Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Today is a very special day on the homestead. David turns 30!

More than anyone I know, he is so deserving of a wonderful birthday. Not only is he is the best husband I could have ever asked for, he is the driving force behind all of our projects on the homestead. None of what we have accomplished out here would have ever been possible without his creativity and brawn.

We really do make a great team and I am forever grateful to have such a fabulous partner in life. What an amazing thing to be living your dream with your best friend! Happy birthday sweetheart, hope this is the best one yet.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday

Welcome to our series "Feathered Friend Friday." Every 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
It took us a little while, but we finally have names for all of our chicks! Here's each girl and the story behind her name...

This is our Welsummer chick. In the past we have used the breed name as a starting point and sort of inspiration for the chick's name, so for this girl we thought Summer was really cute.

Again, with the breed name inspiration -- this one is a Gold Sex-Link chick, so we decided on the name Goldie. I've also been calling her Ginormica lately because she is crazy huge! So much bigger than the other girls. This has led David to make a bet with me that she is actually a he. I really hope not. Too many of our animals have had gender issues, and we don't need any more roosters!

My sweet friend Sherry over at The Rusty Pearl suggested that we name one of our chicks Pearl. Here she is, Sherry! Pearl is a California White chick and will stay mostly white, so we think "Pearl" suits her perfectly.

This is our Australorp chick and we were stuck on her name, so we took inspiration from our 3 year old nephew, Silas. My sister told him about our new chicks, and he said one should be named Cheddie, so we went with it! It was actually David's idea to go with the name and he made the point that since she will be our only all black chicken, Silas can easily pick her out of the flock when he comes to visit. How sweet is that?!

Last, but not least, is our New Hampshire Red chick. I've always loved the name Penelope, and this is the smallest chick out of the bunch and she is so cute and sweet, so I thought Penelope was the perfect name for her. It suits her really well so far!

It's so crazy to look back at their photos from just two weeks ago and see such a dramatic difference, mainly in new feather growth. Their personalities are really starting to come through now as well and it's so fun to get to know them. Each night I make sure to spend some one-on-one time with each girl and get her used to being held. They all sit calmly in my hand for the most part, but Pearl likes to jump and fly around and definitely has a sassy mind of her own! I'm sure we'll notice even more fun little quirks in their personalities as time goes on. It's so exciting to watch them learn and grow!


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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Bees Are Here!

After months of researching, planning, and waiting, we finally have bees on our property!

For the past few weeks, I have been in contact with our mentor, Greg, from the local beekeepers' club about picking up our nuc, and last night I got word that the queen had been introduced successfully and our hive was ready to go! We drove out to his place right away to pick up our nuc.

When we arrived, Greg was suiting up and getting the smoker ready. He went out behind his garage to retrieve our hive and bring it out to the car for us while we made small talk with another beekeeper who was there to pick up some bees as well. When Greg returned with our hive, we reminded him again that we were a little apprehensive about our hour long drive home with thousands of bees in the car with us, so he made sure to close off the entrance with a piece of paper towel. We were still a little worried about the bees escaping through the outer cover, so he rearranged it slightly to make sure they couldn't get out. But when doing so, a few bees did escape and we had to wait for them to exit the car. David went around to get into the driver's seat and noticed there was a bee stuck in his hair. He tried to calmly get it out, but the bee ended up stinging him right on the top of his head! I joked that at least he got his first sting out of the way already. He didn't see the humor at the time, but now I think he's coming around. At least we know he's not allergic!

After David had carefully moved the hive to the prepared spot behind the house, he made sure everything was secure and in place before removing the stopper in the entrance. As soon as the paper towel was gone, bees started pouring out of the tiny hole, eager to check out their new surroundings.

And with that, we decided to call it a night. It was getting dark, so we went inside to congratulate ourselves for a successful bee delivery and make some sugar water to feed them (we just boiled water and added sugar at a 1:1 ratio, stirring until the sugar dissolved, then let the mixture cool and it was ready to go).

