Various Things

Well it is Friday and time to focus on chores. Over the past ten days or so I have snapped a few pictures of some things that have interested me. Here they are…

One day I went outside and happened to look down at our door mat that is just before you step up to the deck. Right in the middle of the mat was this teeny, tiny cute little baby mouse ( I avoided the thoughts of how close it was to getting into my house). I called Joshua and we got a picture of him/her.

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Last Friday morning around 9:00 we noticed some boys out on our property at the northern end near the forest. Michael (and the rest of us) watched them with binoculars and when he noticed them taking some garden tools we had in the area he quickly hopped onto the dirt bike and when and “had a stern talking to them”. Here he is doing that….

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Another evening I walked outside and noticed how pretty the setting sunlight looked on the (nearly) Fall trees. Pretty isn’t it? God is so thoughtful to give us such beautiful colors during Fall….

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Michael had a load of gravel delivered for the shop.

Remember the chicken that liked to play “King of the Hill”?

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Well apparently geese do as well….

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Again, I had not visited the garden in a number of days. When I went to pick things that were ready I ended up with about 15 large cucumbers. About two weeks prior I discovered a way to quickly use up cucumbers. It is called cucumber lemonade. Here is how I make it…

Slice up a cucumber or two                                  Then slice it into chuncks

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Put it in a blender or food processor                  and puree thoroughly

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Then strain it. The first handful of times I made it I just used a fine mesh sieve. This time I was doing 10 cucumbers so I used my jelly bag method. I ended up with 3.5 quarts of juice. It doesn’t take long to strain. Just don’t force it by pushing it through. You will end up with more pulp in your lemonade which isn’t a bad thing. It is just about your preference.

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I found a recipe on Allrecipes and adjusted it to suit us.

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

2 cups cucumber juice

1.5 cups lemon juice

water to taste

Mix your water and sugar on the stove over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. This will make a simple syrup. Let it cool.

Mix the cucumber juice and the lemon juice together and add cold water to taste. Stir in the simple syrup to taste.

My family really likes it and I like that I have found another way to use up my cucumbers.

Off to do chores. Enjoy the rest of your day.

Karen

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Roasting Tomatoes

Life is busy. Harvest. School. Chores. Appointments.

Do you remember this picture?

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Well those ended up being two loads in the food dehydrator. I tried slicing them on the thick side by hand. Missed using my mandolin which makes things go lighting fast but we like the texture of the thicker slices.

In the midst of doing that I realized I have a garden as well as an orchard. I walked around the garden this afternoon and realized I had a bunch of plum tomatoes that need to be canned as well as some big slicer tomatoes. Well, I still had dinner to make and so the canning was not an option. I prayed and God reminded me of how easy it is to roast tomatoes.

First I line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with cooking spray. Then I dump sliced tomatoes and garlic on the pan and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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I used a variety of fairly meaty tomatoes. I don’t know the names of any of these as they were given to us by our wonderful friend Bryn.

I roast them at 350 for about an hour. You really need to keep an eye on them as each tomato has a different water content and can cook faster or slower because of that.

I had five trays all together and thankfully since I have four ovens I was able to cook them all at the same time.

The smaller tomatoes cooked faster than I expected. I could have taken them out a little sooner.

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These ones look better.

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They will still be delicious. I like to put them in Ziploc freezer bags and then bring them out during the winter and make something wonderful and full of summer flavor. I have pureed them with cream and fresh Parmesan cheese for a wonderful pasta sauce. In the past I have roasted cherry tomatoes and those go nicely in a stew or taco soup.

The stress of this past week is taking its toll. I wish I was one of those moms who handled it better. But alas, I am not. I get grumpy. Focused on the tasks before me and forgetting the innocent bystanders (a.k.a: love ones). I am glad we are back to Bible Study Fellowship. The boys and I had our first night on Monday. It is good to be back in the Word.  I’m even happier that my eternity doesn’t depend on me behaving perfectly. I have a savior who did that for me and imparts that to me. We are studying the life of Moses this year. Yup, that means all of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. It will be wonderful to study this friend of God. There is a lot to be learned. We are all looking forward to it.

