Saturday, February 26

My Apologies.....

My apologize for the lack of posts lately and what will surely prove to be a lack of posts for the next month or so.

This morning sickness is pushing my limits of functioning and I need to focus what energy I have on taking care of the little man, the animals and doing minimal house maintenance. I knew it would be this way - I have been through it before. It still doesn't make it any better.

Any hints or suggestions would be appreciated since I will try anything. I have tried ginger cookies, crackers, soda - all the usual things. Now I am looking for something unusual in hopes of relief.

So, we are ok here, if not trapped in the house by a lack of energy and that horrible snow storm that we got yesterday.

Hang in there with me..... I'll do my best!!!!

Thursday, February 24

I Did It!!!!!

I finally did it!!! I made a loaf of bread. From scratch. It looked like bread, it smelled like bread, it tasted like bread.

The dough rose and the crust was crispy and I still think it was a wild dream brought on by those potent prenatal vitamins.

I used the following recipe:

1 teaspoon sugar
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 1/4 cups warm water (100° to 110°), divided
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Cooking spray
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Dissolve sugar and yeast in 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Add 1 cup warm water, flour, and salt to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a floured surface. Knead dough until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.)

Uncover dough, and punch dough down. Cover and let rise 30 minutes. Uncover dough; punch dough down. Cover and let rest 10 minutes. Roll into a 14 x 7-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Roll up tightly, starting with a short edge, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets; pinch seam and ends to seal. Place roll, seam side down, in an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 425°.

Uncover dough; gently brush with egg. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° (do not remove bread from oven); bake an additional 15 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from pan; cool on a wire rack.

And I am still waiting for the return of my camera from the shop, which is another post altogether, so there are no pictures of my masterpiece. I know some of you are thinking "Yeah, right. She didn't get that dough to rise. I'll bet she served a loaf of wonder bread with the spaghetti that night."

It's true - I swear! I made an eatable loaf of bread with my own two hands and it feels great!

Wednesday, February 23

October Addition

Thank goodness for Curious George. Not only did I learn how to make a metal detector from a radio, a calculator and some packing tape this morning, but George also provides a nice diversion for the little guy while my head is over the toilet.

Yes, I have morning sickness. We all know what that means.

There will be an addition to the homestead this coming October, and I don't mean more chickens.

Not that I am advocating plunking your kid down in front of the tv all day, but a half hour of Curious George can be a lifesaver at times.

I remember from when I was first pregnant with the little guy that I was sick for three months, 24/7. So far, I have been able to force myself to function around the house for the majority of the day for the sake of toddler care and clean laundry. Last time, I got to lay on the couch and watch Little House on the Prairie all day. This time, no. Not that I wouldn't mind a long Little House marathon right now but the little guy's eyes would glaze over after hour three.

So I have been spending time camped out on the play mat rolling around matchbox cars and building things with legos, and trying to keep eating even though I thoroughly do not feel like ingesting anything.

I have so many plans for this spring and summer and I hope I can still accomplish them. I want to get my seeds started at the end of March in the basement, the shed needs painting desperately (supposed to have been done last fall), the clothes poles need to be moved to a location that gets more sun, and the rose trellis that did not survive this last big wind storm need to be repaired and cemented into the ground. for some reason, we have crazy winds here.

Also, the chicken pen needs a major overhaul due to the rain/snow fiasco at the beginning of this winter. I am hoping I can recruit my Dad to help with the lifting and cementing and pen repair, and I am going to bribe Roy to paint the shed. "Um. dear, I don't think I should be up on the extension ladder slopping red exterior, smelly paint on the shed."

Then there are the constant summer chores - lawn mowing, trimming, weeding, mulching, garden tending, chicken tending, toddler tending, house chores, and possibly getting a shower once a day.

On a better note, I finally made bread from scratch yesterday. I am very excited but also very tired. More on this later.

Tuesday, February 22

Extra Small? Lets be Realistic.

I have been staging a major closet coup this past week. I have gotten the urge to do another mass cleaning out of things and this time it is my clothes. I have too many. Half of them I do not wear - they are left over from my working days when I went to an office every day. And some are just too small. No matter how hard I hope, I will never wear anything that says "Extra Small" on the label ever again. I have to be realistic about what I use, need and will fit into.

