Monday, August 31, 2009

If He Only Had Hair...

My husband is bald. He started losing his hair back in his twenties and by the time we met, it was thinning on top, but he still had hair up there. Then about 8 or 9 years ago, he decided to shave it all off and on a near daily basis, he shaves it to keep it shiny and smooth. With his gold hoop earring, he could almost pass for Mr. Clean!

On days that the Husband does not have to work, he doesn't shave, and then you can see a shadow where his hair starts to grow and I can easily see his hairline. Tonight, in a silly mood, he asked the girls if they wanted him to grow his hair long and then he'd comb it up and over his bald spot. The girls all nodded yes, because, really- they don't know what a comb-over is! How do you explain a comb-over to the girls?

I grabbed a washable marker and started coloring in his hair and then pretending his hair was long enough, drew in a comb-over!

side view

other side


Husband laughed so hard, tears came to his eyes!
Then of course, the girls wanted in on the fun...




Saturday, August 29, 2009

Harvesting and Canning

All the apples are gone. They were made into crispy apple chips, dried apples and eaten out of hand. It was nearly a week of daily morning and night peeling and slicing, before I finally ran out of apples. Good thing, I was starting to get sick of arranging apple slices neatly on the dehydrator trays for maximum effect.

My break from apples won't be for very long, they just advertised Gala apples and I like to use those in my applesauce, along with jonagolds. As soon as the jonagolds are ready, I'll buy several bushels of each and get to saucing!

After I made the Damson plum liquors, I waited a little too long (I got busy with the apple chips) to make plum jam, and found that about half had gone moldy. I was able to salvage enough for two batches of plum jam and the rest went to the chickens and compost. It was my first time making plum jam and it's very good! When I mentioned the jam to my mom, her eyes lit up and she said she has not had plum jam since she left home for college. My grandmother had a plum tree behind the shed and made jam with the plums. I am eager for my mom to taste my plum jam and see if it compares to my grandmother's.

We have gotten 4 eggs so far from our chickens. I think it is a possibility that some of the chickens are laying in the woods, because there should be more than just four. We passed some one's home with a pile of rolled up chain link fencing for sale. I think I'll stop by and see how much they are asking, and if it is reasonable, get some for making an enclosure around the coop. Fall is in the air around here, and fallen leaves will make it hard for me to search for eggs, so as much as I want them to free-range, I also want them to lay eggs in the coop.

Our tomatoes are finally starting to come in. It was just a trickle these past couple of weeks, with a tomato here and there. When I was canning the plum jam, I had enough tomatoes to can a quart. Only a quart, I know, but it's a start. Checking on the plants today, I am hoping that by next week, I'll have at least enough ripe tomatoes for 10 more quarts. Not even enough to last the whole winter, but that's what I get for not being more careful where I put my tomato and pepper starts and then getting a puppy that thinks the plants were for her to chew on. I consider myself lucky to have found tomato starts when I did. So I'll take what I can get and have better hopes for next year's garden.

I am considering getting a bushel of tomatoes from the farm market, they ask $15 for a bushel, but every time I inquire about them, they tell me not today, maybe next week. Meanwhile, there are plenty of tomatoes for sale on the table. I suspect they pick the best looking ones for sale and save the ugly ones for canning tomatoes. This is what makes me hesitate.. Why can't they just sell me a bushel of those tomatoes when I want them now? Maybe I'll just do without and concentrate on apples. I will miss not having rows of pretty canned tomatoes in my basement, but I have plenty of other lovely canned goods to make up for it.

I am also harvesting items from the stores, buying a little extra here and there, when we can afford it, to get ready for the winter months. My step-mom taught me some tricks for shopping with coupons, and I am getting some pretty good deals, now that I know where to find them. Recently at the rite-aid, they had a pretty good sale for certain items-- buy one get one free type sales and combined with manufacturer's coupons, store coupons and rebates, I managed to get about $75 worth of items for about $15. I'm pretty pleased about that. It's a thrill to see the total on the register go down, down, down and walk away with quite a few bags of items.

