Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Where's the Bear? #58

The bear is sampling the champagne in preparation for New Year's Eve tomorrow!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sunday Muddy Sunday

Today was Miss L's 10th Birthday.  We decided to take a trip up North to Barnes & Noble for some post-Holiday using of gift cards, since it is another rainy day.

We have gotten over 2 1/2 inches of rain in the past week.  Just think how much snow we would have now if it was only cold outside!  Instead, everything is just soggy and muddy.

I noticed this morning that my Hellebores are blooming already!  They look lovely, and it's a nice change from the mud and dead leaves every where else.


JP made Swedish pancakes for breakfast, which is one of our favorite special breakfasts.  I have not eaten anything substantial since Christmas dinner, due to tummy issues.  It is keeping me from snacking on various Christmas cookies, candies and other treats lying about the house, but it isn't much fun.

L chose to go to her favorite Chinese restaurant for dinner.  She got the buffet, but I settled for a bowl of white rice and some wonton soup.

Isn't she lovely?

She chose a Tres Leches Cake for her Birthday, and got to open more gifts.  She is contemplating getting her ears pierced, and received several pairs of earrings recently, but is still a bit scared of the process.

I am ready to be done celebrating for the year.  Poor L has her birthday at the tail end of the season, where everyone is getting burnt out.  I hope she had a special day anyway.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

El Nino

It was gorgeous outside today - 65 degrees and sunny on Christmas Eve.  This is El Nino at work, I suppose.  Per Wikipedia:  In Spanish, the capitalized term "El Niño" refers to the Christ child, so named because the pool of warm water in the Pacific near South America is often at its warmest around Christmas.

I took a ride on the ATV, let J's rabbit out to run, and spent some time watching the chickens out in the fresh air.  It appears that one of our hens feels somewhat rooster-ish, she was mounting another hen!  (Never saw that before.)

We let the girls open a Christmas present a day early, a collection of all 8 Harry Potter movies on Blu Ray.  (My excellent Cyber Monday find on Amazon, a $65 savings!)  We have been binge watching HP since.

I baked another Pumpkin Cheesecake (wink, wink - made with sweet potatoes) since it was such a hit at Thanksgiving.  L didn't care for it once she knew it was made with sweet potatoes, which is why this one is a Pumpkin cheesecake (wink, wink.) 

JP mixed up a bunch of no-knead bread dough for tomorrow, and the tenderloin has been trimmed, tied, and seasoned. 

We are all ready and waiting for Christmas. 

Merry, Merry!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Where's the Bear? #57

The bear helped me get some Christmas cookies baked yesterday.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Where's the Bear? #56

This week the bear has been helping out with some decorating for Christmas.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Hunting Season Was a Bust

I went out early yesterday morning for the 3rd morning in a row, looking for deer.  After an hour of sitting in the tree house, with no deer coming to me, I decided to go out looking for them.  I walked the circuit of our property, wearing my proper percentage of blaze orange and carrying my rifle.  I looked pretty tough (tee hee.) 

Movement in the woods on 3 separate occasions turned out to be:  squirrel, squirrel, and Lizzie the cat.

I went out more times this deer season than ever before, and even so the season ended up looking about like JP's tree stand.

Pathetic
My friend and I spent a couple of silent hours up in that tree stand a few years back, until the sound of the trickling spring below made us have to pee so badly that we hurried back up the hill to home in the deepening dusk.  She was kind enough to embellish our sighting of Ernie the cat into me bagging a big buck in her newspaper column anyway.

It's the closest I ever came to becoming the "great white hunter", although I have had the opportunity to field dress my Dad's deer a couple of years ago.  It's the vicarious experience that counts, right?

Now we are off to a Memorial Service for the wife of a friend, and then on to L's Christmas Piano Recital (for which she is not ready) - opposite ends of the spectrum.  How does one dress for this line up of activities?

