November 30, 2016

Cranberry Salsa You Can Enjoy Anytime of Year

So I know we are past Thanksgiving but this is a recipe you could enjoy year round or add to your recipe box for next fall's celebration.  I can't remember where I got the recipe originally but I've been making it for years now and it has become a family favorite.  This cranberry salsa adds a wonderful kick to a turkey sandwich - try it!

It's really simple.  You just throw all the ingredients into a food processor.  

I like to start with just the jalapeno and get it very finely diced.  Next I add the onion and then the celery, cilantro, and about half the cranberries. At the very end, I add the rest of the cranberries and just pulse it quickly so they don't get crushed as much, leaving more texture to the salsa.

ingredients for a double batch
I like to turn mine out into a large tupperware  container and mix in the line juice, salt and pepper to taste.  Then I throw the whole thing in the fridge to cool for a few hours.  The flavors improve as they sit for a few days.  You can also freeze this if you have leftovers and enjoy it throughout the winter!

Final product
Here's my recipe card:


November 29, 2016

Cupcake teepees

I made a special dessert for the boys on Thanksgiving this year - cupcake teepees.  I saw this idea on Pinterest and I had to try it myself.  You can read the original at

First you have to fill the ice cream cones and bake them.  Cover a pan in heavy foil and cut slits to push the cones through.  This will hold them upright while they bake.

Next mix up your cake mix according to the directions on the box.  I did a butter pecan cake.  The original used chocolate.

Fill your cones about 2/3 full.  One thing I wish I had done was take more care in pushing the batter down into the cones.  You might even put your batter into a large ziplock bag, snip off a corner, and fill the cones with that like an icing bag.  You want the batter to fill down into the tip of the cone so that you have a solid base to push your pretzels into.  

After the cones are filled, bake them about 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.  The original recipe said 15-20 minutes but mine took longer.  Keep an eye on yours starting at 15 minutes.

When they come out and cool, trim the tip off.  You'll have to experiment to see how far down you need to cut to give yourself room to push the three pretzel sticks down into the top.  Stick the pretzels in at varying angles.

The tops of the cones are like tiny chicken ice cream cones :)

Finally, you need to melt some chocolate and get your sprinkles attached.  The recipe called for chocolate melts, but I only had chocolate chips so that's what I used.  I melted them at low heat, with a touch of milk, on the stovetop.  Once it was loose and flowing, I dipped each cone into the chocolate them into a bowl of leaf sprinkles.  

The leftover chocolate made for some yummy chocolate dipped pretzels.

This could be a fun option for a cowboys and Indians birthday party too. 

The boys loved them!

November 25, 2016

A baby move

On Tuesday Josh was working in the workshop and scared the babies.  I came out a few minutes later to find babies everywhere.  Only about half of the 55 were in the brooder; the rest were all over the floor, on the shelves, under the workbench... two were even hiding in the bag of bedding with just one little face peeking out.  So we decided they had outgrown the brooder, and it was time to move to the coop. 

This is where our coop design with a central coop and two lean-tos comes in handy.  We are able to shut off one side to use for the babies by simply closing a door.  They have their own henhouse, and when they are a little bigger, we can open another door and let them out into their own fully fenced run.  The bigger birds can hear them now and once they're in the run they'll be able to see each other too.  So when they are finally integrated it is a smoother process.

First step was to seal up the ventilation at the top to help keep them warm.  The babies are not quite a month old.  They have lots of feathers but are still susceptible to the chilly temps so we need to provide as much warmth as possible. 

We also tied up the roosting bars to the ceiling to make room for the brooder box.  Waterer and feeder were moved over and hung low for the babes.   

Last step was to collect the chickies into a large container while we moved the brooder box over.  This was a funny task because it was like playing hide and seek with 55 tiny birds.  They are usually so loud, constantly chirping and peeping, but man can they be quiet when they want to!  We thought we had them all then Josh found two more under his workbench.  About an hour after we had completed the move I came back into the workshop to find one lonely little bird shivering on the pile of bedding left behind.  I guess she had been hiding really well and we missed her.  Don't worry she recovered once she was reunited with her sisters.

We took the bottom off the brooder box and moved the shell over into the coop.  The heat lamps were strung up and foam set over the top to keep the warmth in.   

We were ready to move the babies over.  In they went! 

Initially they huddled inside the brooder but when I came back out to check on them they were out exploring in the rest of the henhouse.

With more room to roam, the little ladies were spreading their wings and flying around.  Boy they do grow fast.  We'll be getting more eggs before we know it! 

There is much to be thankful for today and always.

November 23, 2016

How fast they grow!

We got 50 baby Golden Comet chickens just three weeks ago and already they are sprouting feathers and flying around.  How fast they grow!

On their one week birthday, they had a full set of pin feathers along the edge of their little wings.  

