Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Chickens' First Snow

Little Frog enjoying the snow last night

Snowy Shenanigans

Early morning in the yard

Nugget & My Sharona breaking their fast

Jack Chillin' in the Coop

Gorgeous sundog on my way to work.

Not Impressed.

We got our first BIG SNOW yesterday, which amounted to 6 inches or so. Not such a big deal, but the first snow is always a bit exciting. . . but the chickens were not impressed.

It sure was pretty when I went to take care of them this morning, but cold. The windchill was hovering at minus 17 but it was just a quick in-and-out with a couple scoops of food. The cold didn't seem to bother them a bit, and the plastic wrapped around the two sides seems to cut the wind perfectly. We are keeping their heat lamp on during these bitterly cold days, despite the To Heat or Not To Heat controversy that surrounds this practice. Given the iciness of the 3 eggs I grabbed today, I think we are going to err on the side of (relative) warmth.

After work, I tried to coax them out of their coop, but they seemed confused to say the least, and while daring Nugget did peck a bit at the snow, she only ventured half a talon onto it. That's fine girls, stay in there. You'll get bored soon enough!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

December Snow and Things

December 3rd
Snow is here, lightly now. Last year by this time we had nearly a foot of snow, but that was the Neverending Winter, which wore on even my Winterloving patience. Right now it's wet and sloppy and just slippery enough that I need to watch my step in the morning when I go out to check on the chickens. I am thinking I might need some "barn mittens," too, okay to get dirty, but will keep my hands warm even if they get slopped on.

The hens enjoying a little left-over Spanish rice. Yum!
The number one question I've gotten lately besides Dear God What Is That Thing?!? is. . . 

"So, do chickens do okay in the winter?"

Which, honestly, I might have wondered myself pre-chicken, if I hadn't been such a huge Little House on the Prairie fan. Ma's chickens always did fine. Because Chickens Are Birds. 

Yes they are. And they do fine. Those feathers are thick and warm, and as long as they stay dry they are happy. We do have a heat lamp that we turn on if the temp dips into a hard freeze like the one coming in a couple days: 

But overall they're fine. We did wrap their run in plastic (cheap shower curtain liners work perfectly) just on the North and West side where most of the blowing occurs, but the other sides stay open because they need plenty of ventilation. Apparently it's worse for a chicken to be wet than to be cold.

And with this sloppy wet snow we've been having the last day or so, they are perfectly content to stay inside their run. We usually let them free-range the backyard after we get home in the afternoon, and generally they're clamoring to get out before we even open the back door (I think they can hear the garage door open when a car pulls up) but they are showing no interest in leaving right now.

Despite the cold, my herb garden is finally sprouting! The cilantro is the bravest, although those spindly little shoots do not convince me that we'll be able to enjoy them much. The basil, if you look really closely, is just teeny, tiny budlings right now. I had no idea basil grew so slowly (I have never, ever had luck with basil). Nothing from the parsley yet, and the pretty-much-dead thyme seems to be holding on. Who knows if these herbs will make it, but I'm determined to try. It seems my green thumb needs a little something to work on, even in the winter.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Epic Monday Meltdown

It was a wonderful long Thanksgiving weekend. . . of course the kids had an entire week off, which meant that this morning's "Oh No it's Monday" meltdown was the most epic of all time. Ox, ever the emotional 7 year old, stormed around for a good 45 minutes, posting No School signs around the house before he grumpily grabbed a stack of paper, crayons and began writing away. I assumed he was drafting his tirade against the world so when I glanced over and saw something very different, I couldn't help but smile.

By the time we had to leave for school he was calm and cool and excited not only about his book but about the school day. I'm looking forward to how this book of his turns out, too, and I just might need to find a guinea pig Christmas tree ornament to match his imagined one.

Now, this might not all seem blogworthy to you, but it is a big deal. Ox has always been erm, "emotionally gifted" which is a nice way of saying he is extremely sensitive, to the point that he just feels things more intensely than the average 7 year old. Now this is all good and sweet when it comes to buying Charlie Brown Christmas Trees or befriending the new kid in class, but it also leads to an unhealthy dose of drama. Lately we have been working on "pretending to be happy" even when we don't feel like it. So on mornings like this I can say to him, "sweetie, it's time to try to pretend you're happy". . . to which he replied "Mama I tried but I just can't do it today" but 5 minutes later he had deescalated and was happily making his book. Pretending to be happy is a difficult concept for anybody, but especially when you're 7. I'm so glad he's starting to get it before the pressures of tweenager-hood, although I know this emotional journey is far, far from over.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving Sweaters

The last week leading up to Thanksgiving has been so full, I was working my hardest to get the kids' sweaters done (using the Nate Hoodie pattern). Initially I started the red one in July. . . but then took August and September off from sweaters while I did some other projects. Inspiration struck that Thanksgiving would be a perfect deadline, so I've been busy. Ox's sweater took the longest, of course he's bigger, so by the time I finished up I had just a few weeks to get Little Frog's sweater done. Because of the deadline I opted for the bulky yarn pattern which helped it speed right along. If you don't look too closely they turned out pretty cute, which is good, because I think they'll only get one sweater a year. I don't know how Mrs. Weasley knit all those Christmas sweaters. . . oh right, magic.