The girls have one more week of school before their extended Christmas Break begins.  We have been listening to Handel's Messiah in preparation - HALLELUJAH!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Where's the Bear? #55


Aha!  The bear was eyeing Dad's taxidermy heads and antlers...probably hoping he won't end up there some day.

I just came in from 1 1/2 hours in the tree house.  It's really cold out there, since I have to have the top of the Dutch door open in order to see to the South.  I saw one small deer, who hurried across the driveway to the cover of some brush.  I'll try again tomorrow.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Bring it On!

The weather has been unseasonably mild so far this Fall.  Although we have had a number of below freezing nights in a row, for the past several days the sun has been out and the temperatures have been up in the mid 50's during the day.  It has allowed us to make preparations for February, the most wicked of months.

A couple of months ago, we were able to get our wood in for the season.  This weekend I finally finished putting my garden to bed the way I'd been planning for the past 5 years.  All of the beds are weeded and resting under a thick blanket of shredded leaves.  Between the 2 of us, JP and I have managed to change the coolant in a couple of our vehicles & equipment in order to prevent engine block cracking due to cold.  JP removed the shade from the Chick-bit house, and he & Dad got the latch fixed on the outdoor wood burner.

So far, we have not needed to fire up the big wood burner.  We have been enjoying fires in the woodstove in the mornings though, and I will probably need to haul wood to refill the pile on our veranda at some point.

JP decided that it has been below freezing long enough that we could remove the window screens.  I have all of the windows on the main floor cleaned inside and out where possible.  It allows so much more light in!

It also appears that Dad has just bagged a deer.  I heard a shot, and now he is on his way to the barn in his blaze orange to get the tractor.  I have not been so lucky yet.

We are also ready for Christmas.  The tree is up, the decorations are out, and the gifts are wrapped.  There are a few more stragglers of packages that I am waiting on from Amazon, and I need to get a few more stocking stuffers, but most of it is done.  I also have L's birthday gifts wrapped!

So.  I think we're ready for it all - the Holidays, the snow and cold weather, even February.  Bring it on!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Where's the Bear? #54


The bear went up into Dad's "hunting cabin" (aka the gazebo atop his house) to check out the view for hunting season this week.  He seems to be somewhat anxious about something he's looking at.  I wonder what it could be?
 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Where Did the Time Go?

It has been a flurry of fun activities over our Thanksgiving Break this year.  The girls had a half day of school on Wednesday, and we started it off with J's guitar lessons...got home just an hour or so before JP's sister and husband arrived from NC.  The girls had a great time with their Aunt & Uncle, although they missed seeing their cousins.

We feasted on Thursday.  I was proud that much of what we ate came from Poplar Ridge:  the sweet potatoes, the mashed potatoes, the corn, and the applesauce.  I baked a sweet potato cheesecake, which was delicious (and the recipe is definitely a keeper.)

On Friday evening, after left over turkey for lunch (sandwiches) and dinner (tortilla soup), another of JP's sisters and her husband arrived.  We stayed up too late talking around the dinner table, but (as always) had a good time together.

One sister left early Saturday morning.  After another huge breakfast, I also had to leave.  I drove about 2 3/4 hours to OH to attend my Grandma's 100th Birthday party!  Both of my brothers were there, along with all of my cousins on my Mom's side except for one.  I was so happy to see them all, as it has been a REALLY long time since we've all been together.  (I was also happy that I recognized almost everyone - except for one cousin-in-law.  I also surprised myself by being astonishingly social, which is not my normal condition in these situations.)


My Grandma is in the middle with her 2 younger siblings.

Can you believe that this beautiful lady is 100 years old?

JP's other sister hung around until mid afternoon with JP and the girls in my absence.

After the 2 3/4 hour drive home in the dark and the rain, I was ready to take a day off today.  I didn't cook, but I did fold several baskets full of sheets & towels.

Tomorrow morning, I must get up early as deer season starts at 6:39 AM.  And that, my friends, will end the Thanksgiving Break for 2015.

