3.27.2009

What's going on?


Who's that, where am I? What a day, the oven's beeping, the phone is ringing, a fire truck is screaming by and yep you guessed it the boys are yelling. I am barely keeping my head on. The chewy chocolate cherry cookies are out of the oven, a made extra big ones since we have to individually wrap all the bake sale items according to the food district code. Half of the mini banana bread loaves are done and the rosemary artisan bread is rising on the pan, not bad I'd say. Although I still have to get everything together to set up the auction in the morning, I can see a very late night ahead. So at that, I will leave you with this short but sweet blog. I'll go check the bread to see if it has grown.

3.26.2009

Out of Energy!


I just don't know where it has gone, I feel zapped of all energy. I should be doing so many things and the only thing that really sounds appealing is a cozy couch and the latest knitting project (the cutest duck feet booties for Gabby). It be because of a late night due to the, oh so successful, garden meeting, we had 11 people can you believe it. We talked about all kinds of things and they all want to do it again, it was a whole lot of fun. It's been a long week though, and it's going to be an even longer weekend, our preschool's silent auction and bake sale is Saturday and I'm in charge. Tomorrow's going to be filled the the enticing smells of Rosemary artisan bread, mini banana loaves, and chewy chocolate cherry cookies, oh and potato salad for the dinner after at my house. What do I get myself into! I'm just kidding I love doing it all (at least after I've had my latte). This morning also might have something to do with my power outage feeling, another mother and I were the parent TA and teacher since our regular teach is out learning some new tricks. It puts a whole different spin on preschool when you're in charge of all the activities, but it was lots of fun.  As class ended and I put my bake sale items down on the sign up sheet the other mother said "Oh artisan bread don't slave all day, make something easy," little does she know it's from the recipe "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day"it's the best bread. My mother found the recipe in "Mother Earth News" magazine, tried it out and we haven't bought a single loaf of bread in four months not to mention we eat twice as much bread as we ever did before (that might not be such a good thing).  It's really simple, you just need a large container to fit in the fringe. The magazine tells of impressing your friends and family with easily memorized recipe (I don't know how impressed anyone would be), but I can tell you without having to open the cookbook, 6 cuts of warm water, 3 tablespoons yeast, 3 tablespoons salt, 13 cup of all unbleached all purpose flour. Dump water, salt and  yeast in the kitchen aid mixer and let it sit for a few minutes (till it bubbles), next add all the flour (don't worry it will fit) mix only enough to get the ingredients combined and pour (or scrape) into a large container and I mean large. My mother bought us a 2 gallon crock to keep in the fridge, it work great. You let the dough rise for a few hours and then pop in into the fridge with a lid that is not air tight. When hunger strikes, preheat the oven to 450, pull out a grapefruit sized ball and let it rise while the oven is heating and in 30 minutes you'll have a wonderful loaf of gourmet bread.  After we have shaped the dough we put it on a pizza peel dusted with polenta for an easier transition to the pizza stone. They suggest you use a pizza stone and a pan in the oven to hold water for steam. My mother does and her bread comes out with a heavy, chewy crust, I use a cookie sheet and no water and either way the bread is great. A few tips we have learned after some trial and error, use course sea salt, bread flour works fine but not whole wheat and don't expect the loaves to last long, we bake them two at a time and they can both be gone by the end of lunch. Having the dough ready in the refrigerator is quick and easy, it makes wonderful pizza dough, bread sticks, rolls and THE BEST pecan sticky buns you'll ever have. And the dough only has those four ingredients what could be better. Be careful though it easily grows out of the container. Enjoy! The cook book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day was created by a pastry chef and a chemist to be able to last in the fridge for up to two weeks.

3.25.2009

Got Milk?

