Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring Break

Last week was Zoey's first official Spring Break--I can't believe my girl is almost done with her Kindergarten year! We had a pretty low key week, but met up with my brother, D, and parents for an outing to Carlsbad Caverns National Park on a weekend trip. The caverns were amazing! I hadn't been there in at least 17 years, so it was like looking at everything for the first time.

The trail is very well maintained, but a bit intense. I'm so proud of my girls for making the trek MOST of the way. Thanks Apple and D for letting them use your shoulders! Between my mom and I, I think we got some pretty good pictures (although I haven't seen hers yet!)




Here's D and Zoey posing--The caverns maintain a constant, cool 62 degrees year round. But let me tell you, we worked up a good sweat climbing some of the trails! On an interesting side note, there was an earthquake in Carlsbad while we were there, not huge, 4.3 on the Richter (?) scale. We actually didn't feel the earthquake itself because we were on a floating walk bridge over the Pecos River at the time, (Cue Mom, "Wow the water got choppy all of the sudden, didn't it?") But a tremor awoke me at 0430 the next morning. Weird.






Oddity

I came home from work last week to my 5 year old exclaiming, "Mommy, one of the chickens laid a ball!" Well, here it is, our egg-ball. This came from one of my younger hens, so I'm assuming that even though she's laid some normal sized eggs, things are still 'getting started'. Gonna have to do a little research on that.

I wanted to crack the egg open to see if there's a complete mini egg inside, but Tom wants to save the shell. Guess I'm going to have to figure out how to blow the egg out of this tiny thing without marring the shell. I still laugh when I see it! One of the interesting things about raising chickens, I suppose.





Introducing...

Kenzie, the wonder dog! Actually, that was her name the first day we brought her home. Now that she's been a part of our family for almost 2 weeks, she's also affectionately referred to as Terror or Poop Machine. What on earth did Tom talk me into?
Kenzie is a 7 week old American Bull Terrier--also known as a Bully. Tom and I have talked about having one of these dogs since we first began dating...Well, a long time ago! She's a handful, but very loved (and spoiled, as you can see!) It's been a long time since we had a puppy, life is back to the times of having a newborn. Gotta love those 2am potty breaks.













Blowin' Away!

We are proud to announce that Spring has officially arrived in Hartland--and with it, our annual Springtime winds! As I sit and type this, I can hear a horrible howling and see our still bare pecan trees swaying violently in the wind. The past couple of days have been horrible, with wind so strong you can hardly stand up! The a dust cloud encompassing the entire valley, so much so that, at one point yesterday I couldn't see my neighbor's house. Thank the good Lord that none of us have allergies! (Knock on wood!) We know several people that are suffering right now...

The garden continues to grow! This pic is actually a couple of weeks old--now I have beautiful spring mix and bib lettuce, swiss chard, beets, and carrots flourishing! It's my plan this weekend to get my tomato and pepper plants into the ground. Well, if mother nature cooperates, that is. And then once they are in the low raised beds, it will be my mission to keep the dogs and chickens out!


Our chickens continue to amuse us on a daily basis. Since we only have 6 hens, we've really gotten to know each one's unique personality. Quarky, to say the least! Every morning that I'm off from work Cams and I let the gals out to wander the back yard and scratch, scratch away!

Here's a shot of one of two of our new apple tress, newly planted into the ground. They are a Honeycrisp and Prairie Spy apple, both antique varieties. I also have a Fuji apple, along with 4 peach trees and two pear. The new trees have sprouted beautiful, bright green leaves already, and the older trees are enjoying the warmed weather. The peach trees are covered in blossoms, and the pear trees aren't too far behind! Happy Spring everyone!








Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Suprise!



It has been the inside joke here in Hartland, about my egg-less chicken adventure since we hatched the 4 little chickies last April (2 of which met an early end, the other 2 being roosters) I purchased 3 bantam chicks to add to my sad little flock and ALL 3 turned out to be roosters as well...We are now rooster free, and have a flock of 6 hens that came to live with us late in the summer of 2009. Four of them were too young to lay, and the other 2 were older hens but molting. And so Hartland was still egg-less. The days have warmed and finally one of my sweet Aracaunas gave us a surprise beautiful green egg!

