down on the farm

I’m finally starting to come out of my Christmas sugar coma and thought it might be time to post something.  You think I’m exaggerating, but no, I think I ate more treats over the last three weeks than I have in the last three years.  Gross.  I’m hoping I’ve learned my lesson.  Good thing our garden is still producing treats of the healthier kind. 

ImageLook at the blossoms on our peas.  I’m so excited.  We have a few pods popping up here and there as well.

ImageOur slightly frozen tomato plants are hanging on — they don’t look very pretty, but who cares — we have fruit.  Hurray.  Even if we get three tomatoes, that will be more than last year. 

ImageOur lettuce and swiss chard continues to be our most productive crop.  We have huge salads several times a week and are still able to give bunches away. 

ImageThe animals are doing great.  The goats are as fun as fun can be, and we’re looking forward to babies this spring.  We were a little worried about how everyone would get along with our new set up, but it seems to be working.  We even managed to introduce the baby chicks into the adult chicken run without losing a single bird — in case you didn’t know, chickens are mean to each other.  Hen pecking is real — often to the death. 

ImageSo that’s about it.  I sure am looking forward to 2014.  We’ve had some pretty big projects hanging over our heads for the last several years, but it feels like things are finally settling down.  Here’s hoping that the economy can limp along for just a little bit longer.  It would be nice to have a little peace before the poop totally hits the fan.  How’s that for a Happy New Year wish. 

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it’s beginning to look a lot like christmas — finally

I decided this weekend that it was finally time to do something about Christmas — you know, since it’s less than two weeks away.  Anyway, here are a few of the highlights.

This is our mantle — eventually, it will have a few stockings hung up with care, but really, we have way too many for them all to be hung.

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ImageThis is our family room tree.  It’s the tree for all of the ornaments the kids have collected over the years.  It’s hard to believe that pretty soon many of the ornaments will be hanging on other trees.

ImageThis is the tree in our living room.  It’s been unofficially labeled my tree because I’ve made most of the ornaments on the tree.  It’s simple and understated.  What I’d like to be — one day.

ImageThis year I added a new ornament.  I’m really pleased with the way they turned out.

I also added a new sign to our front window this year.
ImageIt’s a great reminder for me to stay happy this time of year and not get bogged down in the details and the hustle and bustle.

Oh, and I have to show off my birthday present.  We finally put it up this weekend and even threw on some lights.  It was worth the wait.

ImageBy far, my favorite Christmas decorations are the nativities.  That’s what Christmas is all about after all.  This is the one in our living room.  I made it oh so many years ago when I was on my mission teaching others about the life and ministry of this tiny babe of Bethlehem.

ImageAnd here’s the nativity from our family room.  Whenever I look at it, it’s as though I am transported back to that first Christmas night.  I can almost hear the angels singing.

ImageGlory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.  Merry Christmas.

down on the farm

Oh wow, it’s been longer than I thought.  We’ve had all kinds of craziness around here.  We headed up north to spend Thanksgiving with family (holy cow did we have a good time) and got home just in time to put the finishing touches on our congregation’s Christmas party, bite our nails as Hayden tried out for Heritage’s production of Phantom of the Opera (first ever high school production in Arizona), and get Taryn out the door for winter formal.  Once I get all my photos in some kind of order, I’ll share.

So now, we’re buzzing around trying to get our house ready for Christmas in between holiday parties, concerts, and other various and sundry obligations.  I’m not a big holiday decorator, but I do like decorating for Christmas — nothing crazy, just a few things here and there.  In my imaginary world, I was going to have it all done by this morning.  Umm, no.  So you’ll have to wait for those pictures as well.  Don’t hold your breath, you may not see them until New Years.

Our biggest news comes from the homestead front.  A few days before we left for Thanksgiving, we received word from the state that the quarantine on our property had been officially lifted.  HURRAY!  We quickly made arrangements to pick up our new goats.  With that, we pleased to introduce the newest residents at Blissful Homestead — Strawberry Shortcake, Flame Princess, and Daisy.