Thanksgiving was lovely and tiring. I hoarded eggs for about two weeks to get enough to make wasabi deviled eggs, which were a big hit. The kids don't particularly care for eating, especially when there is a party, so their main food group was the huge platter of pickle roll-ups that my sister made. I didn't like these things when I was a kid, but my own kids will suck them down by the bowl full (we had to put them on a limit on the ride to my uncle's house, and they mostly stuck to it).

Today is Black Friday so we're avoiding all stores, which is too bad since I'm out of flour and really feel like baking cookies. Oh well, time to get cranking on Christmas gifts for the nieces. . . I'm thinking some nice fingerless mitts.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Random Things

The craze of sharing random things on Facebook has been strangely hypnotic, like 7th grade chain letters and old-school email ("Email everyone in your contact list within 10 hours or you'll be struck by the plague!")

Since I so don't want to jump on the bandwagon, but I sort of do:

3 Random Things about Me:
1) Started watching The New Girl last night on Netflix because Ask This Old House was over and I am sort of scared of what the WB has become - Zooey Deschanel is awesome, New Girl is awesome, she had me at Smeagol.
2) I blog because my ancestors were voyeurs; it's in my genes.
3) I might possibly mean my ancestors were voyageurs. French is not my language.
4) I am awkward, which has grown into just being slightly random but sometimes the awkwardness slips out and people look at me funny and I hear crickets chirping. But just in my head.

Monday, November 18, 2013

This Week

Two weeks ago - November 3
This week, November 18, 2013

This week the November weather is settling in and we're ready for the snow (again). The temperature is in the 30s and just feels Novembery. The wind has been blowing so much that we had to replace the handle on our front screen door; it just wasn't keeping the door closed and BANG it would fly open, just often enough that I would forget that it needed fixing and BANG again it would happen. Thank goodness Mastermind was home this weekend and did not forget. Lots of raking, the coop is partially wrapped in plastic to cut the wind, so hopefully we'll start getting more eggs soon. Sharona and Nugget are the only ones laying right now, the other girls are apparently cranky. Since this is our first winter with chickens we're not really sure what is the norm, and it seems all the advice is more or less trial-and-error to see what works for your hens. 

My indoor herbs are not doing a thing, and the thyme that I experimentally repotted from a bundle bought at the grocery store is not doing well at all (not that I'm surprised, but hey, it had roots!). Still, I keep them company, along with all the pumpkins and spaghetti squash we pulled in from our garden. I drooled over some gorgeous indoor herb gardens already full and ready-to-eat at EggPlant yesterday, only $19.99. . . so tempting. BUT I resisted, I will get these herbs right! 

Mondays are so hard, but this week before Thanksgiving has the atmosphere of expectant holiday which helps. The kids have all of next week off of school, which makes it a bit hard to bear for those of us who have to work (I'm not complaining about a 2-day week, however). My main goals for the week are to finish up Little Frog's Thanksgiving sweater, and put the buttons on Ox's sweater. A trip to Crafty Planet is required, tonight or tomorrow.  I had intended to make myself a shrug out of some dreamy yarn that I picked up, but with a week to go, that will have to be put on the back burner. Too many projects and not enough time. . . plus I started reading Neil Gaiman, which has significantly cut into my knitting time. 


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bubble, Bubble Pasta Pot

Simple ingredients

Old-School flour well method

Little Frog floured up

Happy little (frozen) pasta nests

Who doesn't love pasta?!?

Okay, besides my dear husband, that is. Ohh he will patiently eat a small portion of pasta if it's put before him, and will enthusiastically eat more if it has lots of non-pasta ingredients like cheese or meat, but he does not love it as he should.

And frankly, that has to change. The kids love pasta, I love pasta, and so should he!

So, with a little time to spare and my Sunday urge to cook in full swing, I dug out the pasta machine that hasn't been used in a very long time. Pre-kid for sure. I don't know why it hasn't appeared in so long, but it's definitely overdue.

I grabbed the kids and showed them how, old-school, to make pasta. Well, okay, technically old-school would have meant cutting those noodles by hand, but that's just a little to old-old-school for me.

Making pasta is so simple, and especially now that we have all those beautiful fresh eggs to make it with, it's more satisfying. I think I will need to get some real semolina flour to play with, and try my hand at ravioli, too (add ravioli attachment to my Christmas list, along with an immersion blender). Also for sure, is that rustic flour well method will only be brought out on special occasions. I think I'll make it next with my trusted Kitchen Aid mixer's dough hook.

Because I won't have time to make sauce until later in the week, I froze the pasta into nests and popped them into a bag to be used later, maybe Thursday when I have a little more time to make dinners because it's piano lesson day. It's so simple to freeze the pasta, because they can be popped right into the boiling water with no thaw time (so easy).

