We have been busy having all kinds of crazy, looney fun. So much so, I haven't been keeping up with blogging all that fun. Here are some of our December highlights:
Officially a teen!
Little J. turned 13 earlier this month. I was planning on doing our annual interview, but I think he covered it nicely on his blog. Although, I might have to stop calling him Little J., as he is as tall as I am now!
this odd looking blob is taffy in the making
Every day, we tried to do something exciting, and taffy making was one of our activities. It was great pulling the candy, and even greater munching it!
We also decorated, made/baked gifts, wrapped, sang carols, cut snowflakes, drew pastel snowmen, and made a gingerbread house, packed toys for children, read Christmas stories, listened to holiday music, and other traditional pastimes.
Something new and part of the loopy-fun we have been having was trying out Big J.'s idea to celebrate as many holidays as possible. So, we looked up holidays happening around this time and attempted to participate in some way or another. Events on our list were: Hanuka, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Feast of St. Nicholas, Feast of Immaculate Conception, Feast of St. Lucy, Winter Solstice, and the Feast of the British Kings. Mainly, we learned a lot about these holidays when we researched what they were about, and enjoyed special dinners on these days (such as Mexican food on Our Lady of Guadalupe). Some slipped by in the rush of everything else, but that was just fine. It was really nice exploring these days and gave us something to look forward to.
And of course, snow makes the holidays that much more fun. An impromptu snow day was called when the kids woke up mid-week to everything covered in white.
All of this has been super fun, and I can hardly wait for the rest of events to be celebrated in fine style!!!
I've heard that the average human breaks(fractures) one bone in their lifetime. Well, I guess my little fellow A. is above average in this department. On Monday, he broke his right pinky toe by stubbing it on the office bookshelf. We took him to the Dr. and they said just a stub, no break. Later that evening we get a call saying the Radiologist looked at the xrays and noticed a hairline fracture.
This closely follows him stubbing and breaking his left fourth toe on the couch foot in June. (First break was a leg in a sledding accident about 8 years ago). I'm seriously thinking of making him wear shoes in the house, and am definitely going to work on rearranging/different furniture options/decluttering and anything else I can to make our house more toe friendly.
A.'s understandably put out by this latest event. Luckily, we have the holiday season and all the fun that goes with it to keep him in good spirits. Feast tomorrow, visit up North over the weekend, Little J.'s birthday on Tuesday - all this and more seems to be the perfect remedy.
Our gardens have been fantastic this year! Every time we go outside, there seems to be something ready to pick. I've upped my harvesting to every third day, and then daily. Here are three consecutive day's of harvest:
We gathered a little bit of all sorts of things here.
I made pickles from this day's harvest.
Lots of goodies for salads - and I love decorating with the tiny pumpkins!
Since these pictures we have harvested potatoes, beets, lots of zucchini & kale, corn, and tons of green tomatoes. It is raining right now, and I was worried about the tomatoes splitting before ripening so Big J. and I picked approx. 50 lbs of tomatoes yesterday. I made a quadruple batch of Salsa Verde with them, and haven't scratched the surface. I hope to make green tomato relish tomorrow, and lay out as many as possible to ripen while we try to process them. We still have a ton more left outside that we are hoping will ripen without splitting/rotting. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!
Yesterday was our 15th anniversary. It got me thinking of all the wonderful memories we've been making over the years. Here are some - not really in order of importance, or the most important. Just a few that pops into mind:
Our first kiss when we were 22
Time at the beach when Little J. licked sand
Both boys peering at me over Big J.'s shoulder while he sang to them in the rocking chair
Building a straw house together
Spending lots of time daydreaming and talking in the garden
Snuggling during movie nights
Teasing each other for the pure fun of riling the other up
Kids piling into bed with us in the mornings
Watching how gently Big J. removes slivers from little boys' hands
Spooning every night
This year we are lucky to have cousin I. staying a few days with us. The kids and I saw a movie, and then Big J. joined us for dinner, some berry picking, Frisbee golf, and ice cream. In all, it was a great anniversary!
