Monday, July 28, 2014

Egg-citing news!

Flock #2

So, now our second flock are all named accurately according to their gender!! And there is at least one official "HEN" among them! (as opposed to "pullets")

I was anticipating the first egg from this flock, particularly from one of the Things, some time in August ... however, we were surprised to discover the first egg in the new nesting box on Friday! It was a perfect, albeit small, light brown egg. I am guessing Lucy may have laid it ... why Lucy?? Well, she has the most developed and red comb of the 3 brown egg layers (Lucy, Edith & Agnes) and that is one of the signals of readiness to lay. Hence why I thought the Things might lay first. But they are supposed to lay cream colored eggs. And then, egg number two was found on Sunday (also small, light brown) ... not in a nesting box this time, but in the sawdust. Hmmm. Might put some fake eggs in the nesting boxes so they can see where the laying should be done!

First egg from second flock! Lucy the prime suspect!

Needless to say all the girls are showing great interest in the nesting boxes, trying them out for size and such.

In hopes that the first egg is actually fertile, I put it under our first-flock-hen Gandie, who has decided to brood instead of lay, so we thought we'd give it a go. Poor girl is most perturbed every day when I steal the eggs she has gathered to lay on (she rolls the other girls eggs under her!) So maybe it will hatch. Unlikely I know, but worth a try :)

Gandie, our broody hen

I am so hooked on this chicken keeping, that I am already building coop #3!! There are so many hens out there looking for a loving home, and they can be difficult to integrate into an established flock, so I am building another coop before I get some more of them! I have always bought the chickens before the coop, but with the experience of two flocks, now I am doing it the right way!! I am using old fence panels, pallets, and as many scraps of wood as I can muster! This coop is gonna be FREE!!

I sent a message out some time ago asking who might be interested in organic, pastured eggs ... we need over 50 laying hens to meet the demand!! So far we have 10 layers (flocks 1 & 2), with 4 roosters added to the mix so hopefully they'll produce some offspring sometime!!

I'll be a homesteadin' chicken farmer yet!!

The Flock #1 girls enjoy some weedy treats from the garden!!

PS. It must be hereditary ... Miss T built this chicken tractor out of LEGO today! Awesome :)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Our favorite pasta salad

I spent the better part of seven hours today making modifications to our chicken coop ... I'm really happy with all that I got done: doors fixed, nesting boxes built, extra roosts installed ... but that's a whole 'nother blog post. Point is when I got home after 5pm tonight I was EXHAUSTED! And along with the rest of my family — HUNGRY! The baked potatoes & toppings I had planned to make/prepare were going to take WAY.TOO.LONG. The fresh garden tomatoes begging to be eaten with Welsh Rarebit was also going to take too much effort. Then my daughter said, "What about Pasta Salad?" 

With only the pasta cooking time and an extra 2 minutes for prep time, I went right to it. Pasta dumped in a pot of boiling water, then make dressing, cut tomatoes, grab a bag of frozen corn & open a can o' beans while it's cooking ... 

Tonight's was the basic version (speed was a factor), but there are so many ways to change it up. My family devour this, especially the kids, often asking for seconds (depending on how heaped the firsts were!) This is also my go-to recipe for pot-luck dinners, and picnics.

RECIPE: (generously serves 4 as a meal, or up 10-12 as a side)
  • 1 box (12-16oz/475g) of your favorite rotini pasta (I like tricolor veggie rotini)
  • 1 packet Italian dressing mix (dry), 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 
  • (or 1 cup pre-made Italian dressing)
  • A handful of fresh herbs - chives, oregano, marjoram, parsley, sage, basil, rosemary, thyme
  • 8oz/250g frozen sweet corn kernels, or 1 15oz/475g can sweet corn kernels, drained
  • 1 15oz/475g can dark red kidney beans, drained, rinsed
  • 1 pint/punnet of cherry or grape tomatoes

Optional extras:
  • Feta cheese crumbles
  • Diced onion
  • Diced sweet peppers
  • Diced ring bologna
  • Pepperoni slices
  • Sliced Kielbasa (grilled first!), 
  • Diced cooked/grilled chicken 
  • You get the idea ...

