Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Morning Glories

The morning glories at our house have just became glorious.  We have several colors, and I love the way they vine up the fountain, fence, trees, weeds, everything!

 And we also have some chicks growing well here.  This one is Crest, running to get away from the crazy lady with the camera!

 Sol hasn't entirely abandoned the chicks yet.  She's not calling them to her, but she's not pushing them away, either.  I wonder how long before that starts.

And, of course, Lydia had to get a picture.  Don't you think her outfit is perfect for chasing chickens and making campfires out of leaves and sidewalk chalk?  She sure thought so, and I didn't think it was worth fighting!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chicks on their own

Tonight when I went to put the chickens up, Sol was up on the perch.  Now, most of the hens sleep on the perch, but while Sol is being mama hen, she sleeps on the floor with her chicks under her.  In fact, Crest was under her on the perch between her feet, and the 2 black chicks were next to her.  However, this development surely means that Sol is about to stop letting the chicks hang around with her, and she'll stop protecting/guiding them.  I'll have to watch them tomorrow and try to take some pictures.

In other chicken news, it appears that the all-black chick may, in fact, be a pullet.  When I mentioned to June, my farmer's market friend whose eggs we hatched, that I figured the black chick had to be a rooster due to the green tint to her black feathers, June said, "Is she an Astrolop?"  Now, I didn't know what an Astrolop chicken looks like, but June whipped out her hen pictures and showed me an all-black hen who had several green-tinted feathers.  They aren't all green, like our old rooster, but they definately have a green tint just like our black chick's feathers.  It would make more sense if she is a hen, since her feet are quite small and she has the smallest crest of all the chicks.  We'll have to keep an eye on her!

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Odd title, huh?  Well, I spent Friday rendering lard for the first time.  Sounds tricky, doesn't it?  It couldn't have been easier.

I bought a big bag of lard (pork fat) a while back and stuffed it in the freezer until I had time/energy to deal with it.  Well, it sat there for nearly a year before I bothered to figure out how to deal with it.  See, I like to make tamales, and to make tamales, you need lard.  Real lard, not shortening or butter or anything else.  Also, I love it for making tortillas, and I've been told that fries are wonderful cooked in lard.  I knew you had to "render" it to make it smooth and ready for use, but I had to go online and check out how to do that.  I found some examples on some real food blogs, and wha-la, I made lard.  All you do to render lard (or tallow, if you have that) is dump it in the crockpot and cook it on low for hours.  Seriously.  The hard chunks of fat melt into liquid, and the unusable bits stay solid.  Strain and put in jars.  Cool and refrigerate or freeze.  The most time consuming thing was straining it into jars.  I got 5 pint jars of lard for one large crockpot full of pork fat.  

Tonight, I'm making fries.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

Tomato Squash Bake

At my farmer's market, there's a really nice lady that grows unusual things.  She gave me a recipe for an edible gourd bake, using the Italian gourd cucuzzi.  Since that is the only cucuzzi I have ever seen, I adapted the recipe for yellow squash.  (Plus, the cucuzzi had some pretty annoyingly hard seeds.)  But this casserole is really good!

2 squash, peeled and sliced
about 3 tomatoes, sliced
1 onion, sliced thin
1 garlic clove, minced
thyme, about 1 tsp dry or 1 T fresh
2 pieces of bread, preferably wheat
parmesan cheese
1 T butter or oil

First, saute the onion in the butter.  Add the garlic just at the end, for about a minute, so you don't burn it.  Set aside.  Cover the bottom of a greased 9 x 13" pan with your squash slices.  Top with tomato slices, then top that with the onion.  Sprinkle pepper and thyme on top.  Tear the bread into little pieces and spread them over the mix and liberally coat the top of everything with parmesan cheese.  I think the original recipe called for 1/2 c, but I never measure cheese.  Bake in a 425 oven for about 20 minutes.  It's done when you can pierce the squash with a fork easily.

* cut your squash and tomato slices about the same thickness.  Mine were probably 3/4".
* You can halve or double this recipe easily.  To halve, just put it in an 8" pan.  To double, layer the ingredients again and bake for about 30 minutes.

Since we've had cooler mornings this week, I made this for my lunch and was very happy with it!  (And that's a good thing, since I'm the only one who would eat a dish like this in my house.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chick gender

I've been trying to figure out the gender of our chicks, and I have some guesses (which are by no means guarantees; I've been wrong before!).  Anyway, I think we have 2 pullets (hens) and 3 cockerels (roosters).
 In the picture, you can see that our previously brown chick has turned black and white speckled.  I think that one is a hen.  Here she is next to the solid black chick, which I'm confident is a rooster, because some of his feathers have a green tint.
 This picture has Elijah's favorite chick, Crest, at the top.  I'm fairly confident that Crest is a hen, because she has the daintiest feet of all.  I think the other two yellow chicks are roosters, mostly because of personality and the fact that they both started developing crests on their heads long before anyone else.
It is hard to figure out the genders of chicks that are a mixed lot like ours.  They are referred to as "barnyard specials", the chicken equivalent of a mutt.
And here is a picture of Fluffy:

Fluffy has been a consistent egg layer.  Her eggs are small, but she lays most days.  She's been trying to be buddies with the chicks, but Sol doesn't let her get too close most of the time.  My hope is that in another week or so, when Sol decides to stop mothering the chicks, that Fluffy will fit in with them. She could use some buddies.  The older hens don't accept Fluffy, really.  

