Thursday, February 28, 2013

INSPIRATION THURSDAY, YELLOW BULBS AND TREES

Yellow bulbs, image courtesy of SouthernLiving.com
This is so pretty.  I've always liked loved bulbs, and I've always been drawn to yellow bulbs in particular when they are around trees.  Something about the combination of yellow, green and brown just looks so calming and relaxing.

This is one of the easiest things to do, bulbs planted randomly around trees.  I just need to get the trees cleared out around them so I can do this.

I'm not sure if it's too soon to plant bulbs for Fall, I'm pretty sure it's too late to plant bulbs for Spring.  Bulbs are one of those things that you definitely have to plan ahead for...nothing like planting now and waiting for half a year.  However, the payoff is well worth the wait.

Hope you are having a good day/week.

Be inspired!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

NEW KITCHEN SUBWAY ART



We had this blank space on the wall beside the stove.  Being so close to the stove means there would be occasional splatters and steam of course so we couldn't just put anything up there that might be damaged.

So the other day I was at Hobby Lobby (it's a craft store that also has decorative home items) and I found this subway style art print and fell in love with it.  It's printed on a slick coated material, kind of like it's laminated.  That means it will wipe up easily if it ever gets dirty.


Here is a closeup of the phrases on it, thought you might like to see.

It fits us well; we love family recipes, 2nd Man cooks with a pinch of this and a dash of that, we have no dishwasher at the farm so yeah, help with the dishes is always welcome, everything is seasoned with love, skinny chef, um, no comment...and really, isn't the kitchen the heart of all homes?


I also found this great wooden sign a couple of weeks back and put it above the door in the kitchen that leads to, where else, the dining room!


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

SPRING IS AROUND THE CORNER


Was at the farm, roaming around as I often do, and I noticed that the Mesquite trees, like the one above, are starting to leaf out with their soft, fernlike, green leaves.  Then I saw this tree below that has opened up with these beautiful white blooms.  We believe it's an ornamental pear but we're not sure.

Spring is definitely in the air!!! (or is it already here?).  What about you, is it almost Spring where you are?  Or still the dead of Winter?  Or maybe Summer on the other side of the world!




Monday, February 25, 2013

SEDA THE PIG, THE FINAL POST

This has been a tough post for me.  Seda the Pig, our sponsored pig for our friends son, has been auctioned and we know he has been "processed".

First the good stuff; he did very well for "T".  He came in THIRD in his class, and 26th out of about 225 pigs (just about top 10%).  There was the Grand Champion and the Reserve Champion and then about 23 other pigs ahead of him.  Not bad at all and we, as are his parents, are very proud of him, this was his first time doing this.  He had never even been around a pig before this, and he is more than willing to do it again next semester.



We went to the auction day to see him and cheer on T.  Seda was in his own separate pen and we got to interact with him for the first time in awhile.  He was a sweet pig, if pigs can be be sweet.  He was very gentle and very intelligent.  He recognized T every time he saw him and would get up and run toward him every morning.  He even had this really cute habit of rolling over onto his side when you scratched his belly.

Now comes the part that's tough.  When we saw him, we knew what the outcome would be.  T knew what the outcome would be.  All of the young men and women there in the FFA barn with their animals knew what the outcome would be.  But even still, it suddenly becomes so real.  "Processing".  What a nice euphemism for what is really the end result, killing and butchering.  I'm not going to dance around the issue, we do love pork.  We love beef.  We love chicken.  We love meat.

It's so easy to run on down to the grocery store and buy that big hunk of meat on the little white Styrofoam tray.  It's all wrapped so neatly in clear wrap and best of all, hey, it's on sale!  Glistening like jewels under the artificial light of the meat counters.  Then there are the big signs nearby with phrases like
"Pork!  The other white meat" or "Beef!  It's what's for dinner".



