Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rainy Day Fun!

I've been wanting to try freezer paper stenciling for some time now. I have seen many examples of it all over Blog-land and have been so enamored with it, that I just had to try it myself. With today being a rainy day, it seemed like the perfect time to do it!

I waited until nap-time for Baby, then we got into it. After the girls picked/drew their pictures, I cut them out on freezer paper, then ironed the freezer paper onto the shirts. I cut up a sponge, squirted out the paint and let them have at it! Was it ever fun and the girls were so tickled to wear their art!

Not bad for a 3-year old!

Middle working on her sun rays.

Oldest had to have the words, "I love you!"
That was a chore to cut out. The exacto knife came in handy here!

Almost done...


I think the hardest part for the girls was waiting for the paint to dry!
We used acrylic paint, it's what I had on hand. I'm told that it will be fine in the laundry, so we shall see about that. I line-dry my clothes, so it should last longer than usual.
If you use fabric paint, you're supposed to iron after the paint dries to set the paint.

This was so easy, that I plan to do up a couple of my own shirts next! This is a great way to give shirts with stains a second life-- cover up the stains with your picture!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Round 2!

Our yard sale was pretty successful! We made over $200 and sold quite a bit of stuff. We decided we are going for round 2 this weekend and gathering more stuff to sell. There were items we kept back because we didn't want to part with them, or we thought they wouldn't sell at higher prices, but after seeing some of our other "test" items sell, we decided to go ahead and put them out with higher prices and to our surprise, they sold at the prices we asked for. So, that was encouraging, and we'll be bringing out more stuff.

The girls picked and ate a few pears, then decided they were ripe enough and picked all the pears they could reach. sigh. They could have used another week or two on the tree. Now I have to hurry up and do something with them before they spoil. I hadn't planned on making more pear butter as I still have some left from last year, so I think I'll try my hand at canning pear halves. There should be enough here for at least a dozen pints.

The husband had the day off today and Oldest begged to go to the beach. We planned to do things around the house:: clean up from a weekend of neglect from being busy with the yard sale, gather more things to sell, take the trash to the landfill, stop at the store, etc etc etc... But it was hot and we really could use a day of relaxing at the beach, so off we went!
It was a good day for the beach, finally hot enough and the water felt just right. We had a picnic lunch and stayed for a few hours and it was just enough to recharge our batteries just a little bit.
Now it's back to the grindstone and we really need to get things ready for The Yard Sale: Round 2!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Update on Henry

My worries about gentle Henry are over. The chickens resolved the issue themselves and didn't include me in on the decision. I had decided I was going to keep him in a separate pen and was gathering materials to make one, but then I saw Rocky take off after Henry and chase him into the woods. I had a funny feeling that I wasn't going to see him again when I saw the chase go down.

We had company, I didn't follow them until after our company left and then I went out into the woods and called and called for Henry. He never came back. I waited a couple days, going out into the woods every few hours hoping to see him, but either Rocky killed him or something else snatched him up. It's been 10 days now and no sign of him.

I'll miss you Henry.

With Henry out of the picture, Rocky's new target is the other Speckled Sussex rooster you see on the far right, in the pix above. He's kind of mean and he pecks your feet when you walk by. He will chase you and peck you and when I say "peck", I mean he pecks. Hard. He has broken skin and left bruises where he pecks me or the girls. He's a stubborn one, that one, and refuses to get run off, though Rocky tries repeatedly to chase him off. I keep him separate in a large animal crate we have, and let him out when the other chickens are off in the field out of sight.

I called a neighbor that I know, who hunts and processes his own deer. I thought he might know how to butcher a chicken, but he says it's been over 50 years since he helped his Granddaddy butcher a chicken. Another neighbor sells eggs, so I'm thinking they may also butcher their own chickens, so I hope to go over there one day this week and introduce myself and ask.

I think in the future, I'll only purchase female chickens and leave those ornery males out of the equation. You don't need males for eggs, hens will lay eggs, but if you want them to hatch, then you need the rooster to fertilize the eggs.

