Babes in Bluebonnets

Just a quick post to share a few shots I took today while playing with the bunnies and chicks. I hope they are a feast for your eyes.

Th-th-th-th-th-th-that’s all folks!

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Progress is a Beautiful Thing

Pretty kohlrabi

Pretty kohlrabi

Another weekend is history and March is less than five days away! I never fail to question where the time went, but I can see through progress, that time is being spent well, here on the farm. We do piddle slower than some folk, not in too much of a hurry that we can’t enjoy a few minutes here and there just admiring the beauty that surrounds us. After all, it is well known that slow and steady wins the race, and though this human race is a long one, I’m sure the finish line will be sweet to happen upon one day.

Life is precious, in all it’s forms, and when it ends, suddenly, whether at the beginning of life or after much time on earth, there is reason to mourn. On the farm, we’ve experienced some failed incubating, and some peepers just weren’t strong enough to recover from the hard work of breaking free from their shell womb. We’ve lost a few heads of cabbage to a horrid pest that has to be uncovered, before the damage is realized. The same garden pest eliminated a few of our cauliflower heads as well. Alas, death is an avoidable part of life and serves it’s mysterious purposes as well.

Our 10 bunny rabbits are still hoppin’-happy. They are such a fabulous distraction from chores that I have accidentally added about 30 minutes to my daily rounds, just cuddling and giggling with the sweet babies. SuperMama is back in her own cage and getting geared up to be mated again. With Daphne and Ms. Bunny No-Name still expecting…note to self: It doesn’t do any good to mark the calendar if you’re going to mark it wrong!

SuperMama's SuperStar

SuperMama’s SuperStar


LillyBelle and a sampling of our first blooms

LillyBelle and a sampling of our first blooms

We’re hoping for plenty of chicks and bunnies to sell at the local Farmer’s Market for Easter. If all of my equipment comes in, I will also be selling a very special product that my Mom and I have been working on and honing. I’m still keeping this a secret, until I test a few markets, but personally, I have never had better! Ooooh, the mystery!!

I mulched and watered our fruit trees and roses and all our greenhouse greenery, and anticipate pulling them all out very soon! We need room to start our tomatoes and peppers! Dad and the boys did more work in the garden, preparing the ground for corn and squash, tomatoes, melons and much more. Even though this weekend was best for weeding and pruning, they planted a long row of purple hull peas and I planted mesclun, spinach, and romaine lettuce. We weeded around the onions, and hilled around the cabbages. I still need to do more hilling of the broccoli and cauliflower. There is always more work to be done, but nothing is more rewarding than reaping the rewards of gardening.

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The past week was filled with dishes inspired by our garden and chickens. I made a divine butternut squash casserole, and will post the recipe very soon. Keep your eye out for it. We’ve enjoyed our broccoli and carrots and chickens in a delicious pasta bake, and salads, complete with boiled eggs and fresh lettuces, carrots, broccoli and radishes, also from our garden. And as usual, our chickens, rabbits, pigs, and ducks have reaped many healthy benefits from our greens and scraps, as well.

I see buds on the redbud trees and our flower gardens are beginning to burst with color, ah the signs of spring are always such a welcome sight. As I write, it is rather gray out, and it is definitely cooler than yesterday, where I noted many a drops of sweat falling from my brow, while weeding. The free birds are just singing non-stop, such joyful odes to the return of spring.

My Dad scored several free cedars for posts. These posts will flank the long chicken run. He has taught me that it doesn’t take much to cut costs. All you have to do is be observant and bold. Always be on the look-out for resources, and if they aren’t on the side of the road for trash, then just ask. The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll be told no. Our neighbor cut down many trees, clearing their land, and all Dad and the boys had to do was clean the cedars up and move the logs out.

He has a system going now that started soon after our arrival and my interest in working the garden with him. He has a carpenter that bags saw dust for him to pick up, he has tree trimmers dump mulch in our outer fields to season, and he then trades with the saw dust for other necessities…and/or extra chickens. This is the same man who bartered with the doctor who delivered me. The doctor was paid a nice smoker-grill for his services. That doesn’t happen anymore!

