Sunday, December 29, 2013

Fairy Gardens

I don't know about you, but this time of year I really crave some green around the house. As in plants. Live, green, vibrant plants that remind me that Spring will be coming eventually.  Combine this with the kids being on Christmas break and needing some fun ways to fill the days, and Fairy Gardens are the perfect project! Or if you have boys who make faces when you say "fairy" they can be Elf Gardens. Of course, you could also just make these yourself and call them cactus gardens! Whichever you do, they're fun to make and add that much needed green to the house!

We got some succulents and cactus from a (semi) local greenhouse (which my cousin happens to own, so we actually got ours as a gift!).

You can use just about any kind of pot/container as long as it has drainage. We used 8-inch clay pots mostly because we had these in the house and it was really cold out this day so I didn't want to go dig around in the shed outside! If you use deep pots like these, you can put some rocks in the bottom to save your dirt and provide better drainage.

Then just plant in potting soil (you can use soil that is specific for catus if you want to, we already had regular potting mix so we used that, which works fine too).
See that one that looks like peas? It's a Senecio rowleyanus. Otherwise know as a String Of Pearls Plant. I really like that one. If it grows well it will have trailing stems that can grow to 3 feet long and clusters of small white flowers in spring.

And that one that looks really prickly? It's actually soft! We only used plants that are safe for the kids to touch.

Just give them a little water, you don't want to over water these!

And then, the part the kids will probably like best, go out and find all the cool things to add in to make it a good home for fairies (or elves)! Look for things like pretty rocks and interesting sticks outside, or marbles and beads inside. 

Put them in a sunny window and  keep an eye out for the fairies and elves! Or just enjoy all that green!

Do you like houseplants? What's your favorite?

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Spring Planning (Already!)

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! We enjoyed a beautiful day with family and friends at our new house, I couldn't have asked for a better day.

Now to get ready for....gardening! Did you think I was going to say New Years? I'm working on some New Homestead Goals for the new year too, but it's also time to start thinking about the spring garden. In our area we are definitely still in the middle of cold, snowy, icy winter but starting to collect seeds and equipment and plan out the gardens now means we'll be ready to go when the weather gets warmer.

Our last frost date here is usually the first week of May. (If you don't know yours you can find it here.) That means we're about 17-18 weeks before our last frost. Now is the time to gather up all those seed catalogs that have been coming in the mail for the last few weeks (or request catalogs on-line from various seed companies if you haven't been getting them already), and start choosing what you want to plant this year. Seed orders can be sent in any time now! Also, if you want to plant asparagus, now is the time to order your crowns. Our properties has an existing asparagus patch but I love asparagus and plan to put in lots more this year.

We have quite a few seeds that we got in the fall from our local hardware store. They were leftover from the previous spring and they were giving them away so we stocked up on some things we know we will want to plant. Being older seeds they may not do quite as well as if we bought all new this season, but they will do just fine to get us started. We will still be ordering some things also.

A couple of other things you can do now? Start slow growing (and slow to germinate) herbs, like thyme and parsley,  indoors. It's an early start, but perfect if you're going to grow them in pots and have enough light indoors to get them through the winter. Also, if you buy oranges or other produce in those mesh bags start saving them now and you will have great storage containers for onions, shallots, and garlic later.

Since this will be our first spring here, we are planning out where we want to have our gardens. This involves a lot of extra work this year because one spot we want to use is the area where are our chick houses currently are and we will have to get those moved (when they are not frozen to the ground!) and other areas look like this right now...

Well, except when I took these pics things were a lot greener! That's a lot of weeds to deal with!
We are measuring  the spaces we want to use and then will plan the layout of the gardens taking into consideration the amount of sunlight, drainage, and proximity to the house (for the most convenience, I like to put some of the things I use most often in everyday meals (tomatoes, leafy greens, herbs) close to the kitchen door!). 

Sometimes this very cold and wet part of winter can seem a little long, but planning ahead for the garden not only makes a busy spring more manageable, but makes bleak winter days more cheerful too!

Are you doing anything to get ready for your garden yet?

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Christmas

Here we are, almost to the Big Day! I hope you all are doing fun and relaxing things with loved ones and enjoying the countdown to Christmas. Tonight we braved the cold and went over to a neighboring town to see the big Main Street Christmas Tree. 

(This is the town where we go to the grocery store and that kind of stuff. You know, the big town. See that stop light? It's just a flashing red light and it's the only one in town.)

Now, when I say "big" tree let me clarify that in the city I used to live in they had Christmas trees in the museums and other buildings at least twice the size of this one. But around here, this is the "BIG" tree! And it is spectacular in my opinion! It's right smack in the middle of Main Street. As in, you actually have to drive around it to get down the street.

Hey, I warned you it was no Rockefeller tree! I don't care, I adore this tree, the small town folks who thought to put it here, and all the ones who come out to gaze up at it just as happily as those looking at that Rockefeller tree tonight!

