Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Harry Potter / Hogwarts Birthday Cake

Over the summer, we had a Harry Potter marathon.  Up to that point, we had not seen any of the movies.  I do tend to be particular about what they watch and of course, there was the whole "wizard/spells/sorcery" thing going on...and I had previous notions about that being unacceptable....  which is funny, because nobody makes such a big fuss about Lord of the Rings... but, that has sorcery, too.  So, why is that?  Is it because Harry Potter is about kids?  I don't know.  Anyway, I had decided earlier not to let them watch them.  Then I changed my mind.... I've learned that changing your mind is not always a bad thing.   Having decided we were going to throw ourselves into the whole Potter saga, I visited the local rental store, and came home with the entire collection.  They were SO good!  Not only did the kids love them, but I did, as well.  Shortly thereafter, Jacob's birthday arrived... and when I asked him what kind of cake he wanted, he replied with little hesitation, "A Hogwart's Castle"...  so, off to google I went to get as many ideas as I could before getting started.  Wow..  some of the cakes were exquisitely done with the entire Hogwarts land and buildings...  some were more simple and "generic" castle in appearance...all of them inspired me and prodded my creativity into action.  Jacob wanted the entire Hogwarts estate.. I thought that might be a tad bit far reaching, due to the fact that he also wanted to go on a camping trip for his birthday.  We would be coming home the morning of his birthday...which left me only several hours to have everything ready for his party. I finally decided to go with a castle look that I had seen online, but modified.  I had also seen some Harry Potter characters made from fondant that I was itching to try.
I get started, I stacked three loaf shaped chocolate cakes on top of one another and started shaping the cake to look like a castle....
I iced it and then mixed brown and black food coloring in fondant for the "walls".  I made shingles out of the same fondant and layered them on.  I added doors and windows and made a clock for the front. I really wanted to make more castle additions, but my time was getting short.  I did end up making one other part out of cake, that ended up looking like a cross between Hagrid's Hut and a castle addition.  I made a tower out of construction paper and an iced ice cream cone.  I really would have liked to have had the time to add more, but Jacob seemed to be pleased, so I decided to just stick with what I already had completed.  In retrospect, I think the colors would have been better if I had gone lighter....light gray, light tan... to make it look more like a castle..
The characters were a lot of fun to make.  I made Hagrid, Harry, Hermoine, and Ron and was pleased with the outcome.

While I was making cake, Sarah was handling the "Magic Wand" pretzels...and did a great job of completing them...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Goat Quandries...

Farming definitely slows down in the winter.... well, at least this winter.  Last year at this time, I was milking a goat.  Which meant in inclement weather, I spent a whole lot of time attempting to coax a most reluctant milk goat up the milking stand ramp.  And while that may sound like riotous fun, wasn't. However, having said that, I will confess to you that, maybe, just a tiny bit, I miss milking....wait....don't say anything... I *do*  .... maybe not the coaxing part...or the part where my hands freeze.... but, the joy of just going out every day and getting fresh milk for my family...yes, I admit, I miss it....which amuses me if you must know.

Anyway, way back in August, we decided to sell all of our goats but Annie - the milk goat, and Raven - the new one born in the spring to a mother that wasn't as good a milker as Annie.  One of the ones sold was Raven's brother, Thunder.  Thunder, Raven, and Sugar (their momma) were all in the fenced in area with Annie.  (Trust me...this is going somewhere...eventually).  Apparently, directly before we sold little Thunder, he was showing some interest in Annie.  Which was not a good thing....because he was a Nigerian/Nubian mix and his momma wasn't an excellent, I didn't want him breeding my favorite sweet tempered Annie.  We had other designs for the form of a worthy Nubian buck with good lines.

So, we sold little Thunder and his momma and brought home Jem Dandy...just for Annie.  It was an arranged marriage....they had no say so in the matter....  but, like all parents who arrange marriages for their children, we knew best.

So, here's Jem...  all big and Nubian....

We started out putting him in a different pen...just to get him accustomed to things ...and to let Annie and Raven get used to the idea of him being around.  A few weeks later, we decide to go ahead and put him in with the girls.  Was Annie interested at all?  No.  No, she wasn't.  Not a bit.  Which was disconcerting, to say the least.  I mean, this was her betrothed...  the one for her!!  And there he was... excited to be with his new love...  chasing her no avail.  And she wasn't just being coy... it continued on in this manner and has to this day, to the best of my knowledge.  Which leads us to an interesting conclusion...  did little Thunder breed my blue ribbon milk goat?!!?  (, she's never actually received a blue ribbon, but she's blue ribbon quality)  Alas, we think he did.  And if he would've been in August...which puts my goat kidding in January.  So, now...I'm all pins and she pregnant??  Is she going to kid so that I can begin milking her again?? Will she throw a girl who is as good a milker as she is??