So the little guy and I have been cleaning out, as his schedule permits, and we have made good progress. We currently have 6 big bags ready for goodwill donation and there is still more to go through.

How many t-shirts does one person need? Especially when I don't wear over half of them. I get them on vacations because that is what you are supposed to buy on vacations. And I get them as gifts from people when they go on vacation. I saved my favorites and some to wear in the garden and the rest will find new homes.

This goes with coats as well. How many coats does a person need? A few styles for going out and a few work coats and that is really it. I don't think I will ever wear the bright red leather jacket that is too small and starting to crack. I also got rid of any coats with sleeves that were too short. If there is one thing I hate, it is reaching for something outside in the cold chill of winter and exposing my wrists and lower arms to frostbite.

I got rid of 99% of my old fancy work clothes. I have no need for them since I am a stay at home mom and the fanciest place I go is Applebee's. I do not miss them since I remember the majority of them to be uncomfortable and I would shed them as soon as I got home for jeans and a tank top. I kept a few of the nicer things just in case and if I ever have to go back to a paying job, I will buy a few more nice things that are more comfortable. I now have an organized closet that I can find things in.

There is more to go - I have yet to tackle the jeans and pants. This is hard for me since I have various sizes ranging from 'baggy comfy jeans' to 'no way in hell I will ever fit into these again but I am saving them for the memories jeans'. This will take a whole day of debate on my part so it will wait for another weekend.

I do have to say that it is very liberating to get rid of that much baggage. It feels great to know exactly what I have that things are less cluttered. It is like a weight has been lifted and I have a great sense of accomplishment.

I have been trying to get Roy to do the same, even though he has far less in the clothes department than I did. Why is that, guys? Don't you like variety? Anyway, I think we will be going through his closet this week. I can't be the only one to sacrifice for the sake of liberation.

Monday, February 21

Farmer Fashion

Picture from HERE.

I went to the mall the other day with the little man and my Mom to have some lunch and walk around. The little guy loves to throw pennies in the fountains and play in the toy store, and I love the chicken ceasar wrap at Colie's Cafe.

It is fun to just walk around and let the little guy run, supervised, and look at things in stores. I don't buy nearly as much as I used to. A few years ago, I would buy things because they were on sale or because I "just HAD to have them." I didn't pay too much attention to how it was made, where it was made or what it was made of. Now, I usually walk away without buying anything. Case and point: I saw a great flannel-type shirt in H&M. It was brown and white. I loved the colors and it was really lightweight. I took the time to try it on and realized that it was a "stylish" cut that didn't cover all the, lets just say, "bits" that a good flannel should. I didn't get it even though I loved the look of it on the hanger. This also went for the cheaply made earrings I saw in the jewelry store, the overpriced dvd, and the really overpriced lipstick that actually stung when I tested the "tester."

I also could not help but notice the "farmer fashions." All the fancy clothing stores had mini-flannels, ripped up 'skinny' jeans, carhartt inspired jackets that didn't reach below the belly button, and black muck boots with little pink skulls and bows on them. Just like the thin flannel mentioned above, I don't think any of these items would make it on the farm. Mini-flannels aren't warm, skinny jeans probably hurt when you bend over to fill the fonts, and while you are bending over your fake carhartt will raise up the back and a cold breeze will go right up your spine. The muck boots, maybe. But the chickens won't care whats on your boots as long as you are bringing them their food. It could have pictures of headless chickens on it for all they care.

I just think this is kind of silly, even though some of those flannels are really cute.

Saturday, February 19

We have been having winds here up to 65 mph for the past couple of days, which is only interesting because it just adds to the melting pot of strange weather hitting NY right now. The big thaw came on which got rid of a great deal of the snow buildup but as it got colder, the path to the chicken coop was transformed from snow to mud to a sheet of ice. And it is on a little hill. The little guy fell right on his butt and instead of being upset he just got mad.

Waking up this morning, I looked out the window to a blizzard covering up the dead grass that was finally reveled the day before. I did not know whether to be happy, disappointed or just dumbfounded. I knew that it was a crazy night the night before. I spent most of the night being woken up by flying branches hitting the side of the house and the siding creaking. At one point the wind was blowing so hard that it was almost like we had no windows and the blinds were moving around. Time for a little more window caulk, I think.

