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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Haul Part II- Have You Herd?

Another gift we got for Christmas is the game Have You Herd. It is a fun little dice game that was created in Warsaw Poland in 1943 and was originally named The Little Animal Farm. It was invented by a professor who lost his job when the Nazis shut down Warsaw University and therefore lost his job. He needed an income and came up with this game, it quickly became popular as it helped children and adults survive the hard evenings of the occupation. Only a few of the original copies of the game survived, but it has been brought back for us to enjoy.

Through rolling dice, multiplying your herd, and trading, you want to end up with a complete herd (at least 1 of each; rabbit, sheep, pig, cow, and horse) It suggests players be at least 8 or older, but Maya (7) completely understands the rules of the game, and Mason (5) is able to play with a little bit of help.

 Make sure you give the baby some Cheerios so she doesn't eat the game pieces. 


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Haul Part 1

One of the nice things about having a backyard farming blog is that people know what Marisa and I are passionate about. Since many of our friends and family know what we enjoy, they are nice enough to give us Christmas gifts that we can use as we try to become more self sufficient. We made a haul this year and wanted to show you some of the nice gifts we received.

Marisa's brother Cameron gave us this beautiful bag of wildflower seeds from Applewood Seed Company. You might ask yourself, "What is so special about wildflower seeds." Well these seeds are special for two reasons. First, they are specially formulated to attract native bees and honey bees and give them the pollen and the nectar that they need to make honey. In addition, they will grow well at our elevation and temperate zone.

We are really excited about these seeds as we have been told that in our area, there isn't a lot of natural flowers for our bees to forage from. We hope that by planting some of these seeds, and starting some fruit trees and a garden, we will be able to provide better for our bees.

Did you get anything for your homestead this Christmas? Tell us what you gave or received in the comment section.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The cutest coop EVER.

This is the cutest coop ever. And I mean EVER. I want this coop. I want to copy. Is that bad? 
To view all the images of The Fancy Farm Girl's coop, click here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The dark side of backyard farming

Backyard farming is fun and fulfilling. But there is a dark side. I have posted a few of my full fledged disasters. But these episodes are rare. More often the dark side is the day-to-day problems. For example, I was so excited about my new flock of different varieties of layers. However, I went out this morning to find two of them dead - a Black Australorp and a Delaware. What a disappointment! Another Black Australorp is limping. So the first job was quarantining the injured chicken from the rest so they wouldn’t pick it to death. Next was an informal autopsy of the dead layers to find the cause of death – picking up the limp, soiled, dead bodies and pulling back the feathers to look for body trauma – likely since the third one was limping.  Yup, both had been killed. But it wasn’t traumatic - some minor scratches. There was a small hole under the wall of the coop - too big for a coon. It could possibly be a possum. But possums usually take a head or another part of the chicken or the whole chicken. Maybe the possum was chased away by these very flighty new layers before it could do more damage.  Another possibility was that the layers were picked to death by the old layers that we have. I have had this happen before. I can’t be sure of the cause so I composted the dead layers, filed in the hole under the wall and harvested our three old layers. They were eating their eggs anyhow so it was their time to go. It amounted to an hour and half of unexpected and unpleasant work, washing my blood splattered Levis and shirt, and five, possibly six less layers than I had yesterday. Oh well, that is the dark side of backyard farming. I thank Heavenly Father for the “opposition in all things” to help me appreciate the good.

 Dale with a Buff Orpington and an Araucana 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Giveaway Winner

Using the random number generator on my IPOD touch we came up with a winner for the recent book giveaway. David is the winner. He posted:

I have traveled through many eras of gardening. I started with my mothers's way of row crop planting with lots of weed pulling, hoeing, and watering. I progressed through that to row crop with mulching, then on to double dug beds with mulching and composting. Some time about two decades ago I stumbled across a young lady who was had just ended life a few years before named Ruth Stout. She claimed you didn't have to work hard at gardening but just pile up the mulch very deep and plant. Lasagna gardening and layer gardening all stems from Ruth's methods. Some would say that her garden looked like piles of weeds in the backyard but the produce she grew in those mulch piles would rival any modern day method. My style is a little modified and has a little more work involved but I never lost the pile it high mulch method. The two books that influenced me the most are called "How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back and Gardening Without Work." Have a great garden planning day.

Congratulations to David. Thanks to everyone else for posting. I have a lot of books that I want to read now. We will add a book list to our site soon based on all of your recommendations.