In non-chicken news, Malachi lost a front tooth!
He pulled it out during school, which made him extra happy.  

Monday, August 20, 2012


We went camping Friday night in our "new" pop-up!  Alas, I don't know what happened to my pictures.  I took lots of pictures, but they are all completely gone from my camera!!!  I'm disappointed; I had some really good ones of the kids setting up camp and hanging out in the pioneer village.  I loved the one where Malachi was watching the woodworker turn a spindle on the pole lathe.  I managed to capture the awe on his face.

But, since they are gone, I'll just have to use some words.  The weather was gorgeous, and evidently most people did not get the weather report in time, because the campground was not very populated.  I would say that it was less than half-full, maybe only a third full.  The kids enjoyed the playground, and the boys spent plenty of time on their scooters.  I was happy to cook over the fire.  We just had hotdogs Friday night, but I made scrambled eggs and sausage Saturday morning and tinfoil dinners for lunch.  (Of course, the kids didn't eat the tinfoil dinners; they had more hotdogs along with the broccoli I steamed.)

The pioneer village was the highlight of the trip.  The boys both said it was their favorite part, and you know that makes my heart glad!  We watched a woodworker, lace maker, and blacksmith.  The weaver wasn't weaving on her loom, but she did teach the boys how to make yarn dolls.  Elijah gave his to Lydia, and Malachi wants to wrap his up as a Christmas present for Annabelle, so they were both really happy.  (At this point, Lydia was done with the the history lesson, and Nathaniel had taken her to the playground.)  The boys loved watching the grist mill work, too, and we did buy some cornmeal.  I'll have to let them help me make corn bread this week with it.

We left Saturday in the later afternoon, because I had to work the nursery on Sunday.  The kids wanted to stay another night, so we hope to get back there or to another campground soon.  It may be difficult, though, with school, soccer, and the unpredictable weather.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Water Balloons

Here are some pictures of the kids having fun with water balloons at my niece's birthday party:

And here's the cake.  My sister made an ice cream cake that was really yummy!

Friday, August 10, 2012


Well, the stairs are mostly done. Nathaniel has installed them all.  I just need to touch up the white on a few steps and stain the top step.  He's also going to caulk the edges, but right now, I think they look fantastic.  I couldn't be happier with how they turned out!

Also, I never did post this picture of all 5 of us dressed up for the wedding in July:

It's not the best picture, but it turned out pretty good.  Malachi is actually looking at the camera, which is rare.  Of course, Lydia is not, and Elijah's got that weird grin, but hey, it's still decent.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mini Almond Cheesecakes

Normally, I don't do a lot of baking when it's over 90 degrees, but tomorrow we are going to a church dinner, and I am bringing dessert.  So first, I made chocolate cupcakes, which thrills my kids but not me.  Then I was looking at my mini cherry cheesecake recipe and decided to try a new version.  I love the original version, and they are perfect for get-togethers because you basically have a bite-sized dessert with no utensils needed.  However, the originals have a chocolate crust, and although I don't think there is such a thing as too much chocolate, I thought it might be wise to make a dessert that didn't involve chocolate for those that aren't big chocolate fans.  So then I tweaked the whole recipe, just for fun.  Here is what I did:

First, I mixed 1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs with 2 T water and 1 stick of butter.  (I do think I could have used a tablespoon or two less of butter.)  I then pressed this mixture into the bottom of my mini-muffin pan:

Next, I mixed together the filling: 
1 package (8oz) cream cheese, softened
1/4 c brown sugar
2 T milk
1 T almond extract
1 egg

Mix it well.  Then spoon some on top of each little crust.  Try to refrain from tasting it too much, because I had just enough to fill the 24 mini muffin cups.  Finally, bake at 325 for 15-18 minutes.  Enjoy!

Note: I think it would be good to have some chopped almonds on top, but I didn't have any.  Also, you will lose a little crust when you get them out of the pan, but not enough to make a difference.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

Chicks are Growing!

Well, the chicks grow and change all the time.  They are hard to photograph, because they don't like to let me get close at all.  

Here Crest is with Sol.  See how Crest has developed brown in its wings and head?

This is one of our two barred rocks.  The kids call them "Zebras".   This is the one with the hurt leg.  It still isn't all better, but she's walking much better now, and I hope it heals completely soon.  My barred rock hens are so docile and easy to get close to.  Actually, Leaf (the Rhode Island Red) is now, too.  All three of those hens will go into "submissive hen" posture, like I'm a rooster, so it's easy to pick them up if need be.  They all come running to meet me for food, too.

I was trying to get a close up of the brown chick.  I'll have to try again.  She's really pretty, with lots of white and brown striping in her wings.  The black one has the least feathers so far, mostly she's still fluff, but some feathers are coming in on her wings.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cherry Tomatoes and Irish Soccer

My blog titles are odd, aren't they?  Although I only got 2 regular tomatoes from the garden today, check out the cherries:
These cherry tomatoes nearly fill my 8-cup measuring bowl.  And this is after Lydia and I ate bunches!

Also, when my in-laws went to Ireland earlier this summer, they bought each of the grandkids a soccer outfit.  I think they look too darn cute!