help identifying this vine.  It's growing along the back fence that separates us from our back neighbor.  I suspect it's a muscadine vine, but I thought muscadines were larger.  The "grapes" are about the size of blueberries, and when I squeezed one, the inside texture was like a grape, and it had 4 "grape" seeds in it.  Also, the juice on my fingers tasted very grapey.  Since I haven't id'd it yet, I haven't eaten one, so I don't know if the skin is bitter.  The fact that I haven't keeled over from licking the juice is a good sign, I think.  What keeps me from determining it's a muscadine are the leaves.  The pictures I've seen online of muscadine leaves are different.  Any help is appreciated.

Happy homesteading,



Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Day at Home

While the weather here is still in the 90s, I can feel a change in the air.  The temperatures are more tolerable in the mornings and evenings, and the heat index is not as extreme during the day.  At least it seems that way to me.  The humidity has been unreal with afternoon thunderstorms threatening daily but no rain.  The afternoon clouds have been a nuisance because I've been wanting to use my solar oven more than I have.  If the sun goes behind the clouds, I can forget keeping the oven above 200 degrees.  Plus, I want to be home to monitor it since I'm not an expert user.  Today the sky looked fairly cloudless, so at lunchtime I took a chance and put some vegetable chowder in the oven to simmer.  The oven got up to 300 degrees at its hottest, and since this is the first time I've cooked a meal in the oven, I put a thermometer probe into the soup pot to monitor the temperature.  The soup rose to 200 degrees and maintained between 190 and 200 for about 3 hours.  That should be closely equivalent to a slow cooker on low.  After about 3 hours, the clouds rolled in and the oven temp started to drop.  Not wanting to risk unsafe conditions, I took the soup out and all the veggies were done.  I still need to finish it with milk and cheese, but I think I'll have to do that on the stove top since it's pretty cloudy now.  At least the bulk of the meal was cooked by solar energy.

Today, I also started planning my fall garden and in anticipation of some seed starting, I cleaned out the greenhouse, which has been ignored since spring.  I'm not adept at succession planting yet, so I haven't really done much in the area of seed starting this summer.  If I didn't work, maybe I would get better, but there are only so many hours in a day.  I also did some general garden bed maintenance by getting rid of some plants that are not really producing to make room for new ones.

On my way out to the greenhouse, I found this:


This is my lazy form of composting, and I found Thelma and Louise going to town on the bugs and worms today.  These are two large trashcans with holes drilled in the bottom edge for drainage and the top for aeration when the lids are closed.  I just keep dumping yard and kitchen waste into them and turn the top layer with a pitchfork once a week.  Eventually one fills, and I start in the other one.  It works for me.  The chickens did a great job of turning it for me today, and to them it was like a buffet.

I have some big plans for the fall, so stay tuned!

Happy homesteading,


Monday, August 8, 2011

Neighborhood Friendly Rooster

Well, we finally got us a rooster.  He's made of metal and he's quiet as a mouse, but he sure made the ladies take a second look. 

We did an experiment with him to see how the ladies would react.  They would not come anywhere near him, and Thelma, our barred rock, kept giving him the eye.  Every time I tried to move him near, they would run.  I even did an experiment with a cherry tomato.  They normally fight each other to get a cherry tomato, but not tonight.  I could see the motors turning, but the lure of the tomato was not strong enough.  It reminded me of a time when I brought home a fake metal cat, and my cat, Lucy, growled at it and walked up to it and smacked it in the face.

He's a pretty rooster.  Now, Nate has a rooster, and the neighbors won't complain about the noise.

Happy homesteading,


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Party Hardy, Dude!