A. turned 11 on Saturday. It was a very low key birthday which was perfect for all of us with summer being unusually hectic. We celebrated by having a friend over, going out to dinner, presents, and of course, the annual interview:
How do you like being 11?
It's awesome. I loved the presents and going to Gobi.
Do you feel different?
Yes. My toe is healed, I have a bunch of presents, and everything is really fun.
Is there anything you want to do now that you're 11?
I want to get some Wii U games. I want to go outside to dig and mine. And I want to get a gold pan.
Any words of wisdom?
Do no stay up all night unless you plan to sleep from 7:00 am - 12:00 pm. And listen to your brother if he tells you not to, cause you will be really, really tired for the next couple of days.
Also, if you haven't played the game Powder 2, you should try it. It's really fun.
Summer is in full swing, and I am enjoying spending the days puttering around the place. Here are the latest happenings on the farm:
I am officially in the bounty basket business. I made up my first two today - traded one for labor, and sold the other. I have received very positive feedback, and already have more orders for future baskets (yay!).
This basket included:
2 heads loose leaf lettuce
2 heads broccoli
one dozen eggs
About that labor I mentioned above - my neighbor came over with his tractor and dug me a huge hole to put the holding tank in the ground.
tank that will be my pond
All we need to do is put the tank in, and shovel the dirt around it - both to fill in and create a duck friendly berm. I hope to get this done over the weekend, and I also hope to post pictures. This is something I have wanted done for years, and am very excited to see it so close to being finished.
hole dug for tank
We've assembled some pretty hanging baskets that go along the south side of our house. The hummingbirds are crazy for them. So am I.
The herb garden Big J. put in for my birthday is growing much faster than I anticipated. I love how established it's looking already.
Waddles and her babies are doing great. As usual, the ducklings seem to be growing overnight. They seem curious about the pond project and keep wandering over to take a look. It'll be fun watching them splash about in the water!
I moved all the chickens into their new field, and have planted the entire old chicken field. I'm expecting great things from such rich soil. I started tilling this field with my little tiller, but then a week or so later, Big J. finished the job using tiller given to us from some friends who moved and didn't want it. Getting this tiller was such a welcome surprise! I have even greater plans now that I have a big tiller - muh ha ha ha!
Here is the new field for the chickens. Like the pond, I have wanted another field for a long time. Funny how everything seems to come together at once.
We have a new door cut into the coop and a gate that I can use to connect the two fields if I want to give the ladies even more room. The girls like hanging out in the shade under the coop.
Things still to come:
finishing the pond
fencing in the pond and land around it for the ducks
keeping up with replanting areas that I have harvested
water, water, water
At least, that's what I think I'll be focusing on. Sometimes I get distracted/excited about new projects. There's just too much fun to be had!
When I got back from the road trip, I found I was down to one lonely duck. Apparently her companion disappeared the same way the others did this spring. It's pretty sad seeing a single duck wandering around, trying to befriend the other animals. I had been pondering what to do about the situation - should I give her to someone who has ducks, should I put her in with the chickens, should I get more ducks.
While I was busy pondering, Waddles was busy building herself a nest behind my Irises by the front door. She soon had a clutch of eggs and was diligently sitting on them. James mentioned, "You should throw away those eggs", and I agreed. Nothing would come of her hard work since they must be sterile. But, she was content on her nest and I was reluctant to upset her. I said to myself, "When I figure out what to do with her, I'll go about disturbing her - in the meantime, I'll leave her alone".
This morning I said goodbye to Big J. and was surprised to see him coming back across the yard and thru the kitchen door. He informed me that Waddles had at least 2 ducklings!
Waddles ended up moving the babies across the lawn and we discovered that she had five!!
Fearing that she would go into the woods with them, I closed the family up in a portable pen.
What a surprise to find that at least some of her eggs were not sterile after all! And she seems so, so happy with her family.
This week I have started separating my starts and transplanting them into bigger pots. I still have a lot to do, and I really need to get on the ball starting peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes.
