Friday, January 28, 2011

Win Some, Lose Some

I couldn't believe it when I ventured out to the coop this morning.

Here is what we found...

I had to rub my eyes and look again. Can't say that I've ever been so excited over two eggs before.  The sight of these brown beauties brought a song to my heart.
Corny, but true.

And since it has been almost two months without eggs from our hens, that makes these particular eggs rather expensive little eggs. We shall call them delicacies. All frugality aside, 
I will enjoy them with a smile on my face. And... we even got another tonight!
Oh, it's the simple things, eh?

(refer now to the title of this post). For right about the time I was doing a happy dance around my eggs, I looked down to see a chicken laying dead in the corner of the coop. Mauled by something. I'll spare you the details, so very unfortunate. But I am thankful this particular predator was only feeling hungry for one hen and not 9 last night.
 This evening, my diligent husband set out not one, but two, live animal traps. Sardines lay stinking waiting inside them. I'm hoping Mr. Mink, or Foe Fox, or Rowdy Raccoon has a hankering for canned fish tonight rather than chicken cutlet...

"The Lord giveth and the Lord has taken away" ?
(Job 1:21)
Do chickens and eggs count?

Have a great weekend

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Creativity has been alluding me lately and thus my blogging desire has been scant. Perhaps it was the (non) purchase of the goats I had so been looking forward to, the below zero temps which had the (very loud)children running circles around me all weekend, my husband's absense for two days while he attended the funeral of his Grandaddy (and all the somberness that goes with those such things), chickens who don't care enough to even lay (just one?) egg, or simply, writer's block. But here I am, at 11pm, in a quiet house, feeling blessed enough for ten lifetimes. I love my simple life. I love my loud, crazy children, I love my husband who I could hardly stand to be away from for even two days, I love my Momma (who I'm so thankful to have sleeping on my couch because she was in town for a speaking engagement) and my Poppa who I'm sure is very lonely without her at the moment. I love my sister who is my best friend and consistently makes me laugh harder than anyone ever has, my brother who I don't see nearly enough, and my small circle of friends who share in my joys and encourage me along the way.  I love the beauty of the snow- especially on a cold clear night, and the rosy cheeks of children who've just come in from playing in it. And while I can't say that I love my chickens, I enjoy them well enough and am thankful for the peaceful busy-ness they provide me with each morning and evening when I bring them warm water and check for (just one? please?) egg.

So, a friend of mine asked me to share my recipe for yogurt. I make yogurt weekly because Brenna is lactose intolerant, but does very well on goat's milk products. This recipe can be made with goat or cow (or sheep or horse or yak ~hee hee) milk. It is really very simple and economical to make your own yogurt. I encourage you to give it a try!

You can make any size recipe you wish. For this recipe I used about 1 and 2/3 quart of milk, which will produce that same amount in yogurt. I usually make two full quarts at a time, but did not have enough milk for that this time.

Heat milk slowly and stir regularly to 180 degrees fahrenheit on top of the stove.

Let cool to 115 degrees.
To speed up this process, I usually put the pot in a cold water bath in the sink.
(Just be sure not to get any water in the milk)

When it has reached 115 degrees, whisk in approximately 1-2 Tbsp of store-bought yogurt (or yogurt from a previous homemade batch)  per quart of milk used. For your first batch of yogurt you will have to purchase a small container of store bought yogurt. Make sure it says it has "live active cultures". For future batches, just save a few tablespoons from your homemade yogurt to use.

As you can see here, I don't measure exact amounts- a large spoonful will work for two quarts.

You may also add as much or as little sugar (or maple syrup, or honey) as you would like at this point, and some vanilla extract  if you prefer a vanilla flavor (or lemon, orange, maple extracts etc...) You need to have all these ready and add them quickly so that your milk does not cool too much.

If you plan to add berries, wait until the yogurt has "set" or it will be too runny and won't set properly. Also, goat's milk yogurt tends to be thinner than store bought yogurts and so some people like to add some unflavored gelatin or some powdered milk at this point to help it set firmer. I don't mind the thinner consistency, so I leave these out.

At this point, you need to pour your milk into your jars and insulate your yogurt to keep it at around 110 degrees for 8 hours. There are many different ways to do this. The easiest way I've found is to wrap each jar in a towel and set them in an igloo cooler with another jar (or two if you can fit it) of very hot tap water.

and wait...

