Chickens (rock star babies, paper mache eggs, roosters, and enclosure needed)

IMG_3747

The lambs have taken over the job of farm dogs, the goats are having adorable kids, the ducklings have added a whole new level of freaking cute around here, and the cats are still their goofy selves.  There are three indoor kittens here, a madhouse.  A. Madhouse.  The chickens haven’t been getting a whole lot of attention lately except for praising them for their contribution of eggs each day and the untimely death of one.  But, now it is their turn.

IMG_3749

Meet Pat Benetar, Stevie Nicks, Cher, Chaka Khan, and Janice Joplin (names courtesy of Shyanne and Doug).  My dear friend, Jamie gave me five chicks that she hatched herself using a good looking Brahma dad and Araucana mamas.  They have the beautiful coloring as well as feathered feet!  Stevie Nicks enjoys standing on top of the waterer as we sing, “Just like a white winged dove…” for her.

The dream chicken enclosure!

The dream chicken enclosure!

The landlords have decided that they prefer that the chickens stay locked up.  So, they are going to have to stay in their coop and small yard.  I would like to build a bigger fenced in enclosure.  There is no money right now but maybe we can scavenge enough stuff or find donations.  That space is too small for them and with two roosters?  The hens will never find peace.  So, what do I do with the roosters?  I love hearing their singing.  They are beautiful and have done no wrong.  The girls haven’t gone broody with them there so there are no new chicks from our farm.  They are not needed for protection if they are in an enclosure.  And their singing voices aren’t enough to allow them to have their way (kind of violently) all day with penned up females and eating at the all day organic chicken feed buffet.  There is a locker plant down the way, or someone might like them as a pet.  Or…oh I don’t know.  They need a job.  And their job is about to be eliminated.  Sometimes I wonder if I am cut out for this.

IMG_3748

On a brighter note, look at this egg!  This is Peep’s egg.  She was our first chicken (also named by Shyanne) and continues to lay these outrageous paper mache eggs due to her age.  It’s a lucky egg!  Should you find it in your carton think of sweet Peep.

Emily, Shyanne, and Peep

Emily, Shyanne, and Peep 2012

Problem solving and dilemmas are always a part of the joys and memories of farms but at least we will be serenated by five rock star chickens while doing so!  No matter what comes up, this is still the good life!

Saturday, May 16th, 2015 from 10-? on the farm we are having a work party day if anyone can help we would be ever so grateful!  Extra fencing, creative minds, helping hands, donations, anything welcome.  I will feed all helpers!  7080 Calhan Road South, Calhan, CO, 80808.

Preparing Beeswax from the Hive (or the valiant effort anyway)

IMG_0988

There wasn’t any honey to take because my bees died of starvation by all appearances.  But the seventeen frames of wax ought to come in handy for salves, lotions, and candles if I could get them melted down.  I planned on transferring the strained, melted wax into empty milk cartons.  The milk cartons would act as molds and once the wax hardened I could simply peel off the paper and cut into useable pieces, yes?  Ah, if only it were that easy.

WIN_20150504_140007

I began with a pile of wax and filled one pot (that cannot ever be used again for cooking since it is permanently a wax cauldron.  I made a double boiler by placing that pot into a big canning pot filled with boiling water (careful not to splash any water into the wax) and melted it that way so not to burn the wax.

WIN_20150504_132044

It seemed like the combs were going down and I would add more.  Pretty soon, I smashed and stirred and looked for wax and found none.  The blackened combs just seemed burnt (before I put them in oddly enough) and they just fell down into a mass.  If the wax was there it sucked back into the remaining combs.  I thought the entire honey comb was wax.  Am I wrong?  I must be because hours later I only had half the frames in the pot and a pot half full of blackened mass, and about two teaspoons of wax.

WIN_20150504_164740

I did eventually give up and placed the pot by the door with the wooden spoon which met its demise during this process as well.  What happened?  What did I do wrong?  I still have about eight left but no pot to waste.  The black parts of the comb make me wonder if that was normal, if I should have separated out the lighter comb.  Did I give up too soon?

