Friday, December 23, 2011

Spa Day for Lilly

Today Lilly is getting special treatment.  Someone had been picking on her and she had dried blood on her backside and head.  We tried cleaning off the blood with peroxide, but it wasn't working well.  It was just getting the blood wet, which meant more picking if she was left outside with the others. 

So, a bath it was!  After she was washed and snuggled up in a towel all she wanted to do was take a nap.  My son got a box ready so we could put the heat lamp on her to help her dry.  When we do this with the other chickens they will just sit in the box and sleep.  They enjoy the alone time.  NOT Lilly. The first thing she did was move the paper towels and start dusting herself in the wood shavings!  Maybe to absorb the water, my son laughingly says.  After half and hour she is still down there playing.

When you look in on her she just gives you a look, like WHAT? 

Can't you see I'm busy?

You are keeping me from something very important.

Little does she know.  She will be staying in there overnight until she is completely dry.  It's too cold outside to put her back in the coop wet. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Our First White Egg

Lilly is laying! 

On 11-11-11 Lilly laid her first egg.  When I went to collect the eggs I was shocked to see a white egg sitting it the box.  Lilly will be our only white egg layer which is how I knew it was hers.

The girls were 21 weeks old last week and so far Lilly is the only one laying.  Out of all of the younger girls, I would not have picked Lilly to start laying first.  This has me wondering if maybe Snowflake, the White Rock, is laying and I am assuming it is from one of the other girls. 

Snowflake is quite a bit larger than the others and she would have been my first guess as the depositor of the egg if it weren't for the fact that it was white.  The eggs I have been getting haven't changed in size and when the birds initially start laying their eggs are normally smaller.    So, unless I can catch them in the act, I will never know which ones are leaving me the presents. 

When I went out to check on them Saturday I happened to catch Lilly in the laying basket. She had a funny expression after sitting up and looking at the egg laying there.  It was as if she was amazed the egg had come from her.  I wish I had my camera with me.  Her actions were priceless.

It's really hard to believe that just a few months ago the girls were this little!  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Planning for those days

Frozen meatloaf thawing to pop in the oven for supper!
 It's days like this I am thankful for a freezer.  I often make extra food and put it in the freezer to pull out on days that I don't feel up to cooking.  This is one of those days.  The weather is utterly gloomy, cold and rainy.  It doesn't appear it will improve much in the days ahead.  It's getting colder and winter is just around the corner.

I am not looking forward to winter.  I could really live in a warmer climate.   One with lots of sunshine.  My husband says Hawaii would be perfect for me.  I am not sure I could handle living on an "island".   I used to appreciate the change in seasons, but as I get older, I appreciate the warmer weather more.

Even with the cooler weather, I am still able to gather some things from the garden.  The chickens are enjoying the brussel sprouts and broccoli still growing.  They like the leaves as much as the vegetables. 

Today I pulled up the hot peppers.  They didn't make it through the last couple nights.  I forgot to cover them. Each day I take the covering off of the plants and replace them at night.  Which I evidently forgot to do.  It looks as though from the weather forecast this may be the last week I am able to hold on to the plants.  Next year a greenhouse is in my plans.  Unfortunately for now, my celery looks like it is just starting to do well.  I will have to harvest what I can, and soon.

One Last Time

In addition to being the crazy chicken lady, organic gardener, home school mom, I am also a cosmetologist.  This week one of my dearest friends passed away and it is my great honor to have the opportunity to make her beautiful for all eternity.  Words can't express how much she meant to me.

Yesterday I accomplished a task many are unwilling to attempt.  I cut and colored her hair. The color wasn't a temporary one, but rather permanent, just as we always did.  This was a task I was told could not be done.  Telling me I can't do something always makes me more determined to succeed.

Yesterday's visit wasn't our usual encounter.  This time the conversation was one sided.  We didn't get to have the normal back and forth chat.  I was the only one talking.  I didn't get to hear how her children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren were doing.  I didn't get to hear what she had been up to.  What she looked forward to.  This was the first time the words didn't flow from her.

