Thursday, February 27, 2014


I'm getting some seedlings in the playroom.  These are broccoli.  I also have brussel sprouts, spinach, and arrugula:

The lettuce I planted inside is not looking very great, but the ones in the playroom look really healthy.  All that sunshine really helps!

I will be planting more seeds before too long: tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, carrots, radishes, oh my!  The radishes and carrots I plan to try to grow in pots this spring.  The tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos will just be started indoors for later planting in the garden.  I will plant the pumpkins, cucumbers, squash, cantaloupes, and corn directly outside when it's much warmer.  I plan to plant the peas outside fairly early, and then do some succession planting with those.  I'll have to see when to plant the green and other beans.  But I'm encouraged by the green sprouts, even though the forecast looks bad for next week (super cold again!  more ice!)  
And I plan on boiling some sap tomorrow.  I have about 8 gallons right now, so we'll see how that goes.  Wish me luck!  

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sap Update

I thought I'd give a little sap update.  We currently have 5 gallons of sap from 4 maple trees.  That fifth one never did produce any; maybe the tap wasn't in far enough or something.  We had planned on boiling the sap today, but it's raining, so we are keeping it stored in the 5-gallon bucket (food safe) in the garage for now.  Maybe we'll get to boil soon.

We did go to the Maple Syrup Festival yesterday, and that was a lot of fun.  My in-laws came down for a couple of days, so we all went there to enjoy the sunny, warmer weather.  We also bought some maple syrup, because we know we're not going to produce all that much this year!  Nathaniel and his dad even got to go golfing yesterday afternoon, which is a rarity in February.  Then Nathaniel and I enjoyed a quick date night at a new restaurant.  It was really good.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sap is Flowing!

The weather today is perfect for sap production.  It was below freezing last night, and it's about 46 degrees right now.  This jug had the most sap, but two others had quite a bit, too, and all together I've got over a gallon of sap today.  I'm very excited about that!  We tapped five trees, and three are producing very well, one has barely produced any, and the fifth hasn't produced any at all.  That's not too bad for our first attempt at syrup making.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Maple Tree Tapping

We got another 4 inches of snow last night, and our yard looks especially beautiful today.  Naturally, with more snow I started to think about food production!  So I started some seeds in the playroom (arrugula, broccoli, brussel sprouts and spinach), and then I got everyone on board for our latest project:

Maple Syrup Making!
Nathaniel tapped the trees and the sap should flow into the jugs/buckets.  Elijah helped us, while the younger two played in the snow.  All together, we tapped 5 trees.  We may tap a few more later.  Most of our maple trees are just barely big enough to tap, since you are supposed to have a 12" diameter tree.  

By the time we were done tapping, we could see sap flowing from 2 of the 5 spiles, so that is good news.  For maple syrup production, you want warm, above-freezing days with below-freezing nights.  Today was borderline on the temperature, as it was right around freezing, but tomorrow should be a better day for sap flow.  We hope to collect enough to start boiling in a few days.

In other food news, Nathaniel had to cull 2 hens today.  They had developed an issue with pecking at the other hens and eating their feathers.  In short, they had gone cannibal.  We wanted to act fast to make sure the problem would not extend to more hens, so now there are two hens in my fridge waiting to become chicken enchiladas.  The kids were ok with culling one, but they were very upset when we told the boys that we had to cull 2.  We never eat the hens, just roosters, so it was sad for them, but they understand that we can't have cannibal chickens.  And we still have 13 hens, so it's not like we have a shortage.  We actually didn't mention that we culled 2 to Lydia.  She knew we were killing one, and she can't really count the chickens anyway (they move too much, and she has trouble counting between 13-16).  She was mainly concerned that we didn't kill her favorite barred rock, "Fatty", and after I assured her that Fatty was not on the chopping block, she was happy.  Honestly, we had 3 or 4 fat barred rocks, so none of us is entirely sure which one is "Fatty", but that includes Lydia, so as long as there is still a fat one, she'll be happy.
Current chicken totals:
1 rooster (barred rock)
Crest (our white hen)
5 barred rocks
7 reds (Rhode Island red crossed with something else)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Two Trifles

