Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cows Go Quack

So I just ate the best steak I’ve had in a while. Mmmm steak. Thick, juicy homegrown steak. Homegrown you say? Um… didn’t I read that you think you may only have an acre total land that’s not woods?

Yep. No cows for us. Not unless the Lord blesses us with a big piece of land someday. But we’ve found the next best thing. Muscovy Duck. Okay it’s a toss up between deer and muscovy. Deer is free and boy you get a lot of meat. But it is a bit gamey. AND well... we haven't gotten one this year. Our tiny piece of property doesn't make for the best hunting. Anyone in Middle TN have a large piece of land they want to let Clay hunt on? Please? But muscovies cost feed all year, but man, no gamey flavor and taste like beef. It’s almost crazy how much they taste like beef.

This is how I cooked these couple ducks. I take the breast off. You cook those just like a nice steak. I sear them in a pan and stick the pan in the oven for a handful of minutes. We like ours nice and rare. Then I parted out the rest of the duck. I put in a roasting pan and slow roast em at a low temp for a number of hours until tender. I picked all the meat off. I had Clay taste the meat and he thought it was beef roast. I swear it tastes just like roast. It’s unbelievable.

And oh duck fat. Muscovies have a lot of nice fat. I’m stoked to be able to put a big tub of it in the fridge. Good stuff. Right now I’m cooking all the bones down to make “beef” stock. I’m going to use that yummy shredded meat I picked off to make “beef” stew tomorrow.

Hmm I wonder how many ducks we’ll need to raise next year? Beef twice a month? Two ducks each time? So 50 ducks or so to raise for butcher next year? We have about 12 more to butcher in the next few weeks so that’s 6 meat meals + 6 soup meals.

Why didn't I take pictures of our beautiful steak and stew? Food is the one thing I forget to take pictures of. I want to start doing some cook alongs. We'll see if I can remember to do it before the food is totally cooked and half eaten?

Soon (and it will be soon as we'll be killing most of these guys in the next month!) I’ll show you my handsome flock of muscovies and talk about raising them. Had to talk about eating them while yummy flavor was still lingering in my mind.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Building a pond...

We have always wanted a pond. Clay especially wants one. Here are our detailed instructions:

First build up sides with feet.

In case of emergency and sections fail, use hands.

Pour water from random Rubbermaid in yard filled with rainwater.

Then of course slowly drizzle rainwater from random milkjug in yard so it's got the perfect amount.

Stop for a minute and look 15 instead of 7 and freak your Mom out.

And laugh at Mom for acting like she's a REAL photographer. Remind me why that's funny again? Sigh.

Finally deem pond finished.

Just so your younger brother can jump over it, risking the life of the entire pond.

And get annoyed at mom for taking so many pictures.

Fabulous pond finished. Now go make one for yourself. Every good homestead needs one.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Adding to the LIST

That dreaded list. I've gotten some emails from people saying my list looks just like theirs and some from others afraid that I was freaking myself out over the list. When in fact the list leaves me feeling the opposite. I feel better knowing what I can work on checking off the list. It's like having a super crazy messy room to clean up. It seems like it will take you hours but if you just start ticking off parts of it before you know it you're halfway done and wonder where the time went. I think maybe I might put the first handful of things on the top of my list in the sidebar and start crossing them off as I go. BUT I need to add something to the list. And it's something I want done in the Spring!

Vermicomposting. There's something magical to me about a tub o' worms making me high quality compost as fast as they can. So adding to the list:

  • Figure out the Oscar Jr. plans
  • Get Rubbermaid tubs
  • Get worms!
  • Get Clay to shred paper for me at work
  • Convince Frankie of the wonders of worms and how this is HIS new job

Monday, December 15, 2008

Boys and Bread

So with Jack Frost nipping at all of our noses, I needed a little comfy cozy post. One that warms the heart and soul. So we'll just pretend it's Fall. Make some spiced tea, light a fire, look at cute pictures and plan all that warm whole wheat bread you want to make.

First, a cute boy. A cute boy sitting in leaves. That always makes a person smile right? Who doesn't love little boys sitting in piles of leaves? Well Garrison doesn't I guess! He looks so unhappy.
Ahh but it's short lived. There's the sweetheart boy.