  I know how cliche of me, I meant got goat milk? Over the weekend we tried our first taste of Flash's (the goat) milk. It was great, creamy and smooth and without even a hint of goaty flavor. Ty has always been really excited to consume our goat's milk and while I really like the idea when it actually came time to put it to my lips I was a bit hesitant (at least I did try it, Ty wouldn't even try my breast milk when Isaac was born). I was afraid the goat milk would have a heavy taste like many of the goat cheeses have, you know the one 
(or maybe you don't) that flavor that tastes just like the goat smells, which isn't terrible I just don't want it in my morning latte. As it was, Ty did make a latte with it, don't expect goat's milk to be coming to your local coffee shop anytime soon, apparently it doesn't foam even one little bubble (but tastes great).
  It might not foam because goats milk contains smaller fat lipids than cow's milk, that's why people who are intolerant or allergic (like Ty) to cow's milk can often have goat dairy without trouble. We started Isaac on goat dairy before he ever had cow's milk and he likes it better now that he can choose. It would be wonderful if goat's milk was more readily available to everyone, I know of many groceries that carry it but not most of the mainstream ones. Next come yogurt, wish us luck!
Tonight is our first garden group meeting. 
Marianna (a good friend of mine from high school) and I wanted to talk with and help out others interested in gardening to feed the family. We weren't sure if there would be any interest so I put an add out on craigslist to get a sense for others' with the same interests and Bam! Wouldn't you know it, there are a whole lot of people who want to talk about all sorts of thing; seed starting, gardening, preserving and everything else you can do to support your families hunger from the backyard. many people who were having trouble with getting the gardens to flourish and have a harvest you can feed the family with through the winter. I hope with the variety of gardening talents we have coming everyone can get their questions answered and we can all make some new friends. I made banana bread for tonight and the preschool snack (two hungry groups with one baking session), can't beat that). 
I didn't have a lemon, so this time I added orange zest
and a couple of tablespoons of fresh juice and of course lots of nutmeg. Can't you just smell this bread. Well I should go and outline some topics for tonight and hopefully help others to grow some great food.

3.24.2009

Where does it go?


Where does the time go. Gavin (Gabby as the whole family calls him) is seven months old today. It just keeps zipping by, next thing I know he'll be out with his brother terrorizing the farm and each other. I'm loving this sweet picture, it reminds me that he does actually sleep, once in a while. It's been a couple of hard nights, can't you tell.
 
For Christmas Isaac got this great wheel barrow, although I'm not sure who uses it more him or me, I have been known to load it up with some compost for a quick boost for the blueberries. It handles so much easier than the grown up one. We do have a plethora of loading, dumping and moving muck type vehicles. From the regular old wheel barrow (in small and large sizes), to the wooden garden cart, the "tractor" which in reality is the riding lawnmower with  a trailer (we like to pretend), to the new and improved (that's what the store claimed)  garden cart that carries up to 1200 lbs and has a dumping feature. It works great for so many things, taking feed sacks to the chicken house,
potting soil to the greenhouse and carnival rides around the yard, maybe I should sell tickets (I'm starting to feel like a horse drawn carriage ride).  Gotta take a quick break to feed this horse and her ponies, be right back...

Alright I'm back now. After a bit of lunch I ran down
to the greenhouse to plant a few things in the heat bed. This weekend I had layed my new heat cable out on some snow fencing, cut to fit the box, an zipped tied it all together. Side Note; Now I am trying to be more conscience of my families plastic's use (and encourage everyone to try and do the same), but I was afraid if I had used mesh and wire it might burn the cable out, so we arrived at a heated snow fencing mat if you will. 
The box it's all in was built for the table it sits in, which was built for the greenhouse specifically. The box is originally meant for a dirt tub, in fact we have another one and that's what we use it for and it's great (it keeps the dirt from getting dirty). 
Anyway, I finally got it all put together and planted 
Basil, Dukat Dill, German Chamomile, Echinacea, Yarrow, Hollyhock, and Anise Hyssop, just a few things. It is really easy and fast to plant with the heat bed, but don't forget to keep a written journal of what you have planted. It is great for year to year records of what worked well and what didn't and after planting so many different seeds it helps you keep it all straight
(I said helps, it's not guaranteed). Uh oh, I think I forgot to turn the cable on, it won't work that way. 
Well off to the green house again. The seed will grow faster with a little heat help. 