Onward and upward to Christmas and double-digits Birthday for my baby girl!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Where's the Bear? #53


The bear is a bit sore from raking leaves, so he's planning to sit in the hot tub for a while.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Lucky 13

My oldest daughter officially became a teenager yesterday (although she's had the classic teenage angst going on for awhile already.)  I've actually noticed some signs of emotional maturity in her lately.  None too soon, either, as they had a bomb threat at her school earlier this week - evacuated everyone.  This is the second time since she's been there!

This is one of a multitude of selfies that I find on my phone at random times.

It's funny - she's been listening to Enya a lot recently (a vast departure from her fave punk groups with strange names like "Panic! At the Disco", "Black Veil Brides", and "Fall Out Boy.")  Enya was playing in the delivery room when she was born 13 years ago.

She has decided that she didn't want to have a party this year, just a quiet celebration with family at home.  She did, however, request a Red Velvet Cake.  She changed her mind when our "Cook's Country" magazine arrived 2 days ago and she saw the recipe for Red Velvet Cheesecake.  This is a layer of Red Velvet Cake, topped with a layer of White Chocolate Cheesecake, topped with another layer of Red Velvet.  All of this is slathered with Cream Cheese frosting, and then Red Velvet crumbs are pressed into the sides of the cake.  It looks delicious!

The cakes have just come out of the oven, and in 10 minutes I can turn them out of the pans to finish cooling.  I'll only have 3 or 4 more steps to complete today in order to put this thing together!

It's becoming increasingly harder to find gifts for this child.  Gone are the days when a couple of books, a game and a Barbie made her beam with delight.  Now her gift list reads like the electronics department at Target:  iPod Touch, Lap top, mini fridge (?).  Sigh.

Happy, happy Birthday, my dear, sweet J Bird!  You are the light of my life and the reason I have grey hair...but I wouldn't have it any other way.  There is only one J Bird, and you make every day an adventure.  I love you Sweetie!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Where's the Bear? #52


The bear has been helping to gather the eggs lately.

Monday, November 16, 2015

November Sunshine

After the 40+ MPH wind gusts last week, the weather this weekend was calm, warm and sunny.  In other words, it was gorgeous, and it was hard to stay inside!

I was a bit (a LOT) discouraged that all of the leaves that I spent so much time putting on the garden beds mostly blew off with the high winds.  Our friend, K, brought us 2 more pick-up loads of leaves from town as well.  I spent several hours out there, running over piles of leaves with the lawn mower, and re-depositing them on the garden beds.  JP came out later and helped by roto-tilling a couple of beds that were so full of weeds that I felt overwhelmed when ever I even entertained the THOUGHT of weeding them.  I got filthy, but finished chopping up leaves, and got all the beds covered except for the 2 that still have Fall peas growing in them.

 
I even harvested L's herbs (parsley and sage), and hung them to dry in the basement.

 
On Sunday afternoon, we took a long walk around the property.  We had the most fun down by the creek, where we discovered oodles of Milkweed pods.  These were fun to drop in the stream and watch them sail away like little boats.  The girls found the seeds irresistible, and threw handfuls of them into the air like snow.


I found the seeds and pods absolutely riveting just to look at.


I'm happy to say that after 6 years of searching, we have finally found a climbing tree on our property!  We all tried it out, except for JP, who had to take pictures.


I'll close with a picture of my Christmas Cactus, which has exploded with color just a few weeks early for Christmas.  I think it is enjoying the sunshine too!





Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Where's the Bear? #51


The bear is raking leaves this week.  He'll be busy for awhile!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Things You Don't See Every Day Take 3

Partridges in Pennsylvania?
Wikipedia says they are indigenous to Europe, Asia, Africa & the Middle East!

Skeletons in the back seat.


Redneck Leaf Rides


Kitties in a Kooler
So, just a jumble of thoughts today:

I saw a partridge cross the road on my way to PT on Friday morning...had to Google "game birds" to figure out what it was!