Over the years we were together so often, and shared so much, I can't pinpoint when we no longer were just friends, but rather family.  She never forgot my birthday, nor my son's.  She would even send him a card on Valentines Day.    We had many conversations, all of which I cherish.

We talked about her life growing up.  What is was like having to milk a cow before and after school, raising  chickens and riding horses.  How she met and fell in love with her husband.  The excitement and joy she had with each and every child she carried.  Her grand children.  The birth of her great grand children.  Marriages, divorces, the death of loved ones.  She loved them all immensely.  I can still remember the loss she felt when her mother passed away.  It left a hole in her heart.  But none as large as the one left by the loss of her daughter to breast cancer.

She herself, was a breast cancer survivor, so when my grandmother came down with it she was a great comfort to me.  I could call and talk to her when I was having a rough day.  When her own daughter was diagnosed, she did everything she could for her.  She never gave up the fight for her.  Even when her daughter could no longer fight. 

After the loss of her daughter I felt helpless as all I could do was listen, share tears, and try to comfort her.  She talked about her daughter often.  I was glad to listen.  I was honored I could be there for her.  She never wanted to burden her family with her grief.  I'm sure she never let on how she was truly grieving.

She was always a strong lady, and I'm sure she felt as if she had to continue to be strong for them.  I know she visited her grave often without notice.  I can't image experiencing the loss of a child.  I know many that have, and my heat goes out to them.  I hope to never experience such grief.

The loss of her daughter really took a lot out of her.  She didn't have the strength she needed to fight her own battles.  I held on hope, as I know she and her family did, that she would get better.  Unfortunately for us, God needed her sooner than we hoped.  She was a very spiritual person and I'm sure she is taking care of her family now, just as she always has.   We talked often about angels and how are family members, even after they have passed, have a way of letting us know they are still with us.  I know she will continue to watch over all of those she loved in heaven, just as she did on earth.

Thursday I get to see her again to style her hair and put on her makeup.   I get to make her look beautiful, one last time.  I am so blessed to have had this wonderful lady in my life.  I loved her dearly and I will miss her greatly.   She was true beauty, both inside and out.  She touched my life like no other and will forever be in my heart and thoughts.

I love you beautiful lady.  Until we see each other again, may you rest in peace.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bath Time

This week has been a crazy week for weather.  Tuesday was gorgeous with a high in the low 70's.  Tonight we are suppose to dip down into the upper 20's.  I was really enjoying the extended warm weather, and so were the girls.  While the weather was warm, I took full advantage of my time by cleaning out the chicken coop, even washing the window! It's amazing how much better you can see through a clean window.

I also washed the windows on my house.  Just the ones I could reach outside.  The inside will have to wait. While in a cleaning mood, I raked some foliage from the yard, and tore out the cherry tomato tree growing next to the coop.  And yes, I said tree.  That was no ordinary tomato plant.  It spanned at least 8 feet tall.  I have never seen a tomato plant grow that large.  That says nothing for the stalk left in the ground I didn't have the strength to pull.  I'm thinking it needs to be chained to the back of a truck to pull it out.  Well maybe not, but it sure sounds fun to do.

I had just given the younger chickens a bath last week and already the white ones were in need of another one.  This time they knew what they were in for, and weren't as cooperative. They do look pretty all cleaned up.  If only it would last more than a couple days.  They like to walk over each other and leave footprint marks on one another.

Lilly the Leghorn

Lilly is still a lot smaller than the others.  Red takes advantage of that fact and picks at her constantly. She has become the warden of the coop. She will walk back and forth on the perch each night and push each one of them off until they give up perching.  Lilly acts afraid to eat if Red is around.  Red seems to like to torment her for enjoyment.  Most days I go outside and let the older ones out to run in the yard so the younger ones can run freely in the run.  Lilly always heads for the food.  She's a real sweetie.  Just as she did when she was a few days old, she will still let you hold her and sit on your hand, while the others would rather try to escape.
Ginger, Amber, and Licorice
Miss Tail Feathers
The younger chickens haven't realized they are just as big and even bigger than the older girls.  They still let the older ones intimidate them.  They try their best to stay out of the way while the others rule below.  With colder weather coming, they are going to have to learn to coexist being "cooped" up more.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

No I'm not decorating for Halloween just yet.

