Monthly Archives: January 2013

Got Milk? Or Eggs? Or Pancakes?

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Tell me if this doesn’t sound like a perfect day:

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It’s from From Scratch, a new, free online magazine for current and wannabe homesteaders. If the magazine turns out to be anything like the photos they’ve been sharing on Facebook, then I’m really looking forward to the first issue!

I also want to share a recipe for grain-free pumpkin pancakes from Erin over at the Polyface Henhouse — I haven’t tried them yet, but I find it hard to imagine them being anything but delicious. I have several medium-sized heirloom pumpkins on the front porch that are waiting to be roasted and turned into purée. Add the eggs from our backyard, and I feel really good about feeding these to my family! Note that the recipe makes only one large serving — I will probably have to multiply the recipe at least three or four times for the sake of my boys.

Grain Free Pumpkin Pancakes:
Ingredients:
2 eggs
¼ cup pumpkin puree
⅛ tsp. cinnamon
dash of allspice
1/4 tsp. of vanilla
Coconut oil for the pan
Raw butter, raw honey, maple syrup, or fruit butter for serving
Instructions:
Warm a cast iron pan over medium high heat.
Whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, allspice and vanilla.
Add about a tablespoon of coconut oil to the hot pan and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan.
Use about two scant tablespoons of batter for each pancake. They flip best when the pancakes are small.
Cook until golden on the bottom and slightly opaque in the center and around the edges.
Flip, brown on the other side, and serve.
Makes about 8 small pancakes, for 1 large serving or 2 medium servings.

Speaking of cooking enough for my boys, I’m a little terrified to see how the addition of another one is going to affect our grocery budget in a couple of years! Hopefully by then we’ll have found some land and will be meeting more of our own needs with meat chickens and a couple of pigs, because right now, The Boy’s appetite seems to be multiplying every day! I’m still grateful, though, for the fact that the food he asks for in ever-increasing quantities is “real,” wholesome food.

My one remaining Easter Egger hen finally started laying this week — beautiful, light sage green eggs that are already impressively large. I’m really shocked it’s taken her this long, considering that she’s about nine months old and has “looked” productive since late summer. She’s a beautiful blue and red girl, and I’m really glad she’s decided to make herself useful, because otherwise she might have been destined for a pot pie. It would have made me very sad, too, because she used to be my little buddy — often when I opened the roof of the chicken tractor last spring, she would fly out, land on my shoulder, and ride around while I did my other chores. It would have been hard to eat that chicken.

For anyone in South Carolina who’s interested, there is a quiet attack beginning against the sale of raw milk and dairy products in this state. At this point, it’s just a proposal being considered by an advisory board of the South Carolina Farm Bureau, but depending on their response to the idea, it could become a threat to the right of South Carolinians to purchase raw dairy items. Personally, we don’t use raw milk — the Happy Cow milk we buy is pasteurized at low temperatures, and honestly, it’s so much richer than the grocery store milk I grew up on that I’m still learning to drink it. Raw milk would be way beyond me. But as long as people are aware of the small risks involved with consuming it, they should certainly have the right to do so.

I don’t believe that any foods should be banned — people have the right to make their own decisions without the government or anyone else interfering. Joel Salatin says something about the folly of seeking salvation through legislation when we should be focusing on educating and informing people about wise choices so that they’ll avoid the bad stuff on their own. So while I don’t want to see fast food outlawed, I do find it ridiculous that the government turns a blind eye to the parent who chooses to feed their child fast food three times a day, while the one who does serious research, weighs the benefits and risks, and chooses to purchase raw milk for their family’s use is losing that right in many states.

Most raw milk and dairy products come from small-scale farmers. These are the farmers who look their customers in the eye week after week and whose livelihoods depend on maintaining that relationship. To me, that kind of personal accountability is a much better motivator for them to maintain food quality and safety than a hundred regulations and government inspections.

Yes, there are problems with contaminants from time-to-time, and people get sick. But if the issue was only with raw milk (or organic produce, for that matter), then we wouldn’t see situations like the conventionally-grown, chemically-bathed bagged spinach and salad green recalls that we’ve been plagued with in recent years, not to mention the numerous peanut butter recalls and the ground glass in frozen vegetables.

