Monday, December 30, 2013

Ponderosa Lemons

Have you ever heard of Ponderosa lemons? I hadn't up until just this past week. One of our cousins lives in Alabama and he brought a big cooler full of these lemons with him to Christmas this year. I love discovering new vegetables and fruits, so I was happy to take some off of his hands.

I was really surprised at the size of the fruit. They are similar in size to grapefruits and have a thick, bumpy rind. They actually aren't true lemons at all, but a hybrid fruit that is part lemon and part citron.

They are very seedy inside and taste a little more bitter than a lemon. They aren't quite as tart as lemons, but their juice can be used in place of lemon juice in any recipe in the same quantity.

I'm excited to try them out in a "lemonade" since I have tons of them to use before they go bad. I'd also like to try lemon bars, lemon cookies, lemon curd...the list goes on! I really love lemons so I can think of plenty of uses for these Ponderosa lemons. And heck, if I have any left over the roosters will be happy to take them off my hands.

Do you live in a climate warm enough to grow citrus fruit? If so, do you grow Ponderosa lemons?


Shared with Clever Chicks Blog Hop, From the Farm Blog Hop  

Friday, December 27, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: Christmas For Chickens

Welcome to our "Feathered Friend Friday" series. Each Friday I write a post with interesting facts, photos, or funny stories about our chickens and guineas. If you need to catch up, you'll find all the Feathered Friend Friday posts here   

Well, another Christmas has come and gone! I hope that you had a great holiday season this year. We spent lots of time with family this week and had plenty of down time, so we are enjoying our season.

Of course there are gifts for the humans this time of year, but I knew I couldn't leave out my feathered friends. I mixed up a special present just for them and judging by their reaction, I think it was a big hit.

Somewhere in that pile of feathers you may see they are feasting on some goodies. I gathered leftover corn, black beans, and scallions as a Christmas treat and they clearly enjoyed it. They really love beans, so I knew this would be a nice treat for them.

As usual, the food was gone in a flash. It always amazes me how fast several chickens can clean a plate! I love giving them special treats every once in a while and it's so fun to watch them go crazy over the food. Chicken TV is always entertaining.

Did you give your animals anything special for Christmas this year?


Monday, December 23, 2013

Gizmo Love

I haven't done a Gizmo post since back in September, so I thought I'd give a little update on how he's doing.

First of all, as you may see, he's huge! He really has grown so much that when I look back on older photos I'm just blown away. It's hard to remember he was every so tiny as he was here. Since I don't have human kids yet, Gizmo is my little fur baby so it's the closest thing I have to compare to when parents look back at baby photos of their kids and feel a bittersweet nostalgia.

He is about seven months old, so he's starting to get a little bit sweeter and more cuddly. He still loves to play and definitely still is a kitten, but he is showing beginning signs of being slightly more mature. We got him fixed last week and I always hate taking animals in for procedures like that, but thankfully he did just perfect and never seemed to be fazed by it at all.

Poor Fitz is still having a hard time adjusting to him because Gizmo always wants to play and Fitz is a grumpy old man. But I have noticed Fitz being a little more playful from time to time, so I think Gizmo is sort of bringing out the kitten in Fitz again. All in all, welcoming Gizmo into our home has gone much more smoothly than I thought it would. I'm so glad I tricked David into letting me keep him in the house!


Friday, December 20, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: Chicken Coop Cheer

Welcome to our "Feathered Friend Friday" series. Each Friday I write a post with interesting facts, photos, or funny stories about our chickens and guineas. If you need to catch up, you'll find all the Feathered Friend Friday posts here      

After spending some time making the house look nice and festive for the Christmas season, I had an idea. I've never decorated the coops before, but I wanted to add a little cheer to the chickens' homes as well.

The roosters' coop

Why should the humans have all the fun? :) I thought adding inexpensive wreaths with red bows would be a good way to perk up the coops a bit. I love how they make me smile every time I let the chickens out each morning or lock them up at night.

The main coop

Perhaps the chickens don't notice, but it makes everything feel more festive to me. Why not spread some Christmas cheer to your feathered friends as well this year?


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Homemade Living: Personalized Christmas Wreath

Several years ago I bought a big wreath at a church yard sale for only $1. I wasn't sure about it at first because it was just a basic green wreath, but I'm so glad I picked it up because I have used it each year since. It works great as a base to add embellishments to make it my own and add interest. And I can change it up each year, so it's like having a brand new wreath.