We started AWANA last Thursday and look forward to the boys memorizing God’s word and spending time with their friends. This will be Joshua’s last year and he is on track to get the Timothy Award for memorizing all of his verses each year for the past seven years. It is such a good program. Both boys have participated since they were three years old.  Those first three years they learn just a few words of important verses. Now they memorize multiple verses and whole psalms. When they are done they will have memorized hundreds of verses. It is one of those things that we know was a good decision.

I’m praying for my friends in the Estacada area and hoping this rain today will help the fire fighters get that forest fire under control.

Have a great day,

Karen

 

Posted in Chores, Preserving | 1 Comment

The New Building (aka Man Cave)

This is Michael, making my first official post.

Before we even moved to a new house, one of the “must-haves” on our list was a shop. This would be a place to store camping gear, work on our cars, build things, oh and of course retreat to some peace and quiet on this farm that now has more females than males. That is in another post, “Chicks Rule”.

Well unfortunately when we found our “Salt Creek Farm”, it had everything we really wanted, EXCEPT A SHOP. Multiple buildings and structures, yes. But no shop…..So, the process of planning a building began.

Realizing there was the possibility we would not have a shop building where we moved to, I had begun “shopping” before we sold our old home just to to see how much it would cost and what was available. It had been a 2 month (or more) process of looking at building size, color, whether I wanted a sliding or roll-up door, whether it would have windows, and of course doing this all within the budget we had decided on. I decided on a 24×36 wood framed pole building with 10′ walls and metal roofing and siding. It would have 3 windows, a 12′ wide x 8′ high roll-up garage style door and a standard 36″ wide entry door. The day finally came when I placed the order (and spent our money). It was ordered as a “kit”, where the plans, all building materials and even a wonderful construction manual were ordered from one company. The date was May 29th, and in a week I had my blueprints delivered.

I received my first delivery July 16th, and everything else arrived as scheduled over the next few weeks. It was kinda like Christmas, when you get this really wonderful present, only to realize that you are the one who has to put it together!

So, after a few delays with the county building permit, and the trusses coming in later than expected, the end of August was already here and I was able to get started. I took some vacation days off the week of labor day, hoping to get a good chunk of it done that week.

So, Friday evening of August 29th, it started, and I set the posts into the 24″ wide x 40″ deep holes I had already dug with the wonderful Bobcat I rented, and braced them up. The county wanted 54″ deep, but our engineered plans won!

Saturday morning a good friend Dayne and his wife came out and helped me pour concrete in the holes, we made quick work of it and got it done in about 3 hours!

And here is the first picture after the footings were poured and the bracing was removed from the structural posts. This is Sunday morning,

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The next step was to get the skirt boards and the grade level perfectly aligned, because everything else measured from these points. These are the boards positioned horizonatally at the bottom of the posts in the picture below. You can also see where I have notched out the tops of the posts where the trusses will rest.

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Next came the trusses and roof framing. My neighbor came over and helped me set the trusses on top of the posts and I finished up most of the roof framing on Monday. This is where we were at Monday night.

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Tuesday, another good friend of mine (thank you Ken) came over to help finish up the roof framing, set the post for the entry door and started to put up roof insulation and steel. It was early afternoon when I had to admit that I was not going to put the roof on myself. I have always had a riduculous fear of heights. I had to swallow my pride and admit defeat, and called in the pros to do it. Before the afternoon was over, a neighbor down the road, who also builds pole buildings, had called me back to say 2 of his guys would be there Wednesday morning to knock out the roof for me. WOW! Tuesday afternoon was a horrible setback when I realized I wasnt going to get the roof finished that day, and before the day was over, a solution was presented. God works in all things and I was sure thankful for this little miracle.

So here is Wednesday after the guys came out and did the roof; in 3 1/2 hours! It was great to see how they walked all over the roof and did it so quickly and also did such a great job. Great guys too. Thanks GPEC crew!

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Thursday and Friday were spent framing in the walls, including the windows and door openings. We even got a little bit of wall steel up.