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Strawberry and Princess love playing on their chicken poop covered table, and Daisy is sweet as sweet can be.  All come from awesome milking lines and we’re really optimistic.  Strawberry recently miscarried a kid, but there’s a possibility that she is still pregnant.  We’re going to try and have an ultrasound done to find out for sure.  Princess may be with kid as well, we should have the pregnancy test results back tomorrow.  Daisy, well, she’s too young to be going on any dates, but by this spring, she should be good to go.

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All the animals seem to be getting along great.  It was kind of funny watching the chickens after the goats moved in.  They didn’t quite know what to think.  Oddly, the goats and rabbits really seem to like each other.

The little chickens are getting huge.  Pretty soon they’ll be ready to move in with the rest of the flock.  They’re not quite a skittish as they used to be and will even pose for a picture or two.

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We did run into a bit of trouble this week.  We had a few nights where we dropped below freezing.  The peas, beets, and broccoli, seemed to fare the best.

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The lettuce and swiss chard did okay.

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The tomatoes, corn, and zucchini — not so much.

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Pretty sad looking.  Oh well, we’re happy to chalk it up to another learning experience.  We planted a little too late this year — timing is everything.

Speaking of timing — I better run — that count down to Christmas clock is really moving fast.

down on the farm

It’s been a good couple of weeks for us at Blissful Homestead.  Cool mornings and evenings and warm afternoons have done wonders.

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The alfalfa is growing even better than weeds.  We couldn’t be more pleased.

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It’s finally noticeably taller than the grass.

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The garden looks great — especially with the first crop of our corn (a huge bust) pulled up.

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Our first zucchini popped out this weekend.  They got a late start and we weren’t sure we were going to get any.  Hurray.

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Here’s our first tomato — last year we had a bazillion on the vine only to be wiped out by a freak three day cold snap.  One day at 32 degrees they can handle — three in a row.  Nope.  The extended forecast calls for a warmer than normal winter.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed.  I need to learn how to can tomatoes this year.

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Our peas — the spring crop was a massive failure, so if we get even one meal (okay, maybe two) I’ll be happy.

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Cherry tomatoes — yum.

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And a little bitty pepper.

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We moved the big chickens into their new yard, so the little chicks (not so little anymore) have a big old spot of their own.  They are loving picking through the winter rye clippings.  They have so much to munch on, they’re hardly touching their feed.

Speaking of the old chickens, here’s their new house.  They are quite taken with it — well, they use it anyway.  Oh, and that mess, that mess is the last of the corn stalks.  For whatever reason they totally love it.

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My favorite part of the new hen house is the little trap door we use to collect eggs.

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Here’s their new outdoor roost — I don’t think they’ve quite figured it out yet.

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Oh, I take it back, the water bucket is my favorite part of the set up.  It has little nipple things (sorry I don’t know the technical term) on the bottom the the chickens peck at to release water.  We fill it up every five days or so and because it has a lid, the water stays nice and clean for them.  It’s a win-win for all parties.

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Speaking of win-wins or win-losses in this case, Hayden had his last football game of the season on Saturday.  Heritage Academy made it all the way to the state championships.

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This was the only picture I got.  It’s right before the game started (Hayden is number 14).  Seriously, the game was so intense from start to finish, I didn’t even think about taking pictures.  I’m totally fired as the family picture taker.  In the end, they lost 20-24, but they played their hearts out and should be very proud.  This was one tough team (and one tough crowd too I must add — why do people have to be so rude, holy cow, it’s a game, but I digress).  Awesome season Hayden.

That’s about it.  Hope all is well in your neck of the woods.

Mango-Blueberry Breakfast Couscous

The two little guys would eat oatmeal for breakfast every day if I made it.  I like oatmeal and all, but not quite that much.  One of my favorite alternatives is this mango-blueberry couscous recipe I clipped out of the paper years ago (yeah, the paper — I just totally dated myself — does anyone read the newspaper anymore?)  You can make the mix ahead or just throw everything in the pot all at the same time.  Start to finish it’s about 10 minutes — less if you mix the dry ingredients up ahead of time. 

