March 11, 2014

This Week on the Homestead

Last week, finally, we were pleased to find a calf in the barn!  We had a feeling about one of our cows calving first due to the signs, but sometimes you just don’t know for sure.  By the time we saw the calf, Mama already had it dried off and it was nursing like there was no tomorrow.  Its legs didn’t even seem wobbly, so we figure it was at least twenty four hours old already.  It is a beautiful chocolate brown with a fuzzy coat that makes it look like a little teddy bear.  The chocolate coats usually turn to black by the time they are full grown, but I sure wish they’d stay a chocolate color.  The Highland calves are the cutest calves ever (of course I’m bias about that).  We were sure another calf would come last night being that it was supposed to be so cold, but thankfully, there wasn’t a new calf this morning.  What a blessing to not have to be out in the cold helping with a birth.  Some friends of ours were out helping deliver lambs in that terrible cold and snow, I just couldn’t imagine!  That must be why we are so attached to our extremely hardy Highlands.  They don’t take much work at all unless a cougar comes through here and pounces on a calf.

We did venture out in the cold yesterday before the sun went down.  We wanted to spread some grass seed before the snow came and after the birds went to bed.  By then the wind had picked up terribly, so all I had to do was throw the seed into the air and the wind spread it perfectly for me.  Never mind that my bare hands were frozen stiff by the time we were done, but now I’m looking forward to fresh green grass in the spring. 

One thing I genuinely love about the Ozarks, is that you can put complete strangers together in a room who love bluegrass and can play an instrument and they can spend hours playing, singing, laughing and telling stories.  We enjoyed a night like that this past weekend.  Something extra special happens in those places that you just hardly see anymore.  The children are eager to learn from their elders of all ages.  They will soak it up like a sponge and the rest of the world fades away.  Traditions from generations gone by are kept alive during this time and passed on for the children to teach their grand-children.  Heritage is treasured.  Words cannot describe what happens to the soul by music and musical fellowship.  We simply feel very blessed to have these opportunities.  One thing I do know, is that our daughter is a much richer person for it and so is our family and we thank those who are so giving of their knowledge and talent.  Another treasured sight to see is how much the older generations value the children’s eagerness to learn the old ways and music.  We all become a musical family and relationships are built that last a lifetime.  We watch this process continue every week.  If your child ever expresses any interest in playing an instrument, I would strongly urge you to do whatever is necessary to follow up on that interest, but don’t let them just set it aside when it gets difficult.  Surround them with others who play the music they are interested in for encouragement.  Practicing an instrument alone is no fun.  We would not have known all of this if it hadn’t been for someone in the area, that we are extremely blessed to have, who gave us the encouragement necessary to get involved. 

At the moment, there is homemade potato soup bubbling away on the stove, the chickens are enjoying their shredded greens and yogurt, the sun is shining on top of the fresh snow and the sewing machine is waiting for me to find my thread box.  I am learning the art of taking a pair of jeans and turning it into a skirt….nope, I still don’t have it done, but we’ll see how it turns out.  If the weather gets as nice as they are saying, it might be the last thing we sew around here for months.  The eggs in the incubator should be hatching soon and we just finished making a nice big brooder box from a sheet of plywood that I’m awful pleased with.  Hopefully next week I can report on the chicks!

February 14, 2014

A Variety of Chicken Eggs and Colors

Aren't these beautiful?

We have been getting such a wonderful variety of colors when gathering eggs lately, that I couldn't resist putting them all in a row for comparison.  The darkest ones are from my favorite hen that is actually a mix between a French Blue Copper Maran and a French Wheaten Maran.  Also there are a barnyard variety of Welsummers,  Black Australorp, Barnevelders, French Black Copper Marans, Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, Barred Rocks, Silver Laced Wyandottes, other odds and ends and even some Rumpless and Tufted Araucanas.  

The general chicken yard is a colorful array of birds just like the eggs pictured here.  

There are several we have separated for the purpose of preserving the purity of the breed for hatching eggs, but some are a bit mismatched that we run together for eating egg purposes.

If you are not familiar with chickens and the different varieties, take some time and have fun looking at a few of the breeds I've mentioned.  Their personalities and behavior are as large a variety as their colors!

I do have to add that raising chickens is not for the faint of heart.  Sometimes, no matter what you do, you will lose a few.  Usually they are your favorite ones.  At least it seems to be that way.  The mean, vicious rooster you wish would disappear will live for ten years!  Just kidding.  

Make no mistake, we have had some of our greatest moments as a family raising these birds.  We spend time together researching which breeds we'd like, making wish lists like it was Christmas.  We also spend a lot of time together hatching out chicks, caring daily for them, doctoring them, building coops and the best part is simply enjoying them being chickens out in the fields.  Oh, until the hawk swoops in and gives us all a heart attack!  Seriously.  There is no end to battling the forces of nature when you are investing your hard earned time and money down this road.  Every time our guineas "sound off" at night, one of us is at the window with the flash light looking for signs of a raccoon or possom.  We keep the gun loaded and show no mercy, otherwise, our favorite broody hen or best laying hen will be their dinner.  It never fails.

