Saturday, May 26, 2012

Alpaca farm

We had a fun playdate/field trip this week. My friend Joyce and her family live across the street from an alpaca farm. Joyce has 5 kids, and homeschools, so we are able to get together in the morning for playdates. Her kids help over at the alpaca farm, so we got to go over there and see the alpacas and the goats. There was one baby alpaca, and two baby goats. They were so adorable! Here is the baby alpaca...
And the mama and baby...
Here are two adorable kids holding two adorable kids :).
I seriously wanted to take one of the baby goats home. They kept nibbling on my sweatshirt. Aren't they so sweet???
Two super sweet babies :).
We had so much fun!!
Jeff did a lot of work today, clearing out the old flower bed that was against the old fence. It really opened up the back yard. You can see by the dirt patches where the old fence line was. Jeff planted grass seed there, so it should look really nice in a few weeks. The old fence next to our new one it is our neighbors fence. Jeff put up a tire swing for Evie today, and the rope is about 40 feet up in our Sycamore tree. The tire swings super far, and Evie absolutely loves it!
I have been making a lot of fermented foods lately. I am trying new things to see what I like before the garden starts producing. I made sauerkraut today. We love it! I start with this...
Then I chop it up in a large bowl. I should have chopped it smaller. I had to do a lot more work because the pieces were bigger. I added celtic salt to the bowl. It is about 2 Tblsp. of salt to a head of cabbage. It does make the sauerkraut salty, but you eat it more like a condiment and not a side dish. Just a tablespoon or two is loaded with way more probiotics than the kind you can get in pill form! According to Dr. Mercola (who is a very popular natural doctor online), he says that fermented foods have 100 times more probiotics than the pill form!!!
After I chop the cabbage up in a bowl, I take my big wooden rolling pin and start smashing the cabbage. It usually takes about 10-15 minutes to get it to look like this....
Once that is done, I put the sauerkraut in a jar. If there isn't enough juice from the cabbage to cover it, I add a little water. Then I sit it on my counter for about 3 days to ferment. After that I refrigerate it. We love it on salads, and on sandwiches. Evie loves it plain, and will eat lots of it.

I have been making kefir for awhile now, and I want to try some other fermented foods. I have a recipe for gingered carrots that sounds interesting. I also want to try radishes, green beans and turnips, since I will have so many in my garden. It is fun trying new things!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Urban gardening/homesteading

It is that time of year that I love, when everything starts to grow! I love all the seasons, but spring and early summer are fun because of all the things that start to come up. I think I truly am becoming an urban homesteader. I would love to be able to move to the country, but that isn't an option for us right now, so I am bringing the country to me. I'm trying to cram as many edible things as I can into my 1/2 acre of property.

We planted these strawberries last year, and they are doing well so far. They were a mix of June-bearing and Ever-bearing. We have been picking a handful a day. I hope they start producing more, but it looks like I will definitely have to buy some this year instead of relying on my patch. Maybe next year though :).

We planted 6 blueberry bushes two years ago, and they are small, but are loaded down with blueberries. You can see tiny berries on this bush below. I can't wait until they get huge and produce a lot of fruit!!
We expanded our garden this year. Thankfully we haven't gotten so many weird looks this year like we did last year. It cracked me up how people stared. They looked at us like we were digging a bomb shelter! It seems like people in subdivisions have forgotten what gardens are. Of the 50 or so houses in our little subdivision, we are the only ones with a garden. There is one woman who has a garden, but it is not in the subdivision, but on acreage next to the subdivision.

I started many of my plants from seed, and they did so/so. My tomatoes did great, and I planted 12 of them. The broccoli and cabbage also did great. My peppers and celery did really bad, as did my herbs. Next year I am just going to buy them. We found a guy who grows his own heirloom veggies, and he has a small greenhouse. I bought my celery and pepper plants there, and last year I bought tomatoes from him. They are always super healthy plants, and so much easier than trying to get mine to grow. I would love to have a greenhouse, but we don't have the room or the money. In the garden, along with my tomatoes, peppers, cabbage and broccoli, there are carrots, turnips, beets, peas (they are the ones near the middle growing up the fence), cucumbers and celery. We are doing a lot of things vertically this year. In the back yard, I went a little squash crazy. I planted 4 different kinds, all are going to be grown vertically. Here is a picture of my big garden.

Jeff is talking about making a root cellar to store our veggies for winter, so I won't have to can or freeze everything. I am also learning about how the pioneers used to preserve things, before canning. They did what was called lacto-fermentation. The lacto doesn't refer to dairy, but refers to the lactic acid that results from the fermentation process. The pioneers didn't have pressure canners or regular canners, so they fermented a lot of foods. It actually is really easy and very healthy. I fermented pickles and sauerkraut last year (I did a few jars), and kept them in my fridge. They can be stored in a root cellar too (most root cellars stay at around 50 degrees). They are supposed to be loaded with probiotics, and the salt in them preserves them. I was amazed at how crisp and fresh they tasted, even after 8 months!

We have had lots of fun animals and critters around. Our Orioles came back and made another nest in our Sycamore tree. I keep trying to take a picture of them at our Oriole feeder, but haven't been able to get one :(. Both the male and female have come to the feeder at the same time, and they are so beautiful! Our ducks are also back, but haven't been swimming in our pond as of yet. The tree frogs are everywhere, and we can hear them chirping. They love hanging out under the cover of our hot tub. Evie found this one :)....
Our school year is almost done. We have one month left. We were going to be done the first week of June, but we took a week off. We will only have 6 weeks off in the summer, but I have a plan for next year. I want to start the first week of August, then take a week off each month and 2 weeks off at Christmas. I figured that we will have our 180 days in by the 30th of May if we do that. I love the idea of being able to have a week off every month! I think it will avoid burnout for me.