All of that shields us.  It protects us.  It keeps most of us from realizing the ugly truth.  Sure, those of us with a connection to nature, those that have farms or raise livestock or grew up around it understand, but I would dare say that most of the public just blindly buys their meat at the store, all neat and tidy and wrapped up, and never gives a second thought to it's origin.  I've always said that if most people had to raise and/or butcher their own food, they  would probably rather become vegetarian.  I have the utmost respect for those that do it on their homesteads and farms as I don't think I could.  I'm confident in saying I'd have to become vegetarian after my experience with Seda and even just being around the "nosey cows" of late.


Pig butcher chart, image courtesy of Wikipedia
But this whole process of raising the pig, for us, for T, and for his family, has really opened our eyes to just WHERE our food comes from.  We have learned a whole new respect for these animals.  They are more than lines on a chart.  They are intelligent, they can bond with us, they are alive, they care for their young, they protect them, and most of all, they look you in the eye.  We must make sure they are raised properly and if they are to be "processed", they must be humanely treated in their final moments.

T spent some alone time with Seda after the auction and said his goodbyes.  His mother said he thanked him for helping him, for teaching him, and told him he appreciated the gift he was giving him.  I am told there were quite a few tears shed in the barn that evening for all the animals that had been raised (understandable).  You know, in a way, I think I would be more worried if they didn't have a reaction like that.  It shows me that many young people do care for and have compassion and respect for life.

Here is the last photo I took of Seda.  That's 2nd Man reaching down to scratch his head.  I called Seda's name and he glanced at the camera.  I won't lie, shortly after I snapped this one, I shed a few tears myself.  I would like to thank Seda for giving T new direction in his life and for teaching all of us who came to know him to care about where our food comes from.

Seda 2012-2013
This picture is going to be printed and framed and kept on the photo wall at the farm.  Seda will always have a special place in our hearts.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

VINTAGE POSTER SUNDAY, EAT MORE EAT LESS

Eat More Eat Less, vintage poster, image courtesy of US National Archives
This one is interesting.  It's from WWI, circa 1917, and as usual, it was urging civilians to save and cut back at home so there would be more for the troops and allies overseas.

I find this one interesting though because it could also be a healthy eating poster today.  Eat more fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, baked, boiled, etc and eat less wheat, meat, sugar and fats.  Other than the corn in the eat more and the wheat in the eat less, I think it's a healthy diet plan for now, ha.

Hope you are having a good weekend!

MORE NOSEY COWS SATURDAY UPDATE

Nosey Cows
I was at the farm Saturday.  It was a productive day, I did some stuff inside, some stuff outside and met with a plumber.

No mice!  So that was a good thing to greet me.
Irish Spring soap method, so far so good.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but our water heater died a few months back.  We haven't been spending the night out there this Winter so it wasn't really a priority.  We also have that utility sink in the mudroom that needs to be connected.  Well, Spring is almost here and it's time to get that all fixed.  Friday night, our contractor that helped us with the work on the house a year ago called out of the blue and said that he could meet us out there on Saturday with his plumber.

2nd Man had to work, so I went out by myself.  I got the raised beds leveled, more or less anyway, and put down the cardboard.  I was going to take some pictures but they would just be more pics of the beds looking pretty much as I've posted already, so I figure I'd wait until they have soil in them and show the cardboard and the soil.  That would be a better "step 3" to show.

While I was there, I noticed that they were BAAAAACK!  The cow family came over to the fence to see what I was doing.  This time they laid down and took it easy (most of them anyway) and watched me work.

Friday, February 22, 2013

COWS SURE ARE NOSEY

I was at the farm, working on the garden beds last weekend and I heard some mooing.  Seems the cows from the property just behind the garden area were wandering over to the fenceline to see what I was doing.




Nosey cows...mind YOUR own business!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

INSPIRATION THURSDAY, WATER TROUGH POND

Trough Pond, photo courtesy of houzz.com
OK, this is something that one of you lovely readers mentioned in a comment recently.  Making a galvanized trough into a water pond.