"But I always say one's company, two's a crowd, and three's a party"  Andy Warhol

"One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor!"  Unknown

I have a major birthday happening this week, and Nate and my friend, N., decided to throw me a party.  Unfortunately, I'm not a "sit back and watch while others plan things" kind of girl.  I'm a control freak and don't like to sit on the sidelines.  I freely admit it, and those who know me well may not like it, but they accept it and sometimes love me despite it.  I'm a Leo, after all.  Changing this part of my personality would be like trying to take the stripes off a zebra.  Nate just said, "Tell me what to do."  That makes me laugh.  N. said, "I can't wait to see the party I planned."  That makes me laugh too.  With that said, they have been great and have definitely participated in the party planning and preparation.  I have a wonderful friend and husband! 

In planning the menu, it was important to me to use as much from the homestead as possible, so the menu developed based on what I have this week in the garden.  Everything we're serving has at least one item that was either grown, foraged or produced by us.  I've been prepping each day so there won't be much to do on the day of the party.   

Party Menu:
Carrot Cake
Chips and Salsa
Jalapeno Dip
Brie with Fig Jam
Cubed Melon
Pasta Salad
Egg Salad Sandwiches
Eggplant Dip

That's it for today, folks.  I have stuff to do for the party, so until next time, I leave you with one of my favorite birthday songs by Cracker, "Happy Birthday to Me."   


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Heat Delusions and Ramblings

This post is going to ramble.

I believe I'm melting!  It is SO hot and humid.  I've been trying to take care of outside chores in the morning or late in the evening, but major projects are on hold for now.  This morning I walked across the street to pick some figs, and I have to outfit myself to keep the mosquitos at bay.  Long pants, shoes and socks, long-sleeved shirt and gloves.  Otherwise, they converge on me like white on rice.  My neighbor was home, and he helped me pick figs.  Bless his heart!  He had the ladder out and was up in the tree picking figs that I could only gawk at from below.  I've managed to can 14 pints of pickled figs, a favorite of my fellow book club members.  As a matter of fact, I decided to offer them for sale this year to the ladies, and I've received several orders so far.  I've been dehydrating them as well, and I have enough in the refrigerator to make a batch of fig preserves.  I hope to get those done tomorrow. 

Yesterday, I canned some vegetable relish and tomato salsa.  I've been pretty pleased with my tomatoes this year.  The Black Krims and the Cherokee Purples are my favorite.  They are beautiful when sliced and are so delicious.  I'm not harvesting enough quantity to really brag about, but if I save them for a few days, I can make a small batch of salsa or tomato sauce.  Last year, we really only got enough for fresh eating, so that fact that I am able to can some this year is progress.  They are getting so much more sun where they are this year compared to last.  It's my goal to take down more trees in my neighbor's yard again this fall/winter.  The increase in my tomato yield is proof that the trees we took down this past winter have made a difference in my yard.  I want to build on that, so I'll keep saving my pennies for that project.

The rabbits seem to be doing okay with the heat.  They are in deep shade with good air circulation, and I usually switch out their frozen bottles at least once a day so they have a source of cool when they need it.  My dream is to have a mini-barn with electricity where I can house all of the animals and be able to run fans in the summer for the rabbits.  Plus, I was just talking with Nate today about really wanting some meat rabbits.  We don't have any place to put them at the moment, so that goal is on hold for now.

Surprisingly, the chickens are still giving us 3-5 eggs a day.  We've talked to other local backyard chicken keepers, and their hens have pretty much stopped laying due to the heat.  We have some really hard working good girls.  They lay in the stifling heat of summer and the brutal cold of winter.

Despite my best efforts, the vine borers destroyed all of my squash plants, even the ones I planted late.  I finally just ripped them out of the ground and threw them away a few days ago.  It's almost August, and the the vines were still covered with eggs.  I've started doing some research for borer resistant varieties for next year.  I'm just sick about it!           

Feedback on recent comments:


Homesteading Chic: You really don't have to have alot of land to make a big impact. We've made it a policy not to plant anything in our yard that doesn't either produce something edible or provide forage for our honeybees. Even thought I rarely see the little buggers in my yard. They go elsewhere!