Regarding the milking question, you may wonder what the Fox Family is currently doing for milk.  Well, I'll tell you...we're drinking goat milk.  Back in the summer, we decided that since we knew we were going to dry her off and breed her again, we should freeze some milk.  We got started a little late in the game, though...because we *are* still learning.  We really don't have enough left to last until March or April ...which is when we normally have baby goats, so we're thinking if she does kid in January, this could just work out perfectly with the dwindling milk supply.  But, we'll see....  For now, it's a waiting game.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Time Flies

Has it really been almost a month since my last post??  Where has the time gone?
I have farm updates, homeschooling excitement, party pictures, and transparent posts to share with you...and I'm not sure I can type them now.  I gave a presentation on Unit Studies to my homeschool group tonight and felt too amped up when I got home to sleep.  Now that I've stared at the computer screen for a bit, I'm thinking sleep sounds good :)  I used to be a total night owl...  where did that go? Speaking of "where did that go?" I have been trying to work out with the Wii Fit in the mornings.  Let me tell you now, if you want to get fit, do it with your kids in the same room.  I did lunges till my thighs were screaming in protest...but I couldn't quit...had to save face cause my kids were snickering.  And then the stinking Wii says something about endurance and whatever decreases with age. you need to say that in front of my kids???  And then there's the 10 minute run.  What is the deal with that?  I do my driveway huff and puff and it doesn't bother me that bad.  AFTER I did lunges and some yoga and some aerobics, I did the run...with aching thighs and they are STILL hurting...well, the right one is.. and the left one probably is...I just can't feel it cause the right one hurts so loudly.  Anyway, I figured out that if you just shake your hips, the Wii remote *thinks* you're, huh???  Of course, I was accused of cheating. What do kids know, anyway???  Don't they know shaking your hips is aerobic exercise???
How on earth did we arrive on this topic?
Point is... I have lots to share and little time to share it...  but I'm glad you're here, nonetheless.  And I'll try to get some posts up soon.  <3

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Sweet, Sweet Baby

While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.
~Angela Schwindt

Rescue Pack....Coming to the Rescue!! The Tale of a Diego Birthday Cake

For Isaac's third birthday party, originally he wanted Chicken Little.  I racked my brain trying to think of a cake I could make.  After watching Season 1 of Cake Boss on Netflix, I decided, what the heck?  I can make a Chicken Little figure out of rice krispy treats and cover it in fondant.  Beneath that confident exterior though, I was sweating bullets... "Chicken Little???  Really?  Could *I* possibly pull that off???"  I tried to convince him several times to switch to a different theme....something more Unprofessional-Cake-Decorator-Mommy-Friendly.  When we went out to get his partyware, wonder of wonders, he changed his mind to Diego...which he LOVES to watch, and I kinda like as well.. I mean, it has nature and animals...what's not to love??
Anyway, he changed his mind to Diego.  I was psyched!!!  I could see the rescue pack coming alive in my mind's eye!   Since watching Cake Boss, I was secretly harboring the desire to play with some fondant...they make it look soooo easy.  So, I purchased all my supplies and headed home.
This morning I got started.  I began by making two 9x13 inch white cakes.  I had purchased both Decorator's icing AND regular Betty Crocker cake icing...just in case...  I like to have my bases covered.  I had read and seen on the show that you first cover the cake with a smooth layer of icing and then lay the fondant out over top of that.
Both cakes came out of the oven smelling tasty.  I cooled them in the pan for 10 minutes and then on a rack till they weren't hot to the touch....then I stuck them in the fridge for a quick cool down.  In the meantime, I drew a picture of what I wanted the cake to look like:

I cut the first cake in the shape of the main part of the backpack and drew on paper the exact size I wanted the "pocket" portion to be and used it as a template on the second cake.  Easy, peasy....