I realize not everyone is as skilled as my dad is in selling his perspective and goals, but I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with him and learning from him, as he pursues lofty dreams and visions of grandeur—farm style. If only everyone were on board, we might actually take flight sooner, rather than later. But there’s that pesky little element, called time, that has a way of changing and re-arranging things, so I’ll just go with the flow and learn what I can in the process.

Dad will pick up anything that he thinks he might one day utilize. I used to scoff at him, especially as a teen, when he’d make me wait in the truck while he jumped in the dumpster after a piece of lumber or scrap metal. But in getting the garden together, last fall, I began to see the method in his madness. He pulled out some rebar from one of his piles to use in mounting the low tunnels. I used to get in trouble for trouncing over the piles of those long metal rods, as a young child. He would warn me of snakes, and of the dangers of getting hurt or sick with tetanus, but mostly, he would get frustrated that I was going to somehow mess up his treasures. Fast forward 30 years, and he finally found the perfect use for a few of them.

He’s the tidiest of hoarders, and has running inventories, just as he had of his fittings and pipes during his plumbing days. I truly hope my boys learn all they can from him. He’s a big reason I moved my family to this farm. I knew he was just what the doctor ordered for my boys. It’s a messy world out there, and it is my hopes that my boys will be fully equipped to not only survive, but thrive, as grown men. So many skills are being lost in the wind. I want more for my boys than what a city could offer them. As a gal who started life in the country, I valued my upbringing, as it has served me well.

I’ve seen some progress in my sons’ growth and maturity, in the five months we’ve been here. A lot of resistance, but I think they’re wearing a little. It’s starting to sink in that the decision I made was made out of love and hope. One day, I believe that they will look back on this time in their life with nothing but gratitude. But until then…pray for us all! Ha!

And on that note, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!

"You mess with me, you get the chicken!"

“You mess with me, you get the chicken!”

Vaya con Dios

Spring Prep: Warm Weather Welcome

What a difference a day can make! We started this week with dreary, gray chilliness, and are ending it, shining in the sun! You’ve gotta love Texas’ two-step path to Spring, cold-cold-hot, cold-cold-hot… But hey, who can complain? (Most Texans!!) At least we’ve got a nice swinging variety to keep us twirling into the shortest season on a Texan’s calendar.

Chaca, the wild hog, has been retired from her position as roto-tiller and is now relaxing in a shady spot, south of the garden plots. The rafters of the future chicken coup/well house combo went up today, and we planted a nice long row of potatoes as well as red/white/yellow onions, radishes and nasturtium. We will be steadily plotting and planting in the coming days, getting a nice start on our spring/summer garden. It was so lovely today that we uncovered the low tunnels and watered the winter garden for the first time this year.

Our winter garden is still yielding nicely. Tonight I incorporated some delicious kale into a rich potato soup that included beer, cream, broth, sage breakfast sausage and bacon, and herbs and spices because, well, WE LOVE FOOD! Last night it was a tasty spinach quiche, using our spinach and our farm fresh free-range eggs. I feel like Popeye! I have the strength of 10,000 men!!

Okay, I don’t, but I know that I am feeding my family the best of the best, and in that, I feel very blessed.

Our broccoli is on tomorrow’s menu, as are our carrots. Every other day, I feed all of our free-range and caged chickens and rabbits some of our garden greens, whether they be our various lettuces, or kale, turnip or mustard greens, as well as radish greens. Our radishes are massive, and still crisp and tasty. I was lucky enough to get a picture of our turnips before I misplaced my phone. I have become a greens maniac, and love making a big ol’ pot of greens…with a lot of bacon, of course.

Giant, delicious turnips

Giant, delicious turnips


Speaking of bacon, our hogs have been processed and are now in bits and pieces in the freezer, awaiting my culinary finesse. I am awaiting some invisible form of inspiration!

I know I’ll be grinding again soon. We have some sausage to make with the hog and venison. But other things take priority, and right now, we have a garden to plant and a coop and run to build, and well, other things will surely pop up to attempt or succeed in thwarting best made plans, as per usual. Murphy’s Law or something, isn’t it? I’m not sure, but it has been the way of the day for quite a while now. It seems to be the season I’m in.