I have the ever growing feather collection (especially this time of year when the chickens and guineas are molting) so this year I decided to use feathers to decorate the wreath. My favorites are the spotted guinea feathers, so I used lots of those. I simply tucked each feather into the branches of the wreath in a random arrangement. They stayed pretty well put, so I didn't worry about securing them tighter.

In addition to the guinea feathers, I also filled the wreath in with some chicken feathers for variety and used some of Buttercup's golden and black feathers. It has been over a year since we lost her and I like to use her feathers wherever I can. It's a sweet way to remember my girl.

I'm so glad I shelled out the big bucks to get this wreath! I know I will use it for years to come. Do you hang a wreath on your front door at Christmas?


PS - This will be my last post in the Homemade Living series. I have decided to take a break for the new year, but I have really enjoyed working with the other ladies in the series and will continue to follow their posts. If you have some time, visit Mary and Jackie today to see what they are posting in the series. Thank you for supporting me and the other bloggers in the Homemade Living series!

Monday, December 16, 2013

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

Earlier this month I posted my first recipe in the Christmas cookie tag series, and today I'm happy to share another recipe that is a favorite of mine. I first had white chocolate macadamia nut cookies when I was in high school. There was a cookie store in the mall that I would frequent whenever I went shopping, and I first tried these cookies there. It was actually David who got me to try them because they were his favorite cookies. One bite and I was hooked!

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
Recipe from Mauna Loa
Makes 3 dozen cookies

6 T butter, softened
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 cups (12 oz pkg) white chocolate chips
1/2 cup macadamia nut pieces

1) Heat oven to 350 degrees F. 
2) Beat butter and shortening in large bowl until well blended. Add brown sugar and granulated sugar; beat thoroughly. Add egg and vanilla, beating until well blended. Gradually beat in flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir in chocolate chips and macadamia nuts. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto parchment lined baking sheet.
3) Bake 10-12 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

These cookies are so soft and chewy with the perfect amount of sweetness from the chocolate chips and a great crunch from the macadamia nuts. If you've never tried these before, you should bake up a batch right now! I think you'll be hooked from the first bite.

If you'll remember, the fun of this series is that each blogger gets to tag the next person to post her recipe. So my job is to tag Sue from The Little Acre That Could for her cookie recipe tomorrow. Sue, you're it!


Shared with Down Home Blog Hop 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: Getting Chickens Through Snowstorms

I mentioned on Monday how we had our first snow of the season last weekend, but thought I would expand upon what you can do to make it easier on your flock when you do get a good snowfall. All chickens are different and they each have a distinct personality, but for the most part they do not like snow.

In the Coop
We got our snow overnight on Thursday, and when I opened up the coop Friday morning the chickens were pretty shocked at what they saw and refused to leave the coop. Even some of the guineas who never like to be confined took up residence in the coop.

Our coop is fairly large, but when chickens are confined they can get stressed out and bored easily. As a result, they may peck at each other and cause injuries. It's best to keep an eye on them and make sure everyone is behaving. You can give them some distractions like a flock block or other treats to peck at, and provide tree stumps or additional perches for them to explore. Giving them some extra bedding like dried leaves or straw will also keep them busy while they scratch and kick through the piles.

Outside the Coop
It took my chickens a good three days before they would leave the coop. I managed to finally coax them out by shoveling a path so they didn't have to walk in the deeper snow and throwing some scratch and black oil sunflower seeds on the path to get their attention.

After a while they do get used to the snow and will venture out further and further, even walking through some of the deeper snow.

Dietary Needs
My chickens do eat more in the winter, so I make sure to give them plenty of feed each day. Water is also very important in the winter so depending on the temperatures, sometimes the water will have to be checked throughout the day to make sure it isn't frozen over. I use black rubber pans (like this one) because they don't crack like the plastic waterers do when they get frozen. It's easy to just turn the pan upside down and kick the bottom to remove the chunks of ice.

Scratch is meant to be a treat and not their primary source of food, but I do provide a bit of scratch in the morning to get them going and in the evening before they go in for the night. It helps to keep them warmer overnight because the act of digesting the scratch increases body temperature.

Here we are a week later and the snow is still on the ground and the chickens and guineas all seem to be used to it. They venture out like normal and aren't as grumpy as they were last weekend. I can't say the same for the humans, because I just wish the snow would melt already! We don't usually get much snow here in Southeast Missouri so I'm not as used to it as some of you in the more northern regions.

If it snows where you live, do you give your flock any special treatment?


