Monthly Archives: September 2015

In the Hen House {eggs!}

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Yes, the chickens have started laying eggs!!  This is a relatively new development, and we are still getting only one or two a day, but I am so excited that I have been documenting every day’s egg harvest on Instagram.  😀

The chickens have grown quite quickly through the summer.  One of our hens is definitely a rooster.  Clyde von Zeppelin is an enthusiastic crower, and also loves the ladies.  I find roosters highly entertaining, though, and actually really enjoy having him.  Plus, there’s always a chance that one of the hens will go broody next spring and actually hatch some chicks, which is always a great time.

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Here we have the whole flock:

  • Clyde von Zeppelin – aracauna (rooster)
  • Priscilla – speckled Sussex
  • Penelope – cuckoo moran
  • Millicent – light brown leghorn
  • Esther – black australorp
  • Isabelle – Columbian rock
  • Charlotte – New Hampshire
  • Henrietta – aracauna

While I’m not 100% sure, I’m pretty sure that our first egg came from Charlotte, who has continued to lay every day since her first egg appeared.  Someone else, probably Isabelle, is also laying an egg every day or two.  Charlotte and Isabelle, along with Priscilla and Esther, will all lay light or medium-brown eggs.  Penelope should lay very dark brown, Millicent’s should be white, and Henrietta’s will be either green or blue.

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Our first egg was laid September 16.  When pullets first start to lay, their eggs are quite small, although they will eventually get bigger.

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I’ve legit taken pictures of eggs every day.  😀  This one is in the nest box, which the hens have definitely been using.

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Last Sunday we ate some of our eggs for the first time!!  Eggs actually can last quite a long time before spoiling, and most store-bought eggs are around a month old.  Eggs are comprised of yolk, inner white, and outer white.  The fresher an egg is, the less air has entered the egg, which means that the yolk and inner white will stand taller, and the inner white will retain its egg shape, as you can see in this picture.  Fresh eggs also tend to be brighter in color.

We’re pretty excited about eggs coming, and will probably expand the flock next spring as well.  I also  just enjoy watching the chickens.  They are also industrious, scratching around and getting into things.  Ours are friendly and spoiled, expecting a treat every time someone walks past the fence.  They love eating non-mean table scraps, and things like watermelon rinds and corn cobs are their favorite.

All in all, the chickens have been a successful project so far, and having them around makes me super happy, especially now that there are eggs!

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Garden Update {harvest}

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So the garden definitely spiraled way out of my control this summer.  Part of the problem was that we went on vacation for ten days right in the middle of July, when things were really starting to happen.  We had a super wet June, which meant everything grew like crazy, and then a super dry August, which meant I ought to be watering everything a lot (which I haven’t).  We definitely had more tomatoes than I could have used in a year, along with some cucumbers, peppers, beans, and herbs.  We already have a lot of plans for next year, hopefully compensating for some of this year’s mistakes.

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This was one day’s worth of harvest!!  One of the biggest problems this year was simply me being unprepared to deal with lots of vegetables.  I’m good at making salads, but had no idea what to do with all the extras.  I’m already working on experimenting with a few different recipes to see if we can find something worth canning next year.  I’ve never tried canning, but I have wanted to for years.  Maybe next summer it will finally happen!!

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While my vegetable preservation skills need some improvement, I did much better with drying herbs.  I’ve always loved herbs, and really want to continue growing, harvesting, and utilizing them.  Herblore is fascinating, and I’ve only scraped the surface of what can be learned.

Point is, I was able to actually dry some herbs!  Since it is a first year for what I planted, I didn’t harvest a lot from the perennials, but I still quite pleased with the results.  This was all done in mid-late July, so I should get a second harvest before frost from many of the plants.

Before drying, I cut bunches from the herbs and removed any damaged leaves, and also checked for insects.

In this picture, I have several bunches hanging to dry, mostly savory, parsley, lemon balm, and several varieties of basil (my favorite!!).  Also, although there appears to be light pouring through that window, it actually faces north and is under a porch overhang, so no direct light actually comes through the window.  Herbs are best dried in a dark, dry area.

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After the herbs dried thoroughly, I stripped the leaves from the stems.  As you can see, I also made a mess.  So much fun, though, and smelled SO GOOD.

