Saturday, February 27, 2010

3rd Year Blogging Anniversary

On Monday I will be closing in on my 3rd year of blogging. When I first started I really wasn't sure how far this may go or what it may turn into. To date this blog has had a total of 28,718 visits averaging between 100-200/day closer to 200/day lately and I currently have 141 followers. Not sure exactly why.....I'm truly not a writer. My high school grammar teacher would probably cringe at the sight of my punctuation and grammar. Maybe it is the critters or Maine Man?

Any Hoo, I have had a lot of fun documenting our nutty lives here in cyberland and I think the responses I get here in my comments and in the community keep me motivated. So I guess what I am getting at is THANK YOU to all who read and enjoy. THANK YOU for ALL for the positive feedback. THANKS to my brother who points things out like mispelling or misuse of words. Ha, he is my biggest critic here.

So in celebrating this anniversary I have TWO requests.

#1 I really want a rename. Remember way back when I requested help in naming John. Angie came up with Maine Man. It stuck and I love it.....not sure if he does or just tolerates like many of the other things I do ;)
So I want a rename. I initially went with Country Girl because it just popped into my head. But there is several of us out there and I just want something different, unique, something that fits. So suggestions, anyone, everyone :) Let's hear it! HELP

#2 Leave a comment. I would LOVE to hear just ONCE from all you silent readers. And for all you non-bloggers it is EASY. Just go under anonymous and comment that way.

For EVERYONE that leaves a comment, something, anything I will put your name in a drawing for a little something from Maine. Not sure what, if you have a request (maple syrup...whatever within reason) write that in too. If your a local it can be more specific like a baked good, couple dozen farm fresh eggs and I'll even deliver.
On a final Note, Thanks Kimberly for being one of my most faithful followers. Don't forget to tell Booker you too are now famous. Love You All!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Seeds, Seeds, and more Seeds

Johnny's had a $1 bin the other day! That is a rarity so I took at advantage and bought a few ;) packs of seeds that were on the verge of expiring. Depending on who you talk to and what you read germination may not be as good but I DON'T CARE! We have seeds from years back that still seem to produce. For me it was an opportunity to try products we've never grown and/or tasted before. There was a mix of hybrid and heirloom seeds available. We grow both but my interest in heirloom seeds is increasing as I plan to learn more about seed saving. Next time I go to the library I plan to take out a book on seed saving and see what I can learn and put to action this year.

So here are some of the goodies we are going to plant this year. And I SWEAR this is the year that I am going to keep track of what is where! I can always tell what is what, those are pumpkins, here is the corn. This year I WILL go beyond that by knowing the variety. For instance, Winter Squash, Specialty Long Island Cheese

My plan is to make a map and track the varieties Maine Man plants where. He truly is the brains behind this operation! The garden is the one place I do as I'm told as he is the Master Gardener;) He does give me free range in my assigned herb area, that is about it. Harvest and preservation, that is a whole different story!

I am so excited to grow the above squash. If you click the link there is lots of great info! I have always admired them year after year at the Common Ground Fair. Now I am going to have them growing in my back yard! They are said to be a great for cooking. This past year was the first time I've ever cooked up pumpkins and froze. I have enjoyed having a pumpkin/squash stash to cook with but I really can't wait to see what this year's bounty taste like.

Basil Dark Opal is another variety I picked up. This with be my 3rd year of growing herbs. This year's herb patch will be bigger & better then previous years. I am amazed how easy they are to grow!

To list a few of the seed packets pictured above: Sorrel (I have never tried but heard of), Endive (Is known to be winter hardy. This will be our first year attempting 4 seasons growing/harvesting), Chinese Lanterns (I have always wanted to grow these), hedgehog gourds (just for the fun of it!) then there are the traditional peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, corn and so on.
So psyched for Spring! The past few weeks in Maine the weather has been UNUSUALLY warm and recent rains have wiped out much of the snow in our area. Wouldn't it be sweet if this was our end to winter? Ha, we will see what March brings!