Now the part that always gets me....icing a crumbly cake.  On Cake Boss, they make it look sooo routine.. just squeeze out perfect lines of icing all over the cake and smooth it down.  Yeah..okay...this ain't Cake Boss.  I gotta tell you... those crumbs were sticking to my icing like candy to a sugar-toothed Clepto ...  it was insane.  It took lots and lots of smoothing and maybe a few choice words under my breath before I finally got it smooth enough for my satisfaction.  AS SOON as I got it all level and pretty looking, my sweet little Isaac stuck his fingers in it.  It's a pity my windows were open...  the neighbors I have not yet had a chance to meet down the road, now know my voice.

So, after the icing was FINALLY on (oh, and I did find that putting a little water on the spatula helped in smoothing down the icing) I began mixing the color in the fondant.  Now, on Cake Boss, they have this nice little roller thing that presses the fondant out all nice and smooth and thin...  that's on Cake Boss...that's not in my kitchen. After I rolled the fondant out and was all excited to put it on the cake, I found that it was stuck to my bar.  Not cool...not at all.  I had to pull it off, put a little confectioner's sugar on, and try again.  I won't bore you by telling you how many times I did this during the course of the cake decorating process...  I finally got a piece on the main backpack portion and moved along to the top pocket.

I laid it out over the piece, cut off some of the excess, folded the rest underneath, and laid it on top of the other cake.  Whew...  on to the fun stuff...finally.  I love the detail part...  the additions that make it come alive.  I colored fondant for the face pieces and used an oval cookie cutter for the eyes and a circle shape for the pupils...  the rest was free hand with a knife.  I made a flap to come over the top of the backpack.  When I lifted the edge of the cake to put the flap under it {{{shiver}}} a piece of the fondant tore and the icing was coming through.  This particular area had come to my attention before.  It just didn't look good and it was driving me NUTS.  I tried to patch it.  I tried to spit on it...  just kidding.  Finally, I cut the strap for the back and managed to "finangle" it over the ugly area and make it look like I meant to do that...LOL.  I added a blue zipper on the side, letters for his name on top, and VOILA!  A Diego Rescue Pack Birthday Cake!!! (Just to give credit where it's due, my 11 year old son was the only one who could get the letter "A" out of the cutter...)

Okay...a confession for you...  I had purchased a number "3" candle for Isaac's cake.  I didn't want to stick it in the cake so I was just going to set it beside it and light it.  I sat it out:

And I thought, Oh my gosh!!!  They made the three BACKWARDS!!!  Why didn't I notice that when I bought it????  I took it off the board and was congratulating myself for the fact that I had some extra candles on hand for just such an emergency.  Later on, the kids were in the kitchen and I showed them the candle...."Look, y'all ..the 3 is backwards!"... and as I'm saying this, I flip the three around and OH MY GOSH!!!!  It's NOT backwards...  so, there I am the middle of an epiphany...  my kids are looking at me like I've completely lost my husband is looking at me with an incredulous look on his face and shaking his head...and I'm dying laughing...  it was an authentic moment for me... I truly thought they had made the three backwards and I just could NOT believe the kids and I bought it and didn't notice...

It's not backwards after all.....  :D

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

So Fleeting....

Today was Isaac's birthday.  I have to tell you that I nearly got all teary this morning thinking about quickly time passes.  How very little time and opportunity we have to show those we love that they matter.  Childhood seems so fleeting.  My oldest will be 12 in December...12...  I can still remember him singing to bluegrass songs and running in circles in the living room when he was 3, yet it nearly seems a lifetime ago.  I want to redeem the time I have with my children.  I want to show them that I love them and form bonds that will last a let them know that I accept them ...unconditionally...for who they are.  This is truly one of the main reasons I homeschool.  I am getting to watch them grow and learn and blossom into their own special little personalities.  It makes my heart smile.  They are what matters....they give my life song.....  :)

The Moments That Take Our Breath Away...

Love this song by George is ever so true...  Life isn't measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away...  what do you think will matter when this life comes to an end?  Spend more time doing those....  <3

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Witness to a Miracle

Malachi found a caterpillar on a limb that looked like this:

(this picture was taken from the internet.  I didn't get one of ours....)

We put it in a jar, and he continued to feed it leaves from the tree where he found it.  One morning, I walked in and noticed it had attached itself to the side of the jar with silk.  I was so excited to show the kids...  I figured it meant it was ready to make a chrysalis.

About 24 hours later, we noticed it had formed a chrysalis.  I learned from reading that a chrysalis is actually a final molt.  They shed their skin and the chrysalis becomes the new skin.  It is all cuddled up and cozy and ready to begin its journey to a brand new creature.