I am gathering materials I need to build a fence around the chicken coop. They wander pretty far, and though they always return at night, they will soon start to lay eggs and I have heard enough stories about hens laying eggs every place but the nesting boxes. I don't want to look all over our 15 acres for eggs, so a fence it is. It will have two separate pens so I can rotate pens and let the grass regrow from all their pecking and digging. Ideally, there should be 4 pens, to rotate every week and then each pen will have 3 weeks of regrowth before the chickens go back into that pen. My issues are cost, so I need to figure out how much the fencing materials will cost me, before I make my final decision on how many pens there will be.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sting Like a Bee...

...Cry like a baby. Or rather, scream like a potty-mouth.

I got stung by a wasp while picking blackberries last night.

"Ow! Ow! Fuck! Fuckity fuck fuck fuck!" I howled as I scurried down the ladder and ran far away from the blackberry bushes. (Thankfully, the kids were in the house!)

Thing is, I knew there were wasps in the bushes, I'd always been careful and when I saw a wasp, I knew it was time to move away and go to another section of berries. I got distracted last night when the Husband was ogling my butt while I was bent over on the ladder and he called to me. Yeah- blame the husband!

I got stung on my ring finger and I took my ring off and I can't get it back on yet. My knuckle is still swollen and it's hard to bend, and now, it is starting to itch, itch, itch. I miss my ring. I don't think I have ever seen my finger so swollen before and it's interesting to see how big my knuckle is. I hope the swelling goes down soon, at least it doesn't hurt anymore.
In yard sale news:: We did pretty good today. Sold some bigger items and made over $100. Whoo-hoo! Looking forward to tomorrow and hope we have repeat success.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Too Much Stuff!

We're having a yard sale. Today. Tomorrow. And Saturday, too.

Whew! How is it that we acquire so much stuff?

No pictures, because honestly? I'm quite embarrassed about the amount of stuff out there.

We piled all the "sale" stuff in the basement near the door and now, with everything out, I feel like I can breathe down there again. It felt claustrophobic, sorta.

I hope we sell most of it. Because really? I don't want to bring it back in.

Then after the sale, I swear-- no more crappy stuff allowed in the house!

Sweet old guy came to the yard sale, today. Asked how much for a wine bottle opener. 25 cents I said. He held out his hand with a bunch of coins and I picked out a quarter. He gave me two extra dimes and when I looked at him quizzically, he told me it was my tip. Then he bought something else that came to $6 and he gave me $7. When I tried to give him his dollar back he told me it was my tip. I need more customers like him! :o)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pallet Chicken Coop

The pallet chicken coop is 95% done. I worked on it for most of the day yesterday and all that is left is to get the hinges on the wood flaps so that in the winter-time, I can close them for warmer digs. I have the hinges, but I currently can't find them at the moment. I just know if I give in and buy some more, they're going to show up and I hate that! So for now, I'm still looking.
Would you like a tour?

The main entrance. This chicken coop was designed entirely in my head, nothing written down, once I knew I wanted to make it from pallets. It is 2 pallets long and 1 pallet wide. The only material we had to buy was more nails and 3 8x4 pieces of plywood for the roof; leftovers went for the outside walls. Pallets, cinder blocks, roofing materials and chipboard all came from scavenging construction sites.

The door came from my Mom's home, when the contractor used it to make a temporary door when the firemen ripped out her front door. We asked them if they were going to keep it and they let us have it when they installed the new front door. They left the hinges on, too! All I had to do was cut it down to size. We also got all the wood they used to cover the broken windows.

Right-side view. Recycled some old cast-iron plant hangers that old owners left behind to hold watering can and feeder.

Left-side view. "Windows" are covered with chicken wire and in the winter, flaps will fold up to cover the windows. Small trees were sacrificed for roosting bars.