About a week in, McGregor was out in the workshop with Josh and noticed one bird was bloody.  They brought her into the kitchen and we set up a home for her inside with us.  The pecking order is real and how early they establish it!  Poor thing, her sisters had pulled her tail feathers out and made her little rear end all bloody.  She chirped and chirped all day long.  Chicks don't like to be alone.  So after a couple days we moved her back out the workshop beside her sisters.  That way she could be safe in her own little container while she healed but she could still hear her little flock.  

By two weeks, the little ones were mastering perching already!

They are so curious.  I love sticking my camera down in the brooder and watching them come up to inspect it.

Doesn't this girl look like she has a kick line or back-up singers?

We need more perches!  They'll be ready to move over into one side of the coop here soon.  Hopefully they'll do ok with the temperatures dropping.  We have never done chicks this time of year before.  Perhaps more heat lamps will be in order...

November 21, 2016

Rabbit Stew

I have been reading about various meat sources that a small farmer can raise, what's involved, what the meat is good for, how it tastes and relative nutrition in each source.  It's quite interesting.  

As a younger person I was very squeamish about meat.  I didn't like to touch raw meat and I certainly didn't like to think about where it came from.  The experience of raising animals to eat has brought me so much more appreciation and respect for meat, though, and I find myself willing to try a wider variety of things.  Especially when it might present an option that we could manage here on the farm. 

Recently, I read a piece on rabbit.  What I learned is that they are a fabulous option for small farmers because they don't take much space to raise humanely; they reproduce prolifically; and their meat is more nutrient-dense than chickens.  

I always look for a way for us to try something out before we commit to anything big.  So I wanted to try rabbit a few times before we might think about raising them ourselves to make sure we enjoy the meat.  I was excited to see when I placed my weekly milk order with our Amish farmer herd share that he was offering pasture raised rabbits.  I ordered one up!

The rabbit came processed and shrink wrapped whole, except for its head.  Josh wanted to take a stab at cutting it up so he could see what they were like.  He cut all the useable meat off for me while I searched for a recipe to use.  The one that I settled on was called Rabbit Stew with Mushrooms.

I'll give you the basics of how I made it, but check out the full recipe on

Rabbit Stew

  • 2 heads of garlic
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 rabbit
  • 3 large shallots, chopped
  • 1 cup sherry 
  • 3 cups stock (duck, chicken, vegetable)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped into large pieces
  • Salt

1. Preheat your oven to 375.

2. Cut up your rabbit into pieces.  My husband cut mine into bite-size pieces and took out the bones, which made eating it easier when it was finished.  The original recipe said to use the whole rabbit, including bones.  Salt your meat and pat it dry.

3. Trim off the top of your two heads of garlic and drizzle them with olive oil.  Wrap them in foil and roast them in the oven for about 45 minutes.  When they are done, take them out and let them cool.

4. Heat up a thick-bottomed large pot on high heat then add your mushrooms and shake the pot.  This is called a dry saute.  The mushrooms will begin to release their water.  Stir continuously and turn down the heat once the mushrooms begin to moisten.  Cook until the water is mostly gone then remove the mushrooms and set them aside.

5. Add your butter to the pot over medium heat.  Brown the rabbit pieces on both sides in the pan then set them aside.

6. Add shallots to the butter in the pot and saute several minutes, stirring occasionally.  Salt lightly.  

7. Deglaze the pot with the sherry but pouring it in and using a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom.  Let the sherry boil down by half then squeeze your roasted garlic cloves out and add them to the pot along with the stock. Stir well.

8. Add your cooked mushrooms and rabbit back into the pot along with the thyme and parsnip.  Bring the stew to a gentle simmer and cook 1 hour to 1-1/2 hours.  Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.

9. I served mine over wild rice and it was delightful!

November 20, 2016

Fencing Fun

Ok, so maybe fun isn't the right word, but last weekend was certainly full of fencing work.  

I worked every evening after school on driving in t-posts to create the perimeter for the fence.  If you've never driven in a t-post, you have to use this driver that acts like a big hammer.  Because our posts were 7-foot tall I had to do it on a ladder, too, which added an extra layer of fun, trying to stay balanced while I pounded and pounded and pounded... at least the ground was soft due to a bit of rain.  After days of working, with throbbing elbows, I finally got the last post in.

Sunday morning, my mother-in-law's generous companion, Ron Brown, offered to come help me put the actual fencing up.  We started in the cool morning before any of the boys were even awake.  Using the tractor to stretch the 2x4 welded wire taunt, I held it in place and Ron twisted the clips to hold the fencing to the posts.

As the sun came out and warmed the day mid-morning, Josh and Oliver appeared to help us too.

Oliver was over-the-moon to get the "complicated and hard" job of driving the tractor (as he later described it to his grandmother).

By midday we had about 2/3 of the fence up!