Brenna just loves her yogurt with berries :)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Snow Ice Cream

Fresh fallen snow heralds celebration around here. As in, "Ok, we can do school later- go out and play in the snow!" celebration (which happens to also be a spelling word for this week).  I do believe children learn best when given ample play time. Time to use their incredible, God-given imaginations and use up all that coveted energy. And honestly, if they're all out playing in the snow at 9am rather than moaning through school, Momma and baby get a nice quiet house to themselves for just a little longer. So that's exactly what we did here this morning.  Of course Brenna ( hates to be cold) only lasted until her glove came off and her little bare hand was plunged into the snow, Ava (hates to be hot) would not keep her outerwear on, and kept coming in exasperated because she just couldn't cool off, the boys noticed a pile of scrapwood in the garage and decided to construct a ladder for their treehouse rather than play in the snow ("No Connor, ~for the 5 hundredth time~you can not use the power saw!) and I managed to brush my teeth before 10 am. Ahhh.
And speaking of celebration, we had ice cream for lunch. I didn't even serve carrots to go with. Ice Cream. Snow Ice cream!

Snow Ice cream:
8-12 cups fresh fallen snow
14oz sweetened condensed milk
1 TBSP vanilla

Mix together and enjoy.
We used 8 cups of snow, but I would definitely recommend at least 12. It was sickeningly sweet with only 8, and, in my opinion, just tasted like slushy sweetened condensed milk. I saw another recipe using regular milk and sugar rather than the sweetened condensed milk. I think I'll try that one next time. I bet it's great with raw goat's milk (wink).

And tomorrow morning, we get to meet that Alpine goat and her two (8 day old) kids (a buckling and a doeling). A little nervous about this meeting. Got a call from the owner that one side of her udder is feeling hardened. She believes it is not mastitis, just the fact that the kids have only been nursing from one side and she has not been milking out the other side. Still, a glitch. Glitches make me nervous. We shall see...

And here is our sweet Charlotte, just this snowy morning. I think she liked the snow :)

Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing .. Isaiah 40:26

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Turkey, Anyone?

While I'd like to pretend that my life is uber-exciting every day, some days the most exciting happenings are breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Exciting, for sure, if your are a foodie like me, but I don't count vegetable peeling, soup stirring, milk spilling, bread rising, children whining (I don't like thiiiisssss...) altogether the adventures I'd like to relay through this blog any more than you care to read about them. Quite frankly, though, that is all that has gone on here the last two days.
Oh, there were cookies baked by Connor and his younger sisters (Good!), chicken coop cleaning (still no eggs), some wood stacking (happy to say we should have enough to burn full-time next winter), snowman making (and destroying), a snowball fight in the dark between the boys and their Dad (always fun), and still pampering the baby who has a lingering cough and runny nose. She has been up frequently at night the last several days, so I've not been at 100% either. Ok. I've been grumpy, whiny, and generally unpleasant. Yuck. I'm sure you other moms know how unfortunate this is for the rest of the family, as everyone seems to take on the same attitude as mom. Double yuck.

 I am excited to report though that we are getting our soaps made and ready for sale by early Spring! Dandelion's Acre will offer goat milk soaps, yummy body scrubs and organic herbal salves. All of our products are 100% natural, made with the highest quality ingredients such as raw goat's milk (but of course), coconut oil, mango butter and pure essential oils. Just in time for your Spring Easter baskets and Mother's Day goodies. We'll be making a product page off this blog, so check back often!

In other exciting news, we are checking on a momma Alpine and her two kids. Even if this sale does not pan out, our goat barn will not be empty much longer, I can feel it!
 Deciding which breed of turkeys to order,

Standard Bronze, or...

Giant White. What would your preference be ? ;) Can not wait to see these big beauty's gobbling around the farmyard.

Other spare moments have been spent perusing seed catalogs. Yeah! My fingers are aching to dig in the dirt again, and my mouth watering for homegrown peas and tomatoes and greens, oh my!

And now, someone is crying and someone is yelling, and so this blog mom must depart. What's occupying your time these days?

Monday, January 17, 2011

It's All About the Baby

When I was growing up, I loved being sick. Really. I have wonderful parents, but they were exceptionally wonderful to me when I was sick. Mother, ever health conscious (your would never find a box of cookies in her cupboard, no ma'am), would fall all over herself to pamper us kids when we were down. What was usually limited to 10 minute showers became afternoon-long, hot soaks in bubble baths, and while we were sleeping she would steal away to the grocery only to come back with a brown paper sack filled with individual bottles of bubbly ginger-ale, cans of Cambell's Chunky soup, and ice cold strawberry ice cream. And it was all about you. She would've made a great nurse (save for her aversion to blood, that is). Anyway, thanks Mom.