My point is that anything we buy to feed to our families is basically bought on faith. Faith that everyone who touched that produce on its way to our shopping cart had washed their hands recently. Faith that all the equipment involved in the processing of those canned tomatoes was clean. Faith that every cow represented in that pack of hamburger was healthy on the day it died. And faith that the farmer who knows every one of his cows and customers by name is concerned enough with providing for his family that he will do everything in his power to make sure that the product you buy from him is the safest, highest quality product he can make.

People die in car accidents, get severe food poisoning from bad sushi, and develop cancer or liver disease from using tobacco and alcohol. And sometimes they get sick from drinking raw milk. There are risks and benefits involved with every choice we make, but that doesn’t mean we need someone else removing options or making the decision for us, no matter how well-intentioned and unbiased that person or agency might believe themselves to be.

So, we’ve talked about pumpkin pancakes, green eggs, and milk. And I think I’ve realized why I’m getting hungry…

Sleet, Sheep, and a Pet Bunny

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Finally! At long last it’s COLD outside! I’ve been out there a couple of times today to thaw waterers and make sure everyone has enough bedding, and I’m glad to be settled in with my Boy for the rest of the day while we wait for his daddy to get home. We had sleet off and on all morning, and it’s not even gotten up to freezing. In spite of the fact that I have to do chores in the cold, you have no idea how happy this makes me. We need a lot more days like this before spring.

We’ve had so much warm weather lately, and every time I see someone else rejoicing about being able to wear t-shirts and flip-flops in January, all I can think about is our bizarre winter last year and how it threw off the rhythm of all the other seasons. I think a good, cold winter (and seriously, we’re talking about South Carolina here, not the Arctic, people) feels like hitting a “reset” button. It makes everything feel clean and helps me tolerate and even be grateful for the warmer seasons. So come on, y’all, let’s break out the warm layers and enjoy the cold!

Well, both of our rabbit does kindled within 24 hours of each other a couple of weeks ago. The younger girl has six little ones — three white, two grey/brown, and one black. The older one only has three, but they’re at least twice and possibly three times the size of the others! Chubby little things. The other day, I even caught one of them out of the nest box, hopping around the cage behind its mama. Usually they don’t venture out for at least three weeks or so!

The Boy is having a little trouble with the idea of eating the bunnies, though. He keeps insisting that we don’t eat animals (because they have faces and make noises), and we’re trying to explain to him that the bacon, steak, and chicken that he loves so much all come from animals. On Wednesday, though, we went and got him a pet rabbit — a six-week-old sandy Flemish Giant that should end up between fifteen and twenty pounds and will definitely not look like one of the meat rabbits.

We got her from a lady with a really cute little hobby farm. The Boy got to hang out with turkeys, feed sheep, and pet guinea pigs as well as visit with all the rabbits. Just before we left, he decided he wanted to hug the sheep goodbye, and he did manage to hug the lead ewe, but then he started chasing the rest of the flock, who weren’t used to seeing little people and ran away from him. This made the alpha ewe decide he was a threat to her family, and Ben and I both could see what was going to happen next, but we were too far away to reach him. Fortunately, she was only standing about two feet from The Boy, so when she lowered her head and butted him, she didn’t have a running start or much force behind it. She didn’t frighten him or knock him down, just pushed him off balance. Ben and I both were laughing, but I’m pretty sure the lady who owned the place was having visions of lawsuits, because she couldn’t apologize enough. Isn’t it sad that something as funny and harmless as a strong nudge from a sheep immediately conjures up issues of liability and blame?

Anyway, the sweet new bunny is named Charlotte. At first, The Boy said he wanted to call her Ice Cream, then Vanilla, and then Charlie. Ben suggested Charlotte as a more feminine option, and The Boy liked it. If I’d been naming her, I think I would have called her Truffles, because she’s two shades of brown: a dark chocolate color down near her skin with a lighter, cocoa-powder brown at the tip of each hair like she’s been rolled in it. But she belongs to my Boy, and her name is Charlotte.

Rainy Tuesday

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A little less than six weeks left until this baby is due, and this morning I’m what my mom calls “all stoved up.” Probably because I spent an hour or so yesterday afternoon digging a couple hundred pounds of wet leaves and mud out of the chicken run to try to improve the drainage situation. Our plan is to dig a deep trench across the front of the run and fill it with gravel, then cover the whole run with several inches of sand. I found a fantastic idea from The Chicken Chick for a sand litter scoop here. I love anything that I can make with wire and zip ties!

