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Monday, May 31, 2010

The Chickens, Week Two.

How quickly my babies have grown up! The girls have entered their awkward, adolescent period. Or as my hubby put it, "They actually kind of look like chickens!"

Already, they have doubled in size and are starting to fill up the once cavernous brooder. We've replaced their multiple feeders and waterers with just one of each. This gives them more room and more food and water available at all times, rather than run the risk of running out of either.

The are elongating their necks and legs and starting to feather out. The wings are first, followed by the tail feathers. It makes for some awkward looking chicks! (Kind of like the pimply faced, brace-face, just getting breasts look in junior high.)

See what I mean?? Poor girl, just muster on through, you'll be a beautiful chicken in just a few weeks!

John and I sit and watch the chicks for a long time. They are hilarious! For example, this chick is investigating a piece of newspaper. In a minute, she'll pick it up and start running. This will attract the attention of other chicks who will then start chasing her pell-mell around the brooder. Then one will steal it from her and the race is on in the other direction.

And then it gets peaceful, they'll settle down and cuddle up together and fall asleep. Ahhhh, who needs TV when you've got drama like this??

Planting and Mulching...A Pictorial.

Almost everyone, upon hearing that I grow food for 20 families and have two small children, have one of two responses: 1) "So you must have a pretty big garden then." 2) "What do you do with your children?"

1) You have no idea. You really don't, particularly if you live in town. My gardens (that's right, plural) are bigger than your entire block. However, you're welcome to come on out for a tour and see for yourself just how and what it is that we do here!

2) I submit the following photo into evidence:

My children go with me whenever possible. And when it isn't possible, I do those jobs during their naptime (i.e. mowing). This is the definition of a family farm. The whole family is involved. Jana, even at just two years of age, is a wonderful helper. And can do small tasks and she loves being a big girl like Mommy!

You may not be able to tell, but there sits 5000 strawberry plants!

When all the berries (strawberries and raspberries) are in, we will have just under an acre!

Here is my wonderful husband, planting little plant after little plant on his hands and knees. It's painstakingly slow planting them by hand, but we're a hands-on outfit around here!

It doesn't look like much now, but this plant will green up in a day or two and start leafing out!

As I was digging in the raspberries today, I wondered:
When you buy raspberries in the grocery store, do you know where they came from?
Do you know that the farmer had to keep a close eye on her dog so he wouldn't dig the canes up thinking they were his fetching stick?
Do you know if that farmer has a dog?
Do you know that the farmer dug those plants in by hand with her own shovel, placed the dirt lovingly around each cane and then said a prayer that they would grow?

Onto another favorite topic of mine...MULCH!

As mentioned in a previous post, I love to mow lawn. However, it seems to fall to the bottom of the to-do list when there is seed to get in the ground. As a result, it gets long and shaggy and blows out windrows instead of nicely shredded grass. Now out in the outer reaches of the yard, I don't care that much. But right around the house where the kids play, I don't like it. I could lose one of them in it!

Enter Annie and her trusty rake.

See garlic waiting to be mulched. Mulching has a two-fold purpose: it suppresses a lot of the weeds and it retains and moderates moisture. Both of these are very good for garlic and onions. The onions weren't quite big enough yet, so I just did garlic tonight.

Ahhh, my trusty wheelbarrow. This was my grandparent's wheelbarrow and I will never part with it. I love it and have done all manner of yard and garden jobs with it. It brings a smile to my face knowing my beloved grandfather, the namesake of my son, used this same tool.

Finished mulching. The grass will settle with time and rain, breaking down and adding much needed nitrogen to the growing garlic.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Laundry Day

It's raining and storming outside today, so let's talk about happier topics...like laundry! I love laundry. I look forward to laundry day (Monday) with a passion. After my day of rest, I wake up Monday mornings and say "LAUNDRY here I come!!". Something about making order of chaos. What can I say, I like to fight entropy whenever possible! This might explain why I like to mow lawn so much and swath grain and bale hay...yes, I can see a pattern forming here.