I hope you enjoy researching some of these beautiful breeds!

February 10, 2014

Lavender Orpington Chickens

This is an update for all of you who fell in love with the little silver chicks we brought home last spring.

The top picture is of two of these baby chicks that are now full grown roosters.  We sadly lost one little chick, but our Lavender Orpington flock is complete with two roosters and three hens.  

If you'd like to keep up with what is going on in our chicken world, or would like to purchase any of our hatching eggs, find our Poultry page on Facebook under Ozark Mountain Poultry Farm.  Send us a friend request, we'd love to add you!

January 29, 2014

This Week on the Homestead

So how many of you have had their fingers just itching to get into the dirt with this January thaw?  

I know I have!  I did not give in to it, but instead have been gathering eggs to incubate.

Hatching eggs is a bit more rewarding when starting this early in the season compared to planting.  I have learned that from experience and have had a greenhouse over run with so many plants that I didn’t have room for them all. 

Our first hatch will be some beautiful Lavender Orpington eggs and hopefully some French Blue Copper Maran eggs.  If you aren’t sure what types of chickens these are, be sure to look them up. 

It is a long story of how we got into all of the different varieties.  Our daughter absolutely loves chickens.  We had several run of the mill birds for laying eggs, but she would pour over the pages of the egg catalogs, studying every breed she could find.  One day my husband gave her an assignment.  She was to list ten different rare breeds that were popular and the reasons for why they were popular.  Most of the reasons listed were for hardiness and a high demand for hatching eggs and chicks.  She worked very hard researching her list and spoke to many professional chicken people before composing her list.  Then my husband told her to chose her favorite top three breeds.  She chose the Rumpless Araucanas, the Lavender Orpingtons and the Barnevelders. 

It has been quite a long year with learning how to raise them, but we are finally at the point of hatching out our own eggs.  Through all of this learning period, I found a few breeds of my own that I absolutely had to have thanks to some new “chicken” friends (I won’t mention any names, but you know who you are).  My favorite breeds are the French Black Copper Marans and the French Blue Copper Marans.  My most recent little flock are called Icelandics.  They are the most interesting to me and very rare. 

We aren’t able to hatch a whole bunch at once until we acquire another incubator, but I am saving up for it!  Probably a good thing or the chicken house would be overrun with chicks a long time before spring!

Once we get the eggs all set for hatching, I may not be able to resist starting some seeds. 

The steadiness of the seasons is comforting, especially at this valley in our families life.  

My father, the patriarch of my maiden family, is slipping away into glory.  

I cannot say enough about all of the wonderful caregivers that have helped us through this journey.  We have been blessed with a physician that is an incredible testament to his profession.  We have brought my father home to spend his last days in comfort.  

The physician himself has visited often and each time kneels beside my father’s bed and with tears in his eyes, he prays.  He has been my parents physician for several decades and during that time became a treasured friend.  I share this part of our journey with you for those who have walked this path and for those who are walking it now.  May the Lord bless you with His peace and comfort.  For without it, this journey is unimaginable.  I treasure these sacred moments with my father, but I will meet him again one day and he will be watching for me.

Life is a blessing.  I see God’s hand each day during this time and in everything, even as small as hatching out little chicks.  I thank Him for the rhythm of life, the steadiness of the seasons and am grateful when I am able to slow down enough to notice the small details of what makes life glorious.  Our life is but a vapor, a wisp in time.  

Because of those sacred moments, I will forever have etched deep in my mind and senses the gaze of my father looking deeply into my eyes and hearing him say the words "you are a wonderful daughter" and the warmth of his hand cradling my cheek as I wept while saying good-bye....yes, he will be watching for me.

December 12, 2013

This Week on the Homestead

What a beautiful, crisp, fluffy snow we’ve gotten!  We didn’t get enough ice to bother us much, which is a wonderful blessing.  Watching the snow fall here in the woods was quite a sight to behold though.  With all of the impending winter storm warnings we received, we had plenty of time to replenish the wood pile, add some much needed insulation to the chicken coop, bed the bunnies down with extra hay, and fill the bird feeders all the way to the top.  The only thing left to do was to snuggle in and watch the beauty of the snowfall.  Even though the weather causes a bit of extra work with frozen water and difficulty getting around, we love how it seems to slow down time a bit too.  Life seems to move at a slower pace and that is a true blessing.  Did you know that scripture refers to this weather as a “treasury of snow”?  Job 38:22-30 is an extremely interesting section to read regarding not only the importance of snow, but how treasured it is.  I know farmer’s treasure the snow very much.  Up north, where it gets extremely cold, the snow is greatly treasured to safeguard not only the plants, but it also safeguards against frozen pipes and septic systems.  One year, there wasn’t a significant snowfall before the below zero temps came and everyone was scrambling to protect their underground assets with tons of straw.  Growing up here in the Ozarks, those steps of precaution were new to me since we never seem to need to do that here.  Of course, the winters up north introduced me to a lot of new things that I won’t bore you with, but needless to say, winters here in the Ozarks are a breeze in comparison.

