Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Happenings around the Little Cabin

Wow! It is COLD here! We've had several days of super cold weather and there is snow predicted for our area today. That's just crazy to me. We are not used to having snow in winter. Couple that with living almost an hour away from any major shopping, and we are having to think about winter preparations a little differently this year. I'm glad we took the time to cut some of our firewood this past summer. Next year, we will be more proactive and cut a lot more, I hope.

Our hens are really getting good at laying. In November, they laid 249 eggs! We were able to give away about 4 dozen a week, in addition to the eggs we kept and used for ourselves. What a blessing. So far, the winterizing we did for the coop/ run has been quite successful. We ended up adding a stronger tarp to the run and more hay around the outside (we had to use several bails inside the run, so had to make another hay buying run last week), but now it is toasty warm in there, even at night.

The rest of our food production has come to a grinding halt :( The neighborhood dogs have formed a "pack", led mostly by our pooch and they are all quite active BIG dogs. They get into everything and have torn down the small fences I had around my garden (every morning is an adventure as we discover what they played with/ destroyed in the night). The only garden item that has survived the assault is the parsley, though I am going to harvest it all today, as I noticed when I went out around 5:00 am to check on things, that they finally tore down that fence and have started smashing/ digging it up. I guess Tabbouleh is on the menu for tonight.

I am no longer really able to do any heavy lifting or much manual labor (less than 4 weeks to go before the baby arrives), so new fences will most likely have to wait until spring. My boys are a big help (doing almost all of the farm work plus taking care of all of the pets and a good deal of the house care as well), but I don't think they could handle building a strong fence by themselves and DH is working around the clock lately for his job (he gets calls at all hours lately, even when sleeping - as it is end of the year), so he really can't help now, either. In the mean time, we will try micro-greens indoors again, plus sprouted beans and seeds.

I think things are just about ready for the baby. This pregnancy has just flown by for me, and about 2 weeks ago, I was really hit over the head by the fact that we were not ready (we didn't even have a name for him, though, thank God, we do now). I think we are ready now, with the exception of cloth diapers, which we still need to get. I'm getting really excited about meeting this little guy and can't wait to see what he looks like.

I will probably not post much for a few months, though I do plan to post pics of baby boy when he is born (or have DH do it). I'm finding that I don't usually even have time to read my favorite blogs lately, much less post :( Menus have been very basic and not really worth posting. The focus for us has been stocking the freezer with meals and snacks to take us through about the first month with the baby. So far, we have lots of main dishes, a few side dishes that freeze well and lots of snacks (muffins, cookies, etc). We are trying to add at least one main dish and one snack per day for the rest of the month. We will see how that goes, because some days, it is really hard to motivate myself to cook instead of pulling something out of the freezer, lol. My hope is that once the baby is here, we will only have to take meals and snacks out of the freezer and add fresh veggies or fruit to round out the meals.

Friday, November 12, 2010

But We Only Have 15 Hens


I put this on Facebook earlier this week, but could not help posting it here, too. We have 15 hens, but on Monday, they were quite busy. Between sundown on Sunday and 5:00 pm on Monday, our 15 girls laid 17 eggs :) Do you think they were motivated by the pumpkin we gave them?


Or do you think it was "chicken eye" from the dominant rooster?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Menu Plan Monday (Nov 8, 2010)


This week, we are going to continue our doubling of recipes to get more cooked meals in the freezer for when the baby comes. The boys were a great help last week, with Nick, our oldest making the lasagna with minimal help from me. WTG Nick!! This week is going to be COLD, so we will focus on soups and other warming meals, most of which freeze beautifully. As usual, we include all locally grown or homegrown items in bold. Here is our menu:

Monday - White Bean Chicken Chili (making a double batch - will freeze extra), green salad

Tuesday - Caramelized Onion and veggie omelettes (gotta use up those eggs!! The hens are laying an average of a dozen a day now) and sliced oranges

Wednesday - French Onion Soup (local beef was used to make the stock - making extra to freeze), grilled veggie and cheese panini

Thursday - Chicken Noodle Soup (hoping to try our hand at homemade noodles - making extra to freeze), green salad

Friday - Cheese Burgers (will make and freeze extra burgers), mashed sweet potatoes, apple slices

Saturday - Chipotle & Beef Chili (will freeze extra), cornbread, green salad

Sunday - Leftovers

I am also hoping to do some baking and get some of that into the freezer. My boys are big snackers and it will be nice not to have to think about snacks for a few weeks with a newborn. Do you have any favorite snack recipes that freeze well?

Menu Plan Monday

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Winterizing the Chicken Run

We are expecting below freezing weather this weekend and that coupled with the rain we are getting and will continue to get has prompted us to winterize the coop. Cold, wet chickens are not what we want.



Here is the coop/ run as seen from our kitchen door. It really is in the woods :)

A close up shows that we added a painting tarp over part of the run and then stacked some hay bales on two sides to create a snug corner to keep out rain and wind.


In this picture, you can see some of the hay bales and in the background, the laying boxes and a few chickens :)


Another close up from the side. We only covered the top and two sides with plastic so that we would still have ventilation. They have a warm coop, but all of them prefer to be outside of the coop in the run. This will hopefully help them stay dry and warm when the weather gets cold and wet.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Menu Plan (Nov 1)


This baby will be here before we know it. If I'm going to accomplish getting a freezer full of meals and teaching the boys to handle more in the kitchen, I've got to start doing this now. So this week, I had the boys help to plan the menu (they chose main dishes and I filled in side dishes) and they are going to help make the meals, including doubling of recipes for the freezer. I am only posting our dinner menu this week. As usual, I am putting locally grown items in bold. Here is what the boys planned:

1. Lassagna (making one for the freezer) with sauteed squash (we found locally grown summer squash at the farmer's market on Saturday :), a green salad and breadsticks (if there are any left,we will freeze those,too)

2. White Chicken Enchilladas (with some for the freezer), sliced sweet potatoes in butter and sea salt, green salad.

3. Turkey Meat Loaf (doubled for the freezer), green salad, mashed potatoes, green peas

4. Sloppy Joes (local beef), caramelized veggie blend, cut up apples (sloppy joes freeze really well, so we are doubling that recipe and freezing extra)

5. Burgers (local beef - we will make double what we will need, so that we can freeze some for later), caramelized onions, potatoes (probably using the recipe for breakfast potatoes from The Pioneer Woman's cookbook), steamed broccoli with butter and sea salt (so yummy!!)