I am trying a batch of peach wine. It's made the same way I made the strawberry wine and it is smelling mighty fine. I strain the peaches out in a couple days, then add the sugar, stir daily for another week, then divide into gallon jars and let it sit for a couple of months. I won't wait a year this time around, before checking them, to make sure I don't end up with 50/50 vinegar and wine.

I am going to enjoy this little break from canning anything, catching up on things I need to do around the house. I have a project going on right now and I look forward to sharing it with you as soon as I am finished.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

From This, To That!

We are working hard to clean up and get rid of the clutter around here. It's not as easy as one might think, because as soon as I get one surface cleaned off, in come 4 little ones with their (pick one) puzzles/books/drawing paper and markers/barbies/etc., which then get dumped on the formerly clean surface. *sigh!*

I started with the basement and got new cupboards to help corral school supplies and craft supplies, but then we moved my Mom's things into the basement and I cannot get into the cupboards anymore. So I need to set up a new school area upstairs. We have a fairly large living room, so I'm going to use a corner for keeping school supplies handy.

Now... what to keep the supplies in. Hmmm...

I found this nice, old wire basket at a yard sale a couple weeks ago. It looks like it would be just the right size...

Voila! A handy dandy carrier for keeping markers and construction paper all in one place! I'll be adding a recycled, cleaned can to the corner and attach it with wires, to hold scissors and glue sticks. I so love it when I can re-purpose something like this into something I need.

Now, if I can just re-purpose something to make a bounce shield for my clean surfaces so that when the kids put something down, it'll bounce right off! :o)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thrifty Finds

We went to the thrift stores, yesterday and today, hoping to score another dehydrator for my apples. It'd be nice to have two dehydrators going, working twice as fast. We found one, but it only had two trays and they were asking a bloated $25 for it. bah! I got the two I have for way less than that. I'll just keep looking and hope I can score another dehydrator soon.
I have been on the lookout for the Bobbsey Twins books. I read the whole set when I was about 8 or 9 and then moved onto Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Oldest is a voracious reader and I am trying to get her some classics and other stories for her to read. The used book store we frequent sells Bobbsey twin books for $5 apiece (too much!). I found a flea market that was selling some for $2.50 each (eh). Then today, at the thrift shop, I found 9 books for $1 each (whoo-hoo!)!! I bought them all! I am so excited and can't wait for Oldest to read them! I may read them with her!
I also found another Bobbsey Twins book (not pictured) at a yard sale for 25 cents, so that gives me 10 books in all.
At the same yard sale where I found the lone Bobbsey Twins book, I found the complete set of Childcraft books at a yard sale for $10! I was so excited! They had lots and lots of older books and vintage children's items, and I think I would have bought more if I had the money, but I was pretty satisfied with finding the whole set of Childcraft. This is a great asset to our home schooling lessons.

At the thrift store yesterday, I came across THREE of these Texas Ware melamine splattered mixing bowls! They are so hard to find and go for a pretty penny on ebay, so I was really happy to find these. Especially 3 of them! After I got home and washed them, I discovered a crack in one of them, so that will be my new scraps bowl. I'll be posting these for sale in my etsy shop this week. *Teena, you want one?? If you do, I save it for you and sell the other one.*

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Damson Plum Liquor (recipe follows)

There was an ad in our local paper, from the same orchard where I got my cherries, for rambo apples and damson plums. I looked up damson plums on the internet and found they make a great jam and liquor. The rambo apples are good for pies, jelly, and drying.

I definitely wanted more apples for making apple chips. They went so fast last year and I didn't make a whole lot of them, so this time, I got a whole bushel that will be just for apple chips. The rambos were only $9 a bushel so that's a great deal! This also breaks up some of the labor of peeling hundreds of apples all at once for applesauce and chips. The apples I use for applesauce are not ready yet, so this is nice to only work on making chips.

I am intrigued by the idea of making damson plum liquor, and at 80 cents a pound, I thought it would be worth a try. I bought 25 pounds worth of plums, some for making liquor and some for jam.

