Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Ginormous Egg.

It's not that unusual to occasionally get a bigger than normal egg. They almost always turn out to be double yolkers. However, our latest 'big' egg is definitely a record for us. This is the biggest 'big' egg i've ever seen!!


It measure 6 1/4" inches around.




It is just a hair over 3" long and weighs 3 3/4 oz. i did a quick online just to see what an average egg weighs and found this chart. The jumbo sized eggs you'd get from the store are 2 1/2 oz on average. My eggs are about 2 oz on average. This egg is almost twice the size of my normal eggs. It's ginormous!!


Here you can see it in a egg carton with some of my average sized 'large' eggs. :)
That poor hen!! This crazy big egg was laid by a White Leghorn. She's actually a pretty small bird compared to the other production layers. The hen is fine too, by the way. She wasn't even walking funny. :)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Morning Harvest


It rained all night, and i woke to broccoli that was ready to pick.



This morning's harvest consisted of almost a dozen eggs, the two largest heads of broccoli, a head of Buttercrunch lettuce, a bunch of majesty lettuce , garlic scapes, and asparagus. Yum!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Progress around our homestead

We've made a lot of progress around the homestead this year. Earlier in the spring we finished the fencing in new goat yard. We fenced off part of the old goat yard, and planted clover and grass. We also fenced in three of our vegetable gardens, and really switch up our original garden plans. We added a second chicken coop, and 7 new laying hens.


Although we got the coop in February, it took almost a week before we got it off the back of the truck. There is sat for at least a month, before it was finally moved down to the area where i wanted it. One of the neighbors came over and helped move it with a couple of metal poles and a tractor. Once it had been moved i went out to look at it, and was some what annoyed to see that the coop was facing the woods. At this point, i should really know better than to assume the husband and i are on the same track... but really? It made absolutely no sense the way it was set up. The chickens run would be facing the woods, in order to clean out the coop i would have to take the wheel barrel into the run just to access the door. When i asked about turning it, i was told there is no way, it's too heavy. Hrrmmpphhh. So i rigged up a temporary fence, so the birds were contained and then i let them out into the yard in the afternoons while i waited for the husband to put up permanent fencing.

i don't want to sound impatient, but two months after getting the new coop it still was not fenced in, the chickens were constantly escaping my temporary rigged fence and i was extremely frustrated.

Then to my surprise, about two weeks ago my husband brought over his shop mate and they turned the coop. :) That weekend he put in the permanent fencing too. The coop now sits so that we have access to the door without having to go into the fencing. i can pull the wheel barrel right up next to it, to clean it out. Their is a small door for the chickens to enter the run, and the eggs can be collected without ever having to go inside the fencing. After a lot of grumbling, and complaining my husband did eventually admit that i was right. lol. This set up made the most sense.


Once it was completely set up, i added a few personal touches. :) i'm going to add a water barrel on the backside to collect the rainwater, and then use that to water the birds. i still hope to eventually get it stained to match our house.


we added a door to connect the chicken run to the old goat yard. That way the goats didn't have access to the chicken feed, but i could open the door and the birds free range in this space during the day. They are much more protected within the fences than they were just in the yard.


They LOVE coming out each day and nibbling the tasty greens.


The goats are also loving their new space. They have a nice area to browse. We planted clover and alfalfa, but the area is also full of small tree shoots and weeds like poison ivy, and blackberries. They seem to love the variety. i still need to have some kind of lean-to put in the area so they have shelter, but i now feel like we have enough space to finally breed Delilah and add a few more goats to the herd.


It is so nice to not be dependent on just the dry hay. The goats seem so much happier, and content now that they are out foraging. It is so nice to see things finally come together and feel like we are making progress.

The next big things for us is to finally finish up the house construction that was started several years ago. The entire project was put on hold, and it will be so nice to finally start moving forward again.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Teacher's Gifts

We really loved the kid's teachers this year and wanted to do something special for them. During teacher's appreciation week, students are asked to bring in certain items for the teacher each day. Like on Monday each child brings in a piece of fruit, so at the end of the day the teacher has a beautiful fruit basket. On Tue. each child brings in a flower, so at the end of the day the teacher has a lovely bouquet...etc. It's really a nice idea, i think.

The day before we were supposed to bring flowers we had crazy rain. All of my irises, ended up soaked and lying in the mud. So i had to think of an alternative in case the flowers had not recovered by the morning. i found this super cute idea for tissue paper flowers on the Family fun website. we didn't have the bamboo garden stacks, and instead fastened the flower onto a new unsharped pencil that was rolled in green construction paper. They turned out really cute, and the kids were so excited to give them to their teachers.


