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.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rubber Over Feed?

The activities of today has been quite interesting and definitely not a day I would ever expect to have...and it is only 2 pm. I can only image what is to come.  Let me back up...

We purchased our home 5 years ago. It is property situated in front of a sheep pasture. We loved the fact that we could look out the back windows and see the sheep grazing in the warm sun on a crisp spring day. It is awesome (really...I am in awe) when the sheep give birth to lambs, and the babes frolic in the tall grass with each other. They way they pounce and play is so darn cute! What we didn't realize (and didn't love) is that sheep, and other farm animals for that matter, come with friends. One, off the top of my head, goes by the name of Mickey. Oh yes, and there's Mickey's girlfriend, Miney. (so the fact that I have small children is evident once again; I suppose you aught to get used to that! haha!) Yes, I'm speaking of mice! We periodically have seen or heard one in our kitchen cupboard over the years. We set a trap, catch it and that was that. We had this problem under control, no big deal. Then, we decided to keep chickens. Oh, our beloved chickens...who wanted them anyways. Oh, wait. That was me. ALL ME! Scratch that last part. Anywhoo, our coop is out in the far corner of the yard behind the detached garage. Although the garage is a hike away from the house, we still use it as if it was attached. The cars go in there, the bikes, outside toys, tools, you know, garage stuff. Slowly, but surely, we have started hearing mice in the garage. Not that big of a deal since the garage is not connected to the house; we set some traps and caught some mice. I made a point to be much neater with the chicken food storage and I even brought home barn cats to help with this problem. James just loved that! He was at work, came home and we had not one, but two cats! Did I mention James hates cats? Oops.....  

That pretty much brings me to today. I had planned my day to run errands this morning; Logan needed some new sneakers and I needed to get some grocery shopping done. I round up the kids and we head out to our minvan. We purchased the van last August and I love it. It was brand new then, a Town-n-Country. This is what I find.....     
A dang mouse got into my vehicle, ate my cupholder and shreaded the papertowels! What the heck!?!?!? First off, why would a mouse want to be in there eating a rubber cup holder when there is yummy chicken food 20 feet away? And how in the world did it get in anyways? A better it still in there? Am I going to see it run across the floor when I am traveling 55 mph down the county road?

Hopefully this will take care of the problem!
A day in the life of me, on Dew Thyme Family Farm. I wouldn't trade it for the world!

Day 2: And the Saga Continues

It official, the mouse IS living in the minivan. Which means I drove all over yesterday with a mouse on board! EEKKKK!!!  This is how I know he is there.....
The trap when off but no caught mouse
Do you notice anything different between the first picture of the trap and this one besides the absence of bait? How about that the dang mouse not only is breaking my car, but now my mouse trap!!! The metal part where to bait goes is gone!

Day 123,456 or so it seems

This just keeps getting worse! I am in total shock! Okay, back up.......

For the last few days, I have had mouse traps in the front and back of the van with no hits. I also haven't found anything else chewed up or out of place. I'm thinking my little friend has decided to terrorize someone else's vehicle. So I decide that today I am going to clean the car, I mean really clean it, so it looks like it is brand new. Give any mouse absolutely no reason to want to be in there. Not that the car is that dirty anyways, but I was going to detail it! So, I get started, vacuuming away. I start at the driver's seat and work my way around. La dee's a beautiful day......sun is shining....I'm cleaning the is good.... I get to the back and this is what I see:

 Don't see anything wrong? How about a close up....

The mouse ate right through the side panel of the van! The hard plastic wall!! What the heck!?!??!?!?! This is just getting crazy now!!!  He better have eaten his way out of the van because if I catch him........!!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

First post...Pears or Chickens?

Well, here I am in blog-land...I don't know who really is that interested in the daily life around here on Dew Thyme Farm, but for those of you who are, here you go! For my first post I was torn; write about the preserving pear project or the massive chicken coop cleaning, both which got accomplished today. (yes, life around here is BUSY! and I love it that way. "Don't put off for tomorrow what you can get done today" has been my motto as of late.)  I've decided on the preserving project because 1) Sadly, today is the last big day of preserving our food. I have been canning and freezing like crazy for the last few weeks, but it is slowly coming to an end. Too bad for you, I started this blog so late in the season! Don't worry though, there's always next year's posts....And 2) I know there will be plenty chicken posts to come, that's a given.  