About a week or two later ~ SURPRISE!!!!  This is what it became.  How gorgeous is this???  And the beauty of the whole thing is that the makings for this amazing display of wonder was contained inside a simple, seemingly unattractive worm... which makes me stop and pause.... isn't there a butterfly inside of us ALL.... waiting to spread it's wings and dazzle?? .... ♥

This is a picture of my miracle -Malachi- holding the miracle he witnessed....

He took the butterfly outside and placed it on the butterfly bush so its wings could continue to dry.  I thought it was so sweet to notice that he placed it beside a "friend" ...just in case it needed any pointers as it began its new life with wings.

I have to tell you that, I personally, was just fascinated by the entire thing.  We have had caterpillars that made cocoons and became moths, but never a chrysalis to a butterfly.  And to see him so fresh and new was absolutely beautiful.  We did a little internet research and found out that this particular butterfly is called a Red-spotted Purple....which is rather misnamed considering the spots are orange and the predominant color is blue.  Apparently, there is a purple color on the underneath of the forewing.
If you ever find a caterpillar or a butterfly you'd like to identify, the following site is extremely helpful in doing so. It contains a checklist and then provides you with various examples to choose from.

For caterpillars:
For butterflies:

Happy Discovering!

One budding entomologist begets another.....and another......and another....

I've mentioned before that my 11 year old is a budding entomologist. He became interested in insects when he was around 4 or 5, I think.  His interest has been fed with lots of reference books and any other information we can get our hands on.  A year or so ago, he wanted all bug collection paraphernalia for his birthday...which I thoroughly enjoyed shopping for... I so love educational gifts.  When buying most any science related items, I use Home Science Tools:   Their catalog is great...  mine usually ends up dog eared, tattered, and torn by the time the updated one arrives in the mail.  Anyway, so we bought him pins, a pining block, a spreading board, a killing jar, ethyl acetate, an insect net, and an Audubon Field Guide.  We also purchased a shadow box at Hobby Lobby.  (As a side note, the first box we bought was just the frame, glass, and backing.  We removed the backing and used a piece of foam board cut to fit to push the pins through.  It was cheaper and we figured it would work just as well.  In hindsight, it's not such a good idea...the pins push through the back so that if you pick up the box, your fingers get, you have to take the back off to add more insects.  Since then, we have only purchased boxes that the top comes off OR they are hinged ...allowing the top lid to open up... can't tell you how much easier it makes insect pining.)
At any rate, I don't recall ever being much of an insect person.  I've for sure never been fond of spiders...  okay, so that's putting it mildly...  truth is, they totally give me the creeps...totally.  It all started when I was in elementary school.  We had a wood stove...which = wood, which = wood spiders....which are really big, if you must know.  Well, one morning I was attempting to put my shoes on to go to school, and horror of horrors ~ a wood spider was coming OUT OF MY SHOE!!  It reached it's very long, very hairy legs out and placed two of them on my finger...  I saw my young life flash before my eyes...there it was...riding my bike, climbing trees, riding my bike, climbing trees, riding my...oh, I've already said that, haven't I?  Okay, so anyway, that's when my abhorrence began.  However, since Malachi's keen fascination with insects, I have become very aware of them all around me.  The many shapes, sizes, colors, variations....they are truly amazing.
I can no longer walk by a caterpillar without checking it out.  I can no longer hear a buzzing and merely swat at it.  My child has taught me an awareness and an appreciation for the insect world.  I can't tell you the time I've spent with him looking them up in books, on the internet, and even taking them to the local science center to see if someone there could verify what we thought a certain larvae was.  It's been bonding.  The process has made our entire family more aware.
There are numerous jars sitting on my breakfast table with a living thing in them.  :)  We have several with caterpillars, several with cocoons, a few chrysalises in a box, a jar with a snail, and one containing an ant farm.  In the spirit of a true entomologist, Malachi sits there and eats his breakfast...the rest of us decline to dine there currently.  :D
Here are a couple of pictures of his insect collections:

 Pretty cool, huh?  And there are very few, if any, that he cannot accurately identify.  :)

A Flock of Blackbirds

Yesterday provided me with one of the most amazing experiences....

