Monday, September 1, 2014

homeschool somedays...

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

life in pictures...

I've been quite obsessive about green tea kombucha steeped with mint and ginger this summer. :D  Ginger makes it really fizzy which I love.

two questions I get about kombucha repeatedly:

do you dump out the sediment at the bottom of the brewing jar: 

yes I do-I never use that to second ferment as it has a lot of yeast in it.  Dump it and only use the mostly clear tea in the jar to bottle.

what is a second ferment and how do you do it:  

You make the tea with a culture/scoby and sugar.  After that brews for two weeks+ you put it in an air tight bottle with whatever you want to give it flavor and to mellow it out and add fizz since the lid is airtight and traps the off gassing.  Swing top bottles are ideal as the lids are very tight.  Once in the bottle let it sit out at room temp for a day or two then refrigerate.  Ginger makes the tea more fizzy like ginger ale.  But the skies the limit...add blue zest...whatever you like flavor wise that goes well with the tangy flavor of the tea.  I've even had some with lavender and chia seeds added. :)
 My sister, Jenny, said there are cat people... and we (our family not her's) are chicken people... ha- I guess I'm okay with that assessment, though any label with "people" at the end makes me a little nervous. ;)
the black tomatoes have stars on top :D
 I made pickles out of the lemon cucumbers and our hot peppers :)  Hope they're good...and a bit spicy ;)

 These are not sealed, so I need to put them into the refrigerator tomorrow once they are "pickled" :)
 eating a lot of garden beans with good bacon...that would be back to basics I guess... :)
 I have never named any of our chickens...the boys always take care of that.  But I've been calling the pricey grey/blue one "Twenty" :D haha
 The boys picked an over-ripe green bean and planted the seeds in the carrot patch.  Looks like saved seed works. :)  I don't want beans planted there in late Aug...but...that's besides the point ;)
 anyone...?  What is going on here.  There are two kinds of tomatoes growing on this vine.  Big huge ones and little yellow grape/pear shaped ones.  It's not a illusion of two vines overlapping...its all coming from the same plant.  It's not supposed to be a's some kind of heirloom verity that Luke grabbed on clearance.  Does this happen?
I now have a secret (or not really all that secret) respect and obsession for power tools. :D
Doors that need to meet up in the middle evenly...the sweltering day only got hotter the more complicated that goal became. ;)
A birthday party for Poppy! :)

Ash made these flowers with pineapple slices...super cute :)
Looked like rain at the Holiday park playground, so we headed for the nature center.
The space kept them all busy for a little while. :)
And dinner at Luke and Jen's after the park.  Jude wasn't done with costumes and became an astronaut for the evening (this was before he ripped a gaping hole in the seat of his jeans and had to keep his shirt pulled down until we left and Noah got his finger smashed with a matchbox car...and a glass was shattered on the front step... ;) ha
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Monday, August 25, 2014

So you want backyard chickens...

With all this coop building and posting pictures of baby fluff ball chicks...I've had this thought that I should share some of the hard facts about chickens and not just the fun parts.  Because while I'm totally addicted to having a flock out back...there are some things to consider before buying a chicken or of them being you'll need more than one...or even two. :)
 Why?  Because chickens hate being alone and if you only have two, one might die and then you've got... one.  Plus... two eggs a day is actually quite a lot for the week, but sometimes hens go broody or quit laying eggs during the winter, so having three or four is a better number.  That's quite a few chickens and you'll need a safe coop for them so they don't get eaten while they sleep in a semi-comma state.  For real.  They are so easy to eat when they are asleep.  What I'm trying to say I guess, is that you don't ideally buy one pet chicken like you would buy a cat because they are different creatures entirely.

Where is Goldie?  Another hard fact.  Goldie was pecking at the new chicks so we separated them.  That's fine for a while.  But, we plan to move all the chickens into the new coop soon and I didn't want to deal with Goldie pecking the smaller chicks we have in the brooder.  Or deal with her in a separate cage.  Another strike against her was that she was approximately 1 1/2 years old and would probably have slowed way down in egg production in another year anyway.  Chickens live for a long time but only lay eggs every day (a good laying breed) for two years.  Goldie went home with friends of ours that are very resourceful and  mostly raise or acquire/butcher all the meat that they eat.  It was more sad than I thought handing her over and we didn't even butcher her ourselves.  Sad fact, chickens die or need to be culled for various reasons.  It's a bummer.  Posting a bird on Craigslist usually takes care of finding someone to take them...but it's still a bummer. 
 When you leave for several days, you'll need someone to come over and change the water and check food levels.  not a huge deal.  A neighbor boy does this when we are away for a small sum.  But it's a detail to consider.
 a big strong chicken can destroy a garden box of seedlings if left unattended for several hours.  We had to put ours in a small dog play pen thing out back in the woods so they could free range to prevent this. They will also go crazy on mulch looking for bugs which can be really annoying because they will throw it anywhere but where it started. :)  All chickens are different though...our other hen doesn't destroy things as much as Goldie did.
 chickens are determined to make their water and food gross.  A dog wouldn't poop in it's water bowl.  A cat wouldn't scatter her food in a thin layer to look through it.  Chickens will.  It's what they do.
 Basic chicken feed is pretty inexpensive at a farm store, but you must consider that they will waste some of it if not put in a good/screened feed dispenser.  This is doubly annoying if you buy expensive organic feed for them.  We either put just what they will eat for the day in a traditional dish and/or scatter scratch grain on the ground when they free range outside their coop.  We plan to make a feeder out of PVC pipe in the new coop that prevents scattering of the feed. :)  water dispensers will freeze in the winter (in IN).  If you change the water everyday consistently, it's not such a big deal- but putting a heat lamp out in the coop all winter is a good idea if you want them to keep laying eggs and have thawed water.