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Saturday and Sunday were spent putting up all the remaining wall steel, which went up quick with the help of my next door neighbor; thanks Dean, you are awesome! And by the end of the day Sunday all of my fascia, gable and corner trims were done.

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Now, hopefully this coming weekend I will be able to get the garage door in and start enjoying the space. The boys are already planning to have their own workbench, a fridge and a flat-screen TV. I can’t say I will argue with them much though, sounds pretty good to me!

Overall  approximately 125 man hours, 2500 metals screws and over 1000 3″ galvanized nails and 600 1 1/2″ nails. And no smashed thumbs, bad cuts, falls from a ladder or scaffold, or any other major mishaps.

Thanks to my wife for taking care of everything else on the farm while I was toiling away at this project, and thanks to my two strong boys who helped more than they know.

C Ya later, from the farm!

Michael

 

 

 

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What’s Up

Hello everyone,

I can’t believe it has been a week since my last post. I can believe I haven’t had any time to write a post.

The last I reported we were headed to the beach to celebrate me and Joshua’s birthday. Do you think the boys had fun?

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You wouldn’t have guessed by this picture that a steady cold arctic wind was blowing the whole time we were there. I started off in shorts and a tank top and ended up with my jeans and sweatshirt on and a beach towel wrapped around my head like a Hijab. The boys however were not phased by the wind.

The birthday boy even took a dip in Siletz Bay. Weirdo.

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That Saturday family came down to celebrate with us.

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Then Sunday Michael finished his shop he had been building for nine days. Sorry, no pictures. He gets to do that post. You will be amazed.

The boys and I began the 2014 school year….on Sunday. I knew we would be gone ALL day on Tuesday and I just didn’t want to start the school year off with skipping a day of school. I know, I’m a mean teacher. We are now into our third day of the new year and it is still coming together. Couldn’t find my audio “Our Island Story” for history. It is probably in one of the many yet to be unpacked boxes. Still working through understanding the flow of some of our new curriculum. But it is fun. Most of the time.

Tuesday came and went. 10 hours in the car with four different appointments and errands in between. Good news and some unexpected news. The good news is Nicholas will probably get his braces off at his next check-up. The unexpected news is it looks like Joshua might need glasses. I’m going to make him an appointment with Nicholas’ eye doctor up at the Casey Eye Institute at the same time Nicholas has his appointment. We will see what they say.

Our animals are doing well. Kitty has had this eye thing ever since he adopted us.

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You can see that his right eye is the problem one. Michael took him to the vet today and now we have two medicines to give him. Doctor thinks it will be 100% better. Oh, and he is already neutered. Confirms our suspicion that he must have been owned by someone before he adopted us.

The chicks are growing like mad. Apparently they have discovered the “King of the Hill” game.

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And we can’t forget the awesome Supermoon Harvest Moon we have had the last two nights. I’ll leave you with my attempt at taking a good picture of it.

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Thanx for keeping in touch even though I’m a bit slow on my part.

Posted in Animals, Boys, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Canning Tomatoes

I’ve been waiting for what seems like an eternity for the tomatoes to ripen. My hope is always to get most of the canning done before the new school year begins. Tomatoes in Oregon are notorious for taking their own sweet time.

Well finally, it was time to pick tomatoes.

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In my first haul of the season I was able to gather 18 pounds of deliciousness.

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Canning is a lot of work but over the years I have developed my own system. Of course when you move to a different house that system needs to be tweeked. One of those tweeks is how I make my “ice-water bath”. Since I no longer have an automatic ice-cube maker I can’t just dump a full load of ice-cubes into my cooler. I resorted to my frozen half gallons of water. I use a cooler rather than a bowl because I am always dealing with a lot of produce be it tomatoes or peaches. It ends up saving me time because I don’t have to change out the water after adding a bunch of  warm tomatoes.

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First I wash the fruit and then into a large pot of boiling water they go. Not too many at a time so I don’t lower the temperature of the water.