The worst part was the noise. I have been on a few trips that require taking a plane and this was exactly the same. That loud, monotone drone of the plane engines that is steady from the time you take off until the time you land (hopefully). The wind never let up. It was a constant blast, and with it whipping through all our pine trees, I felt like I was sleeping on an overnight flight to Stuttgart.

All day today it was more of the same, just add snow. We got about 6 inches according to the weather man but you can't really tell since it was swirling madly in the air the whole day. Today was a day spent indoors except to check on the chickens and take out some rather smelly diaper garbage. (Potty trained by spring? I'm open to ANY suggestions).

It is nearing 10pm and I am tired from a day of bored, cooped up toddler entertaining. Time for bed and another trip to Europe as tonight begins the second night of trying to sleep on an airplane.

Thursday, February 17

When "real" spring comes...

Today it was in the low 50's here for a little while and when I headed out to take care of the chickens, it was raining. Raining pretty good, and if the temperature was where it should be at this time of year, we would have had a nice little snowstorm on our hands.

Fortunately, I was able to enjoy the semi-warm day, but I didn't let it get to me. I wanted to get that spring fever, but I knew better. It's February.

The chickens enjoyed the break and even dared to venture out of the coop for a few tentative footfalls on what was a quickly diminishing blanket of snow. I am happy for the thaw so that the layers of ice that have accumulated on my driveway will ease to exist, and that I can finally see the compost bin again. There is something about it that depresses me a little though. Mostly when "real" spring comes and what is left of the snow is dark and dirty with remnants of road salt and sand. Pieces of garbage that had been thrown out a car window or windblown out of a recycling bin are revealed from under the snow blanket and it looks even more like pollution in it's faded and mis-shapen state. Then the snow melts for good and all that is left is brown, dank, smashed grass and mud and decomposing leaves left over from last fall. I know that green grass will grow shortly and that the crocuses will be popping up any day, but everything looks so dreary from the ravages of winter.

I did get my garden plan together today, slightly getting spring fever for just a bit. I think I have room for everything even after widening the dividing rows from what they were last year. This will allow more space for the tiller to mulch the weeds in the walking spaces. I have also decided to give up on onions this season. I don't really have good luck with them, we don't eat a lot of them and I can get perfectly good ones at the local farmers market when a recipe calls for one. This year is all about necessity over what I think I should be growing to be considered a gardener/farmer/homesteader.

The seed of spring has been planted in my head, but there is a terribly long germination process.

Wednesday, February 16

Book Reports

I have finished 4 books recently but I find it hard to review WWII books. It is a subject that I am interested in and if, when I am reading through, I find something that stands out, I will mention it. But mostly, I read them to learn more about our past. That said, I have recently finished The Dentist of Auschwitz: A Memoir by Benjamin Jacobs, and The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister by Nonna Bannister. Both were about the holocaust and both fell on the wide spectrum of inspiring, dreadful, heroic, historical and painful.

Another book I started reading was Arctic Homestead: The True Story of One Family's Survival and Courage in the Alaskan Wilds by Norma Cobb. Normally, this would be the type of book that I would not be able to put down. However, for some reason I could not get through the first couple of chapters. Maybe it was the practical side of me saying "how can you even think about going THAT FAR with really, really young kids?!?!" Or maybe I could not get past how the husband was depicted - one of those guys who does what he wants, doesn't think about it much and drags whoever is near him along for the ride. I am sure that they had a fantastic adventure but I just could not get into this one.

Finally, I pick up Chick Days: Raising Chickens from Hatchlings to Laying Hens by Jenna Woginrich. One of the favorite authors writing about one of my favorite subjects. I loved this book from beginning to end. I wish that it had been around when we brought our 12 golden comets home from Tractor Supply last spring. It is straight forward, informative, amusing and a great read. How can a how-to book on poultry be a good read, you ask? It's not just the cut and dry essentials (which are there, but they are definately not dry!), it is the stories that are added in on the Cold Antler Farm segments, the Chick Diary pages and the beautiful photography and layout. I liked how this book looked and how it felt in my hands. It had substance, both in the words and in the presentation.

The section entitled "First Things First: Why chickens?" was very interesting in that there is alot of good, solid information about our food. I also learned alot more about the girls in general, from eating habits to how to clean the eggs properly. I could have gone through the thick chicekn raising book I have here and read the most irrelevant information for hours without finding the answer that I needed. This book is the total opposite. It gives all the info you need, the is easy to understand, and it is entertaining. Thanks Jenna!

