Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Latest Happenings Here on Our Farm

Wow, I can't believe it has been 11 days since my last post! I give tons of props to all the mom's who blog on a daily basis. I have great intentions to do so, but my gosh it is so hard. I just can't find the time.

Anyways, in those 11 days, a ton has been going on around here. A quick recap (at least as much as comes to my head. I'm sure there is somethings being left out but that's how it goes): a zoo trip, a birthday party, a chili cookoff, a trip to Youngstown to visit my grandmother, Lillian's well check, hen drama-the broody hen's eggs never hatched =( , library story time started, building a hotbox, applebutter festival, organized kids clothes for the upcoming season, being nominated as the artist of the month for my county (woo woo!!), finishing my scarf, not to mention all of the regular everyday chores and dramas =)  Life has been busy!!

Today I blog hoping to inspire someone out there to make a hotbox (cold frame) or at least think about it. Creating one and be a little more self sufficient and less reliant on the grocery store through the winter months is super easy and important for our health, wallets and the environment. Self sufficiency rocks!

I was planning to type out step by step what one is and how to make one but I think it would be more beneficial to you and me if I just add some links.   =)

if you want more info just google cold frames or hot beds OR message me! =)

I want to let you know that I am by no means a carpenter as my pictures show! But this project is so simple and doesn't have to be absolutely perfect. The plants are not going to care, they will just be grateful for the loving environment.

the window sashes I saved from when I got new windows 2 years ago

cutting the wood with my helper <3
built, now needs paint to weatherproof

loves that he helped build it! And not only learned about building but also about how decomposition works, about growing seasons and where food comes from when we don't grow it ourselves

digging our 2 foot hole to add the chicken poop to create heat

hole dug

chicken poop and straw mix

finished filling with soil, pounded down and put box on top

thought I was done

Then super nice people donated 125 year old bricks to put the box on so it doesn't rot from sitting on the dirt. Thanks Dan and Rita!!

planted onions and carrots, soon to plant lettuce and hopefully spinach.

I will not say that it is super easy work. The construction is a simple box, but it does take time and muscle power to dig out the hole. That was the hardest part. If you built a cold frame no digging required =)   Oh, and the box is red because it was the only outdoor paint I had =) I did not want to buy anything for this project. I used scrap wood, old hinges, old paint and our old windows. nothing was spent! =)

Have fun exploring new ideas with the hotbox/cold frame in mind! I hope you have fun and become a little more self sufficient in some way in your life.

Thanks for coming and visiting me here on the farm <3

Saturday, October 2, 2010

You Too Can Clean Your Chimney!

Today sure was a trying day here on the farm. There was much work to be done, lousy weather to do it in and differing opinions of what tasks take priority. And the timing; when these tasks should be accomplished had to be an issue too. To say the least, it was a tiring and taxing day for all, but most of the work got done and there is always tomorrow for the rest. I find peace in that. I am grateful to even have this land to raise my children on, so there is no use in quarreling over the small stuff. I wish I could remember that when we are in the midst of it though.

Oh, and did I mention that BOTH kids skipped their naps! 

Anyways, we decided that today was the day to get serious about cleaning the chimney. For those of you who don't know yet, we use a wood burner as our source of heat. This will be our second full winter using it and we agreed early on in the year, that this past summer we had to clean the chimney for the first time....Well, here we are, October 2nd and still have a dirty chimney. These cool autumn nights have me yearning for the warm glow of a fire (not to mention the heat!) but this job must be done first; weather we do it ourselves or pay someone to do it. And the later in the year it gets the better it sounds to just pay someone to get the job done.

.....James decided today that he was going to do it.

Now, I don't imagine that cleaning a chimney is that hard of a job, it's just running a bush down a chimney, how hard is that. So, it must be super, extra dirty and dingy and yucky. Otherwise, why would so many people pay someone to do it. When I think of sweeping chimneys, I think of the sweepers in Mary Poppins. Dirty and sooty and I definitely did not want my house like that. I imagine a plume of black soot billowing out of my firebox into my home, filling it with a thick black film. Ok, or if not that, at least plumes out the top of the chimney, right? I wanted to pay someone to do this job, at least the first time. Watch and learn. But no, James was going to do it.....

To my surprise, there was no soot in the house at all, nor on the roof! James did get a little dirty and I did see the soot fall down into the firebox, but it doesn't plume all over the room like I envisioned. It didn't even escape the firebox. What did I learn today? That cleaning your own chimney is easy and economical! You, yes even you, can do it! =) 

But, if you don't want to do it yourself, and you do use your fireplace or burner, get it cleaned for sure! A chimney fire is a very real and dangerous threat to your home. I have been telling James that we would have a very chilly winter, meaning no fires at all, until ours was cleaned period. That is one issue I would not budge on!