ImageBlueberry-Mango Breakfast Couscous

1 cup whole wheat couscous

2 tablespoons brown sugar

3/4 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 cup slivered almonds (or whatever nuts you like, walnuts are super good as well)

1/4 cup dried blueberries

1/4 cup chopped dried mango

1 cup water

1/2 cup milk

In a medium bowl (or pot if you’re making it right away), combine dry ingredients.  Mix thoroughly.  Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Combine the dry mix with water and milk.  Heat, stirring occasionally until it comes to boil.  Cover and remove from heat.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Fluff it up with a fork and serve.  Makes about 4 servings or 1 if Thomas is really hungry (you think I’m kidding). 

I used to just eat it as is, but as of late, I’ve been pouring a little milk on top.  It’s good both ways.  Here are before and after pictures to prove it.

Thomas’ bowl.

ImageThree minutes later.

ImageYes, I spawned a human vacuum.

 

it’s fall and that means it’s time for soup

I think one of my favorite things about fall and winter is that you can have soup for dinner a lot — like almost every night a lot.  Perhaps one of the easiest soups to make is tomato.  Like most people of my generation, I grew up with tomato soup from a can.  Tomato soup from a can will always hold a place in my heart because of the memories it brings up, but really, homemade is so much better, and it’s almost as easy.  Here’s my latest tomato soup find from Deliberately Domestic.

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Tomato Basil Soup

4 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes (I used Costco’s organic tomatoes — I’m keep my fingers crossed that the cans are BPA free, if anyone knows, please let me know)

15 oz of broth (I used vegetable broth, but any broth will do)

18 basil leaves chopped

1 cup whole milk

3 tablespoons butter

1 small onion, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a stock pot.  Add onions and saute until golden.  Add tomatoes and broth.  Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes.  Add the basil and milk, stir and then blend using an immersion blender. (You can also use a regular blender in small batches, but I really love my immersion blender, perhaps if you don’t have one, Santa can put one in your stocking.)  Add salt and pepper, and you’re done.  Fast and yummy.  Add a grilled cheese sandwich and you have a complete meal.  Tah-dah.

For me, the best part of this recipe is that I finally found a use for this —

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Yup, that’s my basil plant.  I had no idea they got that big.  Oh, and I’ve figured out how to harvest the seeds.  Let me know if you’re interested in heirloom basil seeds — I have a bazillion or two.

down on the farm 2

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks around here.  Fall has actually kind of settled in — fall meaning temperatures in the high 70 and low 80s.  Nice, I know, and I’m super grateful for it.  It’s way nicer weeding the garden when it’s 75 degrees as opposed to 115 degrees.  Speaking of the garden, here it is (notice the weeds, obviously, I didn’t do as much weeding as I should have.)
ImageI’m so excited to have that lettuce on my plate with a little poppy seed dressing.   Oh, and did you notice the new fence.  Greg worked super duper hard this weekend, bless his heart, preparing for our new goats (no, we still don’t know when we’ll get cleared, buy we’re hopeful).  You can also see the new chicken coop — told you he worked hard.

ImageIn order to work on the new coup, Greg had to pull the laying boxes out of the old coup.  So we had to do a little improvising.

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Don’t laugh, it totally worked.  He’s what I found this afternoon.

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Yesterday I found six.  I think they must have figured out that I had just plopped down 7 bucks on two dozen eggs at Costco.  Stinkers.  Guess we’ll be having eggs for breakfast this week — every day.

The baby chicks are doing great and are not really babies any more.  Their fluff is mostly gone and has been replaced by feathers.  Sad, they were so cute.

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I have to sway, these birds are kind of freaks.  Every time we walk by, they totally spaz out.  Oh well, as long as they lay eggs.

Ooh, check this out — no more poop in our front yard, just beautiful green grass and a field of alfalfa.  Hurray, it worked.

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What a difference a few weeks make.

That’s about it on the farm — here’s what’s going on with the fam.

The week before last was homecoming for Heritage (the high school our kids attend).  It was quite the night for both Hayden and Tayrn.  Hayden helped lead the team to victory as the quarterback and Taryn was crowned homecoming queen.

The evening was not without its hiccups however.  You see, Taryn is student body vice president so she knew already that Ben, her date to homecoming, had won homecoming king (although she didn’t know that she had won, for sure anyway).  The coach had been told that Ben won as well and sent Ben over to where they were making the announcement.  Unfortunately, the person who announced the court wasn’t given the right memo and announced Ben’s best friend, McKay, as homecoming king — confusing?  Yea, which brings me to my favorite picture of the night thanks to Ben’s mom over at Denton Sanatorium.