I would love a pond at the farm, but realistically, that's a ways off, too much other immediate stuff to do.  BUT...if I could find one of these round water troughs, this could be done pretty easily.  I even have a spot I'd love to put it, on the front corner of the porch (on the ground) where the two stairs come off from each direction.  There is even readily available electricity coming off the porch so I could aerate it or add a fountain or bubbler.  This photo will inspire me when the time comes.

Be inspired!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

FARMHOUSE PASTA ALLA NORMA RECIPE


A few months ago, I got home from work and was blog hopping when I hopped on over to the Tomato Thymes blog.

She had posted a recipe LINK from Saveur magazine for something called Pasta alla Norma.  I had never heard of it but seeing that it used eggplant, and at the time we had a glut of them, I figured why not try it?

Oh my gosh...it was SO good.  This is a very fresh sauce, not one of those tomato sauces that needs to simmer all day.  I didn't do step by step photos because the evening was late and dinner needed to get on the table, ha, but here is how it came out.


The recipe is as follows with my edits on our changes:

PASTA ALLA NORMA

3 medium eggplants, cut into 3/4″ cubes (no need to peel)
8 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. crushed red chili flakes (or less to taste)
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz. can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, undrained and crushed by hand (this can be messy, be careful)
16 fresh basil leaves, torn by hand
1 lb. pasta
4 oz. ricotta salata, grated (we used crumbled Feta)


Heat oven to 500º. Put eggplant into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil.  Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper.  Transfer eggplant to 2 baking sheets and bake, turning occasionally, until soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes.  Remove and set aside to cool.

Heat remaining oil in a 5-qt. pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add chili flakes and garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic softens, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and half the basil, season with salt, and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente, about 8 or 9 minutes. Drain the pasta and transfer to tomato sauce. Stir in reserved eggplant and toss to combine. Stir in remaining basil and season with salt. To serve, transfer pasta and sauce to a platter and garnish with ricotta salata/feta, OR you can put cooked pasta on the plate and top with the sauce and crumbled cheese.



We actually doubled the recipe and ended up with enough sauce for dinner, a bit for a lunch the next day and this large bag for the freezer.  We've made it several times now and here in the middle of Winter, it's a nice reminder of the Summer to come!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

IRISH SPRING SOAP FOR MICE


What?

Getting dirty on the farm? (wait, that didn't sound right!) No!  

Mouse bathing?  No, this isn't a mouse B&B!

We bought all this soap because we have still had a couple of mice show up in the mouse traps we put down.  No overwhelming infestation, but one or two a month is one or two too many in my book.  One of you commented in my post about the mouse problem a few months back that Irish Spring soap was a deterrent.  I decided to Google it to learn more and I found numerous references online to people using it that way.  

So, I went out and bought an 8-pack of "original scent" which is apparently the one that works best.  It was kind of hard to find in original scent at the store, but after a few stops, I found them at a grocery store.  However, Amazon sells Irish Spring Soap, Original for those who can't find it at their local store.

I decided to make it go even further by cutting each bar in half.  Eight bars became sixteen.  I scattered them around the house in the closets, under end tables and couches, under the sinks, in cabinets, and I even tossed some under the bookcases.



Field mouse, please go away

Hey, it can't hurt, right?  I guess time will tell.  They've been in use for a week now and there were no mice in traps.  Perhaps it's working?
I'll definitely keep you posted.

UPDATE 10/2013


I've been regularly putting these down, and I can say we have definitely had much FEWER mice but we do occasionally get one.  We've got traps down, a couple in each room and so we get a mouse or two each month.


The smell of of Irish Spring is not for everyone and honestly it does get to be too much for us at times so I've toned down the usage.  I started cutting back a bit, just keeping it around the areas I think mice are coming in (around pipes under sinks in kitchen and bathroom).  It does wear out (the smell) in about a month, so it's probably more effective in the beginning of putting it down.


