Monday, July 21, 2014

Elsie turns two!

Saturday Elsie turned two. It was two years ago that my delivery doctor said "it's a girl!" and I let out a sob-cry of happiness like I'd never sob-cried before. This girl overtook my heart in an instant.

This past week I hemmed and hawed over what to do for Elsie's birthday. I was sick with a cold, not feeling like a party planner. And as my mom, sister Annika and sis-in-law Lisa will tell you, I changed the party plans every single day. Every other day we were going to a splash pad. The days in between we would celebrate here at our place.

In the end, we had the party here. And without planning it, the party became a garden party. Picking food from the garden, getting it ready to eat for the birthday lunch.

Sonna found the carrots and decided to pick some of them. Rory commented that he probably would have given them a few more weeks, but since Sonna had them proudly in her hand, this was a great day to pick a few. :)

Josie, Mara and Sonna picked sweet peas and then shelled all of them! We cooked them for lunch and they were delicious. At one point all of the kids were shelling peas together. Lisa told me, "there's your party game!"

Jack is 17 and he is awesome. When he saw the eggs in the coop he asked permission to go fry them up. I think this is what happens when you're a 17-year-old growing guy. You see protein and you just have to eat it. Like right now. I was so happy he was so excited to eat our eggs!

And then there's Zina. Zina brought a box of bee keeping gear that her husband had used decades ago...including this hat! (I'll write more about that another day.) Zina saw the flowers on our pumpkins and got so excited to fry them up. She went to work in the kitchen and I'm here to say that I would eat a plate full of these fried pumpkin flowers any day. The flower is sort of sweet and soft. Can't explain it, but they were awesome. And Zina was so, so happy to be making them. She went back for more flowers after her first batch. What a joy!

Mostly this party was awesome because it was so good to be together. I think this shot of my mom and sister sums that up nicely. And this picture has been added as one of my favorite pics of all time. We'll get this one framed asap.

And then there is Kyle and Lisa. Lisa biked here for the party. No kidding. Probably thirty miles. She made it to the outside of town and then called her pit crew to drive her in for the last bit. But if it hadn't been so windy she would have pulled up our lane on her bicycle!

Love this family shot. And especially love that my brother will be here in a few weeks so we can get him in the next family shot!

We had another wiener roast and mom made her chicken salad. And mostly we ate from the garden: lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, peas, pumpkin flowers and two tiny yellow tomatoes.

We wrapped up with cupcakes and presents and got to enjoy the sweetness of Elsie. She seemed so glad and grateful. I don't know how to explain it. She just seemed so happy to be celebrated. She was delightful. It was a super special second birthday.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Introducing our Broiler Chicks

Rory's phone rang this morning at 6 am and it was the post office letting us know our chickens had been delivered. Rory just finished the coop last night so the timing was pretty perfect. When we came downstairs there was a whole lot of cheeping coming out of the bathroom.

Now before we go any further, you need to understand these are Broiler Chicks. Emphasis on the Broiler. As in, their fate will be our belly. We have 6-8 weeks to enjoy their company, and for them to enjoy their sweet life on our farm. Rory has tried to coach me the best he can to no grow attached. He recommended that I maybe don't name the chickens this time. Or take so many pictures of them. Or hold them late at night after the kids have gone to bed.

But I'm already attached. I was when the phone rang at 6 am and I squealed because 30 baby chicks is a very exciting delivery. So I am going to name them, but with names fitting their ending. And to any vegetarians out there, I flat out apologize. I want you to know these birds will be given the nicest life on our farm, in a beautiful brand new chicken coop built just for them.

Without further adieu, let me introduce our newest farm animals:

I could go on and on. But here's the thing. They are identical. And move around a lot. So at any given time, any chick may be called Fried Steak or any other delicious meal to come.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

a summertime head cold

I've been down for the count this week with a horrible cold. Elsie has it too and together we are quite the stuffed up, achy pair. It means we haven't done much this week except begin new household programs like the one I made up today: Operation Off You Sister.

We also have watched a new family show each evening, a show we call "Letters!" Letters! is an awesome show with a wheel with numbers a guy named Pat and a lady named Vanna. The show is awesome because people call out Letters, which my kids are both very interested in, and then the letters show up on the board. It also helps that this week is Disney Cruise week, so Micky and Minnie make frequent appearances.

My friend Kandi brought us dinner last night when she heard I was sick. When she dropped it off I kept thanking her, feeling a bit embarrassed, but so, so grateful. She commented that at her other church they always brought meals for each other. I said, "well for sure when someone has had a baby or maybe just found out dire news, but we don't often give meals for the common cold." But we should. I appreciated that meal so much (tonight too!).

And finally...do you see that red and white structure behind the kitten? Rory has been building a mobile chicken coop this week, all ready for the 30 chicks that will be arriving in the mail one of these days. Every package that has been delivered this week has been inspected by Ivar, listening for peeping. We are all very excited for these chicks to arrive.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

a word to the nay sayers

I went to a local specialty store to buy dill seed for pickles. This conversation was had while at checkout:

employee: So do you have any fun weekend plans?
me: Well, I'm going to try making pickles. I've never done it before.
employee: Are your cucumbers already full size?!!
me: Yes! Beyond full size. I had no idea how fast they'd grow. They're huge!
employee: They won't work. You've waited too long. You maybe could use the ends of each cucumber.
me: Oh, that's good to know. If they're too watery, I may just cut the seeds out this first round.
employee: Yeah, you definitely waited too long.
me: Well, you know, it's just a fun project for the weekend. The worst that can happen is that we'll have soggy pickles, I suppose.
employee: It's so much work though.
me: But I've got to start learning some time.