Monday, February 14

A Little Remodeling

Since it will be a few years before I can afford my kitchen remodel, I thought I would play around withe the blog layout instead.
A work in progress......

Sunday, February 13

survival seed bank

I keep hearing this commercial on the radio for Survival Seed Bank. Although I think this is a great idea, I am wondering why they chose to present it the way they did.

The commercial sounds like a call-to-arms for the crazies who think the world will end in 2012. They use words like catastrophe, crisis, and meltdown told to us by a severely over-emphasising narrator.

Of course, we all know that it is a good idea to have a back up plan. Preserving food, saving seeds, stocking up on non-perishables. Or in Glenn Becks case, an underground mountain hideout filled with gold bars. (Sorry Glenn, I used to listen until you had that 'awakening' or whatever and now you kind of scare me).

We have a back up plan here and we are by no means thinking the world will end shortly. I have no worries about people with machine guns coming down my road and I like to think i know enough about gardening and preserving to take care of my family if it really did come to that.

I don't like how they presented the commercial because it makes us all out to be nuts. People will hear it, think about a generalization (farmers, homesteaders, 'green' people) and then conclude that we are all a bunch of crazies scared that the sky is falling. And that will make them not want to look into survival seeds. They should have aimed for a broader audience but being a little more calm, a little more non-apocalyptic and just stating some common sense.

It's good to have a plan. It's good to be prepared. The more you can do for yourself, the better.

Saturday, February 12

Where the Green Grass Grows

I am not totally big on country music. Once and while there will be a song that I happen to hear somewhere that is of the country variety and it will get in my head, but not often. There is one song, however, that was the soundtrack running through my brain for two weeks of a warm spring about 8 years ago.

It was the spring of 2003 and Roy and I were living in our 'starter house'. It was a pretty little colonial built in the 1920's with original hardwood flooring, original gum-wood trim, and a huge bathroom with the, yes, original, small black and white marble tile. The area in which the house was located however had seen better times. It was located on a very busy road, which must have been a nice dirt path at one time but had been widened and paved so that our front yard was little more than a small grass barrier between the house and the racing traffic. We also had the 'entertainment' of having a bar right next door which was one of the most awful experiences I have ever had to live through. Constant fights, tires screeching at all hours, motorcycles, drunk people relieving themselves on our lawn. And don't even get me started on St. Patrick's Day. We could never go out for about 2 weeks around that holiday because we had to guard our property from drunk thieves and vandals.

But in spite of all this, it was a great house and we did have some yard space in the back. Very shady, but we managed to put in flower beds and a small, raised bed vegetable garden. We brought in fresh dirt for the vegetables because the home had belonged previously to someone who liked to work on cars in the yard. Oil contamination was not something I wanted in my food. I also wanted grass. There was a section of yard where they used to drive a lot, moving cars around. And it was packed down. Hard. No grass would grow there and I was determined to make a lawn out of that parking area.

In the spring of 2003, armed with a pick ax, shovel, rake and grass seed, I went to work. I was out there swinging the pick ax over my head and slamming it down, slowly breaking up the years and years of hard packed dirt, stone and whatever else might be down there. It took forever. And the whole time I was swinging and sweating and chopping, the same song was going through my head - the country song by Tim McGraw - "Where the Green Grass Grows." I don't know where I heard the song, maybe in a restaurant or on someones radio, but for some reason I couldn't help but sing it in my head the whole time I as hamming away at that mess.

Even back then, in 2003, when we were not even married 5 years, we both had full time jobs, and I had never even heard the term 'homesteading', I knew what I wanted. I just didn't know how to bundle it up into a goal. I wanted grass and flowers and vegetables. And I wanted peace and quiet. I know that I could not have the last two where we were, but I knew that if I worked hard enough, I could have the first three.

My first tomatoes were tiny. The corn didn't even grow. I had good luck with mums and iris and a few roses. I just think they were as stunted as I was in that location. There was an idea in my head the whole time, I just didn't know it was there.