We had a pleasant weekend.  L and I checked out the annual craft fair at the Elementary School.  We also dropped off my mini skeleton, Freddy Jones-Bones, at Mrs. M's house.  Being the illustrious Kindergarten teacher that she is, she is doing human science this week using props!

JP mowed for what he HOPES is the last time this year, and blew all the leaves on to several piles in the process.  We gathered these up for the garden, and all of us took rides in the bucket of the tractor!

We decided to tear down the incredibly messy Kitty Kastle made of straw bales this Fall.  JP made the kitties a new warm spot in a cooler.  There is a swinging cat door at the end to the left, and the "picture window" has 2 layers of plexiglass for when it's really cold.  There's also an electric warming pad inside.  They seem to like it!

We have a 4 day school week next week for Veteran's Day...hooray!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Where's the Bear? #50


Even the bear dressed up for Halloween!  Just call him "Chef Beurre."

Sunday, November 1, 2015

New Neighbors

I appears as though we have a new neighbor who has moved into an old stump out behind the barn.



Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween 2015

Our town has a strange annual custom of holding Trick-or-Treat festivities, including a Halloween Parade on the Thursday BEFORE Halloween, beginning at 4 PM.  Having kids all hyped up on candy, and then sending them to school the next day seems pretty much contradictory to me, but it's what we do.

So, we got our Trick-or-Treating out of the way several days ago.  Both of the girls dressed as their favorite characters from their favorite books.


L was Annabeth Chase, from the Percy Jackson series written by Rick Riordan.










 
J was Hermione Granger from JK Rowling's Harry Potter series.

Today they carved pumpkins with their friend, C.  Luckily we had 3 nice pumpkins from our garden saved for carving.  They stuck to their books, with J carving Harry Potters glasses and scar, and L carving Poseidon's Trident.  C was creative, and carved not only a pumpkin, but an unfortunate apple as well.


It is Daylight Savings time tonight, so we will turn the clocks back before bedtime, and get an extra hour of sleep tonight!


Hope you had a Spook-tacular Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Monkey Ball Hunting

On my way home from PT today, I drove a loop over winding country roads looking for the fruit of Osage Orange trees.  I guess they would technically be called Osage Oranges, but some people call them "Hedge Apples", and around here they are affectionately called "Monkey Balls."


There is an old wives' tale that these sticky fruit can help keep insects away.  I figured that it couldn't hurt to put a few around the house this Fall, so I went out on a Monkey Ball hunt this morning.  I put a couple in the tree house, below the deck, and in the window well outside the girls' room.

While I was at it, I put away more of the pool things in the barn, cleaned up piles of leaves in front of the garage and along the chicken fence, put fencing around my evergreens to protect them from deer during the winter, brought all of the pigs in from my flower beds, and pulled the remaining corn and tomatoes from the garden.

Um...I might have overdone it.  My back is hurting this evening.  I think I'll go sit on a heating pad.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Where's the Bear? #49




It looks like the Bear is getting ready to go out in the rain today!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Apples

It has been a strange week.  JP's eye surgery got moved up 2 weeks to Thursday of last week.  I helped in his office in the morning, and then drove him to surgery and home.  He had a short day scheduled on Friday, so I drove the girls to school and him to work, helped out in his office again in the morning, and then drove him to his post op check, then back to the office and finally home.  He was told that he would have gradually increasing vision over the next week to week and a half in that eye, but he seems to be having some complications.  SIGH.  I really hoped that this surgery would be the end of the story about this eye!

Yesterday I drove the country roads out to the apple orchard to buy apples for apple butter.  I have come too late, it seems for the large selection that they usually have.  I was limited to Romes, Granny Smith and a few Pippins, none of which are my favorites.  Nevertheless, I came home with a bag of each, and have had apples simmering in the crock pot ever since.  I may have to run back in a few days to get some more apples for my Secret Ingredient Apple Sauce.

