Sunday, January 31, 2010

A new member to the family

This handsome cat is the newest member to our family (seen here enjoying the happy chicken bones from last week).  A friend from work had to get rid of the cat because her husband didn't want it around.  It is an outdoor cat, but quite friendly.
I've felt bad for him this past week because he was cooped up in our pole barn all day and night.  It has been so cold out that I've kept him in there.  He was used to a heated garage with a spot he could come and go through as he pleased.  Yesterday and today I have been able to let him run around freely.  This week it is supposed to get up to 40 degrees, so I'm hoping to be able to let him out all week.
Anyway, he is an absolute sweetheart and he craves attention.  He needs a good name.  I'm open to suggestions if anyone has a good idea.
My Mom, Dad and Grandma came over yesterday to visit.  It was the first time Grandma had seen the house.  We had a nice day visiting.  I made some potato soup and some bread for a late lunch.  It was a very nice day.
That is about the extent of my excitement for the week.  I have another 58 hour week to work this week. I'm looking forward to some new seed catalogues to show up soon so I can begin ordering.  I am definitely ready for Spring.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

There once was a happy chicken...

There once was a happy chicken.  The chicken was born at a hatchery and sent to a friendly farmer the very next day.  That farmer gave the chicken a warm cozy place to stay with other chicks, just like her.

They grew up together and eventually moved to a coop with plenty of room to wander.  She heard stories of relatives who went to factory farms and spent their entire lives without enjoying fresh bugs scratched from the dirt, or even the ability to walk around.  She loved her life on the farm -- running around, eating veggies and good feed, and laying eggs for the farmer.

The chicken lived a good life, and when her time was up, she was butchered and given to a vegetarian and her flesh eating husband.  The vegetarian gave thanks for the chicken's life and prepared it for her husband, knowing that a happy chicken would be better for her husband that the factory farm relatives.

Ok, well, I'm not really a story teller -- but you get the idea.  Uncle Dave and Aunt Mary gave us a chicken at Christmas time.  I told him I would like to get a pig from him this next year (after we get a chest freezer).  Well, half a pig.  Another vegetarian friend wants to split it with me.  Her son eats meat and she would prefer to avoid buying factory meat as well.  One reason I am a vegetarian is the horrible conditions that animals suffer from on those factory farms.  I would rather cook an animal that was raised respectfully or hunted from nature for my husband -- even though it may be more expensive.  It is better for the animals, my husband, and not to mention the local farmers and the environment.

This bird was seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder (was supposed to be onion powder, but I didn't have any).  Then put 3 Tbsp butter inside the cavity with one stalk of celery cut into pieces.  I added a few pieces of onion as well.  Smear a bit more butter on the exterior.  It should be cooked about 1 hour 15 minutes or until an internal temp. of 180 degrees is reached.  I've been keeping a close eye on her because she is skinnier that most store chickens (but while I'm checking the temp. I baste it in the juices also).  Once done, she needs to be covered loosely and left alone for about a half hour....

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Making Plans

Seed and plant catalogues are beginning to find their way to my mailbox lately.  I've been marking up pages like a kid making a Christmas wish list in the Toys R Us mailing.  I know I should start small this year and not bite off more that I can chew.  This is, of course, our first year at this home and I can't expect to have my garden running full tilt right away.  I'd like to get a good start on it though.

I'd like to build some raised bed gardens, a salad tray to grow lettuce on the patio, and something to contain my compost pile.  I'm figuring out how to fix up the shed out back so we can get chickens.  A chicken tractor would also be a good thing to have.  I'd like to plant blueberries, paw paw, and a variety of other fruit trees.  I might even try some hazelnuts or some other nut tree.  I'd like to find the perfect spot to start some asparagus and rhubarb.

I'm sure it is more than I can get done -- but I'm going to try.  I had grand plans for this weekend but woke up with a killer sinus headache.  I'm off to a slow start.  I want to get my craft room properly set up.  Up until this point, that room has been the catch-all room for stuff we moved in but didn't have a home for yet.

Also in the near future, I'd like to paint the work bench and cabinets that are in the basement.  Our basement has potential for a nice work station for messier crafts (woodworking projects, starting plants for the garden, possibly even tie dye).

I also have plans to learn how to make cheese.  I finally took the plunge and bought a mozzarella/ricotta kit from urbancheesecraft.... obviously I will blog about the whole process as I learn.

