Thursday, August 28, 2014

::august is giving me a whooping::



Remember how I said that I wasn't going to do any major stuff around the house?  I was going to just hold to the norm?

Guess what?  That's not happening.  



My parents have decided to move to lake house as their permanent residence.  They are in the process of selling their old house.  My mother had a huge playroom closet where they kept all our toys.  She and I have been going through it.  I sent most of the girl toys to my cousins - I couldn't deal with just giving them to good will.  I needed to know they went to a good home.  I kind of felt like Andy in Toy Story.  I loved these toys and they can't go to the trash.
 



But that still leaves one billion Play Mobil's and a huge train set.  I needed those.  I spent almost every day of my childhood on the ground playing with those Playmobils.  My emotional attachment to them is so strong.  Plus, I think the boys will really enjoy playing with them.  Josh gave up his day off to truck up to my parents house and we brought home a trailer full of toys and supplies.  I had decided that I was willing to store most of the kids toys in the attic just to make room for the Playmobils.  Yet while driving home Josh and I came up with another idea.  Lets trade rooms with the kids.  We will make the big Family Room (where we actually watch TV and keep it pretty neat) into the Play Room.  Then the old Play Room can be turned into the Living Room - a place for grown ups to watch TV.  You have to walk through it every time you go to the bedrooms, and we really made the kids keep it too clean to have it be a good Play Room.  You can't have an epic Play Mobil play session if you have to take it all apart every time you get it out.
 



I am still going back and forth to my mothers house helping her sort through her stuff.  Grad School also starts back up next week - guess I better make some time for that.  Plus my garden is totally neglected right this second, which just seems to happen some times.  I'll get back to it ASAP.  With the prospect of a lake house to run to on my days off I am really trying to talk myself into keeping the garden small next year.  (Yeah right!)  Ok - maybe just SMALLER.  Making it small may be beyond my ability to contain.  Small isn't really my gig.  But can't I just buy my sweet corn and melons?  Do I really need to grow them myself?
 

The good news is my weight loss journey is still trucking along.  I am on week 6 of the "Couch to 5K" program.  A few more weeks and I should be running 5k's.  This is huge for me.  I have never been a runner and I am feeling a bit proud about this forward progress.  I still fall off the food train sometimes, but I am doing much better with it.
 

The older three are back to school and already in the groove.  Max is learning easily and being a little bit of a mild behavior problem in class.  Too much talking and playing.  Basically exactly how he is at home.  Lily is getting invited to lots of different events and activities and it is nice to see her social circle growing.  Emma is nested into high school and excelling as always.  Mr. Q is still every inch of the emotional turmoil that is age two.  He cries and looses his mind when ever we leave him.  He has the worst stranger danger of our entire crew.  Youngest little rainbow baby has no chance but to be rotten. The kids are rocking it out.   

On the farming front, I am still trying to sell the fainting goat.  No luck yet.  But it will come.  My champion sheep, Annabelle, has been traded back to her breeder for a spring lamb.  I will miss that little girl so much.  I had gotten too emotionally attached to her.  If she was a pygmy goat I would have kept her home as a pet forever, but they really need high quality animals like her in the gene pool.  I hope we can buy her back some day as a retired old grandma.    The goats are totally crazy and ever time I am in the barn I fall in love all over again with my Nubian doe.  Such a noble little creature.




Saturday, August 2, 2014

::edamame - or just plain soybeans::

Look at these pretty babies!  2.4 lbs of beans from 2 ounces of seed.  I am in love with this new seed company that I ordered from last year.  It's called Territorial Seed Company - link here to see the soybean variety I grew.  I even like their catalog - its a great company.  The hardiness of what they sell is hard to top.  I planted these babies around early May.  They where in the ground for about 77 days from seed to dirt to harvest.  They where in the back row left half of my cottage garden.  A space about 3 feet wide and 15 feet long.  Soybean are very touchy - you have to keep trying them till they taste right.  Then harvest them all.  I just pull the plants right out of the ground and go sit in the shade while I pull the pods off.  For these beans it took me about half an hour.  Easy quiet work - great for listening to Disney podcasts. 