The cuttings have bloomed in the house making a very pretty arrangement. Some of the branches have started rooting, while others have yet to do anything. I remain hopeful that I'll get more of these.
I moved the chicks purchased last week into the back half of the green house. They have much more room, and seem to be having a lot of fun with the cinder block and perches.
You may be wondering what is happening in the front half of the greenhouse. Well, that's where A's rabbit is currently residing. Rex had to give up some of her room to the chicks, but she seems pretty entertained by their antics and has been watching them curiously.
Soon (hopefully by this weekend), I'll have shelving set up above all these creatures in the greenhouse and actually use the building for growing plants.
This past weekend the boys gave me a very special birthday gift. Big J. had been listening to me talk about my new design scheme for the front of the house, and implemented it with J. and A.'s help while I was out and about with my mom and brother D.
I had mentioned that while I love flowers, I don't love the front looking like a mud pit for several months of the year. I decided I wanted to turn the entire 40 feet into an herb bed. And that's just what they did! In order to accomplish this they:
dug up and transplanted all plants that were already there ( lots of plants!)
made the bed wider to accommodate my plan
laid down weed barrier
put up a fence to keep dog, ducks, chickens and cats out
Although sparse looking now, this will fill in to be solid rows of herbs within a few years.
Here is the design plan from right to left:
1) Tuscan Blue Rosemary - will get about 4-6 feet tall, and will make a beautiful backdrop hedge
2) French Lavender - I will need to get some more to fill in between the plants
3) Onion Chives
4) Walla Walla sweet onions - this will be a good annual until the plants get big enough to take over.
What hasn't been planted yet, but needs addressing is:
1) Golden Oregano, Greek Oregano - I think I'll be putting these where the onions are now
2) various thyme - French, Winter, Lemon. - we may move the boarder out a bit more to get in this final row, or I may place them elsewhere.
This was amazing to come home to at the end of the night. Thanks guys for all the hard work you put in to make one of my garden dreams a reality! I am a very, very lucky lady.
How cool is this spoon? This was handmade (handmade!) by Grandpa J. and mailed to me as a surprise. And what a surprise it was! You may not be able to tell from the picture, but the spoon is like a ladle, smooth as butter, and fits in your hand perfectly.
I have yet to use it - feeling very much like Adam Lambsbreath with his "liddle mop" being too nice to wash dishes in Cold Comfort Farm. Right now, I am simply enjoying the beauty of the piece.
More appropriately - in the house! As all the pictures are taken from inside.
My starts are doing great! In fact, soon I will have to separate and pot the individual plants. Some of the seeds used were pretty old - like 2007 old, so I planted extra thick for potential germination issues.
This past week we planted:
kale - Red Russian and Improved Dwarf Siberian (second sowing)
Outside I mulched the rhubarb and raspberries with rabbit manure, and did some weeding.
That's pretty much it on the garden side of things. But the chicken side is gearing up!
Mrs. Java decided to go broody on my recently, and I wanted to give her some chicks. Now, we are hatching chicks ourselves, but the current batch wouldn't be ready for how long she's been sitting, and I wanted a specific type of bird that I am not hatching - Americauna. So, I went and picked up 6 chicks for her to adopt. The adoptions have been incredibly successful over the past two years. The moms' do all the work feeding, protecting, and keeping the chicks warm and safe, making my job much easier.
My great plan went belly-up this time around. When I tried to stick some chicks under her at night, I found she had hoarded some more eggs I didn't know she had (all our flocks egg's are sterile due to no rooster - we get the fertile eggs to hatch from my mother). So as I tried to remove them to make room for the babies, she got scared and ran away. Big J. caught her, but she was so upset, she wouldn't go back to the nest where the chicks were. We officially broke her from feeling broody.
It was a very cold night and the chicks needed warmth quickly. So, we slapped a cage with a heat lamp on in our living room and stuck the wee babies in it. And there they still are. The kids are thrilled that the momma didn't want them and they get to hold and raise them. It has been really fun watching them and seeing their antics, but I'm looking forward to some time on Sunday to make a more permanent outside arrangement for them.