Ok, so the ins and outs of cleaning your own chimney....=)
1) find out the diameter of your chimney and if it is square or round...Then the approximate length of the chimney from the fire box to the top of it.
2) Buy a brush and rods that fit your chimney diameter and length. I called all of the local fireplace stores to purchase from a local business (we feel very strongly about supporting our local businesses), and the local stores wanted more then double for the exact same item that was being sold at the nearest big box chain store..sadly, we ended up at the box store.
3) clean your chimney! I know i am making this sound to simple but really it is. Just attach the rods to your brush (the rods come in 4 ft sections, so they need to be connected together first obviously), and get on your roof, take the cap off and go to town.  Oh yes, open the damper so the soot can fall into the box.
ready to keep us warm this winter =)

This is one job that must be done and I am proud to say that it is one that we can do for ourselves; one that my mother remembers my grandfather doing for himself. We are a little more self sufficient here on the farm and it feels so good. I am glad to rely on one less company or person to do a task that is simple to do ourselves, if we just take the time to do it.  I love it here on Dew Thyme Farm, everyday is a new learning and growing experience...

Thanks for coming to visit! Oh yes...and the bread I served you today with the pear butter.....that was made fresh today too. Thanks for having a slice ;)

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Busy, Busy Time

Hey bloggies....I am sooooo neglecting this blog stuff. I was going strong, getting all excited about it, doing good, then wham---nothin. We have done lots of fun stuff, and in my mind had great blogs planned out, but then the night went by, then the next day, then two days, then it was just too late to blog about it...old news, on to more things I haven't found time to blog about...So, this blog is going to be a quick catch up. Then, hopefully I will be better about keeping up.....
 Art Show

Fun With Family
Great lessons learned on giving!
We give back....Apple picking for the local food bank

root veggi harvesting
want me?!?!?! I'm for sale ;)

started selling on e-bay

The kitty saga continues
bread making and selling

giving baskets of our goods as gifts

fruit leathers

harvesting, hulling and eating walnuts =) YUM!!

dye making
Homemade walnut hull dye

All of these things, plus more, were suppose to be separate blogs! I guess, there you go....If you want to know more about any of them just ask...otherwise, I will *try* to keep up...

Thanks for taking the time to visit me here on Dew Thyme Farm =)  Come back and visit again real soon, the kettle is on!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More Apples

The last few days around the farm have been the usual run of the mill, typical days; caring for the children, the chickens, the cats (which, by the way, all 4 kittens are now living under my porch...sigh. Anyone want a cute, cuddly kitty!?!?!), cooking meals, baking bread, cleaning clothes and house, you know, the life of a stay at home mom on the homestead. Except for one thing....I have had apples on the brain, again! A few weeks back I purchased a bushel of apples and made the most delicious, natural, no sugar added, applesauce. Yummy!! I thought that took care of my apple preserving cravings, but no, it sneaked back in. So, this chips.

Apple chips are so easy to make and super nutritious. They are sweet and crunchy...oooooohhh my mouth is watering just thinking about them...I started by purchasing 1/4 bushel of second apples. You don't need to spend the money on the most beautiful apples because they are going to be dried anyways. This amount only cost me four dollars and I will get about 4 1/2 batches so that is less then a dollar a batch! Woo woo for saving money and feeding the family nutritiously!

I have found that it only takes about 8 or 9 of these apples to fill my dehydrator.
This is how I do it...

Wash and core the apples, then slice. I am so grateful I have a slicer! I slice mine about a 1/4 inch thick. Once they are sliced you need to put them in a solution of either water and 'fruit fresh' or lemon juice (one cup water to one tsp of other) to keep the apples from browning. Then just lay them out on the dehydrator and let them go!! I make a batch after lunch, when my children are napping, and they are ready the next morning with breakfast. What kid isn't going to love it when mom says, "here little Johnny, have some chips for breakfast"!!!    I know my kids do! Haha!

Now, go have fun making some cheap, delicious, nutritious apple chips for your brood while I get together what's up next here on Dew Thyme fruit leathers! Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What Kind of Adoption Story

Have I mentioned James' dislike for cats? Ok, well if I haven't, James does NOT like cats! So, you can imagine his excitement when a feral cat showed up on our farm and had a litter of kittens three weeks ago. Now she didn't have them in the back corner, out of the way (James probably would have been sort of ok with that) but instead, in the middle of a wood pile that we have been working on splitting. Its a pile of wood just thrown there, not neatly stacked. In other words, it could collapse on the kittens at any time, especially if we start moving the wood around to split and stack it.  Well, isn't that just dandy! Dilemma, dilemma.....
James and I discussed our options and decided to move the kittens out of the wood pile so we could continue our work. We prepared a large plastic cooler with blankets and placed the four kittens in. We put the cooler next to the wood pile so the mama would still find them. (She is no where to be found while all of this is going on, by the way. She is terrified of people.) Our plan was to slowly inch the cooler further and further away from the wood until it was in a spot that we could all be happy with.

That evening, after putting the kiddos to bed, we were glued to the back window; watching and waiting for mama kitty to come back. At dusk, just when we could hardly see through the darkness, mama kitty came back. To our surprise, she did not crawl into the cooler and nurse her kittens. Instead, she moved them one by one back to the stacked wood piles. This was perfect! She could have the quiet of being way back on the property to raise her kittens, my kiddos could still see the miracle of kittens growing and James has his wood back. There was only one problem......mama kitty only took three of her kittens! So, we decided that we were going to move the forth one for her. Otherwise, this poor kitten would never survive. We moved her babe, no problem. The mama kitty cared for all four back in the wood pile. Life was good, everyone happy.