P.S. The photo above is from Fayette Historic State Park in Michigan's Upper Penninsula.  I shot it years ago while on vacation with my "bff"s Rich and Jen (and my ex-husband).  My current profile picture was also shot in one of the historic houses in Fayette.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Weekend update

I had a very nice time this past weekend -- but the whole thing flew by so quickly!  I had to work on Saturday, but after work I drove to Grand Rapids to visit my family and friends.  After visiting with my parents and brother a bit in the evening,  I went to see my good friends Rich, Jen, and Amy.  It was so refreshing to be able to just sit around and talk with some like-minded individuals.  We must do it more often.
Sunday morning we (Mom, Dad, and my brother - Rob) went to a Bagel shop and had a bagel and coffee together.  Then we hung out back at their house a while until Grandma came over.  We had lunch together and sat around the table a long time talking.  Charlie was sad he missed it.  He was stuck working all weekend.
In the afternoon I hung out with my friend Dawn (and her pal Steven).  We had a good time and laughed a lot.  She made a housewarming gift for Charlie and me -- some hand towels and dish cloths.  I love homemade stuff!
I know it has taken me a while to post this - seeing it is Wednesday already.  Work has been taking a lot of my time and energy lately.  Today and tomorrow I only have to work 8 hours.  We were given the option to take a couple hours off, so I took it.  I've just been feeling run down lately and right now I'm fighting a sore throat and the starts of a cold.  Hopefully it doesn't progress into anything bad.

P.S. Dad was the one who said I should take the photo of the orchid shown above with the blue glass as a background.  I think it turned out pretty cool.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I put a new piece of suet in the feeder today.  It is specifically for woodpecker types of birds (because that is mostly what we get over here).  They have been loving it!  I thought I would try to snap a few photos to show you.  Above is a Red-bellied Woodpecker.  Below is a bird I haven't seen here before today.  The top is pure black, the bottom is bright white.  It was hanging out underneath the feeder, so all I can figure is that it is a Junco.  I thought they were a little lighter in color though.  Anyone have any thoughts on what it is?

Lastly, while I was checking out our turkeys this morning, I was delighted to see a half dozen Blue birds.  I thought Blue birds went away for the winter.  I have also never seen more than 2 at a time.  They were all hanging out together on the back of the house.  It looked like they were getting water from the melting snow.  Blue birds are one of my favorite birds -- so I'm thrilled!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Snow and Sun

What a lovely morning this has been!  The snow that fell the other day is still stuck to the trees.  I am not home during any daylight hours during the week (due to work) so I was crossing my fingers that I could get a few photos of it on the weekend.  The sun is out and the sky is a brilliant blue.  I didn't realize how deep the snow was in the backyard or I might have put on some boots before walking through it all.
I feel very lucky to have found such a beautiful piece of property.
The first photo is from our front door looking toward the road (which you can see in the lower right corner).  The photo below is in the backyard facing West.  This line of trees blocks a good amount of wind from beating on our house.  Thank you trees.

I slept in this morning because I have been running behind on my sleep this week.  We are back onto 50-58 hour weeks again.  Now that we live further away from work, I have a longer drive time.  And with the snow we had this week, I had to spend even more time driving to avoid landing in the ditch.  I'm typically gone from 7:45 AM until 8:10 PM.  This doesn't leave much time for housework, cooking (or in my case, packing a breakfast/lunch/dinner), and sleeping.  It is OK though -- the overtime pay is pretty good.
Anyway, after sleeping in, I spent some time cleaning up the kitchen and listening to my ipod on shuffle mode.  I've got to get to the store sometime today as well.  Other than that, I just plan on relaxing.  That is what Saturdays are for.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Mmm... bread! Part 3

It is almost done!  I can smell it baking right now -- ooh, it smells good.
This morning I had to mix it once more, then let it sit another 2 hours.  Then the instructions said to use a bunch of flour and form the dough into a log.  Cut the log in half and press out on floured parchment paper.  I don't own parchment paper, and although I read the directions before starting two days ago -- apparently I didn't notice I would need it.  So, I skipped the paper and just floured the baking pan.  Anyway, I spread the dough out and covered it and let it set for another 2 hours.  Then the two loaves baked for 30 minutes...
I just pulled them out of the oven and... tah dah!

I don't know if this is the way they are supposed to look, but they sure do smell good.  I can't wait to taste it.  Whether it tastes good or not, at least I have managed to bake something.  Hopefully by the end of the year I will be proficient.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Mmm... bread! Part 2

24 hours have passed and it is time to tend to the dough again.  In a larger (just as retro) bowl, mix flour, salt, sugar and yeast together.  Add water, oil and the starter that was made yesterday.  Incorporate everything into a dough ball and cover with plastic wrap.  Wait 19 hours...