Slowly, gradually, we became more aware and we were able to define what we wanted. We knew we wanted to move as soon as the budget allowed, which we knew would not be for a few more years. However, after spending three months laying on a hospital bed in my living room during the peak of a hot and humid summer in 2004, we both knew that we wanted out. We had been involved in a bad car accident that year and my back was broken. After surgeries and titanium rods and bolts holding me together, I was recovering in my non-air conditioned home, with the windows open, trying to catch a breeze. The county had also decided that they were going to widen the road, yet again, that summer and all I could hear and smell all day were construction trucks, idling engines, slamming and banging and commotion.

As soon as I was walking again, we decided enough was enough and we sold the house before we even had another place to live.

I did love that house - it was a beautiful house. It was just in a horrible location that we couldn't take anymore.

We searched for a place to buy during the window before our old home was closed and through some strange kind of luck, we found our current home. It had been on the market for 4 days when we bought it.

I now have 2 acres, a farm house, barns, and plenty of green grass. I never did get grass to grow on that space at the old property. No matter how hard I tried, it just wouldn't take. No matter how many times I swing that pick ax and insisted to myself, in my head, that I would indeed "live where the green grass grows", I never did at our first home.

And since moving here we have fully been able to realize our dream of modern homesteading. I had always wanted grass and flowers and vegetables, and that peace and quiet, and now we finally have it, for the most part. It is strange that we didn't even know what it was, the idea that grew in the back of our minds, until we were presented with the opportunity to make it happen. Then it just seemed so obvious, like it had been in the forefront of our minds all along.

Friday, February 11

Graywater Suggestions

Does anyone have any suggestions on how I can re-use waste water, or graywater? I tend to waste a lot when it comes to rinsing dishes and waiting for the hot to get to the upstairs bathroom.

I don't want to have buckets of water sitting around the house waiting for use but I also hate to see all that cold water go down the drain just waiting for hot water. I have a lot of plants but the amount of times I have waste water is more than they require.

Our water bill, although lower than average homes, is still high. Especially in summer when droughts cause extra watering of the gardens. Lowering our dependency on the water company make sense to me. So lowering the bill is something I really want to work on.

I found a few good ideas online when it comes to kitchen work. First, I will switch to using the second side of my double-basin kitchen sink for holding rinse water and then setting the dishes to dry on a rack on the counter. Right now I use the double-basin second side for holding the drying rack, so i am constantly turning the water off and on to rinse things.

I am also going to do the same thing with rinsing and cleaning eggs and vegetables. Instead of rinsing under a running faucet, I will fill up the sink a little bit with water and give the eggs and veggies a quick bath.

I think these two things will help control my kitchen graywater, but I am not sure about what to do with the bathroom.

Who out there re-uses their graywater? How do you collect it, what do you use it for?

Also, I have been seriously thinking about getting some rain water collection barrels for use in watering the vegetable gardens this summer. Does anyone have any good or bad experience with these?

Thursday, February 10

The Planning Begins.....

No that is not my gardening shed, but I am in love with it. I can still dream.....

My first batch of ordered seeds arrived a while ago (FAST - thanks Baker Creek!) and this weekend I am going to break out the graph paper and sharpen the pencils. It's garden planning time.

My garden dimensions for this coming season are 34 feet X 32 feet, and 25 feet X 15 feet. About the same size as last year, although this year I am going to do things differently.

First, I am going to make shorter, north to south rows instead of the longer east to west I did last year. I think this will accomplish 2 things: One, I will be able to concentrate on having one or two rows for each variety of plant I want to grow, thus minimizing take-over cucumber and pumpkin vines. And two, I will be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. I am taking about weeding. I want to weed short rows. I am lazy, I need to be watching a two year old while I do this, and I want that sense of accomplishment in being able to set a goal of weeding a whole row in one trip to the garden.

Secondly, I am going to plow the end of the 34 X 32 right up to the end of the field so I can better keep the pumpkin, gourd and cucumber vines out of the rest of the garden. Last year I had a terrible time with the gourds thinking it was ok to use the tomato plants as climbing devices and they wrapped their little tentacles around my tomatoes and their cages, probably playing a large role in my tomato cage failure and high stress level. I will let them grow into the field where I won;t have to worry so much about invasion or mowing accidents.

That reminds me - does anyone know if I can plant cucumbers on a low/small trellis? I think it would help minimize the space their vines take up and it would keep the cukes off the ground.