David,in order to get your book, please email us your address at backyardfarmingblog@gmail.com and we will mail you your new cookbook.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Nativity 2010

It is our family tradition to video our nativity each year. My camera skills leave something to be desired, but it is tough when you are director and videographer at the same time. We hope you have a Merry Christmas!

When watched within the blog, the right side is cut off, to view the full image click here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Giveaway

Read through the article to see how to win a book.

In past articles we have discussed some of the things that we can do in the winter when the snow covers our nurturing soil and we have less to do in our yards.

Plan: Make goals and plan what you want to do next year in your yard. Every good backyard farm begins with an idea. This is the time when you can dream big and make your plans as grandiose as possible.

Cook: Since you have less time that you have to dedicate to yard work, use this time to practice and try out recipes. It is also a good time to find recipes that you will be able to use when your garden provides it's bounty.

Read: In my opinion, this is the best time of the year to educate yourself on whatever it is you want to focus on in your yard. I am currently reading beekeeping for dummies. There are myriads of books that you can read about gardening, beekeeping, raising your own flock of birds, and canning and storing produce.

In this light we are doing another giveaway on backyard farming. Let's create our own list of our favorite backyard farm books that we use to learn and increase our backyard farming prowess. Leave a comment of your favorite book that has helped you learn and grow as a farmer and we will compile the list as the backyard farming recommended book list. We will then randomly choose one person from the list of suggestions and send this book to you.

We will announce the winner on Christmas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Baby Has a Green Thumb

While I was doing the dishes, Madelyn pushed the stool to the counter, climbed on the counter and proceeded to "garden".

 I think she was pleased with her handiwork.
I can't blame her, the desire to play in the dirt is in her blood.

I just wish she hadn't killed my aloe plant! 


Thursday, December 16, 2010

We Found the Poo Tank!!!

I screamed like I had just won the lottery. Never in my little princess life growing up in a well off suburb of Houston did I EVER think that I would one day be so excited to find a sewer. Never in my entire life could I imagine that my thoughts, conversations, and energy would revolve around finding a poo tank. But, this is the new me! And I'm comfortable with the new me.
I told Reece that I would pay him $25 if he found the poo tank. After school he spent a few hours digging. He wanted to take a  break, so I told him that I was going to dig for a while. He was adamant that he do all the digging because he wanted the $25. I told him to give me just a half hour and then he could dig again. Well after a half hour I was just getting into a rhythm, and I told him that if he worked along side me and I found it, he could still get the money. Luckily for him, he came out and started helping just 5 minutes before I found it.

Next problem, it is under the sidewalk. A neighbor has a cement cutter and another neighbor has equipment to lift the piece of cement. We are getting closer!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stealth Chickens

I have written articles previously about our families outlaw past and our experiences of living outside the law. We had illegal chickens for 4 years in our previous abode, flaunting the laws of the land. Jennifer has written a great article about how to legalize chickens in your local area if you aren't the anti-establishment type. If you are more inclined to break the law, I just found out about a new type of chicken coop that is cropping up across the land. The stealth chicken coop, or low profile chicken coop.

Apparently, chicken lovers are starting to design homes for their chickens that blend in to suburbia so that others don't even notice that they have chickens in their backyard. I love it!

My Pet Chicken has this stealth coop that looks like a garbage can from the front. Granted, it is a small coop but it would work well for a small backyard farm.

The Nogg chicken coop looks more like a piece of art than a chicken coop. I do question how well it would work for cleaning and whether chickens would even like it.

This website has plans for a low profile coop that just hooks on to the side of your house. I like this one a lot for 1 or 2 chickens that can roam in your backyard.

If you google stealth coops or low profile coops online you can find a lot of options for building a coop that fits into your neighborhood. Many look like sheds, playhouses, and some are just hidden under porches or decks. I love the idea of secret chicken underground movement where backyard chicken farmers whisper to each other about their fresh eggs and beautiful birds. One day we will all rise up and happy, free, backyard chickens will take over the large

Monday, December 13, 2010

X Marks the Spot

Out here in the sticks we have septic tanks (a.k.a. the poo tank) The previous owners had approximately 18 people living here. The poo tank can get quite full when it is used a lot and can cause issues. We haven't had any major issues YET, but we have a few slow drains. We started asking around and found out that the previous owners never had it pumped. We got a map from the county telling us where the clean out is. According to the map the clean out is directly under the sidewalk. AWESOME! 