I've been busy cooking off and on all day.  It's Valentine's Day, after all, and I wanted a special treat for everyone.  My chocolate trifle is delicious, and it's one of Nathaniel and Elijah's favorite all-time treats, but Malachi doesn't really like it, because he doesn't like the chocolate pudding or the cherry pie filling.  So I decided to make a trifle that he should love, as well.  I made a lemon pound cake, and then I made vanilla pudding.  Now, I've been making my own chocolate pudding for a couple of years now, and everyone (except Malachi) absolutely loves it, but I've never tried another flavor besides tapioca (one of my favorites - but the kids don't like it).  So today, I tried a vanilla recipe (from here:  Now, I was a little leary of using eggs in my pudding.  My chocolate recipe doesn't include eggs, but my tapioca one does, and I've never ended up with scrambled eggs, but I was a bit nervous nonetheless.  Since we've still got eggs filling our fridge (thank you, chickens!) it is silly to avoid a recipe that calls for them.  I'm so glad I finally tried one.  I should have cooked it about a minute longer, to get it a bit firmer, but the taste was excellent.
I made the trifle in the typical way, by layering cake, pudding, pie filling, and whipped cream.  For one, I used the lemon pound cake, vanilla pudding, blueberry pie filling, and whipped cream.
  For the other, I used chocolate cake and pudding, cherry pie filling, and whipped cream.
Both were delicious.  Four of us loved them.  Unfortunately, Malachi really was unhappy that I chose to make blueberry pie filling and didn't really give it a good try.  The one he tried and liked (about 6 months ago) used strawberry, but he always prefers blueberries, so I was trying to make him happy.  He didn't handle the change as I'd hoped.  
Maybe he'll try it tomorrow.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

50s dress

Nathaniel's work awards ceremony this year had a 50s theme, so I made a dress with a halter top and full circle skirt for the occasion.  These pictures were taken before I did my hair.
I should have made an underskirt to make the skirt really stand out.

Lydia's favorite part of the dress is the twirl!  She wants one now.  I do plan on making her a circle skirt soon.

They had a photo booth at the dinner, so of course we got some pictures.  You can't see it really well, but I had a 50s pincurl thing going on in the front.  I really liked it, actually.  I also went with red lipstick and my Mamaw's choker, which she wore as a teen in the 50s.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chicken Boredom

In this weather, the chickens have to spend a lot of time in the coop.  Usually, they are free to go out into the yard all day, but since the chicken door is iced shut, (and they don't like snow or ice anyway), the chickens have all been kept inside for the last couple of days.  They are still laying about a dozen eggs a day, though, and they are doing pretty good overall.  However, when chickens get bored, they can do bad things like peck at each other or eat eggs, so I wanted to do something to keep them from getting bored.

So we made chicken cake.
Lydia and Elijah helped me mix and bake two chicken "cakes" today.  I got a recipe for a chicken "boredom-buster" brick from the Prairie Homestead blog (, and I'd told Lydia a long time ago that we'd make a special cake for the chickens sometime this winter.  Well, with the kids home from school again today, today became the day.  I delivered the two cakes (one mostly whole, the other broken into many pieces)  to the coop a couple of hours ago.  The chickens approached the pieces with curiosity at first, but soon they were all busy eating.  Maybe it will keep them occupied for a little while, anyway.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


We are home from school again.  Can you guess why?
 Look closer!

Saturday, February 1, 2014


I had a customer ask if I could make a child-sized version of my doll cape.  I've been busy trying to create one.  The first version looked like this:

 It is cute, but when I tried to do white ribbon trim, it came out pretty wonky:

 It's plenty cute enough for Lydia or my nieces to play dress-up, but I couldn't sell it.  Getting a trim to work on the fleece ended up being too much of a problem, so I left off the trim and roll hemmed it instead.

The cape was designed for a 5-year-old that's about 4 inches taller than Lydia, so it wouldn't drag the ground on her.  I even put a real, working button on for the close, since my machine does buttonholes in a snap.  (I love that feature.)

I'm pleased with how it turned out.  I plan on making some more for the shop.