I am not a big drinker. In college, I went to my fair share of parties and night clubs, and I did the whole party-hearty thing, but now, I just like the occasional wine and a swig of the "hard stuff" when I feel rough around the edges. I have always liked fruity flavors, so I enjoy sangria and margaritas and such, and I really like the strawberry wine we made last year, so I think (and hope) the damson plum liquor will be something I like.

I found 2 different recipes on the internet for damson liquor. I am trying both. They are basically the same, except one uses more plums and more sugar, but less alcohol.

Recipe 1:

1 quart of damson plums (it didn't specify, but I halved and pitted them)
1 1/2 pound of sugar
375 ml vodka or gin (I used vodka)

Combine ingredients and pour into a gallon jar. Keep lid loose for fermentation. Stir weekly for 6 to 8 weeks until sugar is dissolved. Should be ready by December.

Recipe 2:

1 pound of damson plums, pitted ( I halved them and pitted them)
1 pound of sugar
1 quart of gin or vodka (I used gin)

Combine ingredients and pour into gallon jar. Stir weekly. Should be ready in 3 months. (Didn't specify, but I'm keeping lid on this loose as well)

I'll be keeping these in a cool dark place, the heat and humidity will spoil the fruit and I don't want that to happen. Hopefully this turns out yummy and I'll let you know how it tastes.

Now, I need to get started on peeling and slicing a batch of apples for the dehydrator. If I get it in tonight, they'll be dry by morning and ready for another batch!

Friday, August 21, 2009

At Last!

One of our chickens has finally laid an egg! I suspect it was a Speckled Sussex, as those two are always in and around the chicken coop. It's a little on the small side, but it's an actual egg! What a feeling to put my hand in the nest box and feel an egg inside the bed of straw! I'm so proud!

* Go hens! *

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What Little Girls Wish For...

(watch out for the puddle of drool on the floor!)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

County Fair 2009

We went to the County Fair tonight.
A photo of the kids before going in,
just in case we got separated and I would have a picture to show.
I wasn't going for smiles, just documentation of their clothing.

I made a beeline to the homemakers building to check on the results of my jam entries.
My Crazyberry jam (center, left) got a red ribbon for 2nd place.
My Rhuberry (center, right) got a blue ribbon for first place!
yay! I'm happy!
I wonder how they judged them, though, because they were not opened.
I guess they judge based on how they look in the jar?
I think it would have been "Best of Show" had they tasted my jams!
Time for rides!
The girls got on this one and then when we got in line for another ride, the guy asked for tickets. "Tickets?" we asked.
Apparently, things are different this year. Last year, the kids got to ride the kiddie stuff for free, but there was a hefty entrance fee. This year, the kids got in for free, but rides are now ticketed.
I counted 7 kiddie rides-- the merry-go-round, the elephant ride, race cars, baby train, baby ferris wheel, space ship (but the lift didn't work) and alligator bouncy thing.
2 tickets per ride, per kid. $1 each ticket equals $2 per kid times 3 kids equals $6 per ride.
Buy unlimited rides in the form of a bracelet for $12 per kid times 3 kids equals $36.
Yeah, um, no.
We compromised with the girls:
One more ride and they could have cotton candy.
They enjoyed every minute of that merry-go-round ride!

Baby kept me company while we waited for Daddy and the girls.

The girls liked their very first taste of cotton candy!

"More Daddy! More!"

We enjoyed the Fair. Next year, we'll have to remember to take out a loan first.
At least the kids seemed to understand why they couldn't go on all the rides, and they are happy. Before they went to bed tonight, Oldest told me she had fun at the Fair. And then she drifted off to sleep, probably dreaming of bouncing on blue and pink cotton candy clouds.

For Teena--

Is this the same dress you got for your wee one, too??

Look at her shoes! :o)
She always puts them on the wrong feet!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

All By Myself!