It places the clean out, right about here.
 But we can't find it. I feel like a pirate digging for treasure, actually I don't feel like that at all. It actually feels like we are sitting on a ticking time bomb. But when the bomb goes off, it will be a big stinky mess.  I can put up with a lot of things, but I draw the line at fecal matter in my home. 

Luckily we have great neighbors that are willing to offer moral support and help dig.

We are now 4 feet down and 3 feet under the sidewalk and haven't found anything. Now we hear that the maps aren't always exact.
Thus....X marks the spot

I always love a good adventure.
 Till next time.



Saturday, December 11, 2010

Oh Give Me a Home

Where the buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play.  (Just as long as those deer and antelope stay out of my garden) Herds of antelope have been coming out from the hills lately and we have just loved watching them prance across the field.

(click image to enlarge)
 I slipped down the gully in my slippers and crawled on my hands and knees up to the other side of the gully to get closer for this picture and it still doesn't seem that close, drats!


Friday, December 10, 2010

Early winter at Antietam Glen

Each December I take pleasure in searching the garden for treasures left behind from the fall harvest.  Hidden under the brown stalks, leaves, vines, and soil are the makings for a few more feasts. Low lying leaf lettuce and spinach greens will make a succulent salad. Cabbage will complement corned beef. Deep buried carrots and potatoes will be the foundation for a savory stew.   Marisa’s recipe (August 18) will render Brussels sprouts and onions into a tasty side dish.
Today I put my garden to bed for the winter, I mowed down stalks and vines, pulled up and stacked cages and row stakes, and cleaned off the trellises. I mulched the berries, added to the compost pile, and stored the shovels, hoes, and rakes.
As winter sets in, I bask in the pleasant memories of the past summer’s garden before they blur into the collage of memories of gardens past. New this year was our army of sunflowers, a hedgerow of soldiers standing at attention, greeting us each morning with cheery yellow faces. We planted and cultivated strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries anticipating the sweet fruit to garnish our breads, rolls, muffins, pastries, pies, and ice cream for years to come.  A garden border of chrysanthemums propagated from cuttings this year will yield a rainbow of color next fall.  My biggest garden adventure of the summer was embarking on my volunteer career as a University of Maryland Extension master gardener to improve my own garden, but more importantly to help others improve theirs.
Tonight I will ask Heavenly Father in my evening prayers to bless us with snow, a sparkling white sheet to cover Antietam Glen until purple and yellow crocuses burst forth next spring.  

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Plans for the Future

It is hard to write posts for our blog right now. We lived in an apartment this summer as we searched for a new house. During this process we had to give all of our animals away. We also didn't have a lot of time to prepare for winter in our new home. Therefore we don't have a lot to share with you in the backyard farming, gardening front. Be patient with us for now and we guarantee that early next year we will start to have more backyard farming experiences to share. Here are some of the things that we want to do next year on our property.

We want to build a chicken coop and get chickens. We plan on fencing our backyard area and we would like to get at least one milking goat next year. We want to start beekeeping and have at least one hive. We want to have portion of our front yard that is an edible landscape so it is both pretty, and also provides us with herbs that Marisa can us in her tinctures, and that I can use in my cooking.We want to add compost and sand to our soil (the soil is mainly clay out here) and prep a garden area, then plant a garden. We want to plant 4 fruit trees, a patch of strawberries, and a row of raspberries along our fence.

In addition to all of this, our long term goals are to have a greenhouse, a root cellar, continue planting more fruit trees, solar panels on the house, more goats, a wood burning bread/pizza oven, and the list goes on and on. Now you know some of our goals.

Winter is nice in that it gives us all an opportunity to plan and dream of harvests to come. What are your goals for your backyard farm next year? Leave a comment. Maybe some of your plans will give us even more ideas of what we would like to do.


Friday, December 3, 2010

The Best Dishwasher I've ever Had

Our dishwasher doesn't work. Most people think I'm out of my mind crazy that a new dishwasher wasn't on the top of my priority list. I love taking a few minutes to dip my hands in warm soapy water, and I usually have a little helper next to me, which just makes the experience even better. Eventually I'm sure I will get a dishwasher, but for now, I'm going to enjoy hand washing.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

I see a red door and I wanted it painted black

Cue the Rolling Stones music...