Rear wall with 9 nesting boxes. I have more nest boxes than hens, but eventually, I hope to have a larger flock of chickens. The floor is covered with pine shavings and it does not smell in there at all.
All told, we spent less than $50 for materials to build the chicken coop. This was more my project than it was my husband's, so I did the majority of the work. He helped me cut a few pallets apart, helped me lay down and nail the shingles and he cut down the trees I needed for the roosting bars, too. Thanks, dear! The rest of the work, I did myself. I have my Dad to thank for teaching me how to use power tools, measure twice, cut once, and for letting me be his "assistant" while he worked. Thanks, Dad!

I'll see big trucks go by with pallets stacked on them and I holler at them to drop 'em off at my house. I see pallets in a whole new light now, and I have a few more projects involving pallets up my sleeves.

The chickens seem pretty happy with the coop, they put themselves to bed every night and all I have to do is a head-count before shutting the door for the night. I'm proud of it and it was a fun project to do!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Flea Market!

We went to the local flea market on Saturday. I can't tell you how much I love that place! It has grown over the years and now there are also a ton of little cafes that pop up. These little cooking trailers that travel from place to place and they set up tables under a canopy so you can eat in the shade. One of them was all mexican food and I really want to try them one day.

Before we had kids, a bunch of these cars would have made their way home with us. Hubby loves old toys and cars and through him, I have learned to appreciate them as well. We have a nice little collection of cars, so no more for us.

I love the pattern on these punched tin cabinet doors. If the price was right I think this may have been mine on the spot, but they were asking a lot and at this point, I don't need any more furniture. We need to have a big yard sale of our own and clear out some stuff in the basement. But still.. if money was not an issue, this would have looked nice in the dining room with the yellow walls.

Don't you just love, love, love this chair?! Oh my gosh! This is so cute! I gushed over this-- a bad thing to do if you want to haggle the price down-- and it was a perfect fit for all the kids, but we don't need anymore kid-sized chairs. It was just so cute, though! Had it been an adult-sized chair, then that would have been a different story. I can just see that by my bed, sitting down to read for a bit, or using it for my future sewing room.
None of these items came home with us, but the girls all scored a bunch of barbie dolls to replace the ones the dog chewed up. There is always that one booth, though, that sells over-priced barbies and the girls beg and plead to get them, and then Hubby and I have to practically drag them away, kicking and screaming, looking for another booth selling barbies for $1 or less. They have to use their own money to get them so we are trying to teach them the value of money and looking around some more before buying the first thing you see.
Flea markets are so much fun! We get to go out and see all the stuff people bring out and it's a little history lesson sometimes for the kids. You never know what you'll find and we like that aspect of it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Downside to Preserving One's Own Food

There is a downside to growing and preserving your own food.
It's not the time-consuming practice of tilling the soil, planting the seeds, or weeding the garden.
It's not the time-consuming business of preparing the fruit or vegetable, chopping or smashing, then heating to the right temps then filling jar after jar of hot ingredients, heating up the kitchen and ending up with rows of preserved foods.
It's not the continuous slicing of vegetables or fruits and laying them in neat rows in the dehydrator and then waiting hours for it to dry before starting another batch.
That's the fun part!
The downside is: You run out of something before you are able to make more and have to *gulp!* buy a supplement from the store and then becoming sincerely disappointed with both the quality and the taste.
I canned 57 quarts of applesauce last Fall. The most I've ever canned. I gave away 5 quarts. Left us with 52 quarts. I thought it would have been plenty, but I didn't factor in the amount that Baby would consume when he started on solid foods. Every morning, I mixed applesauce with a bit of oatmeal and fed him that for breakfast. I used up the last quart last week, so I bought a quart from the store.

Ugh! Nothing like my thick, cinnamon-flavored applesauce. How can they call that applesauce?! It was watery and runny and more like apple juice with pulp. Even Baby noticed the difference because no matter what I do to the sauce-- add more oatmeal, add cinnamon, add a touch of brown sugar, heat it up, serve it chilled-- he has yet to finish a bowl.

This coming apple season, I am aiming for 100 quarts of applesauce!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New Old Bed

We moved a lot when I was a kid. Started out in Illinois, then to an RV in Louisiana, a condo and several apartments in Virginia, a house in Maryland, up until I went out on my own.