3.20.2009

Addicted to blogging.


Already after only a week of blogging I'm getting blogging withdrawls when I miss a day (or three). This weekend was just too busy, between the farm and garden work, trying to put together a preschool silent auction for fundraising, family and everything else I am starting to feel like a crazy chicken (I don't know where that phrase came from but it's fitting). It was a great weekend but no time to write a post or even get half of the things I wanted to get done in the greenhouse. There are just so many time sensitive projects to get done, you know the ones, better get them done before it's too late to put them in the ground cause summer is coming projects, that are always calling from the garden . 
 A triumph for me! A couple of years ago we bought a 20 foot heat cable to bury in a tub with potting soil and use for starting seeds.  I turned it on this year and realized it had burnt itself out, argh what a pain! These cables are $40-50 dollars and in this day and age that is plenty of money (imaging all the seeds you can get with that). I emailed Charlie's Greenhouse where we bought it, they informed me that we needed to contact the manufacture and that the cables have a two year warranty (ours had expired the month before), they gave me all the info for the manufacture. I thought, what the heck, I was going to try anyway, I sent the heat cable to the manufactures, a company called Wrap On, and less than two weeks later we got a brand-new one the mail. It felt just like Christmas. I would defiantly go back to either one of those company's for the excellent service they provided.
Speaking of the holiday season, I made a cabled hat as a Christmas gift for my sister in-law this last year. She opened her gift and tried to put the hat on. Yes I said tried and not to successfully either, I would like to blame it on her overly large head but she just doesn't
have one (her head is very nicely shaped). It was my curse of being an incredibly tight knitter and not compensating for it with larger needles when I started the project.  I took it back to see if blocking it to stretch it out would work. I haven't giving it back yet to see if it will really fit, but the yarn has relaxed now and it's not so tight. Hopefully she gets it back before next Christmas, sorry Kel.
 
Now that Spring has finally sprung (someone let mother nature know) it's time to get down and dirty (literally) in the garden. I have such lofty goals and such little time, ain't that always the way though. The plan was to plant onions,  spinach and chard this weekend along with what ever else the garden book instructed me to do, but the weather had other things in mind. I need to start some more seeds in the greenhouse, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, dill, basil and whatever else I can find. The weather excuse doesn't work so well for the greenhouse, I just simply ran out of time and space in the greenhouse. During
the winter I have such a hard time imaging that I could ever fill up all the tables and yet here is spring and I am practically stacking the seed trays on top of each other (not a good idea by the way). I have run out of room on the heat pads, I have had to start tossing cuttings out (this just won't due), so I brought out a couple of grow lights that we bought a few years ago. Isaac and I (in between the downpours)  built a contraption (it truly looks like a 2 year old built it) for the lights to hang on and fit in the greenhouse over trays and be adjustable as the plants grow, you always want the light to be about 2 inches from the tops of the plants. This is usually something I would leave to my husband to build, but then what kind of self respecting blogger would I be if I didn't put my own handywomen skills to the test and let all of you see how little I have (handy skills I mean). As long as it doesn't burn the greenhouse down what do we have to loose (don't worry it was all made out of scrap wood, I didn't waste the good stuff). Let's hope 
it does the trick and helps the seedling grow strong. Have a great Monday!

3.18.2009

Tired!