I don't really want to paint red doors black, but I do want to paint BLAHHH doors. There isn't one room in the entire house that is finished. I love that we can take our time to  finish projects as we have time and money. But, there comes a time when you just have to have SOMETHING...ANYTHING finished and looking cute, right?

That something that anything was my front door. 

Pretty blah, huh? 

I wanted a nice deep grayish blue.
This is what I ended up with.
 It is hard to tell here, but it is more of a country blue and much brighter than I expected. While I liked the color, it wasn't what I was hoping for on my door.

Another trip to the paint store, and here we are currently. I love it. For only $8, (actually $16 because I didn't like my first color), I have a front door that I love to look at.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Update: A Herd of Cows in our Backyard

Remember Bessie here that wandered into our yard? 

Apparently, she called all her girlfriends and let them know how great our yard was, because we ended up with a whole herd of cows.

Luckily, Farmer Joe swooped in to save the day just before they decided to check out our front yard. 

He helped herd the girls down the gully and back to their side of the fence.
(the gully is the end of our property)

And with that, all the excitement was over.
 The grass is always greener on the other side, eh? Or maybe yellower. 


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Raw Milk War

I work in the financial industry for a living and one of the things that we always watch for is for magazines and newspapers to put Stock market information on their covers. This is a sign that there is irrational exuberance in the markets, and we are probably going to go down soon.

Time Magazine recently had an article about raw milk and I wonder what it means for raw milk consumers. Does it indicate that raw milk is now too popular and the government is going to crack down even more? Who knows. While I don't expect that most of us can learn anything from Time Magazine, it is still an interesting read if you are passionate about your right to drink raw milk, or if you are passionate that we need the FDA to limit raw milk consumption to protect us. Here are two quotes from the article.

"Raw milk is an inherently dangerous product, and it really should not be consumed by anyone at any time for any reason," a representative from the FDA tells TIME.

"People should have the option to consume milk the way they want," says Gumpert. Whether it's good for them or not.

Which side of the fence do you sit on. Should we be able to drink raw milk, or is it good that the FDA is there to watch over and protect us?


Sunday, November 28, 2010

We have a cow in our backyard

I'm not sure where she came from, but maybe the owners will let us put a fence around her and keep her, you think?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Be Grateful

At dinner Michael and I were discussing our Home Warranty which was supposed to cover the full cost of pumping the septic tank, but now they are saying they can only cover about 1/6 of the cost. I admit that I was complaining, when Reece (10 yo) started lecturing me that I need to be grateful that we were going to get "something" and it is better than "nothing." It sounded a lot like some similar lectures I had given him.

It made me think about how I expect my kids to be grateful for everything THEY have, because they are pretty darn lucky! But, what about myself? Do I really hold myself to the same standard? I'm pretty darn lucky too! When the kids complain that they only get a little bit of ice cream and I lecture them on being grateful they get "something" instead of "nothing", isn't it very similar to the complaint that I had with the Home Warranty?

I know that I definitely take for granted most everything that I have been blessed with. We live in a free country, we have a home, food, clothing, a vehicle, good health, all of which I take for granted on a daily basis. I have a Father in Heaven who loves me and has blessed me with talents (you do too!) I am indeed grateful for a wonderful family and great friends.

Today as I was working on the house, I was thinking about when we lived in the apartment. Michael and I would lay in bed and think about our future homestead. At the time, it seemed like if we could only get a bigger house on an acre, our lives would be perfect and we would finally find perfect peace and happiness. Don't get me wrong, I really love it here,  I love my new house, and I am extremely grateful to have it. But, it hasn't changed me or how happy I am. It is a house. It is a thing. Things don't bring happiness. Things bring comfort, amusement, or fun, but they don't bring true happiness or joy. That joy comes from serving others, it comes from living a good honest life, being grateful for what you have, from making goals and working towards them, true joy comes from within.

This Thanksgiving holiday, be grateful for the "somethings" that you do have, whatever they may be.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wild Rice Soup Recipe

Claudia over at Get well. Live well. Be well sent us this wild rice soup recipe. Not only does it look and sound delicious, it is really good for you! I can't wait to try it. 