Living in a RV meant there was no need for furniture, so most of our furnishings were sold or given to my Grandmother to hold for us. 25 years ago, when we gave up the RV and moved to Virginia, my uncle sold us some of his furniture and we picked up pieces here and there. My mom liked to hunt for treasure in the trash and in the dumpsters, and living in apartments was a treasure trove of stuff. Mom found this old bed for me from one of her jaunts. It was painted this awful pale green color but I lived with it, then I moved out and went my own way and Mom kept the bed for herself after my parents separated. She painted it white and it looked so much better than that green that was on there.

Now that Mom's home is officially sold and her things are here, she has given the bed back to me to give to one of my girls. After much thought, I gave the bed to Middle. It seems to fit her the best, though there was much protest from her sisters.

The bed looks great in their room, the white pops against the pink walls and it truly seems like a princess bed as the girls like to call it. It could use a fresh coat of paint, but for now, it's perfect the way it is.

I remember when I slept on it, I would poke the paint out of the tiny holes in the headboard with a toothpick. I never finished and then after Mom painted it white, some of the holes are blocked up again. I told Middle she could finish what I started and she seemed like she would, but only time will tell.

Middle is happy to sleep in her "new" bed and I am happy to see it passed on. To whomever threw it away: You don't know what kind of happiness you tossed, but I'm glad to have it now!

Monday, July 13, 2009


I don't know why it took us so long, but we finally, finally put up swings for the girls.

We have a great old maple tree that has branches just perfect for swinging on. I already picked which would be the best limbs and had Hubby trim a few other branches, already had the rope, already had the wood... what were we waiting for?!? It has been so nice to see the girls swinging to and fro nearly every day and I love the time I have had inside the house without them getting into my hair! Things are getting done now! :o)

I read all the comments regarding Henry and I appreciate the input from everyone. I have this to say:

We got the chickens to provide us with food-- eggs and meat. We are meat eaters and eat meat in some form in almost every meal. That said, I knew that getting straight-run chicks (mixed sexes) meant I would have to cull the males, if I had too many, and they would be destined for the dinner table.

What I didn't expect was to feel so fondly for the chickens as they have grown and we have watched them entertain us with their chicken-y ways. I didn't think I would have favored one or the other the way I do for Henry.

I have been careful not to get attached to any of the other chickens and when the girls come up with names for the hens, I am only half-listening. I don't want to make the same mistake I made with Henry and then when the time comes, for one hen or the other to go into the soup pot, I don't want to cry and wail that I am eating Petunia the Buff or Freckles the Sussex.

I'll be taking 3 roosters to the butcher's soon, I am not yet ready to do the job myself, but I am hoping, one day, to do it on my own. I'll hold on to Henry for a bit until I decide what to do with him. Thanks for the offer, Katherine, to send him to a farm in PA, but I'd rather keep him here with me.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Meet Henry. He's a Speckled Sussex Rooster and he's my favorite.

He was the first to start his comb and wattle and for a first time chicken-owner, made it easy for me to spot which was the male from a group of straight-run chicks.

He's very tame and lets me hold him and he settles down in my arms and goes to sleep. His beak will rest on my chin and I can feel his warm breath. I never imagined I would come to like a chicken as much as I do Henry.

Here's the sad thing.

Henry is on the bottom of the chicken pecking order.

From my research, that means he gets pecked and cannot peck back.

See his eye? (above) I think he got pecked in the eye and he seems to not be able to see out of that eye. His other eye looks fine.

Here, the chickens are doing their usual chicken business. It's like they're the popular crowd in high school and where's poor Henry?

All the way over there, all by his lonesome.
Poor Henry.

That red rooster in the middle is a Rhode Island Red and he takes his job very seriously.
We call him Rocky. (We watched 'Chicken Run' a little too much and borrowed the name from there.. Rocky Rhode? Get it?)

He keeps all his women in check, sometimes even Archie the cat! (that's the other speckled sussex rooster on the right, not Henry)

When they all go to bed at night in the coop, sometimes a hen isn't quite ready to go to bed yet and pops back out. Rocky comes running after her, as if to say,

"Get your feathered butt back in the house!"

