Sunday, November 28, 2010

This, That, and the Other Thing

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  Ours was pretty swell, my parents ditched us for New Zealand, so Shawn and I (team 1), with my sis and her man (team 2) decided to host Thanksgiving at my parents house.  Team 2 made the turkey, complete with stuffing, and the sweet potatoes.  Team 1 made the rolls, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie (more on that later).  We had a total of 19 people at the house, most being other orphans like us who had no other plans for the big day.  Everyone ate until they couldn't breathe, and all was good.

There they are in their 350 degree sauna.
Now about that Pumpkin pie.  Oh my heck.  It was so delicious!  About a month ago, I took three of my sugar pumpkins and pureed them and froze them.  I don't know if it was the recipe or the pumpkins that made the pie so good, maybe a combo of both.  So, since they were so delicious, I decided to puree three more of the orange beauties that my garden grew this summer.

3 pumpkins = 8 cups puree = 4 pies!  YES!
The whole process does take a little bit of time and it can get messy, but it is totally worth it!  You can do it when you have the time and just freeze it until you find yourself in need of some pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread, or any other delicious pumpkin-inspired recipe.

So for some reason, Shawn and I hit the jackpot for the absolute best pies ever.  Here is the recipe for one pie.  Of course, we doubled it because in my family, pumpkin pies always come in twos.
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust 
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Pour into prepared pie crust.  Place in oven and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.  Lower temp to 350 and bake another 40 minutes or until pie is firm.  Let cool, and enjoy!  Don't forget the whip cream!

So far, Abby wins.
In other news, we got egg #4 today.  We started a tally so we can keep track of how many we get from them.  So far, we're pretty sure all of them have been from Abby, since they are always 2 days apart and laid around noon.  (Except the one from today, it was earlier than noon.)  Let's see how long the tally lasts.

Lastly, since it is officially after Thanksgiving, we got to do this: ------>

Happy holiday homesteading my friends!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Uber awesome, fantastic book!

Have you ever read a book that was soooo good that you purposefully read it slower?  I mean read only a few pages a day or read and re-read bits over and over again?  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver did that for me.  Ho-ly crap, it's so good.  Its kind of a how-to book that she wrote about her family's year of only eating what they or their neighbors could produce.  Like super-duper locavore style.  The book goes through the year, month to month, and describes what she and her family did to keep their bellies full.  They grew tons and tons of vegetables, baked their own bread, had their own livestock, and went to the local farmers market to supplement what they couldn't produce themselves.  Each member of the family got to choose their one thing to buy that didn't fit the rules, to keep themselves sane. The book includes recipes after each chapter and hilarious stories of trying to breed her turkeys, her adorable daughter's egg business, and the stresses that come with literally living off the land.

I wanna do this so bad.  But I don't think I can. :(  For lots of reasons.  First, I need more land.  We ate pretty darn good this summer off the vegetable garden I planted, and we still have some leftover in the freezer, but it's definitely not enough to sustain any longer than the summer.  Second, I could buy food at farmers markets, but again, not much longer past the summer.  I would have to have a HUGE freezer and can like a crazy woman to last me through winter. Thirdly, I definitely can't kill anything to eat it.  I applaud Barbara for being able to "harvest" her turkeys and chickens and letting her kids be involved with it too.  Unfortunately, I am a product of my generation that is totally disconnected from my food.  I am of the generation of "beef doesn't come from a cow, it comes from the grocery store in a plastic wrapped container."

Jeez, how unnatural we humans are these days.  We eat food that doesn't even resemble food because it has gone through so many rounds of processing, and injected with so many ingredients that we don't even recognize.  HELLO, it's slowly killing us.  Cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart problems, it's all because of our lifestyle and the toxic food we eat.  I wanna go back to eating like the hunter-gatherers, eating what we can find, when we can find it.  Well, maybe not exactly like them, of course I would want to prepare it a little more, but you know...

I went vegetarian a few years ago because of my disgust with our meat industry.  I'm sure most people, if they really thought about it, would feel disgusted with the way meat is produced in this country.  It's unsustainable, inhumane, and just plain gross.  Sometimes I will eat meat if I know it came from a sustainable farm where the animal got to live a life that it evolved and meant to live.  I like to call this "happy meat."  I guess I could just eat meat as often as regular people do, since happy meat is available at a lot of places, but I also have a problem with killing things in general, whether to eat them or not.  That's totally f'ed up right?  If I was dumped onto a farm in the 1800's I wouldn't survive.  No way Jose.  I would just cuddle with all of the furry creatures and starve.  I guess I feel like I have no right to eat the meat of a creature if I couldn't kill it myself.  It's just not fair to whatever is giving its life so I can live.  And there's no way that's ever gonna happen, so I guess I can't eat meat.