6. Chicken Salad sandwiches, chicken corn chowder, green salad (if there is any extra chicken, we plan to freeze it in meal sized portions for later use)

7. This will either be "You are on Your Own" or leftover day.

I am submitting this post to Menu Plan Monday at OrgJunkie.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Harvest Totals October 2010




Well, October has been much better, harvest wise, than July, August or September. The garden has consistently provided enough greens for a salad about 3 times a week, and I was even able to bring a salad to a family gathering for 11 and I only had to add a cucumber from the grocery store. I was pretty excited!! These greens include mesclun (looks to me like only red and green leaf lettuce), romaine lettuce, baby kale, parsley and occasionally baby swiss chard. It is so nice to have homegrown greens again.


This was taken early last week. The eggs are usually bigger, more like the size of the green one, and we usually have more than 7 as well.

The hens have really hit their stride egg production wise. Their eggs are getting bigger, averaging large size, though there are two who are laying the equivalent of jumbo eggs. They are also averaging 9 eggs per day now, up from about 6 last week. This month, they laid 186 eggs!! I am extremely pleased with this number. It comes out to an average of 6 per day for the entire month, and that includes days with only one egg and even one day with zero eggs. In fact, we have so many eggs, I'm not sure what we will do with them. We gave away 3 dozen this week, ate or baked with 2 dozen and have 4 dozen left in the refrigerator. I wish I knew where to find one or two customers. I don't think I could support more than two, just in case they don't lay well one week, but it would be nice to have an outlet for these eggs.


In the meantime, I guess we'll be eating lots of omelettes, like the one above, which is made with caramelized veggies and cheese. Yummy!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Real Food Deals - Mambo Sprouts and Kroger


We love Real Food over here. As we define it, real food is "non-processed" food, for the most part, though there are some "processed" foods that my family does enjoy. One of those foods is Lifeway Kefir, which my husband loves (he drinks it for energy during workouts). So I was very excited to see it on sale for $2.99 per quart at our local Kroger (Delta Region). When we combine that with the printable coupon from Mambo Sprouts ($1.00/2 Lifeway Kefir), the price comes out to $2.49 (there was also a paper coupon from Mambo Sprouts that I received in the mail a fee weeks ago). The regular price for this product is $3.99, so between the coupon and sale we will save $1.50 per bottle. Hubby will be very pleased to find a few bottles of his favorite workout snack this week :)

This post is being linked to Real Food Deals at Premediated Leftovers.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What's Happening Around the Little Cabin

Today was a pretty busy day at The Cabin. It has been raining most of this week, which meant we could not get much done outside, and there was lots to do outside. Today, we were blessed with cool weather and sunshine, so we got outside and got stuff done :)


First, we put wheat straw in the chicken run (they were so thrilled) because all that rain had turned things to mud. While we were in there working, we had the opportunity to see one of the hens lay an egg :) That was pretty exciting for the boys and for me, especially because she's my favorite hen (very friendly - she lets me pet her and she "talks" to us). It was also neat because now we know which eggs are hers ( the really jumbo sized army green colored ones - WTG girly).


Next, we put down some stepping stones to make a path between the house and the shed. We must walk that path a lot more than the previous owners. We had walked a dirt/ mud path through the grass and decided it would be better for the lawn and for our shoes if we had stepping stones.

We also put a temporary fence up around my garden, as all of the animals in our neighborhood seem to think of my garden as their own personal beds and they have been crushing my lettuce. Hopefully we can fortify it in the next day or two and make the fence more permanent.

Finally, we put compost in the new bed and then started some new compost with some leaves and chicken manure. Phew! I'm tired and so are the boys. Busy, busy day!!

What's happening at your place?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Garden/ Chicken Update - October 21, 2010


We finally got some rain, after 9 weeks with no measurable rainfall. The ground was so dusty that we could barely walk outside some days, with all the dust flying around. The ground, and my garden are enjoying the deep drink of rainwater provided earlier this week.

The little fall garden is really beginning to feed us more substantially (finally!!) and I could not be more happy. Our greens have reached the baby stage so we have been enjoying some nice "gourmet" salad mix with our meals and even as meals. I don't weigh the "harvests" but I have taken pictures of a few of them. Our mix includes mesclun (a few green and red leaf lettuces), romain, parsley and kale. The spinach is still too small - only about 4 true leaves and not many plants - so we are not harvesting it yet. The above photo is pretty representative of a harvest and we are able to pick this much a few times a week. This amount will make 3-4 side salads or two or so meals.

This week, I planted some more mesclun and spinach. The spinach plants that have been growing for several weeks are still so small, and most of the seeds did not germinate yet plus two of my chickens got out a few weeks ago and ate half of the mesclun seedlings. Having a staggered planting will be nice, so I guess things have worked out for the best, in that regard. I am hoping that we can keep all beasts from eating, squashing or digging up the garden so that we can continue to enjoy it in the coming months.

The hens are laying pretty well (except for today when they laid a grand total of ZERO eggs - weird). So far this month, they have laid 113 eggs and we have been able to use almost half for ourselves (we enjoy eggs, plus we bake a lot) and have been able to share the rest with our family and neighbors. I've really enjoyed that part of having laying hens. It is nice to have something our land has produced to be able to share with our "community".

We are getting ready to add compost to a new bed that we will use for herbs and tomatoes, plus probably a few caning berry plants (blackberries, maybe) in the spring. I'd like to get the parsley transferred there before it gets cold here. If I can get to that next week, then that will free up another 4 square feet of garden for more spinach. I also still need to plant the sprouted potatoes and garlic. We have a micro climate (where that new bed is going) that is significantly warmer than the rest of our place and gets lots of sunlight, too. The potatoes will be in containers in that area, so I think they will grow well into winter and produce a small harvest. Not a lot, but home grown potatoes are so worth the effort :)

I have a question for all my gardening friends. How often do you add compost or fertilizer to your garden? I've been adding compost (made with leaves, garden plants, grass clippings, kitchen waste, chicken and rabbit droppings, wood shavings and hay) about once every 2 months or so. Is this often enough or am I depleting the soil? Any advice?

Tell Me Thursday - Dancing


I took this picture a few weeks ago for my husband's birthday at a Cajun restaurant "back home". My oldest son asked my Mom (she has Alzheimer's) to dance. It seemed to be lots of fun for both (though neither are smiling in this picture - they were concentrating, lol) and will definitely be a special memory as well.