Oldest cracks up when we say that.


Here's the thing:: Out of 11 chickens we have 5 roosters and 6 hens. Rocky has taken the lead and has proven to be very good at his job. The one Buff Orpington rooster has been challenging Rocky but so far, Rocky remains on top. There is another Speckled Sussex rooster and both Rhode Island Reds are roosters.

Obviously, there are too many roosters and I have to pick which are destined for the dinner table. I hate to do Henry, as he is my favorite and I really wanted him to be the father of all my future chicken babies. Go ahead and laugh, but I really love him and I want him to have a good life, not a life where he gets pecked on and spends his day all alone, either in the yard or in the coop by himself.

Any chicken experts out there? Any suggestions? If I get new baby chicks and separate them with Henry, will he be King of the Roost or will it be a waste of time?

Did I ruin it for Henry by favoring him over the others? Did they smell human on him and shun him for betraying his chicken-ness?
My uncle tells me I would be wasting my time and to go ahead and take him and the 3 others to be butchered. Is he right? Is there no future for Henry?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Berry Good Day

Today was such a lovely day, the temps never went higher than 80*. Really unusual for this time of year, but I'm not complaining. It made berry-picking that much more pleasurable. After dinner, we all went outside to take advantage of the cooler evening temps. I went berry picking and took the days' laundry off the line; Husband burned our paper trash and burned the brush we are trying to clear on part of our property; the kids played and alternated between hubby and me.

For an extra treat, we also had toasted marshmallows in the fire with graham crackers-- no chocolate, so not exactly s'mores. All in all, it was a good ending to a good day.

This is about 3 cups worth of black raspberries with a few blackberries mixed in. At their peak, I can pick twice that amount every day. The raspberries are starting to taper off and it takes me a little longer to look for the berries that are hiding underneath the leaves. I'll probably make the rounds on the raspberries a couple more times, and then I'll leave the rest for the birds and the animals that also eat these. I'll focus on my blackberry patch, and judging by the way it looks, I should reap plenty there.

Here's a picture of the cherry sorbet I made the other day. We had it for a snack this afternoon and it didn't take long for the kids to gobble this up. I shared some of mine with Baby and once he got over the coldness of it, he was like a baby bird, begging for more! :o)

I meant to take pictures of the sorbet-making process, but spaced out and didn't. I'll try to remember to take pictures next time, when I make black raspberry sorbet or try the peach sorbet.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Busy Sorbet

As busy as our life is, I wouldn't trade it for anything. Things should start slowing down a little bit soon. My mom's stuff is all here now, and her home is in the process of being sold, the settlement is just days away. Once the home is sold, she will be debt-free and will have no more ties to Virginia, except for her job, which she will retire from soon. With the house sold, there will be no more calls for my husband to make or reply to, concerning the reconstruction or the mortgage or the insurance people. That's a chapter we can finally close.

Life with 4 children doesn't really slow down, though. There is always something to do, and at times, I am needed by 4 children at the same time, sometimes the husband needs me, too and I am pulled 5 ways. It felt like that, last weekend, when my family was here for the 4th and I was non-stop go, go, go. I don't think I sat down all day Friday except to eat, and even then I was constantly getting up to fetch something or other. By the time they left on Sunday, it was almost a let-down, I had nothing to do and I was still wired up and ready to go somewhere, anywhere!

I've been busy berry-picking these days. I go out and do the "rounds", picking all the ripe black raspberries and now the blackberries are just beginning to ripen. I still have plenty of blackberry jam from last year and I really don't want to make more, but I can't let the berries go to waste. Besides, I enjoy the picking process, walking from bramble to bramble, stretching to reach that lone berry all the way in the back, hoping I don't fall and get stuck with hundreds of thorns. It's peaceful for me, to walk and hunt for berries, usually when I put the Baby down for his nap and the girls are playing in the yard.