UPDATE 12/2014


After using this for a couple of years, we have to say, we would judge this as "inconclusive".  We definitely have fewer mice, but we also have traps down, baited with peanut butter (might should use the soap apparently, ha) and have snagged a few that way.  There could be many factors of why we have fewer mice, it could even be a seasonal thing, perhaps some years worse than others.  The soap worked for a bit, but I think after the scent wore off, they might have even liked it.  Never saw bite marks but they were, occasionally, moved around.  So something was checking them out.


I think the bottom line is that it works but then fizzles out quickly...and apparently, some varieties of mice seem to actually like it.


UPDATE 12/2016

Several of the comments are from one side to the other.  Some of you swear by it and some say their mice eat it.  After some research, it seems that different varieties of mice are affected differently.  I suppose it's true that some like it and some don't.  

Sigh...

We're still on the lookout for anything that might work the same way, so feel free to comment below anytime!


Monday, February 18, 2013

WOW, THREE HUNDRED FOLLOWERS

`
*301 actually

All we can say is thank you!

I know it's not 500, or 1000, or more, but when I started this blog on a whim 2 1/2 years ago, I wasn't sure anyone would be interested in our little corner of the world.  So we appreciate each and every one of you, from 1 to 301 and more.

I have SO much fun doing this blog, because of you all.  I've got some great plans for it in the coming months, stay tuned.


Thank you again!


RAISED GARDEN BEDS, STEP TWO COMPLETE

When I got to the farm, all the beds were exactly where I left them, no one had moved them for me, ha.  But what I thought would be easy, turned out to be much more time consuming than I realized.  You see, on paper, I drew it out as a rectangular piece of property.  Then I realized that the back fence is at an angle so my plans wouldn't come out exactly as I anticipated.


So I had to move them, again and again.  Over three feet?  No.  Forward two feet?  No.  Back two feet? No.  Is it lined up with the fence?  Yes, but wait, now it's crooked.  Let's move them oh wait, now future expansions run into the brush.  That won't work.  So, I kept moving them around.  Thankfully with the corner brackets, I could just roll them like square tires!



I had to make sure they were all three feet apart as that was part of the design plan, but with that, if I had to move one, all had to be moved.  Ugh.  But I finally got them where I wanted them and then went around making sure there was exactly three feet on each side, except for the entrance, which I made six feet wide.



Here it is finished!  I leveled the three in the foreground but the three in the background need a bit more digging to get them level.  I just started to run out of daylight by the end of the day and had to give up.  But that's ok since I'm not going to have to till anything, I'll have time to level them next weekend.  


This view is from the back of the garden (standing in what will be the future expansion area) looking toward the driveway and the future barn waaaay over on the other side of the property.  Don't ask me why, but I just wanted the garden to be lined up with the barn.  It looks so small on such a big piece of property doesn't it?


 I thought I'd throw in this picture to give you some frame of reference.  This is standing just in front of the garden looking toward the other side of the property.  This is what I was talking about above.  The 'entrance' (once we have it fenced in) to the garden is directly behind me, so I just turned around and snapped this picture.  The barn will be over there on the other side with some citrus trees there along 2nd Family's back pasture fence
(lemon, lime, orange).  I guess I have a thing for symmetry, ha.

Next step is some cardboard and paper in the bottom of the beds and a load or two of soil.  Then it's planting time!



Sunday, February 17, 2013

THE COLOR GREEN IS COMING BACK


No more Fifty Shades of Beige!  It looks like the big green zen machine
(aka, my John Deere riding mower for those new to the blog) will be getting a workout soon, as things are greening up much more quickly than I anticipated!  The surrounding brush, as well as most of the trees, is still dormant but the grass is definitely making a comeback.  We even had a light frost yesterday, but still the green is coming!

Judging by what's going on at the bottom of the porch stairs, it looks like it might end up being sooner rather than later, ha!


VINTAGE POSTER SUNDAY, JOIN THE BEAN ARMY

WW1 Bean Brigade poster, image courtesy us US National Agriculture Library

I think this is a pretty fun poster.  It's from WWI, and, well, it's all about beans!
You know, beans beans the magical fruit, the more....oh yeah, you know!