With 3 roosters, the poor hens were getting ganged up on. I have seen one rooster grab a hen and try to mount her, only to have another rooster chase the first one away and then try to mount the same hen, and I swear, I am happy when the hen gets away before anything happens between her and the roosters. Poor hens. The hens stick together and go off into the woods and the 3 roosters mill about in the yard, chase my feet when I walk by and generally make nuisances of themselves.

Something needs to be done about those roosters.
I decided it was time to take action and butcher a rooster-- on my own. No Uncle here to help me this time around. To say I was nervous is an understatement.

I decided on the big Buff Orpington rooster. He was a pushy bird and was always pecking the hens on the head. Poor girls. They'd all be gathered around me, eating the scraps I tossed, and then the Buff would all of a sudden peck someone and the hen would squawk and run away and he'd move in and eat and the poor hen missed out on the scraps. His actions determined his fate.
I got the area ready for doing the deed. Since my Uncle wasn't around to chop the head off for me, and I didn't have anyone to help me hold the chicken still, I used a tree trunk with 2 nails to slip the neck into. It took me a good 10 minutes to pysch myself up for it. I said a prayer of thanks for the chicken and then I did it. My hands were shaking afterwards, and I busied myself getting the hot water and my work area ready so I didn't have to watch the death dance.
It was different without my Uncle there. When we worked on the first one, I was focused on watching him and how he did things, where he inserted the knife and how to cut... This time, I was on my own and I felt a little anxious and shaky, I had to take deep breaths and reassure myself that I would do fine.
I dipped the chicken into the hot water and started pulling the feathers off. It definitely took me longer alone, than when my Uncle and I worked together on the last one.

Feathers plucked.

It took me about 45 minutes, from the moment I chopped his head off, to getting it into a zippy bag in the fridge. I need a higher work table to do this next time, as my back hurt from being bent over. I think next time, I'll just bring the chicken into the house after I pluck the feathers off outside. The kids snuck outside to watch me and they came out in time to see me pulling out the innards. I told them they could come closer to watch and they did. I forgot about the head still on the chopping block until Middle said "Look! There's the head!" Eeep! I quickly went over to get the head and tucked it under the pile of feathers to be buried later on. The head is not pretty to look at, and knowing my kids, they would be creeped out by seeing it. Maybe later, but not now.
All in all, I think I did ok. I know the next one will take less time to process and as I learn and go on, each time I butcher a chicken, I will get more efficient. I already learned I used the wrong knife, and will change that for next time. I already decided, next time, I'll process the chicken in the house on a proper counter top. Just those 2 changes will make a difference.
I have one more rooster I need to butcher. I have to decide which one. Both are good roosters, they keep the hens in check, I just need to figure out which seems the better one and then butcher the other one.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hopeful Entries

It's official: I've entered my Rhuberry jam (rhubarb and strawberry) and my Crazyberry (my own blend of black raspberry, strawberry, blackberry and grape) for judging in the County Fair. It's my first time entering anything at the fair, so I hope I make good marks. Would be nice to bring home a ribbon or two. They send off the winning jams and jellies to Ball/Kerr jar company for judging, so I have visions of them contacting me and asking for my Crazyberry recipe. One can dream, right?

Wish me luck! I find out the results at the end of the week.

Friday, August 14, 2009


We had a visit from my Dad and his wife and we took them sight-seeing around the area. In our local newspaper, they had an article about 'Speeders'. Little maintenance rail cars that used to speed around the rails to help make repairs on trains or tracks. Railroad companies no longer use these Speeders, but there are people who buy them and restore them and then ask permission from rail stations to travel through on the tracks. They travel all over the country and Canada, seeing the country in a way that many of us never get to see in our cars on the roads. The article said the Speeders would be in our area on Saturday, but I never thought we would have actually seen them! We quickly pulled over and watched the procession of Speeders speed by!

This group of Speeders had about 20 cars from all different railroads and we really enjoyed watching them go by. I had no idea they existed and when we got home, I quickly dug out the newspaper to read it more thoroughly. It was a nice little history lesson for us.

They even bring along their own port-a-potty!

