Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pumpkin Carving

We've been harvesting pumpkins around here since August, so we have racked up quite the count. I think in all, we were able to grow over 20 pumpkins this year! I kind of lost count a while back after we shared some with friends and family. Our pumpkin luck afforded us the luxury to simply grab a couple pumpkins off our front porch to carve earlier this week.

David chose one of the warty ones, and I chose one that looked easy to carve because my skills are lacking somewhat. I began carving out my classic design on my pumpkin when I noticed David was taking a much different direction with his.

A little crazy, right? He used one of our smaller butternut squash with the stem pointed out to act as the nose for the poor little guy in the big pumpkin's mouth. Then he had the idea to add some screws to the final product to complete the look.

Mine is very tame in comparison! Here they are side by side.

Did you carve pumpkins this year? I'd love to hear how yours turned out.

Happy Halloween!


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, October 28, 2013

Here's To David

I have to take a break from regularly scheduled homesteading posts to brag on David a little.

On top of all the things he does for our homestead, in his day job he is a band teacher at a small rural school in our area and has done such amazing things with the marching band. They just finished their season last weekend and racked up over 20 trophies in their competitions this year! David made a deal with his kids that if they got 1st place at each competition, he would shave his beard. They came so close with getting 1st place in their first five competitions, but in the final one this past weekend they came in 2nd place. So the beard is safe...for now.

His school is basically the only one in his class size that puts on marching field shows at a competitive level. Most smaller schools who don't have football only participate in parade competitions. But David loves marching band so much that he challenges his kids to put on great shows every year, even though he doesn't have to. They could just do a couple of parade competitions, but David and the kids put in so much work starting early in the summer to get a fabulous show on the field. David pushes them to perform difficult music and complicated marching maneuvers, and somehow they pull it all off.

I see firsthand all the blood, sweat, and tears David puts into his job and I couldn't be more proud of him. We actually met in high school marching band ourselves, so band holds a special place in our hearts. Going to marching band competitions with him always makes me sentimental and I remember back when we were just beginning our relationship. I still get the same feeling I did back then when we cuddle together under a blanket on the bleachers now, waiting for the awards ceremony to begin. 13 years together and he still gives me butterflies.

Do you have a significant other you are incredibly proud of?


Friday, October 25, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: Herbs For The Coop

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  

Last weekend I gave the coop a good fall cleaning. I swept out the cobwebs, wiped everything down, sprinkled some diatomaceous earth on the coop floor and roosts, removed all the pine shavings and added several bags of fresh shavings on the coop floor. After reading Fresh Eggs Daily and learning about all the benefits of using herbs and flowers in your coop, I decided to cut some thyme, sage, lemon balm, and oregano for the floor of the coop as well.

In addition to making it smell wonderful in the coop, fresh herbs also have health benefits for your chickens and can repel bugs and rodents. Even if the chickens don't eat them, they will rub up against the herbs while scratching around in the shavings and release the scent and natural oils from the herbs - a sort of aromatherapy for chickens!

We also collected some herbs and flowers to dry out and use in the coop and nesting boxes over the winter when we don't have fresh herbs. Last night we got our first hard freeze, so I gathered even more herbs to dry for the chickens (and also for the humans of course).

Not only do herbs and flowers seem to make the chickens healthier and happier, I enjoy seeing some green and bright pops of color dotting the coop floor and nesting boxes. It just makes the chickens' home a happier one and I do like to spoil them whenever I can!

Do you use herbs in your chicken coop?


Shared with Backyard Farming Connection Hop 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Homemade Living: Failed Cake Turned Into Cake Pops

My brother recently had a birthday, and David and I made plans to hang out at his house to watch a movie and celebrate. I thought it would be nice to make him a cake to bring along, so I got to work on the cake I always make for birthdays (recipe here).

I've made this cake many times before with great success, but this time, something went horribly wrong. The cakes came out of the oven just fine, but when I went to frost the cake, it totally fell apart on me. As I tried to fix it, things only got worse.

Just in case you aren't grasping the colossal level of failure from my words, I thought I'd share the embarrassing photographic proof.

I mean really, what the heck is that?! (I finally figured out that my frosting was too thick so it wouldn't spread evenly.) I was feeling pretty defeated but didn't want to waste the cake. It still tasted really good, but it was clearly a big mess.

I remembered a while back one of my friends made some cake pops and she was telling me about the process. You start with a baked and cooled cake, then crumble it all up. Mix in enough frosting to make a "dough" out of the cake and form into balls, then dip into melted candy coating and let harden. I figured it was worth a shot to try and I had nothing to lose, so I made cake pops out of my failed cake.

