Friday, April 30, 2010

Garden Update

I've been pretty absent from hanging out on the internet, well, actually pretty absent from being indoors. Spring has come on full-swing and I'm loving spending every minute outside. If I'm not playing with my puppy, I'm doing something in the garden.

The broccoli we have is doing very well. We had a few days of unusual 90 degree weather for April, so I was worried that this would cause it some stress. We're back to normal temperatures, around the 70's and 40's at night. It is thriving.
The red potatoes we planted are coming up. I've never grown potatoes so it was really exciting to see them sprout with their velvet-y looking foliage. I can't wait to see them continue growing!



We planted 2 rows of Silver Queen corn, RNH's favorite. We will plant two more rows, 2 weeks from then in order to get a decent crop all summer.








We finally planted cucumbers. Marketmore 76, and a pickling cucumber that I can't remember the name of right now. We planted one row on the very edge of the garden. We will build a trellis that extends off the garden for the cucumbers to grow on. That way the next row of cucumbers in the garden will have double the space they normally would to grow. We have not built the cucumber trellis yet, but I've got a while until it will be needed. I've read that you can grow things like lettuce, under the trellis, however I'm not really interested in that this year. Maybe next!
The garlic and onion are doing wonderfully.
The next days I have off I will be planting squash, zucchini, and okra! Can't wait!

*I wrote this post at the beginng of March. I kept forgetting to upload pictures! Hopefully I'll update the garden's current condition with pictures, its gotten pretty far along!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hilariousness in Free Ranging

Even if you don't own chickens or livestock of any sort, you've got to check out this blog! New Life On A Homestead The article is titled "Free Ranging Advice." The pictures are HILARIOUS!!!


RNH and only have chickens to let free range- maybe one day we'll have goats and pigs (if I could only talk him into it!!!) I don't have too many problems with the chickens standing on the hood of my car, but they do cause a bit of trouble...


My next door neighbor's grandson came to live with them for a bit. He is what some would call a thug-wannabe. He is about 14 years old and dresses with his pants down around his ankles. Anyways. He went complaining to his grandma one day about how Roo chased him. I will tell you, I would pay money to have seen that. Its not that I don't like the kid or anything- I've never spoken to him, but it is FUNNY!


She also told me that one day she heard some noise on her front stoop and opened up the front door to see all six chickens hanging out on her front door step. She told them to shoo and they did.


The chickens are also crossing the street. This makes me nervous because we live on a busy road and they're likely to get hit by car. I guess they've heard the joke, "Why did the chicken cross the road?" and they're trying to find the answer for themselves! Hardy har har!


Like I mentioned before, the chickens have found our newly planted apple trees to be a perfect spot for dust bathing. I'm afraid before too long they are going to expose the young plant's root ball and kill the tree. I'm going to need to monitor the situation. They also kick out all of the nicely placed mulch in the front beds that run along the front of our home. Not cool.


Roo has also found his favorite spot where he likes to crow. My deck. Right in front of my bedroom door. Of course, in the early morning. He also likes to leave huge globs of chicken poo on my deck, which then my Labrador likes to gobble up as soon as he walks out the door. And he'll surprise me with a huge, wet, sloppy kiss... and, well, you know where his mouth has been. YUCK!

Anyways- we're going to have to stop the free-ranging very soon. We're working on coop and run plans. We've finally got the miter saw that RNH was coveting... now we just need the money for all of the wood! No more scrap-coop for these chickens, we're going to make a nice home for them to live in 24-7. I'll miss having them run after me when its feeding time, but I know they'll be much safer that way!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Much Needed Home Improvement

May is a huge month for our little family. Not only will this upcoming month mark our first year of marriage, but it will mark our second year in our little home. The best thing about it all- we've been loving every second of it!

Over these past two years we've tried to make our home, "ours." The house was built in 1999 and had plain white walls with gold accents. RNH and I hate plain, and we hate gold. The plain part was easy to fix- I painted our entire house. The first half-year in our home RNH and I worked exact opposite shifts. That meant a ton of time by myself painting. I actually like painting interior walls and such, so it was fun. Now that 90% of our rooms have paint on the walls, I began tackling the gold accents. I hate them. This isn't like an antique gold or anything like that. It is straight gold. I started with the smallest room in our house, the master bath and began painting the trim, replacing the blinds and eventually the door knobs, with brushed nickle. I love it. The only problem with tackling the gold accents is that there are several door knobs in our house, and door knobs are surprisingly not cheap! I'm determined to do it, however. It just may take some time. So if you ever visit me and notice the mis-matched accents, just ignore them!

Anyways- short story made long... RNH and I had a huge gold chandelier in our living room. The room that we spend the most time in. The room that you first walk into when you enter our home. When I say huge, I mean HUGE. And its gold. You might see a chandelier like this in a million dollar home, however the home was probably built in the 1980's and the glass crystal parts are actually glass, instead of plastic like ours- and our home was nowhere near a million dollars. Oh, and the owners of such a chandelier would probably have paid to have someone clean the dang light piece over the past 12 years. Unlike our previous home owners. And of course I wasn't going to clean the nasty thing!