Yum.

 
Meanwhile, before I even went out and harvested them I had a pot of water sitting on the stove on high.  It takes my old electric stove FOREVER to boil water.  Sure enough - even after about 45 mins it still was just starting to boil. You need a big pot and enough water to cover how ever much you are going to blanch.  Blanch is simply boiling a vegetable for a few minutes before you freeze it.  The Nation Center for Home Food Preservation says, "Is it recommended to blanch vegetables before freezing?   Yes. Blanching slows or stops the action of enzymes which cause loss of flavor, color and texture. Blanching cleanses the surface of dirt and organisms, brightens the color and helps retard loss of vitamins. Blanching also wilts or softens vegetables and makes them easier to pack."  After you blanch something you have to cool it quickly in an ice bath.  I fill one side of my sink with cold water, four trays of ice, and three cooler packs. 

Now we blanch.  Three full minutes.  I count it out in my head and force myself to not multitask during this time.  It's too easy to forget about them.  Then I dump them right into my colander.  


Then I run them under cold water for one minute.  Just to try to start cooling them a little before they go in the ice. 

Next they take a polar plunge when I put them in the ice bath.  I leave them in the ice bath for at least ten minutes or more.  I want them to really be cold before they come out.  I take them out of the ice and I let them drain in the sink for a few minutes before I dump them on a towel to dry.  I use a second towel to pat them dry or they will be too wet for the vacuum sealer.  I let these guys get about one more hour of air drying time before the next step. 

Which is the vacuum sealer.  I double seal the first end, vacuum seal the second end, then add another seal to the second end.  I want to make sure that if one seal fails it has a back up.  It only takes a few seconds more for each pack and is well worth it. 

These 2.4 pounds gave us five freezer packs and one serving of fresh edamame.  I am glad to have them but that is not nearly enough!  Next year I need to triple this amount, or higher!  

I then put all five in one large zip lock so they don't just randomly float around the freezer getting lost.  I think I may not have needed to freeze them because they may be gone with in the week.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

::homesteader::



We bought this farm 14 years ago.  At that time I wanted a place where I could keep most of my show horses at home.  Then life took over and talked me out of show horses.  First, it was no longer in my tax bracket.  Second, I didn't want to travel anymore.  In my dream world I would still like to just curl up with Josh, the movie Arthur, Reeces Cups, and Mountain Dew (2L chilled in a champagne bucket) when ever I can.  This was an actual date that Josh and I had in our early days.  Third, I didn't really like it as much as I did before.  I will always love horses.  I can't imagine never having at least one - but I don't crave it like I did.  I remember watching other horse girls hit the teen years and half of them would stop riding because they wanted to chase boys and be a cheerleader.  All I wanted to do was ride and show.  But then things in my personal life in my early to mid twenties finally became more interesting that showing horses.  I can honestly say that I don't miss horse shows.  I can't even dream how that would fit into my life now.  Dragging my kids around to make them follow my hobbies???  No way.  Even if I had the money, I wouldn't do that to them.  

When we moves in here I hated all vegetables.  I loved to flower garden in the city house I had before this, but I never grew or really ate a single veg.  I remember growing my very first tomato plant next to my house.  I buried my little plants, put some cages around them and told Josh to eat what ever he wanted to eat.  I didn't trim them or water them or give a hoot about them.  I think the next spring they where still in the ground - all brown and way dead.  A few more years passed.  I planted roses and daisies and other pretty water wasters, but something was building in me to start branching out.  