One one of the days we were asked to bring in a sweet treat for the teachers. This could be store bought or homemade, so we made up a batch of cookies. Then we made these adorable owl bags to put them in. These are so cute and easy.!! We found the idea for the owls here.
The tutorial suggests that you fold the top forward. Instead we folded one side forward, and one side backwards to get ears or tufts! You can put a staple in the top to keep it closed or seal it with a glue stick.


We always make a gift for the teachers last day of school as well. i always have a million different ideas of what we'll do, and then end up having the kids paint flower pots. :) They enjoy it though.
i had the kids paint garden scenes in the pots, and then we sealed it up with Modpodge and embellished them with super cute stickers we'd picked up at Micheal's. Then we sealed them again with the modpodge.


They turned out great!! Since my daughter's name is Sage i thought it would be most appropriate to give her teachers a sage plant. :) We ended up planting a variety of different herbs and making a mini-herb garden in a pot.


Just for fun i added my kids' faces to this garden gnome and printed them out. Then glued them to popsicle sticks and stuck them in the pots with a message on the back to the teachers. :) Ideally we would have laminated these, but didn't have access to a laminator.

We had a lot of fun with these and the kids were so excited and filled with pride to hand them to their teachers the last day of school.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Farm Rich Product Review and Giveaway! CLOSED




We were recently asked to review and host a giveaway for Farm Rich Frozen Snacks – Seriously, how could we say no?? :) We tried the mozzarella cheese sticks and the breaded mushrooms.


As a kid, we did not go out to eat very often. However, one of my favorite memories of eating out was when my dad ordered a big basket of steamy hot cheese stick appetizers. It always came with a marinara sauce to dip them in. i don't even remember the restaurant where we ordered them, i just remember how good they were. It definitely brings back warm nostalgic childhood memories for me.

Now that i have my own family, we also rarely ever eat out. My kids have only experienced real restaurant cheese sticks once. So when i pulled out the Farm Rich cheese sticks it was a real treat for everyone!! Although deep frying them tastes sooo good, baking them is a healthier option so we decided to baked them. :) They were delicious!! They are are made with 100% real mozzarella cheese, and cooked up quickly in the oven. They kept their shape perfectly and didn't ooze out everywhere.

They made a nice addition to our meal, and the leftovers made a great snack for the kids the next day. My kids totally devoured them! The husband and i devoured the breaded mushrooms....yum!!

Farm Rich offers a tasty variety of other frozen treats like breaded mushrooms, stuffed pretzel bites, jalapeno poppers and more. They are all tasty and easy-to-prepare snacks and appetizers sure to please the whole family!!



CLOSED WINNER IS #13 Beth Elderton

How would you like the chance to try out two bags of Farm Rich snacks?

Farm Rich has offered one of my lucky reader the chance to win
2 FREE Farm Rich Product Coupons for any product of your choice.


To enter let me know which two products you would choose if you win!
Leave a comment letting me know you completed a mandatory entry with your email!
Please include your e-mail address or make sure it is visible in your blogger profile so i have a way to contact you if you win. Otherwise a new winner will be chosen!

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8. Blog about the giveaway link to this post & the Farm Rich website. 5 entries, leave 5 comments.




**Rules**
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Monday, May 21, 2012

Spring Harvests and Eggs for Sale.

Gardening season is in full swing here. i'm still a bit behind in planting my main garden, but the other beds are about 95% planted and doing pretty well. My main garden is a summer garden, so the plants do not have to be in as early as the spring crops.

My front garden, which is the 'purple garden' and salad bed combined, is the farthest along. It was planted the earliest with cold crops and a couple rows of purple beans. My biggest issue with this garden has been flea beetles, which pretty much destroyed the Redbor kale i planted. i have a couple plants still hanging in there, but the majority of the kale in this bed really didn't do well at all. i just recently pulled out the Diatomaceous Earth, so i'm hoping that will help. i have more kale in a different garden that is doing fantastic...so i'm not that worried about it.



My buttercrunch is doing great. i haven't had any pest problems with any of my lettuces so far.


My spinach, despite the warmer temps, is still doing fantastic. It hasn't started to bolt at all, and i have a ton of new seeding coming up in a shaded bed that are thriving. We've been enjoying it in salads, and hoping to freeze quite a bit of it for later use.


Lots of baby greens coming up. These spring mix salads are always my favorites. i love the tender leaves and the subtle flavors of the different greens.