Tell Me Thursday

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Real Food Deals


My blogging friend Alea over at Premeditated Leftovers has started this wonderful blog carnival, Real Food Deals. Basically, its a place to share any ways we save on Real Food, either at the grocery store, local foods or even just general tips for saving on real food or healthier foods, as we define it for ourselves. I missed the first week, but am hoping to participate fairly regularly from now on. This week, I'm just going to share a little about how we save on pasture raised meat.

We chose to begin eating pasture raised meat a few years ago after reading Nourishing Traditions and The Omnivore's Dilemma. You can read some the reasons we believe pastured meat is right for our family here. As I mentioned in my earlier post, pasture raised chicken is EXPENSIVE. It can be up to four times more expensive than grocery store chicken when bought on sale, and depending upon the breed of chicken raised, may be much smaller than grocery store chickens, as well. We've had to get really creative with our chicken meals in order to keep their use within our budget.

We are raising some meat birds at this time, though definitely not enough to keep our family fed yet. Therefore, we are buying pasture raised, organic heritage breed chicken from a local farmer at this time. We pay between $6 and $8 per dressed bird, depending upon their size and most of them are about one pound smaller than grocery store chickens. What they lack in quantity of meat, they more than make up for in flavor and of course, we believe they are better for us as well.

One way we make the most of our chicken meals is that we do not usually eat chicken as a main course anymore - you know, meat and potatoes. Most of the time, we use the chicken as part of a main dish such as stir fry or enchiladas.

We get our birds whole from the farmer. I start out by seasoning a chicken with a dry rub (usually celtic sea sale, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper) and then putting it in the refrigerator over night to "marinate". The next morning, I usually roast the chicken in a 300 degree oven for about 2.5-3 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 180 degrees in the meatiest part of a thigh. Next I allow the chicken to cool a bit, and remove most of the meat from the bones, reserving the pan drippings. Some of the meat will then be used as part of a main dish like chicken enchiladas, tamales, chicken spaghetti or stir fry. The bones and pan drippings will then go into the slow cooker along with some onions carrots and celery, if I have it, to make chicken stock. I usually cook it on low for 6-8 hours. When the stock is rich and flavorful, I strain it and once cool, put it in the refrigerator (or freezer, if I won't be using it right away). The bones are then picked for more meat - usually enough for soup which we usually have at least once a week. We use the stock also to make rice and especially when we make beans and rice dishes, as the stock adds a depth of flavor and a richness that makes eating meatless dishes much more filling. The remaining chicken skin and bones are given to our dog who loves his special treat.

If we are careful, we can usually get about 3 meals from one chicken. A stir fry will usually cost us about $4.00 for the main course, assuming we paid $8.00 for the chicken ($2.50 for the chicken, $1.00 for the veggies and $.50 for rice and sauce - or we serve it on lettuce leaves if we are low carbing) and will serve 4-6 depending upon how hungry my family is that day so about $1.00 per serving, on average. Chicken Enchilladas will usually cost about $7.50 ($2.50 for chicken, $2.00 for tortillas, $2.00 for cheese, $.50 for veggies, $.50 for sauce) and this usually will serve 8-10 depending upon how hungry everyone is, so between $.75-$1.00 per serving. Soup is even more economical, costing only about $4.00 ($2.50 for chicken and stock, $1.00 or less for veggies and $.50 for a handful of rice or pasta and seasonings), and it will usually serve 10 for approximately $.50 per serving. From that same chicken, we might also make Cuban black beans and rice for approximately $2.00 ($.50 for beans (cooked from dry - about 2 cups), $.50 for stock, $.50 for rice and $.50 for chipotles, onions and spices). We can usually have this for supper with a side of veggies and it will serve 5 (supper for 4 plus I will have it for lunch the next day), so about $.40 per serving.

Our grocery budget has gone up over the last few years, especially since we began eating pastured meat, but by working at it, we can at least keep things more affordable. Some weeks this works better than others of course, but for the most part, if I can stay organized, we can stay within budget and enjoy pastured meat as well.

This post is being submitted to Real Food Deals at Premeditated Leftovers.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Menu Plan Monday (Oct 18th)

We had a nice long (3 day) weekend at home and for a the first two of those days, hubby and the boys were off in the woods leaving me with the house all to myself most of the time. I took the opportunity to get ahead on some of this week's cooking :) A great deal of this week's menu is either in the freezer or refrigerator, ready to heat and eat :)

Here is our menu plan for the week. As usual, all locally grown and homegrown items will be listed in bold.

Breakfast (with repeats):

*Eggs
and Grits
*Oatmeal with pecans , coconut oil and honey
*Egg and cheese biscuit sandwiches (these are handy for that one morning when we have an early obligation in town)
*Smoothies (blueberries, bananas, yogurt, peaches or strawberries)

Lunch:

*Peanut butter and honey sandwiches
*Sliced Turkey sandwiches (cooked a turkey breast and made gravy to go with it - too bad there is no cranberry sauce, lol)
*Green Salad (homegrown greens) with boiled eggs, pecans, carrots and cheese
*Leftovers

Snacks:

*Yogurt (with maple syrup)
*muffins I made over the weekend
*Smoothie
*Homemade bread with honey butter
*Grapes
*Sliced Apples
*Carrots and herb cheese dip

Dinner:

*Italian Crock Pot Black Eyed Pea Soup and homemade bread

*Roasted Turkey Breast, Homemade Mac & Cheese (feeling the need for warm weather comfort food, I guess ;), green salad

*Meatloaf (grass fed beef from the farmer's market), steamed broccoli, green salad

*Fiesta Chicken (pasture raised chicken from the farmer's market, mixed with salsa - I think we have ONE jar of homemade salsa left-, corn and black beans) served in tortillas, with a green salad

*Crustless quiche (to use up random leftovers), or this Egg Puff from Premeditated Leftovers, green salad and mashed sweet potatoes

*White Bean Chicken Chili (pastured chicken and stock from that chicken), with a green salad (our garden it putting out lots of lettuce and other greens now )

*BBQ burgers, potato salad (kids have been asking for this) roasted mixed veggies

Once a meal has been eaten, all leftovers will go into the freezer for later meals.