Wow am I tired. What a hard night it was. More than just Gavin (the 6 month old) was crying. At 11 pm (when did I become such an early bird) I am still awake and Gavin is using me as a trampoline. It is amazing how different two siblings can be. Isaac was a champion sleeper and eater (still is). Gavin will sleep if your cradling him in your arms or he is snug in the car seat, but that's the only way to get him to sleep most of the time. Isaac knew exactly what to do with food from the first bite, we gave Gavin his first food, he took one tiny bit and up came about a cup of chunky milk he had eaten an hour before (too graphic?). We'll try again another time. Although I think Gavin might be a calmer soul compared to Isaac, who is the rough and tumble type. Well I guess that's how it should be, what would be the point of have more than one if they were exactly the same. I love them both very much for their different, sweet and wonderful selves.
It's no fun feeling worn out at the start of the day, but it makes it easier not to feel so bad when I sit down and enjoy a quiet activity (I meant my activity is quiet, not the boys). I need to make some scrubbies for the kitchen because I don't even want to touch the one in the sink. I'm sure it could grow legs and walk away at this point (it defiantly could grow something). Attention: This is the best kitchen scrubby ever!
Not the cheap thing you buy at the store and falls apart the
second you touch it to the pan, but a scrubby that will scare the grease off any thing and not the paint. It won't scratch and when I can no longer justify using it to clean dishes, it gets demoted to shower scrubber.
It crochets up pretty quickly and becomes a no brainer, which makes it a very satisfying project to take any where. I'll admit I only know how to crochet this one thing and that should tell you how easy it can be.
Get it started: Every scrubby turns out a little different. It all depends on the hook, I like to use a "G", I like my scrubbies nice and tight so they won't fall apart. I have used hooks from "G to J" and they all work fine, the tool (fabric) you use is also important. Joann's sells three types of tool; a fine small holed type, a larger holed coarser type and the heave coarsest type made especially for scrubbies (this is new). The two coarser types work for scrubbies, the kind made specifically for scrubby making is a little harder on your hands and more expensive. The green tool in the pictures is the new, coarse tool. You have to cut the tool into strips to use it, keep it folded, it makes it so much easier. I cut mine into 1 to 2 inch strips, the coarser the tool the narrower the strip. The tool made for scrubbies can be cut into 3/4 inch strips. If you cut it too wide it makes it really hard on your hands to crochet.

Step One: Chain four, I change this often depending on my hook size and tool. I like a tight scrubby so the larger the hook and the
coarser tool the less chains I do. Next, connect the chain to form a circle, then double crochet into each stitch to increase the the circle. When you finish the first strip tie another to the working end and keep going. You will continue to double crochet into each stitch until your circle starts to have ruffles, this is some where between 2 to 3 strips of tool.
Step Two: Now, single crochet into every stitch until the circle reaches about 3 inches in diameter. I like a bigger scrubby, but you really can make them any size you want. Up to this point I've used about 6 to 7 strips of tool.

Step Three: When your scrubby seems big enough for you, start to decrease. Crochet into every other stitch, the circle will close in on itself and you can tie it off at the end. If all went as planned your scrubby should resemble a flattened ball. Now hand it over to the dish washer. I make the scrubby my husband gets to use it, don't forget to thank them for that. (Thanks Honey for washing the dishes!) That's one thing you don't want to watch grow, a dirty pile of dishes.

3.15.2009

It's Back





Apparently I spoke too soon in regards to Spring being on her way. Yesterday morning we awoke to large, fat snow flakes tumbling towards the ground. Winter is a sore loser I guess and just can't leave without the last word. I can only hope we avoid a start to the growing season like we suffered last year, warm cold, cold warm. I love you mother nature but please could you be a little more decisive. The plants were so confused they didn't know which way was up so they just stay put. My tomatoes, even though they were in the greenhouse, stayed about 3 inches tall until they developed flowers and I tossed them out. 
Since it was more like wet cement out there than soft, fluffy, snowman snow we stayed inside by the fire and started Isaac's book of sounds. My mother, the kindergarten teacher, gave me the idea. It is really simple and can be made in so many ways. I went for the extremely easy, 
practical way. I took a 1/2 inch 3 ring binder and plastic sleeves (I have lots of these around for knitting patterns), glue stick, scissors and markers. Isaac and I chose a letter and started looking through magazine that I wasn't attached to (I kept my Interweave Knitting magazines hidden), we cut out any picture with the sound of the letter. It is a
simple, quick,  activity to do with the kids and they can read it 
with you afterwards, and it helps their small motor skills. 
I think Isaac will like to read it at bed time.