Since that day, about a week and a half ago, "Flower" has inspired her comrades and each day we have been blessed with 3-4 homegrown eggs! The eggs are so much better tasting than store bought white eggs, even my 3 year old could tell a difference! I plan on selling extras that we can't keep up with--I already have people lined up from my work wanting to buy!





On the homefront

Spring is well on its way here in Hartland and we are so ready for it! The different tomato and pepper seedlings are several inches tall now and hopefully will be in the ground in about 3-4 weeks. Fingers crossed! Today, little C and I planted beets, Bib lettuce, Swiss chard and carrots into one of our raised beds for some early spring greens. This raised bed also holds our garlic, yellow and red onions, and Egyptian Walking onions planted late last year.

My wonderful hubbie just finished building me two new planting beds out of railroad ties over the weekend, they are both 3 x 16 ft. It's going to be a great addition to our family's gardening square footage, as well as beautifying our back yard. It was fun to involve our whole family in preparing the new beds, I love to see my girls with their hands in the dirt!

I recently ordered 2 new apple tree varieties to add to our little orchard. They are both antique varieties and will join the 4 peach, 1 apple, and 2 pear trees that we already have. All of our trees are young, but I'm hoping to see some fruit this season! Walking through them yesterday, I noticed that the peach trees are loaded with blossoms just about ready to make their debut. Anticipation! One other indulgence I'm expecting is a Meyer lemon tree that should arrive with the apple trees. It's my plan to plant the lemon in a large (hopefully movable) pot for the back patio. That way during the winter months I can bring the tree inside when we're expecting frosts. Our little homestead continues to grow and we are so grateful for God's plentiful blessings!



Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Science

We recently visited a hands-on science museum in Albuquerque called Explora. It was so much fun and geared for kids as young as Camryn (and probably younger!) to adults. The best part was that every display allowed you to play or interact with it. Fun!!! Zoey and Cams loved it! Here are just a few of the pictures that we took that afternoon. If you are in the Albuquerque area, I highly recommend spending a day at Explora--we can't wait to go back!



























Planning


2010 Garden Roster
Tomatoes: Old Fashioned Goliath, Amish Paste, Big Zac Hybrid, Sugar Snack, Super Marzano, Red Alert, Big Mamma Hybrid, Beefsteak, Jersey Giant, Mortgage Lifter, Brandywine, Purple Kalabash, and Rinaldo.
Peppers: Quadrato Giallo D'Asti, California Wonder, Yellow Monster, Pequis, NuMex Sunrise
Cucumbers: Armenian and Pionner Hybrid
Also have Romano bush beans, Lungo Bianco squash, Chinese Long Bean, Black zucchini, Crenshaw melon, Tigger melon, Rocky Top lettuce, Chioggia beets, chives, Ali Baba watermelon, Cinderella pumpkin, Thai White Ribbed eggplant, Scarlet Nantes carrot, Desert King watermelon, Tromboncineo squash and Buttercrunch lettuce.
Long live the homegrown revolution!

Mommy Brag


My Kindergartner read her first book by herself! I am completely amazed how much Z has learned since she began school--what a smarty pants! Meme Jo was visiting us and got to share in the excitement :)

Ready, Set, Grow!

February marks a flurry of garden activity here in Hartland, time to get seeds growing indoors and to start early spring veggies outside. I am blissful! After being taunted by seed catalogs for the last 2 months, I can finally play in the dirt! I wanted to share a few garden prep pictures with you all. This year, I'm trying something a little different for my seed starting. I purchased several lidded, shallow storage containers to place my homemade newspaper pots in (Love holiday clearance!!!). They have made it easy to transport the seedlings to sunny windows around the house, plus with the lids on, I have a mini greenhouse. If you ask my wonderful husband how many mini greenhouses I have, you'll probably just get a "too many..." My newspaper pot maker proved invaluable again this year--I would recommend anyone getting one! Once the seedlings are ready to put into the garden beds, I plant the whole pot and the newspaper composts into the soil.