Sorry about the scratches - we do have a kitten after all!

They didn't turn out perfect, but hey, I was proud of myself for thinking outside the box and trying to salvage my epic cake fail. Next time I'll just make my frosting a little thinner!

Have you ever managed to save a baking fail?


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!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Plant Garlic In 5 Easy Steps

I have been wanting to plant garlic for several years now, especially after seeing all the delicious uses for garlic scapes. I use garlic quite a bit in my cooking, and have recently learned about its antibiotic, antiviral, and antibacterial qualities, so that made me want to plant garlic that much more. Here's how we did it, and how you can plant garlic in five easy steps.

Step 1 - Buy your garlic.
We bought our garlic online here. We researched to see which variety was best for our area and went with a hardneck called German Extra Hardy. It can withstand very cold winters (we can dip down into the single digits here in Missouri) and also is great for long term storage. 

Step 2 - Prepare for planting.
Garlic needs plenty of sun to grow (at least six hours per day). We decided to plant ours in two smaller beds in the garden that get a good amount of sunlight. We cleared the weeds and worked the soil well until it was nice and loose while Sylvester supervised the operation.

Step 3 - Break apart the cloves.
The bulbs need to be broken up into individual cloves for planting, so we carefully separated each clove. I've read that it is best to leave the papery skin on the cloves to help prevent against rotting and disease, so we tried to keep the skin on when possible. 

Step 4 - Plant cloves in rows root end down.
We dug a furrow about three inches deep, and planted each clove several inches apart. Each row was at least six inches apart, and we were able to get three rows in each of our two garden beds. We made sure there was at least two inches of soil covering each row of cloves.

Step 5 - Cover with mulch.
I cleaned out the coop over the weekend, so we used the pine shavings with composted chicken manure on top of the garden beds. This will protect the garlic from the winter cold and also prevent weeds from growing up (a necessity since garlic doesn't compete well with weeds).

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the process was, since for some reason I had it in my head that garlic was difficult to plant and grow. I've read that garlic actually doesn't require much maintenance, so I'm hoping for a good harvest next year. We'll definitely keep you updated on the progress!

Do you grow garlic in your garden?


Shared with From the Farm Blog Hop, Backyard Farming Connection Hop 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: Rooster Antics

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  

I mentioned in a previous FFF post here that we ended up with four roosters when we let our hen, Ellie, hatch out some eggs this May. We had been keeping them all in a separate coop and run area, but the run was a little too small for them and they started to fight. We decided it was best if we let them out to free range each day instead of keeping them in an enclosed area together.

There is always the risk of a predator attack when you allow chickens to free range, and that is something that we understand and have come to terms with. However, we feel it's in their best interest to have more room to roam and free ranging gives them the happiest lives possible. And so far, it has been working out great. At first they stayed close to their coop, but recently they have been ranging out across the yard and up to our back porch and picnic table!

It cracks me up when I look out the kitchen door and see them on the back porch, stealing any leftover cat food they can find. They have so much personality and are really fun to watch. They tend to follow me around everywhere I go, begging for treats. And I usually indulge them, so I'm sure that's why they keep following me around. When I go down to the chicken coop in the evening, I usually have a train of roosters and cats following me down there. It's like my own little animal parade!

With all these roosters (our current count is six!) of course there is some crowing going on. It's pretty much constant crowing around here, but you know what, I really like it. The crows aren't so loud to be unbearable, and they sort of blend into the overall symphony of the homestead. It's music to my ears.

Do you have any roosters in your flock?


Shared with Tuesday Muse 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fresh Eggs Daily Book Review AND Giveaway!

If you follow any chicken themed blogs, chances are you've heard of and visited Fresh Eggs Daily written by Lisa Steele. Lisa focuses her posts on natural methods to keep your chickens healthy and happy, and has become quite the expert on the topic. So much so, that she wrote a book about it!

I was thrilled to receive a copy of Lisa's book to review and I am so excited to tell you about it. Just as the title suggests, the book is about raising happy, healthy chickens naturally. In her years of keeping chickens, Lisa has discovered that herbs, greens, and flowers play a very important role in maintaining chickens' health. Over the past several years, I have been more interested in preventive care and treatment for myself using natural remedies like herbs, so it only makes sense that I would extend this to my chickens as well!

Fresh Eggs Daily is very well written and easy to read, with loads of beautiful photos that Lisa took herself. The book is organized to take you through how to use herbs in your chicken coop (I can't wait to try out the lavender mint coop refresh spray!) and also how to feed herbs to your chickens. Lisa guides you through the summer and winter months to show how to be sure your chickens stay healthy with the changing weather.

