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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween

Hope you have a fun and safe Halloween!


Michael & Marisa




and Madelyn

Friday, October 29, 2010

Do-it-yourself portrait pumpkins

By Jennifer

Something about Halloween releases the creative juices, wouldn't you say? Characters, decorations, eerie foods, ways that parents can hide the candy ... 

Usually around here Halloween is a crazy rush. Out of necessity I am an absolute pro at making last-minute costumes, and I can carve a pumpkin in no time flat. 

But one year I let those creative juices steep and stew for a while with very satisfying results. Ah yes, Halloween 2000, I remember you well. It was a presidential election that year and I saw a newspaper photo of two jack-o-lanterns someone had done of Bush and Gore.

I could do that.

Only I had two significantly cuter subjects in mind, my 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. 

The dreaming, ambitious side of me actually considering drawing my children's faces onto the pumpkins (!), but then the practical side reminded me that I'm not an artist. So I decided to use a photograph as my pattern.

Here's how to create your own using Adobe Photoshop:

1. Choose your pumpkin and get an idea of the size area you want to carve.

2. Size the image to match your carving area.

3. Convert to grayscale (black and white).

4. Go to Image, then Adjustments, then Posterize. Play around with the number settings until you like what you see. This step ends up looking something like this:

Hmm, is that an orange speck of pumpkin goo on her chin, and in my scrapbook all these years?

5. Print and get ready to carve! Or in other words, set aside your entire day and thank your lucky stars that PBS can help occupy the children while you sit in the room with them.

I wanted the white areas of my pattern to be the lit, open areas of the pumpkin. I drew on the pattern before carving to better outline the parts I would cut. Then I taped the pattern to the pumpkin and used the poker from an inexpensive carving kit to punch dots through the pumpkin. With a knife I then "connected the dots" in specific sections to make the cutaways.

This is what the pattern of holes looked like in reverse:

I carved Emma's pumpkin first and actually got better as I did Kyle's. It took me about five hours to do the scooping, outlining and carving of both pumpkins.

In the decade since I've added three more children ... who vocally wonder why they don't have a jack-o-lantern portrait too. (Hey -- fold the laundry and I'll do it!) Sadly, I've never done another; my time has been needed elsewhere. Someday, maybe when the thrill of this rare creative victory for me has worn off.

Ten years later and I'm still riding it!


If you've read all the way through this, let me reward you with a little tip. What do pumpkins and canning rings have to do with each other? Oh, I'm so glad you asked. I DARE you to find a better tool for scraping out a pumpkin's insides. So get carving!

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chaos and Mayhem

It's my life...chaos and mayhem.   I'm going to be very honest and open and show you what we are living in, be forewarned, it is not pretty!  But thank goodness I have the internet so I can take a short break from it all and write a quick post here. 

Quick is the key word here, the longer I procrastinate, the longer my couches will look like this, and the longer the kids will think they are a fort. 
No, I am not going to the roller derby, the knee pads are for tiling the floor. Yes, it is 12:36 pm, my son is still in his jammies and I have no clue what we are having for lunch.

Here is our progress on the living room thus far. 

The carpets may not look that bad, in person they look as if someone changed the oil of their car on them.

It's funny, but the picture with just the sub-flooring looks the best. 

 Even with all the chaos and mayhem, my heart sings each morning as I wake to this beautiful view.

Thanks for sticking with us through the journey!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'm a dummy, are you?

We apologize for the paucity of articles here at backyard farming lately. As you have seen on some previous posts we finally purchased our homestead. We have been busy ripping out old flooring, putting in new flooring, texturing walls, painting walls, moving our belongings (too many) and making sure our children live through the whole process.The problem is, we don't have the Internet yet (we are working on it) so we can't post on our blog. I am breaking the law and posting this article at work.

Now that we have a home, Marisa and I have the hard choice of prioritizing where we want to get started. We have huge dreams but know that time and money are a constraint so we can't do everything we want at once. As far as animals go, we want to get chickens and bees next year at a minimum, and hopefully we can build a fence and get a milk goat or two.