Check out the Hampshire Reviews' youtube video here to learn more about Speeders
(sorry, it isn't captioned)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Overwhelmed and Overflowed

Our septic tank backed up into the basement. I think it was a combination of being full and a clog somewheres in the pipes. The Husband mentioned several times before that we should get the tank pumped out, but money was always an issue, so it got bumped down to the bottom of the list.
I had piles of clothes on the floor by the washer, sorted and waiting to be washed, and they are now soaked with septic water. I cannot wash clothes until we get the problem resolved. Called around and found a local guy that would pump for a reasonable price, but does not dig. So we had to remember what the previous owner said where the tank was and start poking around with a rod. Found it!

I took measurements to remember, in the future, exactly where to dig. I'm relieved that we were not too far off from where the lid was.


The tank was FULL. If I remember right, the former owners told us they had the tank pumped before they put the house up for sale. This means there is about 5 years of poop and pee and other waste in here. Didn't stink too bad.

1500 gallons of waste pumped out and taken away.

Water is still backing up into the basement. I suspect there is a clog and we are currently waiting for the guy to come back with his de-clogging tool. The name escapes me. Super-powered snake something or other. I hope that it does the trick. I want to mop and disinfect the laundry room. When it backed up, the flow dripped into and onto the washer, so I also need to disinfect the washer. It will take me many washes to get all the clothes that were on the floor clean. The septic water also flowed to other areas of the basement and it gives me a good excuse to throw away some now-ruined things. Some of the plush toys got wet, the rolled-up rug from the playroom is wet, and some other various items.
We went to the lake beach yesterday and I was looking forward to having a shower last night. I am dirty, my head itches, we are using wipes to wash our hands, no flushing of the toilets, dirty dishes are piling up.... I hope, if it is a clog, that it gets unclogged and things will return to normal again. If it is something else, I don't know what we will do. We cannot afford much else.
***Edited to Add:***
We got the pipe unclogged! Water is flowing freely through the pipes and into the septic tank! I really appreciate being able to use our water now and have just gotten out of the shower into clean clothes. Ahh!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hell Froze Over

I finally gave in and joined that crazy thing called facebook. I had gotten plenty of invites from people to join in and I told myself that I never would. Well, I got curious... and signed up last week. Good grief! In the span of 48 hours, I went from having 2 friends to over 50 friends! I had no idea I was so popular! I realize though, that there are people who add friends just to boost their numbers.

Anyway, I picked this for my profile picture... I think it says enough about me. From the looks of the picture, I must live somewhere with lots of trees, I'm holding a chicken, so maybe I live on a farm, and there is some sort of building behind me, what's that? And oh, look-- trash! I must be white trash! :o) Maybe I need to change the picture? Hmm..

I am keeping my facebook and my blog separate. I know that there are some old classmates that read this here blog (Hi!), but it doesn't mean I want the whole school to read it! I think I would start to second-guess myself and censor things if I knew everyone was reading this, and I don't want to do that. This blog is for ME, it's my way to give my kids a connection to me when they are older and I get this printed out in book form.

Back to facebook. It's been interesting. It's like a class reunion without having to fly anywhere and dealing with the BS of having to repeat over and over what I am doing with myself these days. I like seeing how people have changed, or stayed the same, who married whom, and how many kids they have, if any. I don't think I've changed much since high school... see?

I was 17 in my senior picture, taken in '91. I wore glasses then, but chose not to wear them for the picture. I was trying to copy my Mom's senior picture, where she did not smile, but I thought it was the most beautiful picture ever, of her. And yes, that is a little rat tail you see peeking out on the side there. What can I say? It was the style at the time. The back of my head was shaved, too, so that when I had a ponytail, you could see short hair back there, and that's when I discovered I have the same cowlick that my dad does, on the back of my head.

There are some schoolmates that look so different, that when they have tagged me to be their friend on facebook, I've had to study their pictures to try and place them-- especially when they have changed their names. I can usually remember faces and then match names with them, but some of those faces have changed so much!

