Archive for February, 2011

Excitement at my house!  At least for me.  John’s just tolerating 😉  We’ve finally worked out our “deals” on what chickens I can get and how many.

We’re getting 9 White Chantecler chicks from Kerryann at Tukswitt farms– we’ll be meeting her near Pittsburgh on April 23 to pick them up.  I’d also planned to do an order from Ideal hatchery to get some assorted Chanteclers for a little color- they allow smaller orders and send “warming chicks” to fill the box.  John wanted me to find someone to split an order with so that we wouldn’t have to find something to do with the little packing peanuts.  Unfortunately, over the course of the past week, everything went from available to sold out 😦  Guess I’ll have to remember to order VERY early from them if I ever want to try again!

Enter the new option- “Ameraucanas.” I use the term loosely, as from what I’ve read, it’s hard to find true Ameraucana’s from the hatcheries.  They’re mostly “Easter Eggers.”  We’ll see how they compare to the standards, I guess.  They are cold hardy, colorful, friendly, and have fun blue/green eggs (at least supposed to be) I decided to go bantam sized on these guys for a variety of reasons- less feed, maybe I can get a good broody hen to raise some more Chanty chicks under, and the kids may like them more since they’re smaller.  I talked to the local feed store and will plan to order 6 with them sometime in April.  I believe they’ll be coming from Stromberg’s hatchery.

We also ordered the chicken wire that will go around the garden/chicken run.  AND I found someone locally who thinks he can make the locust split rail fence for a reasonable price. I’ll be sure to take pics when we get it/get it put up.  The fence will support the chicken wire and make it look a little nicer than just posts.

Progress is being made…

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If you’re in my MOPS group or my Facebook friend, you may have already heard or seen this.  For anyone else who’s interested, I’ll share here as well.  We’ve thought about how we’ll do Christmas gifts in our family to make them meaningful (in many ways).  I heard about the basic concept a few years ago, but really sat down to research it this year.

Basic premise– gifts following the gifts of the wise men to Christ.  Plus, a neat idea about swaddling clothes as a gift from Jesus’ parents.

Gold gift– valuable, enduring worth.  May or may not be the most expensive gift, but carries a lot of importance to the receiver.

Frankincense gift– anything that will help them with their spiritual health and growth- a book, a CD, a T-shirt, a video, anything that focuses them on God.

Myrrh gift– (varied ideas)  some say health and beauty products- lotion, soap, perfume, cologne, toothpaste, even combs, brushes, hair ties.  All the way to “all the wonders of life on earth.”  Some just do their clothing in this category.

We had to work through defining what our “myrrh” will be.  We needed to find a balance between lotion/soap/cologne and ‘all the pleasures of life on earth’, especially since I like the “swaddling clothes” as a separate category.

I’ve researched a little- myrrh was used to treat suffering/ afflictions whether in healing, numbing, or embalming, as well as in preventative maintenance health care (eg. antiseptic, mouthwash, body wash, toothpaste forms).

We are focusing on the healing aspect and choosing a gift that would help with something the receiver has been really struggling with, or we feel could really become a problem area for them.  So, a tool to help with an academic stumbling point, something directed to lift the spirits, something that would encourage them in their friendships/relationships, something that will inspire them- I guess this is still vague, but would be based on the specific needs and struggles of the receiver, and I’m thinking, would add another element of meaning to that gift- not just something they want, but something you feel will hold an impact in a possible problem area.

There are a few sources I found for this model of gift giving, but not much out there.  Here’s what I’ve found.  Let me know if you ever run across something else different about it!

Here is gold, frankincense, myrrh, and swaddling clothes

“Gold, we give a gift of enduring worth

Frankincense, a prayer reaching God above

Myrrh, all the wonders of life on earth

Swaddling clothes, surrounded in your parents love”

~(a poem about how they remember the gifts and meanings)

The other article I found- gold, frankincense, and myrrh (no swaddling clothes)

The spiritual aspects:  A look at the gifts and how we can also give them to Christ…

ETA:  It’s that time of year again, and I’ve added a post here with some more on the topic.  

And one more source to look at- maybe one of the originals I saw, but couldn’t find again when I wrote this?  It’s over at Counting My Blessings.

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An idea for mothers day

This is what I made my mom for mothers day last year. It’s a compilation of a few different ideas that morphed into it’s own idea.  My mom likes gardening and flowers.