I think it started with me wanting some strawberries.  I have no idea how I heard of Square Foot Gardening, but it seemed like a good idea.  I didn't want to spend much time on my garden.  AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!  Seriously!!!  I remember saying to a friend, "I have plenty of space but I like the idea of Square Foot Gardening because it it will not take up much time weeding and being BORED in the garden."  BORED IN THE GARDEN????  I really talked like that.  Bored in the garden?  Never.  Weeding had become something that I could zone out and meditate while doing for hours if I could.  I actually set the timer on my phone to make myself stop.  Now I say stuff like "OK - you only get 45 mins to weed then you have to stop."  




With my little square foot garden I put in three 4/4ft beds and one 4/8ft tomato bed.  I grew my little plants with minimum success but I was happy and learning.  I think I had that for two years before the bug really bit down hard.  I needed a real garden.  A Cottage Garden.  A Kitchen Garden.  A Potager.  Something with plants thickly planted and working together.  I needed to dive in.  Thank God Josh loves to eat fresh veggies enough that he was 100% in.  I planned and planned and planned again.   I had it all figured out.  And in our usual fashion, my Josh took one look and it and knew it made no scenes.  He made it actually happen.  I fought him and made him reuse the beds that I had already made.  Of course in retrospect he was right.  Dammit.  He usual is, and it drives me crazy.  

Now I had blow up the amount of usable garden space that was available to me.  I went from 80 square feet to around 450+ square feet of raised bed space.  I thought I was big stuff.  Then I planted that garden and quickly ran out of room.  Where would I grow melons?  Pumpkins?  A billion more tomatoes?  I needed another garden.  The next year I was too broke to make a new raised bed garden.  That meant having a traditional in the ground garden.  Which I thought I was too cool for, yet went for it anyway.  18ft by 96ft was the original measurement.  I never measured it since the first time.  Since it has no defined boarders I bet it has actually gotten bigger over the years.  






The front garden - the Cottage Garden is my love.  I always wish it was bigger, but then I might not love it as much as I do.  It is just the right size for me to keep it pretty and under control.  If I work too much and let it go a little too wild it takes me a day or so and it is back under control.  It's just right.  

The back garden or the Orchard Garden.  Damn that orchard garden.  It has always been my bad kid.  It really illustrates to me that growing veggies in the ground is way harder than raised beds.  But just like my bad kids - its totally worth it.  It is a great place for me to grow large scale things in the quantity that fills my freezer.  I try to put things back there that are ugly or take up lots of space.  I like to eat tomatoes but the plants themselves take up tons of space.  If I planted them up front they would take up almost my entire Cottage Garden.  This year last second I decided to plant 30 tomatoes out back.  No problem.  Plenty of room.  The pumpkins are going insane back there.  Every year I draw out a plan of how I am going to convert that garden into partial raised beds and partial open vine space.  Then I never do.  This year Josh has really helped me with the weeds back there.  He goes back there with the weed wacker and pushes those puppies back.  As the pumpkins start to take over they are shading out the weeds from coming in.  Between the Jurassic sized leaves on the pumpkins and weed killer Josh its all under control - today.  Call me back if we get some hot weather and tons of rain. 



Once I lost myself to gardening I learned a new term - homesteader.  And that is me.  My title has been found.  And I am so excited to find a bunch of other geeks that love gardening and growing food.  The girls wanted to show in 4H and we all fell in love with goats.  Then I discovered Babydoll South Down sheep and I fell in love again.  Grad school is stopping me from having a huge flock right now, but the day will come when I have 10+ ewes breeding away for me each year.  I make lists of expenses and needs for that flock.  I doodle and dream about them.  They are coming eventually - sorry Joshy.  Egg chickens has been a fun adventure for me.  I enjoy the love that develops between me and my pet chickens.  They are such lovely little ladies.  The horses have whittled away to just one old retired gentleman and my mini donkey.  That's just right.  No show horse worries.  Just a happy fat old man living in the pasture with good shelter and plenty to eat.  He doesn't even wear a blanket in the winter.  The dog is higher maintenance. 