God’s been working on my whole “control freak” persona. He’s steadily remodeling each of us, and in this case, I think He’s teaching me to “roll with it, baby”. Several things have popped up in the past six months, that in the past would’ve sent me into a foot-stomping, my-way-or-the-highway tizzy. I really am a girl who has always liked controlling my surroundings, and I never really so readily recognized the personality flaw until I faced getting to know and help the chickens!

Just saying “No” to things such as butchering venison and cleaning chicken poop/beheading chickens, seemed utterly non-sensical, if I were to become a true farm-person. Time to toughen up Nelly in a whole new way. And time to let go and go with the natural flow, instead of creating unneeded waves.

God seems to be using a friend of mine in this plan of His to elevate me to the next level of servitude and gratitude. Her visits alone bring about a form of forced domestication, of which does not come natural to me. But during this most recent visit, she began, what became a sudden increase in creatures on the farm.

You see, I’m not sure she even realized how crazy she was, until I reacted to the gift she brought to my youngest son. Recognizing my son’s love for animals, she saw no reason not to get him the perfect gift. I mean after all, he had captured an alligator turtle and kept it for a time as a pet for a time…and Pawpaw brought a wild hog to live on the farm. These people are running a happy little menagerie. They’ll barely even notice the addition and it will bring even more joy into their home.

She was right by the way…but the adults’ collective initial reaction was enough to scare my friend away for good. She brought my son a rat. A cute little baby rat named Coconut, complete with a cage and food. She brought my son a R-O-D-E-N-T. All my life, I only saw rats as a nuisance and believed the only place they belonged was stuck in a trap. I have even poisoned a few.

Yes, I had a very poor reaction to my friend’s thoughtful, but insanely crazy gift idea! My Dad’s reaction was even-keel with my own. He even told her, in jest, (we hope-ha ha) that she wasn’t allowed back on his property again.

But I must say, Coconut is a source of enjoyment for the boys and he’s survived his first week on the farm, fat and happy.

Speaking of fat, my Dad, who is also pretty crazy, brought home a year-old pot-bellied pig named Patty. Obviously, this is not an edible, or in my personal opinion, a useful creature, and yet, it is here, I suppose for the same reason as Coconut—free(ish) entertainment.

Personally, I didn’t miss the pig squeals after Dad had to put his last pot-bellied bellower down, due to chronic pain from being crippled during a surgery. I must admit, these additions have me scratching my head, but I’m rolling with it. I’ve seen smiles produced due to both Coconut and Patty the Pig, and I’m all about happy family members. So let the smiles continue. I am not going to put my foot down…at least not for now.

On the feathered end of the farm, we’ve welcomed a Buff Orpington hen, a Black Orpington hen, and a supposed Cuckoo Maran hen. Her feet are orange and Cuckoo Maran’s feet are supposed to be black. She looks exactly like Old Mama, who is believed to be a Barred Plymouth Rock.

The original owners were duped and thusly attempted to unknowingly dupe my dad. We’re keeping them caged, separate from our other flocks for a bit, just to make sure they are healthy. There are a lot of chicken illnesses out there, and our birds are happy and healthy, so we’re gonna make sure we do all we can to keep them that way.

My crazy friend's sweet and brave daughter loving on our khaki quackies

My crazy friend’s sweet and brave daughter loving on our khaki quackies

The ducks finally have their quacks! Little changes like this are so easy to notice when you’re in a place teeming with life. From the bunnies and their ever-elongating ears to the bees buzzing around the broccoli blossoms, I love the ever-changing cycle of life and it’s just absolutely magnified here. Spring is definitely in the air, I can feel the power of new life whizzing in the breeze like electricity. This has been a long, cold winter, and this bear’s ready to get out of the cave to stay!!

Speaking of bears, my cubs are demanding my attention. They want to make chocolate-covered bananas. If anything is going to pry me away from writing, it’s chocolate. So until next time, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!

Vaya con Dios!