We are eating lots of salads!! This was our first salad of the year! It is a combination of buttercrunch, spinach, baby greens and red Majesty lettuce.

We are also harvesting Egyptian onions, pea shoots, garlic scapes and asparagus. The asparagus has been so good this year. We are harvesting 4-5 shoots per day, so we are getting enough for a meal about twice a week. Each spring we plant a few new crowns, hoping to eventually increase our yield, but it never seems like enough.


We are just starting to get a few strawberries. Our strawberries have never done very well, the chickens have always torn them up...and the wild birds would eat the few berries we would get. i planted several new plants earlier this spring, and moved the beds into an area that is now completely fenced. i'm really hoping that this will help, as strawberries are one of my favorites.




Our hens have been busy laying this spring! We are getting over a dozen a day, way more than we can possibly eat. We have been sharing them with our neighbors, but are still finding ourselves with lots of excess. So we decided to put some for sale for local folks passing by. Our road gets no traffic at all, but Kenan's shop is on 221, a main road.

Kenan has a fridge at his shop in Willis and will be keeping a few dozen for sale there for local folks who are interested. He doesn't have a sign up yet, but will eventually. They are $2 per dozen. They are not certified organic, but they are farm fresh and free range. Our yard and gardens are organic (completely chemical free). They get corn scratch which is milled at Vaughn's Mill, a local mill right down the road from us. i can even give you the names of the chicken that laid each egg. :) His workshop is located almost across the street from the Willis Village mart. If you are interest in eggs, just let me know how many you need and i can make sure and send some along with him.
Later this summer, i'm hoping to set up a little plant stand in front of his shop and offer a few perennials for sale. Eventually, we'll be opening a retail shop in the space as well.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Free for Kindle Today!! Foraging: A No-Fluff Guide to Finding Edible Plants and Wild Mushrooms



Free TODAY ONLY for kindle!!! Prices can change at anytime, so pay attention before you purchase!



Foraging: A No-Fluff Guide to Finding Edible Plants and Wild Mushrooms

Description

Foraging is what people do when they choose to go looking for their own food in nature rather than buying it in a supermarket.

For those looking for the greenest way to feed themselves, foraging is definitely the answer. When you forage for food there are no factories involved in the production of the food you eat. In many cases the food needn’t even be cooked, which means that you will be saving on energy in that way too. Foraging is for conscientious people who want to make a difference in any way they can, while saving money and having fun at the same time. This book will teach you what you need to know to get out there and start foraging right away.

As with all Simple Self-Sufficiency titles, this book is written in an interesting and readable manner, without all the "fluff". We aim to publish books in a way that will deliver to you all of the necessary information without going into an extreme amount of detail. We guarantee you will come out with an expanded knowledge of the topic, from a source you can trust, without having to take days to read about it.


If you you don't have a kindle, you can download the free Kindle reader for PC and download and read it right on your computer!!

i come across a lot of great free books, and will be sharing them now and again!

Enjoy!!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Riverside Park and the Ararat River Greenway (NC)

We are officially out of school for summer!
Thursday morning was kindergarten graduation and Achievement awards. After it was over, we decided to reward to the kids for their good grades and hard work by taking them out to dinner and to the park to play.

We headed to Mount Airy, North Carolina which is just over the mountain from us. We always enjoy the drive over the mountain, and route 52 is lined with fresh produce stands, flower nurserys and flea markets. We stopped at my favorite nursery along the ay so i could pick out a few perennials. You can get a perennial 2 packs, for $.89. Great deal! i came home with Jacob's Ladder, Cupid's Dart, Foxglove and Delphinium. :)

When we first decided we'd be coming to Mount Airy for the day, i decided to look around for a park or place to hike. i came across info for Riverside park which is also the starting point for the Ararat River Greenway trail.


Riverside Park is really neat! The kids really had a fun time here.



They had a music wall, that both kids enjoyed. Lots of slides, swings, climbing wall, monkey bars everything you'd expect at a playground. It was all fenced in, and they had a smaller attached section for little kids (under 5). It's really a nice playground!


We've been to several other wooden castle parks, and one thing i liked about this park was that a lot of the wood had been replaced with wood-plastic composite. We had just learned how this was made at our field trip to the recycle center last week. Not only is is made with recycled plastics, it doesn't splinter like the wood does. It was also painted in bright fun colors and themes and really made the play structure different from others we have played at.


The boys had lots of fun too!



Before leaving the playground we spotted a robin's nest. Mother bird was sitting on the eggs, but flew away the minute i got out my camera. :)

Right across the parking lot is the beginning of the Ararat River greenway trail.