  Every year I want to try one more step.  I still have not reach my limit of the amount I think we can handle.  Pasture chickens, beef, veggies, pasture pigs, fruitfruitfruit and more fruit.  I love it.  And because of my selfish choice to buy a horse farm I have plenty of space to live out my little homestead dreams.  My horse barn has been converted one stall at a time into a chicken coop, then a goat pen, then another goat pen.  This homesteading thing owns me.  I love it.  More please.   

What's on my plan for next year?  Remember - grad school is getting in the way.  
     More fruit!
     Add a new horse pasture
     Greenhouse
     Make a barn quilt
     Add some cut flower growth areas
     Some small projects - 
         goat hay feeders, goat portable pen, mailbox remodel

For the future?  Dream big.  
      SHEEP!
     Bee's
     Meat chickens and turkeys  
     Treehouse
     Solar and wind power
     Re-do the pond
     Much more fruit

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

::fair 2014::

Champion junior pygmy wether
I don't make much secret about the fact that I love 4H.
I love the concept, the honest root of the whole idea.  

Learn stuff and grow every year.  
Be nice and play fair.
Hold yourself to a certain standard of behavior and self accountability.   
Work hard and get acknowledge for that work.  

Reality - I work with the goats more than I should.  I stress and fret about cakes that need decorated.  I constantly remind myself - let them do it!  Back off.  Even if they fail the failure is part of the learning experience.  

Two reasons I struggle to back off -
      1.  I want to win.  The competitive crazy person that lives in the part of brain that used to show horses comes out sometimes and wants a blue freaking ribbon.  It makes me talk myself into driving five hours to pick up a goat that is going to win.  It talks me into email breeders and begging them to sell me a winner.  It talks me into spending way too much money on the highest quality I can afford.  I have convinced myself that investing in quality stock is the way to go.  It costs the same to feed a piece of crap as it does to feed quality, but if we are being honest I buy quality because I want to win.   
     2.  I don't want them to fail.  I want them to be happy.  They like to win too!  Emma could not really give much of a rats ass about her goats most of the year.  She doesn't dislike them, but she worked with them less than 15 times total before fair.  She is just a busy teenager with other things to do.  I kept telling myself I wasn't going to pick up her slack.  If her projects where not ready then they just wouldn't be ready.  But I still went out and worked that dairy goat all the time.  I just couldn't let them fail.  I wanted Emma to be happy with her blue ribbon.  Which she was.  

We primarily show pygmy goats.  We always have.  I just love the short little fatties.  They are so cute.  Almost like cartoons - with all the round fatness.   This year we tried two different breeds of goats just to expand our knowledge. 


Lily showed a fainting goat.  You can see it here about peeing on her foot!  It didn't get her, but it cracked me up.  I like fainting goats.  They are hilarious!  They seriously faint - look it up on YouTube.  With all that said - our county does not have a division for fainting goats.  They show in the meat goat category with huge fat meat goats.  It's not a comparing apples to apples.  We will sell this doe this year and buy a wether for next year.  Something cute and hilarious that Lily can show for one year and can then come be a pet on the farm.  Just fainting away periodically to make me laugh. 

 
 Now here comes my little dairy goat.  Mine Mine Mine.  I pretend that she is Emma's but this is really my baby.  We have a class at our fair where they take the highest placing meat, dairy, and pygmy doe and wether and show them against each other to pick the Supreme Champion.  We have made it to this class one time with a wether we own.  Usually the class is won by a dairy goat or a meat goat.  Pygmy goats rarely win, but it has happened.  So last year Emma and I talked about what breed of dairy we might want to show to try and have a shot at Grand Supreme.   We decided on Nubian.  They are so graceful and elegant.  After lots of research I found a champion breeder that was willing to sell me a baby.  It's actually really difficult to get a doe bred this well.  Wait lists and deposits and long road trips.  Seriously.  I have problems - ok?  We already talked about that.  And this doe defines my crazy exactly.  But - isn't she gorgeous?  I love her.  I work with her all the time.  I groom her constantly.  I enjoy her company.  She is a wonderful little pet.  She and Emma took first in her class, then champion junior Nubian.  They didn't make Grand Champion (the step below supreme) this year, but I feel like this is our best chance in a long time.  And she is going to be providing milk for this family eventually :) 

Then Emma and Lily ended up showing against each other with their two junior pygmy does.  Lily got champion with her Delilah and Emma got reserve champion with Darcy.  Both does shows lots of potential and I am hoping we can keep both for next year.  