It is a “bouquet” of plantable flowers. The idea is you can stick the stem in the ground where you want the flowers planted. The seeds fall off in the weather onto the ground and grow. (Or you can pull them apart and put them on the ground to spread them out a little better). I don’t know if it actually works to just stick them in the ground- maybe the birds think it’s a great snack! My mom pulled them apart.

The first concept was the handprint flower. You trace around your hand, cut it out, curl the fingers by pulling them along the edge of a pair of scissors, and wrap them around the end of a stick, dowel, etc. I traced a master pattern of each of my girls hands, as well as mine and my husbands. Then I didn’t have to fight as hard to trace multiple flowers! I cut and curled, then used some various diameter fallen branches from the backyard as the “stems.” I used glue to secure the paper to the stick- I just glued, wrapped the paper around, slightly overlapped, and secured with a clothespin or rubber band until it dried.

The second concept is a home made seed tape. I’d seen a posting at giverslog that used strips of newspaper dotted with a flour paste at appropriate intervals, then you can stick your seeds on for perfectly spaced veggies and fewer wasted seeds. (I didn’t make any seed tapes last year, but might get to it this year.  If I do, I’ll try to share how it goes.)   I made a flour paste, brushed it on the flowers I had made, and sprinkled them with seeds. It took about a package for each handprint, but it probably depends on how carefully you apply the seeds and how large your packages are. I also labeled the flower variety at the base of the flower.

My two problems: The flour paste caused my pretty curled petals to get floppy. It also lacked much staying power. I gave it to my mom within hours of making it, but a little agitation seemed to make seeds fall easily.

If I was going to make them again, I’d just try spots of washable glue. It probably would keep the petals from getting so wet and flopping, and would better secure the seeds, but still let them drop outside once wet. You could also work to come up with a more reliable home-made glue. I’m sure there’s some recipes out there!

I had also thought about the swirled paper roses, but they didn’t work well for me when I tried them, so I abandoned that idea. If you can make the paper roses look good, or tissue paper roses, or any other paper (degradable) flower, they would probably work also.

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So, since I’m just starting this and still figuring things out, I’ve changed my last post about MOPS creative activities into it’s own page.  I’ve also started a cloth diapering page.  I plan to be adding to my MOPS and Cloth diapering info, but don’t want them to get lost.  So they are now in their own pages, with sub-pages- so it shouldn’t be an overwhelming amount of info that you have to scroll down forever.   I’ll plan to just make short post to update if I’ve added info to other pages.

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We joined the Lamplighter book club in December 2010. The book club allows you to choose a level and get 1-4 books/radio theaters a month of your choosing from their collection of about 130 (currently- they plan to add a few more selections every year). We chose 4 books a month. We have received our second installment and have one book left to read.

Normally, I would hardly EVER pay full price for a book. Admittedly, I’m a cheapskate. My usual place to buy books is my favorite yard sale where I pick them up by the box-full for $0.10 each. Almost all of our books are from yard sales, Amazon for under a dollar (plus shipping), or the bargain section online or at the store. That’s just the way we shop.

Lamplighter is now the exception for us. We’ve listened to the radio theaters on the Family Life Network and thoroughly enjoyed them. Then I realized we owned an original copy (1800s) of The Lamplighter that I of course picked up for $0.10 at that favorite yard sale (John likes to collect old books).   It is the book that inspired what Mark Hambey does with his Lamplighter books. We read it (carefully, as it’s a bit fragile due to age) and enjoyed it.

Lamplighter finds rare, old books that provide stories that help build good character for a variety of age ranges. They reprint them in a beautiful hardcover copy and update the language and grammar (only as needed). They also have some radio theaters recorded based on select books from their collection, and add a few more every year. There are a few books/stories Mark Hambey has re-written into children’s books as well.

My logic now is that since we have room in our budget for this, it takes the place of satellite/cable (IF we were ever to have had it, although we didn’t) both in cost and in entertainment value. Plus, it surpasses any TV programming that I know of in quality and in benefits to us intellectually, morally, relationally as a family, and in our spiritual lives. We also look at it in part as supporting a ministry. As another note, It’s incredibly hard (and just as expensive) to find copies of the books in print anywhere since they’re mostly 1800s works (a few early 1900s, some 1700s and earlier, too). (Yes, this cheapskate looked into if the same books could be gotten elsewhere cheaper- I’m almost ashamed to say so.) And for what it’s worth, if you can afford the 4 books a month, it’s the cheapest way to buy them. Give up your cable and you probably can do it that way!