Oh who knows.  The top bar hive I knew nothing about, the bees that came and passed, the black not-so-much wax, and a mere pint of honey out of all of it.  I think we can consider my bee keeping venture a complete failure at this point.

bee suits

Next year, we will try again.

Wild Food and Medicine

herb walk

Yesterday the amazing women in my herbalism course took an herb walk around the property to see what was in bloom now.  The skeletons of many herbal medicines and bushes stood stark still but the life was brimming around their bases.  We could see Artemisia, Lady Sage, used to regulate periods, and Yucca, also called Soapwort, which contains saponin.  The leaves are boiled to make soap and the root is one of the best anti-inflammatories I know of.  There were many pain relievers and liver tonics to be harvested.  Almost like nature knew that after a long winter of meat and wine to keep warm (and the deplorable lack of fresh vegetables!) that our livers and organs would appreciate a bit of a cleansing.  Dandelions waited to be made into teas and salads and tinctures.  Motherwort and lungwort sprang to life in my garden.  And knowing that we would be sore this time of year with all the work spring brings, cleaning, planting, birthing, mucking, building, the willow bark, cottonwood barks, and pine needles stood at the ready for relief.  Ready for salves and tinctures.

herb garden

Along with the medicines that were available, the herb garden was put in yesterday morning.  It looks quaint now but by July the bed will be raucous with life, bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, riotous herbs reaching their hands up and color splashes worthy of any palette.  Antibiotic herbs mixed with digestive herbs mixed with herbs for risotto.  It is close to the kitchen and will create a lovely backdrop to outdoor cooking.  The ducklings became all of a sudden quite brave and marched past me and my helper and took a ginormous bite out of a basil plant!  I shall have to locate some small fencing.

scrozonera salsify

After the pantry began to empty its contents in wintery meals I became quite disenchanted with green beans, and carrots, and beets, and the like.  Lord, I need variety.  This year I spread my wings and planted new items for us like parsnips and rutabagas.  Okra, arugula, mustard.  Other interesting food crops like scorzonera joined the masses.  A carrot-like tap root with medicinal flowers.  Yesterday I made a large batch of Ragu and will can the rest of what we didn’t eat.  Food is everywhere, I just need to be mindful to find it in the wild, try new things, and not let things go to waste!

beltane

I am thankful for this lifestyle.  We are fiercely in tune with weather patterns, beautiful natural events, and the seasons of life here.  More and more fear disappears as I look out on all the food and medicine the Creator provided for us.  May 1st was Beltane.  A lovely agricultural celebration of the renewal of life and of Mother Earth.  And may we all find renewal and peace as well.

Ebb and Flow of Farm Life

The ebb and flow, the life and death, the frequency changes and seasons all so crisply clear when one lives on a farm.

IMG_2807

The ducklings do not fail to bring smiles.  Frolicking in their playpen in a casserole dish turned pond.

The farm dog lays under freshly mounded soil by the empty bee hive.  Bumble passed away in the night.  The quiet house without his tick-tick-ticking and the sight of him this morning haunts me still.  Dumping the pile of dead bees in the compost.  A weight pulls my heart.  The dead chicken with suspicious slobber on her feathers.  Death is real and constant.

IMG_0311

The monastery of frogs chant from the pond beneath the full moon.  The baby red winged black birds chirp madly in the greenhouse.  The kittens play.  The seedlings stretch to the sky, the sun on their limbs.  The breeze brings on it blossoms from trees and the scent of dampened soil.  Elsa’s side grows.  Twelve more days until she kids.  Bundles of fluff, lambs who think they are dogs, greet me with kisses and lean against my legs.

Relationships start.  Unexpected, journeys change.  Paths bring second thoughts, perhaps regrets.  Marriages strengthen.  Friends offer embraces.  Words of wisdom and love over the telephone far away.

IMG_0068

The Creator waits for our prayers of thanksgiving as we busy ourselves with endless internal chatter.

Wading through and finding peace in the respectfulness of death, the joy of birth and spring, and my spirit shall join the frogs in their meditation of all that is.  Take a breath.

cropped-img_3660.jpg

Spring is here and the journey continues.

Spring on the Farm (with surprises, fun, and a great olive recipe!)