Leigh: You will notice the photos of the backyard are not close-ups, and I only showed you a portion of the yard. LOL! We've waited many years for such a peach harvest.

TGL: I sang that song the WHOLE time I was harvesting peaches. It was on a continuous loop through my brain!  Millions of peaches peaches for me, Millions of peaches peaches for free, Millions of peaches peaches for me, Millions of peaches peaches for free.

Warm Dirt: I'm sure you grow something on your farm that I can't grow in GA, so I would be envious of that.
That's it for now.
Happy homesteading,

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Pickin' and A Cannin' and A Backyard Garden Tour

Sounds like a song at a hoe down, doesn't it?  Well, it isn't.  I've been a pickin' and a cannin' peaches since my first peach post here.  That was two weeks ago, and I have been absolutely buried in peaches.  I'm only one person, and I work, so it has been a massive project for me to tackle.  I've had to manage my time and squeeze in bits and pieces of canning prep work and canning in addition to the chores of necessity, such as feeding me and my husband as well as taking care of the animals and trying to keep up with the garden.  My house is in severe disarray, and I don't even want to know what's going on in the bathroom.  But, the peach tree would hear no excuses.  It reminded me I have been praying for peaches year after year.  Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.  The squirrels were held at bay and the additional sunlight from taking trees down came together to give me 127 lbs., 12.5 ozs. of peaches from one tree.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I have processed almost 128 lbs of peaches in the past two weeks.  At the grocery store this weekend, organic peaches were selling for $4/lb.  What a return one tree has made to our budget!  Now, what did I do with all of those peaches you may ask?  In addition to fresh eating, this is how I tackled them:

Peach Chutney:  1 pint, This was an experiment with green peaches, and it is delicious.
Green Peach Cake:  This was also another experiment, and it turned out great as well.
Frozen diced peaches:  9 quarts
Peach Sauce (for pancakes, ice cream):  8 quarts + 1 pint
Peach Tomato Salsa:  4 quarts + 14 pints
Peach BBQ Sauce:  4 pints + 9 12 oz. jars + 1 jelly jar
Peach Cardamom Jam:  6 pints + 13 jelly jars

I really wanted to try out the peach peel and pit jelly, but I just didn't have it in me.  I am one tuckered girl.  But, there's no rest for the weary because the figs are coming in, so onward I go. 

Here's a photo of the peach tree as well as a few shots of the top portion of my backyard.  It's a constant work on progress to be sure.

Happy homesteading,



Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I Heart Mater Sammiches

Nate and I have been watching our first Pink Ponderosa tomato ripen on the vine for days now.  I finally picked it today.  It weighed 11 oz, a light-weight in the world of Pink Ponderosas, but it made one heck of a tomato sandwich.

I have always adored tomato sandwiches.  When I was in elementary school, I remember spending summer days at my best friend's house.  Her parents grew tomatoes, and when asked what I wanted to eat for lunch, my response was always a tomato sandwich.  To me, a tomato sandwich is bread, mayonnaise, sliced tomato, salt, and pepper.  Adding anything else is sacrilege. 

How do you eat your tomato sandwiches?  It's okay; you can tell me.  I won't pass judgment.

Happy homesteading,


Monday, July 4, 2011

Are You Ready To Can?

My canning season officially started today with none other than peaches.  Most of the peaches on the tree are still hard, and I am not 100% squirrel-free, contrary to my previous post, so it's really a race for the peaches between us and the squirrels.  So, after breakfast, Nate and I picked the peaches we felt were ripe enough for canning.  They really could have spent another day or two on the tree, but I'm not taking any chances with the tree rats.

(Disclaimer:  Sometimes I sub things in canning recipes.  That's a no-no since you can alter the acid content.  You can take inspiration, but don't necessarily do what I do.) 

I started with the Summer Salsa recipe in my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving book.  It called for 2 cups of chopped peaches and 2 cups of chopped pears, but I used all peaches.  It was supposed to yield approximately 6 pints, but I got 4 pints exactly with none left over.  I used the wide mouth jars, and I think they hold more than the regular mouth jars so I know the yield is probably off in that regard. 