I have sheets and blankets scattered all over my yard.  No, I'm not decorating for Halloween.  They are covering what is left of my garden plants I am hoping to salvage for another week or so.  Tonight the temperatures are suppose to tumble into the 20's and 30's with a freeze warning for our area.  At this point I'm not sure sheets and blankets will be enough.  The sad part is we are expected to get warmer temperatures again this weekend.  I am still harvesting broccoli and tomatoes on a regular basis.  My brussel sprouts haven't gotten big enough yet to pick and the celery is getting close.  I was hoping the cold weather would hold out a little while longer to allow these crops with a longer growing season more time to develop.  We will have to see what mother nature has to say in the morning.   It's times like these I really wish I had a green house. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Grapes~ Making Juice and Jam Without any Waste

I have a juicer that is underutilized in our house.  Mainly because of the clean up.  Although it can be put into the dishwasher, the machine does require some scrubbing beforehand.  It's often easier to wash it by hand.  Washing by hand is probably better for the cutting blade as well. 

The juicer makes great juice.  My son really likes fresh grape juice.  With this in mind, I decided to preserve some grape juice and make jam at the same time.  When you juice fruits and vegetables there is pulp discarded.  This pulp can be used in making things such as cookies, muffins, soups, and salsa, to name a few suggestions listed in the manual.  I have generally given the pulp to the chickens.  In the past I have juiced a combination of fruits and vegetables and didn't think the combination would taste well in any recipe.  Therefore, the chickens enjoyed the added vitamins it provides. 

I had bought grapes on sale and was wanting to preserve some of the juice.  As I was cleaning out the pulp I was thinking there had to be a use for this... and it hit me.  Why not make it into grape jam!  So that's what I did.  This is now the second batch I have made.  Grapes were on sale again, so why not make more!

When juicing grapes I choose seedless red grapes so there aren't any seeds in the pulp.  The pulp I then turned into grape jam.  In doing this there was no waste to discard. 

Juicing the grapes
After I finished juicing the grapes I strained the juice through a metal strainer, placed in jars, and processed for 20 minutes in a hot water bath. 
This is the pulp along with some juice.

I heated the pulp and processed according to the directions on the Ball low sugar pectin package
 I ended up with 4 cups of pulp for the jam.  I added a slight amount of juice according to the directions, sugar, and pectin.  Bottled and processed for 10 minutes, shutting off the burner and letting the jars sit in the water bath another 5 minutes before removing to cool.

Grape Jam
Grape Juice

My Shadow

 This is how my shadow appears when I go outside to take care of the chickens.  No matter where I go in the yard, she isn't far from my side.  She has been this way since the death of her look-a-like, Stubby.  Miss Tail Feathers follows me all over the yard waiting for attention and treats.  Mainly treats! 
 She often acts like she doesn't like the attention, but it's all an act.  The other day I was playing with the younger girls taking turns sitting in the chair and holding them.  The entire time she kept walking back and forth under my chair, scooting away when I tried to pet her.  When I got up to put one of the girls back in the kennel I turned around and she had hopped up in my chair.  I picked her up and she melted in my arms.  She even nodded off for awhile while I petted her.   I think she secretly likes the attention, but puts on an act in front of the others.  Each night when I lock them up she is usually sitting close to the door waiting to get petted and told goodnight. 

I almost feel like the Pied Piper leading the mice when the chickens follow me around the yard.  They know where I keep the sunflower seeds, and to them, sunflower seeds are as good a crack.  They go nuts over them.  I think I could lead them around town, if they thought sunflower seeds were at the end of the journey.