I was sitting outside...  Well, dang..I must digress to more fully bring you to my moment of "sitting"....  I've had this weird sinus/allergy thing that comes and goes.  One moment, I feel relatively fine...the next moment, I give a resounding sneeze reminiscent of "the shot heard round the world" and then proceed into such a frenzied succession that it sounds like it's the full onslaught of Lexington and Concord.  Add in my itchy eyes, nose, and throat.... and my, now, achy ear, and yesterday, I was feeling quite under the weather.  (Although, as a side note, it was remarkably cooler yesterday than it has been)  *You really must refrain from distracting me....Now, where was I?  Oh yes, I was feeling slightly less-than-gungho-farmgirlish, so I was merely sitting.  Okay, so I was sitting till I noticed that one of the chicken water containers was, I got up.  And then I figured since I was up, I'd fill the other three chicken water containers.  Well, and if I've watered them, I might as well feed them, right?  And dang that the chickens are done for the day, why not feed and water the goats, too?  So, technically, I wasn't "just" sitting.  But, once I fed and watered, I decided to sit back down.  As I sat there, I began to notice that it sounded as though I had been thrown deep into the noisy depths of an aviary.  Most peculiar, I said to myself.  As I began to focus on the woods down below the garden, I noted the presence of many birds.  Not one to sit around for long periods of time when there is something to be investigated, I quickly took off for the woods.  It was amazing.  There was this huge flock of blackbirds...  I stood still and eventually they must have forgotten I was there.  They were flying waist high about 15 ft in front of me... flying and landing in the topmost branches high above my head.... coming to perch on the limbs around the creek...  it felt as though I got to experience a part of nature for just a moment that is usually closed to mankind.  I can't tell you the exact feeling I had on the inside, but it was something akin to perfect awe and wonder...  and peace.  There I was, rooted in "my" spot, the sun filtering down through the leaves, the breeze light on my face, gently rustling the leaves of the forest... the birds flying around me... above me, to the side of me, in front of me...  I could hear their chirping and tweeting, the flapping and swishing of their wings....  and it was as though I was in this magical place.  I wanted to drink it in...  to store the sights and sounds in my mind and heart to be pulled forth over and over again, as in Wordsworth's Daffodils (which you can read on my previous post here: .

I thoroughly enjoyed it until I looked over at the tree I was leaning against and saw the MOST amazing caterpillar.  I had to take it and share it with the time I had located Malachi, showed him the caterpillar, and walked back outside, the magic was gone.  I did feel a momentary pang of wistful regret, but knowing I had the moment and had committed it to memory overshadowed any adverse feelings.  It was a step into a magical moment and I had been lucky enough to add it to my journey.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Perfect Moment

Do you ever have one of those *perfect* moments?   ....I'm having one....  right now.  It's hard to believe, but I am sitting in my the quiet.  The curtain of evening is falling, the nocturnal insects are warming up for tonight's symphony....  the fireflies are putting on a little light show...  the temperature is getting to the "just before shiver" stage.  (okay, so I shiver sooner than most people....I'm a warm weather girl)  But, it is absolutely perfect.  The sky is a ...hmmm...what color can I call it.... a deep Carolina blue...  all the surrounding pine trees are now just silhouettes...  It's amazing how much more quickly darkness falls once autumn arrives.  I have yet to see the moon...  it's slow in making it's way over the top of the trees...  but I'm patient.... some things are worth waiting for.
Don't you just love moments that you can *be* in?  Moments where you can put away your cares, stresses, worries, anxieties...  Moments in which there is no need to be "on"...  I am loving this's a treasure.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Missed Opportunity Concerning a C-C-C-Copperhead

A couple of weeks ago, I had a run-in with a rather formidable foe.  I was gathering the eggs that the hens had so graciously left me ...and as I came skipping around the side of the henhouse with my basket full of eggs in hand  (okay, so I really I was murmuring to myself about how the dang coop needed to be cleaned out again) ANYWAY, as I came around the side of the coop, I picked my flip-flop clad foot up, and   guess what lie before me????  

Yes!!  A c-c-c-c-copperhead!  I did a little body shiver, uttered an unrecognizable sound, and backpedaled it around the other side of the coop.  Luckily, my husband was home.  I ran to the house, banged on the window, and he came out and chopped it's head off with the hoe.
The next day, it occurred to me that "OH MY GOSH!!  The kids and I could have tried to drain its fangs in a cup." know, like they do on could have been a science lesson.  I searched and searched where my husband said he threw it in the woods, but, sadly, to no avail.  Which really irked me, if you must know.  I mean, it was the perfect opportunity and I was in such a hurry to get rid of it that I didn't think of the opportunities it afforded.  And I can't, in good conscience, hope to find another one....cause I have kids, ya know..  and besides, I might be a tiny bit afraid of copperheads.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Conversation with a Mantis...