Pears were never in my radar for preserving this year. I just happened to stumble upon them. Well, actually I was at the local fruit market, Johnston's (which I love!), picking up a bushel of apples to preserve my applesauce for the year and Logan wanted me to buy him a quart of fresh Asian pears. I did, of course, then as I was heading home I realized, "Hey, I love canned pears. I like em even more then fresh!" (I got really excited at the thought of canning pears, haha! Woo Hoo!) And there you have it, as soon as I got home I called Johnston's and ordered a 1/2 bushel of pears. That was on Thursday, I picked up the pears yesterday (Tuesday) and today they are all preserved...16 quarts of sliced pears, 5 jelly jars of pear honey and two quarts and a pint of pear juice. I know, I know, who drinks pear juice!?!?!? Well, evidently we are going to, I just hate seeing anything usable go to waste!
So this morning, I decided that since James was home and able to watch the children, I would start preserving the pears first thing after breakfast....I should have know though, I'd have at least one helper! At first I was leery, as any experienced preserver knows, it was going to be a long morning cutting, peeling and coring pears, and I didn't want Logan in the way, slowing the down process. After all, that is why I decided to do this when James was here to entertain the kids.  Don't get me wrong, I love cooking and baking with Logan as my sidekick but there were a lot of pears and I wanted to get this done before bedtime! To my surprise though, it worked out great. Logan cut the pears in half then I peeled and cored them. We laughed as we got squirted in the face with pear juice and really enjoyed such a special bonding time. Who knew!?!?!? Mama lesson #211 learned, just be in the moment! A wonderfully awesome time was had together and special memories were made. I love the way that works, when you let go of your expectations and ride the wave of the moment.
16 quarts of preserved Asian pears

Now any other mother of two children, under three years old, and who's husband had a meeting he conveniently had to jet off to in the middle of my preserving project, would think that 16 quarts was plenty of preserving for the day. But no, not me! I want nothing to go to waste. And, if you recall from the description of the picture with Logan, I had to peel all of those pears. I surely can do something with all those peelings! (again I'm super excited, this time to make something from the "waste" haha!) And I did put those peelings to good use; pear honey!
peelings simmering
pressing out the juice from the peelings

I have to admit that I am a novice when it comes to fruit-honey making. This is the third batch of fruit honey I have attempted to make and still, it is not the correct consistency. My first batch was over cooked; I burned it...long story...nuff said. The second batch wasn't boiled long enough and turned out thin and runny. This batch, although cooked longer then the last but shorter then the first, is still too thin. For us to use it's okay, I use it in tea or spoon it to the kids when they have soar throats, but I am disappointed. I wouldn't want to use it to barter for straw, for instance. I will say though, it does look pretty in the jelly jars.
As a last minute whim, I decided to preserve pear juice as well, because again, nothing can go to waste. When I made the pear honey, I squeezed way more juice out of those peelings (goodness, I sure press them! I guess it's good therapy. Rivaling kneading bread, haha!) then the recipe called for. So, logically, I went ahead and canned that too and now have two quarts and one pint of canned pear juice. Waste not, want not...right? 

So, overall, this day on the farm was one of many with lessons to be learned. First, don't ever underestimate the help and awesome company a three year old can give you, even when the task seems too great for someone of that age. God knows what He is doing when He sets us up in certain situations. JUST GO WITH THE FLOW! =) Secondly, from this day, I once again have learned to make the most of what I have and don't be lazy about it. By doing this, I learn to be grateful for what I have. I could have canned my 16 quarts of pears and called it a day, throwing the rest away as trash. But instead I got 5 jelly jars of pear honey, which I use as medicine when my children are sick, and juice for my family to drink. It was all right there for me, waiting for me to utilize it. All I had to do was keep the possibilities open.

And for all of you hoping to see a chicken post, that was a story in itself! Maybe next time it will make the blog, but here is a glimpse...
bantam laying a tiny egg
red star showing sign of submission to Lillian
our silky rooster