This morning we woke up before the sun to suit up and get the bees fed. We moved quickly, but carefully, since it was chilly and drizzling (it's not ideal to mess with the hive under these circumstances, but we really needed to get the food in there for the bees). Luckily David got the smoker going really well straight away and we were able to get in and out with no stings and only a minimal disturbance to the hive.

It's so funny to think back to several years ago when I read The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd and fell in love with the book. It is one of my all-time favorites. Little did I know that I would be keeping bees myself one day. My favorite part of the book is when the main character describes her first lesson in tending to the bees from an experienced beekeeper -

“I hadn't been out to the hives before, so to start off she gave me a lesson in what she called 'bee yard etiquette.' She reminded me that the world was really one bee yard, and the same rules work fine in both places. Don't be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you. Still, don't be an idiot; wear long sleeves and pants. Don't swat. Don't even think about swatting. If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates while whistling melts a bee's temper. Act like you know what you're doing, even if you don't. Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved.”

For some reason, that passage really stuck with me throughout the years. Now I understand why. It's so humbling to look back and know that in some small way, I was being prepared for my future even though I didn't realize it at the time.

I'm so glad the bees are finally here and now we can jump head first into learning all there is about them. I hope you'll follow along with us on our beekeeping journey!


Shared with Down Home Blog Hop, Farmgirl Friday  

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day

I am finding pleasure in the pathless woods today to celebrate Earth Day. How are you celebrating?


Friday, April 19, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday

Welcome to our series "Feathered Friend Friday." Every 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

Last April, we introduced everyone to the 2nd group of chickens we added to our flock.

I am happy to say that they have all just turned one year old and they are doing really well! Things are slightly different from the photo above, as Fiona turned out to be our boy "Roosty Roo" and we have changed Felicity's name to "Red" in honor of my grandma. And of course now they are not awkward little chicks anymore - they are all fully grown and provide us with lots of beautiful, delicious eggs.

I am really glad that we decided to add more chickens last year. I have learned so much since then about flock dynamics, especially about integrating flocks and dealing with two roosters in one flock. It is always interesting to watch how they all interact and establish a new pecking order to keep peace in the group.

And now, since we just brought home five new chicks last week, we get to do it all over again. I love how chicken keeping is ever evolving, and you learn as you go along. The chickens always keep me on my toes and manage to teach me a lot; not just about them, but also about who I am. They have become such an important part of my life that I don't even know who I would be without them. It's hard to explain unless you've experienced it yourself, but these sweet creatures drive their way into your heart and leave an impression forever. I feel blessed and honored to be their caretaker while they are here on this Earth.


Shared with Rurality Blog Hop 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

And The Winners Are...

A big congratulations to the two winners of my seed starting giveaway -

#1 Tomato Starter - Meredith at ImaginAcres
#2 Tomato & Basil Starter - Alicia at Eco Friendly Homemaking

Thanks to everyone for entering! Next time you plan to start seeds, don't forget to pick up some peat pellets to make it easier :)


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Drying Herbs From The Garden

Over the weekend, David transplanted our herbs to a new location. We planted them last year in our main vegetable garden, but needed to move them to make way for our new raised beds and revamped garden plans this year. The herbs had grown really well and were starting to come back strong, so we decided to bring some of them inside to dry.

I've seen so many cute images on Pinterest of herbs hanging in kitchens, so I wanted to do the same with several bunches of thyme and oregano. I just tied the bunches together with kitchen twine and David made a garland of sorts to hang on the Hoosier cabinet. I love how it turned out!

To dry herbs, all you need to do is hang them upside down until they are completely dry then remove the leaves and store them in a container. My herbs were grown organically, came from my own back yard, and weren't dirty, so I didn't wash them before hand. If you do wash them, just be sure they are totally dry before bunching together. I've read that some people find it useful to put each herb bunch in a paper bag to catch any dry leaves that fall off but I've never tried that myself.

We saved some dried basil from our garden at our old house several years ago, and it is still good! So apparently dried herbs can last years if dried and stored properly. Dried herbs wouldn't necessarily go bad, but they may lose some flavor and potency over the years. But our basil is still going strong!