But...even with all of this annoying stuff I listed (you read all that! ;), I'm out putting cedar shakes on a coop because...there is nothing quite like getting eggs out of a nest box...or even better, watching your kids or neighbor kid find them.  There is a little bit of magic in it.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

life in pictures...

 Some boards needed painted before the plexiglass could be mounted.  No...the ladder and the paint can are not properly secured to anything. :D
me about to get hit in the face with plexiglass while taking pictures ;)

 The cleanest it will ever be...
 Luke was joking around with some dinner guests about how we make stuff around here like vanilla and hand soap and tried to totally exaggerate by saying "we even make our own .... (trying to think of random thing no one would make) dirt..."  only to look over at me looking at him weird because...we do.  It's not really a funny Joke okay? ;) ;)
Speaking of which...
 Carrot harvest
 Did you know that if you put a 1/4 of the amount of sugar listed into meringues they don't work? 
 at all... we ate them but... they were NOT crispy meringues.  Next time all the sugar goes in
 We are the late bunch starting school Sept 9th
 Oh Willem...I love you :)
 The cucumber powdery mildew update is positive.  The baking soda trick was keeping things from going crazy bad but I bought some kind of organic fungicide made by Serenade and no more leaves are turning yellow.  So I would say it works. :) We've had a lot of rain the past few days I'm not sure if it would have worked faster if the fungicide wasn't being washed off?  I don't know.
 a lemon cucumber. :)
 And the first two tomatoes (that I haven't eaten without weighting ;) tip the scale to...
 20 pounds of produce by the end of August. :D  Yay.  Now I'm really curious how much food we get out of those boxes past the goal.  If a newbie like me can grow veggies, I'm pretty sure anyone can. :)

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

new chicks...

Don't kill me for posting more pictures of poultry.  ;) ;)  There really isn't anything too terribly more darling than budgy baby hands and fluffy chicks...and when you combine them...weeeeeeell..... lets just say I'm a fan. :D

"well, I would look at that chick there...but my cute distracting..."
"oh my word...I think it's coming this way..."
"I knew it...these things love me...."
 The chick on the right...ya, the snooty looking one with a smug expression.  That is a symbol of my falling into a delusional state in regards to chickens.  Chicks are  haha  couldn't help it.  Usually about $2 a piece.  The grey one there is the cost of ten more humble varieties.  I'll let you do the math on how dumb I am for buying it.  Even if it does have special "silver blue" feathers in it's genetic make up.
 Gisella Rene` considering swatting to death or swiping my expensive bird off the stool. ;)  
tomatoes are finally getting red.  tomatoes are sun hungry, and these don't get quite enough, so they are taking their sweet time.  They are yummy though, so that's something worth the wait.
 And the planted late sunflowers are bursting open to the boys delight :D
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Monday, August 18, 2014

coop building updates...

In chicken coop news... I used a table & circular saw and nail gun without loosing any appendages...which I'm quite worried about when using power tools I discovered. :)  The car siding is going up pretty fast so now I need to find the right handles for the doors.  We are going to try to do a plexiglass roof (to keep it dry and not so dark since the front side has a solid wall) on the run, but it's annoyingly expensive.  Who knew a piece of plastic would put you back a hundred smacks. :(  If we did an itemized list of what this coop is costing us, it would be safe to assume we could buy a several (....actually many might be a better word) years worth of eggs with the sum.  But, the boys are learning a lot and it's hard to put a price on education...can I get an amen? :)
 Nay-nay's first pig tails! :D  Luke was pretty smitten by them and almost went out to buy her a car or something. ;) haha
 Our stopping point last time we worked on the coop... Luke had to do something lame like go to work at the hospital or something. ;)
When we left for vacation, our lemon cucumber plant looked vibrant and green.  When we got home, it was coming down with a bad case of powder mildew. :( boo.  The cucumbers look fine, but some of the leaves are turning yellow and dying.  So I tried 1 1/2 Tablespoons of baking soda to 1 gallon of water in a sprayer today.  I'll keep you posted on if it works. :)

after spraying the leaves-they are still they look pretty awesome here. ;)

the plant has it the worst at the base...which I would assume is bad since all the growth will die if things go bad at the root... come on baking soda salt... work some organic magic! :)
 I also sprayed my cabbage plants with peppermint castile soap diluted with water.  It's being decimated by cabbage we'll see if that works as well.  I originally bought BT (which is a natural bacterium) to use, but is smells so awful I don't think I can bear using it.  It smells nothing like a natural bacteria and is a fake wintergreen color.  Hmmmmmmm.... my senses say no to whatever else is in the bottle along with the bacterium active ingredient, even if the cabbage is looking like swiss cheese these days. ;) ha
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