This post is part of the Menu Plan Monday Carnival at OrgJunkie

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Couple of Firsts this Fall


Yesterday I had the opportunity to make our first apple pie of the season (Paula, I always think of you and Heather when making apple pie). I think it must have been much anticipated, because the boys cut into it before I was even able to get a picture. With all of the moving, I misplaced my usual recipe, so instead, I used this crust recipe from All Recipes and this filling recipe with some adjustments (I used Gala apples, so I left out about half of the sugar in the recipe and I substituted butter for the shortening).


This morning we had temps in the low 40's and so we decided to get a fire going in the fireplace. So cozy. It was nice to be able to cuddle up and enjoy my morning coffee in front of the fireplace.


We are really going to enjoy this wood burning fireplace this fall and winter.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pumpkin Oatmeal Recipe

I cannot remember where I saw this (I read lots of food blogs and belong to lots of foodie yahoo groups), but we just had to try this really cute recipe for pumpkin oatmeal (please don't look at my dirty stove - keepin' it real here, lol).


It starts with a sugar pumpkin, top cut off and hollowed out (remove all the strings and seeds). Add to the pumpkin one cup of oats, one cup of milk and any sweetener you might like (we used about 1 tablespoon honey and a little brown sugar). In addition, put a pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and I also used a couple of grates of nutmeg. We like a little crunch in our oatmeal, so we added pepitas (roasted and shelled pumpkin seeds). Once all of this is inside the pumpkin, put the lid back on and put it into a preheated 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. Before serving, scrape some of the pumpkin off the sides and mix it in with the oats. We added a little butter and coconut oil right before eating.

This was a fun little recipe and got another orange veggie into my kids first thing in the morning. If anyone else saw this online and remembers where it came from, please let me know so that I can give proper credit.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Menu Plan (Oct 4) and Farmer's Market

I visited the farmer's market on Saturday and was pleasantly surprised at some of the wonderful things I found. There was a wonderful "no spray" lettuce farmer there with an amazing array of lettuces. Its been a long time since we've had lettuce from the farmer's market. We are enjoying the red leaf and green leaf lettuces so much. I also found some cooking pumpkins, some "no spray" butternut squash and some sweet potatoes in addition to our beef order (we are getting several this fall to carry us through until spring/ early summer when there will be more available).

Our beef order comes with each cut individually wrapped in butcher paper and the hamburger is wrapped up in one pound portions. Each time we get slightly different cuts and different amounts of hamburger. This order had a few t-bones, a few sirloins, two roasts, some ribs and lots of hamburger (what we use most). We also got soup bones.

This is the cooler I bring it home in. Each order is somewhere between 25 & 30 pounds. It takes us between three and four months to finish off one order.

We are going to use some of the local food we have in the freezer, as well as the farmer's market finds for our menu this week. As usual, I will put the local items in bold.

Breakfast (with repeats):

*Oatmeal with coconut oil, pecans, honey and blueberries
*Eggs and grits with cut up fruit
*Fruit smoothies made with homemade yogurt, blueberries, peaches and bananas
*Homemade granola with pecans, honey, butter, coconut oil, pepitas and dried bananas

Lunches:

*Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and applesauce
*Peanut butter sandwiches and cut up fruit
*Green Salad with feta cheese, walnuts, pecans, kalamata olives
*Leftovers

Snacks:

*Pumpkin bread or muffins (eggs are from our hens)
*Smoothies (blueberries, peaches)
*Apple slices
*Pears
*Cheese cubes
*Oatmeal cookies
*homemade bread and honey butter

Dinner:

*French Onion Soup (beef stock from soup bones - also will include small amount of beef; the dog was THRILLED with his jackpot when I gave him the bones earlier) with grilled cheese sandwiches and a green salad

*Roasted Chicken, sweet potatoes (probably just cooked in some butter - so yummy!!), green salad

*Dinner Salad with leftover roasted chicken, pecans, cheese, boiled eggs, cucumbers, carrots and some homemade bread

*Cheese Burgers with caramelized onions, green salad, mashed butternut squash

*Soup (not sure what kind, but I'm leaning towards Italian Black Eyed Pea Soup) and homemade biscuits

*Pizza with leftovers (some of which will be local) and maybe caramelized onions and black olives as toppings and a green salad

*Crustless Quiche (eggs) to use up any veggies that need to be eaten before they go bad and a green salad (if we still have lettuce or if ours is ready to begin using).

Our hens are consistently laying 7 eggs a day now (1 blue/ green, 1 dark brown and white speckled and 5 light brown). That means we are getting about 4 dozen a week - plenty for us to use and enough to share with our neighbors, too :) Earlier, when dh and I were out feeding/ watering the chickens and collecting the eggs, a katydid flew at me and I jumped/ screamed (eek!!) and dh laughed (because it was really funny). My response? To begin crying - so out of character for me. I am obviously experiencing some sort of pregnancy hormone thing. I am now entering my third trimester (time is flying for me this time) and I think we are having a really big boy - check out that profile:


To me, I look much farther along than just 6 months, lol. I think I better get to work with farm projects, Christmas shopping and freezer cooking!! It will be here before I know it.

I will be submitting this to Menu Plan Monday at OrgJunkie.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

September "Grow Our Own" Totals

We finally have something (though just a very little) harvested to count, so I'm going to try to keep track of what our little cabin/ farm is producing for us.

In September, we grew a lot of baby lettuce that we did not get to consume, but that the chickens did get to consume and that we will ultimately consume as eggs. The only green stuff we harvested in September was parsley and basil. The parsley was used in Taboulleh and most of the basil was dried (5 plants - dried to about a cup of crushed leaves). In addition to the small harvest, we planted lots of fall crops including Romaine lettuce and Mesclun, Kale, Beets, Swiss Chard, Broccoli, Snow Peas, and Spinach. We lost our bunching onions to something (I think it was our dog who dug them all up) and those will be replanted soon.

Not food, but we also harvested some hay (about 3 wheelbarrows full) and have some more to harvest. We also cut some trees (3) and made firewood.

The chickens began laying eggs on Sept. 19th and the total egg production for the month was 60 eggs. We used many of them ourselves and have also been able to share some with our wonderful neighbors. We also harvested a rooster who dressed out at about 3 or so pounds. He is still in the freezer.

All things considered, I am quite pleased with our very small harvest. I am hopeful that October will be even more productive.

How about you? Harvest anything in September?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Current Obsession (its a book)



For my birthday last month, I received some money as a gift. As usual, that money was spent on a book. I am enjoying the above book for a few reasons. My favorite part of the book, I think, are the beautiful pictures. Really, they inspire you to try things for yourself. I also love that there is a little bit about almost anything and everything associated with growing or raising your own food and caring for your home. I've really enjoyed the tips on building automatic watering systems into your garden using rain barrels. I'm going to think on that one a bit and see if I can't start taking steps to make it happen by next spring/ summer.