I thought since probably most of you reading this are homesteaders too, I would share one other tradition we have that I think you might find interesting. We have a ladybug ornament on our Christmas tree and lots of people wonder why we would have a bug on the tree, so here's the ladybug legend:

Centuries ago, in Europe, farmers were having a terrible time with aphids. Their crops were being destroyed at an alarming rate. The farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary to help them save their crops and protect their livelihood. Soon many thousands of little red spotted bugs appeared and began to eat the aphids. The farmers were so thankful that their prayers had been answered that they decided to name the bugs after Mary, also know as "Our Lady". So, having a ladybug on the tree is viewed as a symbol of these answered prayers and also for the hope for blessings with the crops in the coming year.
 I hope for many blessing in your homes, in your barns, in your fields, in your lives this season and in the coming year. 

Merry Christmas!

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hog Shed Recycling

Today was a beautiful, sunny, 50 degrees! Waaaay above our average for this time of year. Since it was so nice out we got to spend some time outside and work on a little project for the house. We were in desperate need of a coat rack as we have been just hanging our coats on a couple of nails that were already in the wall when we moved in. Which didn't work at all and always resulted in a big pile of coats on the floor. So we got a board from the old hog shed we recently tore down, and after some planing and sanding we found that we had a beautiful piece of wood! We don't know what kind it is, but it's a very pretty red color with a really straight grain. (If anyone knows what  kind of wood it might be, I'd love to hear!)

Then I made a trip into our little town to the hardware store. I love the hardware store here. Is that weird? First of all, the town pipes Christmas music into the street, which kind of makes me feel like I'm in a Christmas movie. Then, when you open the door to the hardware store it has one of those old fashioned bells on it. And then there's the guy that works there. He's like an old friend about five minutes after you meet him, one of those people who remembers all your family members and what's been going on with everybody. So I went in, visited with Hardware Guy about how Dad's feeling, what the kids are up to, which wood stoves we like, and finally this coat rack project. He helped me find the hooks I needed for the coat rack and after a little more chitchat, I headed home to complete the project.

Here's how it turned out!

And now we can hang up our coats and maybe I won't have to pick them all up off the floor every ten minutes!

It's a small project in the big picture of all the things to do around here, but it makes us happy!

What are you doing this week?

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Birdseed Ornaments

Not long til Christmas now! We are nearly done with all our homemade gifts, but we didn't want the birds to feel left out! So, the afternoon project with the kids today was bird seed ornaments. It's a super simple project so it's great for the little ones. And also, I thought it was really fun. I'm pretty easy to entertain!

If they're too little they'll need some help with the first step.
Cut whatever shapes you want to make out of cardboard.

We made some shapes (like candy canes) that we can just hang, but the shapes like stars you will need to punch a hole in top for string to hang up.

Cover the shapes with a layer of peanut butter.
See Farm Girl in the Background? With peanut butter on her sleeve?

Then just press the birdseed down onto the peanut butter.

And there you go!

We didn't go out and hang ours up today because it's still a little cold, but  it looks like we might hit 40 degrees tomorrow (heat wave!) so it should be a good day for getting some fresh air!

 I did get out for a short walk this morning though.
Here's what it looks like around here today. 

I want to grow some things to use for bird feed next year (that bag of birdseed was pricey!) . We are planning sunflowers for sure. do you have any other ideas of what we could grow for bird feed?

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

I blame Ree Drummond

My house may not be sparkling clean for our holiday visitors. My laundry is already piling up. All that baking I plan to get done before Christmas (so I should be starting on it right now)? Nope.

Because today is my birthday. 

Of course, that normally wouldn't cause too much disruption in the everyday routine. I would normally still be doing all my housework and chores and staying on task and focused. 

But, today my husband left me a present on the kitchen table before he left for work. Something I've been hankering for for awhile now....

The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

Yes, some ladies might be excited by to the Cayman Islands...but for eyes light up when I see Ree!

 I like to think my husband was really just thinking of a gift he knew his lovely wife would adore. But he may have been thinking that he should get me my own copies before I get us banned from the only store around here for spending too much time in their book aisle wistfully studying these! 

Either way, I haven't gotten much done around here today besides intently reading every recipe and story...and those pictures! So today I blame my unproductive-ness on The Pioneer Woman! 

In just a few more minutes I'm going to get to work...

Do you have any of her books? If you do, what is your favorite recipe from it?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Our First Snow On The Farm!

Things have been looking up around here over the past few days! Since things are getting back to normal, we were able to really enjoy the first snow at our new place! Before we moved here I dreaded the snow because it meant a long, slick interstate commute with the kids in the car, in the dark both ways. I hated that drive in to work on the ice and snow. This year, without that drive to contend with, I've really been looking forward to the snow to see how the farm looks under a blanket of snow for the first time. We didn't get much, just enough to see a little white, but it was still fun to watch it come down.

