Welcome to the journey,the tale and the saga of our Suburban Homestead.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

St Elizabeth

      Dear St Elizabeth, 
    Since you are the patron Saint of Bakers,The Poor and Sickly Children I am writing to you today to ask you to grace and bless my kitchen.Although I am not a Catholic I do feel you are the one to send my prayers to.You see I am the household baker here,there is a sickly child in the house and somehow I the non-Catholic received at birth the sainted middle name of Elizabeth passed down to me through many generations some of  whom the I know were devoted Catholics.
     I need your help you see,real bad.Lately every time I try and bake something goes crazy in the oven.That's terribly wounding to ones ego you know. The oven arched,the cake burned,the cookies were charcoal and now the cake pans over followed into the oven that was just cleaned.Some how there is a curse going on in the kitchen and my family is starting to curse me for one more batch of some sort of burnt sugar.
  Maybe I called the curse upon myself.I had tried to have a conversation with that fellow from China,The Kitchen God,maybe he did not hear my cries of woe due to a language barrier or maybe he's just not taking any calls right now,I don't know.All I know is I need some divine intervention here.Maybe the cursing of my kitchen came about because I turned my back on my own ancestors God and Saints but I have a really good reason for calling on The Kitchen God.I was raised Unitarian and just thought well all roads lead us to God after all what could it hurt to call upon another faiths God.I am guessing this is not so when it comes to the blessings in a kitchen.
  So dearest St.Elizabeth if I build you a shrine in my kitchen,lay roses upon it and light some candles would you, could you, please come and bless my kitchen? I am worried that soon after eating too many batches of charcoaled treats I won't have just one Sickly Child but two and a man and wife as well all with belly aches.

 (Ok I know all of you natural medicine people are thinking "But Charcoal is a belly ache cure." I don't think they use burnt cookies for this remedy.)





Monday, July 26, 2010

An evening out

In a house,someplace down the way a phone is ringing and ringing and ringing some more.Click, whir you hear the answering machine pick up the voice says-


 Hello, You have reached The Broody House, so sorry we missed your call.You see this evening is the first evening out for us in a long while if not ever.We have popped down the way to dine out,maybe you have heard of the place? You know The Meadow at Hrafinstaad? Please leave your message after the beep and we will return your call.Beep and then nothing but a dial tone.
  
Mama Trixie and chicks dine out for the first time.

  Mama and the chicks were let out of the Broody house for the first time this evening.it was sweet to see Mama plucking bites of this and that,showing the chicks and then the chicks grabbing it right from Mama's mouth.Pretty soon the chicks had caught on to what Mama had been teaching them and were hunting for their own dinners.

  Having our own home grown brood of chicks is still the best thing ever.
       Rois

Butchering Chickens or...A Chapter from Lord of the Flies?