Minnesota Creamy Wild Rice Soup

1/4 cup sprouted wheat flour
1/2 chopped onion
1/2 cup raw or organic butter
3 (+) cups water with 1 tsp salt
(or use 3 cups chicken broth)
1 cup wild rice, cooked
1 cup brown rice, cooked
1 cup diced ham
3/4 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)
2 cups raw milk
salt to taste
pepper to taste
snipped parsley (optional)

Saute onion and butter until onions become tender. Whisk in flour. Continue whisking as it simmers for a few minutes. Add water (or broth) and 1 tsp salt. Allow to cook until it simmers - it will thicken as you stir it. Add ham, rice, carrots, almonds, extra salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes. Lastly, add milk and parsley and heat to serving temperature.

What a wonderful creamy soup!

Send your favorite soup recipe to backyardfarmingblog@gmail.com

Monday, November 22, 2010

Stove Top Sweet Potatoes

If you are like us at thanksgiving, your oven is the most popular appliance in your kitchen and it is like the popular girl at a dance. Everyone wants a dance with her but there might be too many suitors and too little time for everyone to get there dance in. That is why I came up with the following sweet potato recipe that can be cooked in a skillet or a frying pan on your stove top. Before giving you this simple recipe let me tell you some Thanksgiving rules that I hold to be self evident. You may or may not agree with me.

1. It is good to eat healthy and fresh but during Thanksgiving, health and freshness take a back seat to convenience and a little indulgence.
2. Turkey is the low man on the totem pole for thanksgiving foods. The most important Thanksgiving foods are in the following order; sweet potatoes/yams, stuffing, gravy, pies, potatoes, drinks, salads, veggies, casseroles, turkey.
3. The people you celebrate thanksgiving with are even more important than the food.
4. If you aren't watching the Lions lose a football game, it's not Thanksgiving.
5. Companies (other than retailers) that make people work on the Friday after thanksgiving need to be boycotted.

That being said here is my simple stove top recipe for sweet potatoes.


4-5 medium sweet potatoes/yams
1 15 oz can sliced apricots
1 cup brown sugar
olive oil
Candied Pecans

Add the can of apricots with juice to a small saucepan with 1 cup brown sugar. Stir until the brown sugar dissolves. Simmer on medium low heat. You will need to let it cook for a while as we want it to reduce and make a sticky glaze for the sweet potatoes. While the apricots are cooking cube the sweet potatoes. Heat skillet to medium high. Add a little olive oil to skillet. Add cubed sweet potatoes to pan and fry turning periodically. The potatoes should start to brown. Add Salt to potatoes. Once they are fork tender transfer them to a serving dish. Once the apricot has reduced to a syrup pour it on top of the sweet potatoes and stir. Add chopped candied pecans and stir them in.

I personally love any type of sweet potato including the mega desserty casseroles that have more sugar and marshmallows than sweet potatoes. I know that this recipe isn't the healthiest but it is a nice compromise between plain sweet potatoes and the marshmallow concoctions that make my eyes hurt because they are so sweet. My wife and kids rave about these every time we have them. The sweet, tangy apricot glaze really goes well with the smoky, salty sweet potatoes. I know this recipe sounds really basic but the flavors are really complex and the best thing is that you don't have to use the oven.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving


Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Johnson Tulip Festival

I LOVE tulips. Love them LOVE THEM.

I love that they come up in the early spring after a long colorless winter. When I see the tulips, it gets me excited for the months ahead I will be spending in the garden. 

I decided that I wasn't going to wait a year to plant my bulbs. I was determined to get them in this year. 

I have grand plans for my own Johnson tulip festival in my own yard. Maybe something like this:

Maybe this will help you visualize what I'm going for.
I'm not ready to tackle this entire area yet, so I decided to start a little smaller.
So I started with this flower bed:

From these pictures, it appears that Reece is the only one doing the work. I think he planned it that way and hopped into each picture with a tool. 

We pulled the weeds, turned the soil, then brought in some top soil and compost. 
Since I'm a little late in the game this year, all the bulbs were 75% off, SCORE!  I've bought bulbs this late in the year before because they were discounted and they came up just fine. 

It is always so hard to gauge how many bulbs you need. I thought 130 bulbs would be enough to fill this flower bed and have some left over for another area, but I was wrong. Luckily I spaced them all out on the ground (as shown) before I started planting.

Come to find out, bulbs don't grow well in this area. Are my hopes and dreams of eventually having the Johnson' Tulip Festival going to be crushed???

The soil is mostly clay and needs a lot of amending. Any suggestions and tips would be appreciated!