Shared with Saturday's Critters, Maple Hill Hop  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Our 2013 Christmas Card

I really lucked out several months ago when my mother in law forwarded me an email with an incredible deal on Christmas photo cards. I was able to create my card quickly and easily online, but the best part was the price - it was just over $3 for 20 photo cards and envelopes with free shipping! It was awesome to mark one thing off my Christmas to do list so early, and at such a low price.

For the front of the card, I used a favorite photo taken last year during a snowstorm (it's also the new blog header photo). The back of the card was left blank for writing a personal message to the recipient.

Prints of this photo are for sale in my Etsy shop as well.
Use the code "BLOG5" to get $5 off any order over $25!

I was very pleased with how the cards turned out and can't wait to get them all mailed off. Do you create personalized Christmas cards each year?


PS - Here's our 2012 Christmas card.

PPS - Don't forget to visit Daisy, Staci and Sue today for their posts in the Homemade Living series. Next week I will share my post along with Mary and Jackie.

Monday, December 9, 2013

First Snow Of The Season

So last Friday we got a bit of snow...

It was quite a bit for us! We first got a solid layer of ice on Thursday afternoon, then about 6" of snow on top of that. We were prepared in case we lost power, but thankfully we kept our power all weekend long. Normally the ice is what gets us when the limbs get really heavy and fall off onto the power lines, but we didn't get enough ice to weigh down the branches.

The chickens refused to leave their coop on Friday and were pretty grumpy being stuck inside.

"You expect me to come out there?!"

Even some of the guineas hung out in the coop all day long. Finally on Saturday, a few of the chickens ventured out once I made a path for them and threw out some scratch. A few more braved the snow yesterday, and today it seems like everyone is used to the snow and decided to leave the coop to stretch their legs a bit.

Duchess is in her element when it snows, and she had so much fun running around in all the fluffy snow. And apparently eating it as well.

I was worried about Emma kitty, so I brought her inside into the guest room for a few days. But she seemed like she really wanted to get back outside, so yesterday I took her back out. At first she didn't like the snow on her paws, but before I knew it she was running around in the snow having a blast. I've been keeping an eye on her, but she is doing great outside and seems content to be back where she is happiest.

Did you get any snow over the weekend?


PS - Today Sue is posting her recipe in our Christmas Cookie Tag series. Head on over here to see what she is sharing with us!

Shared with Saturday's Critters, Maple Hill Hop  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Homemade Living: Hand-Me-Down Christmas Decorating

As soon as Thanksgiving was over, I got to work on my Christmas decorating. I like a really festive, cozy look for the holidays, but don't want to go too over the top. And with our kitten, Gizmo, around this year we can't do too much anyway because he is into everything! My solution for crazy Gizmo was to put as much as possible out of his reach, and place ornaments in bowls instead of hanging them from a tree.

Most of the decorations I like to put out this time of year were passed down to me from my grandma so it's very much a hand-me-down Christmas, which is just the way I like it.

This is on top of the vintage cabinet in the bathroom where Gizmo can't reach! I got the cute elf ornament and vintage ornament beside it from my grandma, and I created a small display with my bottle brush trees and some epsom salt. I also put our little silver tree with red ornaments up here. It's our first tree we ever bought as a married couple and I love putting it out every year.

I placed some red ornaments in an old colander handed down from my grandma, and changed out our glass mannequin head's summer hat for a winter sock cap (we call her Sheila haha). Sheila is kind of an eccentric part of our decor, but I love her! I also placed garland and ornaments on top of the mantle with some ornaments below in my egg bucket. Pinecones inside a picnic basket look so festive, and my cute reindeer from David's grandma completes the scene. This mantle is where our electric fireplace goes, but we took it out when we were installing the new floors and haven't replaced it yet. But I kind of like it empty!

When I was visiting my grandma yesterday we took a trip up to her attic. She has so much stuff she's collected over the years and is trying to give it away, so I always leave her house with a few things to bring home. She gave me this gorgeous quilt that she made herself many years ago when my grandpa had to work late nights. She worked on quilts to give her something to do and keep herself busy. I just love pieces with history behind them - so special! I also brought home some cute vintage ornaments that I strung up on the headboard as a garland. Our "headboard" is actually just two old shutters that David's grandpa was throwing out that we attached horizontally to the wall behind the bed!