Are you enjoying a book or books right now?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Little Cabin/ Garden Update

I'm sitting here this morning with all of the windows open, listening to the sounds chickens make when they are busy laying eggs. The trees have been losing their leaves for weeks, though our temps have been in the 70's at night and 90's during the day. It may have looked like fall around here, but it has not felt like it, at least not until this morning when we woke up to a lovely 51 degrees :) Fall makes me happy.

This is the path to the pond on our property. In the summer, it was so dark on this path that it looked like evening all the time. With the leaves falling, we are starting to see the sun again.


We've been keeping the chickens inside their run instead of letting them run around in the woods and yard. Trying to grow a garden with them running around was futile. Even with netting and fencing, they still managed to eat most of my seedlings, and what they did not eat, the dog would dig up, so this summer did not boast much of a harvest. After losing two plantings of my fall garden, I finally have something to show for my efforts.



The small plants in this photo are some kale I just planted. The larger plant in the foreground is ginger that I planted from a sprouted ginger root I had for cooking. It is about 3 inches tall right now. Its really fun to get free plants from the kitchen :)Here are a few of our broccoli plants. We have nine, which will not be enough to supply us with broccoli for even a few weeks (we go through tons of broccoli here), but still, it is worth the effort of planting some.

Here is our "spring mix" lettuce that is just coming up. I have lost count of how many times I replanted this as the chickens would eat this up as soon as it sprouted. We like to harvest a few leaves from each plant every day to make a salad. That way, they just keep growing all season. These usually are ready to start harvesting by about 3-4 weeks old. We've got about 2-3 weeks to go.



Here is our romaine. I think we have 12 plants. They are growing nicely and I am hoping we will be able to start using some of them as baby lettuce soon.

We have not had measurable rain in over 6 weeks. The garden is surviving because it is small enough for me to keep up with watering. The rest of the yard is not doing as well. Most of the grass is brown and the trees that still have leaves are looking pretty thirsty. We had about 15 minutes of rain yesterday, but it was definitely not enough to make any difference. Hoping for a little bit more soon.

I think that this week I will pull up the rest of the basil and either dry it or make one last pesto with the harvest. In its place, I think I will plant some of the sprouting potatoes that are in my house waiting for a place to grow. Potatoes grow pretty well here during fall and even winter, if they are kept in a warm-ish area and get enough light.

We have a very small area with cut hay that we have slowly been raking and bringing in. Right now, all that we have 'harvested" is in the chicken coop, but I am hoping to get a little put away for later when the pen needs to be refilled.

We also built the girls two more laying boxes and they are putting them all to good use. When they first started laying we were getting about 4 eggs per day, on average. They have slowly increased their numbers and are now averaging about 8 per day. Not only are they laying more, but their eggs are getting bigger.




The middle egg was laid last Wednesday and the other two were laid on Saturday ( you can see the date I wrote on the green/ blue one-I date the eggs as I bring them in so that I can be sure to use the oldest ones first-learned that from my friend Kathleen ). At first they all looked like that little bitty one, but now most of them are like the big ones and we only get one or two of the little ones per day.

At this point in my pregnancy, I am still feeling really great and have lots of energy, so I am hoping to get some more of our projects done in the next few weeks. We are hoping to build some beds to help with erosion where our yard does not get enough light and water for the grass to grow. I am also hoping to chop down some more small trees and cut them into firewood (not only is it great exercise for me but the boys love this chore and will happily help with it for hours at a time). We are also hoping to get some limestone put down in the driveway/ parking area so that when the rain starts up again, we are not walking through mud to get to the house.

Inside the house, I am hoping to get the school room back into shape - it has become the school room/ dumping ground for anything that does not have a home. I also hope to organize the pantry.

What is going on over at your place?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Hens are Finally Earning Their Keep :)


This morning, we were running late for church, so while I was inside helping the boys to get ready, Bryan went out to feed and water the chickens. He returned quicker than usual, looking like the Cheshire cat, then pulled 3 eggs out of his pocket :) Our FIRST EGGS!! This afternoon, when I went to fill their water, there were two more :) Five eggs on day one!! Those girls sure do copy each other, lol. Having chickens just became even more fun.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Yard Advice Needed, Please

As I've mentioned many times before, we live in the woods. Our yard does not get much sunlight. Things do not grow well here except for trees. We also live on top of a hill with many ravines all leading to the streams or creeks on our property. Erosion is an issue for us. And some of the erosion is happening pretty close to the house. Now, add a very active dog and a bunch of chickens who love to eat grass and scratch around, and we are beginning to worry that all of the dying grass may make erosion a bigger problem than it is currently.

We have tried miracle grow on the bare spots (didn't help at all). We are also running the sprinkler sometimes as we have not had rain for a few weeks. And we have decided to keep the chickens in the coop for the next 7 days, then only letting them out every other day (hoping this will allow the grass time to recover between chicken feasts).

We've talked about putting in planting beds instead of grass in those areas that seem to die off easily, though they would have to be fenced in to keep out the dog and chickens and hubby is not really crazy about fences all over. We've also talked about compost and St. Augustine plugs with a fence around them only until they are established. Perhaps even hostas or other shade loving plants, though if the chickens will eat hostas, then we will just end up back in the same place we started.

Anyone have any experience with erosion and planting to prevent erosion in shady areas with lots of animals all working against you? Or, if not, do you still have opinions or suggestions?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Looking Your Food In The Eyes - Part Deux

Well, we did it. We "harvested" meat for the first time. I did NOT cry like I thought I would. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but it definitely was not "fun" nor is it something I want to do often.

The hardest part, outside of the actual taking of life was plucking the feathers. Sheesh, but there are a lot of feathers. Since we were doing it all by hand, it took quite a long time - I'd say 20 minutes or so just on the feathers and we were squatting that whole time - because after the initial feather removing, we had to remove the "leftover" feathers one at a time. These were mostly pin feathers, so they were hard to reach and took time to remove. If we ever decide to do it en masse, I think we will try to rent or borrow one of those feather plucking "machines". It really was challenging. Also, if we decide to do it again en masse, we will need a better set up. We really were not rigged for it and we did not have any tables or chairs. Basically, we had a camping stove for the hot water and a #3 tub and some rope. We stood or squatted for everything. I think sitting would make it easier to do more than one. We spent over an hour and only managed to butcher one (the one who had begun "attacking" us) and I was exhausted by the end.