I was hoping that I would get to see lots of colors on the trees during my drive yesterday, but everything was mostly brown.  I nearly got run off the road twice by water trucks, speeding to or from a gas well somewhere.  It was drizzling and chilly.  Oh well, it was quiet, and I actually enjoyed myself!

The leaves are lovely here on Poplar Ridge.

 
JP set fire to the enormous pile of sticks that the girls and I collected over the past 2 or 3 years, and had a massive bon fire raging for most of the morning.  By afternoon, it had settled down to a large pile of coals, so L decided to roast marshmallows in the drizzle.

 
The cool weather and small showers have revived my moss garden.  It is looking good right now!


We have soccer this afternoon, but that, along with Fall is winding down.

Here is my recipe for Apple Butter:

10-12 apples of various varieties, peeled, cored and quartered
1 cup water or apple cider
1 1/2 c sugar
2 t cinnamon
1 t ground cloves

Place all ingredients into the crock pot and cook on Hi for 1-2 hours, then simmer on Lo for at least 12 hours until mahogany in color.  I use the stick blender to blend my smooth before canning in pint jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.  Makes about 3 pints.



Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Where's the Bear? #48



It looks like the bear is about ready to abscond with my Dad's tractor today...probably because it's a CUB cadet!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Farm Fresh Eggs 4 Sale

The hens are doing such an excellent job of laying, that I am quickly being over-run with fresh eggs.  Last week alone, they laid 140 eggs!

This is how many eggs they laid today:


Yep - every single hen laid an egg today!

This is how my refrigerator looks:


There are 15 dozen eggs in there!
 
I have plans for selling or giving away 12 dozen tomorrow.  That should make room for this week's eggs!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Karma

What goes around, comes around...right?  Does it also follow that Epic Fail days can be followed by acts of restitution which even things out, so to speak?  I really hope so!

Thursday was one of those days when I felt liked I failed repeatedly as a parent.  Even though I managed to get everyone out the door on time to school/work, exercised, paid the bills and made chicken salad even before heading out the door to work myself, it still felt overwhelmingly like a Fail Day. 

I picked up L after school, and things looked good for getting to J's last soccer game just in time for the start.  The GPS directions, however, brought us to a road, less than 2 miles from our destination, that was completely closed, without any posted detours.  I drove around for 20 min before finally finding the school, after saying some things that I'd rather not repeat in front of L.  We managed to see the last 5 or 10 minutes before the half.

Did I mention that I also managed to take a snack for the soccer team to the middle school before work - a cooler of bottled water, 2 bags of clementines, and a box of granola bars?  I thought that the girls ate this on the way to the games, so I had Jenna drag the cooler back off the bus before we headed home from the game.  Only after the bus left, was I informed that not only had I deprived the other girls of their drinks, I deprived J of her snack!

At home, already feeling pretty crappy, things got worse.  L still had homework that I was unaware of, and I completely lost it with her - like screaming insanely lost it - before she FINALLY got in bed 20 minutes past her bedtime.

Thank goodness for Fridays!  I got the truck inspected (passed.)  And started on the mountain of mending that had nearly buried my desk.  I replaced the zipper in a pair of JP's shorts (HATE zippers), and altered 2 new pairs of jeans for him (tedious), besides letting down the hem of pants for J, and putting fasteners in her Halloween costume.

Yesterday I picked everything in the garden, brought in my potted plants, and covered a select few things in the garden that I hoped to save from the frost last night.  I covered the air conditioner and the outdoor table, and brought in the hammock. 

This afternoon, I took L to her soccer game, while JP stayed home with J and made dinner.  He did a tenderloin of pork, baked bread, and made a salad.  I baked sweet potato fries (not a hit) and had made Chocolate Pots de Crème (in my on-going attempt to use eggs, since we are getting at least 20 eggs/day from our remaining 24 hens = a LOT of eggs!)  It was delicious!