My grandma also gave me this ceramic tree a few years back and I love putting it out each Christmas. And last year, she gave us a silver tree with a color wheel! We put that up this year and so far Gizmo hasn't messed with it too much, so I think we'll be able to keep it up. I've caught him just sitting and watching the colors change as the wheel turns. I think he's mesmerized by it!

Have you begun your holiday decorating yet?


This week in the Homemade Living series, I am joined by Mary and Jackie in posting about how we incorporate homemade items into our lives. Next week Daisy, Staci, and Sue will be up. If you have some free time, please check out the other posts in this weekly series!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas Cookie Tag: Hershey Kiss Peanut Butter Blossoms

I'm so excited to share with you my first post in the Christmas Cookie Tag series! These peanut butter blossoms are definitely my all-time favorite cookies to bake during the holidays for several reasons, the main one being nostalgia. Growing up, I would bake these cookies with my mom each year and I always looked forward to it. The whole process was fun, from unwrapping each kiss to rolling the dough and covering it with sugar and finally topping each cookie fresh from the oven with a single kiss.

Hershey Kiss Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies
Recipe from Hershey's
Makes up to 48 cookies

24-48 Hershey kiss chocolates (I made my cookies big so I only used about 24 kisses)
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 T milk
1 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
Additional granulated sugar in a bowl

1) Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Beat shortening and peanut butter in a large bowl until blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar, beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk, and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda, and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.
2) Roll dough between your hands to shape into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in granulated sugar, then place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (do not flatten the cookies).
3) Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate kiss candy into the center of each cookie (the cookies will crack around the edges). Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cookies cool, the kisses are still a bit melted so when you get to the center of each cookie it is heaven. The combination of slightly melted chocolate with the warm crinkly peanut butter cookie is just out of this world. If you've never tried these and you like peanut butter and chocolate, do yourself a favor and bake up a batch tonight. You won't be disappointed!

If you'll remember, the fun of this series is that each blogger gets to tag the next person to post her recipe. So my job is to tag Daisy from Maple Hill 101 for her cookie recipe on Thursday. Daisy, you're it!


Shared with Holiday Cookie Hop, Fill the Cookie JarDown Home Blog Hop 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Prepare Your Beehive For Winter In 4 Steps

Since bringing home our bees this past spring, we have really enjoyed getting to know more about bees and what it takes to keep the hive healthy and happy. We feel like we have learned a lot so far, but I know we haven't even scratched the surface of everything we need to know. Sometimes it feels daunting, but we are just educating ourselves as we go along and hoping for the best.

It is starting to get much colder here (with the exception of some warmer days this week) so we have begun to prepare our hive for the winter. During the colder months, the bees don't leave the hive at all. Instead, they all form a tight cluster around the queen to lock in the warmth and keep her alive. They do need honey to survive the winter, and one main reason for hives not making it through the winter is starvation. So it is essential that your bees have enough to eat and that you help them as much as you can to keep the hive warm and free from invading pests.

Here's how we prepared our hive for winter.

Step 1 - Remove any extra honey supers.

The honey that is harvested each year is taken from the honey super. If the bees fill up the upper and lower deeps with honey, typically that is enough to sustain the hive over the winter and anything in the super is surplus honey that is safe to take.

However, we have decided to leave all the honey in the super since this is our first winter with bees and we want to be sure they have as much honey as possible. We did remove one of the supers that did not have any honey in it to reduce the space that has to be kept warm within the hive and help out the bees a little bit.

Step 2 - Replace the entrance reducer and install a mouse guard.

During the summer we took the entrance reducer out to help with ventilation in the hive, but in the winter it needs to be replaced. It helps keep the hive warm and also prevents any intruders from entering the hive. We used a piece of hardware cloth we had lying around to create a mouse guard over the entrance. Apparently mice really like to invade hives during the winter!

We will probably reduce the entrance size down even further.

Step 3 - Create a windbreak.

We decide to stack some bales of straw around the hive to help insulate and serve as a windbreak. We left the entrance of the hive open of course, but placed the straw around the other three sides.

Step 4 - If there is not enough honey, feed your bees.

We were able to get into the hive for a quick inspection yesterday since it was really warm, and noticed that a lot of the honey in the super was already gone. Since there wasn't much left, we need to feed our bees. When it's not too cold, you can feed a sugar syrup to the bees. However, when the temperatures dip below freezing, it is advised to feed sugar candy or fondant because the sugar syrup might freeze.

Searching for honey.

In addition to these four steps, some beekeepers also medicate their hive to prevent mites and certain other diseases. We felt kind of overwhelmed with all the opinions out there on medicating, and have not treated our hive at all yet this year. This is one area we definitely need to research more.