Have you ever dried your own herbs? What method do you use?


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Monday, April 15, 2013

Seed Starting Giveaway!

For the past few years now, David and I have really been getting into starting our own seeds. It can be expensive to buy seedlings, and we wanted to know where our seeds were coming from, so we decided to start as many of our own seeds as possible. There are different ways to start your seeds indoors, and we've found that the best method for us is to use peat pellets. A few years back we bought a set of pellets with a "greenhouse" to start our tomato seeds, and we have been getting refill pellets every year because it is such an easy and hassle-free way to get our plants going.

First of all, you cover the pellets in water until they soak up all the moisture and expand. Then you can plant your seeds and place the lid on the greenhouse to allow the seeds to germinate. Once the seeds begin to sprout, take the cover off and put the seedlings near a bright window or under a light (14-16 hours a day is recommended) and wait patiently until it is time to harden them off. We already started our tomato seeds for the year and have been rewarded with some beautiful new seedlings!

We have found peat pellets to be especially useful over the years, so I thought I would share this seed starting method with you and give you the chance to win some pellets for yourself! The nice folks over at Plantation Products have generously provided me with enough items to give away to two lucky readers.

The first winner will get a greenhouse seed starting kit along with 2 packets of tomato seeds, 1 roll of jute twine, and 1 set of garden markers. A second winner will receive a greenhouse starting kit, 2 packets of tomato seeds, 1 packet of basil seeds, and a set of garden markers.

To enter, simply leave a comment below (US residents only - sorry to my readers outside of the states!) and let me know if you've ever started your own seeds indoors. Please also include an email address so I can get your shipping information in case you are one of the winners. I will pick two comments at random this Wednesday, April 17th, at 11:59pm Central Time, and will announce the winners on Thursday.

Good luck!


Shared with The Backyard Farming Connection Hop 

* I was provided with these items to give away to my readers, but received no other form of compensation for this post.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday

Welcome to our series "Feathered Friend Friday." Every 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
For the past few months, David and I have been talking about getting some new chicks this year. After our horrible experience last year with ordering them in the mail, we decided to get some from our local feed store. Their selection has been really hit or miss, and I've been stopping by quite a bit over the past few weeks to check out their supply. I called the store yesterday and they let me know that they did receive some more chicks recently and had quite a few different breeds. I was so excited that I made a bee-line to the feed store as soon as I got off work. I didn't tell David I was going to get them, so when he got home, I surprised him with five new baby chicks!

New Hampshire Red


Gold Sex-Link


California White

Of course, I am already enamored with them. On the way home they were peeping up a storm, but ever since they've settled into their new digs they have been so calm and quiet! They don't fight at all when I pick them up and they easily fall asleep right in the palm of my hand. I'm hoping to spend lots of time with them so they will become lap chickens :)

Are you getting any new chicks this year?


Shared with Farmgirl Friday, The Backyard Farming Connection HopEco Kids Tuesday, Tuesday Muse, Rurality Blog Hop   

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bring The Blooms In

Yesterday when David got home, I was sitting out with the chickens while they enjoyed some supervised free ranging. The weather was absolutely perfect and I couldn't imagine a better day. One of our favorite things to do is walk the property together each evening and make note of all the changes we see, and yesterday the weather was just right for an evening stroll. Spring is such a magical time in the woods and you can seriously see new growth in the matter of a day.

While observing some of the trees, we noticed one had the most gorgeous white blooms. I pulled a branch down close to smell it, and found the scent so intoxicating. David decided to cut off one of the branches that was getting in the way of another tree close by, so he asked if I wanted some blooms to put in the house. He didn't even have to ask, because he knows my affinity for bringing in blooms - our butterfly bush is a favorite of mine to bring inside the house. I gathered up some vases while he started cutting branches to arrange.

The branches and blooms look so lovely in my milk glass vases. I've already placed them in several rooms in the house and I'm really enjoying the scent. The only thing bugging me is that I don't know what kind of tree this is! The scent is somewhat woodsy and oriental, and made me think of jasmine.