Third, I am still considering corn again this season even though it does not do well at all. If for anything else, I like to use the stunted stalks for fall decoration. Should I go for it and use space or should I plant a few in with my flowers?

That is the neat little thing i am going to do this year. My little rebellious garden uprising. I am going to, ok get ready for this - I am going to plant vegetables in with my flower beds! Shocking, I know. I am quite a revolutionary. I love the flowers, but they do take time. They require a lot of weeding and I really just don't have the time in the day unless I get a 12-hour babysitter. So, instead of planting annuals among the perennials, I am going to stick in peppers, tomatoes, and some corn. No pumpkins or gourds due to the invasion tendencies. I think this will save me money on annuals, provide more vegetables for us and if I plan it right, i might be able to eliminate some of the weeding that I hate.

Forth and finally, I have strawberries. Turns out that when Roy tilled up the new 25 X 15 garden last spring, he brought out a ton of dormant (?) strawberry plants. All last summer the flooded the pumpkins and tomatoes like advanced infantry and I was torn as to whether I should let them stay or rip them up. At the time they were causing havoc in my rows so I took them. Don't worry, they came back, big time. This year i am going to save them. They will have their own rows and when i see one plant not conforming to my rigid garden plan, it will be dug up and replanted in a row-like fashion. So, I will hopefully have a nice little crop of strawberries this summer and I didn't have to spend a penny.

I found a good website that offers a lot of useful, easy advice. Vegetable Garden Planning is a good, straight- forward resource.

As always, garden advice is welcome - especially for tomato cage ideas. Also, does anyone out there use a soaker hose system in their garden? I have been thinking about one since it would free me of those annoying back and forth sprinklers that are always breaking. And I am hoping it could hook it up the the rain barrels we might be getting. Any advice?

Tuesday, February 8

Munchie the Cow Can Stay

I doubt that Laura Ingalls Wilder had to put up with such things.

I am talking about juice cups. And goldfish crackers, and matchbox cars and baby gates.

Right now, my 'homestead' is a sticky, crunching, painful mess. Dripping juice cups are at the top of my gripes today. How hard is it to make one that doesn't leak? And how hard is it for my little guy at the advanced age of almost 2 to not throw the juice cup across the living room when he is done taking a sip instead of setting it down nicely. Quietly. Homestead-like.

In addition to having sticky carpets from leaking white grape juice, I also crunch when I walk. This is the result of goldfish crackers. Various cereals, crackers and the occasional potato chip can also be found and even though I vacuum every day - that's right ladies EVERY day - people just can't seem to keep it in the bowl. I am thinking about only offering soft snacks that do not crunch. Like fresh, warm homemade bread with better that I churned myself, just like Laura would. She would never had allowed such highly-processed snacks at her place!

Injury, although part of homestead life - especially on the prairie where Doc Baker lived all the way in town - has taken on new form here. Instead of accidentally gashing my leg with an ax while splitting wood or falling down a 100 foot mountainside looking for berries for those preserves, I have matchbox cars.

Annoyingly small, metal matchbox cars. I step on these things all the time. They seem to multiply like bunnies here. And those suckers hurt! Especially the Firefighter Adventure Set with the little ladders..... But the foot injuries don't stop there. Picture Laura - it is the middle of the night. She comes downstairs, candle in hand in her robe, planning on getting a drink of water or using the outhouse or something definitely middle-of-the-night- 'homesteadish'.

She reaches the bottom of the stairs and in her first steps across the dining area, she slams her big toe right into the BAO tractor and wagon set which sets of the "hello little farmer" greeting followed by the tractor roaring to life. The force of the blow has now sent Munchie the Cow, who rides on the wagon, flying across the room and landing on the VTech Tiny Talk Light-Up Phone, which starts flashing red and cheerfully proclaiming "1, 2, 3! Call a friend to play."

All this commotion in the dark freaks out the cat who was asleep in the chair. He goes flying off into the living room where he knocks into the box of legos, tips over the plastic shopping cart and sets off Chuck the Truck. Or as I like to call him, "Chuck the most annoying truck ever." Chuck is fond of saying "I'm Chuck. And I'm a dump truck. You call that heavy? I can take more." Such a mouthy, arrogant truck.

Did Laura get her water? Probably not. She was passed out from shock.