On a final note, a FYI for my fellow bloggers:

I have previously mentioned printing out my blog into a book and I have finally taken a step towards this. Reasons why ..... 1) if the internet crashed and burned I would be distraught at the thought of loosing documentation of the last 3 years of our life. Not to mention the recipes that I recall almost on a weekly basis. 2) as a keepsake for my children 3) in this world of digital photography the days of photo albums (at least in this house) are over. Back in the days of film photography I was faithful at filling my albums but right around 2003 that all ceased. Now I rarely print them out except if I plan on framing, giving as presents, an occassional photo book for family or friend, and my annual calender that I give to our parents as a Christmas gift.

The secret is Blog2Print . It literally only takes a few minutes! You type in your link and a few minutes later you can view the book and see what the cost will be if you decide to order. No cutting and pasting, Quick & easy! I made and ordered a book from the first year of my blog, 2008. The more information you have naturally the more you will pay. I also made a book for 2009 and placed it in my shopping cart. I am waiting to see if I like the end result. I did not include comments as that added many more pages which = more $ and I ordered soft cover to limit the money paid out. My plan is to print one at at the end of each year therefore making the cost more managable.
I will let you know how I like. In the meanwhile I encourage any of you fellow bloggers to give it a try. Hope you all find this helpful!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

10 Things

Inspired by Earth Mama
10 Things that make me HAPPY...
  • when the kids belly laugh
  • the warmth of Maine Man's body as he lay beside me at night
  • documenting our life through pictures
  • that my friends love me for who I am
  • knowing my kids are genuinely happy
  • the smell of my dogs as I kiss their noses
  • clean sheets
  • the change of seasons
  • bringing goodies down to my old man farmer friend
  • that we have been blessed with good health thus far
Play along if you'd like. I am sure you have at least 10 things that make you happy. I could have posted hundreds of things...but I controlled myself, imagine that!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Don't count your chicks before they hatch

On Sunday we loaded Country Boy's incubator (from Santa ;)) with 41 eggs from our Rhode Island Reds. We have been making bets on how many will hatch out. The problem is that Bob (the naughty rooster) has too many hens to maintain. A brief observation of his activities however suggests he has absolutely NO problems keeping up with the ladies in his harem. Regardless I've read the ratio should be around 1:10-12 and he has about 20 hens.
We have been diligently monitoring the temp which is suppose to stay at 99.5 according to the incubator directions. 21 days and counting...that makes the hatch date of 3/14.
Ideally we would have separated Bob with a handful of hens but Maine Man couldn't stand the thought of constructing another pen and the added maintenance that goes along with it. So we thought we'd give a try with what we had this time around.
We are getting into our busy season here. We will be tapping the maple trees this weekend and we may even tap a few birch trees. Cows are in the near future along with the purchase and assembly of electric fencing. That should be a Kodak moment!
Plenty to come....stay tuned ;)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Feeding our Feathered Friends

This past weekend we went up to visit my Dad in the deep north woods of Maine. He and my Step-Mom feed a multitude of birds and other critters. The bird above is a Pileated Woodpecker.
The local grocery store gives my Dad all the fat he wants and he saves all his bacon grease and makes food for his feathered friends. He inspired me to make some of my own. If you click on the above picture to enlarge you will get a better view of the feeder I will refer to (top right, green). You can buy suet blocks which usually cost around $1.00 or you can make them.

Instead of copying his recipes down I took that lazy way out and took pictures of them.
All of these recipes come from issues of Birds N' Bloom. I had some fat in the freezer that I had planned to make some soap with but instead thought I'd give a try at this.
I placed the fat in a crock pot, MM cut it up after it thawed a bit, then I removed the gristle and use the remaining melted fat to make the above recipe. I then packed it down into a cake pan and placed it in the fridge. The next day I cut it into blocks placing one in the feeder and the remaining blocks in the freezer. My Dad saved the molds from previously purchased suet blocks & reuses. That would have been ideal as it makes for a perfect fit but I did not have any.
Looking at these recipes you could really just throw together your own version using whatever goods you have on hand as long as the proportions are close.