In the raised bed closest to our back porch I have garlic sprouting, and have since added red and yellow onions. Beets and carrots will also be direct sowed here once the weather warms just a tad. It won't be long!

Recycled restaurant containers have a new life now as my indoor salad greenhouses. Cams helped me with the soil filling and in the seeds went!




At least until the seeds sprout, I have the container lids in place and here they sit in a sunny south facing window. I plan on planting lettuce outdoors as well, but the sooner I can harvest, the better!









Thursday, January 28, 2010

Longing for...


As I sit here blogging, the weather outside is cold, raining and now trying to snow. It's miserable, to say the least. I am dreaming of...Longing for a warm, humid breeze blowing across calm, crystal waters. So quiet, you can almost hear the clouds moving across the sky. Yes, I need a vacation! But I'll settle for some warmer weather here in Hartland, I suppose...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ravel Me This

I've been playing around with knitting off and on for about a little over a year now--not great at it at all, but I'm making progress! I would love to find a class somewhere, someday, but for now I try to figure it out and watch a lot of YouTube demonstrations... I just finished a little beanie for Cams today, it's called a Hurricane Hat because of the swirling pattern on it. It just took me a few hours, pretty easy to knock out. I'm also proud to say that this was the first knit creation I've made from reading a pattern. Learning, yay me! Here's my beautiful little ladybug modeling her new chapeau.


Cold Days

We've have some cold, cold days in Hartland lately. It's been rough not being able to play outside much with the kiddos, but we're attempting to keep everyone well. Late morning a few days ago, I spotted these little doves on our back porch trying to stay warm. Hope that you all are nice and toasty this January!


Monday, January 4, 2010

Cheesemaking Experiment

My parents gave me a cheesemaking kit for Christmas (thanks Dad and Mom!) that I've been itching to try out since I opened it! Yesterday I had some time to spare so I declared it cheesemaking day and set to work :)

I used a gallon of milk that we would normally drink in our household: Plain ole' store bought 2%. The instructions specifically said that milk that had been ultra pasteurized would not work, but the labeling on my milk said it was only 'pasteurized'. The kit is pretty simple and instructions clear cut, nice for a beginner like me! I added my citric acid to the milk and then heated according to direction.
Once the adequate temperature was reached, I added my rennet, which was a tablet dissolved in a small amount of water. After sitting for several minutes I began to see a separation of the
curds from the whey! And that's where my trouble began...


Although there was a distinct separation of the curds from the whey, the curds didn't seem to firm up quite as much as the directions said it should. My next step was to cut up the curd and reheat, while stirring, to further separate. Afterward I drained the majority of the whey and opted to use the microwave to heat up the curds to 135 degrees to begin the stretching/shaping process.



End verdict: My curds never really firmed up, resulting in more of a ricotta-like texture instead of mozzarella (although it was still quite tasty!!!) Troubleshooting directions suggested that I should possibly use more citric acid than the recipe originally called for, or choose a different kind of milk. My next door neighbor is a co-owner of a dairy near us, so maybe I can get some milk from him. Can't go wrong with milk straight from the source! And there's no way I could convince Tom to milk a cow twice a day when I'm working!



Welcoming A New Decade

Happy 2010 from Hartland everyone! Wishing you all many blessings and adventures in this new year AND decade that's upon us! Any New Year's resolutions that anyone has made and cares to share? I myself, haven't made any official resolutions, other than to attempt to increase our family's self-sufficiency. But more on that in posts to come!


We had a small dusting of snow just before the new year that was pretty, although it didn't last long. There was no sign of white stuff for Christmas, so I had to sing along to just a couple of Christmas carols early that morning while beautiful, little flakes danced from the sky to the ground. And then all Christmas paraphernalia went into the attic...

The girls enjoyed getting bundled up and playing in the falling snowflakes while they lasted. And then the house was filled with tracked in mud for the rest of the day, until the ground could soak up all the moisture! Here are a couple of video snips of Zoey and Camryn playing. Enjoy!

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