On a different note, today I happened to see a clip on the today show about breast feeding. A mother and not a health expert, is advocating for women who don't want to or can't breastfeed their children. She claims there is no scientific evidence to back up claims that breast feeding is a healthier than formula. Now I haven't gone to look for medically published articles or studies on breast feeding being the healthiest option, I only assume it is because it comes from a mother's body (so did the baby who needs it) and is made especially for that baby. Regardless of the common sense that goes with it, all you have to do is read the labels on the formula can. Now I'm not saying all formulas are created equal, so there must be better ones out there (I hope for babies sake) ,but we had some formula cans  sent as samples to the house ( I don't know why) and the label reads like a candy bar: 43.2% corn syrup solids (first ingredient), 11.5% high Oleic Safflower Oil (third ingredient), 10.3% Sugar (fourth ingredient), 5 different kinds of oils in it and countless other item that would take me a week to type. I think it was irresponsible of these woman and the Today Show to promote formula by saying there is no evidence that breastfeeding is better, where's the evidence that formula is safe? Just take a look at the ingredients. I won't let my 2 1/2 year old eat candy, I am defiantly not going to let my infant snack on it in the disguise of "milk". I participated in the chat on the Today's Show site, here's what I said, "There will always be mothers who cannot or choose not to breastfeed, 
 so lets focus on improving the standards to which companies making formula have to stack up to and eliminate the terrible ingredients being used in today's formula." I don't ever participate in things like that but it was interesting to see what other women had to say, sadly they mostly criticized each other's decisions (a cat fight if I ever heard one). In the end it is a mother's right to choose, we need to push for BF mother's to feel comfortable to feed their children anywhere, I am sure mother's who bottle feed do.
 Well thanks for listening to my rant, I think is is time to go and help something grow to relax me,  I know! I'll go and BF my baby and help him grow!

3.13.2009

It's Almost Here!!!

Spring! It's almost here and it feels like it too. Some weeks there might be snow on the ground and you'd swear we were in the depths of winter in the middle of March, but not today. The sun is shining the birds are singing (how cliche of me) and there are babies everywhere. Gavin is asleep in his bed, there are baby chicks in my bath tub, baby goats in the field and a kitten tearing around the house. Yep, it's spring alright.  And even though there is more daylight in the evening I feel like there is less time than ever to do things, oh gardening season, where we work outside so long and don't get into the house until dark and then dinner ends up being around 9pm. It is totally worth it.
 
Well now, lets talk about something a little more fun. My sister and I went to a fiber arts convention called Madrona. It has amazing classes you can take and 40-50 vendors to shop from. Most of the vendors are  semi-local yarn stores and local artists. It is a great way for fabulous small businesses to get out a bit . While we were there we came across a new felting technique, it is a little needle felting with a dash of wet felting and a heaping scoop of Easy! It's called art felt and is based around Artfelt paper which is a potato based paper that you place your design on, barley tack it down with a felting needle and throw it into the dryer. Alright you got me, there are a few more steps, but not many. I wanted to try it out by making a Spring ornament. I make these ornaments regularly with just the needle felting
method and they take me a little over an hour. 
I have gathered all my supplies, pink wool for the flower head, a small amount of yellow wool for the center and green for the stem and leaves, a small square of the art felt paper along with a square of plastic (plastic wrap will do) make both pieces just slightly larger than the project itself, a knee high nylon, a felting needle and don't forget the foam felting pad 
(a needle in the leg will add a painful note to the day).
Ready set go!
  Step 1: Lay the Artfelt paper on the foam and let your imagination run. You are able to make double sided projects but remember the felting paper is always the bottom layer. 
Tack your design down just enough to hold it to the paper.