We have 40 eggs in the incubator that should be hatching at the end of this month. This is the second batch we have incubated this year (first was a bust for various reasons) and we have pre-purchase orders waiting to be fulfilled. We will be doing 3 more batches after this and then we will be done for the season. A. is heading up this endeavor and will be getting 100% of the profits.
On a sad note - we lost three of our ducks Wednesday morning. They laid their eggs (I was getting 3 a day!), and then completely disappeared. No feathers, no sounds, no Snow Bear barking. Our guess is they went down by the creek (they seem to be crazy for the sound of running water) and got snatched up outside of Snow Bear's radar. The two remaining ducks seem to be sticking very close to home.
This past weekend we went up to the L. family farm and collected branch tips from various trees and put them in labeled jars filled with a slurry of water and root hormone. I'm hoping that some of these root, and I'll have fruit tree starts from their trees.
The L.s have papers showing the homestead was established 1898, and one of the accomplishments achieved in the first few years, was planting a magnificent Royal Anne cherry tree. This tree is amazing, and produces a quantity of fruit that is hard to visualize.
A few years ago, Grandpa B. had a flatbed loaded with hay that he drove under the tree. There was a ladder next to the truck to climb up the truck and on the top of the hay bales. Only then could I reach the bottom tier of the sour cherry tree. I don't know how many pounds I picked, but when I was done, I had my Saturn's trunk filled with cherries. And when I stepped back to look at the tree, it looked so heavily loaded that it was hard to tell that I even picked!
We also got cuttings from 90+ year old apple trees of unknown variety, King apple, blueberry bushes of unknown variety, and Mountain Tulip. It will be so cool if this actually works and I have starts from these fabulous trees!
These past few weeks we have been gearing up for the garden season. It started with the annual seed catalog order. I went through my seeds and found I only needed a handful to round out the leftover seeds I still had. My mother found she only needed a few as well. We got together to order and proceeded to go crazy. When they came in, I was both surprised at how many we purchased and excited about all the fun seeds.
While waiting until planting day, I have added wood ash, manure, and lime to my raised beds.
Here's what both Big J. and I have planted so far:
Hood Strawberries - I transplanted a lot of the runner plants to cover another raised bed, and a 15 foot row. I also potted-up several to sell. I plan on expanding my berries a bit more this season, but am thinking carefully about where I want to put them.
Peas - I have three varieties in the ground - Alaska, Canoe Shelling, and Oregon Sugar Pod.
Garlic - since he's the garlic man, I'll leave it to him to go into all the glorious details on his blog.
Kale - Improved Dwarf Siberian
Lettuce - Arctic Tundra Blend
Radishes - Cherry Belle
Onions - Winter White Bunching
All but the garlic and strawberries are currently under hoops and cloche fabric.
Today I hope to start a crazy amount of herbs indoors. I have come up with a new landscape-plan using herbs as hedges and design elements.
Pictures, design sketches, and planting details ad nauseum will either 1) send jolts of excitement which cause you to promptly run outside and get your hands in the soil, or 2) bore you so deeply that you find reading these posts helps you fight off a nasty bout of insomnia.
This past Saturday J. and A. competed in the FLL State Competition. In September, their team of seven was given the requirements for this year's challenge. They had 3 months to design, build, and program their Lego robot to run through the obstacle course. They have 2 1/2 minutes to complete as many tasks/score points as possible on said course.
Along with this challenge, they have to research and prototype a solution to a real world problem, which they then present to the judges. Finally, they had to show core values, and a code design review on their robot. At regionals, they did well enough to qualify for state (yay Dynamos!!).
The state competition began early in the morning in Hillsboro, OR.
Little J. operating the robot during run 2.
A. switching out robot attachments during run 2.
Waiting for score results.
Showing participation medals.
Note: Little J's medal ribbon has already miraculously disintegrated.