I also think that if we ever decide to raise lots of meat birds, I think we'll raise Cornish X instead of heritage birds (if we have the option). For the effort, it would be nice to have a bigger finished product. This guy was 5 months old and huge, yet he only dressed out at about 3 lbs, including bones.

Boy do I have a new appreciation for my poultry farmer :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Looking Your Food In The Eyes

I've known for some time that I wanted to raise both laying hens and meat birds. About 5 years ago,we began buying pasture raised poultry from a farmer who grew the chickens naturally and treated them humanely. This kind of poultry is expensive (depending upon the farmer, it can be up to 4 times more than grocery store chickens) but it was something I knew we needed to do for our family for several reasons.

First, pastured poultry is better for you. Our bodies require EFA's (essential fatty acids) such as Omega 3 & Omega 6 in order to survive (that's why they are essential) and we need them in an approximate 1:1 ratio in order to maintain our health and avoid chronic diseases. The standard American diet of processed food contains a large amount of Omega 6 (found in abundance in all corn and soy products) but very little Omega 3. Pastured meat and dairy products from pastured animals contains a nice balance of the two EFA's. It seems that animals that eat lots of green grass have the right balance of Omega 3 & Omega 6. This is one of the reasons we go to the extra trouble and cost of seeking out locally raised chicken, beef and eggs. Knowing the farmer allows us to know how the food was raised, thereby knowing what is in our food, so to speak.

Second, pastured meat and eggs taste better - a lot better. In fact, even 5 years after we started buying pastured chicken and beef, I am still blown away by the taste difference. The difference between conventionally raised, factory farmed chicken and pastured chicken is literally equivalent to the difference between pale watery store bought tomatoes (in January) and garden fresh tomatoes in July- no contest!! And even though these meats cost more than grocery store meats, our food bill did not go up much when we started eating them because between the amazing taste and added nutrition, I find we need to eat less of it to feel satisfied. Meat has become part of the meal, not the main focal point.

Between the health benefits and the taste benefits, there are reasons enough to make the switch to locally raised pastured meat, but there are still more reasons we made the switch and keep seeking it out. One of those reasons is that buying locally from farmers you know helps out the community you live in. Buying from the farmer, instead of the grocery store means that not only does your farmer get to make a decent profit for their work (hard work, I might add), but it also means that they will get to keep doing that work year after year and thus supplying your community with healthy food.

But the other side of the coin is that we want to avoid factory farmed meat both because of its toxic environmental impact and because of the conditions the animals live it. I won't rehash details of what its like for these animals for their short lives, but you can read about it in The Omnivore's Dilemma or watch Food, Inc to get a good idea. Its not a pretty picture. But of course, even after reading about it or seeing film, I still didn't fully understand just how poorly these animals were treated. Then we moved to our new home, which is about 30 minutes from a poultry processing plant. We don't travel in that direction often, but we do have to go out that way sometimes and we've seen the trucks carrying the chickens in for processing. It really is shocking and puts a whole different spin on those pretty rotisserie chickens.

So, we buy our poultry from farmers who raise them on green pasture and allow them to live the way chickens want to live - foraging for at least some of their food. I know first hand that chickens want to live this way because our chickens call to us and practically ask to be let out into the woods to forage. They run around in the fresh air and sunshine eating grass and leaves, bugs and even sometimes small reptiles like lizards or toads (I've seen it with my own eyes, otherwise, I'd never believe it, lol). It really is something to see.

Our hens and roosters are 5 months old now and hopefully the girls will start laying eggs soon. As mentioned in other posts, the guys are getting pretty amorous, so I'm hoping it wont' be long before we start to see some reward for our efforts at chicken raising. But, the guys are not only getting amorous, they are also getting pretty aggressive, at least some of them are, and not only with the hens, but also with us. After one of them came at me with wings spread and clawed feet bared, well, I just know that I am not allowing that around my kids. So, we set their date with destiny. The two aggressive roosters are moving on Saturday - one to the Bar-B-Que and one to the freezer.

Yeah, I am a little nervous. I will probably cry. I am glad someone who knows what they are doing will be here to help with the "hard" parts. But I also know, deep down, that this is right. These roosters have had a good life - better than most chickens and much, much better than most roosters who do not live more than a day or two in factory farm settings (google it - pretty disturbing). And I know that my family does not take lightly the raising or the eating of meat, so, over all, I feel good about it. Wish us luck.

Disclaimer: These are the rambling thoughts of a very pregnant woman at 5:30 am. Please don't just take my word for any of this - do your own research. The above mentioned book/ DVD as well as the book Nourishing Traditions are great places to start.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Menu Plan: August 30-Sept 5, 2010

This week, we are having a "clean out the freezer" week as our fall beef order is scheduled to be ready this weekend and we are also getting 6 fryers and a duck (!!!) from our pastured poultry farmer this weekend.

Here is our menu. Locally grown or raised items are in bold.

Breakfasts:

*Oatmeal with pecans and honey
*Yogurt with honey or maple syrup and sliced pears
*Granola (local honey and pecans) and milk
*Scrambled Eggs and grits (someone now raises and grinds several different corn products and sells them at our farmer's market).
*Pancakes or waffles with maple syrup or honey and cut up fruit
*Peach and blueberry smoothie

Lunch:

Leftovers
Baked Potatoes
Freezer Meals that have been packaged in individual servings

Dinner:

Grilled T-Bones and Sirloins (using up the last of our spring beef order) with baked potatoes and steamed broccoli

Spaghetti (we are using rice noodles since regular noodles do not agree with hubby - i hope we like them), green salad and sauted squash

Homemade Pizza (plain cheese or cheese and black olives for the boys and what ever we can find in the freezer to use as toppings for hubby and I) and a green salad

Roasted chicken, sweet corn and sweet potatoes (though I may try Alea's sweet potato recipe if I can get my hands on some cauliflower)

Tuna burgers with home grown micro-greens (if they are ready to use by then) and cut up fruit

Soup (probably chicken noodle that way we can use up lots of our frozen local veggies) and cornbread (cornmeal and eggs from the market)

Ok, so while I am excited beyond belief to be getting a pasture raised duck from our poultry farmer, I am unsure of how to prepare it. I'd really like to just roast this one to keep it as simple as possible to see if the family likes duck. Anyone have any tips? TIA :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Chicken Update


The nesting box is built. A few weeks ago I mentioned that since the girls will begin laying eggs soon, I had decided to build nesting boxes to put into the existing run until we can get something else built. I am pleased with the results and so are, it appears, the girls, who jumped up to investigate our work as soon as we finished. We put it in the run and filled it with bedding, now all we need are some golf balls or other fake eggs to encourage the girls. I think we will probably also paint it, at least the outside, to help prevent it falling apart since it will be "outside" the coop (but inside the run) for at least a month or so.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Its a . . . . . .