Have you ever had a conversation with a Praying Mantis?  No??  Seriously?  Well, okay..  because I feel sorry for you, I'll share the little chat I had with a Mantis that was attempting to conceal itself in my front yard.

Mantis:  "What was that flash?"  "Who's there?"

Me:  "Yo, Mantis...over here!"

Mantis:  "Who you talking to?"  "You talking to *me*?"

Me:  "Yeah, I'm talking to you.  You got a problem with that?"

Mantis:  "No, farm girl...I got no problems with that....just take it easy, okay?"

Me:  "It's all good, Mantis...  No worries.  You know...if you've got your game on today and can strike me a pose or two, I'll let you star on my blog....  Whaddaya say?  You wanna do a little superfly photo shoot?"

Mantis:  "Are you kidding me?  I am the KING of cool....  I'm so cool my insect friends have to wear parkas when they talk to me....I'm so cool the dew turns to frost when I walk over the grass... I'm so cool my momma went into hypothermia when she laid me as an egg.... I'm so cool...."

Me:  "Ummm...yeah..I get the picture, Mantis.  You think we could move along here?"

Mantis:  "Oh...sure...  okay....let's start with a little move I like to call "The COBRA" ...hiiiiiisssssss"

Me:  "Okay...well, that's kinda cool...but, dude...surely that ain't all you've got...."

Mantis:  "What??  That sounds like doubt...  come on girl, check it out!  Snap this!  ....I'm hanging in mid-air, arms folded, giving you five!!  Now you *know* that's impressive...."

Me:  "I gotta give it to you...that is pretty darn cool!  You are one superfly machine!  You got anything else you wanna throw out before I leave?"

Mantis:  "Okay...last pose... check this!  Now who's your daddy???  Dang, I am *so* cool... "

Me:  "Wow!!  I am impressed, Mantis!!  You *are* the, insect...  Thanks for the great pictures.  I'll see you around.  You take care of yourself now...  "

Mantis:  "No problem.   I know you probably need to generate some interest on that blog of yours the way, I took care of that little pest problem you had over on the green beans....  "

Me:  "Awww...thanks, Mantis!"

Mantis:  "Don't mention it.  See you around, farm girl..."

Me:  "Bye, Mantis!"


Never lose an opportunity to see anything that is beautiful.
        It is God's handwriting - a wayside sacrament.    Welcome
        it in every fair face, every fair sky,  every fair flower.
                                                                             - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Rifle, Saddlebacks, and Bonding

When Malachi and I went out Wednesday to do the farm chores, it seemed like any other choring day.  However, it turned out to be more than I expected - in ways both good and bad. 

First of all, you know how we have, had those two renegade roosters roaming the premises?  Well, once the tomatoes started coming on, they had to be caught and put in confinement.  Nothing heats up a "farmer" like walking out to the garden expecting the big ole juicy tomato you saw a couple of days earlier to be completely ripe, only to find it big ole juicy ripe..with chicken beak pecks all over it.  Which we did... which led to the roosters promptly finding their way into a mobile cage.  Well, after confining them, we went out one morning and noticed that one of them was once again roaming the yard.  (Chicken Run came to mind as I quickly swept the yard with a curious gaze....)  Upon checking out the pen, we noticed there were feathers everywhere...  come to find out, one rooster got dragged from the pen by a critter sometime in the night ..(we have some persistent animals in these parts...but that's a story for another time...) didn't kill him though...somehow he persevered and found a hiding place.  The critter did do a number on the poor rooster's leg ...  He couldn't put any pressure on it at all.  The roosters went back into the pen and the boys got to hammer on the pen and work on it and try to devise a way to keep the same thing from happening again.  They obviously did a very good job because the roosters were safe ever after...well...until Wednesday.  The one rooster who was injured?  ... well, we were hoping that he'd heal up and be okay with food and water and some solitude....only he didn't have solitude.  He was with the other rooster...because we were running out of mobile cages.  (I had just moved a banty hen and her new chick into a separate pen...also a story for another time) Back to the story at hand....this rooster wasn't getting any better.  He was still hopping on one leg, his tail feathers were hanging down, and his comb and wattle were getting really pale opposed to the bright red color they were supposed to be.  My husband said we should just have him for dinner, but I have some scruples about eating a bird that looks weak and sickly.  {{{shiver}}}  And here my story finds us again at Wednesday:::