Then last week.....

We check on the kittens, as we do most days. They are gone! I was relieved honestly, that the mama had taken them somewhere else to live. I like them, but do not want more cats right now. I was pleased that the mother was caring for all four of them as well. I quaintly walk across the yard, thinking of how great this has all worked out, pass the woodpile, i.e. birth place of kittens, and I hear the tiniest little kitten cry....OH NO!!! Mama has moved them back to the working woodpile. James will love this! I examine the pile and a tiny gray kitten comes strolling out, crying the whole way, and wants picked up. I care for the tiny babe, all the while looking for her brothers and sisters or mother.  No luck, they aren't there. The mama cat ditched this kitten AGAIN!!! What the heck!?!??! I give the kitten some food and water and put it back in the pile; thinking on what to do next. I scour the yard looking for mama and kittens, no luck.....Just great....

James comes home from work and I tell him all about our tiny visitor. He is determined to find the rest of the cats and give mama back her kitten. He ends up finding mama and kittens in the tall, tall weeds of the sheep field behind our farm. He puts little Lucky, by now the kids have named the poor kitten, back with her family. All is right on the farm again.

Until this morning! I go outside to do my morning chores and hear, of course now recognizing, a tiny cry....Lucky is back, alone, and crying.....Lucky me...I guess I am going to officially adopt this little fluff ball, why keep fighting the inevitable. That is until James hears about this.....

I wouldn't trade this life for anything! Dew Thyme Farm is so full of life and joy! I am so blessed to be able to have these crazy experiences!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Our Brood is Growing!

We have had broody hens in the past and have always taken her eggs because of the lack of a rooster. No fertile chicks...We now have a rooster and a broody hen. Woo woo!! We are going to let her sit on her eggs and hatch some chicks!! I am so excited to experience this and even more excited that the kids will! We have always gotten our chickens as peeps, but this will be unlike that because the mama hen will care for the chicks! What an awesome experience to go through! I love living on the farm!! =)

biting off a little more the you can chew little hen?

When I checked on her last night she did not have this many eggs! The other hens, who usually use this box as well, must have gotten in and laid there. I took the extras, she obviously cannot keep all these eggs warm, and marked the five I left for her so if this happens again I will know which are hers and which aren't!  Happy sitting little hen! I can't wait to meet your chickies!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Autumn Turns to Winter

It's that time of the year again, when I am reminded of how much I love living where I do. Yes, I love my home, my property, my neighbors, my town, but I'm referring to my location on a much grander scale. I am grateful to be found in an area of the world where I experience the cycle of the seasons. This cycle is so cleansing to my soul and rejuvenating to my spirit. The connection I feel within me to this great planet is amazing; especially in autumn. There is something fantastically honoring to me, about reaping all that He has given us through this land which we have so careful sewn and tended. Then preserving it for the cold winter months ahead, when food will not be able to be grown; what a gift! I am grateful for the sound knowledge that has been passed down to me regarding the preservation of the harvest and caring for my family in this manner.  And the design of this seasonal cycle is wondrous!

Autumn on the farm, is the busiest time of the year. We are ants, scurrying around striving to complete many chores before the chill of the winter is upon us. These chores, that can only be done in autumn, are the most time consuming of the year. Not only are they time consuming, but they are in addition to our daily and weekly chores. It is a crazy busy time, but one I would not trade for anything! I get the greatest satisfaction knowing that i have worked so hard to provide for my family from the gifts I have been given from the earth.

Once our work of this season is through, winter is upon us; a time of quiet and rest. How great is it that after the 'storm' of work in autumn, the calm of the winter proceeds. When I was younger (and didn't have the responsibilities of being a mother, wife and homemaker or more importantly a grasp of my relationship with my Lord) the winter was a time of near depression. A time when the world is dead and cold. I would feel trapped in my home and by January was going stir crazy. I did not grasp the awesomeness and deliberate design of these seasons. I could not submit to the calmness that was intended. Now in the winter though, because of my appreciation for autumn, the work that I put into that season and previous ones, and the knowledge of the cycle design in general, I can be truly grateful for this time of rest we call winter; even looking forward to it. When I start to feel cooped up or feel that seasonal sort of depression, I can remind myself of this magnificent design and be pleased. The stillness of the winter is a gift from the Maker for all of the hard work we have done throughout the year! How glorious is that! We should relish in this time of calm and peace, because before we know it spring and all of its work will be upon us.

I am so grateful for the fall and the work that comes with it, the winter and the calm that comes with it, the understanding that I have of this seasonal cycle, and for the fact that I reside somewhere that I can gain a full realm of wisdom and appreciation of the four seasons. I hope to have maybe enlightened you a bit to the importance of the seasons, not just for the planet, but for ourselves; our souls and spirits. So, in the depths of winter, when it feels that spring will never come, embrace the moment and give thanks, because this too shall pass and we will be on to the next busy phase. I will be giving thanks and living in that moment.