Did I get my Advil? Yes. And I really needed it at that point. Especially after the baby gate incident from earlier that night.

I was bringing a juice cup and a glass of milk to the little guy and Roy. As I stepped over the baby gate, my slipper got caught on the top and fell forwards to the floor. I juice cup went airborne, and leaked (no surprise there), the glass of milk hit the floor and I hit right on top of it with my upper left arm. How I did not get shards of glass embedded in my arm is a total mystery. I must have landed on it just right. I did manage to smack just about every other part of myself on something however. My face went right into the plastic toy lawnmower and I have tons of bruises on my legs from the gate. But the baby gate stayed in place, which goes to show that some baby stuff is made right. Sturdy little bit of plastic there.

Mu quest of the idyllic homestead is slowly fading into a haze of cracker crumbs and, as with everything else here, I have to find the balance. I can can all the peaches I want but I will still have to find the occasional matchbox car in the potty. It is hard to look around my house and see all this mess - the toys, the food, the unfinished projects, and we have been trying to limit the clutter and toys. But, like I said, it multiplies like a shed full of Easter bunnies.

So, like in the garden, I will streamline my approach here too. I can homestead all I want. I can sew and knit and garden and can and use my drying racks. I can save energy and turn off the tv and tend to my chickens. I can do everything I can to make this modern homesteading work for me, even if it means letting Munchie the Cow stay.

I'll bet that Laura did her fair share of cleaning up and stepping on all those wooden toys and blocks. Her cleaning of messes focused less on goldfish and more on poop-filled cloth diapers.

One positive note - I have seriously been considering the use of baby gates as supports for my tomato plants. Those things are sturdy!

Monday, February 7

Gardening+Toddler= ?

This will be my second year of gardening with a child. Last year was, dare I say it, not that bad. Nap times and Grandma time allowed me time in the garden for weeding and maintenance, although not as much as I would have liked. It was kind of fun having a 'helper' in the garden and I am happy that he is taking an interest in all things vegetable related. He helped dig in the dirt with his plastic orange shovel and ate peas and grapes right from the vines. He tried tomatoes but that did not go well. And, considering he was born in the garden, I am glad he likes to be out there.

Yes, he was born in the garden. I grew him. At least that is what I am telling him when he asks me "Mommy, where did I come from?". And I have the picture to prove it. When he had mastered the art of sitting up on his own I hauled him out to the garden, plopped him down in the middle of the pumpkin patch and took his picture. Looks like he just belonged there and everything.

This year however, it will be a different story. He will most likely still dig in the dirt and eat peas, but he is also much more moblie than last year. I take my eyes off him for a minute and he is gone. Multi-tasking will be the theme of this years garden.

He likes to help. With everything. Right now I have been learning how to browse through a seed catalog with a two year old climbing on me in fire engine jammies. He is facinated with the mini-post it's I use to mark pages in the catalogs, which usually means I have to re-post all the ones he pulled out. We flip through magazines sprawled out on the panda playmat in the dining room and I point out and discuss with him the various methods we are going to try for staking tomato plants and controling weeds.

I will need to multi task and plan ahead. This year I need to have a more streamlined approach as to what I grow and why - no more zuchinni for fun and fulfillment. Side note - isn't zuchhini the best - you can plant one little seedling and have a ton of 'produce' without really doing anything. My goal for this month is to figure out the level of gardening I want to accomplish this season. Plant what I know we will eat and what I know I can control.

Sunday, February 6

Ironheart, you will be mine.....

I think we are all getting pretty tired of winter around here. Yes, it can be pretty when the soft, fluffy flakes fall and the sun turns them all glittery. But then you have to shovel it.

The chickens are definitely showing signs of being fed up as well. More than a few of them are moulting so the group looks both annoyed and disheveled. Checking on them a few times a day to make sure they have non-frozen water and plenty of feed is probably the highlights of their day, especially since I bring them bread scraps each time I go out there. I check on things and then, on the way out, I toss them their treat and make a break for it. I don't want to leave them staring at me with those eyes......

Winter, my least favorite season, is not leaving us any time soon. And mid-February is about the time that I almost lose it. Winter is a bulky, cumbersome and awkward time for me. Big, heavy coats that make every movement more difficult, everything takes more time and slipping and sliding and trudging are a way of life. I hate winter even more this year in that I have a two year old who also must wear a bulky coat. Those of you who have children know how much fun it is to try and fasten a child wearing winter layers into a car seat. Winter, in conclusion, is burdensome.