Anyway, they urged people to grow beans because, as the poster says, they were more important than bullets!  In a time when food was in short supply and what we had was  needed for the troops overseas, beans provided nutrition to those at home and so the "Michigan Food Preparedness Committee"
(I love that name!) came up with this poster and made the push to get people growing more beans.

Fascinating glimpse into our past!

Hope you are having a great weekend!


Friday, February 15, 2013

PUBLIC LIBRARY SEED BANK, A BRILLIANT IDEA

Seeds
The other day, I saw THIS ARTICLE at NPR.org and I was blown away by how ingenious the idea is.  In a nutshell, there are now several libraries around the country that are starting a new program; they gather together various seed species and varieties, and then store them in a seed bank at the library.
Seed Bank image courtesy of NPR & Dylan Johns
 Anyone with a library card can then go into the library, find the seed bank, leaf through the seed choices, and "check out" the packet(s).  They take them home, grow the vegetables and harvest the seeds from some of the best, largest, and hardiest that are grown.  Those are "returned" at the end of the season and then a new cycle begins the next season with the library lending out those new seeds to start it all over again.

In a way, they are creating an heirloom bank of the best and hardiest plants from each variety (and even best for that particular climate and area).  There are instructions included on how to save seeds, and are even broken down by category of "easiest to save" all the way to seeds "for expert savers".

I'm sure there are potential flaws in the program; for example someone lets their plants die for whatever reason, or forgets to harvest seeds.  But it's still a totally amazing idea and a great way to get more people interested in gardening.  Best of all, I bet it would really get children excited too.

Check out a book, go home and read,
check out some seeds, go home and plant!



Two thumbs up!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

INSPIRATION THURSDAY, FLOWER GARDEN

Flower garden, randomly sourced from the internet
Really?  The "blue color" AND a white picket fence?  LOL!  This blue color pops up all the time in photos I find that inspire me and of course I LOVE a white picket fence.  I think what I like in this photo most though, and what made me want to keep it for future reference, is how the flowers sort of follow a natural looking, winding course along the back of this yard.  I've been thinking of sectioning off a piece of the front yard and doing something like this.

Hey, it's Valentines Day, so we needed flowers!

Happy Day!
Be inspired!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

BEER CAN CHICKEN DINNER


This is one of our favorite ways to cook chicken.  Have you ever had "beer can chicken"?  It's delicious.
We got ours via Amazon:

 Beer can ChickCAN Rack

There are others out there, we had another brand but the metal bent on it so we bought these.  Very sturdy.



Here they are finished, about 45 minutes at 375 degrees.  Golden and brown and ready to eat.  We use beer most of the time.  In this case we used Tecate, which is a Mexican beer brand and we put a few sprigs of fresh rosemary in each beer can as well.  




We found it was easiest to just cut the back bone out of the chicken while it was still on the rack which acts as support.  That lets you cut the chicken completely in half and make it easier for serving.  




And here is how we served it.  Half a chicken (these were pretty small) alongside some homemade stuffing and some fresh baked yeast rolls.  Sure, no vegetables, but as you can see, we ran out of room.  Both on the plate AND in our tummies!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

SEEDS OF THE MONTH FOR FEBRUARY

Seeds of the Month for February 2013
It's that time again!  My Mike the Gardener Seeds of the Month arrived
(and early this month, that was a surprise).

For this month they are:

Thyme, (no variety)
Leek, "Large American Flag"
Squash, "Round Zucchini"
Watermelon, "Black Diamond"

I always ask for comments from anyone who has grown these varieties.  As I plan the plantings, for Spring, Summer and Fall, I will look back on the blog for tips and advice that any of you have left.  Thyme I know about, I've never been around growing leeks in any garden so I'm not sure about that one.  I've grown zucchini and helped my grandfather grow it, but this is a round variety.  Lastly, I've heard of black diamond watermelon but not sure about it either.

