Friday, June 27, 2008

We do exist!!

We're still here and finally not super busy!! The past couple of weeks have been crazy--I've been doing a lot of teaching, which brings in extra money and is great for the budget, but leaves things a bit frazzled around here since I do the childcare/cooking/cleaning---oh, who am I kidding, I don't clean---thing during the day, then run off to teach in the evening. Thankfully, Josh hasn't had soccer games at the same time, we'd be stuck just passing by each other 10 minutes a day.

We were also very very lucky to get to go to Schlitterbahn again this year without having to pay hardly any of the expense ourselves. It was a great vacation that we would not have been able to take without the generosity of a few family members. I have some pictures of that, but will have to scan them in (on our new printer/copier/scanner obtained via freecycle :-) since I don't have digital copies.

The garden is not happy. A guy from the local ag extension office does a gardening show on NPR every week. This week's show (no joke) consisted of "misery loves company". It's so hot and so windy and so dry (no measurable rain yet this month) that the plants just have no hope. We did get our water bill and it was as bad as we thought. We've had to make the tough decision to let the less productive beds go and only water the ones that are still giving us a couple pounds of tomatoes every day. I've decided the money in our "gardening" budget is going to have to go towards more rainwater collection barrels instead of towards adding/rearranging garden space too. There was opportunity to collect way more water than we did, we just didn't have the storage space for it.

Sedona has developed QUITE the temper. I'm frantically trying to teach her more sign language, b/c as it stands, she lets you know she disagrees by: screaming; grabbing whatever you're handing her and throwing it on the ground; or leaning forward and banging her head on the floor. She finally got two more teeth, so now she has all four middle ones (well, the top ones are BARELY through). Not that the previous lack of teeth held her back at all. We already have to buy her her own kid's meal when we go out, or buy one adult meal for her and Sierra to split. She usually out eats Sierra and handles everything from sandwiches to pizza to chicken nuggets just fine. She was tested for Celiac disease and that came back negative--yay!!! Also, our GI retired and I'm not super fond of the new guy, but I like his underling that works with him (not sure of the set up---he is a doctor already, but I think training to be a pediatric GI, or maybe just starting out?). I especially like that the underling (again, he IS a doctor already) called us himself with test results/plan for the future rather than having a nurse do it. Since she is doing better lately, we have tentatively discontinued visits with the GI. As long as her weight is good at her one year check up, and nothing else pops up, we are going to go with the theory that she had the lymphonodular hyperplasia (the bloody stools, that resolved itself) and the weight gain issue was just a fluke and her "finding her curve". That's basically the short story.

Sierra is turning into a little adult. She's had some major vacation detox going on. She got lots of attention and lots of fun for 3 days and did not do well at all with getting back to the normal routine. Yesterday was terrible. I don't even know how many times she got in trouble. This morning I woke up and planned to make everyone pancakes. I told Sierra that and she tells me...."pancakes have syrup and they're sweet and they're really only for if your being real good, and I wasn't very good yesterday, so I can't have pancakes" I looked at her like an alien had just landed in my kitchen and told her, no, really, it was okay and I was just gonna make pancakes. The kid was insistent--no pancakes. Exasperated, I asked her if I could make biscuits. She thought about it for a minute and said, "hmmm......yeah, that'd be okay. I'll just have butter and no jam on mine". I suppose I should jump up and down and rejoice that she seems to be learning some sense of remorse, or at least right and wrong. I'm sure part of it is her need to control something, but I *totally* understand her need to control and if she wants to gain that by denying herself pancakes, whatever! The only bad part was Sedona managed to get her biscuit crumbled into 10 million pieces and I found it down her shirt, in her diaper and even after I undressed her and brushed her off outside, I still found one last crumb in her belly button LOL

Have some major updating to do to my reading list and for cooking posts...will try to get to that this weekend.

Friday, June 13, 2008

We Have Eggs!!!!!!!!

Our chickies have started laying eggs WHOOP!! We got 2 the first day, 2 the second day and 1 the third day. I tend to find them in the early afternoon. They are small, but so exciting to find!! Josh (the chickens are his thing, I don't know a ton about them) tells me the eggs will gradually get bigger and bigger and the chickens will build up to regular laying over the next 3 months or so. He also says these breeds tend to lay an egg a day at full production, so that means we'd be getting 3 dozen a week!!!
A picture of the eggs:

A glass full of our eggs (the 6 small ones on the right) and some store bought eggs (the 3 big ones on the left). A little hard to tell in pictures, but the store bought eggs have super pale and washed out looking yolks compared to our eggs:

Our egg whites are a lot clearer. From what I've read cloudy egg whites are a sign of freshness because there is carbon dioxide in the egg white that hasn't diffused through the shell. Sounds kinda weird b/c those store bought eggs have a date of June 4 on the container (pic taken June 13) and our eggs were laid june 10-13, doesn't get much fresher than that. Beats me. Since these are the first eggs and we hadn't started them on laying food (higher calcium) yet, the shells are a little thin (they eat grass, bugs, and worms and scraps from the garden, and get some feed thrown in every day too). Maybe our egg whites will be cloudy later? We also just kept these at room temp for 4 days until we ate them instead of refrigerating them, so that probably made a difference? I don't really know, I just pick 'em and cook 'em!