Anyway, back to laundry. I have two small children who wear small clothes. At first, I didn't want to hang them all on the line because that would require an exorbitant amount of clothespins. But then, I love hanging clothes on the line and couldn't resist adding their fun clothes in with all our boring ones.

Here's the laundry crew for last week: Kiddo2 and Duke. You might notice that the lawn is not mowed under the clothesline. Well, frankly, there is only so much time in the day and an even smaller amount of time when my children are both sleeping so this part of the grass was not clipped...but it is now!

Here's the boring laundry: mismatched towels and grimy coveralls.

And the fun stuff. A great dress I got in a dollar box on eBay and Kiddo1's "Big Sister" shirt. She's going to need to have this defined because her brother is rapidly catching up with her in size.
Yes I hang all clothes upside down. They dry faster, more evenly and with fewer wrinkles. This fact is lost on the hubby who just hangs them out there willy-nilly. It makes my blood pressure go up, I tell you, to see such randomness!

I'm a sucker for fun jammies for my kids. And my MIL knows this. If you can't make them out, these are sock monkey jammies. The sock monkeys are playing all sorts of fun games. The first night she wore them, Kiddo1 took them off, hung them on the rail of her crib and just looked at them, laughing and babbling about all the fun the monkeys were having. Now that's how you know you have fun jammies!

Kiddo2 keeping track of the whole laundry process while enjoying his oatmeal cookie.

Lest you think my son has no fun jammies, here are his: car/trucks on the left and ghosts on the right. Regrettably, he grew out of an awesome pair of dino jammies that I was in love with. Even more so when they were on my cute son.

Ahhhh, laundry day. It does a body good. When they are dry, I fold them and pile them according to owner (each of us have a corner of the laundry basket). Back inside, I separate on our bed and put them away. All except the hubby's laundry. He has a SYSTEM of which no other human being on the face of the planet can fathom. He tried to explain it to me when we first got married, my eyes glazed over and I started babbling uncontrollably. And then I said, "You'll be putting away your own clothes."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Joy That is an Oatmeal Cookie

Our family has a long-standing love affair with oatmeal cookies. It's genetic. My dad loves them, I love them, and now my son loves them. As he is named after his grandfather, I thought it only fitting that his first ever cookie should be an oatmeal, fresh-baked of course.

In his excitement over the cookie, Kiddo2 dropped it into the grass.

Enter Duke to make sure that kind of thing never happens again.

And being the great mom that I am (you know, very concerned about building up his immune system and all), I dusted off the cookie and away he went.

I think he likes it.

He's ascended into some kind of cookie bliss.

Cookies are delicious.

"Please, Mom, may I have another?"

The only thing missing was his Papa. Hurry home to us, we miss you!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Chickens Have Arrived!

A moment I know you have all been waiting for, our chickens are here! I could barely sleep the night before, I was so excited. But my excitement level paled in comparison to my daughter's when we opened the box at the post office. She squealed and laughed and then wouldn't let me put the cover back on. "No, Mommy, No!"

I don't have any pictures taken at the post office to post here because I was busy with the chicks, but my beloved MIL took many for our scrapbooks.

We spent a couple of days getting the garage cleaned out, enough so that we can move an 8 foot diameter stock tank into the east end to serve as the brooder. Here is the set-up just waiting for the babies to arrive.

Newly hatched baby chicks cannot regulate their own body heat so we have to provide it for them. In nature, the mother hen would keep them under her wings during this time. Our chicks were hatched on Wednesday and we picked them up on Thursday morning. They are shipped in a cardboard box. They need to get warmed up (to about 95 degrees) as soon as possible.

Before you just let them run willy-nilly, you have to take each one out of the box and dip its beak in the water, making sure it swallows. Then you have to introduce them to the feed so they know what they are supposed to eat. It's official, I'm a mother hen!! Here's one of our new babies!

All 105 of the "girls". These are Gold Star pullets, which means they are all girls. Gold Star is a sex-link breed which means that the boys are a different color than the girls when they hatch. We love strawberry blonds in our family!