The Three Sister's
This past weekend we traveled over the mountains to Eastern Oregon to the hometown of our good friends to butcher half of the 50 chickens we had purchased together.
  Way back in March our friends offered to raise meat chickens at their house,living on 97 acres it seemed like 50 chickens would be no problem.The chickens could free range with no problems. But no one thought about what it would really be like to raise 50 roosters and the chaos that would rein over the chicken yard.The mini gangs forming,each with its own corner of the acres that surround the house,the fights over who would sit on top of the feed bins or the tractor.The thumps and bangs as the crazy boys chased each other over, under and through the out buildings.
  When we first arrived on that beautiful sun filled day the whole rooster craziness was kind of funny but after a couple of hours it hit us like a truck,this is insanity,it was like a chapter straight out of "Lord of the Flies." but there was no one coming to save us,we had to save ourselves and our friends and quick.
The Smith Ladies and I decked out in our aprons ready to pluck some chickens.
   We decided that some of the most aggressive birds HAD to go first maybe then things would calm down a bit.We butchered the 25 birds over two evenings.We chose to butcher in the cooler evening hours so the meat would not spoil and so our friends two little ones would be fast asleep. The morning after the first round of butchering the roosters who were left were much quieter.Was it because they were trying not to draw attention to themselves? Was it because the worst of the group were gone? Not the second because by afternoon we realized we had a few more bullies to take care of.Once the butchering was done life was slowing down and the birds who were left were a much more manageable number.
  While visiting we had several conversations about was this really worth it? Yes,maybe,kind of. We all felt like we did not really like buying meat in the stores and if we were going to continue to eat meat we had better be willing to butcher at least part of our own meat.Was it a better value? Kind of,the birds at the half way mark came out to be $6 each,not bad for Free Range chicken meat.The cost ends up evening out in the end.But we are all still pondering the "How to " part.Meaning, how to raise our own meat in a quantity we need without making ourselves CRAZY.
  Here at our house raising more than 12 chickens for meat is not an option.And even with that smaller amount of birds our layer hens get pretty ticked off at the company we are forcing upon them.
  Our friend brought up that in the past they have had dual purpose birds on hand.These birds were layers whom they considered to be available for butchering.This allowed them to butcher as they needed. But this has never involved 50 roosters just a few hens.
  So Chance and I have found that we have come full circle when it comes to the point of how to raise enough of our own meat to feel like we are doing well at it.With living in the city it may just not be possible to raise the amount of meat we would like to be able.Maybe there is a rotation we just have not found yet only time will tell on that point.Even if we lived on many acres would we do it? I think if we lived on a full blown farm we would have other meat we were raising as well so the pressure on the chicken production would be eased a bit.

We still have 25 more chickens to butcher in the fall.We decided with our friends that letting some of them go longer was a good idea since some of the birds were still a bit small.Hopefully things will be quieter at our friends with the craziest birds gone.
  The trip was not all work.We did take some time out to visit near by Bend.Issac and Sol made a goal a few years back to go to every skate park in Oregon so of course we stopped at the local skate park so the boys could ride for a bit.One more park checked off their list and a review of "Not so Great" given.
 John Boy,Issac's new room mate.
  We also strolled through Sister's,just for old times sake.We did spend some time dabbling in the creek on our friends place,it's not deep enough to swim in but wadding around knee deep can be just as nice on a hot dry day.
  Issac and Sol found a new friend in the wood shed,John Boy and after dragging him around all weekend for all sorts of adventures Issac was gifted John Boy with the stipulation that he is always present for house parties. At least he is quiet to the point of spookiness, unlike some room mates I have known and I don't have to share my room with him.
  Now that we are back I have started my "No,I can't " campaign.I am behind on my own projects,I have canning to do now that the things we are wanting are coming in,I have this blog to write and reading a book while laying in the hammock is a valuable past time that's just like all of the summer fruit,better enjoy it now before the days are gone and we are stuck back indoors for the winter.
   Rois

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Missing.....

   I miss being here writing some odd rambling tale of homesteading and life but right now my life is just not my own.
  I miss sleeping in,my body is so tuned into the 7AM alarm that even if I don't set it my eyes pop open.And even if I don't wake up by 6:45 the baby crow in the trees behind us wakes at exactly 6:55 every single morning DEMANDING its breakfast,NOW.Have you ever tried sleeping through a baby crows yelling, squawking voice? Not easy.
I miss dirt under my finger nails from digging in the garden.I miss having to check the cleanliness of my nails before I shoot a photo for here,I don't want anyone to think "Ewwww,that Rois and her nails."
I miss having time,plenty of time, to do,finish,complete and accomplish without stopping in the middle to run or just never having time to get to It.
I miss Chicken T.V. The best "show" in the world funny,charming,relaxing and yet leaves you wondering if you are becoming some sort of weirdo.
I miss coffee on the porch.Porch dwelling is a big part of our personal culture that is like a ritual.It's a SIN not having coffee on the porch and there is no way to repent.
I miss having my own life.Someone sent out a memo to the world and I think it said this:
 Memo To: The world
 About: Rois
 Message: Guess what? Rois is home full time ask her to fill her days doing what you need done.She's not busy she's home full time after all. 
P.S Be sure to need everything at once,on the same day and at opposite ends of town.