Step 2: Lay the plastic on top and roll it up like a jellyroll. Plastic wrap worked well but next time I think I will use something a little heavier to be able and reuse it (waste not!).

Step3: Get it completely wet. Cold or tepid water works well, don't use hot water. Now stuff it in those old knee highs that have been banished to the back of the drawer (if you ever even owned any).
Step 4: Throw it in the dryer and turn it on high for about 10 minutes. Pull it out and give it a looksie, it probably won't be done yet but you can control the degree of felting by keeping an eye on it.
Step 5:  Now comes the fun part! Take your project,  put it in a bowl and add boiling water to it. The paper should be magically disappearing 
before your eyes. After the cloud clears check out your newest creation.
Well it wasn't my most creative or dynamic project, but it worked well for a test run of the Artfelt paper. After all the supplies were readied it only took me 10 minutes to have my design ready to throw in the dryer and another 10 minutes in the dryer. That's fast considering this flower grew from a ball of wool. Here is the Artfelt website, www.itsartfelt.com . Happy felting!

3.12.2009

Silly Kids

As I stood watching those two silly kids yesterday (I'm talking about baby goats) I was thinking about my two boys and how I can't wait till they will play with each other and be this silly (alright maybe not this silly).
video
"A day at the playground"
They think they have found a slide and like all good kids are taking turns. You can hear their mama in the background telling them to get down and stop fooling around. Gavin (my six month old) is helping me take the footage (his hands are not too steady yet
) and Isaac is cheering the babies on . After two weeks they finally have names, the white one is Sunny and the black one is Cher I am not really sure where we came up with those names but they're definitely fun. One of the kids (baby goat again) gets to go to kindergarten today and visit my mother's classroom. I don't think she will feel so lucky (the kid not my mother).

Whew, I am back after a whirlwind trip, I had to interrupt my blog writing to get the goat to school (sounds very strange when you write it down). Twenty 5 year olds, a 2 1/2 year old, a six month old and a baby goat, use your imagination. It was crazy! The goat was great, especially since I had to run errands afterward (thinking ahead and saving fuel), people kept asking me what kind of dog was it. After the grocery store, gas station, community college to pick up 200 hundred flyers for our up-coming silent auction (which I now have to paper the town with), and last but not least a trip to the hardware store for potting essentials, I am now ready to hit the greenhouse and start some Lavender and Dogwood cuttings and if I have enough space on the heat pads some Dill and Basil seed too (I'll show you tomorrow).  Time to go utilize the daylight and make something grow, bye for now!
                                  










"Taste Testing"

3.11.2009

Thanks Kelly!


A little push and a thought from someone else can make you do thinks you might never have. I now have a blog, we will see what I do with it. My sister in-law thinks I do enough things in my life that I might have something to share with others, beyond my bad grammatical skills. But, I do love many things, my boys above all else, most of the things I do are just for them. Today I spent at least  few hours planning for a silent auction to support our co op preschool, then off to the greenhouse to water the veggie starts and milk the goat in the barn. It only sounds slightly weird when you put it in writing. Gardening, knitting, crafting, raising animals, farming and everything in between are things I like to do. I often find myself with too many interests and not enough time, as I am sure many do. I had to put down my knitting to write this and I am sure I won't be disappointed, hey maybe it will even be fun.  Something in my life has just grown a bit as a result of this. Every bit of my life is growing, from my 2 1/2 year old and 6 moths old sons, to the seeds I just started, the baby goats we just had and the scarf I am knitting for the auction, they all grow a little each day. May yours grow too!

Inspirational Growing Quotes

"Gardening requires lots of water-most of it in the form of perspiration."
~ Lou Erickson, www.quotegarden.com