IMG_1110

Yesterday was blissfully warm and inviting.  The pastures are turning so green, the flies were out, a late rainstorm hung over the mountains.

IMG_1111

We enjoyed much of the day outdoors.  Shyanne moved back in a month ago, or so, and I must tell you it surprised me when Emily came back the other day…presumably for a long time.  I probably shouldn’t have jumped to find such a small house!  Doug is living with four females in eight hundred square feet!  I remind myself that my grandmother lived in a house like this one, the very same size, with twelve people.  Eight siblings, her mother, and aunt and uncle.  We are blessed to have children that trust us and know they can always stay with us.

IMG_1097

IMG_1094

IMG_1095

Maryjane and I took the goats and sheep for a walk so that Papa could get the goat pen mucked.  The tall willow beckoned with all its reading nooks, the black birds, finches, and robins sang masterfully with the meadowlark in lead.

IMG_1122

IMG_1112

IMG_1109

IMG_1105

IMG_1116

IMG_1106

IMG_1103

IMG_1113

There is nothing like the joy of a child to bring peace to the soul.  The sheep love her and she them.  She loves it out here.  My worries quelled as I took deep spring breaths in and enjoyed the warmth on my bare arms.  The ducks played outdoors and the chickens roamed about.

IMG_1100

IMG_1099

The highlight was the Italian lunch I prepared that we enjoyed on the porch.  Shyanne, Doug, I, and the baby (Mama was at work) devoured homemade individual pizzas with a fast crust I put together, last summer’s preserved pizza sauce, fresh mozzarella and topped hot with cold lettuce from the greenhouse that was drizzled with truffle oil, balsamic vinegar, and sea salt.  A triumph, people.  A glass of great wine from Napa Valley and olives.  Oh, I love olives.  Here is a great recipe for any time.

IMG_1089

IMG_1090

Combine in a baking dish a variety of your favorite olives from the deli, green olives stuffed with garlic, kalamatas, Castelvetranos, and salty black ones.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with fine breadcrumbs, parmesan, a bit of orange zest, and a touch of red pepper flakes.  Bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes or so.  Perfect with a great red wine on the porch in the sun with family!

Modern Pioneer Woman (crackling fires and homesteading)

IMG_1085

I forgot to mention one of my favorite cookbooks yesterday!  “The Pioneer Woman Cooks” by Ree Drummond is filled with mouthwatering recipes that can feed a crowd or easily be halved.  I highly recommend the Fig and Prosciutto Pizza.  I love the step-by-step photographs and stories.

IMG_1079

I enjoy being a modern pioneer woman.  We hoped and prayed for this little homestead to somehow make itself known and available.  This sunny, quaint homestead is peaceful surrounded by miles and miles of birdsong and prairie.  My heart rests easy here.  However, if you have been following me for awhile you know we had some tearful, freezing moments this last winter.  It was cold.  Much more so than I can fully express.  I was upset that I believed the small wood cook stove in the kitchen would heat the whole house.  I am most upset that my animals seemed to fare poorly from it.  It seemed to age my older cat, Ichabod and Bumble the Greyhound.  It broke my heart to see them so cold.  Even “Little House on the Prairie” had a proper wood stove!

IMG_1086

The new wood stove was fired up last night to test it and Ichabod found the warmest spot possible.

IMG_1084

The final bill made me gasp and tear up, actually.  I thought that I could pay the lease through with tuitions so I wouldn’t have to worry so much this summer.  (No more worrying!) But it all went to pay for warmth.  Which will be worth every penny.  And I thankful I had the money for it.  I love the funky style of the stove.  I look forward to (though I am not rushing!) cooking on my new stove and being blissfully warm while the snow tumbles down.

IMG_1087

I so enjoy this lifestyle.  I love my long skirts and aprons.  I love my clothes line.  I think I will get out the clothes handwasher for summer.  I love kneading bread and hearing the tops of the jars pop closed of preserved garden fare.  I love the sight of a rotund lamb running and jumping, the sound of milk hitting the pail, the rooster crowing.  I love growing and cooking fresh food and sitting on the porch with a glass of wine listening to the frogs in the pond.  I love waking up at dawn and going to bed at dark, no alarms.  No outside work.  No schedules.  Just the bustling of a busy homestead and the sound of a crackling fire.