What you do in those 19 hours is up to you.  I'm currently watching a wood pecker feasting on a suet feeder out the front window.  Charlie is watching football and playing that video game that has sucked him in so thoroughly.  I took the ornaments off of the Christmas tree today, and cleaned the kitchen.  Oh, I also made a fruit salad and took the peelings out to the compost pile.  It is just far too cold to do too much else outside.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Mmm... bread!

I can't think of anything more satisfying that fresh bread with a bit of homemade jam. The problem is, I'm not a baker by nature -- I'd prefer to cook, anyday. But fresh "artisan" bread (not that fake white fluff that stays preserved for weeks in the bread isle) costs an arm and a leg at the store. I decided I am going to teach myself how to bake.
I am starting with a no-knead recipe from one of my favorite magazines -- Grit. If you are at all interested in homesteading and country living, may I highly recommend this magazine. Most of their articles are on-line, including the recipe that I am attempting to make. Click here for a link to the article with the recipe for this no-knead ciabatta.

So, the first step is done 48 hours before you plan to serve the bread. I'll be eating this for Sunday dinner, and take it to work for lunch on Monday. I should grill up some veggies for a nice sandwich, or maybe just peanut butter and strawberry freezer jam... yum.
Anyway, step one was easy. Just mix a bit of flour, water and yeast together then cover and let it stand at room temperature for 24 hours. I like to use a retro mixing bowl (that Mom gave me) on my lovely retro counter tops (this house was definitely built in the 70's). I think the old bowl will make the bread taste better -- call me crazy if you'd like.
Tomorrow is step two which involves adding more ingredients and letting it sit a bit longer. It helps that I have a long weekend to attempt this on.
I am also making a loaf of bread in my bread maker right now. Charlie wanted some to go with the goulash he just made. Bread maker bread is good -- but still expensive if you use a mix. And you can't make specialty items like ciabatta bread in a bread maker.
Hopefully I'm able to pull off this recipe. I will be posting more to show the results...

Happy New Year!

Ahh... a new year. A good time to review the previous year and make plans for the future. I'm not making any resolutions this year. I find that resolutions are too much like rules. As soon as I mess up once, I feel like a failure. Instead, I am making a list of goals. Goals are things to work toward -- it is OK to take two steps forward and one step back on your way to a goal.
This past year I spent a lot of my time working. Most of my spare time was used to find a house, buy it, and move in. It was quite an undertaking, but it feels good to have our own home now.
Now for my goals for the coming year (and what I will probably spend most of my time blogging about for the next year as well).
1. Produce more of our own food. I want to build a raised bed garden, plant fruit and nut trees, and try raising chickens this year. Also, I'd like to continue foraging and expand the amount that Charlie and I fish. I'd like to expand my knowledge of canning and also consider getting a freezer so Charlie could hunt some game. Not only is gardening/foraging a hobby of mine, but it is a good way to save money (pay off our house). Producing our own food also ensures that it is organic and safe. It helps the environment by reducing the oil used to transport what we consume. On a similar note, we are also trying to find more local sources for the food we can't produce ourselves.
2. Be more frugal and spend money wisely. Now that we have a house to pay off, I want to do the best I can to make extra payments on our principal. We have been less than frugal this past year with the extra money I made off all that overtime I worked. I know I can do better this year. Starting Monday, I am going back to working overtime again (they cut us back to 40 hours for the last couple of months). Although I'll have less time to do stuff around the house, it will give me more money to work with. I'd like to get our credit cards and one of our vehicles paid off this year -- and pay off some principal on the house.
3. Take better care of myself. I have let my diet and exercise slide lately. I also don't go to bed early enough so I don't have a chance to get enough sleep. I'd like to focus on taking care of myself with healthier food and more exercise and sleep. I already eat a lot of fruits and veggies, but I need to focus on cutting out fast food and comfort food -- particularly in the evenings after a stressful day at work. I have a treadmill now and am going to start using it. By making this a goal and not a "resolution", I'm hoping to do better over time.

These are my main goals for this year -- although I have many other things I hope to accomplish (craft projects, setting up/decorating the house, learn to bake bread, etc). I'm excited to see where this year leads me. I'm hoping for good health and safety for my family and friends -- and many happy gatherings with them this year.
I hope the same for you and yours. Happy New Year!!!