When Malachi and I went out to do the chores, we ended up stopping by the rooster's mobile pen and, hands on hips, discussing the state of things.  The poor rooster just wasn't looking none for the better.  And truth be told, I kinda felt sorry for him.  We figured sometimes it's better to put something out of its misery than to let it suffer...and it was suffering.  So, after contemplating with Malachi whether or not he thought I could hit the rooster if I shot it, I decided to go in, get the rifle and shoot the rooster.  I figure once you have a mind to do something and have weighed the facts, you might as well go on and do it.  We took the rooster out in the woods and I did the deed...  it did the chicken flopping thing and finally went on to that big coop in the skies.  My son has developed a sense of humor over the last year or so that he didn't previously own...  and it comes out at the funniest times..  this such event being one.  As we were walking away, I kept looking back to make sure it was dead.  Malachi decides to say, "Hey Mom, wouldn't it be funny if we turned around and looked and the rooster was running after us?"  Ummmm....No, wouldn't.  Anyway.....

My husband had mentioned having the other rooster this Saturday for dinner.  Malachi and I agreed that if were going to eat that rooster, we were going to move him to a fresh, grassy location ...away from all hint of his previous injured coopmate.  So, we moved his cage halfway across the yard and set about doing the rest of the chores.

We got to the pen that the hen and chick were in, and decided the chick was now big enough to be, as we are removing the hen and chick, the hen got loose.  Malachi and I chased that poor little hen all over tarnation trying to catch her.  The only thing we had in our favor was that her chick was in a pen, and as it was calling to her, she couldn't allow herself to go too far.  Finally, some minutes later, dripping in sweat, we caught her and took her and the chick to a different location.  (Keep in mind, temperatures were in the upper 90s)

Moving along...  as we were walking by our cherry tree, Malachi exclaimed, "Look!  It's a saddleback slug caterpillar, Mom!"  (He is SO the entomologist)  After admonishing me to "keep an eye on it", he ran inside to get a jar and his insect book.  Not being one to just stand around idly, I decided to go ahead and pull off the leaf the caterpillar was on...and begin to attempt to pull off an entire branch to add to the jar.  I yanked on it, but it didn't come off...not willing to leave well enough alone, I figured if I jerked up and then down quickly, it would rip the limb off the tree.  When I jerked it down, I was in for a puzzling surprise.  My arm immediately began stinging and a couple of red welts started popping up and turning red... I couldn't figure out for the life of me what was going on.  I looked at the limb for anything pokey...but there was nothing I could see that would cause a reaction.  About that time, Malachi came running up and and settled all my questions.  As I was examining my arm, he says, "Wow!  Look at all these saddleback caterpillars on this limb!"...guess which limb it was...yep...that's the one.   So, come to find out, saddleback caterpillars have stingers on them...nice..  I felt their wrath at being disturbed.  After washing off in the outside spigot, we set about putting the saddlebacks into the jar.  We eventually found six of these little aptly named creatures:

 While looking around the tree, we also found another caterpillar...  the markings on this one were so very cool.  After coming in and Googling it, we found out it is also a slug caterpillar -  a Purple Crested Slug Caterpillar.

Isn't that pretty???  I mean...for a slug caterpillar....

We also found a Yellow Wooly Bear Caterpillar.  The picture I took of it was really fuzzy, but I have one I took previously this summer of the same kind of caterpillar, only I didn't know then what it was called.  :)

We kept looking and found a leaf with a slew of grayish eggs and thought we'd put those in a jar just to see what would hatch out. 

I have to tell you that it was just so bonding being with him and seeing his face light up ...this is his passion. I don't know if it will be his passion 10 years from now or not, but right is.  He is so very knowledgeable regarding insects....and when he gets excited, he just reels off facts and little tidbits of information like a Gatling Gun.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time with *his* zone.  I am so proud of the young man he is becoming...  my heart simply bursts with love for this child of mine.  I thank God that I am able to enjoy these moments with my children...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread....As it Pertains to Apple Pie :)

The bushel of apples that were picked by my little chef (more on this later) and the skilled diva sat in the kitchen for a couple of days...  waiting....waiting....waiting....

Finally, my husband rounded up the kids and gathered them around the apple peeler....I guess he figured somebody needed to have some initiative since mine seemed to be lacking.

Look at that gentle instruction going go, honey...  I'll just sit over here and take pictures...

Sarah made an apple slinky..  which made me sing the slinky song...  ahh..they are such cute little kids....

I so love the sight of a pile of apple cores and peelings....the cores look like little thread spools.....