We really were not sure what to expect. The trail follows the Greenway, and runs about 2.2 miles. There are various picnic shelters and places to rest along the way. The trail is wide and established, and we saw many bicycles, strollers and joggers along the trail.


Although the trail kind of runs through the city, we still saw plenty of nature and wildlife. This baby praying mantis was spotted darting across the path. It's only about 1" long.

We also saw many wildflowers and native plants. There was lots of honeysuckle, oxeye daisy, gaillardia, Coreopsis, and even a few bachelor buttons.



We nearly stepped on this guy who was making it's way across the path. We had never seen this type of snake before, although i guess it's quite common in many places. It's a Rough Green Snake.


About 10 minutes after spotting the first one, we spotted a second. This one was a bit larger, and was laid out across the trail sunbathing. It didn't seem to be bothered by us at all.


Although the path is more of a city nature trail than an actual 'hike through the woods' trail we still spotted plenty of wild food to forage. There were several Mulberry trees along the path, and blackberry and raspberry canes were in full bloom.

We passed a couple of kayak launch areas, and a place where folks were swimming in the river. It seemed to be a pretty popular trail. Both the park and trail were kind of a nice find, especially since we come to Mount Airy now and again. It is always fun to explore new places, and identify new plants or critters. It was definitely a nice way to begin our summer vacation.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Raising Tadpoles.

A few weeks ago, we found a bunch of tadpoles in a puddle at Panther creek and brought home a few to raise.


Tadpoles are very easy to raise. We keep ours in the Insectlore Frog bog habitat we got a few years back. In the past, we have also them in a 10 gallon aquarium. i prefer the smaller frog bog though, it's easier to keep clean and unless you a have a ton of tadpoles it is plenty of room for them.


Make sure the container you use is very clean, and free from any soap residue.

In the wild, Tadpoles eat decomposing plant materials and insect larva found in the water. Some websites recommend feeding them fish flakes. However, we've had good luck feeding ours spinach leaves. We use fresh organic spinach from the garden. Wash it well, and place the leaves in a bit of boiling water to soften them up. Then rinse, cool and add them to your aquarium/habitat. The tadpoles will nibble away at these and produce a lot of poo that will need to be cleaned out every few days.



They grew really fast. The kids check them almost daily to report any changes. i usually get pictures of the whole process, but this time i totally missed getting of picture of the legs buds. When the kids checked on them one morning, we were surprised to see they had grown their legs!



By the next day, we had the feeling they were ready to be released.



So we took them behind our house to the creek, and let them go. They were so super tiny. i believe they may have been toads, rather than frogs because of the size. We released them in a wet/swampy area, where a spring was coming up from the ground. So there was a bit of water, but it wasn't fast moving like a stream or creek. We placed the little guys on some moss and dried leaves so they could decide where they wanted to go from there. It seemed like the perfect location for frogs or toads.

Just as we release the last one, and get the frog bog container cleaned out and put away, we came home with a new batch of tadpoles.

Just for fun, here is a really neat Tadpole Puppet printable you can print up from Scholastic to show how tadpoles transform into frogs through metamorphosis.

Here is another good printable coloring page that shows the life cycle of the frog. No matter how many times we experience watching the tadpoles transform, it just never gets old!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Weekend Nature Hike.

Just about every weekend, weather providing, we go for a family hike. Yesterday we had a few things to do in town, and decided to just hike along Beaver Creek again. It's a short hike, less than a mile, but it's quite pretty and we wanted to check for tadpoles. Last week we released the last of our frogs and the kids wanted more tadpoles to raise.

The trail follows the creek and is lined with a variety of wildflowers. We saw lots of Dame's rocket, fleabane, buttercups, wild azaleas and forget-me-nots. We also spotted many different kinds of butterflies, dragonflies, spiders, two snakes and a frog.


This lovely Dame's Rocket was everywhere.


We spotted yellow and black swallowtails, common buckeyes, commas and this Fiery Skipper.

This Common Buckeye Butterfly also posed for a picture, but the other butterflies just flitted by.

There were tons of these dragonflies everywhere.

We also came across this pretty cool mass of baby spiders. They are super tiny!! The whole mass was a little over an inch long. We gently blew on it, and the babies scattered everywhere! It was very neat to observe. i think these are probably the black and yellow garden spiders, but i'm not positive.

We also found what we had come looking for...tadpoles!!

We came prepared and had brought along a small jar and a bucket, and the kids had a great time catching a few. We brought home 15, and are excited to watch them transform!