What really needs to happen is I need to say NO. After this weekend I can do that and I can have my life back.Not too sure about the sleeping in part,how does one break that kind of habit anyway or get a baby crow to use an indoor voice when it lives outdoors? After this weekend you will find me sitting on the porch with dirt under my nails, gripping my coffee cup doing my best to make up for my sins,wondering what's on Chicken T.V tonight.

 Rois

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Todays snapshots



  TA DA! Here is my favorite chick.I have named her Loowit which is one of the traditional Native American names for Mt St Helen's in Washington state.We can see Mt St Helen's when we are downtown and the chick's markings reminded me of the mountain in the early winter when the snow has fallen on the mountain.By Loowit's markings I am guessing that our Barred Rock was her egg Mama.(the hen that laid the egg that hatched into Loowit.) either that or she is taking after her Daddy who is mostly white.








The poppies I planted this spring have opened.And although they all came from the same seed packet I seem to have a mix if different types and colors.I don't know  a whole lot about Poppies other than I love them when I see them.The packet said these poppies are Flemish Poppies.



The poppy above and below are both on the same plant which I find interesting.If anyone knows more about poppies than I, do you know what the deal is?










This little poppy is on a different much smaller plant who's buds are also smaller than the other plant.
 Today when I went out to shot the poppy photos I was thinking of Dorthy in the Wizard of Oz falling asleep in the field of poppies.Growing up I had the whole many book collection of the Oz books with the original drawings in them,I liked the pictures of Dorthy because she was chubby like I was as a young one.

  I am still looking for names for the other two chicks.The other two are harder to catch to hold for a photo but both are marked like the Gold Lace Wyandottes,black and golden.One is more black than the other and is I think going to make a beautiful contrast to Loowit with her white and gray plumage.
  Well I hope everyone is enjoying the weekend so far and tomorrow morning greets you with a smile.

  Rois 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Summer Days

 I am finding myself feeling turned upside down and at loose ends.Chance and I have entered a new era in our lives as parents, our boys are never home. Or we are taking them to work or off to play.We find ourselves catching up with the boys in the car or just before bed.
 The house seems empty with Issac gone from morning til night,he's going to summer school and working for the month.It's bitter sweet to see him dressed for work with his lunch bag in hand heading out the door on his road to adulthood.We are proud of him but we miss him as well.
  And young Sol is growing up too.He is finally at an age where he can go off with his friends without needing us to escort them.
 It's the way things are suppose to work out and I suppose it is preparing us for the day when they both leave home but I miss them.

    Last Sunday Chance and I joined my cousin for a challenging hike.Both C and I had hiked this rugged trail as kids when we were spry enough to hop and skip along the way.We went to Table Rock which is about an hour and a half south-east of us.Table Rock is one of those places in Oregon you hear people talking about but when you ask "Have you been  there?" everyone answers "No,have you?" It's not all that far from home so I am not to sure why no one goes.Maybe it's the hike its self,our hiking book said it's a "moderate" hike but once you have been there you may find yourself upgrading it to something a bit more than moderate.

   We hiked through some old growth forest,across a rocky section along the base of Table Rock and then slowly went up,up and up for a total of a 4000 foot elevation gain and just over 7 miles round trip.When we were about a 1000 feet from the top I could spy through the tree line the clear blue sky ,at this point my knee was feeling like half set jello but I was stubborn and wanted to see the top.And besides that I was not going to let a couple of "boys" beat me.We picnicked at the top with a view of 7 mountain tops and far away in the hazy distance you could see home,the Willamette Valley.None of the photos really do any justice to the splendor before our eyes. The boys did not join us on this trip, another sign of our times,Issac was working but would have loved the hike and Sol said it was not his cup of tea so he stayed in town with Nana.

                                                

  Life around home is quiet on all fronts.The meager garden we have this year is looking like it will take off after all,not the bounty we had last year but there's enough. The Mama hen still has all 3 of her chicks,whom we need to name (any suggestions?).The other hen's and our Roo are fine like always,it would take something major to disturb their quiet world. This afternoon I making homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches.Sol was curious about how they are made and since he has a friend over for the night I thought today would be a good day to make them
Take Care
Rois.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ice Cream by Coco Cake

Ice Cream by Coco Cake: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

I just came across this blog and I think I am in love...