I was talking to a neighbor about his bees. He happens to be the president of the Beekepers association in our county. He gave me the following advice. He told me to read "Beekeeping for Dummies." He said it is important to start building or order a beehive before by January or February next year. He also told me that I need to order my bees by that time as well since many bee sellers get all of there orders early in the year and stop selling them once a certain quota is met. I am glad I talked to him. Do any of you bee experts out there have any suggestions for us as we start the process of getting bees? We love to learn from all of you. Leave a comment.

In the meantime, be patient with us as we get our home caught up and we will start posting more.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Herbs on Ice

By Jennifer

You've got your iced tea and your herbal tea. Why not iced herbs?

Everyone knows that fresh herbs pack a more flavorful punch than their dried counterparts. To help your dishes explode with a bit of garden freshness even when the garden is done, preserve herbs by freezing them.

It's easy. Harvest herbs, rinse or soak them to clean, remove large stems then chop. Pack in freezer bags or other containers.

I like to firmly pack herbs into ice cube trays, then add just enough water to cover. Once frozen, remove from trays and store in freezer bags. Be sure to label -- all those frozen green cubes look alike!

Frozen parsley

A tablespoon of herbs fits into an ice cube tray compartment. Already chopped, already measured -- what could be easier? If you're adding herbs to soups, stews, risottos, etc., no thawing is required. Allow to thaw if adding to bread recipes and the like so herbs are not clumped together.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Mother of All First Aid Kits - week 6

Hey there, it's that time again! Time to get out your grocery list to write down the next items for your first aid kit.

Week 6 Grocery List
 Lighter- $3.88
Thermometer- $3.12
flashlight- $1

Total- $ 8

If you missed a week, or would like to start your own Mother of All First Aid Kits, check out these links:

week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4, week 5


Saturday, October 16, 2010

No Longer and Orphan

The Orphan House is NO LONGER an orphan, she has been adopted by us! This family is ready to give it the love and care it needs. It will take some time, but we are willing to put in the time and effort to bring out it's full potential.
Don't be fooled, the picture above is NOT our property, though it would be a dream if it was. 

This is her, down here.
Now, it may look like just an acre of weeds to you, and it is....but it is OUR acre of weeds and we are madly in love.

We have spent the last couple of days texturing walls, ripping up carpet, and painting.

LOTS of before and after shots to come!


Friday, October 15, 2010

I've got good news!

I can't wait to share it with you later tonight!!! No time for details this morning, I've got a big day ahead of me!

But, here is a hint...it has to do with the Orphan house.

(this is probably why I didn't make the cheerleading squad....oh wait, maybe it was because I didn't try out.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Geeky Shirts are Cool

Have I mentioned that my husband is a geek? Well, he is. Part of geekiness is that he wears amusing t-shirts. I just got him this shirt from one of his favorite websites, threadless.com for only TEN BUCKS. You can get one too (they have it in a girly T as well), but they are only on sale for one more day.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chicken Poo Power

I once lived in a town that was run by hydroelectric power. I've seen cars that run on electric power. My friend at work has a charger for his Iphone that runs on solar power. My kids watch a cartoon that has lots of puppy power. I have done seen a lot of things but I've never seen a town that is run on chicken poo power.....until today.

Take a look at this article from the BBC website about a city in the UK that is run on chicken poo power. According to the article two farmers invested in a biogas plant will take chicken litter, pig manure, wheat and corn and generate enough electricity to power 350 homes.

I am a big fan of chickens and I am pleased with how much the chickens we have had reduce our waste. However, I have never thought about using their waste to produce electricity. I like the idea though. Let us raise our glasses to chicken poop, may it continue to warm our homes, and our lives.

Monday, October 11, 2010

P-Day is back! Mother of All First Aid Kits- week 5

Alright, I have to apologize to those of you who were actually making The Mother of All First Aid Kits, and then I just stopped. I took a month long trip to Texas, and I just didn't think ahead of time to get everything together and to write the posts before hand...then life got busy.  But, I have gotten enough emails and comments from readers to inspire me to keep going. I really thought that nobody really cared about it. So, I'm glad to see that some of you are!!!

So here we have it week 5's grocery list:

Hydrocortizone Cream- $4.98
Calamine Lotion- $1.27
Body warmers (found in the hunting sporting goods section) - $1.97 (package of 3)

 If you are just joining us and want to make your own Mother of All First Aid Kits here are the other posts: week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Homemade Applesauce

I LOVE  *L-O-V-E* Honey Crisp apples. I wake early Saturday mornings to get to the farmers market before they even open to get my 1/2 bushel of honey crisps. Last week I threw a couple peaches in the box of apples and then left for the weekend. The peaches got really ripe and even started molding which caused a chain reaction in the apples making them start to rot. Just when I thought I had gotten all the bad apples out, I would find more.