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I wait 30 – 60 seconds before I pull them out and plunge them into the ice-bath. Not all of the fruit will split in the boiling water. Some wait until the ice-bath. And there will still be plenty that don’t split. I find they are still easy to peel just by poking my fingernail into the end. Don’t leave the fruit in the boiling water waiting for them to split. It just makes the fruit mushy.

The skin just peels off easily.

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I collect a number of peeled tomatoes before I begin the next process

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which is slicing and coring. I am canning tomatoes in quarters. I find that it is easiest to remove the core when the tomato is quartered.

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Once I get a large amount done then I dump them into my waiting pot. I love these flexible cutting mats especially for things that are juicy and I want to keep the juice. I don’t add water to my tomatoes. I find that the tomatoes give off enough juice to suffice for the boiling and the canning that added water isn’t necessary.

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Another handy thing to have is a compost bowl. Keeps the work station free of messes and clutter.

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Once I get all 18 pounds of tomatoes into the large pot I warm them. As I do that I get my clean/hot jars ready. Because the tomatoes of today are not as acidic as in years past we need to add citric acid  to the jars. This can be in the form of bottled lemon juice or the granulated citric acid. I use the latter.

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Once I get the jars all full and the lids and rings put on it is into the canner. I am choosing to pressure can my tomatoes. Why? If I use the water bath technique then each load of seven pints will take 40 minutes to can. Using the pressure canner it only takes ten minutes AND I can fit a double load of pints into the canner. Yes, we have the additional time of venting, coming up to pressure and then the pressure release time. Still it is faster for me. My venting time is 10 minutes, with a double load of jars it only took seven minutes to come up to pressure. Add to that the 10 minutes of pressure and then about 30 minutes of pressure release and you have a total of 57 minutes and I am done. Yes, you could have two water bath canners going at once (which I have done many times) but this just seemed easier on this day.

Here is my load of double stacked pints. I could have fit two more jars in but alas, I didn’t have enough tomatoes.

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And here they are.

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Canning is work but very rewarding. I first learned to can in September of 2011 when my dear friend Bryn and her sister Lisa taught me to can peaches and pear sauce. The next spring another dear friend, Kirsten, taught me to pressure can. I really do love it and it is so economical. It is comforting to see so much food stored up for my family. So if you have never canned and are interested it is really quite easy and I’m here for the help. But beware, it can change your life. It was just three years ago that I began canning and now we live on a 14 acre farm. Beware.

Here is my next project.

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Have a great day. The boys and I are going to spend the day at Lincoln City.

 

Posted in Canning, Chores, Garden | 3 Comments

What Boys Do

God has graciously provided a very productive garden for us this year. The winter squash are so productive that they hide other vegetables. Namely cucumbers. Yesterday I went in search of cucumbers after avoiding the garden for a few days.

Although I do try to get out to the garden daily and search for produce that is ready to harvest I can still miss stuff due to the big  huge gigantic squash plants. They have grown into and over almost everything. By the time I find some of the stuff is has grown to Guinness Book of World Record size. Or at least runner up.

Well, when you have boys this is what they choose to do with the cucumbers (and a couple of zucchini)…

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They might be dorks but their MY dorks and I love them.

Some day those imaginations of theirs may just discover the cure to cancer, or solve the question of “what is dark matter?” , or they will figure out “why the sun’s corona is so hot”, or maybe, just maybe they will discover a means of traveling faster than the speed of light. Can you tell we have been studying astronomy this summer?

Whatever it is I am sure I’ll be documenting it for all of you. Cheer leading is probably my favorite part of parenting.

 

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An Even Dozen

Buchanan Cellars called this morning to tell us that they received more Astralorp chicks and if we wanted more we could come by and get them.

Here are our two new chicks. I’ve started calling the one on the left “precious”. She is just so cute!

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Our new chicks are exactly one week younger than the rest. Here are a couple of comparison pictures to show how much our chicks have grown in that week.

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The wing feathers have grown quite a bit.

Oh, the count now stands at : girls 15   boys 5

YES!