So our tax money arrived and RNH and I excitedly purchased a new ceiling fan to replace the ugly gaudy chandelier!!! I don't know if anyone can truly understand how great it felt to get rid of that ugly accent. It feels as good as buying a new car or something. It is absolutely WONDERFUL!
So we've lived in our home for 2 years now and we're finally getting things the way we want them. I guess they say that owning a home is always a work in progress and you'll never be done. At least we're one step closer! :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dandelion Wine

I mentioned a while ago that I got this book and recommended it for everyone. One of the chapters inside is on foraging off the land. The book has several suggestions for what you can do with dandelions. I had no idea that the plant was so useful! From roasted roots to make coffee, to the leaves for a salad, this plant is so versatile! I am going to try and use the flowers for dandelion wine! Not only is it fun and easy to make, but its almost free! Y'all know I love free!!!
I started off by picking about 3 and a half quarts of dandelion flowers. Then I sat out on the deck for hours (it was a beautiful, relaxing day!) and I took out the center of the flower. The books says that the more of the green you remove, the less bitter-tasting the wine will be. I don't like bitter, so I took the time and took off 99% of the green stuff. When I ended up doing more research online for other recipes and such, I saw that most people leave the green bottoms on. This process was pretty time-consuming, so next year I might leave the green on!

Dandelions are such a beautiful flower! Our yard is FULL of them! Its almost embarrassing, but whatever! We were told by our neighbor that the previous home-owner had turned over the entire yard three different times in the 10 years that they had lived in the home. Each time they tried different grass seed. Each time, the dandelions came back. Instead of trying to kill them, I guess we decided to live with them- and use them!

As you can see, I took the time and took off a majority of the green leaves and flower bottoms.

I then placed all of the flower pieces into a plastic bucket. RNH had previously used this bucket to make wine with scuppernong grapes last year. Unfortunately we put it in the garage with the grape juice in it last year and completely forgot about it until it was too late. We ended up having a really nasty smelling grape vinegar on our hands instead... Yuck! I am keeping the bucket in the kitchen this time so I will constantly be reminded that it is there every time I trip on it!

I then poured 2 gallons of boiling water over the petals and let it soak for three days. Because of my work schedule, the petals soaked for about 4 days, but I think it will be okay- especially since I took the greens off. If the greens had been on, I'm assuming the bitterness will really have seeped out.
After 3 (or 4!) days, I put the petals and water back on the stove and let it boil again. I stirred in a bunch of sugar, I think 3 or so cups? It was sweet to taste. Almost too sweet. I hope I didn't ruin it!

After the sugar was dissolved, I took the rinds of two oranges and two lemons and put them in to simmer along with the rest of the mixture for an hour. After the hour was up, I poured the mixture back into the plastic bucket. I had to monitor the liquid until it cooled to 70-75F degrees, which took about an hour or so. Once it had cooled to that temperature, I poured active yeast over a piece of bread and laid the bread on top of the mixture and covered the bucket with the lid.

That sat for three days (actually I think 4!). After this I took wine bottles and put several golden raisins in the bottom of each one. I then strained out the bread and fruit and poured the wine over the raisins into the bottles. I made 4 bottles of wine. On the top of each bottle, I placed a balloon with a tiny hole. This will allow the gases to escape out of the bottle, without letting a lot of air into the wine. I didn't take pictures of this.

The bottles are now sitting in my closet going through their processes. I check on them every once and again. Once the balloons are mostly deflated, I will strain the liquid through a cheese cloth and it will go back into the wine bottles with a balloon on top until the yeast finishes. I will have to do this about 3 or 4 times I think. (I'm not to that point just yet!) Once the balloons don't inflate any more, I will cork the bottles and leave them in a cool dark place for a year before I can taste it. I'm not sure I'll be able to wait that long...!!!

In the meantime, I made a Boston Creme pie from scratch. It was in a Hershey's recipe book. I was disappointed at first because it wasn't that great. The recipe says to let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. But who can resist tasting it right after its put together?!?! The next day, once the entire pie had cooled.... SHOOO-WEEE! I can't tell you how good this thing was! It looks pretty and tastes even better! YUM!


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dust Bath?

My chickens have decided that the best place to have their dust bath is in the newly planted apple tree. Which of course, its not going to be good for the tree. I'm thinking about making a dust box for them. I've read blogs about quite a few people making them. They seem to be pretty successful with their chickens actually using the box. We'll see.

RNH finally got his miter saw that he has been dreaming about for forever. I'm thinking he might have to make the chickens a box!
The indoor kitty, Chloe, decided that she wanted to see what all the fuss was about with these chickens. They all hung out together for about 15 minutes! Chloe just sniffed around them, and Roo, the guardian rooster, didn't seem to mind her hanging out!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Found: Tort!

RNH and I were walking out the door to try out a 4-mile run on the road in front of the house (it was bad!) and almost stepped on a baby turtle!!!
He was about the size of a quarter.So cute!
I was tempted to keep him, but we released him. Hopefully he'll make it!