I appreciated the section in the appendix with a long list of the health benefits of common herbs, weeds, and flowers. One list is organized by plant name, and another list is organized by the benefit provided. This way I know exactly what to reach for when I notice a specific problem. So handy!

I believe this book is essential for any chicken keeper. Like the old saying goes - an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you can head off potential sickness in your flock using common herbs and greens, why not give it a shot? It's much better than treating with harsh medications after a problem creeps up.

I would encourage all the chicken keepers out there to get their own copy of Lisa's book right now! You can purchase the book on Amazon by clicking here.

Lisa has also generously provided a copy of her book for one of my readers. For your chance to win a free copy of Fresh Eggs Daily, enter using the widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
In addition to my giveaway, many other bloggers are participating in a virtual book tour with more chances for you to win a copy of the book. Visit all the other stops along the Fresh Eggs Daily Blog Tour to read some more great reviews and to enter to win a copy!

Week One

October 14th
Louise's Country Closet & Natural Chicken Keeping

October 15th

October 16th
The Nerdy Farmwife & Lessons Learned from the Flock

October 17th
Colored Egg Homestead & Our Neck Of the Woods

October 18th
Let This Mind Be in You & Sunny Simple Life

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Fresh Eggs Daily for review. No other compensation was received and all opinions stated are my own.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Clearing The Camera: Early Fall Edition

It's looking more and more like fall around here! I find myself constantly reaching for my camera, so I thought I'd share a few of my current shots. (PS - click here if you'd like to see more photo posts.)

Newly fallen leaves create a vivid blanket of color on the ground.

Early morning dew hangs like pearls on the strands of a spider web.

Emma kitty's eyes pop against the still green grass.

A slowly ripening pumpkin looks beautiful with the fallen leaves.

What signs of fall are you seeing out your back door?


Shared with Tuesday Muse 

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

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mum's The Word

One of my favorite things about fall is seeing my mums begin to bloom again. To me, the season hasn't truly started until these lovely, bright flowers burst open with their vivid hues.

I have never had much luck with growing mums in containers (I think I water them too much) but I have found that they flourish in the ground. I love that after they are established, they are very low maintenance and don't require regular watering or attention. I do pick back any buds that appear before mid-July to encourage bushier growth and cut the plants way back in the early spring, but really that's about it.

Right now we only have a couple of mum plants, but hopefully we can add some more soon. They are one of my favorite flowers!

Do you grow mums in your garden?


Shared with Maple Hill Hop 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: Chickens With Disabilities

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     
Several months ago, I noticed one of our older hens seemed to be having problems with her vision. Tubs was acting a little bit off and constantly turning her head to see with only one of her eyes. I gave her a good once over and noticed that indeed one of her eyes looked much different.

Not only was it discolored, but the pupil looked very strange. It was almost as if there was a hole in the center and it appeared white and cloudy. I knew something was wrong, but I wasn't sure what caused it. The one thing I did know was that she no longer had vision in that eye.

For about a week she acted somewhat disoriented while adjusting to only being able to see out of one eye. I was getting worried about her, but eventually she was used to her new normal and began to show signs of her old self again. Her other eye is healthy and no other chickens were having problems, so my best guess is that she was pecked in the eye which caused her to lose vision.

Thankfully, she doesn't seem to be affected by it at all anymore and hasn't lost her assertive, confident, take charge personality. Especially when she spots a treat.

Do you have any animals that have learned to live and thrive with disabilities?


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Homemade Living: Saving Tomato Seeds

I've always been intrigued by the idea of saving seeds from the current season's harvest to plant the following year. We've made plans in the past to save seeds, but for some reason just never got around to it. This year, we were determined to try it out with our tomatoes since we had success with several different varieties.

You may remember a previous post in this series where I wrote about our black cherry tomatoes and how they were my favorite from this year. In addition to the black cherries, we also had good luck with some red and yellow cherries, yellow pears, and San Marzanos.

In order to save the seeds, we picked the best tomatoes and waited until they were really ripe. We cut them in half, then squeezed out all the seeds and juice into a jar. To each jar, we added a little bit of water then covered the jar with plastic wrap and let it sit for 2-3 days.

You want the seeds and water mixture to ferment, so when a thin film is covering the seeds, they are ready to rinse and dry. Simply rinse the seeds in a fine mesh sieve until they are clean, then spread out to dry in a coffee filter or on parchment paper. Once the seeds are completely dry, they are ready for storage.