Today in our house, the baby is down with a fever, cold, congestion, yucky cough, up all night.You know the kind. Poor, sweet babe. So today, it is all about Charlotte (and of course MLK Jr ;) ) I had planned to do school today regardless of it being a holiday, but was not heartbroken to be able to call that off today. So after a quick lesson/review/discussion with the school kids about what Martin Luther King Jr. means to them (Connor- "well if he hadn't been famous, he wouldn't have gotten himself shot, so I'm not going to be famous.") I mentally packed away that I need to re-discuss this with him at another time, tucked the baby into her crib in her cool-steam vaporized nursery, and set to work on some all natural cold/congestion,cough salve. Here's the recipe:
 1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sweet almond oil
handful of dried peppermint (or 2 drops peppermint essential oil)
handful of dried rosemary (or 2 drops rosemary essential oil)
3-4 drops lavender essential oil
5-6 drops eucalyptus essential oil
heaping tablespoon of raw beeswax

If using dry herbs: (If using just essential oils, skip to step two)
1. In a double boiler throw the olive and almond oil in with the dry herbs and heat together for approx 1/2 hour. Strain oil through cheesecloth and set aside. 
2. In a stainless steel pot, melt beeswax over low heat. Add the strained oil and essential oils and stir until mixed. Pour into a jar to cool/harden.  I used a clear glass jar because that's what I had available. It's really better to use a dark colored storage container when working with essential oils to preserve their healing qualities.
Store salve in a cool dark place. Rub over chest, neck and you may put a little under your nose for added effect. Use lightly on babies until you are sure they do not develop any adverse side effects (I've never had this problem). Similar to Vicks Vapo Rub, but milder, more pleasant and of course, natural. It really works to clear congestion and help you breathe easy. The added lavender has a calming effect. This smells so nice, I sometimes use it when I'm not sick, just for a pick-me-up.
Bee well ;)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Let There Be Light

So while the baby was doing this ...
and the girls were doing this...
the boys were busy
with their DSI (which I did not take a picture of because I do not condone video game playing on rare sunny days ;).

 I should've been
doing this...
but instead was doing this...

I will have my handyman approve it when he arrives home. Don't want a barn fire on my hands or anything.

But, pretty soon I expect to be seeing this...

It was a beauty of a day here. Here's to sunny days, long baby naps, and fresh eggs (fingers crossed). Happy Friday.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Girl Can Dream...

Saw this advertised today: 10.6 Acre Farm with Spacious 3 Story Farmhouse Spring Water, Views ~and it sure got my mind reeling with all sorts of excitements.
"Plenty of space for gardening and self sustained farming.
3 Post clothesline" Yes, even a 3 post clothesline is exciting to me. It goes on to say how the property is fenced, with a 108 stall barn and milk room!! Possibility for 8 bedrooms in the house! It just got my heart a-pounding. Pounding because unbelievably it is ~almost~ in our price range. But almost is not enough today. IF it were mine and IF I had a bit more time, money and know-how, it would be turned into a goat dairy with a few angora goats and sheep thrown in for fiber. Oh, and let's not forget some pleasure ponies for riding on the trails of the state forest it borders. Oh my. While I DO have faith that someday this may all be quite possible, and I realize it is OK to dream, today the only thing I need to concentrate on are the responsibilities I am currently endowed with. And they are many.  A wise person once told me that if I want to go big someday, I must first perfect small. Working on this... And so, my plans for this humble acreage in the year 2011- however long it takes us to find our "real" farm, include: 1. growing a garden large enough to actually have a considerable amount leftover to can, freeze, or dehydrate. And to be able to can, freeze, dehydrate enough to last throughout winter. This may be somewhat ambitious as I've only been able to can and freeze mere scant amounts in the past. But nonetheless, a goal. 2. To acquire more dairy goats and have them pay for themselves in what they produce for us. A profit would be nice in future years, but realize that is not realistic at first. 3. A weanling pig or two to grow for meat? (Shhhh, don't tell my husband, or my neighbors for that matter ;)) Plan to help grow them with excess goat's milk (excellent for growing pigs, I've heard). 3. Raise 2-3 turkeys and approx. 10-20 meat chickens. Which would mean- 4. Learning to butcher turkeys and chickens . 5. At least get the darn hens to start laying for us again. (a very short term goal, I might add). I think that is plenty 'nough to keep me busy this year. We'll also be constructing either cold-frames or a grow light system to start our garden plants with. Any advice on which you prefer?
I'll leave you today with a few pics of the country kids (sorry for the weird format, still figuring out how to do this) and one of my favorite verses (which was a good one for today):  "I have learned to be content." Phil. 4:11