The bird food smelled so good with the blend of peanut butter and oatmeal the kids wanted to eat it. I then had to make peanut butter oatmeal cookies to satisfy the cravings. Had I followed the recipe they may have been edible, instead Barbie & Q (the pigs) enjoyed them. That is the first time I have ever messed up a batch of cookies.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Embracing Nature

Today the weather was absolutely GORGEOUS!
What started out as me heading out on the back forty for a work-out turned into a family affair.

This patch of pines is one of my favorite spots in the trail.

We scouted out many paw prints: rabbit, squirrel, partridge, and deer....not sure what the above is. I thought a bear but Maine Man suspected it may be a coyote. What do you think?

Almost forgot to mention (not)...I bought a new camera. Wooo Hooo, I have been talking about it for a year now. Ha, I had to prep MM for the purchase ;) It is a Canon Rebel XS. I love it but figured out quickly that I need a telephoto lens sooner than later. That may send MM over the edge. He's REALLY frugal, not a bad thing. I'll just tell him after I order it like I did with the camera. Prep him, Order it, then Tell him. Sneaky... Still each others best friend although they'd never admit it.

Later in the day MM did some experimental planting in the greenhouse. It had to be at least 70 degrees in there. He planted a few potatoes we had sprouting in the cellar and a couple garlic cloves. Now as I type he and his girl are in the kitchen starting tomatoes, onions, and green peppers.

He tilled in the ashes. We have burned wood exclusively this season except this past weekend as we were away. I had to order oil for the for the first time this winter, it was painful!

Hard to believe this coming fall he will be carrying around a real gun in the woods.
I am just thankful he has a Dad that will safely guide him through this phase of his life.

We ended the afternoon with a sled ride and a fire.
Now we are watching the Olympics.
Lovely day!
Life is good!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Easy as Pie

Where did that saying ever come from anyway? Who ever thought pie making was easy? I never did until I attempted making it Angie's way from over at Children in the Corn.
I've been making pie crust for about a year now with NO failed attempts. Bread making.....well that is a different story!

So here is the secret...

* 2 1/2 cups flour
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 8-10 tablespoons of water
* 2 sticks of butter

Place the first three ingredients in your food processor, pulse for a moment.

Like my new dishes? I picked up a set for REAL cheap at a local thirft store. Beats the mismatch dishes they replaced! I considered starting a collection of fiestaware until I priced it out. I quickly changed my mind.

Soften the butter, cut it up into several pieces then add to the food processor.

Mix until it gets crumbly.

Then add water, mix
Form ball, cut in half
Wrap with saran
Refrigerate for 2 hours

Easy as pie....Maine Man took over from here.

There is something sexy about a man in a kitchen. Isn't there?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

In the barn

I have not talked much about the animals this winter. The theme of my blog has wandered off onto the food topic. Imagine that! What can I say, I love to cook and it is so nice to have the time to do so. However, with Spring creeping upon us the laziness of winter will soon be just a blur. Throughout the winter we kept a couple dozen Rhode Island red hens, the mean rooster "Bob". I have told a few tales about him on face book but don't think I've ever shared them here. Basically he has it out for me! Has anyone ever been taken out by spurs? I never would have guessed how painful they were until experiencing it first hand. If my boy didn't get an incubator for Christmas I assure you he would have been sizzling in my crock pot. Now I am forced to carry a weapon (ski pole/rake) with me at ALL times when they are free ranging or whenever I go into the coop for feedings. Weapon or not I have learned never to take my eyes off him. Not sure what I ever did to deserve this?

Sorry about the tangent.....where was I? 2 dozen RR hens, 1 nasty rooster, 3 Khaki Campbell's, several Muscovies which we had intentions of eating but their just too sweet. They do serve their purpose here because I really do love cooking with duck eggs! A few free ranging rabbits in the barn. We were suppose to eat them too but Maine Man hates killing them. I must admit they are tasty. We also have 2 pigs, one is ours and the other we are raising for a friend.

Soon to come.......COWS!!! HOW EXCITING? I've been dreaming about this for a couple years but this year I am sure it is going to happen. Not sure what we will get.....I want Dexters and MM wants Highland Cattle. It may be neither....we will soon see.