Friday, December 23, 2011

Guineas - Part I

One of the biggest things we first noticed after moving out to the woods is how bad ticks are out here. We figured we'd just be vigilant about checking ourselves after going into the woods and might find a tick every now and again. No big deal.

Well, as it turns out, just about every time we walked outside the door, we'd have ticks to pull out of our skin (several in not so fun places!). That was unpleasant enough, but then David developed a bull's-eye rash after being bitten by a tick. We looked up info online and what we found was pretty scary, so we high-tailed it to the doctor. David's doctor said that anyone who presents with the bull's-eye rash should immediately begin taking antibiotics (doxycycline) to prevent Lyme Disease from developing. In most cases if caught early and treated with antibiotics, Lyme Disease is curable. So we let out a big sigh of relief and went straight to the pharmacy. 

After that scare we started seriously thinking about how to deal with all these ticks. One option was to stockpile tick repellent, but we wanted to find a way to protect ourselves without having to be drenched in spray every time we stepped outside. We started researching ways to reduce the tick population and stumbled upon guinea fowl. Apparently guineas loooove to eat ticks and many people say they have practically no ticks at all if they have guineas. This seemed like the best option for us, so we went online and ordered 15 of them!

They came in this box, just like when we ordered our chickens.

Of course they were adorable, and I spent the whole first day playing with them and watching them run around.

Almost all my pictures turned out blurry because they move so fast!

The next morning I excitedly went to check on them. I put my hand inside their pen to pet one of them, and they all freaked out and ran in the corner furthest away from me!

I read that guineas are wild, but thought ours would be different. And I was very wrong! Some people say it is possible to tame them so they will let you pick them up and cuddle, but you have to spend hours with them EVERY day. We couldn't commit to that, so we just came to accept the fact that they are wild and won't be pets like our chickens.

They grew really fast (and started to get stinky in the garage), so after a few weeks we moved them to their outside brooder.

Once they outgrew the brooder, we let them out to explore their new coop.

After a few more weeks, we let them out to their enclosed run.

We kept them separated from the chickens and Duchess so they could all get used to each other.

We decided that we would keep them enclosed until they were fully grown. We would then let them out to free range and hopefully gobble up all the ticks. Also, since guineas aren't very smart, they need to be enclosed for a while to learn their coop is their home so they will stick around the area once they are let out to free range. They are fully grown at about six months old, and they hit that mark last weekend. It was time to let them out to do their job!

However, things didn't go exactly as planned, and now we have some decisions to make...

Stay tuned for Part II of the guinea saga!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Traditions

I love me some Christmas traditions. It just makes this time of year that much more fun and brings up happy memories of years past.

One of my newer traditions is watching David's intermediate band play at the mall on a weekday morning. They played this past Wednesday morning at 10:30 and were great as usual!

Christmas just isn't Christmas without some good music! This year I've been listening to the holiday pop channel on DISH nonstop. The first thing I do when I get home from work is turn on this channel. It puts me in such a great mood and makes cooking dinner so much more fun!

Bonus points if it's playing She and Him.

I can always expect something Santa or Snowman themed from my mom before Christmas. Usually it's a pair of festive socks; this year it was this cute dishtowel.

Somehow every year without fail those yummy butter cookies show up in a very Christmasy tin.

I may or may not have eaten one of these after I opened the tin
to take this picture. Ok, I did. Can't resist that buttery smell.

Shortbread cookies are also a usual suspect. Just like the butter cookies they usually come in a festive tin.

Wanted to eat one of these as well, but decided not to spoil my dinner!

And of course it just ain't Christmas without Mom's famous peanut brittle!!!

She's been cranking out batches of this brittle to give to friends and family for as long as I can remember. She cooks it up in the microwave then pours it onto a baking sheet set outside to cool before breaking it up into pieces. Check out all that brittle-y goodness.

Yes, I ate some of this after taking the picture. I couldn't help myself. Dinner can wait.

This was my third year of packing food for Feed My Starving Children. It is a really great organization that provides food to starving children all around the world. This year at our location there were a total of 2,712 volunteers and we packed 632,016 meals of a dried rice, vegetable, and bean mix (called a Manna Pack). This is enough to feed 1,730 children one good meal a day for a whole year! We learned that the food we packed is going to feed children in Haiti, just like this sweetie.

This weekend I'm going to a cookie exchange with some wonderful bakers. I hope that becomes a tradition as well!

What Christmas traditions do you hold dear?


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Clearing the Camera

I thought David brought home a lot of bananas this time. But last week I came home to find this.

Just under $8 for all these.

I let them sit for a few days because they weren't too overripe (and honestly, I didn't want to peel and chop them all). But last night I got to work and filled up 5 gallon size freezer bags of future ice cream. Took me over an hour but now we'll have plenty of ice cream in the future. In the meantime, I told David not to bring home any more bananas!


We got our Christmas tree up and decorated last week, and I had to bring some of the Christmas cheer into other rooms of the house.

If I can't see her, she can't see me!

This was the first tree we ever had as a married couple five Christmases ago. We lived in a small apartment in St. Louis and couldn't fit a big tree in our living room. I saw this little silver tree at Garden Ridge and had to have it. I love the retro feel!


Cleo (she's an Easter Egger) is looking much better than she did here. Her feathers are all back in and still growing and getting longer every day.