Evie started soccer, and is having so much fun. They did soccer pictures a week ago, and we were able to take some great pictures instead with our camera. I didn't want to spend $30 for 6 wallets and a 5x7, which is what the package prices were. I thought this picture turned out great. There were several other really good ones.
My birthday was on the 9th. It was the big 4-0. It feels strange just typing that. When I was a kid, 40 seemed so old and decripit. Now here I am! Not that I am old and decripit :). I actually had a wonderful birthday. I didn't want a party. Jeff took the day off of work, and he and Evie showered me with lots of love. The night before, they made me go to my room and relax (oooohhhh the torture!) while they secretly decorated the house and made me a cake. I figured out what they were doing when Evie came in to ask me how I was doing, and her face was covered with chocolate :). lol! They decorated with purple balloons and streamers. Purple is my favorite color :). On my birthday, I opened my presents. Jeff got me a really sweet book with pictures of our family. I cried when I saw it because it was so sweet. It was an actually book he had printed out. He also got me this.....

I LOVE my swing! I am out there several times a day, swinging whenever I can. It folds out into a bed too, but I haven't done that yet. It is so relaxing, and a wonderful place to go out and read. Evie and I have homeschooled out on it too, which is great.

We are making changes to the backyard. Jeff privacy fenced in a larger section of the yard. It looks so nice, and really makes our back yard look bigger! We have a chain link fence across the other side of the back yard, and we want to fence that in with a privacy fence too. Then it will seem like our own little oasis back there. Jeff said he was completely fine with me getting a few chickens (Yay!), so I can do that once we fence in the rest of the back yard with privacy fence.

I wanted to post this picture because it is SO funny. I use a hot water bottle every day on sore spots, and put essential oils on beforehand. The hot water bottle helps the oils sink in better. I had heated up the bottle with hot water, then stuck it on my bed. Then I went to go get something. When I came back, I found Sierra laying like this....
And no, I didn't put it like that, she did! I guess her legs or paws were sore, or she just liked how warm it felt. I love the guilty look on her face :)!

Okay, this blog post is ginormous. I will end it with a picture of my beautiful irises. Oh how I wish they lasted longer, and that I could bottle their scent. The scent of them reminds me of fresh grapes cut from the vine. During iris season, I definitely take time to stop and smell the irises!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Trouble with Blogger

Is anyone else out there having trouble with Blogger?? I keep trying to post to blogs, and keep getting an internal error message, it shows up as anonymous, or won't show up at all. I'm wondering if anyone else is having trouble. SchanuzerMom, if you are reading this, I can't reply at all to your blog. Kelly, I wrote a big long reply to your post and it also gave me an error :(. Grrrr! No one at all is commenting on mine, so either no one is reading my blog (which is possible! lol!), or they can't comment. Could you all email me if you can't reply here? My email is jen 42394 @ yahoo .com .

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Myrtle Beach

I guess I need to update my blog, since it has been awhile. Book sales have been slow. I was hoping for a huge amount of sales, but so far I have only sold about 50. Not exactly earth shattering. I need to figure out a better way to promote it. It has been out for over a month now. Maybe it will just take some time.

Gardening season is underway. My seedlings did great this year. My tomato plants are so big that there is no more room under the grow light. They are past knee high! They seriously need to be planted, but we keep getting frost, so I haven't planted them yet. My pepper plants and celery plants are tiny though. I will still plant them, but they are little bitty. The cabbage and broccoli plants are huge too, and are going to be planted soon. I have been really happy with my seedlings this year, except for my peppers and celery. I think they will still grow, despite being so small. The weather here has been sooo strange. I have strawberries on my plants.....and it is only May. They are green and the size of marbles, but they are still there. That is about a month early. In February, it was so warm that Evie was outside in a swimsuit playing in the water. For this area, that is insane. It got into the high 80's in March, and in April it frosted almost every day :(. Not good. The grape and apple crop this year took a huge hit.

We went to Myrtle Beach, SC for spring break, and got back about a week ago. It was the longest vacation we have taken in quite some time. We were gone 10 days. It was a lot of fun, and we had great weather. We went with Jeff's parents, and we drove. It was a really long drive!!

Here are some pictures from our trip.....

We stayed at a gorgeous resort that was part of my in-laws timeshare. This was our view from our balcony, in the suite we were staying in. It had a full kitchen, and 2 full bedrooms. The pools at the resort were so pretty, and we were within easy walking distance to the beach (which was private for resort people only).
Evie loved the beach. She had never seen the ocean before, so she loved it. We went looking for shells almost every morning.

I had never seen a jellyfish up close before. I was glad it wasn't alive, seeing as I was that close to it! There was lots of them that would wash up on shore, and they would either be dead or dying.

One of the many times we went miniature golfing. They had such fun places there!!

 Jeff and I celebrated our 18th anniversary the day we got back from our trip. We got to have a fun date while we were in Myrtle Beach, while my in-laws watched Evie :).

One thing about Myrtle is SO windy! There seriously wasn't such thing as a good hair day while we were there. If I lived there, it would be really hard to ever wear my hair down. I had that beachy, wind-blown look the entire week.