The garden is growing by leaps and bounds and taking a fair amount of time to take care of. We are getting zero rain, which stinks. The water collection barrels are empty and we're having to water every other day for most of the plants and every day for a few. We don't water our lawn or waste a bunch of water with other stuff, but I'm still dreading seeing the water bill this month. I also just don't like taking the time to do it. We have the beds set up so we can set a sprinkler in the middle and leave it for 15 minutes, but there are 5 separate areas to water, so I have to keep going out there (while carrying Sedona) to move the hose/sprinkler around, and walking on the wet ground and then the dirt gets my feet all dirty (I know, poor pitiful me), and 15 minutes times five means this takes over an hour. Okay, when I type it, it doesn't seem bad at all, but me not being a morning person and taking on this duty before breakfast probably contributes to my slight dread of doing it. We're considering dismantling the raised beds and just making a large section of the yard into garden for the fall, but I'm not sure the plants will do as well like that---seems to me like we get more success with the things that are in raised beds.

We are getting lots and lots of tomatoes. Just in time too, I guess. With the whole salmonella thing you can't get fresh tomatoes these days. I guess we should probably be selling ours, but for now, we're just skinning them and putting them in the freezer so we can have a big canning extravaganza one weekend.

Dug up all the potato plants. I think it's safe to say the straw bale method of planting did not work as advertised. Well, more accurately, we probably did something wrong, but, you know, same result. We got lots and lots of potatoes (yummy potatoes!) but they still had to be dug out and there weren't as many as we thought we'd get. I'd say we ended up with about a pound of potatoes per plant?? I had envisioned the potatoes growing in the straw, but that's not what happened--I think because it wasn't super compact around the plant, so there wasn't enough moisture there to make the stem sprout out and start a new potato. The parts where there were potatoes in the straw, it was not clean and easy psuedo-digging because the straw had totally decomposed into yuckiness.

Josh's brother and SIL sent us a subscription to Cook's Country. Two huge thumb's up!!! I have one of the America's Test Kitchen cook books and literally every recipe I've tried out of it has been good. They continue the tradition with this magazine. The kitchen tips are really good too. I also like that the format is big and easy to lay open to a recipe while you're cooking. Sierra made the "Aggression Cookies" from the June/July 2008 issue last night:

Mix 1.5 cups old-fashioned oats (not instant or quick cook), 3/4 cup brown sugar, 3/4 cup flour, 3/4 tsp baking powder. Add in 1.5 sticks (12 tablespoons) softened butter. Mash the crud out of it with your hands. We also added a healthy shake of cinnamon (cause she LOVES cinnamon) and a quick pour of vanilla (cause you need vanilla in every baked good). Once it turns into a dough, roll into balls, and cook at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

This was a *great* kid activity. She really loved being able to mash everything with her hands, the ingredients were all things she could measure by herself and everything was completely safe to eat raw, so she could sample as much as she wanted along the way and lick her hands when she was done. Pictures:

And some random pics....

Sedona trying to break into the Sam's size container of animal crackers:

My nephew (who supposedly won't touch worms) was over today digging up worms for the chickies:

My SIL and I picked up these two HUGE cushion/bean bag type things at a garage sale for $15 each:

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Those poor poor people...

We generally have a very low food budget. More than once, I've had someone insinuate that we just must not eat well (either in quantity or quality). Au contraire! I have photographic evidence of the food our poor pathetic family is stuck eating ;-)

This got mixed into scrambled eggs and rolled up into a burrito. The sausage was purchased (well, actually, it was free because I had a coupon for it when I bought fajita meat), the onion, potato and peppers all came from our garden. Come on, you can't tell me that doesn't look delicious (and it was oh so yummy tasting too!)

We've also learned to make our own mozzarella cheese! yummy yummy yummy. So, we just had to snack on homegrown tomatoes and homemade, fresh cheese. Poor us.

It was interesting to make the cheese, this is a pic of scooping out the curds (that's a slotted spoon):

And here are the curds and whey separated:

On an only slightly related topic, seems I have mixed up my definitions of "vole" and "mole". Voles are little creatures that burrow underground and wreak havoc on vegetation--they eat all the roots, etc... They're also called field mice. Moles are little creatures that burrow underground and leave little raised up trails all over the yard (where the dirt pushes up above them), but they are insectivores, which means they leave your plants alone and eat grubs and such. Seeing as how we have tons of grubs and a HUGE overabundance (if there were such a thing) of earthworms, we are leaving our moles alone. We have at least one (surely more??) very very active ones around here. And today (sound the trumpets, bang the drums) Josh caught one with his bare hands....while holding Sedona. He is very proud of himself and his job description is no longer, "kill bugs, lift heavy sh**"; it's "kill bugs, lift heavy sh**, catch moles bare handed". Did you know you can take the tune of "He has the whole world in his hands" and change it to...."he has a little mole in his hands, an itty bitty mole in his hands, a terrified mole in his hands, he caught the mole with his hands". Anyways....yes, he noticed a bunch of earthworms suddenly coming to the surface and running for their lives (seriously, stick a shovel in the ground anywhere in our backyard and you'll find at least 10 earthworms), so he got a stick and dug a little hole. He saw a tail, so he ditched the stick and dug with his hand and grabbed the tail. Voila, mole. He threw it in an ice chest we had out there and came to wake me up, "I caught the vole!!" (we still thought it was a vole until we did a quick internet search, we had them switched). I swear people, 36 year old man acting like a 6 year old on christmas morning. I must admit though, pretty cool. We took lots of pictures, answered the 3 year old's ten million questions and then released it again (yes, released it.....I've noticed we have TONS and TONS of bugs at our new house and virtually no pest problems in the garden---I'll let mother nature continue on with her plan).
Proof of the mole:

The hind end of the mole as it scurried just as fast as it could back underground:

Other wildlife--we also have a ribbon snake hanging around. No one will be catching this. They are non-poisonous and this one's probably big enough to eat some rather pesky critters, so it can slither around as long as it stays out of my way.

The human wildlife has a new mei tai type carrier. I made this one with padded straps and it is light-years more comfy than the last one. It matches our living room drapes (exactly, I made those too), but I really liked the fabric, so oh well.
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