I signed my receipt as fast as I could and left the store in a hurry.

This woman said nothing encouraging. Nothing along the lines of, "good for you! making pickles for your first time!" She said nothing helpful. She said nothing worth saying.

I hadn't asked her advice. I hadn't asked her opinion. I just wanted to buy the seeds.

It's a funny world of nay sayers. We have run into them with many a project on this hobby farm. When we first told a friend our plans to tap our maple trees, he scoffed, "what a whole lot of work." People have huffed at the size of our garden. Gasped at the number of apple trees we planted. Worried about ideas before we even started a project.

I think I'm most sensitive to these words because I can get caught up with worry to the point of inaction too. But I married Rory. And Rory is all action and can never fathom the concerns that are voiced.

He often will comment that what is work to one person is play to another.

So I came home, told Rory about the conversation and then made six quarts and five pints of pickles. And for sure there is nothing better than a pickle you canned yourself, but let me tell you these pickles are incredible. We cannot stop eating them. They are crunchy (maybe they'll get less crunchy over time?) and have a teeny bit of heat to match the dill. I am so tempted to bring a jar down to the local specialty store.

I'm so glad I spent an evening after the kids went to bed making them, even if my cucs were too big!

And! If you have ever wanted to try your hand at pickles or canning I CANNOT ENCOURAGE YOU MORE!!! It is surprisingly simple. It involves a bit of labor, but not if you start small scale. And there is nothing more empowering. To learn something brand new that appears daunting is so exciting. And then to have the veil of unknowing lifted and to realize it's not as difficult as you imagined is one of the best feelings in the whole wide world.

Here is a sneak peek of the process. I took pictures step by step just so you can see that it's just not that complicated:

I made mine without a waterbath, so they will stay in the refrigerator. And I found the recipe I used here.

So be encouraged! You can do this! You can do anything! Let no nay sayer tell you otherwise!


Monday, July 14, 2014


Monday's are sort of becoming my update day for the honeybees. I hope you don't mind. There is just so much to pass along and learn! Yesterday I had Adam, our friend who is getting me up and running come out and tell me what I should be looking for when I check on my bees.

So far when I go to check on the bees I look for bees. And if there are a lot of them, and they seem to be busy I have felt successful. But I knew there must be more. As it turns out, Adam had me look past the bees right at the comb. And with his help he was able to show me larvae, eggs (!!!), honey, capped honey and brood.

That top picture is stunning to me. Can you see the dimension of the comb? They build that up, slightly at an up angle so that the honey doesn't drip out. This honey is their food for the winter. It is what they will survive on when there is no pollen or nectar all those long, long months, and will feed the future larvae.

This picture below is capped honey. They're basically preserving their food for the winter just like I'm preserving ours from the garden.

The picture below is brood. There are baby bees in each cell. Adam was happy when we found little larvae and eggs because it means the queen is doing her job and the hive is healthy. The eggs are microscopic. We stepped into the sun to see them, pale white and teeny tiny, just a dot in a cell. The sun helped but it took me a while to actually see what I was looking for. The larvae were fascinating. A bit gross, if we're really honest. But they'll grow into worker bees, and I do love my bees.

Yesterday was an exciting day because we added another deep super to one hive. We would have added another deep super to the second hive, except I haven't purchased it yet. When it arrives, I'll go back out and add it to the second hive. Adam was really encouraged by how healthy my hives are looking. I'm so happy for my bees!

And do you know that I will never touch the honey in these first three supers? All of this honey they are making right now is for them, to help them survive the winter.  This first year it is most important to build a healthy hive that will survive the winter.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

a chocolate party for Ruby

She's an easy girl to celebrate, this Ruby Cate. She is fun to be around, a great and detailed storyteller, brave and aware all wrapped up with a sweet, sweet spirit.  I am so proud to be her aunt! This year she asked her mom for a chocolate party  to celebrate her 7th birthday and I found this theme to be quite brilliant.

Her party included a chocolate fountain, chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate hershey bars and a chocolate birthday cake. The girls attending this party seemed to very much enjoy not having their mothers around to cut them off from the chocolate fountain and really seemed to enjoy a good chocolate covered marshmallow.

I think this door handle seems to sum up nicely the deliciousness of this party. Even the Hershey Bars were customized for Ruby's chocolate party.

(These ladies are some of my favorite in the world.)

The party was at Kyle and Lisa's house and Lisa whipped up special pennants for the day. She also had candy bar costumes on hand that she has lovingly made for Josie to wear each Halloween. So here, at Ruby's Chocolate Birthday Party, we were entertained by a Chocolate Parade. They marched around the kitchen table and the living room and it was hilarious.

The party ended with a chocolate bar, just to be sure each party goer had every kind of m&m to get them back home. The whole party was a joy and Ruby is as sweet as all of the chocolate we ate. Happy Birthday Ruby Cate!