We labeled different envelopes with the name of each tomato seed so we wouldn't get them confused, and have the seeds stored in the envelopes for next year. I was surprised at how easy the seed saving process was, and I'm really excited to see how the seeds do in next summer's garden. But I think I'm most excited about the fact that we hopefully won't have to buy any tomato seeds next year!

Do you save any of your seeds?


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 our new blogger, Sue, will be up. If you have some free time, please check out the other posts in this weekly series!

Shared with Cottage Tails, From the Farm Blog Hop  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sylvester & Emma

Saturday was the perfect lazy day. I got home really late Friday night after seeing The Lumineers in St. Louis with my sister (it was awesome!) and wanted to just relax on Saturday. The chilly, dark, rainy weather was conducive to lounging, so David and I enjoyed couch time under a pile of blankets.

Mid-afternoon, I peeked out the kitchen door to see how all the animals were doing, and noticed Sylvester making himself cozy on the back porch while hiding from the rain.

I gave him a little pet and went back inside for some more couch time. A bit later, I peered back out the door again and this time saw Sylvester had a cuddle buddy.

No matter your species, rainy weekend days truly are best spent cuddling with those you love. Just when I thought they couldn't get any cuter, this happened.

It has been so heartwarming to see how Sylvester has taken Emma under his wing (er, paw?) and welcomed her to our homestead. I didn't expect anything less of him, because he has shown us in the past that he is a lover, not a fighter. Seeing these two together always makes me smile and makes my day that much brighter.

Do any of your animals have special bonds?


Shared with From the Farm Blog Hop, Tuesday Muse  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: Guineas On The Homestead

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     

Just the other day I was thinking about how at first I really didn't like our guineas at all, but now it's hard to imagine our homestead without them.

Aside from the fact that they eat up tons of ticks and bugs and lay amazingly delicious eggs, they actually are quite entertaining and charming. It wasn't always that way, though, because at first they were so loud it was nearly unbearable for us to be outside. After we had our original flock of 16 on lockdown for their first six months to be sure they would always return, we let them out to free range. And chaos ensued.

They do make great "watchdogs" because if they sense any threat they will scream very loudly. However, when first let out to free range, everything seemed like a threat to them because they weren't quite familiar with their surroundings. A simple butterfly fluttering by could send a rush of panic through the flock and result in deafening screams. Just about the time when I said I'd had it and thought about getting rid of them somehow, they got quiet and became pleasant and enjoyable.

I guess they knew what was good for them! Now they follow me around for treats (sunflower seeds) and make sweet little noises while going about their business. In the mornings they tend to range out pretty far and I usually see some of them across the street visiting the neighbor's cows in their pasture. Towards the end of the day they come  back and hang out by the house until it's time to roost in the trees for the night.

The guineas get along just fine with the chickens, cats, and Duchess. Occasionally they fight amongst themselves, but we don't see squabbles very often. All in all, our homestead is a peaceful one, something I never thought I'd say two years ago this time!


Shared with From the Farm Blog Hop 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

World Day For Farmed Animals

Today marks the 30th annual World Day for Farmed Animals (WDFA). On this day, organizations and individuals rally to raise awareness of the conditions farmed animals face each day. Out of the estimated 65 billion food animals killed annually worldwide, the vast majority of them are raised on large factory farms.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that animals are routinely mistreated in the food industry. Before starting our journey to self-sufficiency and really learning about where our food comes from, I had no idea what went on in large scale commercial farms. When we got our first flock of chickens, they sparked an interest in me to research the food industry and I was appalled by what I learned.

If you don't know what goes on in factory farms each day, watch this short video. Be warned - it is graphic and extremely hard to watch. You may have to look away from the screen a few times and may shed a few tears, but it's nothing compared to what these animals have to go through.

I eventually became a vegetarian after wrestling with these issues. For me, that was the best solution. But I'm not naive - I do realize not everyone will stop eating meat after watching this video. Becoming a vegetarian was the right solution for me, but I don't want to force it on anyone else. I feel like it's a very emotional and cultural choice and I never want to come across as a crazy fanatic, but this issue is something very important to me.

My hope is that if you are affected by this video, you will research to find a place to buy your food where you can meet the farmers and know that the animals at least had a shot at happy lives. A wonderful resource is Local Harvest. You can search for farmers in your area that sell products from their own farms.

I know this post is a bit of a departure, but animal welfare is a big passion of mine and I feel like I have to share what I've discovered with others. If you want to know more of my story or have any other questions about this post, feel free to email me ( I'd be more than happy to talk to you.

Since I can't do a post without a photo, I'll leave you with this shot of our happy boys free ranging this foggy morning (and also one of my favorite quotes).

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated." - Mahatma Gandhi