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Thankfully, everything worked out in the end.  McKay was happy to turn over his crown and they all lived happily ever after as seen in these lovely pictures, again, thanks to Ben’s mom.

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Their 1940s themed dance was held in an airport hanger — how cool is that?

Of course, we also celebrated Halloween — well I use the term celebrated loosely as I really can’t stand Halloween (I know, who hates Halloween).  I managed to get one picture before we ran out the door to our neighborhood “Fall Festival.”

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Nice use of tin foil huh?

Last but not least, just in case you feel an ever so slight bit of jealousy creeping in because I am enjoying sunny 75 degree skies, check out this picture.

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This is an Arizona Bark scorpion.  Last Sunday, one of these nasty little guys stung me on my hand.  It hurt — not like I’m going to die hurt, but I don’t want to get stung again hurt.  So here’s your little preparedness tip for the week.  If stung by a scorpion, wash the affected area with a mild soap and then apply a cold compress 10 minutes on 10 minutes off for a long time.

It took a good 24 hours for the pain to go away and about 36 for my had to feel normal again.  On the positive side, it got me out of making dinner.  Thanks family for taking care of it.  Phew, all done.

the great cookie debate

Last week, I posted my chocolate chip pumpkin cookie recipe.  You can see it here.  I thought, they were okay, healthy tasting, but good enough to share.  Well, that evening, Greg popped a few in his mouth and said, “These aren’t that good.”  (Don’t fret, it was said in a nice way, and I actually like it when he tells me something isn’t good — why would I want to spend time and effort to make something that no one likes.)  Anyway, I felt really bad for posting something that was yucky.  Then Taryn came in, grabbed a cookie and said, “These are so good.”  And the great cookie debate began.

We still don’t have a definitive answer on whether or not these are actually good — as of this morning, all five dozen are gone, so they couldn’t have been that bad.  But, I do feel the need to apologize to anyone that made them and thought they weren’t that great.  Sorry to waste your pumpkin and chocolate chips.  To redeem myself, I offer you another pumpkin recipe.  And this is really good — it was universally approved — no bake cheesecake graham cracker sandwiches.

I found the recipe at The Well Floured Kitchen.  I’m in love with this blog.  She is super cool and makes her own graham crackers.  I had some nasty store bought ones left over from making smores with the cub scouts, so I used those.  They were still wonderful, but I’m excited to go totally Martha and make the graham crackers — next time.  But for now, here you go.

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No Bake Cheesecake Graham Cracker Sandwiches

1/4 cup pumpkin puree (just pumpkin, not the pie filling stuff)

4 oz. cream cheese softened

2 tablespoons organic sugar

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or a little more if you like)

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Mix the cream cheese and sugar.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix. 

Spread on your graham crackers and make sandwiches — sorry, there’s not much else to say other than if your cream cheese mixture seems a little too soft, put it in the fridge for a bit.

These things are so yummy.  In fact, I need to wrap this up so I can go make some more.  Enjoy.

pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

In theory, it’s fall; although, it was 95 degrees here yesterday.  Regardless of the temperature, whenever I think of fall, I think of pumpkin.  I was a pumpkin lover long before pumpkin was cool, and I still love it.  These cookies are fast and easy and satisfy even my pumpkin cravings.  I have to warn you, they’re pretty healthy as far as cookies go, and they kind of taste that way.  The good news is, you can eat them without much angst.

ImagePumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup organic sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup butter

1 cup canned pumpkin (just pumpkin, not the pie stuff)

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

2 cups whole wheat flour

1/4 cup ground flax seeds

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat sugars, butter, and oil until light and fluffy (I whip them for about 3 minutes in my stand mixer).  Add pumpkin, vanilla, and egg; blend well.  Add dry ingredients and mix.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Drop dough by rounded teaspoons on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 10 minutes or until light brown around the edges.  Makes 4-5 dozen depending on how round your teaspoonfuls are and how many tastes everyone takes as you’re making them.

Serve with a little apple cider and holy cow, what a fun fall treat.