Anyway, no jam making, so what to do with all those berries?? I found a recipe for making fruit sorbet. I tried it first with the cherries and it was oh, so good! Tried it next with the black raspberries and mulberries and wow! So now I am extracting the juice from the berries and freezing it until I need it for a new batch of sorbet. I have a whole shelf full of cherry and berry sorbet and no more room for more, so we're going to have to eat some to make room. Yum! Twist my arm. It's really easy to make and for someone as busy as me, I can appreciate a quick recipe for something so delicious. Here's the recipe if you'd like to try making it yourself::

4 cups soft fruit (cherries, peaches, berries, melons etc..)
2 cups sugar
1 cup orange juice
2 tbsp lemon juice

Puree fruit in food processor or blender. In large saucepan, heat orange juice, sugar and lemon juice just to boiling. Stir to dissolve sugar. When sugar is dissolved, add fruit puree. Stir to combine. Pour into 10x13 cake pan and place in freezer. Freeze for several hours or overnight. When frozen, cut into small pieces and in small batches, puree again in food processor until light and fluffy. Pour into freezer containers and repeat until all gone.

I plan on trying this with peaches next! Let me know if you try this.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fireworks and Rhubarb!

Hope you all had a good weekend! It was nice for us-- we had my mom, aunt and uncle here for Baby's birthday/holiday weekend. I always enjoy having them here and I love it when my husband says he loves having them here, too. I can tell he is genuine about his feelings and I feel really lucky when I can say that we both love each others' families.

My aunt's rhubarb patch is doing so well this year, that she can't keep up, so my uncle suggested bringing the surplus to me. I didn't expect the bounty that they gave me!

That was a lot of rhubarb! I chopped and froze 24 cups-- I didn't want to do more because I can't sacrifice more freezer space. I decided to make rhubarb juice with the rest. I'd heard of it and always wanted to try it, but never had enough or, actually, I never wanted to give up the pies for the juice. I made simple rhubarb juice, sweetened with sugar and oh my! It's like drinking rhubarb pie! So, so good! I got 6 quarts of juice out of the remaining rhubarb!

The next small town over was hosting the fireworks display, and I wanted to take the kids down to watch. So after dinner, we piled into the van and snagged a good spot to watch. Nothing like the Washington Monument's fireworks, but pretty good for a small town and just right for small children. I expected Baby to cry, but he didn't. He held on to me and watched.

We had a good time and maybe when the kids are a little older, we'll go earlier to enjoy the festivities and music they had earlier, before the fireworks. Pack a picnic dinner and mingle with the townfolk.

Oldest lost a sixth tooth tonight. She'd been worrying over it for a few days now, afraid it might come out when she slept and swallow it. She never let me get close enough to pull it out and I admit, it frustrates me a little when she wants me to do something about it, but won't let me do anything. Reminds me of when I got a big splinter in my foot and my dad tried to get it out and I kept whimpering and pulling my foot away just as he got close with the tweezers. Karma, eh? Anyway, she finally let me pull it out and that tooth just about jumped into my hand! She's happy now and anxious for the tooth fairy to come in the night.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Happy Birthday to my little guy!

A single candle on his birthday cake.

Hard to believe that a year has flown by already and my little baby is now One. He is very vocal and I think he will be saying his first word soon. It already sounds like he is trying to say "da-da" and "ma-ma" and he mimics me when I say "all gone". He is a pro at walking and I love watching him walk around the room. Of course, now that is walking, he is also able to get into things more and he leaves a trail of destruction behind him. I am constantly telling him "don't touch, no-no!" and picking up and putting him away from the bookshelf, only to have him make a beeline right back to where he was before. Just today I caught him with his fingers in the toilet bowl!

He is such a good baby, though, he loves the stroller, which none of my girls did. I always used to wonder how people got their kids to sit in the stroller for so long, as ours always ended up walking and we'd be pushing an empty stroller, feeling a little foolish for bringing it in the first place. But Baby? He is content to sit and watch. We use the stroller with him for so much and it has made it much easier for me when we go cherry picking or to the beach or even at home when I pull the laundry down from the line.

Happy birthday little one, may you have many, many more. I love you.