I named him Tort, in the few moments that we had with him. As I was running I almost stepped on another one the same size as Tort. I put him back in the grass. Hopefully he'll make it too! I love spring when all of the baby animals come out!!!
Mom is coming up this weekend. With the Umstead Coalition Run and possibly a Durham Bulls game, we've got a full weekend planned. I'll be MIA, but I'll be having fun!!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spark People!

My sister graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in Health and Fitness, and for years now she has worked as an athletic instructor/coordinator, etc. She now has two children and looks absolutely fabulous. I'm jealous of her now, and can only hope after I have kids I look the way she does. Anyways- I can always go to her for health and fitness, as well as nutrition advice.

A few days ago she e-mailed me a link to SparkPeople. Spark People is a FREE website where people can track their caloric intake, fitness, weight, and all sorts of other goals. It was created not to help people loose weight, but to change people's life style for the better. Most websites like ediets.com and weightwatchers.com cost, but this one doesn't. It works by word-of-mouth. So I'm doing my part because I love this site!
Nutrition:
I really like this part. I exercise on a pretty regular basis, but the eating part is what gets me. I love to shove all sorts of stuff in my mouth without thinking. Especially at work. I'm not bored by any means at work, but its like no-thinking eating. My office is a car. It is super easy for me to stop in at the local Quickie Mart and grab a candy bar, chips or slurpee. Thankfully I also have the internet in my car, so I have been keeping this website up at all times while at work. This has REALLY helped me curb my mindless eating. I really like the website because it has "real" food. Spark People have added popular foods so when you eat a Fiber One Oats and Chocolate Chewy Bar, you add this to your daily foods and the calories, fat, carbs, vitamins, etc are specific for that food. You don't have to "guess" on how many calories you're adding. It also breaks down each meal for you, so you know if you ate too much for breakfast, you better slow down for lunch! The best part is it does a report for you at the end of every day. It breaks down your food for the day and tells you if the majority of your calories have come from Carbs, Fat or Protein and breaks it down. It then gives you suggestions for ways to improve your diet.

Water:
This is just an extra on the website, but you can track your water intake for the day. There is a fun little glass on the front page where you can push the "up" button for each cup of water you drink. I am not a water drinker. I could go the whole day and forget that I haven't drank anything. Its not that I drink a ton of soda or any other drink, I just don't drink. This has to be bad for my body! But now that I've been using this website, I have been drinking the 8 cups of water a day. And peeing... a lot!

Fitness:
This part is pretty cool too. They can hook you up with a workout program and even suggest different strength training exercises with instructions and everything. Since my work schedule is crazy, I can't really get on a regular exercise "program" but I'm using it to track what I do the days I can. It also shows you how many calories you burn doing the exercise. Very cool.

Weigh-In:
You track your weight, as well as any measurements that you'd like. I haven't measured anything yet because I should probably do that in the privacy of my own home, not at work while I'm driving around in my "office." :)

My Goals:
Hopefully the more-public I make these, the more I'll be likely to follow through! I'll keep you updated. I am 5'8 with, what I would call, an athletic build. I've always played sports, and up until I graduated college, played some sort of "sport" on a regular basis. Since college, I've been stuck to "gyming-it" for any sort of exercise. I'm not fat, but I've got some chunk in places I'd rather not have it- including my stomach, arms, and back of my thighs. Yuck! I also have none, as in zero muscle definition, despite how much I lift weights. I think it may be a genetic thing, but also because the amount of body fat I'm carrying. Anyways- I'm heading to the beach the last week of May. I'd like to go from 154lbs to 145lbs. I have not weighed 145 since high school. I'm not that far from my goal, but since I haven't been under 150 about 6 years, the goal is sort of hard for me to get to. Thanks to Spark People, the website has created a "diet" for me to follow- as in, my caloric intake should be between 1,300-1,500 a day to drop the weight by the last week of May. Simple enough, but I had no clue how many calories I was really putting in my body. With all of the "dieting" I will continue to exercise as I am currently, including strength training. Hopefully by following the structured caloric intake they've set for me, as well as my regular exercise, I'll get to my goal by beach time. If not, I won't be disappointed. I'll probably try to keep this up until I reach my goal. Maybe even after!

Fun Stuff:
I love when the warmer weather comes and every "cause" is holding some sort of walk or run. I've signed up for two already, the most important one to me, The Run For Our Heroes, as well as the Umstead Coalition run. The first is a 5k, and the second is a 4-mile run. I run a 5k on a treadmill about 2 times a week. I've been running consistently at a 26 to 27 minute rate for 3.1 miles. I would love to get that time down to around the 24 or 25 minute mark. I'm working hard to get it down but I'm not sure it will be possible. Whenever I push myself to run faster, I end up having to walk in order to get the "stitch" out of my side, or to get my breath back. The last time I ran, I ran at an 8:40 minute mile pace, and that was even with about a minute of walking to get my breath back. If I can go without that walking, I'd be down to an 8:30 minute mile. Sweet! The runs are coming up this month, so I doubt I'll make my goal, but it might be something I continue to try for throughout the summer. Plus- this is on a treadmill. Who knows if it is actually accurate, and if I'll run slower when outside on the pavement. We'll see. Can't wait though!