 

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Such a Busy Time of Year

Some of you may be wondering why you haven’t been hearing from me. I’ve sent very few emails and made even fewer calls. Well, it’s been busy. August begins the harvest. The pickling cucumbers have been prolific and then there were the black berries to deal with.

Besides the various ways previously described of making refrigerator pickles I have been adding to our half gallon jars of refrigerator dill pickles. I have five jars all together. I am thankful for this easy yet tasty way to make pickles. I’m also thankful for the refrigerator space.

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I did manage to pick enough pickles of a relatively small size to make nine pints of a sweet lime pickle. It is a recipe from The Pioneer Woman’s cookbook. Mmmmm are they good.

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There is also the pressure canning. I’ve been meaning to use up some soup bones for a while now and thought I would take the opportunity to use my pressure COOKER to make the broth. I had to make it in three batches since I had nine pounds of bones. I just followed a Cooks Illustrated recipe from a pressure cooking cookbook they recently released. It went nicely. It took me two days to get the three batches made and then I pressure CANNED them today. Seven quarts and then two more pints. I forgot to put the vinegar in the canning water so my jars have a little white film on the outside. I have to put the vinegar in the water since we use well water. Never had to do that back in the city.

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I also made up a big batch of chili. Pressure canned that and now I have 6 quarts for emergency dinners or more likely school day lunches.

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Speaking of school, since we school year round this is our last week of the 2013 school year. We will take a vacation (not one of the kind where you go somewhere, just the kind where you stop doing something) next week and then begin 2014. Wow. The boys will be in fifth and sixth grades and almost all of our subjects are with new curriculum. Why oh why did I do that? Don’t we have enough “new stuff” in our lives right now. Oh well, we will manage.

I’ve been storing up food for the freezer as well. I like to have breakfast items (pigs in a blanket muffins, french toast, breakfast muffins etc.) for those mornings when making breakfast is just out of the question. I also like to put things in the freezer for lunches. Do any of you know just how much I hate lunches? I want them to be healthy but that takes time of which I am usually lacking. Most things that are quick are pretty junky as well. So I store up lunches in the freezer. I currently have some shredded beef on dinner rolls that I can toss in the oven. I will make other types of freezer sandwiches and then “meals in a jar” which are basically something made up that I portion out into half pint canning jars and freeze. Those go into the microwave.

Last night we had tuna salad on bagels with cucumbers and cherry tomatoes from the garden. The boys seemed to like it. Nicholas asked for it again tonight (I’m sure the chips he got to eat with dinner had very little to do with that request) Joshua however said “No, I want mommy to cook something.” Joshua, of everyone, really likes my home-cooked meals. He can only handle the “freezer”, “quick”, “easy” stuff once in a while. He really has no idea of the “real world”. I’m sorry, I just had to chuckle to myself when I pictured him in his first “place of his own” and having to prepare a meal.

So all that cooking added to all the school prep and I really rarely know what my boys are up to. I often hear a saw running in the garage. Sometimes I look out the kitchen window and see them with a bunch of kids playing with the light-sabers they fashioned out of PVC pipe. And then there are the times like now when all I know is that they are playing at Dylan’s house.

I made up a quick batch of freezer biscuits and now I think I might sit down for a bit.

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I need some of those things they put on the eyes of horses or steer. I don’t know what they are for but they seem to make them look straight ahead. I need a pair right now so I don’t look at the bathrooms that need cleaning or my Latin homework that I still haven’t finished. If I can avoid those things then maybe, just maybe I’ll sit and read a book.

Ta Ta For Now,

Karen

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Chicks Rule

Finally. After nearly 15 years I am not the only female. Three months after getting married Michael and I brought home the most adorable BOY Beagle puppy. From then on every living thing added to our home has been a male.

Moving to the farm added yet another male with the addition of Luke. I felt like I was still on the minority team. Then we added our adorable FEMALE goats. Halle Berry and Brown Sugar. The teams were now Girls: 3   Boys: 4. Then a cat adopted us. A boy cat. Girls: 3  Boys: 5.