Do you keep bees? Have you prepared your hives for winter yet?


PS - Don't forget - today is the first day in our Christmas Cookie Tag series! Head on over to Jackie's blog to see what she has to offer today.

Shared with Maple Hill Hop 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Christmas Cookie Tag!

Instead of my usual Feathered Friend Friday post, I wanted to let you know about a new series I will be participating in - Christmas cookie tag! The gang that brings you the Homemade Living series is teaming up to share 12 delicious cookie recipes to inspire your holiday baking. The series will start next Monday, so don't forget to check in and see what recipe will be shared that day. Read on to learn more!

Remember the days of tag? When you'd run and run and run, trying to avoid the one who was it? How you'd get sooooo close to being caught and you'd arch your back to just squeak by without being caught? And then you'd run *just* a little closer to the "it" person, but never close enough to actually get caught. You'd spend your whole recess trying to be safe. And you'd celebrate with tired legs and rosy cheeks if you made it the whole recess being safe.

Well, we have a new type of tag for you. But with this one it is FUN to get caught and you MUST get caught. Because what we have to offer you is so delicious that you wouldn't want to NOT be caught. That's right. You want to be caught right in the middle of our Christmas cookie baking game of TAG.

Whoever is "it" bakes cookies and posts the recipe for everyone to enjoy. And then she tags the next blogger, who will also be in charge of baking and adding a recipe to our TAG game. And she'll tag the next. And the next. And the next. And before you know it, we'll be up to our ears in delicious cookie-ness. Cookie-ness is the very best state of being during the holiday season. Cookie-ness really ought to be a word. And now I'm hungry. 

Up first next Monday, December 2nd is: Jackie from Born Imaginative!

Please join:
Jackie from Born Imaginative
Daisy from Maple Hill 101

We'll be tagging each other for the next three weeks bringing you 12 delicious cookie recipes for your Christmas holiday. We hope that you check back with us to see who's going to be the next "tagged" person!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Almost Wordless Wednesday

The last photo I took of our sweet Sylvester. Right by Emma's side, of course. I have been trying to spend lots of time with Emma since Sylvester has been gone to make the transition easier. She seems to be adjusting well and is becoming quite the independent girl.

I still miss Sylvester every day, but I have the most precious memories of our time with him. For that I am so thankful!


PS - Don't forget to visit Daisy, Staci and Sue today for their posts in the Homemade Living series. Next week I will share my post along with Mary and Jackie.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Clearing The Camera

Here are some recent photos I've taken that I wanted to share. Go here if you'd like to see more photo posts.

Guineas taking a rest on the fence.

This is how Gizmo likes to sit while looking out the window. So silly!

Brass mouthpieces from David's band room.

Playing games by candlelight during a power outage.

Visiting my neighbors across the street :)

Hope you've enjoyed a slice of our homestead!


PS - Just wanted to let everyone know that I have removed the option for anonymous comments because I have been receiving over 50 spam comments every day, many with offensive language. I have set it to comments from registered users only, so I hope that I don't exclude any of you from commenting. If you have any tips for me or if you aren't able to comment on my post, please email me at

Shared with Maple Hill Hop 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: Playing In The Leaves

Welcome to our "Feathered Friend Friday" series. Each Friday I write a post with interesting facts, photos, or funny stories about our chickens and guineas. If you need to catch up, you'll find all the Feathered Friend Friday posts here    

This is what it looks like in our neck of the woods right now.

Leaves everywhere! Which means it is a chicken playground. They absolutely love playing in the leaves and scratching away at holes to try to find hidden bugs and other delectable treats. With the decreasing daylight, it's hard for me to find time to let them out for supervised free ranging, but I do try to oblige whenever I can. It's so fun to sit and watch as everyone comes out to play.

Of course Duchess stands out amongst the leaves, but Emma kitty is pretty well camouflaged along with some of the chickens, like Red. I can't believe how well they blend in!

Once the daylight starts to fade, the chickens begin to make their way back to the safety of the coop to settle in for the night. Most of them head back before it gets too dark, but some of the younger girls like to stay out as late as they possibly can.

After the chickens have made their way to the coop, the guineas gather around for one last feather preening session as the sun sets, just before flying up into the trees to roost for the night.

Such a peaceful, calm way to end the day. I know the chickens enjoy their supervised free ranging time, but I think I may actually enjoy it even more.