Knowing how to cook part 3

I received some great responses to my last posting in this series and they gave me some food for thought.So why do I say there is a difference in food and Food?
  In my opinion food is just the ready made,one meal and lifeless food you can find in any store.This type of eating is also expensive, someone has already done the work for you and you are paying for that work.Someone else has also chosen for you how the food should taste,look and how much you are getting for your dollar.Well I should add here they have also chosen what is in your food,those hidden things packages print in micro fonts with the hope that you either can't read the tiny print or will never take the time to ask "What is some of this stuff? "
  Now Food is a different dish that involves a whole range of things. Food is all about taking mix and match ingredients that you yourself put together to create meals that carry you through more than one meal,tastes just the way you want and much more affordable because you are not paying someone else to do your own work.And um,you know what's bubbling in your pot,it is dinner not a witches brew of who knows what.
  It's also custom made to fit your own budget.Say for example you know the dish you are making is mostly inexpensive ingredients or can be cobbled together from left over things in the fridge but calls for cheese.When I find myself in that spot I can say to myself (I talk to myself a lot.) " Well I have spent nothing or little on this meal so maybe I could buy a bit of super good cheese to make my cheap dinner taste like it's not so cheap."
***  Our boys have yet to figure out that when I make Potato Soup it means the cupboard is bare,really, really bare, Old Mother Hubbard would feel right at home bare. They have not figured this out because I use a bit of good bacon and simmer long and slow to pull out every last bit of flavor.Pat out a loaf of Soda Bread and there is dinner.On Potato Soup nights and the boys ask "What's for dinner?" and I reply "Potato Soup" I get big smiles and a big whoop of a "Yes!" A full pot made from a bare cupboard made not so spare seeming because I can cook.
   I am not going to go into the health benefits of knowing how to cook. I cook the way I do partly for health reasons but they are not for everyone. We are not rigid in our food.Sometimes I feel like we stand in the middle of the road when it comes to what we eat and buy.The Food you make needs to suit you and what you need from it.But I will pass this on from the boy's first pediatrician who told me this when Issac was first starting out on solids, "If you only buy and present healthy foods then no matter what you will eat healthy." Simple!
  .Budget trumps everything in our house,I may not buy everything organic but we eat a well rounded filling diet. I let go of the guilt over buying organic or not organic simply because we were faced with a choice,buy all organic and not have enough to eat or shop smartly to free up money to buy the things we felt were important to buy organic and have plenty to eat. (Plenty and then some more is key when you feed to teen boys.Hungry teens are Crankier than all heck.) 
  If you are feeling an urge to leave me a comment about your politics concerning an all organic diet,don't.I can't be bothered, I do what is right for my family living on a single income.Good for you if you are able to buy an all organic diet,very good.But really there is no difference between an organic potato chip and a non-organic, they are both BAD for you.Oh and what is so environmentally sound about an organic veggie from thousands of miles away? Gas emissions? Pollution? Oh yeah,those not so kind things.


 I would like to wrap up this posting by asking everyone what are the items you buy that you feel help you stretch your food budget? We buy every other month a 25 pound bag of All purpose flour for around $10.With that bag of flour I bake breads and goodies,make pasta,tortillas and anything else I can come up with. I figure to buy the same quality of bread that I bake would cost me from $3- $5 for a single loaf. I can bake a batch of 4 loaves of bread and feel like I have already "paid " for my bag of flour.And I still have 22 pounds of flour to use for the next few weeks.I also always buy whole chickens because I can get 3 meals out of them for my family of four,chicken dinner,sandwiches for lunch and then soup stock for now or frozen for later.That averages out to about $3 for protein per meal.
 The next posting will bring up shopping.

   Rois

P.S I found these two posts else where that I wanted to share with you.
  The first is from Slate magazine, an article on how to waste less of the food you buy.
  The second is from a blog Chance and I love, One Hungry Chef.The posting is about finding the time to cook.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I love my neighbors.