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After stripping, I put the leaves into canning jars (although I didn’t seal them in any way), and then put the jars in my little herb cabinet.  I’m super excited about having my own herbs through the winter.  I love using herbs in cooking, and am also trying to make my own herbal teas.

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One of my big challenges for the summer is trying to learn how to cook with what I have fresh, and also trying to incorporate more beans, rice, and grain into our diet.  Here, I made a sort of no-lettuce salad – this recipe was quinoa, tomatoes, herbs, and a vinaigrette dressing, and actually ended up being quite delicious.  The quinoa has a very pleasant, nutty taste that really complemented the fresh tomatoes.

20150805_202136Although not strictly “harvest” related, I thought I would also update you on the little fish pond.  As you can see, it’s  really settled into the landscape!!!

We still have so much we want to do in this side garden, including moving and redoing the fence, and continuing to expand the herbs, but for a first summer, it really doesn’t look too bad.  We bough some plants and four fish for  the pond, and everything has thrived.  We’ve even had frogs living there, voluntarily!

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Here are a few of the fish, who, by the way, have produced babies!?  That was unexpected, but we definitely have a few little fish swooping around, hiding in the rocks, and trying to avoid being eaten by their parents.  Who knows if they’ll survive, but it’s sort of fun to see them growing!

So, that’s a little update on the gardening aspect of the homestead.  Coming tomorrow – more about chickens!!

Windowseat Project {dream fulfillment}

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So there is this awesome thing about my life: Tom literally makes my dreams come true.  Like I think of a thing that I’ve always wanted, and then he builds it.  It like a miracle and I can’t get over it.

In this edition of Tom making a dream come true, he built me a window seat.  I’ve always wanted one.  They look so cozy and happy, the perfect place to read a book.  I mentioned it offhandedly one day, about wanting one, and his response was, “Well, I could build that.” Of course he could!

We decided to use one of the big picture windows in the lower room as the location for our window seat.  These picture windows (there are two) face full south and are quite long.  We also needed additional storage in this room, so Tom designed the window seat to have shelves underneath as well.  For him, it was a spare-time project that he puttered on as he had time, so it took much of the summer to get it together, especially as he was building a desk at the same time.  Eventually, a corner shelf will connect the two pieces of furniture.

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Here we have the window seat in its rough, beginning stages down in the garage.  True to form, almost the entire thing is built from 2x4s, including the little railing Tom built around the edges to hold the cushions in place.  The bottom of the seat part is plywood.

To the right is the desk.  This is also built mostly from 2×4’s, with the exception of the top, which is an actual nice piece of wood – poplar, I believe.

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After putting together the main frame, Tom began working on the shelves that would go underneath.  To make the furniture easier to move (and not quite as heavy), he built the shelf as as separate piece that slides underneath the window seat.  In this picture, you can see the beginning of the framework for the shelves.  We knew we needed a space for the desktop computer tower, the printer, paper, and banker boxes.

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While he was finishing up the shelves, Tom went ahead and painted the actual window seat and the desk and moved them up to their new home in the lower room.  We used the same white on the rest of the trim.  The desktop is supposed to be darker than the walls (it’s the next darker color on the paint card), but really looks almost the exact same shade.

In the meantime, I was in charge of locating cushions, tricky because we needed about 9′ of cushion.  We talked about ordering a custom length of foam and then covering it ourselves, but it was just so cost prohibitive.  We wanted something at least 4-6″ thick (what’s the point of a window seat that isn’t super comfy?), and we obviously needed a matching color.

In the end, I found these cushions on sale at Target.  They’re actually indoor-outdoor furniture cushions, and they fit perfectly in the space.  They’re soft and cozy, and a neutral beige.  With some cheery throw-pillows, they work great.

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Speaking of throw pillows – here they are!  (Note:  It’s hard to take pictures of stuff in windows!)

You can see that the window seat is on the tall side, but I absolutely love it.

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Here it is with the shelves inserted.  Although it is hard to tell from the picture, because I am terrible at dealing with lighting issues, the insides of the shelves are painted green to match the desktop.  The holes drilled in the side of the shelf on the right are to ventilate the computer tower.

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Here we have the mostly-finished product!  You can see the printer with the custom-sized shelves next to it that are perfect for paper.  Since Tom built them, the shelves are super sturdy, and can be used as steps to get into the window seat if necessary.

So, end result?  I get another dream fulfilled – the window seat is fabulous, and has become one of my favorite spots to curl up with a book.  Total win.