If you live near us and would like to borrow one of our books to check them out, let me know. You can hear some of the radio theaters on FLN radio stations in NY/PA (or through their online stream).

(And no, we’re not getting paid or otherwise compensated to say good things about Lamplighter!)

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So John is somewhat hesitantly letting me start with some chickens this year.  The agreement that he could get a handgun if I got chickens apparently made it a workable deal.  I’ve been researching my options for a while and decided I’d like to keep Chanteclers.  They’re a dual purpose (Eggs and meat), cold hardy (actually developed in Canada), good foraging (less feed to buy!), calmer disposition (not as flighty or prone to be aggressive), and heritage breed (listed at “critical” by the ALBC).  So why not promote a little genetic variety with a bird that fits all my other wants?  Okay- one problem- since they’re “critical” it means they’re a little difficult to find.  I’m most interested in the White variety, although plan to get a few partridge, buff, and/or red to supply a little color to my homestead.

I’d planned to go with Ideal hatchery and start with the colored ones, as the only hatchery that sells whites (Sandhill) requires a 25 chick order, and only 10 (now 15?) can be the white chants, which as of yesterday were sold out through mid-July.  However, I ran across a Craigs list add and connected with a lady near Philadelphia who is breeding some.  I wouldn’t make a 6-hour one way drive to get chicks, but she fortunately is coming to the Pittsburg area this spring with some other livestock and can deliver them there to meet me.  Three hours one way for the bird I most want is worth it, especially since John and I can make it a date day and justify the trip a little more readily.

This has all just developed over the past week, so I’m excited!  I was originally planning to wait until June to get chicks, but since some circumstances have changed, we should be starting with chicks the day before Easter.  With that change, I think I’ll try to order my color chicks to arrive shortly after that so I can brood them together better.

Another piece I’m hoping to add is a couple Khaki campbell ducks.  They’re supposed to be small, good layers (rivaling the best laying chickens), good foragers, and good in the cold (and for what it’s worth, campbell ducks also make the list of animals in need of population support on the ALBC).  I don’t necessarily need more eggs, but I’ve never had duck eggs and would like to try them.  Ducks are also supposed to be a little easier on your garden spaces, as they don’t scratch up the ground.  So I’d feel a little better about letting them loose in the garden side of my enclosed area to deal with some bugs.  I’d thought about waiting and trying them some other year, but I’m thinking it will be best for poultry relations if I start my ducks and chicks together.  Most of what I’ve come across in researching if they can be kept together says one of two things.  One, they get along fine, but have been raised together.  Two they don’t get along and had to be separated, but usually because one was added to the other.  Dominance seemed to belong to whoever was there first, and the added one (duck or chicken) lost out.

However, John’s not so hip on the idea of ducks, TOO.  Yet to be determined…

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Here’s the list of seeds I put an order in for at heirloom seeds.com.  Most I haven’t tried yet, so I’m going on descriptions from the site.

Climbing French Beans– a climber with lavender flowers.  something different.  I wasn’t particularly impressed with the climbers I had last year (Kentucky wonder and a climbing blue lake, I think it was), so thought I’d try something different.

Rattlesnake beans– a climber that’s supposed to be good for fresh beans, or dried.  Plus the pod is striped with purple.

royalty purple pod bean– a bush bean, grew well for us last year from old seed, and John liked them well.  I didn’t remember to save any seed from them, though.  Purple, turns green when cooked.

russian cucumber– a pickling cuke.  I didn’t save any cuke seeds, even though I’d grown some open pollinated varieties (boston pickling and national pickling, I think I had, plus maybe a marketmore slicer?  they grew well and produced for quite a while last year), and thought I’d go with something not available at the store rack.

golden midget watermelon– rind changes color when it ripens!  We had a horrible time trying to get watermelons picked at the right time last year.  It’s so disheartening to throw them out of the garden when you find they’ve rotted!

autumn king carrot– again, not available locally.  Although I doubt I will try to save seed yet, as carrots are biennial, and will cross with the plentiful queen anne’s lace making for an inedible carrot

giant prague celeriac– the experimental crop this year.  It’s supposed to have the same flavor as celery to add to soups, etc, and stores well.

strawberry spinach– we only eat spinach fresh, and this one has a bonus of some little raspberry-like fruits that grow on it that are supposed to be kind of sweet.  We’ll see.