Well, one rooster gone, and one on probation. I went up to collect eggs, lifted the roof of one nest box, and found the prettier of the two roos standing there with two broken eggs in front of him. He had just enough time to give me a “And? What are you going to do about it?” look before I grabbed him.

I have to admit that I briefly considered a quick neck snap. He was a good-sized roo and would probably have been pretty tasty… But I restrained myself and rehomed him instead. The great part was that I was able to find him a new home very quickly. He really was a beautiful guy, but I haven’t had a single broken egg since he left, and we’ve been getting many more eggs than we were. Have to wonder how many that rascal was eating…

I finally finished the Joel Salatin book I’ve been reading off and on for months. (Yes, the one I mentioned here ages ago.) It was pretty amazing. Full of common sense (or at least, what should be common sense) but also packed with so much information. Now I’ll be passing the book around — to my husband, my sister, my mom, and possibly the mail lady and the cable guy. If you are even remotely interested in the food you eat — where it actually comes from, who makes the decisions regarding its safety, and why it’s worth paying more for local foods — or if you just realize how backwards and out-of-touch our culture has become, you really should read Folks, This Ain’t Normal.

About the same time that I finished the book, we watched Fresh on Netflix. Salatin and Polyface Farms are heavily featured, and Ben and I both laughed out loud watching the happy chickens pour out of the eggmobiles to range in the pastures. Not to mention the pigs, the cows, and the family dinner out in the field. And of course, it’s not all about Polyface. There are naturally raised hogs in the Ozarks, a conventional soybean farmer who talks rather wistfully about organic methods, and a couple who raise chickens for one of the major poultry companies. It made me sad to hear them talk about all the recent improvements and how much “healthier” the scraggly, overcrowded birds are than they were a few years ago, as well as the fact that the company has to bring in prison inmates to work on processing day because conditions are so bad that people won’t take the jobs. It’s another really eye-opening movie that I wish more people would watch.

Well, I’ve put it off long enough. It’s time to go outside and see if my temporary drainage solution is holding up in the chicken run. I really hope it is, because I’m pretty sure the neighbors are going to pull out their video camera if the crazy girl next door gets back out there in the mud with her eight-months-pregnant belly.

Catching Up, Starting Fresh, and Just a Little Bit of Showing Off

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The holiday season always flies by, but for us, anyway, it was especially crazy this year. We had a couple of pretty major projects going on in the house — finishing up the new room for The Boy and his soon-to-be little brother, turning his old room into a guest bedroom, and general touch-up, cleaning, and reorganization of the rest of the house, which has felt like a combination of a storage unit and construction zone since we started work on the new nursery.

From the moment we got the tree home, all The Boy could talk about was putting the star on top. He needed Daddy's help, but he got it up there!

From the moment we got the tree home, all The Boy could talk about was putting the star on top. He needed Daddy’s help, but he got it up there!

Christmas was lots of fun since The Boy was so very excited about it. We celebrated with my family the Friday before, and let me just say that it’s a good thing the world did not end that day, because I would have been very upset to miss out on my Mom’s famous standing rib roast and Yorkshire pudding. Then on Christmas Eve, Ben’s family (who were in town visiting his grandparents) came over to have dinner and to see all that Ben has been working on around here.  Christmas morning was nice and quiet with just the three of us celebrating together one last time.

So excited on Christmas morning!

So excited on Christmas morning!

Outside, we’ve been breeding rabbits, cleaning chicken coops, rebuilding nest boxes, and spreading what seems like half a ton of chicken and rabbit “contributions” on the garden area. Anticipating life with a 4-year-old and a newborn, we’re planning to keep things very small gardening-wise this year — mostly large pots close to the house for things we use the most (tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, etc.) and feed sacks for growing potatoes.

Egg production has been spotty for the last few weeks due to the frequent changes in weather. The girls also got into the nasty habit of egg-eating recently, probably because one or two eggs got broken around Christmas Day when schedules made it difficult for me to collect them as frequently as usual. This is why we ended up altering the nest boxes, adding a ramp and partition for the eggs to roll down and under, so that they end up in a nicely padded spot where they’re much less accessible to the hens.

Sweet, crazy Silkie.

Sweet, crazy Silkie.