 
Lily showed her little Marshmallow Fluff.  This goat is so special to me.  She is the only pygmy goat I own that I bred and raised.  From a super fancy buck I owned for a few months and a doe my kids used to show.  She is a spoiled little brat from a year where five other babies died and one doe died.  It was such a tough farmer year that she got too much attention.  Thank the lord she is actually a really good looking little doe.  She gets to live out her life with me forever, but its nice that she wins too.  She was a blue ribbon in her class, which was wonderful since this is her yearling year which is usually not a great year for my goats.  They look like awkward teenagers that year. 

 
The theme was superhero's this year.  So Max had a cape he wore around the whole time.  My goats are used to dealing with his crazy, so they just went with it.  

Emma also showed her senior wether Bo.  He is a really high quality animal but I didn't let him in with the babies to eat himself into show weight in time.  He looked good but not good enough and got a fourth.  Next year he will be back and bringing the heat.   

A big storm rolled in causing the goat show to be delayed.  Max provided entertainment while we all waited in the barn for it to blow over.

Then it was time to show sheep.  Lily really loves to show sheep.  She loves her little sheep, Annabelle and together they are very focused in the ring.  

 And got rewarded for it!
They won first for yearling All Other Breeds.  But they where the only one.
Then they won Champion for All Other Breeds.  
Annabelle was the only babydoll sheep in the group.
Which is a shame.  I think she really does have wonderful confirmation and could give lots of other babydoll's something to compete against.  
I can't wait till the day comes that I have about 10 mama's just like her breeding in my field.  
But I had to give that up for grad school.
Annabelle will be going back to her breeder in the fall to have babies.
They can only show sheep for two years, so we traded Annabelle for a spring lamb.  
The breeder we got her from is so wonderful, she will be well cared for.
But I will miss her pretty face.  
We also traded her with an understanding that if the breeder ever sells her we get first refusals. 

For indoor projects Lily got all blues.
The indoor projects are different.  
If you do the project well you get a blue. 
If you mostly followed the rules but missed some stuff you get a red.
If you did the project better than well you get in Honor Group.  
If you did it the best in your age group you get Champion or Reserve Champion.
If you did it the best in the entire fair you get Grand Champion or Reserve Grand Champion.  
So - on sewing she got a blue on construction and on modeling. 
She made the skirt with my mother.  

This is the purse she made for her Recycling Project.   
It was really good and she put a lot of work into it.

This is the cake she made.
You ice a foam cake form with royal icing.  It dries like cement.  Then we take it to my dad and he sands it down with a belt sander to make it smooth.  
We traced the letters and owl on to the cake from clip art.
Then she filled it in with stars.  
She got blue and honor group with this cake. 

For woodworking she made this game with my father.  My Dad is a master woodworker and she loves learning from him about how to make these things.  He really makes her do the whole thing her self and I love the idea of the two of them working on this.  
She got a blue on it.  











Friday, July 4, 2014

::Back garden progress 2014::

 My pretty little back garden is going insane this year.  
Broccoli up front then a row of beans.
Three double rows of tomatoes.
Then a random sampling of corn and pumpkins.  
Everything growing out there is resistant to powdery mildew since last year I lost this entire garden to that stupid mildew.  

 Broccoli has gone crazy and less than a week after this picture it was larger than a dinner plate and had to be harvested.  From my first broccoli harvest I got enough to freeze three full family portions of broccoli.  Not a bad start.  