Toss the whole box of pasta (minus the box) into a pot of boiling water.
Meanwhile ... pour dressing mix, oil, vinegar, & herbs stripped from stems into a blender jar and whiz until smooth & pale green. (Alternatively use 1 cup of pre-made dressing and whiz with fresh herbs.)
Cut cherry/grape tomatoes into halves or quarters & prep any optional extras.
Open, drain & rinse kidney beans.
When pasta is cooked to your liking, drain & rinse with cold water for a few seconds.
Empty pasta into serving bowl (or back into the pot) and add frozen corn kernels (the remaining heat of the pasta defrosts them & they cool the pasta more!)
Add tomatoes, beans and any other optional extras.
Pour dressing over the whole lot and stir to coat everything & distribute ingredients evenly.
Serve immediately or refrigerate (NOTE: pasta will soak up dressing the longer it sits).

Monday, July 14, 2014


Four days
Little Juniata Creek
Greene Hills RV Park
Low Humidity

Arts Festival
Lots of walking
Amazing artworks

Cool down
Mama & kids
Water fight in creek
Meet new friends
Hang out

Sleep in
Family bike ride
Alexandria to Mt. Etna
Ten miles there and back
Two turtles, one snake, a horse!
Stop for ice cream treat
Swim in camp pool
Play with friends
Dinner time

Kids restless
What to do
Hike to Cathedral Meadow
Field of wheat
Family photos



Mountain pies
S'mores with friends
Way too much sugar!
Time for bed
Super moon

Worship God
Ring the bell
Pack up

[reference for next year:]

Saturday, July 5, 2014

How time flies ...

The years have gone by so quickly ... and being with the kids every day it is hard to see the changes. So I create one of these "through a year" collages every year to capture some of the memories, best expressions, and observe the changes from one birthday to the next. It's one of my favorite annual projects.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Double Digits??!!

Where have the past nine years gone? Wait, he turned TEN today?? Double Digits ... already??!!

We 'met' our "firstborn" Guatemalan Treasure when he was 11 months old. We had 'met' his newborn sister a few days earlier, and wanting a big brother for her, we were asked to consider adopting an 11-month-old boy waiting in an orphanage ... and below was one of the photos we received. Do you see that impish little face? Of course we gave a resounding and unanimous "YES!" Seven months later we were a forever family.

This adorably handsome young man is delightful. What he lacks in stature, he makes up for in personality. He loves hip-hop dancing, bouncing on the trampoline, chasing/wrangling/hanging out with chickens, all things Despicable Me, especially Minions, family movie nights, collecting stuff, Star Wars, listening to music, reading, Kindle time (games), imagining inventions, and pushing his sister's buttons ... to name a few things! His favorite color is green. His very favorite food? Pasta in any form, flavor, or sauce. 

K-man lives with a number of developmental challenges. D.A.M.P. syndrome (Deficits in Attention, Motor & Perception), ADD Inattentive and Speech Dysfluency (stutter). But he is a Super Trooper. Though he finds it difficult to stay focused, understand and retain academic information, he has (seemingly) every radio tune stored away in his head, and can name a song in the first bar, or tell you another song the artist sings, or a movie it is featured in! Though his writing is labored, he can draw some pretty cool Minions and Super Heroes. Though his speech is not fluent, he can talk up a storm — it is often hard to get him to stop!! Although he perceives the world and those he encounters very differently to the rest of us, and reacts disproportionately to everyday situations, he has a uniquely quirky sense of humor, and yet is sensitively sweet. 

This wonderful boy is quick to thank me for most every meal I prepare. And I mean, "Thanks for the fantastic dinner Mom! Your a great cooker!" after which he asks, "Did I fill your bucket?" (read: make you feel good?) ... his Love Language is definitely words of encouragement and affirmation. My heart melts when he says "You're my best forever Mama in the whole wide world!" I love this boy and I am so very blessed to be his "forever Mama." 

His Birthday Menu requests included: 

I am thankful for the opportunity to spend much of the summer off with the kids ... it's an investment, as much in my life as in theirs! This is just as I imagined and hoped motherhood would be.