This morning a knock was heard at the front door.When I opened the door there stood my Colombian neighbor Gloria with what looked like 5 squash starts carefully cradled in her hand. Now let me tell you Gloria's English is much like my Spanish,limited, but some how we always get our points across to each other.She tells me in English "Colombian Pumpkin."
  I know the story behind these little plants from her daughter who's English is just fine.The seeds had come back with them from Colombia hidden away in a suitcase with the hopes they would be over looked.I have been told these squash are absolutely delicious.There are no American squashes that compare to them. So a treasure was shared and I am honored. I will be sure to save the seeds.
  Gloria and I continued our conversation with her speaking to me in Spanish and me trying to guess what she was looking for.First a trowel,then a spot to plant them,dig a hole just so and finally said in a motherly way water the plants right away. We wrapped things up by Gloria telling me basically "I have five more growing,over there in the front yard at our house." At least I think that is what was said,I caught enough words I know so I am probably on target. I thanked her in my crappy Spanish and we said good bye.

  I don't know a lot about Gloria only that she hates the cold here,she has a great sense of humor,she is interested in what we grow ,she likes that we butcher our own chickens since she does too and someday she will show us how she butchers her chickens which is different than our method. All of this I have learned from our funny little conversations half English half in Spanish and some interpreting from her family. I like her though she's a good lady.I am expecting some scolding though if some how I am not taking care of the squashes the way she would and I can't wait for it because I'll learn something new.

Rois 

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fowl Fans See Golden Eggs in Catering to Pet-Chicken Market - WSJ.com

Fowl Fans See Golden Eggs in Catering to Pet-Chicken Market - WSJ.com: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"


This is the saddest thing I have ever heard before.Poor Chickens.

Homestead style awning.

 A good friend of mine called to see if we are keeping cool during the heat and I mentioned to her that Chance had built us an awning over our front window,my friend requested a posting about it so here we are.

  As some of you already know Chance and have been trying to figure out how to replace the shade that was once given to us by the plumb tree we had to cut down.By mid afternoon we get full blasting sun which causes the temperature in the house to jump by 10 degrees,not pleasant when it is already 90 plus outside.

 Our long term goal is to plant some foundation plantings and build a trellis for some vines for shade but this spring we ran out of good soil and cash to do this. Chance had brought home some canvas triangles from work.Using these pieces and some lumber we had on hand he was able to make a us a functional and a bit funky (funky in a good way,I think.) awning.
  To build the awning Chance put together some 2x2's so that they made a rectangle that was the size of the front window.Next we laid out the triangles until they had a shape we liked.Chance attached the canvas to the wood frame with heavy staples.He then put heavy hooks into the top part of the window frame and then loops on the frame that would line up with the hooks.We raised up the frame and hooked it into place.Finally Chance placed another 2x2 as a center support.By not permanently attaching the awning we can take it down for the winter when we want the added sunlight.




  The awning is really helping and I don't feel so shut into the house.Last summer we bought a cheap roller shade for the exterior of the house,it worked but I felt claustrophobic not being able to see out. I am one of those people whom   lived out on many acres of land with no one close by, I would have no window coverings,just so I could always see the outside world. 

 Soon after Chance built the awning I found this picture (the very first one.) of some awning that have really caught my eye.I love the way they used bamboo poles for the supports.it has me wondering if we could later add some bamboo poles to our awning.
  
 Rois
                                                                                

Thursday, July 8, 2010

How To Truss a Chicken | Michael Ruhlman

How To Truss a Chicken | Michael Ruhlman: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

I am sharing this video with all of you because last summer when Chance and I taught our Chicken Butchering class 1/2 to 3/4 of the class had no idea how to cook a chicken. I don't truss my birds but never the less here is some good advice.

Rois

Heat Wave & Chicken care

 Finally we have some heat here and just like the rest of the country we are all searching for ways to keep cool. I want to remind everyone to keep a close eye on their hens while it is so hot.