Jobin's (she's a Delaware) new feathers are still pretty short (you can see the tiny feathers on her wings). You can see the black part of her new tail feathers though!

Penguin (she's an Australorp) is pretty much in the same boat Jobin is in at the moment. Feathers back in, but some really short still. New feathers are unbelievably soft!

Tubs (she's a Speckled Sussex) is looking pretty good. Her tail feathers are still pretty short, though.

Buttercup (she's a Golden-Laced Wyandotte) is gorgeous! She may still have a little more feather growth, but she's in good shape.

Chickabod (she's a white leghorn) is looking good, too. So fluffy and white!

Our rooster, Cam, didn't molt this year since he was just born in April (chickens usually won't molt unless they are over 12-18 months old). But his wattles (those crazy red things hanging from his chin) are getting longer every day! Such a heart breaker!

Of course Duchess is getting a crazy thick winter coat as well.

Hard to believe less than five months ago this is what she looked like!


David will be home soon and no doubt starving, so I better get dinner started. Tonight we're having this soup with scallion pancakes. Yum!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

O Christmas Tree

Last week we marked one thing off David's bucket list.

We went Christmas tree shopping in our own back yard! David had last Friday off, so while I was at work he scoured the woods trying to find the perfect tree. He found three he thought were contenders and let me have the final say. Then he got to work!


There's just something about your man carrying the Christmas tree he chopped down for you. Love it.

Of course he didn't carry it all the way back to the house. It was pretty heavy, after all.

The guineas were excited about the tree as well!

Once we got the tree up to the house, we had to drill a hole in the bottom because of the type of tree stand we have. Shavings went everywhere!

We were trying to figure out how we wanted to decorate the tree, and David had the idea of using popcorn. I've always wanted to try this, so we gave it a go this year.

First, I had to pop a lot of popcorn!

Of course all the bagged microwave popcorn you buy has tons of butter and salt on it, so I didn't want greasy popcorn hanging on my tree. I bought a big jar of the plain kernels and popped them in a paper bag in the microwave for a few minutes (thanks to my sis, Kerri, for the tip!).

Then I took a needle and some button thread and went to work while watching Lifetime Christmas movies. I saw three whole movies before I was done!

We added our big bulb retro lights, red ball ornaments, and a big bow on top and called it a night.

I love how it turned out! Jasper likes it, too.

Happy holidays everyone!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Beauty of Over-Ripe Bananas

If you saw these at the store, would you think, "Eww! Those are some bad bananas!" and look for the blemish-free bright yellow variety?

If so, you'd be really missing out! Let me explain. After school yesterday, David went to the local market and found these beauties on sale. Only $0.19 per pound! He grabbed all that they had left and spent a whopping $0.77. He jumped on this deal because he knows that these bananas are perfect for banana "ice cream!"

I first read about this phenomenon over on The Kitchn this past summer and couldn't believe it til I tried it. Well, I tried it and it was amazing!

First, cut up bananas and place in the freezer for at least a couple of hours.

Once frozen, take the bananas out and let them slightly thaw for about 10 minutes before whipping them up in the food processor or blender. And that's it! Before blending the bananas, you can add in whatever you like. Cocoa powder, peanut butter, and chocolate chips would all be good. But technically, you don't have to add anything at all. You could just whiz up the bananas on their own and it would be great.

I like to add in a little soy milk to make it creamier and a few drizzles of agave nectar for some added sweetness (I tried honey and it tends to glob up in cold foods, so I go for the agave). I also like to put in a few dashes of cinnamon.

If you do this in a food processor, you'll need to let it run for a few minutes to get the right texture. I've never tried it in a blender, but I'm sure you'd need to give it a few minutes that way too.

Got this food processor at Wal Mart a while back for only $5! Best $5 I've ever spent!

Voila! Yummy, easy, cheap, healthy "ice cream!"

The bananas David brought home will be enough for about 8 small servings of ice cream. Since he only spent $0.77 on the bananas, that's less than $0.10 per serving! Blows my mind.

I don't even like to eat bananas by themselves, but I love this ice cream. So even if you aren't crazy about bananas in their natural state, give this a try and let me know how it goes.

Hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Settling In

It's getting colder out here, so everyone is settling in for the winter ahead. For the cats, that means lots of warm blankets and naps.

And of course, lots of cuddling (that's for us, too).

The chickens are definitely settling into their winter routine. Buttercup, Chickabod, and Penguin have molted and gotten most of their shiny new feathers in. Poor Jobin, Cleo, and Tubs are in the middle of very hard molts and look pretty funky right now (almost as bad as some of these poor chickens!). Most of the time, they end up staying inside their coop or inside the carport in a cozy little area we made for Duchess (she won't go in there so the chickens have taken it over).

They pretty much only come out for treats (warm oatmeal is their favorite) or cuddles.

Since they are all in the middle of molting or just getting new feathers in, they are not laying any eggs right now. They haven't laid in probably 3 weeks or so. Last year they stopped laying in November and didn't start again until February. So sorry everyone, no eggs for a while!

Around this time of year I pull all my soup recipes back out. I love one pot meals! Thinking of trying this soup tonight. I'll let you know how it turns out! :)
*Update -Made the soup last night and it was delicious! Even David loved it. Definitely a keeper.