When we first got our chickies, we were asked whether we were going to eat them.  I said no because I know I could never do that to my lovelies.  But logically, I probably should.  They only lay for a couple years, and then they just become backyard bulldozers, destroying everything in their path.  In our case, they will just become pets.  I will thank them for their service by letting them live out the rest of their post-menopausal lives as my feathered companions.

So I will end my book-review-turned-soapbox-tirade by saying, read the book.  Barbara Kingsolver is amazing, what she did/does is amazing, and I wanna be just like her.  My copy was actually signed by her when I went to see her speak at Bainbridge Island high school last winter.  What a great night that was!  Thanks Susie!

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's EGG time!

Way to go ABBY!
Yes indeedy.  Abby has provided!  Shawn and I went out to check on the ladies, since it's pretty darn cold out there, and to let them out to have their first snow time.  Shawn said he saw Abby earlier in the day sitting in her nesting box so out of curiosity, I went to check it out.  I really didn't think there would be anything but lo and behold!  Isn't it a beautiful sight?  And look at the perfect little bowl she made out of her straw!  Oh, we are so proud of her!  
Perfect, just perfect.
I was thinking that the first one was gonna be small and funny-looking but it's perfect.  It's not even that small... well, it kind of is, compared to the store-bought ones in our 'fridge, but it doesn't matter.  I feel like my wish has come true.  We made sure to change their food to layer feed, (thank goodness we bought some yesterday,) and I cleaned out the nesting box of any and all poo. 

Chickie prints!
I even got a snow day from school.  At first it was an accident because the bus drove right by me without stopping so I missed my first class, but my evening class was canceled too, so it just turned into a snow day.  I'm house sitting my parents house while they are in New Zealand for 3 weeks, (lucky ducks) so we took their/our dog out to Hamlin park for a nice winter wonderland hike.  I even did some homework in between.  What a great day compared to the crappy one I felt like I was having yesterday.  I think I've got my motivation back so, you're goin' down homework!  I might even give myself some crafty time.  AND thanksgiving is approaching. I'm thankful for my chickies, my kitties, my Shawn... and this video of the chickies having their first snow time.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Homestead Hiccup

I have to admit, my homesteading has come to a screeching halt.  Well, kind of.  Doing cool new stuff that would be interesting to blog about has taken a back seat lately.  I blame school.  I have A LOT of stuff looming over my head and it's preventing me from doing the things I want to do.  This gives me a sad face.  Well, I could do some cool fun stuff, but I don't because if I do, then I would feel bad for procrastinating.  But instead, I procrastinate by doing even less productive things because I don't want to get started on a fun project that could take up a lot of time.

Maybe if I get one of these....
I will feel like this. :)

I gotta get me outta this funk!  I promise I will post something cool really soon.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chicken FAIL.

I spent the whole day cleaning out our chicken coop today.  Why?  That crazy awesome rainstorm we had last night flooded the whole thing to the point that there was an inch of standing water in it.  Luckily, it was night time and the ladies were up sleeping on their roost.  They did, however, act very surprised when we barged in on them and turned the light on to find the disaster. 

This is why it happened.  Well, first some background info: For those of you who haven't been to our house, or "the fun house," as my gramma likes to call it, we have a pretty sweet party shack in the back yard.  It's a very well constructed extra building that was clearly built for the sole purpose of partying.  Now I don't know why since the last owners of our house were super duper old, but hey, maybe they were that cool.  Old man Al really spared no expense on this thing: there's an uber rad retro bar with sparkly counters, a wood stove, propane rotisserie, speakers rigged up on all corners, and to top it all off a wagon wheel hanging from the ceiling.  Rock me mama like a wagon wheel, rock me mama any way you feel...

Behind the party shack is an extra shelter that looks like it was built for storage... of party supplies, I assume.  That is what we turned into the coop.  We tore off the fiberglass roofing and added a real roof, with shingles we found under our house, cut a small door so the ladies can access their run that we built onto the outside of the shelter, and added a big door to keep them safe.  It's really more square footage than they need, but hey, even chickens can appreciate living in a mansion, right?  It's got concrete floors, so there is no chance of anything digging up into the coop to eat them and it saved us from having to build a coop from scratch.  All in all, a pretty sweet setup, they have everything they need.  This is when they were babies... awwww.

Here's why it flooded.  You can't see in the picture, but the gutter for the party shack runs through the top edge of their coop.  Usually this is not a problem.  It was a little leaky at first, but duck tape fixed that problem months ago.  There is, however, a very poorly constructed connection in the gutter in the middle of it where there's another downspout.  And when it rained like it was the apocalypse last night, it was just too much water for the gutter to handle at once, and it spilled over into the coop like a waterfall.  FAIL.