bonny best tomato– medium size, supposed to be very good flavor and somewhat dual purpose

super italian paste tomato- to try for canning.  not at the store seed rack.  I didn’t grow any paste tomatoes last year, and so I’m sure had a tougher time canning what we had to work with.

tiny tim tomato– a cherry tomato, hopefully it will fit John’s expectations.  He loves those grape tomatoes and I’d like to find an heirloom that fit the bill.

ashworth corn– I wanted to try an heirloom for corn on the cob/freezing.  I don’t know how seeds will save, since we’re next to a corn field.  Hoping there’s enough distance to isolate appropriately.

laxton’s progress pea– one to try that’s not at the seed rack.

romaine multi colored mix blend lettuce– John wants to try romaine.  I’m happy to try it, and the fun colors are always a benefit to me

de cicco broccoli– nothing too exciting, but an heirloom to try.  We haven’t ever had much luck with broccoli, but haven’t tried in a few years and hope the difference in location may help

miniature white cucumber– any chance the kids will like them since they’re minis?  I think they’ll be fun to eat.

and, last but not least, scarlet runner beans– my mom saw them at Fort Niagara last year and said she’d like to try them.  I’m getting them for her, and maybe I’ll try a few.

I saved a few seeds from last year’s garden-

moon and stars watermelon– cool looking, definitely not your average melon.  Really liked the flavor, although we didn’t manage to get one picked when it was at it’s ultimate ripeness.

standard, small variegated watermelon- from seeds I’d saved another year.  Not sure what they are, but they grew, and they tasted fine 🙂

small pie pumpkin– even though we don’t use these up well, I’m hoping livestock will take a liking to them, especially since I’ve read pumpkin seeds contain a natural de-wormer.  I had a volunteer in my garden this year, I’m assuming from one my mom gave us last year.

Atlantic dill pumpkin (?) I’m pretty sure that’s the variety.  I saved them from the giant pumpkin my uncle gave us this year, one of the “smaller” ones he didn’t take to competition.  It was probably ‘only’ 400-500 pounds.  I won’t get anything that big, but we’ll see what grows, hopefully have some decent sized jack-o-lanterns, and maybe animals will eat it.

Snackface hybrid pumpkin -yes, I know it’s a hybrid.  But I’m willing to throw them in and see what happens.  The hulless seeds are delicious and easy, and again, hopefully animals will eat the rest of the pumpkin.  Here’s my understanding of the possibilities in planting a seed saved from a hybrid: 1) they don’t even sprout (okay…) 2) they sprout, grow beautiful vines, but never fruit (bummer, but not much lost as long as I have the space and don’t have to do too much weeding) 3) they revert back to parent stock (as long as it’s the hulless parent, I’m happy) 4) they come close to type this year, but another generation down the line revert (great if they’re the same this year, okay if they revert next year as long as I get a hulless) or 5) they are a hybrid, but have been stabilized for enough generations that they’ll come true to type

Burgess buttercup squash- My favorite squash.  It just has the right extra flavor to it- I don’t have to add a thing to it to season it.  John, with his sweet tooth, adds brown sugar.  I’m pretty sure what I have wasn’t a hybrid, but I’m not positive.

Random heirloom tomato– I have some seeds left from the heirloom mix I purchased last year, and I saved a few from a maroon colored tomato that I planted last year.

hulless popcorn– I tried growing some 2 years ago.  Not great luck with it, but since I still have some of the seed from that years crop, I may give it another try.

I also may try to sprout a few kidney beans and/or black beans.  I’ve never grown dried beans before.

I have a few more I’ll be picking up elsewhere-

Silver queen corn– a hybrid, but John’s favorite

Easter egg radishes– fun colors and an heirloom variety

banana cantaloupe– I haven’t had much luck getting a nice, sweet melon, so I thought I’d try a little something not so traditional.  Also an heirloom

stuttgarter onions, and kennebec and yukon gold potatoes

So, if you’re interested in sharing some seeds, especially if you’re local, contact me. I make no guarantees about what I save, germination rates, and if it will come true to type, but it might be worth a try if you have the space.  As I learn more, hopefully my seed saving will be more reliable.  For this year, I could share some of the moon and stars or small variegated watermelon, the pie, atlantic dill, or hulless pumpkin seeds (if you want to chance it with me), or buttercup squash.

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