PS Plant root crops when the moon is waning, or decreasing.

Farming 101

After moving in next door to my parents, who, through the years, I’d only spent limited time with; I discovered a whole world beneath my feet that operated separately from the world we’d departed from.  An over-grown summer garden, suffering the effects of generational business, as well as the prized poultry area, full of squawks and ruffles that I had not been privy to for well over thirty years, awaited my exploration and assistance.

As a man that takes advantage of every opportunity…those he seeks out as well as those that haphazardly land in his front yard; my dad quickly set us all to work, prepping for, planting and fencing around the fall/winter garden.  At the same time, he was teaching me how to administer different medicines and supplements and ointments to the different animals he was raising.  Like a whirlwind, Dad pulled us into his microcosm on earth and I, for one, loved it.

sweet peace

sweet peace

At first, I must admit, I wasn’t very excited about working with chickens.  The garden is always a place I will enjoy, but chickens are pretty gross, really.  However, after working in the remodeling business for five years, and pulling a few toilets and p-traps, not to mention changing diapers for eight years straight; gross is something I’ve learned to handle with a wee bit of dignity…after the first few utterances of disgust, at least.

Somewhere along the way, the silliness between the chickens jumping, out of fear and my own jumping, out of fear, wore off.  Well, mostly.  Mr. M still keeps me on my toes.  He’s a shifty-eyed, intimidating one, I’m telling ya!

 I sing to the chickens.  It seems to calm them down and it seems to keep me calm.  I am glad to be able to help care for this place my parents have spent so many years cultivating.  But I will be the first to admit, I am sometimes overwhelmed.  My boys aren’t as excited about the change in lifestyles as I have been, and they haven’t taken to the hoe with as much excitement as I had expected them to.  Sometimes it takes more effort to get effort out of them than it is worth.

But this is just the beginning.  I am fighting against the world to form well-rounded, fully capable, intelligent and dignified men…FIGHTING THE WORLD!  But at least I have two folks nearby who are willing to step into this battle with me.

All of this— living so close to my parents, and handling the animals, and raising the boys in a new environment, has been one big crash course in farming and co-habitation.

 I’ve always said that I want to spend my life learning, and I definitely stepped from a stalemate situation into a place of constant education.   It is also a place of safety and love and plenty of laughter.  A good place out in the country, away from all the noise and hub-bub, a place where boys can be boys and eventually grow into men.

I hope that you enjoy this journey along with me, as we’ve only just begun.

Mother-to-be enjoying icicle

Mother-to-be enjoying icicle

Yesterday, when I entered the caged fowl and rabbit area, I noticed pink things wriggling on the ground behind the rabbit and quails’ cages.  Our young doe, who I’ve named Daphne, had her first litter of 5 kits.  Only 3 were barely alive when I found their little cold, naked bodies.

I quickly prepared them a nest and got a lamp to warm them up.  After they were warm, I offered them a dropper of water.  They did not attempt to latch on, but I was able to get a little water into each of them.

 When dad got home from work, he put the nest in Daphne’s cage.  (I had tried this earlier, and tried to lay her in the nest, but she freaked and hopped out.)  Dad experienced similar results.

Today, Daphne still does not seem interested in having anything to do with her precious little babies.  We still have a lamp on them, and I have gotten two of the three to latch on, temporarily, to the dropper of water.  The third did take in a little, but did not yet latch on.

As I carried on, cleaning water dishes and refreshing those and the food for all the caged animals, I came upon another of our young does.  She had two big chunks of hair ripped out in the corners of her cage, so I quickly prepared her a nest as well.  This young mother-to-be gave me notice!!  Yippee!  First time for everything.

I am about to go check on her for the final time this evening.  I hope she is a better and more instinctual mother than Daphne.  I will be able to let her adopt Daphne’s babies, if she does well with her own.  I need some help here, I’m new to this!  Hopefully, I can sit down and talk with Dad, so I will know other measures to take with the newborns.  If you have any advice, I’m all ears!  Ha and I’m pun-ny too!