Next, I made some Peach Cardamom Jam.  It's basically the peach jam recipe found in the Sure Jell Less or No Sugar Needed pectin box with cardamom and vanilla extract added.  I didn't have an vanilla extract, so I used almond extract.  I love cardamom, and I think it turned out quite tasty.  Although it doesn't seem like it's setting up that well.  I seem to be hit or miss with the low sugar pectin.  Regardless, it will be eaten and savored.  We can certainly use it as pancake syrup or an ice cream topping.

I'm saving my peelings and pits to try this recipe.  Hopefully I'll accumulate enough to give it a go.

(There is a warning from a reviewer about using the pits as pits contain cyanide.  So, use your best judgment if you decide to try this recipe.)

If you haven't checked out, you should.  It's loaded with hundreds of canning recipes, and what I love is reading the reviews from other canners. 

I hope to harvest enough peaches every few days to can some additional salsa and jam, and I want to try the Zesty Peach Barbeque Sauce recipe in my canning book as well.

So, peaches, pumpkin, apple pie, if you're ready, holler I!

Happy canning,


Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Heartfelt Thanks

I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to a fellow blogger for her recognition of my ramblings on her blog.  This Good Life recently listed some of her favorite blogs for the moment, and The Weekened Homesteader was on her list.  I'm honored that I made the list!  You can read about it here:

I hope you will take a moment to visit her blog as she writes beautifully of spirituality, and while she is Jewish, she openly discusses and is tolerant of other religious philosophies.  I respect that and find there are many lessons to be learned from her blog.  Plus, I love her photography! 

To blogger solidarity,


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Waste Not, Want Not

We've lived in our house for over 8 years, and soon after moving in, we planted two peach trees.  One of the trees remains, and each year it produces peaches.  Yet, we never get any.  Even before the peaches ripen, the squirrels gleefully help themselves.  Not this year!  I am going to harvest peaches this year!

Did I ever tell you about the squirrel slayer?  He's our across-the-street neighbor.  He's the same neighbor who generously gives me access to his huge fig tree and who brought me boxes of bound-for-the-trash-can canning jars from a friend's basement.  He kills squirrels in his yard with a pellet gun because they eat the pears off his pear tree and the pecans off his pecan tree.  I know because of his efforts, I will get peaches this year. 

About a week ago, I moved my fake snakes from the blackberries canes to the peach tree.  I know they are helping because before I put them in the tree, we saw a squirrel run across the backyard with a peach.  Since placing the snakes, I haven't seen a squirrel with a peach at all.  I know because of my efforts, I will get peaches this year.

I also know I'm going to get peaches this year because I ate my first one this morning.  It wasn't quite as ripe as it could be, but it came off the limb when I squeezed it, so I ate it. 

The tree is covered with peaches, and it can't possibly ripen all of them, so in the last day or so, it has dropped probably about 15 green peaches on the ground.  I really hate to see them wasted, so I did some research on green peach recipes, and while I didn't really find anything great for green peaches, I did find some recipes for green mangos.  So, in the tradition of waste not, want not, I used the following recipe, but subbed green peaches for the mangos:

I also subbed some of my Chinese five color peppers for the jalapenos, and they gave this chutney quite a kick. 

So, if you have green peaches, waste not, want not, and give this recipe a try.  It cooked up beautifully and has a wonderful flavor. 

Happy homesteading,


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sun Baked Cookies

I have contemplated getting a Global Sun Oven for a few years now, but I tend to lean toward the frugal side of things, and I always thought I should just make a solar oven.  I recently decided, if I haven't made one by now, it's probably not going to happen.  My time is divided in many different directions as it is.  So, I ordered one.  And, while the initial investment seems steep, the savings over time from not having to turn on the oven and causing excessive running of the air conditioner will pay off. 