Now onto bread. I've made our own bread for a long time. Okay I make it on and off. I've gone through periods where I used a breadmaker, I've gone through periods where I felt like I had to do all sourdough, I've gone through periods of all store bought bread *gasp*I've decided lately to really learn to make GREAT whole wheat bread. Now don't get me wrong, Clay would say that I have always made great bread, and Uh Um... I have of course :) But I want perfect bread, light sliceable sandwich worthy whole wheat bread. Once I get there, it's back to learning to get great at sourdough again. And I want to learn to make great sourdough too. None of the super sense slightly off whole wheat sourdough so many are making (me included!) After reading online there are some people rockin some fluffy perfect all sourdough no yeast type whole wheat sourdough. It just isn't me. SO....

Get THIS book!

Click on the picture to go to buy this great book. Honestly it's the best whole wheat book out there. It goes into great detail about everything you need to know about making bread, kneading, all the troubleshooting you could ever want, it's ALL whole grains, NO white flour in any of the recipes and so far every recipe is perfect. It also does gluten free breads, quick breads, using alternative flours, sweet breads, and just a number of great plain ole whole wheat breads. Everything I've made out of there so far has been amazing, sliceable sandwich worthy bread. Pictures? Pictures you ask? Of course I have pictures of the last bread I made out of that book. It was whole wheat challah. It was awesome.

One recipe made both the biggest braided loaf ever and a pan loaf. Looks great right?

Anyways, off to bed.

The Simple Woman's Daybook - Dec 15th

Outside my window... it's dark and cold and wet. I like the precipitation and all but I'd like a little break right now. It's too icky to do any outside work and there's lots to do.

I am thinking... about why I forgot to wash Clay's jeans today and how I have to stay up late and wash them. I hate being behind on laundry. Hate.

I am thankful for... this little baby I'm nursing right now. I love when they're old enough to appreciate nursing and young enough to still do it. I remember back when Cassie was little, she would hum the ABCs while she nursed. It's one of my favorite memories of all time. Garrison now has his own little word for nursing "Nonnie". Sweet.

From the learning rooms...(if this applies) Just getting it done right now. Nothing special, nothing fun, just doing it.

From the kitchen... Yum. Corn cakes with black beans and cream cheese salsa mix on top. Yum.

I am wearing... Clogs, jean skirt and an olive green shirt.

I am creating... a dishcloth at the moment. I need some more. I don't like only having a couple clean at a time. I like having a whole basket full whenever I need one.

I am going... to Goodwill tomorrow or Wednesday to take lots of kids toys. We have WAY too many.

I am reading... my Bible. That's my reading focus for right now. And seed starting info online. Aside from that.

I am hoping... that my teeth don't hurt tomorrow. Sigh.

I am hearing... children that should be asleep running around upstairs. Naughty children.

Around the house... the smell of Christmas cookie Yankee Candle that a friend sent me in the mail. Yay!

One of my favorite things... a mug of warm Wassail. I think that's how it's spelled. We had our church Christmas party last night. I got to take home a container of it. Wassail is apple cider with spices in it. This one had orange, cloves, and cinnamon I think. Yummy.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Take toys to Goodwill, break up another part of the garden and bring in another wheelbarrow of the fabulous black soil we found, split some wood of course, celebrate Clay's birthday.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I love to split wood.

One of my all-time favorite homestead activities is splitting wood. I LOVE splitting wood. There’s just something about it that quiets my mind. It’s just me vs. the wood. Sometimes the woods win but most of the time I do. I’d rather sit and split wood than anything else. I suppose it’s the same reason that people like golf or baseball. Just you and the ball. Even with littles running around, chaos, there’s a silence in swinging that maul hoping for that feeling. That homerun crack of the bat when the maul goes right through and hits the chopping block. Who needs meditation?

We didn’t havea woodstove yet during the Summer. We had one for years then not for a few years and I'm so glad to have one again. And so without a stove, we didn't think to cut wood all Spring and Summer. So now we’re playing catch up. And with it getting dark long before Clay gets home it’s my job to split wood. On Saturday Clay cuts all the rounds (we have dead seasoned trees everywhere due to the Tornado last year) and then splits the big rounds in half for me. Yeah he splits the big rounds. I’m strong but man sometimes it takes me over 20 minutes, hitting those big rounds 50 times, to split them in two. Of course once they’re done the rest is cake. He does that cause he loves me. Here's my pile for the week. Smaller than normal. Maybe we'll cut a few rounds tomorrow before the Christmas party.
Frankie’s my wood stacker. He’s a rockin wood stacker. He goes out with me everyday and stacks. We compete to see who can get ahead. If he works hard, he wins and he gets to sit around while slow splitter Mom splits wood. If he’s in a lazy mood, he ends up with a big stack at the end to stack. He hates that. I think he’s finally starting to SEE that relationship for himself. Nice. Clay bought him a boy’s axe not too long ago and is teaching him to split wood. Me? I don’t let him do it. Only when Clay’s supervising. I’m a big chicken.