That sweet, skinny, scrawny little guy, whom you once told, "I'm not interested in you that way, I just want to be friends", is now big and buff and handsome! That cute, popular guy that all the girls swooned over, is now fat and balding. That geeky girl that never had a boyfriend is now too gorgeous for words, with a cute husband and cuter children. It all sounds so cliche, but it's true! I see it with my own eyes, how we have all changed and I hope that people will look at me now, remember me the way I was, and say: She looks the same. She was nice to me then.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Painting and Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

The yard sale fell through. First, the weather man predicted rain for Friday-- uh-oh. Sure enough, it rained all day on Friday. No way was I going to set up in the rain and then have to dry everything off the next day. Then my Mom, Aunt and Uncle came over for a visit and we all had lots of fun talking and enjoying each others' company. Husband's boss also called and changed his working schedule so that he ended up having to work early on Saturday, which meant I'd have to set up the tables and put all the sale items out alone. So we didn't have the sale after all. That's ok, we'll do it again some other time.

The girls wanted to paint more shirts with freezer paper. So we came up with new designs and made these. Middle wanted a caterpillar with grass, Youngest wanted a tree, and Oldest wanted a butterfly. The heart on the bottom ended up being a way to cover up a glob of paint that dripped on there. I definitely see more freezer paper painting in my future!

In chicken news-- I asked my Uncle to help me butcher a chicken. He's a farm boy and has butchered many a chicken in his lifetime. I asked him if he'd be willing to show me how and he was happy to help.

We butchered the mean, ornery rooster that pecks every passing foot and hand.


There may be some pictures here that sensitive readers might not want to see.

I did not take pictures of the whole process because I was helping, but if you don't want to see a chicken with it's head cut off, feathers being plucked, then a naked chicken, and chicken parts:: don't look.

After we chopped the head off and let the chicken do his death dance (which was not as bad as my mind had thought it would be. I expected much more blood), Uncle dipped the chicken in a pot of scalding water. I expected to be grossed out a little, but I was not in the least.

I was surprised at how easy it was to pull off the feathers. I'm not sure what I imagined, but I thought there would have been more yanking or struggling with the feathers. The only hard part was the tips of the wing feathers where they were big and thick and I had to pull them off one at a time.

With the two of us working together, we had it plucked free of feathers in no time.

Here, Uncle is burning off the pin feathers. I'm glad he pointed them out to me, because I thought pin feathers was something entirely different. I thought they were the teeny tiny feathers that were hard to grasp and pull. Turns out, they look like what they are called, long thin feathers, thin as a pin. Almost like fur. It's easier to just burn them off than to try and pluck every single one.

The part about butchering a chicken that made me the most nervous and what many other websites caution against, was cutting around the chicken anus and being careful not to puncture or cut any of the organs that would contaminate the chicken. You know, who wants poop on your food?
But once I watched Uncle cut and he showed me where and how, it really allayed my fears and I feel much more confident about doing it myself next time. Here, Uncle is pulling out the rest of the internal organs. He got thrown off by the sight of two white organs and it took him a while to figure out what they were. Ah-ha! We were working on a rooster, not a hen... they were testicles!

All cut up and waiting to be rinsed then put into the freezer.
I appreciated Uncle showing me how to butcher a chicken and it was nice to spend time with him, learning and also listening to stories of his childhood.
We kept the kids away-- they knew what we were doing, but I didn't want them to see the killing process just yet, until I saw for myself first, and then I can decide how much I want them to witness and be a part of. I made sure that when we got the chickens, I talked often about how the chickens are going to feed us; some with eggs and some with meat, so that they had no illusions about them being pets. They seem to understand that and wanted to see the meat after we got back in the house. Middle said she didn't want to eat him, and I said that was fine. I won't force her to eat it. Eventually, I will probably wean them into the process, backwards:: seeing me cut up the naked, whole chicken; then seeing me gut it; then seeing me pluck the feathers, and so on.
It was a good experience, and I am still taking it and letting it all sink in. I feel pretty good about having to do it myself next time.