When I buy a grain mixture that includes sunflower seeds, they will eat the sunflower seeds and leave the other grains. The little chickens aren't as finicky yet.  The are more picky when it comes to greens from the garden.  They all, however, love tomatoes!  Lucky for them, the volunteer cherry tomatoes are doing well.  Each day I pick the ripe tomatoes to give to the chickens. They usually end up playing what looks like chicken football.  They all run after the quarterback to get the tomato.  It's both comical and yet cruel to watch at the same time.  I often feel bad for them and toss them several so they don't have to fight over them.  I no longer pick any of the tomatoes for us to eat.  The chickens get to enjoy them all.  No wonder they follow me around begging for treats.  They know they are going to get something for their begging.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Where's the Groceries?!

When grocery shopping lately do you find yourself wondering, what did I buy that cost so much?  Shouldn't there be more groceries in these bags?  I often wonder if I forgot a bag at the store.  It kind of reminds me of the old Wendy's Hamburger commercial.  Where's the BEEF?

Each time I go to the store, I am shocked at the amount of money we are spending to get the same amount of groceries. I overheard an elderly lady yesterday commenting to a store manager on the price of dairy and how they are having a harder time getting by with the increase in costs.  This is a concern among many people.  Not just the elderly. 
As I was unloading the groceries from my vehicle yesterday, I started to wonder, why is it I rarely see any of our neighbors carrying in groceries? This is something we seem to do on a regular basis.  I have watched them carry in fast food more than groceries.  Is this what main stream America eats, as opposed to cooking at home? 

I have watched documentaries which included low income families stating it is cheaper to eat off the the dollar menu versus buying fresh food to prepare at home.  They claim they can't afford or don't have the time to prepare fresh fruits or vegetables for their family.  One question you should ask yourself would be, what is the price I put on my families health?  Eating fast food at times may be "cheaper", however, is it really?  What price are you going to pay in the long run?

Fast food is something we rarely eat.  For one, I don't care for the food, it's not as healthy, and I have to wonder about the cleanliness of the place and the people working there.  It almost makes me sick to my stomach to watch a worker take your money and then go and prepare your food.   Yes, I am a little OCD when it comes to germs.  Not Howie Mandel freaky, but I do carry hand sanitizer around in my purse and use it often.  Eating out is also costing more.  I can still make a more healthy meal at home for my family that costs less.  It does take time to decide on a meal and prepare it.  Is this why many choose to pick up food on the go?  Lack of time? 

Cooking and baking at home does take time.  You have to plan a meal based on what you have available at home.  I know many people shop according to what they are going to make that day.  I detest going to the grocery store, and making a trip every day or two is not for me.  I prefer to shop once a week.  I would go less if I could get by with it.  I often wish our grocery stores would run sales every two weeks instead of weekly.  I generally shop what is on sale.  I stock up on items that are on sale each week and usually get enough to last until the item goes on sale again.  Shopping this way means you need to have a place to accommodate extra items.  If ketchup is on sale, I may buy 5 of them.  The same goes for meat.  This week hamburger was on sale.  I purchased 5 packages.  I will break the packages down into smaller ones and put them in the freezer.  By shopping this way, I have items on hand to prepare meals at home.  It just takes a little planning. 

Even shopping sale items, I am finding we spend almost twice the amount on groceries when compared to what we were spending a couple years ago.  To make things sound gloomier, there are rumblings that things will get even higher.  Wages for the average person are not increasing, in fact they are moving in the opposite direction.  Utilities are increasing.  The price of gas keeps going up.  We have cut back immensely on driving. My husband drives a motorcycle to work to save gas.  We shop locally when possible.  We often find the added cost of gas to drive to a larger city for an item doesn't offset paying a higher price locally.  How are others coping with the added expense of items?  Are you finding yourself cutting back in other areas?  Are you staying at home more with your family?  I myself, have been spending more time canning.  I think it started out of a need to become more prepared, and now find satisfaction in seeing the jars filled with goodies we will be able to enjoy for months to come.