The beauty of a solar oven is you can use it like a slow cooker.  You simply point it in the direction where you expect the sun to hit it face on by midday.  Throughout the day, the reflectors catch the sun and direct the energy to the oven throughout the day.  Because the oven is not pointed directly at the sun the whole day, the oven temperature does not get as high or maintain as long.  Or you can speed up the process by rotating the oven to follow the sun throughout the day.  For the past few hours, I have been monitoring the temperature without moving the oven, and it has maintained approximately 250 degrees.  Most slow cookers range from 170-300 degrees roughly converted from the wattage they use.  Anything below 165 degrees opens up the danger of bacteria and food-borne illnesses.     

Today, after following the cleaning instructions, I decided to take it for a spin.  I pulled some frozen cookie dough balls out and let them sit on the cookie sheet for a few minutes to soften.  I really should have preheated the oven, but I didn't and put the cookies in at around 170 degrees.  The oven temperature steadily rose to about 300 degrees by the time the cookies were done.  It took them 40 minutes to bake, but I know I could have cut that time in half by preheating.  Also, I slightly overbaked them.  I like my cookies chewier and these came out crisper than I like.  I definitely need some practice using the oven.  Overall, they baked up beautifully, and I'm so pleased! 

Cookie anyone? 

I just put some carrots in to cook for supper to which I hope to eventually add some leftover chicken from last night to warm through.  The sun keeps going behind the clouds, so I will keep an eye on the thermometer and see what happens. 

Happy solar cooking,


P.S. Never buy anything from Mom's Green Earth.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Chocolate, Cherry, Blackberries

Sassy, frassy, ummm, you so nasty!  Just joking!

We have been getting some beautiful blackberries this year.  As a matter of fact, the blackberries have been our biggest success for far this year.  The trellises Nate put up have worked wonderfully.  I posted about them here:  Blackberries and Raspberries and Bats, Oh My!.  Getting the canes off the ground has made a world of difference.  And, in anticipation of ripening berries, I bought two rubber snakes and weaved them amongst the canes.  I move them every few days, and they seem to be working.  I don't mind sharing, but I know given the chance, the birds won't think twice about us, and they will strip the canes clean.  We have a thornless variety, which makes them very easy to pick, and some of them are as big around as my thumb.  They are delicious!  What we haven't snacked on is being frozen, and I plan to freeze enough to make some jam down the road.  Now, if I can get my strawberries and raspberries producing, I will be a really happy camper!

Happy homesteading,


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Bit of Sweetness

We may, we may, we may have honey on the way! 

We are down to one hive now.  The other one that had all of the queen issues didn't make it.  While we were checking our remaining hive last week, we could not find our queen and we did not see the different stages of egg production we are supposed to look for.  We also found at least a dozen queen cells.  So, we had to make a decision.  We've found, at least in our experience, beekeeping is about making hard decisions.

Our queen may have been in the hive somewhere, and we just missed her.  She pretty easy to spot because she has a huge bright blue spot on her.  I was leaning to not having a queen because of the lack of egg laying.  If she was in the hive, cutting out all of the queen cells was the solution to prevent a swarm.  Or, we could split the hive and start a second one.  If she wasn't in the hive, we needed at least one of the queen cells to get a new queen.  This was our mistake last year.  We killed a viable necessary queen cell without knowing we had lost our queen.  So, we decided to leave two queen cells.  The first queen that hatches will seek out any other queen cells and destroy them.  Problem solved.  If our original queen is still in the hive, and the queen cells hatches, we have a swarm on our hands.  The mother queen will leave with a mass of bees.  She's clipped, so she won't go very high or very far.  We have not seen a swarm, but that doesn't mean it hasn't happened.  I suspect something happened to our queen and once a new one hatches, it will be business as usual.

So, we've been letting this drama play out, but in the meantime, we decided to check the progress of the honey super.  Almost every frame is drawn out with comb, and I peaked in and saw capped honey.  I really did!  I could smell it too!  We placed a second super over the first one so they could start drawing out comb on those frames.