We've had some pretty cold temps and wind chills the last few days, but this is about it for snow. It's definitely been worse in other areas from what I've heard. 

What has the weather been like lately where you live?

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Getting To Know The Hospital

It's not been a great week for blogging because we've had some difficulty at the homestead this week. My Dad was admitted to the hospital last weekend with pneumonia. They are currently trying a few different meds and monitoring his blood counts, blood sugars (he's diabetic), oxygen levels, and fevers. He seems to be getting a bit better and actually had a pretty decent day today, but it's still so worrisome to have him be sick and we sure do miss him here at home. 

I am thankful that we are close to a hospital. Back when we were looking for property one of my requirements was that we be somewhat close to a hospital because with my parents and also young children I just felt more comfortable knowing there would be medical care close by. Our house is only minutes from the hospital in the tiny town we live on the outskirts of. I worked for a little over seventeen years in a large hospital in the city that had nearly 10,000 admissions last year. The hospital in the town we are in now has 9 patient rooms and judging by this week, it seems they usually have about 3 patients at any given time! I didn't say I required a big hospital!

In addition to Dad's illness, that same Bro-in-law who broke his rib helping us a couple weeks ago had an accident on the quad and injured his leg (lots of bruising and swelling and a huge gash), then he was going over to milk the cows at the dairy farm they live on (cause he's a cowboy and they don't stop working for anything!) and a cow kicked a door, slamming it into his already broken rib. 

My days have been packed full of taking care of the animals (which is now a little more work because the temps are getting down in the single digits), taking care of the kids, making lots of runs to the hospital to visit, pick up laundry, and help in any way I can there, coming home to wash the laundry and cook meals for everyone, take the clean clothes and meals up to the hospital, and just generally try to keep things kept up around here. My sister works, my husband works long hard hours, and Mom is staying with Dad at the hospital, so everyone has their hands full!

So, as you can see, there hasn't been a spare moment between taking care of all the normal stuff around here and trying to look after these boys! But, honestly, I'm happy to do it all. There's nothing I'm doing that I'm not doing for someone I love, and that's what it's all about for me.

 And there have definitely been lots of bright spots in the days.

Like having these ladies and gentlemen as my own personal entourage as I do chores every morning.

The sight of these guys running to me as fast as they can, wings spread out like they want to fly, and man are they LOUD! I know they are probably just really hopeful that I will have some bread in my pockets for them, but I choose to believe that maybe they are that excited to see me in the morning cause they just love me so much.

The day we tried to make gingerbread barns. Fail. We couldn't get the darn pieces to stick together. But we don't care, we just decorated the front pieces and ate the rest of the gingerbread!

And getting this wreath as a surprise outside our door one morning. Moving here put us a lot closer to one of my cousins and she made this for us. It's so heartwarming to see it hanging on the barn each time I drive in the road.

Well, I better get to bed, I'm guessing tomorrow will have me busy caring for lots of animals and people again. Thank God. :)

What are the bright spots in your life this week?

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Chicken House Relocation (Phase One!)

We got serious about getting our chicken houses moved this weekend. We want to get them moved by Spring because they are really close to our back door and...well, in my opinion, chickens do not provide a very pleasant fragrance to step out into every morning. And the flies! We had decided on a location to move them to but there was an old crumbling (but rather large!) hog shed in that spot. We started taking it down a couple weeks ago, but then got sidetracked on other projects, so this weekend we got back to it. When I say "we" I really mean Farmer D, our Bro-in-law, and our Buddy M. I mostly took pictures, made coffee and food, and hoped there were no more trips to the ER in our future. (Remember all the trouble the guys had back on the leaky roof? After a late night trip to the ER, it turned out Bro-in-law broke a rib!)

Here's what we started with.

It soon looked like this

 And then, success!

 I'm not sure what they were saying to each other here, but I'm guessing it was either "Look at that, we are awesome MEN!" or "Now we have to clean all this !#@* up!"

Now we get the area all cleared and cleaned up then we can move onto the actual trying to move the houses. I definitely am concerned that when we try to pull them they will fall to pieces and then I'm not quite sure what we would do with the chickens until we built new ones, but we'll just have to see how it goes!

When they got done with demolition for the day I had some warm Apple Crisp ready for them. It's a favorite dessert of these guy's, and I think it may be the real reason they showed up today, so I thought I would share the recipe in case you have some friends you need to bribe to help on your farm too. ;)

Apple Crisp
About 10 apples (peeled, cored, and sliced)
1 3/4 Cups sugar
1 T cinnamon
1 Cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
6 T butter
Heat oven to 350. Put the apples in a 13x9 baking dish, cover with 3/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 cup sugar. In a different bowl, beat the egg until light, then mix it into the flour mixture until it gets crumbly.Sprinkle over apples. Melt the butter and drizzle over the top. Bake 45 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.

I hope you have a great week!

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