Today all that has changed. We brought home 10 darling baby FEMALE chicks. We ordered 12 chicks (4 Ameraucana, 4 Australorp and 4 Barred Rock). Only two of the Australorp were in the shipment.

Here are two of the Ameraucana. Their eggs will be blue.

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Here is an Australorp

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Here is the Barred Rock. The spot on the top of it’s head will be yellow. It was dyed for shipping.

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Their home is our 10 x 12 chicken coop. We bought a metal watering trough, put pine shavings in the bottom with a watering device and a feeder. Michael closed up the door that leads to the outside pen to keep them safe. Above the trough is a red heat lamp. If they are cold they will sit under it and move away when they are warm enough.

Here is a little Australorp sleeping

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They seem to figure out the water and food pretty easily.

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This little Ameraucana seems to like to sit on top of the feeder.

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There is a chance that some of these may be boys but at this point we believe them to be girls.

Score: Girls  13     Boys   5

Ok, so I didn’t include the geese but that is only because we really don’t know who is what. Of the eight we know there is at least one girl so that still puts the GIRLS in the majority!

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A Monday of Ups and Downs and Ups and Downs

We had quite the roller coaster of a Monday.

It started in the usual way of the boys and I doing school and Michael working.

Then Michael left around lunch time to drive up to Sherwood to pick up our new dining room table that Wilson made for us. Who is Wilson? He is a really nice and very talented guy who I met on Craigslist. Wanting to sell our current dining room set and find something more suited to our farm I went looking on Craigslist and found Wilson. We picked our design and color of stain and about two weeks later Michael brought it home.

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So that was an UP.

Unfortunately it was immediately followed by a DOWN. When Michael got home the inspector from the county was here to inspect the holes he had dug over the weekend for the shop. The news was not good. According to them the holes needed to be another 14 inches deeper and they said the posts (that came with the very expensive “kit” we purchased) were not the right size. That sounded like a lot more money we would have to spend. Michael wasn’t happy but he kept his cool with the inspector. The boys and I decided it was a good time to go to the library.

When we returned home there was good news. For additional money we could get a “engineer stamped” blueprint for our shop and the county will leave us alone. Phew. Thank you God for answering the many prayers my boys and I said while on the way to the library, at the library and back from the library. It was an UP.

The boys wanted to camp in the lower acreage that night. Michael not only said yes but he said he would camp with them. Woohoo a night of quiet was ahead for me! An UP.

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They were getting settled nicely and eating their snacks while I was relaxing back in the house. All of a sudden I get a call from Nicholas on the walkie-talkie that Joshua is on his way back with a bee sting.

Let me back up a little . Joshua has already had four bee stings since we have moved here (three months ago today). Three on his face/head.

I immediately start mixing up a concoction to put on the stings. As I am in the kitchen I can hear him crying as he is walking home. He gets in the house and explains that not only did he get stung once while down at the camp site but on the way back some of the yellow jackets followed him and stung him THREE MORE TIMES! He had a sting on his arm, his tummy, the back of his ear and on his head. My poor baby!

I got his shirt off of him and applied the concoction and then proceeded to scrape out the stinger that was still left in the back of his ear. While I was getting a wet washcloth in the kitchen I hear him freaking out and I run into the family room and apparently there was still a yellow jacket in his clothes and it was crawling on him which frightened him. It was currently on the window where I very happily squashed the beast.

Side note: the “mother bear” in me wanted to take out the whole nest. I was ready to go burn the place down all the while yelling “don’t you touch my baby again”.

It was the last DOWN for the day.

I’ve asked Joshua each time he gets stung how it happened. It is usually pretty innocent. Ok so there was the one time they were shooting yellow jackets (they know to leave the honey bees alone) with their air soft. Most of the time it is playing, climbing , exploring etc. Of the group of kids that they play with he is always the first at each of those things.

It actually reminds me of George Washington. You know “George Washington, first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen”. Well Joshua is “First in play, first in exploring and first in the sites of the yellow jackets”.

The cost of being adventurous. At least he isn’t sitting inside watching TV or playing video games.

Here is hoping for a boring Tuesday.

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