We realized about a month ago (after moving the last of the bossy SLWs from the chicken tractor to the large coop) that two of the Easter Eggers we’ve raised this year are roosters. Crazy, right? Apparently they were too hen-pecked by the slightly older pullets to ever assert their masculinity, and honestly (maybe for the same reason), they didn’t even look like roosters until the past few weeks. Now, they’re making up for lost time and conducting multi-round crowing competitions anytime between 11:00 p.m. and dawn. At least one of them definitely needs to go.

The Boy snuggling with Dickens, his favorite cat. No, this photo doesn't "belong" here, but who cares?

The Boy snuggling with Dickens, his favorite cat. No, this photo doesn’t “belong” here, but who cares?

There should be a couple of litters of baby bunnies arriving this weekend, although we haven’t decided yet whether they’ll be ending up in the freezer or the classifieds. I haven’t been able to cook rabbit since getting pregnant — something about the tiny bones reminds me of dissecting things in high school biology class, and every time I try to handle one I end up smelling formaldehyde. Completely baseless and psychosomatic, I know, but I can’t seem to get past it yet. Hopefully the crazy will go away after the baby is born.

It’s sinking in now that this baby is coming next month. This pregnancy has flown by and lasted forever at the same time, and I’m ready to see his face. My first pregnancy was a surprise, and I was too naive to know what to worry about. I miss being naive. This time I’ve known from the beginning that I wouldn’t feel safe until I could hold this baby in my arms. We’re almost to that point now, and while I’m dreading the sleep deprivation I know I’ll be dealing with by March, I also can’t wait to hear that first cry and snuggle with another newborn.

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My sweet baby — can’t wait to see this face in person!

So, back to that new room we’ve been working on since last fall. I think we’re finally ready to post before and after shots! Ben has done such beautiful work, and I’m really proud to show it off. When we moved in, the room had old, funky-smelling, green carpet and this strange, indoor/outdoor feel, mostly due to the exterior siding on the walls. the old sliding glass door leading to the living room, and the window looking into our master bedroom. It had apparently once been a screened porch, and when they turned it into a sunroom, they didn’t change it much. (Nor did they insulate it much!) We ripped out the carpet and put down vinyl flooring, painted the walls a light blue, and basically put the whole room at the bottom of our priority list. So here are pictures starting with the “before-before,” through the “before” and the construction process, and a bunch of “now.”

The room when we moved here in October, 2010.

The room when we moved here in October, 2010.

Lovely view of the "Before" living room through the glass door.

Lovely view of the “Before” living room through the glass door.

Our temporary fix for the room. That window looked into our bedroom, by the way.

Our temporary fix for the room. That window looked into our bedroom, by the way.

Windows and door opening into the carport. Lovely.

Windows and door opening into the carport. Lovely.

Exterior siding partially down, drywall going up. The window's days are numbered...

Exterior siding partially down, drywall going up. The window’s days are numbered…

The two large windows into the carport had to go. They added nothing to the light or the view. The Boy was thrilled by the huge hole in the wall.

The two large windows into the carport had to go. They added nothing to the light or the view. The Boy was thrilled by the huge hole in the wall.

Look, no more window! Now I have a door directly into the nursery from our room.

Look, no more window! Now I have a door directly into the nursery from our room.

New floor going down. The Boy loved the sound underfoot and crab-danced back and forth.

New floor going down. The Boy loved the sound underfoot and crab-danced back and forth.

Flooring is down, light is up. Huge improvement.

Flooring is down, light is up. Huge improvement.

It's almost unrecognizable. Seriously, go back and look at the first pictures. It's amazing.

It’s almost unrecognizable. Seriously, go back and look at the first pictures. It’s amazing.

I wish my bedroom had these windows!

I wish my bedroom had these windows!

Cozy crib. I'm in love with the tree branch decal.

Cozy crib. I’m in love with the tree branch decal.

New French doors into the living room!

New French doors into the living room!

The Boy's "new" bed. The quote above it is from Thoreau: "All good things are wild and free."

The Boy’s “new” bed. The quote above it is from Thoreau: “All good things are wild and free.”

Tree branch

Crib and tree branch again. Still love it.

The Boy's "new" dresser. I love this, too.

The Boy’s “new” dresser. I love this, too.

So happy. This isn't a huge space, but it's finally useful, and it's more beautiful than I ever thought possible.

So happy. This isn’t a huge space, but it’s finally useful, and it’s more beautiful than I ever thought possible.