Along with the pasta, I made up a batch of puppy chow (dangerous), crock pot Santa Fe chicken tacos (for dinner tonight), and chow mein casserole (for dinner last night) - old school satisfying. I am working to get my groove still, after nearly 8 years of being a working mom. Cooking more on the weekends to ease the time during the week seems to be the thing to do. Crocking one thing while making another makes it really easy. Yeah it would be easier to crock on the actual day we're going to eat it, but the reality is crock pots are finicky beasts, and that "cook on low for 6-8 hours" just does not fly with me when the timeline of a weekday is pressing. I need to know something will be done at the time I need it done, you know?

My fridge is stocked, ready for the week. Have a good one!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Power Outage

Ohh Thursday, almost done with the week but not quite. I've had some sort of cold or flu thing this week so I came home at noon to try to sleep it off but managed to drag myself to get some groceries on my way home, because who is going to make healing chicken chili verde* if not me? Easy peasy, throw it all in the crock pot, and off to take a nap so that by the time piano lessons were done for another week, dinner was ready, along with some cornbread.

The restlessness of an almost-Friday was making everyone whiny, however, so someone suggested we have a power outage.My kids, Ox especially, loves a good power outage (especially if it is accompanied by a fierce storm), and it seemed like a good idea and maybe-just-maybe it would lead to an early bedtime.

I had a sudden realization that we must have an oil lamp, and while that may be a purchase in the future for such "emergencies," I made do with making a Simple Olive Oil Lamp (thank goodness the internet still worked, and I had the patience to wade through the more complicated oil lamp tutorials). This simple little lamp was so very, very simple and burned for nearly 4 hours with no smoke, no odor, and very, very bright.

There is something so relaxing about eating dinner by candle (oil) light, and after cleaning up we all piled into the bed and cuddled in the dark in hopes of that early bedtime. . . but soon I grabbed the most recent Magic Treehouse book and read that by flickering oil lamp light (which I don't suggest - it was relaxing, but a bit hard on the eyes).

- - - - -
The chicken chili verde was fantastic! I got it from Get Crocked. . . but unfortunately that particular recipe is no longer loading for some reason. I linked the page, the recipe is a pork chili verde that I just substituted chicken for the pork. Really easy and really good.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Garlic and Winter Herbs

Summer's Lettuce Bed turned Chicken Garden
Now to be our Garlic Experiment. They should
have gone down in October, but I didn't
realize it was a good idea until November.
Pretty Garlic Bulbs from Mother Earth Gardens on top
of some nice new soil. I love clean soil. 
Garlic getting ready to nestle down for the winter.
Brr I hope it's not too cold for them! 
Naughty Chickens exploring the hay in the Garlic Garden.
They later dug up a few of our bulbs that Mastermind had
to replant. They might be banned from free ranging
until I can come up with a chicken fence.
Weird - chickens don't even like garlic. 
Good Sharona, the only girl laying eggs right now.
We put plastic shower curtain liners up around
the coop this weekend, too, hopefully
that encourages the other girls to get busy. 
Indoor Herb Garden. I have terrible luck with growing herbs, so this, too, is an
experiment. This is the only window in the house that gets direct sunlight,
so hopefully we have some tasty herbs this winter.
Basil in 2 pots, Cilantro, and Parsley, plus Thyme replanted.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

First Snow

The yard, early morning. Quite a difference from a few days ago

Assessing the accessories.
Throwing snow at the window: such fun!
Can't quite get the shoes on with the 2 pairs of socks,
or bend over to tie them with all those accessories!
Isn't that turquoise wall lovely? I had my doubts when we
painted it in August, but with the light bouncing off the snow,
I know we made the right choice. 
A Chai on the way to work to celebrate
the first snowfall. Yum! 

There is something so exhilarating about waking up to the first true snow of the season. The way the light comes through the windows, the color of the sky, and all that WHITE! Ox and Little Frog were over the moon excited, but allowed for a little cuddle time on the couch, just gazing out at all that snow. It was beautiful. After they were dressed and oatmealed, on came the snowpants, mittens, scarves, hats, and coats despite it being a mere 3 inches of snow and a balmy 35 degrees.

Only this mama forgot to get boots. Oy. Their winter coats were bought in September which made me feel so proud and prepared. Until this morning when I realized with horror that last year's boots were not going to work. Ox immediately ran out into the backyard in his crocs, forgetting (as he does every year) that crocs and snow are not a great combination. By the time we left for school the sunroom was a mess of sloppy shoes and socks, which reminds me I have to hunt up the drying rack that makes a (temporary) permanent home in the sunroom during the winter months. . . and maybe I'll need to knit up a few pairs of spare mittens. Amazingly enough, last year's mittens and hats are all happily present and in great shape. I truly had no idea that home-knit mittens would be so sturdy, last winter was my first time with them.

So a trip to Target is in the works for tonight, both to get boots and to spend an exciting gift card that I got for my birthday. I'm planning on getting an immersion blender (kids don't like tomato chunks, go figure. We have to do something about that since I am in the mood to make lots of tomatoey things this winter), and an electric frying pan for camping. Yes we are already planning our camping trips for next summer, but hey, you have to have something to look forward to during the long Minnesota winter. In case you're curious, we're heading to Grand Marais for a week in the pop-up.

Lovely day.