Other reports on the farm include our d’Uccle hen’s daily egg!!  Things like this will make a country girl happy.  Well, the sun’s sinkin’ fast.  Better go check on the mother-to-be and the babies.

Until next time, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OUT!

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The Crazy Chicken Lady

Vaya con Dios

Quick and Easy Tomato Soup

1 can tomato paste

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup half and half

1/4 cup bread crumbs *garlic/herb seasoned is delish!
(onion powder, dill weed, cracked pepper, salt to your personal liking)

 

 

 

My oldest and I are struggling to breath, and whether it be severe allergies or a rotten cold, there is one thing my boy always requests when he is under the weather.  It’s not chicken noodle, or beef and barley, or even potato soup.  My son wants tomato soup and he will eat nothing else.

Sometimes I actually have a can of Campbell’s tomato soup on hand in the pantry, but yesterday wasn’t one of those days.  I generally have good luck when experimenting in the kitchen and last night was no exception.  I had to figure out a way to get my boy some tomato soup and fast. 

I always have chicken broth on stock, as well as tomato paste and half and half.  I knew I could whip him up a passable tomato soup with those three pantry items, and add to that.

So here’s what I did.  I scooped the tomato paste into a sauce pan and slowly incorporated about 1/2 cup of chicken broth and 1/2 cup of half and half, with a whisk.  As the soup came together, I added 1/4 cup or less of garlic-herb bread crumbs to give it a little flavor and thickness.  I also seasoned the soup lightly with onion powder, dill weed, salt and cracked pepper.

I let this come to a low boil and then cut the heat to low and stirred it for another 3-4 minutes and then, voila, homemade tomato soup on the dime.  I toasted him an everything-bagel and spread a little whipped chive cream cheese on it as a side.

He was a happy boy and you can be too, in only a matter of minutes with this quick, delicious recipe.

Feel free to share

 

Until next time, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!

Vaya con Dios

A Sure-fire Way To Confuse the Children

A Sure-fire Way To Confuse the Children

Once upon a time, in America, the government fully supported and encouraged self-sufficiency and sustainability through Victory Gardens.

I borrowed this great find through a friend. Click on the picture link to visit his new facebook page, Texas Garden Paths.

Our First Winter Garden

I thought I would give you all a break from my chicken talk, and focus for a moment, instead, on our bountiful winter garden.  Gardening can give one a really unique perspective on life.  The wins, the losses, the pruning of the vines.  You begin to understand some of God’s more questionable maneuvers or at least see them in a different light.

First off, I need to confess a few things.  No matter how much you wish for compliance, not all of your family members are going to be as excited or helpful as you are about this garden.  You may get lucky and have a few happy helpers, but you are going to get a lot of whining and moaning too, unless everyone involved is over 25!!  In my little utopian fantasy, I saw all 8 of us planting and picking, laughing and enjoying each other’s company and keeping pace.  This is why I hardly watch movies anymore. They set you up for failure!

Secondly, it is important to plant crops at the appropriate time for your area. This year, we planted the following: broccoli, garlic, onions, carrots, radishes, beets, turnips greens, mustard greens, kale, spinach, red leaf lettuce, baby butter heads, arugula, spicy Cali greens, cabbage, kohlrabi, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, Alaska and assorted peas and beans, sweet potatoes and purple, red and white potatoes.

In the beginning...

In the beginning…

Our pig rooted up the sweet potatoes right away, so that ended that quick! Our chickens will not let the majority of our broccoli rise above 2 inches. We only have about a quarter of the broccoli still thriving that we began with. And that is only because the chickens are full by the time they get to that point in the first row.

Right now, the broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts are dormant. But we expect to have a great March-April harvest! The onions and garlic will be ready to pick about that time as well.

My dad tested the soil and added nitrogen and other nutrients to boost the soil content for the seeds to sprout. Through out the season, mulch, saw dust and a little miracle grow was added to encourage the best results. The first crop to produce a harvest was the radishes. We know now to stagger planting radishes, so they are not all ready at the same time.