This is Frankie's "by the house stack". Looks good eh? Yeah he's my partner.

Okay off to load the stove and go to bed.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook - Dec 8th

FOR TODAY - December 8, 2008

Outside my window... I actually have to stand and peek past the big beautiful Christmas tree in front of our window. It looks COLD outside. Not even any birds flittering around the bird feeders. Just the look of cold.

I am thinking... about getting up and going outside and chopping wood in that nice cold weather. Yummy.

I am thankful for... a sweet daughter with a heart for being best friends with the baby. If I have to do anything, she will be there to watch the baby. What a blessing to be able to have someone I can trust to watch the baby doll when I need it.

From the learning rooms... today? Work. We're working on learning to work with a good attitude. Stacking wood, cleaning the schoolroom, work.

From the kitchen... a bowl of whole wheat pasta salad with beans that could feed an army. The children all love it and it's so easy to make 108 gallons of it that they can snack on whenever they want.

I am wearing... a sage knit skirt with one of Clay's white t-shirts and my hair up in a bun. Well, and Birkenstocks of course.

I am creating... an album for a friend. Can't say more in case she were to stumble here and read it :)

I am going... to go outside in a minute and chop wood. One of my favorite activities of all time.

I am reading... seed catalogs. I have 3 major ones that keep screaming that I order from them. I need to plan the garden so I can start pricing out my seeds. They need ordering soon!

I am hoping... that we get everything done that Clay asked me to get done today. Mostly the schoolroom and schoolroom fridge.

I am hearing... Frankie sing "Grandma got runover by a reindeer". The holidays are upon us.

Around the house... a half gallon of sweet tea, a pretty Christmas tree with blinking white lights, a boy who should be asleep on the couch but isn't, laundry that needs folding, and a wood stove that needs checking because it's not putting off enough heat.

One of my favorite things... the pretty cream pillows with red floral design I found for pennies at Goodwill a few weeks ago.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Split up the rest of the huge woodpile outside, finish cleaning schoolroom and get the whole upstairs spotless so that we can make the family closet.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

Join in the Simple Woman's Daybook fun here:

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Blog contest!

Sweet Challice is having a blog contest. Go over and enter!

This is what you'd win if you are the ONE.

An apron
packets of organic seed including, beets, thyme and basil.
“Gardener’s Soap”
Calender (to clock the seasons of course) 2009
and a blank journal.

So run here:

and leave Challice some love....

It's SO overwhelming!!

I'm finally at a place where I'm not totally overwhelmed with the idea of living an agrarian lifestyle, with the idea of homesteading. I think there are lots of us out there that have this grand vision of their little (or big) plot of land. We have a vision of gardens and greenhouses and animals with barns, and growing feed for our animals, and this and that. That vision where everything is so perfect, where every inch of their property working for us. Ahhhh.... sit a moment and savor just how beautiful it is. And while honestly there will ALWAYS be more to do, more work, things that could be done better, we'll get there. I just keep telling myself that everyday :0 I think I can I think I can. Choo choo.

I know I have often been overwhelmed. I've felt like we'll never get there, like we're working so hard and not getting anywhere. And honestly, sometimes Clay and I really are just spinning our wheels. Spin spin. With so many things to do, it's easy to get sidetracked working a little here and a little there, moving from project to project and never really getting anything done. There are times I remind myself that the little things are part of the grand picture but sadly I admit, that other times... well.... we are suffering from our general lack of organization and planning skills. It's a virtue to suffer right? So while cut trees on the back part of the property we should have been prepping the back part of the garden before the ground freezes. We are SO guilty of this around here. How many of us have decided that we needed to make 600 pumpkin muffins today or played in the garden that "needed" tending when really we needed to do a day of laundry cause no one has clean underwear? Yeah you know that's you. So what do you do when there are 50 things you want to get done around your homestead and each have 10 parts? It seemed like there were 892,113 things that needed done around here. Where to start? What should we be doing now? And what can wait? This weekend we talked about it and set out to try and figure out what would work for us.