I've placed a call to our beekeeping friend to find out what to do with the super of honey.  If it were closer to winter, I know we would leave it, but with it being only June, we may have the opportunity to at least harvest a frame or two.  Once, I hear from her, I'll let you know.

If we do get honey, it will be the most expensive honey we will ever eat!  Nate said we should put it in the bathtub and roll around in it.  He's weird that way.  Regardless, we may, we may, we may have honey on the way!

Happy homesteading,


Sunday, June 12, 2011


My little blog has received its first award from Leigh at 5 Acres and a Dream, and I am deeply thankful for her recognition.  I recently found her blog, and it has quickly become one of my favorites.  Its everything I think a blog should be, inspirational, fun, versatile, educational, well-written, and great pictures.  She makes it look so easy.  As I am a somewhat fledgling gardener and homesteader, I am also a fledgling blogger, so I have lots of work ahead of me.  Because I work outside the home, sometimes my blog falls to the bottom of the list, but I am so grateful for the readers I have and who share comments and encourage my progress!

For this award, first, I'm supposed to write seven things about myself that I haven't yet shared on the blog.  Second, I'm supposed to pay-it-forward to at least one blog I enjoy and think worthy of recognition.  I am a raindrop in an ocean of excellent blogs, so how does one choose?

Let's start with the seven things about me:

1.  Since I was a child and to this day, I hate to do dishes.  One of my chores growing up was to do the breakfast dishes, and during the summer, my mom would tell me no one can come through the door to play until ALL of my chores were done.  Since my mom worked, my brother and I were really left to our own devices during the summer.  No one watched us, but my aunt lived up the street.  Anyway, my best friend at the time would crawl through the window each day to wash the dishes for me so I could play.  Technically she wasn't coming through the door.  We finally got caught or maybe my brother told on me, but that ended my way away the rules for that scenerio.  I've always been a rule breaker though. 

2.  I'm sure I was a cat in a former life.  I possess every trait you associate with a cat.  I am also a Leo.  As a matter of fact, Nate's nickname for me is Pussy.  I love, love, love my cats, and I'm afraid of dogs.

3.  I'm part Native American (Cherokee), but only a small part.  I would love to be more.  I'm particularly excited about growing Cherokee Purple tomatoes this year!

4.  I met my husband, Nate, in 1994 at the bike shop where he stills works, but we didn't get married until 2004.  He says it was love at first sight.  He is the funniest person I know.

5.  I'm a Southern girl, born and bred with one small flaw.  I make excellent sweet mint tea, but for the life of me, I can't make a decent biscuit.  Making biscuits should be in my genetic code, but somehow it missed me.  Oh, and I love grits with plenty of butter and salt and pepper!   

6.  I got my cat, Lucy, around the same time Nate and I met.  She is 17 years old and is a one-person cat.  Nate gets so jealous.  He will take her from my lap and put her in his, but she gets up immediately and comes back to mine.

7.  My favorite TV shows are The Waltons, Little House on the Prairie, The Vampire Diaries, Ghost Hunters, Dancing with the Stars and Glee.  We don't have cable, so I normally watch the modern shows on Hulu.  I have The Waltons on DVD, and I've just started buying LHOTP on DVD.  I only have season one so far. 

Now comes the hard part!  I really enjoy so many blogs for various reasons, but here are some I think stand out.  To me, these blogs have something unique about them that resonates with me:

To my roll call participants:  For some reason, blogger won't let me respond to my own posts, so thanks for participating. 

@ Jessica:  I am so envious of all of your chickens and roosters.  My neighborhood would probably kick me out if I had that many.  Maybe one day I'll have a farm of my own to expand my flock.
@Sharon:  Unidentified berries; I love it!  What kind of rabbit do you have?
@Illoura:  Everything counts!

Happy homesteading,