Anyone have any guesses as to what this might be? I'm really intrigued!


Shared with Rurality Blog Hop, Home Sweet Home  

Monday, April 8, 2013

Thyme Roasted Red Potatoes

I think mother nature feels bad for keeping us stuck in winter so long, because we had the most gorgeous weather over the weekend! It was sunny and warm (in the 70s!) with a light breeze. We were able to get quite a bit of work done outside and around the house on Sunday, and come lunch time we were getting pretty hungry. We needed something filling, but not too heavy because we had more work to do. We had just cleaned out the herb bed and the woodsy scent of thyme was wafting through the air. This inspired me to to use some of the thyme in our lunch and after brainstorming for a while, I had the perfect idea.

I had a few small red potatoes left over from dinner earlier in the week, so I decided to make thyme roasted potatoes. All I did was cut the potatoes in quarters and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and thyme. Drizzled on some olive oil and roasted in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, shaking the pan once halfway through cooking to make sure the potatoes weren't sticking.

I bought some corn on the cob earlier in the week (a little early in the season for corn, but I couldn't wait) so I thought that would be the perfect accompaniment to the potatoes.

It was so yummy! The potatoes got crispy on the outside and had a wonderful flavor from the thyme. And the corn - how can you go wrong with corn on the cob? We paired the meal with some sweet iced tea with lemon balm from the garden which made everything taste even better. This is my favorite kind of meal.

What did you cook up this weekend? Did it include anything from your garden?


Shared with Eco Kids Tuesday, Healthy Vegan FridayWhat I Am Eating   

Friday, April 5, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday

Welcome to our series "Feathered Friend Friday." Every 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

One of my favorite things to do is take photos of my chickens while they are free ranging. They are usually totally oblivious of me and just go about their business while I snap away. Up until recently everything had been so brown and dead out here that I wasn't feeling inspired to take photos. But now that things are starting to slowly come back to life, I can't stop taking pictures!

One of their favorite spots lately is this patch of weeds up by the house. When I saw them pecking away, I thought it would make for some good shots so I got down on the ground and rolled around to get on their level and get a different perspective.

I had to laugh at this last shot I got of Ellie, head down in the weeds. Definitely oblivious.


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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Line Up

Every evening when I get home, this is the scene that greets me.

The chickens all line up at the fence waiting for me to let them out for some free ranging. They know when they see my car pull in the driveway that it's time to free range! Duchess joins the line up, waiting to get out and dig some new holes.

When I walk down to let everyone out, Sylvester follows me so he can join in on the fun. He tries his hardest to get Duchess to play with him, but she usually seems uninterested.

Playfulness doesn't work, so Sylvester tries to be sweet. Duchess usually warms up to this :)

I love my evenings with the animal crew.


Monday, April 1, 2013

In The Garden

Over the weekend I finally had a chance to walk around and see what new growth (if any) was going on in the garden and the woods. We haven't been able to do much work on the garden just yet, but we do have a few boxes laid out for containing our vegetables. We still have quite a few boards left to paint then assemble, a fence to construct, and some stone to place so it's still very much a work in progress. A few weeks ago we did manage to plant some lettuce seeds, so I'm hoping that is what I saw shooting up in the garden.

I have been so amazed with how well our herbs survived and even thrived through the winter months. I haven't checked them out lately, so I was shocked to see how much the thyme had spread.

I noticed the sage still holding strong and the mint just starting to make a comeback.

Excited with the state of the edible plants, I went to see how the rest of the garden was doing. I saw some encouraging signs of growth - shoots of bright green from bulbs popping out of the ground (lilies I think?) and some of our sedum coming back in full force.

Over by the creek I saw a few of the trees were finally showing some green as well.

This winter has been too long for my taste so it really did my soul good to see some signs of spring around the yard. Everything has been so brown out here lately that it is thrilling to finally be seeing some green. I was in such a spring-y mood I decided to give my header an update as well :)

What's going on in your garden lately?


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