BOY!!!

We are so excited!! Its funny, I thought I really wanted a girl, but when he said boy, this sense of relief washed over me. He looks like he is growing great. All things appear to be as they should. We think he will be a big one, like boy #2, since he is measuring a little big for his age.

I am also doing well. Being over 40, we are concerned that I might have more problems than usual, and considering my history (pregnancy induced hypertension with #1 and borderline gestational diabetes with #2) we would not have been surprised with some issues. But we had a great check up - blood pressure fine, blood sugar great, weight gain minimal; all in all good news.

We are a little over the half way point, so I guess now is the time to get some of my projects completed. I'll post about things as we get them done.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Granola and Tomatoes

Last weekend at the farmer's market, I bought more cherry tomatoes from the heirloom grower than we could eat before they went bad, so I put the rest in the dehydrator this morning. They will be so yummy on pizza in the coming months.


I rarely buy cereal anymore and instead we make granola in the crock pot (it goes cooks more slowly so if I forget about it for 15 minutes, it does not end up a charred mess). I've got some of this going in the kitchen right now.

Here is how we make it:

Turn slow cooker on low and add a stick of butter, abut 1/4 cup coconut oil, about 1/4 cup brown sugar, about 1/4 cup local honey and a pinch of salt. Allow the butter to melt and then stir everything together. Add 6-10 cups oats (I use quick oats because my family does not like the results when I used old fashioned rolled oats, and we lean towards the high end - almost 10 cups of oats, as my family prefers the granola more dry and less sweet) and stir to combine. Add nuts if you like them. "Cook" with the lid off, stirring about once every 15 minutes or so for about 1.5 hours then turn off the crock pot and allow the granola to cool. Once cool, you can add all kinds of "goodies" like coconut flakes and dried fruit, if you like. Store in an airtight container. Don't know how long it will stay good, as it usually does not last very long at the cabin.

I am hoping to try a sprouted cereal soon. I just need to make time to get to the health food store for the raw materials. If I ever get around to doing it, I'll post pics and such.

edited to add finished granola picture.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Garden Update: Fall Garden and Garden Addition Plans

Well, there is not much to take pictures of right now in the garden. The only things growing now are parsley, mint, basil, bunching onions (and they died back when it was so hot and dry), a pineapple top I planted as an experiment and one or two lettuce plants that survived the assault by the 60 lb puppy.Mint that has started growing again after all of the heat lately.

I put the fence back up and planted some seeds for fall. So far, I've planted broccoli seeds, swiss chard, kale, spinach and some sprouting ginger. Still to go in are beets, potatoes and carrots. I'm also thinking of adding snow peas which we've grown during winter before, though not in this planting zone.


This was a pineapple top I planted several months ago. It is starting to grow new leaves (lighter colored than the original)

We also did some planning over the weekend and decided that while the location of the garden will be fine during the winter, it does not get enough sunlight during the summer when the trees have leaves, so we are building more raised beds in other locations of the property that get more sun. These will need to be built in the next few months since I may have a high needs baby in the spring.
I know the chickens are not technically part of the garden, but since they fertilize it and eat so much of it, I'll put the chicken update here with the garden. After much debating, I've decided against building a new coop for the layers. Instead, I am going to add laying boxes to the existing run. Not only will this be easier for me, but the chickens will probably like it better, since they are creatures of habit and do not take very well to change. Another bonus is that the girls will probably start laying as soon as the weather cools a bit and there is definitely more of a chance I will have laying boxes built in time. We will build a chicken tractor with an enclosure for the little group of hens and rooster that we are hoping will become parents, but that can wait since I really don't want little ones while the weather is cold.


The roosters are getting so beautiful. Their long draping feathers are growing in nicely and they are becoming so colorful. One of them is a dark red with iridescent dark green tail and shoulder feathers. The boys call him "Pawski" after my Dad. He is in the picture above surrounded by his girls :)One of the others (Casanova - he is the most amorous) is a beautiful gold color with lots of rust and dark greenish black tail feathers. He is pictured above with the Dominique rooster who is so huge. The one below is a Barred Plymoth I think, (based on his coloring and comb). So pretty, don't you think? Can you see the pretty colors this one has on his sides. They boys call him Hawkie because his comb looks like a mohawk, lol.

Most of the time, Pawskie (the Rhode Island Red) is the only one to hang out with the girls. He is a wonderful protector. The other Roos usually just act like frat boys hanging out together unless they are feeling amorous. Usually. It is actually quite interesting to see the flock dynamic beginning to develop and to watch the guys taking care of the girls, but that's another blog post.

Edited to add pictures.

Menu Plan Monday, August 9-15, 2010



School is starting again, and I can tell by the fact that our schedule is slowing down. We are not visiting anyone this week and no one is visiting us this week. Summer is always so busy for us that even when I'm not pregnant I can barely keep up. I am looking forward to the regular routine and the slower pace - oh and also the cooler weather :)

We try to eat locally as much as possible, so I will highlight the local items in our menu in bold.

Breakfasts (with some repeats):

*Stuffed French Toast Strata with fruit from the farmer's market
*Homemade Waffles (we have some in the freezer from last week) and local fruit
*Eggs and grits (local eggs are harder to come by now that the weather is so hot - hoping for cool weather soon!!)
*Oatmeal with pecans and blueberries or peaches

Lunches:

*We were gifted with several pounds of sliced deli meats and cheeses so we will make sandwiches for lunch on most days and have them with fruit and cut up veggies or pickles.
*Baked Potatoes with broccoli cheese soup or just butter and cheese

Snacks:

*Homemade Yogurt with maple syrup and/ or fruit
*Zucchini Bread (need to start using up some of that zucchini in the freezer :)
*Smoothies (blueberries and peaches)
*Cantaloupe
*Watermelon
*Cucumbers and carrots in dip
*Hummus and pita

Dinner:

Monday: Gyros, hummus (garlic from the market) and pita and tabbouleh salad (parsley and mint from the garden, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions from farmer's market)

Tuesday: Roasted Chicken Pesto (basil from the garden) Panini, cucumber and tomato salad

Wednesday: Tuna Patties with sauted squash and cut up fruit

Thursday: Soup (probably Minestrone - chicken stock, squash, zucchini and corn from the neighbor's garden), homemade breadsticks and Caesar salad

Friday: Mongolian Beef with Stir Fried Veggies over rice

Saturday: Leftovers unless we find something amazing at the market that we cannot wait to have.