So today, since I had no school, I got to pull everything out of the coop, scoop all of the wet, angry straw and wood shavings out and use their heat lamp to dry the whole thing out.  Whatever, it's done, I'm over it.  I'm just glad it didn't rain today, and I guess it was something that we were gonna have to do sooner or later anyway.  I even cleaned the gutter out thinking maybe there were leaves and stuff impeding water flow, but no, there was just that much water.  Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to prevent this from happening again, (if it rains as hard as it did last night... please, no) other than plugging up the downspout, which might cause the whole roof to fill up with water and... I don't want to explain it, I just know that that would cause bigger problems.  All I can hope for is no more 3 minute angry rainstorms.

On a much more exciting note, Abby has been showing signs of her maturity lately.  Her comb and wattles are fully developed and a bright red, and she's been hanging out in her nesting box too.  However, she is also looking for a striking young lad, and seems to think that Shawn and I are what she's looking for.  Every time we approach her, she squats down and opens her wings a bit.  At first we thought she just learned to accept when we pick her up, but I think she thinks she's gonna get... um... fertilized.  I'm hoping that this also means eggs soon, I hope they lay a few before the winter makes them stop.  We kinda feel like expectant parents.  (Actually, we know A LOT of people poppin' out kids these days, and we just want to feel like part of the club.)

BUT, I'm not ready for them to be grown up yet, so here's a picture of them when they were still awkward looking.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It's a zoo 'round here

After hearing about the crazy selection of furry and feathered friends we have around the homestead, I'm often asked about the interactions between all of the residents.  I guess initially it's a little concerning when you hear of three cats living with a tank full of fish and a parrot, not to mention the three velociraptors, I mean chickens we have as well. 

Well, here is proof my friends, that all is hunky-dory 'round these parts.  This is a pretty common scene around here; chickens peering into the house, Skipper on top of his cage, and Gus being in the middle of it all. 

As far as the cats and Skipper the parrot go, they hardly notice each other.  Pretty boring.  When the chickies were little, the cats were super interested in them and would get into stalking position, but now that they are big and have little chicky attitudes, they chase the poor kitties around the backyard to the point that Gus is sometimes afraid to go outside.  Abby, the one on the left, is super territorial and will chase anything that comes into the yard: squirrels, chickadees, crows, flickers, jays, you name it. 

All these animals were not acquired at the same time.  I don't know how it happens, but animals just have a way of accumulating around me.  It's a lot of work sometimes, but they are all my friends, and so worth it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Meet (insert fun name here)...

This is my rain barrel.  I asked Shawn for ideas on a name for her but he looked at me like I was psycho, so I don't have a name for her yet.  Poo.

I got her this summer.  She was kinda expensive, but I really wanted her so I paid the money.  Hooking it up was really easy, and she's full all the time with over 60 gallons of free water!

Now how to use it?   Since my garden is pretty much retired for the winter, I don't need to water anything outside.  Therefore, I have turned it into a kind of game to find as many uses for the water as I can.

We are not advised to drink the water, since we don't know what kind of toxins the roofing materials are leeching into it, so that's out of the question.   I've found that filling up our washing machine with it for the first wash cycle uses a good amount, (maybe 8 gallons or so?) since we still have a top loading washer.  I don't know how I would be able to do it with a front loading washer.

I also try to use it to fill the toilet tank back up after each flush.  Not a super pain in the ass, just a little extra effort remembering to do it.  The only annoying part is to always remember to have a bucket full of rainwater ready in the bathroom for when it's needed.  I think I've gotten Shawn into doing it, though sometimes he forgets, and he asks me to hide the bucket when we have guests over.  I can do that, I don't need everyone to think I'm crazy and I wouldn't want to embarrass him either.

Other than those two uses, I haven't been able to come up with much more.  It's nice to be able to use it as an outside faucet to clean the dirt off my hands and boots and gardening tools when I'm finished with my work, and the chicken waterers are rinsed and cleaned with it too.  They do get to drink fresh water, though.

All in all, every gallon of water I use out of the rain barrel makes me feel like I am a responsible citizen of this community.  It's free, (I don't think I'm going to go through the trouble calculating money savings,) and it's also nice to be able to use water that has not gone through the whole treatment process.  I heard somewhere that it is technically illegal to harvest rainwater, since it is "owned" by the city, but that's just one of those silly laws that is on paper, but no one cares about.  Does stealing rainwater count as stickin' it to the man?  I'm so hardcore.
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