I didn't want all the apples to go to waste, so I decided to make them into applesauce. Since I don't have any of the right equipment to make it, I had to do it the hard way. It wasn't too bad, (my hand is cramping as I type) I did all the peeling, coring, and cutting with a knife.

1. I first washed the apples by cleaning out my sink, filling it with water, and placing the apples in it.

2. I cut each apple in quarters, cored them, and peeled the skin. 

3. I boiled some water, threw the apples in and cooked them till they were nice and squishy.

 4. I used the cheese grater attachment on my food processor to chop up the apples.

5. I then placed the chopper attachment on the processor and dumped in some cinnamon and mixed it up. 

6. I didn't make enough to justify canning it, so I placed it in tupperware containers and froze it.

Baby loves it!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Vending Machine Sells Free Range Eggs

I came upon this article on yahoo yesterday about stange vending machines. Take a look at the article. I have never wanted to buy a pizza or a gold bar from a vending machine. However one of the vending machines caught my eye.

This photo was taken by Josh Berglund. It shows a free range egg vending machine spotted in Japan. According to Yahoo you can also buy free range eggs via vending machine in Santa Cruz California at At Glaum Egg Ranch. $3 for 24 cage free chicken eggs. This seems pretty cheap to me. There isn't a legal definition for "cage free" chickens but many farmers will tell you that"Cage Free" eggs come from chickens that are not caged but they don't have as much room to roam as "Free Range" chickens.

Now if I could just get some nice crispy bacon in a vending machine, everything would be right in the world.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Spelling City

 My husband and I have a friend that brags about being a 6 time spelling bee champion (he's pretty cocky about it....you know who you are, Thatcher). I definately was no spelling whiz, so when it comes to teaching my kids spelling, sometimes I feel a little inadequate. That is one of the reasons I like Spelling City so much.

Whether your kids homeschool or go to public school, it doesn't matter for this great site. If you haven't checked out spellingcity.com, you should! You enter the child's spelling words, name the list (ie. Reece unit 2), then they are able to practice their spelling words in fun games, and then take a spelling test. My kids play at least one game and take the test each day of the week, just for practice. The kids love it because they get to play games, and the best part is, IT'S FREE!

*I was not paid or reimbursed in any way for this post. I just really like this site and wanted to share it with other parents!


Monday, October 4, 2010

Canning Peaches

My friend April
Canning peaches is surprisingly easy....and so yummy. If you can get a really good deal on peaches or pick them from a tree it can also be very economical. I bought my peaches for $.50 per lb and it worked out to be about a dollar per quart.

If you've never canned, don't be afraid....if I can do it, so can you!!!

Here is how I did it:

Canning Jars/Lids/Rings
Pot for water bath
Pot for boiling peaches
Small sauce pan for boiling lids
A friend to help (not required)

Start by boiling your peaches for about 30 seconds so the skins will peel right off. 

Cut the peaches in half and take the pit out. 

Make sure your jars are nice and clean.
Add one cup of water per quart jar.
Microwave for 1 minute.
Add 1/3 cup sugar, stir till dissolved.

Now that your jars have sugar and water in them, you are going to fill them with peaches.
If you are really fancy, you make sure that the pits face the inside of the jar.
*I'm not fancy, I just shove my peaches in.
Make sure you leave 1/2 inch from the top clear, but put enough peaches in that they are all covered in the water/sugar syrup.

To make sure you get a nice tight seal you will want to:
1. Boil your lids for a few minutes (not the rings). 
2. Wipe off the top of each jar before placing the lids on.

Place the hot lids on each jar, and screw on the rings.
Place your jars in a boiling water bath for 30-35 minutes. 

After their water bath, let them cool and the lids should be sealed. If you can push the top down, you don't have a good seal and you will need to eat that jar quickly, the others can be stored long term. 

Now, let's hear from you! What are your tips and secrets to canning? Or leave a link to your own blog where you describe how you can. Let's educate and inspire each other!!!