That would be the "farm toad" Cricket on Charlotte's head

Brenna with our first buckling "Theodore"
I love this one. Brenna is such a good helper :)



Our First Egg '05


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Of Spoonbread and Chickens

What to do when roads are slick and snow-covered and provisions are running low? Five hungry faces are demanding to be fed and will simply not settle for PB+J (again). Make spoonbread!
  • 1 cup white cornmeal (I was out of cornmeal, so I ground popcorn kernels in my Wondermill grainmill to make our cornmeal)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 2 large eggs, well beaten
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter


In a large saucepan, combine cornmeal with 2 cups of water; add 1 teaspoon of salt. I also added a couple Tbsp of honey.Bring mixture to a boil then lower the heat; cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. The mixture will be very stiff. Remove from heat and slowly stir in 1 cup of cold milk. Stir in the beaten eggs and melted butter. Preheat oven to 400° and heat a greased 1 1/2 to 2-quart baking dish or 8-inch square baking dish. Pour the well blended batter into the hot baking dish; bake for about 40 minutes, or until firm in the middle and nicely browned. Serve hot, straight from the baking dish, covered in real Maple Syrup. Mmmmm....
Late in the afternoon, I was able to steal away for a few precious minutes outside. It was a blustery, blizzardy kind of day here. Not nice for jaunts outside, for sure. But a peak in on the chickens was all I needed to recharge for the rest of the evening. They seem to be holding their own nicely in the cold, now that we've moved them to their smaller "winter house". I brought them some veggie scrap goodness and they repayed me with clucks of contentedness. But... we have a problem with the chickens: No eggs for almost a month. Not a one. They are healthy, and eating/drinking heartily, so not sure what the problem is. Hopefully they get the hint soon or to the chopping block it will be. Can't afford to feed any mouths around here that aren't giving in return. As to butchering- not sure who should be more afraid of this idea- we, or the chickens. More on that later...if they coninue not to lay...

Once inside again, Ava (6) and I shared a game of Bananagrams. And while dinner (leftovers) were reheating in the oven, Brenna (3) and I made Grandmother Wolford's rice pudding. On another day with more time, I may just share that goody with you. For now, I'm off to nurse sweet Charlotte (9 months) and then battle the icy roads to work for a few hours. Stay warm.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Definitely a Marm, Not Quite a Farm (Yet)

Wanted: Goats, of the dairy persuasion. I mean this quite literally. You see, we sold ours last summer to go on vacation (gasp!) and have come to realize there is more to life than a week spent out of your element, off everyone's schedule, car breaking down, spend too much money (vacation) kinda time. Apparently I'd rather my time be spent hauling water buckets in negative temperatures through knee-deep snow to obnoxiously-impatient animals. Or, listen to the children whine about having to haul water buckets in negative temperatures through knee-deep snow to obnoxiously-impatient animals. Or perhaps I just don't have enough to do these days.Yes, I admit, I am a cursed woman. Nope, not true at all. I am actually a very blessed woman. I consider myself blessed because I know what makes me happy: my God, my family, and my goats. The children and I read an ADORABLE book as part of our home"school" today. The Goat Lady by Jane Bregoli.
True story.Simply wonderful. I fully can picture myself in years to come as that (very content) little old goat lady who wears mismatched clothes, in her run-down old farmhouse, tending to her goats with a twinkle in her eye while all the neighbors whisper... heck, I'm pretty darn close now, except that I'm not little, or old, and my farmhouse sits goat-less at this present time. So, anyone in upstate NY have some caprine dairy they're looking to part with? Be it Nubian, Alpine, La Mancha, Saanen, whatever. One can hardly call a farm, a farm with only 8 chickens, one rooster, a cat and a bunny. Oh, and one toad that lives in the window well and comes out to play (really!) in the summer.In the meantime, I will continue to purchase our goat milk from my dear friend up the road. It makes delicious soaps!
Welcome to my blog, by the way. I will try to keep you updated on all the happenings here at Dandelion's Acre. Feel free to have a chuckle at my expense. I hope we become fast friends :)