And when I find myself chipping a little hole through the ice on my wind shied so I can see the road, I have serious thoughts about packing it in and moving to someplace warm. Hey, I have family in Nevada....... They allow water for gardens there, right?

But Mother Earth News came the other day and within the first few pages, I saw it. The thing that would make winter bearable for me.

A 3-in-1 Wood Cookstove. Its name is the Ironheart. And I am in love.

Having this beauty in my kitchen will make winter more survivable. I can picture it now - a fire roaring, heating my kitchen (which gets little heat from the pellet stove being on the other end of the house) and bringing to a boil my hearty winter stew. I am planning on soaking up every available ounce of heat that comes out of that thing. I love the pellet stove, but there is just no replacement for a good wood burning heat.

Small problem however. It is not cheap, and although there was once a wood burning stove in our kitchen (50 years ago), the connections would have to be redone. then there is that whole question of kitchen renovation which we have been saving for. This addition puts a pretty big addition on the budget.

So readers, if you are still reading this blog in about 5 years, I will be older and I will probably have two children, and I will tell you all about the wonderful new kitchen I have, complete with photos. Stay tuned.....

Wednesday, February 2

No blizzard. We got maybe 6 inches.

I know they do not create the weather, so I can not be mad at the weather man, but I can be a little disappointed in them. Exaggerating and aiming for the worst only gets people worked up. And today, they are still smiling and peppy and informing us of the "lite snow flurries we may get this afternoon." Admit your little mistake there... that's all I'm asking.

There will probably be more snow tonight but it is nothing we haven't seen before.

Tuesday, February 1

The Apocalypse, Armageddon and the End of Times

Apparently, it will be happening tonight. While we all sleep in our beds, warm under quilts.

The Apocalypse, Armageddon and the End of Times all rolled together in the perfect storm of.... snow. It is coming. There is no escape. Since no one in recorded history has ever seen snow before, we must all panic and speed to the grocery store.

I guess I am just very uninformed. Today the little guy and I went to Wegmans to get a few things - just some bread and yogurt and organic creamy peanut butter. No rush, just noticed we were low on these things, so we stopped on the way to my parents house.

Everyone else in a 20 mile radius was more informed than I was. They watched the weather man that morning, smiling and peppy, as he happily proselytized the massive monster heading our way. "It's in Chicago now and heading North East." Run for the hills, hide your daughters, and, most importantly, raid your local grocery store in a panicked frenzy.

Every time we have a storm, it is the same story. The weather people treat it as the worst thing to hit since the ice storm 1991. They get people thinking the worst, wringing their hands in worry. Normally logical and reasonable people are thrown into a state of hysteria.

And that is where we found ourselves - encased in a wall of people with shopping carts. We got our things - fast. No time for the free bakery kids club cookie - we couldn't even get into that department and the cookies were probably long gone anyway. They must have been someone who had oatmeal chocolate chip cookies on their "I can't survive without these cookies for 2 days" list.

We are under here. Somewhere.

Two things:

First, this is NEW YORK. We HAVE seen snow before. This is not 1860. We have snowplows and generators and netflix. There is no need to raid the stores for cheese puffs and pizza pockets. Get a grip here people. Don't get all caught up in the frenzy and go crazy. Think about it - how many of us grocery shop every day and buy just what we need for that day? No one I know! We all, homesteader or not, at least have a box of pasta and some tuna in the cupboard.

Second, this just makes we want to put another check mark in my mental list of "why I like homesteading." We have food here and we do not need to go out. We are prepared for things but we are not acting crazy. IF something BAD happens and we lose power, we can't get to the store, we get totally snowed it - we are ok. I remember the 1991 ice storm - I was 14. We had no power for weeks but we were ok. More on this later.

Yes, there is a winter storm coming. It might be bad and probably will dump a lot of snow on us here in Upstate NY. Just use common sense. If the roads are bad, stay home. Fill up a clean bathtub with water before you go to bed if you are worried about not having water. Cook a big pot of stew tonight and have it ready for tomorrow.

The only way I will freak out is if I look out the front window and see The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse parading down our road. (I would freak out a little less if they were pushing a snowplow).