You can tell by the way they are evenly spread out that the heat lamps are at the right temperature. If they were too hot, the chicks would be on the outside. If it was too cool, they would be huddled under the light. But like Goldilocks, these chicks are just right!

Taking a drink.

Having a little snack.

Stay tuned for more chicken updates as the girls get bigger!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chocolate Cobbler

A friend of mine mentioned the other day, "Annie, you make the best desserts and you have yet to blog a dessert! Are you keeping your recipes a secret?" And the answer to that is absolutely NOT! I think people who have secret recipes are just big old meanie-heads (a term I've borrowed from my nephew). To remedy the lack of desserts I went looking for something new and oh-my-goodess, I think this is our favorite already...

I got this one from Tasty Kitchen, my new favorite recipe site. I love sites where real people post their best recipes, not some chef who needs to invent something new.

1 cup All-purpose Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
¼ teaspoons Salt
7 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder, Divided
1-¼ cup Sugar, Divided
½ cups Milk
⅓ cups Melted Butter
1-½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
½ cups Light Brown Sugar, Packed
1-½ cup Hot Tap Water

Preparation Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
First stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, 3 tablespoons of the cocoa, and 3/4 cup of the white sugar. Reserve the remaining cocoa and sugar.
Stir in the milk, melted butter, and vanilla to the flour mixture. Mix until smooth.
Pour the mixture into an ungreased 8-inch baking dish. I prefer my small oval Corning Ware glass dish.
In a separate small bowl, mix the remaining white sugar (it should be 1/2 cup), the brown sugar, and remaining 4 tablespoons of cocoa. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the batter.
Pour the hot tap water over all. DO NOT STIR!
Bake for about 40 minutes or until the center is set.
Let stand for a few minutes if you can hold yourself back. Serve with homemade ice cream using the gooey sauce to spoon over all.

Start with the flour, any kind will do. I used whole wheat!

Add the baking powder.

And the salt. This is Himalayan sea salt, but please, don't let my free salt intimidate you. Use any old salt. Salt brings out the flavor of the chocolate and we definitely want to do that!

Ahhhh, now the cocoa. I will admit that I didn't level off my tablespoon measures here. Oh shucks, if a little more fell in, I guess I'll survive.

The sugar bin in my pantry. I converted a closet when I moved in after the wedding. I did it while my husband was at work. I did a lot of things while he was at work. Better to ask forgiveness than have to justify permission, I've always said that!

That's your dry ingredients.

Add the milk. Kiddo1 shared her whole milk.

And the beautiful butter. Once again, please don't use plastic, I mean margarine. Really. You deserve better than that.

Ahhh, vanilla. This also brings out the chocolate flavor.

The melted butter. I think I was jittery from the excitement of this dessert. These photos are blurry.

Wet and dry ingredients. Get ready to whisk.


Use an 8x8 pan, please.

I tried something smaller the first time I made this dessert (see pan on top) and paid the price.

This was the price. Smoke billowing from my oven. Ick, I dislike that intensely.

Spread the mixture evenly on the bottom. Remember this pan is ungreased.

Now we're going to make the crusty part. Start with sugar.

Don't forget the brown sugar! Did you know brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses in it? Yup, it is.

And more cocoa. I think those are my favorite three words...

Mix this together with your fork.

It won't be perfectly uniform because of the moisture in the brown sugar, but that's fine!

Pour it on top of the batter.

There's the mountain of crustiness.

You're going to want to spread that out a bit.

Get your hot tap water.

And just pour it on top.

Resist absolutely all urges to stir. Put down the spoon!

Put it in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.

This should indicate how good this dessert really is. John and I dove into it before I remembered to take a finished photo! The outside bakes into a chewy brownie-like crust and the inside is molten chocolate heaven.

Here it is in my bowl, rich chocolate deliciousness. Oh my, I'm going to need a medic on standby.


There it is, my first dessert and let me tell you. This one is a keeper! It's so easy and the taste is out of this world. I recommend eating it piping hot with ice cream.

But gnawing on the pan the next morning was pretty good, too.