Heat Wave Chicken Check list:

 1. Chickens are thirsty birds always, during hot spells check their water more often.Some folks add ice to their hens water when the temps are high.

2. Consider hosing down the coop and run area to help things cool down.

3. If your Chickens have little or no shade think about creating some. 

Pretty simple when you look at it,all the things you think of for yourself when it is hot. Stay cool everyone.

Rois

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Around home.



I have been so busy that I had to go through our photos to figure out what I have not had time to blog about. I have been sure to grab snap shots here and there just so I could keep up and remember what we had done.It has been a crazy mix of life and homesteading around here.

Issac is going to summer school and working this month which means he is gone form 7:30 in the morning,comes home to change and then leaves for work until 10 at night.It is a good thing his health is great right now and has the stamina that only a teen has.

Sol has become a social butterfly and is out daily with friends but I did nab him one morning for strawberry picking.
  This year we picked 25 pounds of berries which is up from last years 16 pounds.We had plenty of jam with the 16 pounds but this year I would like some extra jars for gift giving. I ended up freezing the berries until I had an open day for jam making.

Chance harvested and braided our garlic into 3 thick ropes of garlic heads. He found a couple of videos on Youtube that he gleaned the how to part from.I watched him do it and it was easier looking than I ever thought it would be.Garlic braiding is one of those skills that has always been a mystery to me.We now have around 45 heads of garlic for winter,maybe not enough for a whole year but it is a start.Each year we just keep adding onto the quantities we grow and will do so until we think we have hit our mark.








We took a Sunday off and took my Mom and the boys to the beach for a day of sandy bliss.The weather was PERFECT. That is Sol in the photo enjoying the quiet of the beach.I love living in Oregon and will most likely never move form here.As you can see from the photo our beaches are clean,beauty filled and empty.I always say if someone is on the beach while you are and they are closer than a city block it is a busy day on the Oregon coast.Our nearest neighbor that day was about 3 city blocks away.

We harvested our first bunch of carrots,yummy sweetness.

And the Pancette Chance made is now ready to eat. Chance cooked some up for us and it was good, a nice mild herb flavor to it and not smokey like bacon.

We are starting to eat small amounts from the garden, swiss chard,strawberries,raspberries,salad greens and carrots.Our beets are ready to pull and the potatoes have bloomed ,a sure sign we could dig them now and have baby potatoes but we are waiting until the plants wilt down so we can have bigger potatoes.The rest of the veggies are making a come back after the horrid weather and all was not lost like we feared.We may not have the large quantities like we did last year but there will be plenty.
 Even with all of these things done and made I am the most proud of Mama Trixie and her Chicks.Now I really feel like we are firmly standing on the path way to being more self sufficient.The whole process of having our own homegrown chicks was pretty darn amazing.We started out with big hopes that one of the hens would go broodie and we lucked out one did.As Mama Trixie sat we hoped and prayed we would get even just one chick.During this time my Dad said to me ," Well the hen is doing her job,if it does not work it is the Rooster's fault." I had to laugh at that.In the end both Mama and Rooster had done their jobs and we were gifted with 3 darlings.We have had chicks before but watching the chicks with their Mama is just so, nifty,natural,wondrous and endearing.None of the batches of chicks we have had in the past beats these three.With the nice weather I have the kitchen widow open and through out the day I can hear Mama Trixie clucking to her chicks,talking and teaching them what ever it is a mama chicken teaches her little ones.Her voice is so different than a non-mama chickens,deeper and mellow.
  There have been moments through out the past year and a half where I have felt like maybe we would never really get the hang of this homesteading life.And moments when I did not want to look like someone along for the trend ride.When our spring turned into a flooding, gray and depressing hell I wondered how we were going to get on track and keep things going. We have kept our chins up and pressed forward and having that Mama and her babies right out my backdoor has silenced those fears.Now I feel like if we can have homegrown chicks there is nothing stopping us from our journey.
  I'd like to say thank you to everyone who chimed in on my blog posting about learning to cook.Several of the comments have given me food for thought and I am working on answering some of the questions and incorporating some of the comments into my next posting in the series.
  Rois