Chocolate Pots de Crème
-Recipe from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
 
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
7 large egg yolks
1/3 c sugar
1/8 t salt
1 1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 c whole milk
1 t vanilla extract
 
Place chocolate in a large bowl and set aside.
 
Whisk eggs yolks, sugar and salt together in a bowl until smooth.
 
Bring cream and mild to a simmer in a med saucepan over med heat, stirring occasionally.  Slowly whisk about half of the cream mixture into the egg yolks.  Slowly whisk the yolk mixture back into the remaining cream.  Return to low heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly, and coats the back of a spoon (175-180*), about 7-9 min.
 
Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl of chocolate, and let sit for 2 minutes.  Slowly whisk until thoroughly combined, then add vanilla.  Pour into 6-6 oz ramekins, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours.
-------------------------------------------------
Even if all of this productiveness does not cancel out the poor parenting of earlier in the week, I FEEL better about myself and my family.  I'm going to call things even.

Egg use total today - 17.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Finishing Up

There are weather reports calling for freezing temps overnight this weekend, so Mom and I took some time this morning to work on putting more of the garden "to bed" for the winter.

We dug the sweet potatoes...got a nice mess of them this year!


Some of them are HUGE!

We got really dirty in the process..
 
I also got all of these hybrid pumpkins from a single volunteer vine that grew down amongst the asparagus this year!


There are still a few tomatoes hanging on down there, and some more Fall peas...and lots of weeds.  Besides that, we are really finishing up with the garden for 2015.

Where's the Bear? #47



Looks like J left the bear to do her Algebra homework while she was at Soccer practice this evening!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Cleaning House

JP and I have been off work this week.  By that I mean that we are not going in to the office, but JP has been spending about 3 or 4 hours/day on charts, and the rest of the time we have been working our butts off outside.

On Monday morning, I cleaned the house, while he started cutting up the first of 2 timber piles for use in the outdoor wood burner.  After that, I raked/shoveled gravel in the chicken yard, that the hens had managed to scratch about 15 feet out from under the concrete slab that the chicken house is built on.  By that time, JP had enough wood cut for me to start hauling it and stacking it under the barn lean-to.

On Tuesday, JP finished cutting the first timber pile, and moved to the second.  I finished hauling and stacking that, and then cleaned up the bark and sawdust.  It made these nice stacks of wood under the lean-to.


You can see the split wood stacked along the back - that
is for the woodstoves indoors.

We were side-lined for a couple of hours on Tuesday when the tractor got a flat tire.  JP & Dad were able to fix it, so we could get back to work.


Yesterday morning, Mom & Dad helped us butcher and clean the old hens.  We are now down to an even 2 dozen young hens, and we got 18 small eggs yesterday.  That afternoon, JP continued cutting wood, while I canned chicken (8 quarts) and cooked the backs for broth (4 quarts), and hauled 2 loads of water for the cistern.  He also "stacked" what he had cut, and now says he is done for the season.


My piles are prettier than his!
We all went out for dinner to celebrate JP's birthday last night.  It was lovely to not have dinner to cook and dishes to wash!

Dad has been busy too.  He built a permanent compost bin down where our temporary packing crate bins have been.  He will rebuild the other side next year after we use the compost out of it.


This morning, JP had an appointment with his Ophthalmologist, who gave him the bad news that he will need surgery.  It is tentatively scheduled for the end of October.  I had a Parent/Teacher conference with L's teacher, who was SO impressed with her reading!  I stopped for an oil change for the Subaru on the way home.

Once we were changed, we masked up and cleared a year's worth of litter from the chicken house, then cleaned and closed down the other side where the peeps grew up.  It smells fresh and clean out there now, since we used shavings from Dad's wood shop.  The young hens seem to enjoy it too.


Now I am headed out to clean all of the minions (aka stink bugs) out of the tree house, so that the girls and I can have a tea party out there this afternoon.


It will be clean houses all around on Poplar Ridge!