The small hill going up to the workshop provided a bit of a challenge.  We had to dig out the ground so the fence could run straighter and meet the ground properly.  Our plan is to put a small gate between the white post and the wall of the workshop so that we can go in and out with feed bags, etc.

The project wrapped up by mid-afternoon and now we have a nearly complete fenced chicken yard for the girls to free range when we can't be out there watching them.  All that's left is to work in the gates once they arrive.  There will be a small one for us and a larger one that can be driven through.

It eases my mind so to know that the chickens aren't so exposed to predators anymore.  That last attack we traumatic, finding pieces of birds all over the yard.  True, something could scale the fence or dig under it, but it will at least minimize the kind of blast attack we've had where the coyotes run down from the railroad tracks and across the yard, grabbing chickens as they go.  

Next step in our never-ending coop construction is an automated chicken door that will use a computer program to open an hour after sunrise, letting the chickens into our new chicken yard, then close an hour after sunset, locking them safe in the henhouse...

November 7, 2016

What a sunset!

One evening last week I was out in the yard filling feeders and collecting eggs as the sun set.  It was really dramatic and I swear more birds stayed out in the yard longer to take it in!

The ducks stood down by the pond and looked at me suspiciously...

...before finally making their way over to the coop.

The colors got more and more interesting as the light fell.

One little Easter Egger was brave and stayed out until the light faded completely.  Then she too joined her sisters inside.

November 6, 2016

New life and life lost - a rough week

With the news that Jungle Jims would like to carry our eggs in their Fairfield store, we quickly decided to increase the size of our flock.  We were not able to get the Easter Egger chicks which we prefer this time of year, but Mt. Healthy Hatchery was offering Golden Comet chicks.  We have not raised this breed before, but they are said to be good layers of nice brown eggs so we ordered fifty.  We will get fifty Easter Eggers in February too, which will even out the mix of colors in our eggs. 

They hatched last Wednesday and Josh went to pick them up just hours later.  We set up the brooder in the workshop for them, like we did last time.  We expect that they will last in there for several weeks then we will move them out into one of the lean-tos on the big coop.  This is what we did last time and it seemed to work really well when we eventually integrated them since they had heard and smelled each other for a while by the time they actually intermixed.

That first day they are truly little fuzz balls; it's so cute!  How fast they grow though.  By Friday they had already begun to sprout little pin feathers on their wings.   

We are excited for these new additions, especially in light of the difficult week we have had here.  Our predator issue increased majorly when we lost a whole bunch of birds in one day.  I came home from work midday and Josh had let the birds out to free range an hour or so earlier.  We were talking by one of the back windows when I looked up to see some chickens pecking at another.  I went outside to investigate and discovered that the bird they were pecking at had been attacked right off our deck.  It was half eaten.  Next I saw a second bird in the front yard killed but not eaten.  Then I went back to the coop to discover piles of feathers all over the place.  From the looks of it at least four more birds were carried off, dropping feathers along the way.  We concluded that several coyotes must have come through an wreaked havoc on our flock.  

Initially we were both in shock, but when we calmed down we decided that even though we want the birds to be able to roam our whole property that's unfortunately no longer in their best interest.  We are going to create a chicken yard around the coop, enclosed with at least a five-foot fence where they can range when we aren't able to supervise.  If we are able to be out with them then we will let them roam a wider berth in the evenings. 

Then of course came the disagreement on how much space to enclose.  I thought the bigger the better but my husband, being practical, thought - more fence to trim around, more fence to keep up, etc.  So we compromised on a fairly sizeable but still reasonable plot.  I sure do hope this will keep our girls safe.  It breaks my heart to keep losing them to these predators, finding piles of their little bodies strewn about. 

Anyone want to come help drive t-posts for the fence??  I have 35 more to put in...

November 1, 2016

Woolly bear weather predictions

This weekend we all walked across the street to say hello to our neighbors for a few minutes.  On the way, little Baxter found a huge woolly bear caterpillar.  He was playing with it, letting it crawl up his shirt then wrap around his finger like a ring, when we got over to Frank and Rita's house.  

Frank said, "Oh let me see him.  He's all one color; that means it will be a cold cold winter!"  

I was intrigued.  I love old nature wisdom like that.

When we got home I looked it up.  I wanted to know more.

There is actually a whole page on the Old Farmer's Almanac site called "Woolly Bear Caterpillars and Weather Prediction."  It clarifies that usually these caterpillars have a reddish-orange band around their middle.  The tale is that the narrower the band, the harsher the winter will be.  So since Baxter's little critter seemed to have no band, we may have a particularly bad winter.

People are really into this folktale.  There are counts every year to see how many caterpillars are found with wide or narrow bands in an attempt to predict the winter.  One town in North Carolina even has a Woolly Worm Festival in October, complete with a caterpillar race.  Oh my!  

What's your favorite folktale about how to predict the weather??