Thanks ahead of time!

Seeds rule!!!

Monday, February 11, 2013

RAISED GARDEN BEDS, STEP ONE COMPLETE




First, I loaded the Jeep (these were NOT fitting in my Fiat, LOL) with the boards.  I went with 2x12's that were 8 feet long.  Other than the two longer beds, they could all be 4 feet so I had the store cut them in half for me.  That saved me lots of work, not to mention, 4 foot long boards are much easier to carry.

These are some awesome things I found online last year.  They are corner brackets/braces that made it so much easier to put them together.  I bought them on sale last year in the Summer when I guess people weren't buying them.  At the time, hey were $16 for a set of 4, which is $4/corner.  Definitely worth it.



You just position two boards in an "L shape" and then this fits right on the corner with a little groove that goes down over the top.  After that, you simply screw them in.  I used galvanized decking screws so that the screws will not rust.  Again, a bit pricier initially than just regular screws, but I'll pay a bit more now for less worries later.  Same with the brackets.  Sure I know you can build beds without them, but I opted for something that made it a bit easier for my first time as well as making sure to hold them together.
It could not have been easier.
  

During the process, 2nd Family's dog "Blue" came to visit.  First he was excited to see me and jumped around licking and tail wagging, then he had to go see what all the fuss was about.

"Do NOT pee on all my hard work, Blue!"

He didn't, at least not there in front of me, who knows what has happened today.





Here they are about a little more than half through the process.  I had to hurry because the skies were getting dark.  A few sprinkles here and there didn't deter me, but a downpour certainly would.





Here they all are finished. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I literally used the LAST screw in the box, flipped the frame down onto the ground, and it started pouring rain!  So I gathered up my tools and ran back to the house, sitting on the porch in a rocking chair and admiring my handiwork.



The rest of Saturday was a washout (it was 5pm anyway) and it rained all day Sunday as well.  I didn't get them positioned, but I also didn't expect to get all of them finished so I still feel ahead of the game.  Next weekend (weather permitting!) I'll space them all apart, level them, and then I plan on tilling the ground inside them and starting a lasagna style gardening plan when filling them.  Baby steps.  First big part done.

UPDATE:  Several of you have mentioned the corner brackets and I realized that I failed to mention where I got them.  I originally purchased them at Plow and Hearth, however, they sell them through Amazon here: 
Set of 4 Solid Steel Raised Bed Corner Brackets.

Amazon also sells other brands and styles, CLICK HERE

They are full price now, as I said, I bought mine last year when they were on a deep discount, probably because it was off season.  Right now is the height of garden planning so they are full price and in demand.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

RANDOM LETTERS TO THE FARM



This tree died in the drought of 2011, but because it was hidden among other trees, I didn’t realize it was dead until a recent storm snapped it in half.

Dear Tree;
I’m sorry for your loss but I will replace you and the others that were lost, with two dozen more.
With Regret, 1st Man


Here is one of several empty birds’ nests, around the property.  Once covered and protected by leaves, hidden from predators, they are now empty and their occupants, hopefully, flying somewhere South for Winter.

Dear Birds;
Please come back this year, I promise to have a birdbath for you to use and some feeders full of wonderful food.
Thank you, 1st Man


The grass is all brown and dormant for Winter, nothing much to do with it now.

Dear Big Green Zen Machine;
I hope you have a nice rest this Winter since all the grass is not growing, but get ready for a fun filled season of mowing next Spring when everything is growing once again.
Ever Yours, 1st Man.


What do you suppose lives in this ‘hole’?  Or what is going in and out of it?  It’s a hole in some brush that has an obvious path.  Hmm, did I hang around long enough to look in there?  No.  I have visions of shining a flashlight into it and having two glowing eyes looking back at me.  No thank you!

Dear Creature Living in the Brush; 
Can we agree to all just live together in peace and harmony?
I won’t bother you and you won’t bother me.
Oh, and please don’t bring your friends.
Cautiously Optimistic, 1st Man