Traveling the World by Cookbook (my favorite cookbooks)

IMG_1074

Delicious food and inspiration, something I daily seek.  I like to travel around the world to see what folks are eating.  I like visit farms around the globe.  I like to sit in stranger’s kitchens and see if I can experience a bit of their life by eating what they eat.  Through cookbooks I can do this from my own farm kitchen and so cookbooks have always been a bit of an obsession for me.

Mind you, I never follow a recipe to its exact measure but the blueprints and guidelines for delightful food I wouldn’t have thought of is most welcome to a busy farm wife foodie who doesn’t like to prepare the same thing over and over.

“Grow Your Own, Eat Your Own” by Bob Flowerdew is a great book that I may have told you about before but I find it ever so enchanting as the photographs make the book come to life.  As if I am in England learning from a master.  He takes us through the gardening season, growing, harvesting, preserving, and preparing delicious foods.  It is filled with brilliant ideas and a way to make potato au gratin that will change your life forever.  Decadent.

IMG_1080

“Another Amish cookbook?” my love asks as I purchase another.  I have…ahem…a few.  I love them for their stories.  I love the local ones that are say the recipe was submitted by Mrs. Elmer So and So.  I love the vague amounts in some and the tried in true in books like this one.  “The Amish Cook’s Family Favorite Recipes” by Lovina Eicher is my go-to in the summer when I am rushing around.  Perfect coffee cake to make and pack for the farmer’s markets, interesting recipes like chokecherry tapioca, and casseroles that make the kids want to move home.

IMG_1081

“Love Soup” by Anna Thomas is a book I have read from cover to cover many times.  Her soups are vegetarian and filled with flavor and comfort, sustenance, ease.  I love this book for its endless ideas for soup along with recipes for bread and salads.  Her stories along with the recipes are fun and the book is split up seasonally, which appeals to me more than ever.

IMG_1082

I have checked out “The Tuscan Sun Cookbook” by Frances and Edward Mayes from the library enough that it really ought to be a part of my collection at some point.  If I could go anywhere right now and enjoy a meal it would surely be in Tuscany.  I want to experience the long outdoor wooden table with twenty friends and strangers, water glasses filled, wine glasses raised.  Courses of flavorful foods that I have yet to prepare.  Many things that I have never heard of cooking or tasting in my Colorado raised existence.  I can hear the laughter, the long meal, the joy.  I loved the Under the Tuscan Sun books by Frances Mayes so it is a pleasure stopping by their house via library book for a meal. (Note: if you saw the movie, it is not even remotely the same as the books.  Do pick up the books!)

IMG_1078

Another library find, “Fresh from the Farm” by Susie Middleton is a delightful part memoir part cookbook using seasonal produce.  What to do with mustard greens, delicious ways with arugula, and much more.  I am definitely enjoying borrowing this book!

IMG_1077

If I make a menu plan and grocery shop regularly for the things we need then I am less likely to want to go out for subpar food.  This book, “The Casual Vineyard Table” by the owner of one of my favorite wines and vineyards, Carolyn Wente, makes me want to hurry home and cook!  I picked it up at the Wente winery when Doug and I were there visiting our friends, Lisa and Steve, in Northern California.  It was one of our best trips and we so enjoyed ourselves and became even bigger wine snobs, I rather fear.  Where do I start?  Potato Crusted Sea Bass with Gingered Blue Lake Beans or Bay Scallops with Rhubarb Puree?  Or one could always head straight to the back of the book and prepare Chocolate Chili Pecan cake with double bourbon whipped cream.  Oh my.

IMG_1076

Then there are lean times, which we are in more often than not.  Not poverty stricken, starving times, thank the Lord we always have food, but no sea bass or single vineyard wine times.  This book is practical, intelligent, and savvy.  Using minimal ingredients, all staples, one can put together hundreds of healthy meals on the cheap. “More-With-Less” by Doris Janzen Longacre is a homesteader’s necessity!

Do share your favorite cookbook titles!