 Broccoli gone wild. 

 The tomato rows are going perfectly.  The ditch in the center is hard to see but it has not really caved in much.  We have had so much rain that I haven't really had to use it.  

 The bottom six to twelve inches get all branches trimmed off.  If they are forming a tomato they get to stay.  Otherwise its in to the compost pile.  This is supposed to keep bugs away.


 My row of green beans has given me two baskets of green bean already.  I love this variety that I picked for this year.  I'll post the link after I finally get to eat some.  

This picture is from the back of the garden.  It shows the row of sunflowers coming in and all the corn and pumpkins growing together.  It's two week right now since this picture and you would not believe the changes!  Update picture to follow once the weeds get beat back again. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

::un decorated::

Picture I sent to my mother with the message -
"I need new art for this wall - what do have that might work?"

My little farm house is well loved.  At first sight you might say it is a no character 1960’s ranch.  But doesn’t the classic brick ranch have it’s very own character?  Maybe not good character, but it has its own kind of work horse kind of attitude.  When I tell people about my place they always say “Well, you can add on right?”  Yes.  We can.  If we had about $150K+ we could pimp this place out.  But after the corner of the property (not the house)  got put in a flood plain we lost all the value that we had built up over these last few years.  By the time we have the money to add on to that house we will no longer need to.  So, we make due with it the way it is.  And love it like we love each other – in spite of the faults.




 
Next message - 
"I can't afford to buy any new art because of this art I bought last year."


When we first moved in I was determined to make it nice till we did a “massive remodel”.  (Ten+ years latter – no remodel in site.)  I decorated and painted and hung things up and had china cabinets and fragile things.  Four babies latter – its all gone.  If it was fragile it ended up in the attic or at my mothers.  If it was pretty it got put up high, taken down, or destroyed.  Every now and then I get a bee in my bonnet and say that I am going to redo this or that.  All I need is 100, 200, 400 dollars and it would be perfect.  Then the kids need gym shoes and I am grumpy to blow MY fun money on them.  But it was never MY fun money in the first place.  Obviously the crew needs shoes over curtains.  I just have to pick my battles and in the battle of having a pretty house I surrender.  I can’t let it frustrate me or make me feel like I am failing.

Official Ruling:  From this day till after grad school is over I am not going to take on any new decorating projects.  I am going to try to keep things functional (like have Josh replace the broken kitchen faucet), or at least semi function, till I graduate.  After that I will see how I feel about some kind of kitchen update and house wide beauty makeover.  I can dream and study, but NO big house projects till I am a practitioner.

Needing a functional update:

                Dishwasher broken and leaking

                Kitchen faucet drips  - DONE :)

                Bathroom that is 1/4 done

                Lily – a real bed, not on an old trundle

                        Take this on together as a project with Lily

                

Monday, June 23, 2014

::chattanooga::

Schaefer crew went road tripping!

Emma made homemade caramel corn and we ate the whole thing.  

 Bookends rocked out together on the drive. 

We had an honest lunch at Honest Pint right when we got to town.  

We all had a really good time at the Tennessee Aquarium.



The kids loved the aquarium.  Emma got to pet sting rays - her favorite.  We all loved the otters and the butterflies.  It was a wonderful place and I hope we visit it again on our next road trip.  

 Our whole crew went on a small cave tour on Raccoon Mountain..  It was very fun and we all actually learned something. 

Then the boys got to mine for some gems and had a really good time.  


We went fishing at one of the state parks.  

Every body caught a fish and Uncle Jake won the biggest fish contest.  


 
 We went to Coolidge Park and enjoyed ourselves while the boys went golfing. 




 
 The park had a wonderful carousal and splash park.

We had a great time at Rock City. 













 Then next day we explored the city a bit and went to the top of Lookout Mountain. 
 



 My great explorer


A crazy crew.  


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