Our harvest of radishes produced several big mamma-jammas

Our harvest of radishes produced several big mamma-jammas

Everything was coming up roses! Our hearts (dad’s and mine, mostly) danced in delight as all the leafy greens sparkled in the sunlight. We began to enjoy baby greens as well. I had never eaten greens before, after being forced to eat them as a child (do y’all remember canned Popeye’s Spinach?! Blech!). But as with so many other culinary delights, my taste buds have matured and I gave greens another try. I’ve grown to like them too, especially when I use the recipe my sister gave me.

One day, I might be kind enough to share my winter garden recipes with you, as through experimenting, I have really pleased our palates this fall/winter.

in full bloom

in full bloom

Things changed after the freeze snaps began. Within the first or second snap, we lost our entire summer garden. This was to be expected on one hand, but on another, the tomatoes had really started making a comeback. Boy, was that a heartbreaking day. Dad and I silently folded the clothes we had covered the tomatoes, butternut squash, eggplants, and a plethora of peppers with as we silently mourned our summer friends.

After the third freeze, all but the Alaska peas survived (like duh, haha!) in our bean and pea field, so we set the boys to move the loops to the winter garden. In the winter garden, the spinach was not fairing well. Even with the covering we provided that delicate crop, the spinach just couldn’t handle the unseasonably frigid Texas temps.

They are still hanging in there, but the leaves are all spotted brown with what I believe to be freeze-burn.

The kale are a different story. They just seem to get more lush and beautiful as the snaps come. They are native to Siberia, so that also makes sense! We recently enjoyed kale and beet chips, but I usually put kale in soups, and quiches. Not too much either, because it is a strong flavor not all enjoy. I especially like it in a sausage potato soup. But that’s just me!

Frosty, Happy-Happy-Happy Kale

Frosty, Happy-Happy-Happy Kale

As for beets, we planted them for Mama. The chips were bearable, but I’m not a beet fan and never will be. Now if we are talking beet dye…that’s a whole other ball game!!

By this time, we were enjoying our lettuces, as well as turnips, which can be used like a water chestnut in stir fries, and is a MARVELOUSLY surprising filler in meatloaf!! Try it, I dare ya! I think turnips are so pretty. We are growing the purple-top variety and it looks like a shiny baseball, only half purple and half white. I love baseball! But that’s not really relevant here.

I don't use this word often...but is this some sexy lettuce or what?!!!

I don’t use this word often…but is this some sexy lettuce or what?!!!

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Our rabbits LOVE Rocket Arugula

Our rabbits LOVE Rocket Arugula

Next were the kohlrabi and carrots. I use kohlrabi like broccoli, which it is very similar to, in taste and texture. I learned to treat it like a potato, peeling the skin off before cooking it. It’s great in stews, stirfries, blanched…like I said, think broccoli. At first our carrots were not that sweet, but as they’ve grown and as the cold days have lingered, they are getting better and better!

The night before the “polar vortex” touched Texas, the boys covered the hoops over the winter veggies. Up until this point, aside from the spinach, we had not covered the winter garden. It was a pure pleasure to see our veggies thrive in such cold conditions, but after having a cabbage head turn to mush due to a surprise freeze, dad was done taking chances!

We did not eat our cabbage for New Year's Day, but they will be ready to enjoy in the near future

We did not eat our cabbage for New Year’s Day, but they will be ready to enjoy in the near future

Did I mention our potatoes? Dad dug most of them up after the second or third freeze. The ones that were not affected were delicious, but immature…winter really isn’t the time for peas, beans, nor potatoes.

I am hoping that this new year brings new attitudes around the farm concerning farm work. I realize I drug my children and husband onto this farm with high hopes and great expectations, but I also know nothing is impossible with God! I feel like these experiences can only enhance and enrich their lives as well as nutritionally providing the best for them.

I’ll admit, it’s kind of ridiculous of me to have expected a smooth transition, but it’s slowly getting better. Everyone is slowly getting with the program, each in their own ways and own fields.

I want to thank you for stopping by my blog today. I hope you leave with new knowledge and with a smile…and I hope ya come back now, ya hear?!!

Until then, Vaya con Dios!

This is the Crazy Chicken Lady signing OUT!!