The Dynamos had some unexpected struggles. The main one was that one of the programs quit working for no understandable reason (all was running smoothly the previous Wed. when they did their final practice). This affected the possible points they could have earned on the runs. The great thing was that everyone continued doing their best, soaking in the day long experience, and having a fun time.
After talking with my boys about how things went, and what they wish for down the road, I was pleasantly surprised that to find they are more determined to continue with robotics. They want to practice programming at home in the coming months, and have hopes of designing a robot that will meet this fall's challenge with ease.
I am looking forward to the exciting and cool things they will build. They are indeed, Dynamos!
In keeping with one of my goals to try out a new recipe every week, I tried out this recipe from This Chick Cooks for overnight fruit oatmeal. It was really, really good, and really, really simple. That combination makes it a perfect to go to breakfast for us. Or snack, or lunch. The kids inhaled it - so I have no pictures, but the site I got the recipe from has a gorgeous photo if you are visual like me.
The only difference between her recipe and mine was that I used honey Greek yogurt so didn't need to add the syrup/honey.
Anyways, if you are looking for a twist on the regular - check it out - it's worth making!
Babies are abounding, and I couldn't be more delighted in the chance to hold the sweet little snuggies. Our friend C. had a beautiful girl last week on Jan. 3rd. Mom and baby (and dad!) are doing great.
A. came with me yesterday to visit and got to hold the baby as well. He was charmed by her tiny fingernails and sounds she made. I couldn't get over how alert and inquisitive she already is! It was hard handing her back when it was time to go, but I'm sure I'll get more opportunities to snuggle her.
Now, I just need to hold our friend's dear baby boy who was born up north on Jan. 4th to be completely satisfied! Can't wait!
This past spring, we were given fertile duck eggs from our good friends the Ws, which we hatched and you can read about here or here if interested in reliving the good times. We are raising Ancona Ducks, which are heirloom birds on the critical list, and are good egg layers. And you know, we need more eggs around here!
So, the detail picky side of me has been tracking the cost of raising these ducks since I hatched them at the end of May, and I decided to calculate how much my duck eggs will cost, and what I need to charge to cover the costs.
I got my first duck egg ever on Jan. 6, and I was ecstatic to find it!!! And the cost up to this point for the egg? A mere $144.13! (labor not included)
Here is a picture of the gorgeous, highly valuable egg.
As this egg was far too valuable to part with - we ate
it! Yes, we do eat rich indeed (only the finest
and all of that)!
The next day I discovered a second egg, much to my delight.
This now brings the avg. cost of my duck eggs down to $72.07.
Well, at this rate, they'll become so affordable that all the people
will be chomping at the bit to purchase them!
Size comparison: Chicken egg on Left, Duck egg on right.
The funny thing about these eggs, is that they didn't even come from the ducks we raised. On Saturday, Jan. 5th, the Ws, who gave use the fertile eggs to hatch in the first place, gave us two adult females as they were trimming down their flock. Both these ladies laid the eggs shown. And after laying one on Sunday, and on on Monday, they have decided to stop. So, now I have 4 girls, and no one is laying (unless they are laying in their pond, which I'd have to go fishing for). I have a feeling that my graph will be taking another upward jump until spring comes and starts pulling the numbers down.
As this chart only covers feed and egg, I would be neglectful if I didn't point out other benefits that we have received from the ducks:
the education of incubating/hatching ducklings and how they compare with chicks
the eating of slugs, bugs (and maybe dandelions? - Mr. W said after two years of having ducks, they are pretty much dandelion free), making my gardens healthier
the *ahem* fertilizer that they provide for above gardens
the sheer pleasure of watching their antics
I bet you all probably are dying to try out the extremely expensive and elusive treat! Well no worries, I'm sure as time goes on, you'll have a chance to join the exclusive "golden duck egg" club*.
*Note, avg. cost of eggs will vary depending on availability. While you currently have a considerable chance of eating a $50+ duck egg at Fort Bale, the value may decrease as quantity of eggs goes up. The quality, however, will remain superb.