Okay...  so, as the kids and Darren are peeling the apples, it becomes evident that I am going to have to put the camera down and do something with them.  I had previously found some information via the internet regarding freezing apples for pie.  I was very interested to try it.  Here's what you do....  Fold two pieces of tin foil together to make one big piece.  You then lay that into a foil pan...or whatever you make your pie in..  press it around the edges to get the shape... put your apples and spices, sugar, etc in the foil lined pan....

Fold the foil up and press it down to retain the shape of the pie...

Now tell me how cool that is????  You freeze the little pie shape, wrapped in foil, and slid into a gallon bag....when you are ready for pie, you take it out of the freezer, put it in a crust laden pan like the one you pressed it into and voila!  Pie!!  I'm in love...seriously..  WHAT A COOL IDEA!!  If you already knew all about this and you are wondering where I've been...please...don't burst my bubble...I'm fragile ...  :)  We had enough apples to make six pies to freeze.  I just think it's so neat.... 

Normally, I use store bought crusts...but I'm thinking, since the pie is already ready, I could make use of the time I would've spent on peeling, slicing, etc and make homemade pie crusts.  :)  Which is why is written on every bag....there is an easy recipe for crusts there.. :)  I did read that you should not thaw the apples first...put them in frozen.  And to help the bottom crust to keep from getting soggy, sprinkle flour and/or sugar on the it before putting the apples in...

I had lots of help mixing up the spices and sugar.....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Early O'Clock Fruit Picking

Last week, the kids and I went to pick blueberries.  Based on the fun we had last year and the amount of blueberries that we picked, I was really looking forward to going.  Of course, there was the drawback of going early...  I'm not a morning person...  and it was very early o'clock....  okay, so I didn't leave until a little after 8 am...but I got up early...with the intention of leaving earlier.  It was my two year old's fault...  he has to have his breakfast noodles.  I know, I know...  there's no such thing.  But, there *is*..  although we live on a little farm in the making, with fresh eggs and goat milk ...  he is in a rut... he only wants Ramen noodles for breakfast....and I oblige him...  because I know that this is only a phase and this, too, shall pass.  {I hope... I mean, it will...right??}  And it probably wasn't ALL his fault...  the other kids are slow, too...  ;)  Anyway.....

We got there were all smiles...  I had some cappuccino with creamer on the way, so I was all smiles...  we broke out the buckets and started picking.  In defense of the kids, it was early.... the blueberry bushes were wet ...  the grass was wet ... and there weren't as many ripe blueberries as there were last year.

"Look, Mom...a blueberry... "...  ok..he didn't really say that...but that's what it looks like he's saying...   the other one is checking his nails for dirt...  because he's already getting bored...

What a cute little girl with her cute little bucket....  it's really her old Easter bucket basket....from several years ago...  we believe in reuse around here.. 

The smallest blueberry picker...  he seems to be finished picking and has moved on to eating....

So, after a bit, I lost one to pacing....  and two to ...something other than blueberry picking... which left only one child...and me...picking blueberries.  Soon after, it was discovered that there was a peach tree and we should help ourselves...  Okay, so now I've lost all four helpers..that's okay...  I like picking blueberries...alone...early in the morning...getting my favorite Batman shirt soaking wet on the dew laden bushes... it's okay....really....sniffle...

See....I'm smiling...  and eyes are's called early o'clock syndrome...

Yeah, it's probably best he did this job anyway...  me and heights have a mutual distrust...

 The other two are happily picking apples...  you have to be one skilled diva to pick apples with one hand on your hip....  :)

 This is what we ended up with...  not a bumper crop...but enough to do a little sumpin, sumpin with  :)
  I ended up freezing the blueberries, as is.  I was out of pectin and sugar and it wasn't time for a trip to the general store.  Besides, at this point I was thinking I'd rather have blueberries to use in cobblers, pies, syrups, eaten frozen, etc..than have blueberry freezer jam.  Don't get me wrong.....blueberry freezer jam is some dang tasty stuff....but strawberry freezer jam is the best...and I made some of that earlier in the spring.  The peaches we just ate.  There wasn't enough to do anything, they were wormy...not that I'm sirree... not at all..  I appreciated them.  They were tasty...  I just got a little less hungry while cutting around the tiny little worm that was all stretchy and satiated on the peach pulp next to the seed.  What I did with the apples deserves its own post... which I will proceed to next.... :)  so, don't touch that cursor....  it's coming right up :)