So we've been working on this list. We did a quick brainstorm of a lot of the things we want done around our homestead. Incidentally I then moved on and now have one for crafty projects (like how many dishcloths I need done right now, making the boys all pajama pants, finishing Cassie's nightgown), long term inside the house jobs and short term house jobs as well that need doing next week. Then we did basic prioritizing. Some were easier than others to figure out, others just are in the general area of how important they are. We'll keep adding to this list, tweaking it, moving things around, etc. Some things we don't know enough about right now to even know what we need to do lol. If you see anything we're grossly missing, that needs to be bumped way up the list for any reason, any ideas of how to better do some of the things on the list, feel free to let me know! We're more than happy to admit how little we know about this process. But we're limping along....

Want to see our nifty little, I mean insanely long list?

Homestead Long List
Make new homestead binder
First big garden area
  • Work rest of ground
  • Measure garden area
  • Spread chicken manure
  • Plot and spray marks for holes
  • Rent backhoe and punch holes
  • Run fence
  • Get topsoil delivered
  • Plan out garden
  • Order seeds
  • Test soil
  • Amend soil
  • Build wide rows
  • Lay feed bags for path
Cut down Walnut tree in front
  • Talk to Clay about it again!
Seed starting area
  • Sort 2x4s, pull out right sized ones
  • Tell Clay to get more from throw aways at work
  • Measure out, create plans for 2 tiered seed table
  • At Lowe’s measure the two fluorescent lights
  • Read more to see if need more than fluorescents
  • Gather any and all seed starter materials
  • Get soil, compost, etc (decide what exactly to use) to start seeds in
  • Get spray bottle, or whatever else needed tool wise
Put up clothesline
  • Decide where
  • Buy pulleys (I SO want pulleys lol)
  • dig holes for posts
  • buy posts
  • sink posts
  • run line and hang up clothes. Hooray!
Chicken coop
  • Clean out shed
  • Decide on insulation
  • Insulate walls
  • Cover walls
  • Roosts
  • Make nesting boxes
  • Cut run door
Meat chickens
  • Design/plan chicken tractor
  • Build chicken tractor
  • Order chicks
Fruit trees
  • Cut trees from grove
  • Push stumps with backhoe
  • Measure area
  • Plan tree placement
  • Pick trees
  • Order trees
  • Punch holes with backhoe
  • Figure out if need to protect each tree
  • Figure when to plant
  • Decide whether going to roost with chickens
  • Decide what heritage breeds we’re going to raise
  • Order chicks
Grow animal feed
  • Decide what we’re growing next year
  • Mangels
  • Sunflowers
  • Decide where we’re growing those
  • Prep holes/punch sunflower holes with backhoe
  • Amend sunflower soil
  • Work mangel soil
  • Decide where and how storing mangels for Winter
Great Pyranees
  • Call Pam about puppies
  • Buy wireless fence
  • Read read read
  • Buy the materials we have bookmarked to get started
  • Set it up, get it ready
  • Buy bees yay!
Butchering area
  • Keep eye out for stainless steel sink
  • Get counter of some sort
  • Gather buckets
  • Decide where we are going to put up the area. Same place we’ve been doing butchering this year? Seems like a good place.
Set up new wood area
  • Run t-posts
  • Clear brush to the right of original pile so have enough room
  • Rake out and clean out all bark, etc. that’s there now
  • Move chopping block
  • Decide whether going to just cover with tarp or whether build small open wall roof
Prepare for next year’s canning
  • Gather jars and lids
  • Make a notebook with all the major canning times and lb pressure
  • Did I say gather jars and lids?
Chicken run
  • Decide with Clay where it will be
  • Start clearing brush and trees
  • Get Storey’s guide to dairy goats
  • Try and set a date with Pam to go ask her questions
  • Decide what we’re fencing first
  • Price out fencing
  • Run fence
  • List out what we need to make
  • Build barn
  • Build milking stand or whatever we need
  • Talk to Pam about getting goats in Spring
Plan garden!
  • Just reminding myself that I need to do this SOON
Make soap
  • Keep doing the reading I’ve been doing
  • Find or find out if I have my Soapmaker’s Companion book
  • Decide what basic hard white soap recipe I’m going to use
  • Learn about the numbers, cleansing properties, etc on the soap calculators (how high do I want my laundry bar’s cleansing to be, etc.?)
  • Gather materials
  1. Stainless steel pot
  2. Hand held stick blender thing
  3. Design mold
  4. Have Clay make me mold
  5. Glass or plastic pitcher
  6. Large LARGE glass measuring cup
  7. Gloves
  8. Safety goggles
  9. Lard
  10. Lye
  11. Coconut oil
Front herb garden
  • Measure area
  • Price out fencing
  • Start pulling up the large rocks
  • Start working the ground
  • Cover with a layer of leaves
  • Start bringing wheelbarrow loads of tree dirt
  • Mark pathway with rocks
  • Decide what berries
  • Plan area
  • Convince Clay to clear more trees for my planting J
Side garden/winter squash garden
  • Start working ground
  • Push out stumps with backhoe
  • Bring in loads of manure
  • Bring in loads of leaves
  • Measure out area for planning
  • Fence off area
  • Start researching plans
  • Measure out area with Clay
Stair step garden on hillside/perennial garden
  • Fell all the trees
  • Push out stumps
  • Start digging out area (maybe backhoe job)
  • Build out the beds
  • Fence off
  • Amend or bring in soil
  • Research research research
  • Decide whether we’re fencing off the woods for them to root around
  • Price out fencing
  • Build pig barn
  • Research research research
  • Figure out area
Rain catch system
  • Research and plan what we’re doing
  • Run gutters
  • Gather barrels
  • Plan/figure out how to keep mosquitos out (goldfish?)
Meat rabbits
  • Research meat rabbits
Aquaponics for fish
  • Research
  • Plan space for the system
Make deodorant
  • Save roll up stick container
  • Go bookmark Candy’s bar deodorant recipe