Sunday: Crustless Quiche with ham and cheese plus farmer's market veggies, tomato and cucumber salad and fruit.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Menu Plan for the week of Aug 2, 2010

I have not posted our menu in many months, but this week, I've had the time to plan a menu and the time to post it. I like posting it because then I feel some accountability and am more likely to stick to it and not rely on deli chickens or take out.

I have been so tired this pregnancy, that it has been difficult to cook, much less plan for meals. In fact, many time in the last months, I've wondered how women through the centuries have survived having to prepare everything from scratch while exhausted and extremely nauseated in pregnancy. There were a few weeks when I could not even walk through the kitchen without retching. The family had a lot of chicken nuggets and deli chickens those weeks.

We are eating as locally as possible so I mark the local items in bold.

Breakfasts (with repeats):

Granola (homemade in the crock pot using local honey and pecans)
Yogurt (homemade and flavored with maple syrup or honey)
Waffles (made with local eggs)
Baked Oatmeal (made with local eggs)

Lunches:

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Muffalettos on homemade bread with cut up fruit
Bake Potatoes with butter and cheese
Leftovers from Dinner

Snacks:

Carrots and dip
Herb Cheese and crackers
Watermelon
Chips and Salsa (homemade with local ingredients)
Gingerbread (a favorite of our nephew who is visiting for the week)
smoothies (peaches, blueberries, strawberries)

Dinner:

Monday - we had roasted chicken with a green salad (cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes)

Tuesday - Homemade Pizza (some of the veggie toppings are local - banana peppers, for one) with sliced cucumbers and cantalope.

Wednesday - grass-fed beef burgers with steamed broccoli, fruit and sweet corn (in the freezer - our neighbor grew it and gave it to us).

Thursday - Leftovers

Friday - Roasted Chicken, black beans and brown rice and caramelized mixed veggies (most of the veggies are local - zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers, onions)

Saturday - Soup made from the leftover chicken - probably white bean chicken chili,but the final soup will depend on what we have a lot of and what we find at the farmer's market. We will have it with cornbread (probably) and anything fresh I can find a the market.

Sunday - Probably leftovers to clean out the fridge.

Preserving:

I have not preserved much so far this week since there were only 2 vendors at the market yesterday and they mostly had what I already have preserved in abundance. I have frozen more zucchini and am drying blueberries and peppers. Hopefully, there will be more tomatoes at the market as I'd like to can more sauce and salsa and maybe dry some, too. I am also eager to find the first figs of the season - hopefully this week.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Preserving

What are you preserving this week? It has been "Pickle Week" here at the cabin. Over the weekend, we were the recipients of a plastic grocery bag filled with cucumbers (from some wonderful friends), many of which became dill pickle spears (pictured below). We also were given some tomatoes by one of hubby's co-workers and those became the jar of tomato puree pictured below.



Also in this picture are banana peppers, okra (both from our neighbor), peaches (from hubby's co-worker who sent a whole shopping bag full) was planning on putting up peaches in syrup, but we ended up eating most of them), some cucumbers (friend), a huge squash (from our neighbor - she said it is wonderful seeded and cubed and cooked with some brown sugar and cinnamon. I hope to try it, as that sounds wonderful), and another huge zucchini which will also be shredded and put in the freezer for zucchini bread.


Today I made pickled banana peppers and processed 6 half-pints (to the left in the photo). I also put some, unprocessed, in the fridge to use in the next week or so (big jar in photo) - yum!! I still need to decide what to do with the okra. I will probably just cook it down with onions and peppers and put it in the freezer for gumbo this fall.

It is harder to get to the farmer's market this year because we are 40 miles away from the closest one, so our wonderful neighbors' gifts have been such a blessing.

What are you preserving this week?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

It Sounds Like A Farm Around Here

The roosters have started crowing every morning. They are far enough away from the house that we can't hear them unless we are outside, so I guess that's why I still love to hear them crow. It sounds like a farm :) They have also found their libidos and we've witnessed much chicken romance around here in the last few days. Hopefully that is an indication that they girls are getting ready to start laying eggs.

The chickens have been getting more and more destructive with my garden lately, so we finally put up a little fence around the part that is planted. It is working very well, because even though the chickens could easily fly over it (we find them in the trees many evenings, now) for some reason, they do not think of that and stay out of my basil, parsley, and lettuce. The remaining beds received compost last week and will probably be planted with potatoes (some of the one's my Dad grew have sprouted), beets, swiss chard and kale in the next week or two.

I only got to the farmer's market once this last week, as we had several appointments that coincided with the market preventing us from going and we also had surprise guests (which we were thrilled to have). I did not do any canning this week but a neighbor gave us a ton of okra which I cooked down and put in the freezer for okra gumbo this fall. He also gave us an absolutely huge zucchini (the boys were pretending it was a baseball bat) that he said we could shred in the food processor and use for zucchini bread.

The picture does not really give good perspective. Its hard to tell, but its bigger than my forearm from fingertips to elbow.

This morning at the market, I needed eggs and by the time I arrived, an hour after it started, most of the egg farmers were sold out. I got two dozen by absolute luck, as one farmer still had some. I also met a farmer who grows heirloom tomatoes, so we had those (delicious!) with cucumbers (from the market) and some homegrown potatoes and onions for lunch. So yummy. We also got a lot more peaches, some of which we had for desert at lunch and some of which will go into the freezer.
I'm hoping to get to the farmers' market at least twice this week. I am also hoping to do a better job of making a menu plan and sticking to it. The budget has been busted far too many times this pregnancy. We are also having family over for the weekend. They have lots of kids and my kids are so excited as they love playing with their cousins!! I'm hoping to get most of the cooking done before the weekend so that I can enjoy the visit, too. Maybe I'll be able to post my plan in a day or two.