I'm going to print this off. It's a few pages, but as we go along, the plan is to cross things off the list, have it be out so we can read through it on occasion when seeing what to do, keep things in the forefront of our minds so if we see items on our list at garage sales, etc. we can pick em up.

Okay, off to finish up the last thing on my daily list - ironing Clay's shirt for tomorrow - and off to bed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen...

And all those coming from my other long-standing blog, Welcome Back. Well let's skip all that "I don't know how to start this blog, I probably won't have any readers, blah blah" first post and instead just introduce the setting and characters of this movie.

Setting: Small little young homestead in Middle TN. We love the Lord and are striving to serve Him the best we can. One of those ways we believe is to strive to be more self-sufficient and good stewards of our time, money and land. Our family is growing all the time and life is always BUSY busy busy. I mean who's NOT busy when there's wood to split, a house to tend, animals to feed, little people to homeschool, gardens that need attention, and the other 593,991 things on my to do list. And if you're not busy and have a similar life, PLEASE contact me and tell me where I'm going wrong because by this time tomorrow I probably will only have crossed off 4 things off my list :D

Purpose: The main reason of this blog is to give my family across the country a glimpse into our daily life and to snag great pictures of our gorgeous children. But also, it's to document our journey from an unworked small piece of land to a stuffed full, every inch working for us, as self-sufficient as we can make it, homestead. We hope that we may inspire and help others in their similar journeys, or hey, in journeys that are nothing like ours! There's inspiration to be gleaned everywhere right?

Frank - Jedi, Chicken Turkey and Duck Wrangler, Goofball, Smartie, Early Riser, and VERY good friend of mine.

Cassie - Best Baby Wrangler In The World, Sweetest, Most Loving, Gentle, Generous, Overall Great Sister and Angel Girl.

Adric - Hilarious, Vibrant, Silly, Smart, Fiesty, Pirate/Eye Patch Wearer, Two Different Colored Eyes Guy, First Blondie, Firey Dude.

Garrison - Carrot and Apple Eater, Smart as a Whip, Talking Up a Storm, Loverboy.

Big Daddy Clay - Strong, Gentle, Brave, Insanely Handsome, Hardworking, Forgiving, Tolerant, Best Friend, Love of My Life, and Get-Up-At-4:30AM-Everyday-Guy.

Prince - RIP Prince. The meanest, go after an 8 year-old's face, then turn on a 1 year old, forever sealing his fate as the main attraction in an upcoming chicken and pumpkin soup movie.

Me - Didn't think you were getting one of ME did you? BWAhahaha. You have a lot to learn Young Padawan. Okay okay I'll throw you a bone.

Until next time.....