It is hard to believe that we are well into the month of December already.  It is time for all that scrumptious baking that we don’t do the rest of the year, including those extra sweet goodies that we guard against except for during Christmas time.  One of our favorite treats (and extremely easy, so easy you won’t believe it) that we like to make is Christmas Bark.  

It can be made as Peppermint, Chocolate, Toffee, Cherry, or whatever type of baking chips you prefer.  It’s best to use a cookie sheet with shallow sides and then line the bottom of it with saltine crackers.  

In a saucepan, combine 1 cup butter and 1 cup dark brown sugar.  
Bring it to a boil and boil for 3 minutes.  
Immediately pour it over your crackers and spread it to cover your crackers.  
Have your oven ready at 400° and bake for 5 to 6 minutes.  
Remove from your oven and sprinkle 2 cups of chocolate chips (or whatever flavored chips you like) over the top.  
Let it set for about 5 minutes for the chips to get soft, then spread them evenly.  
Top with pecans or Christmas colored M&M’s or fun sprinkles or use several toppings.  
Let it cool completely and then break apart.  

This is a really fun kitchen project for even the young children.  We sometimes like to use a combination of chips to swirl them together too.  The ones made with the toffee chips are extremely delicious with the butter and brown sugar combination.  Also, a batch of these makes great Christmas gifts!

Now my mouth is watering.  We are heading out today to do some Christmas baking shopping and you better believe those ingredients are on my list!  Maybe I can get home in time to make some today.  I hope you are enjoying some time in the kitchen with your children and/or grandchildren this season.  Those memories for them and us are priceless!

Have a blessed week and especially remember to not burden yourself with a flurry of activity that causes you to lose sight as to what Christmas is truly about.  It can be so easy to do.  Being peaceful and content can also be a great gift to others because it can be contagious and what a great feeling to spread!

November 11, 2013

This Week on the Homestead

Life has been so busy with preserving the abundance of apples and pears we have been blessed with this year.  We still have some that we will be making apple pie filling with and jar up some simple Apples for Apple Cobbler.  We've made several batches of Apple Butter too, but I did it a bit different this year.  Instead of using regular sugar, I added maple syrup and honey until it was sweet enough for me.  Recipes tend to call for too much sweetener so I just add a half cup at a time until it is just right.  You can click on this Apple Link for all the apple posts.

As you know, I haven't gotten around to post the third part on our barn project, but I am gathering the pictures for it so hopefully I can get that post done soon.

One of the duties on my plate recently has been to write an article for four local newspapers each week.  Why I haven't been sharing them with you.....well I just didn't think of it!  The article is basically about things that I would post on this blog, so this morning while I was writing, it dawned on me to begin to share them with you.  

Unlike the newspaper article though, I can share up to date pictures with you.  For instance, the above picture is of our favorite fiddler in our woods from this past week.  I couldn't resist trying to capture the beauty of Autumn, especially with the music bouncing off the trees (sorry I couldn't capture that for you).  

The scenery was our outside joy this past week, while our inside joy has been a warm fire in the stove during the cool evenings.  

Ok, well on to the weekly article: 


What a beautiful week it has been!  Just when we thought our warm days were gone, we are blessed with a blue sky and a warm sun, which allowed us lots of time to do some finishing up around the place for winter. 

With such nice weather during the past week, we enjoyed turning the chickens loose to chase the bugs and scratch through the leaves to their hearts content.  Day by day, we noticed one missing here and there.  The final tally is that five have gone missing.  We happened to find one yesterday, but there have been no signs of the others.  We’ve run down the list of possible predators, coon, possum, hawk, fox, weasel….it has all happened in the early afternoon from what we can tell and it has been one at a time.  Black bears and even a cougar have been spotted in this area, but they don’t tend to be chicken predators.  We have guard dogs, but sometimes they sleep pretty heavy in the afternoon and the chickens tend to wander over into the fields where we can’t see all of them.  All of the ones that disappeared have been smaller pullets with the exception of an older rooster.  After all that has happened, we decided to keep the chickens in the chicken yard and turn the guineas loose.  I’d like to see whatever it is try to get one of them, at least without a ruckus that gives them away.  Guineas travel in a flock and tend to create havoc when anything out of the ordinary happens.  One of the reasons we have them is to alert the chickens to danger, but it can tend to get a bit old when they enjoy raising a fuss even when the wind changes directions. 

On Sunday we enjoyed a long overdue visit from some friends of ours from Springfield.  Some people would consider their family of seven large, but around here, a family of seven is just getting started!  The children seemed to thoroughly enjoy being turned loose in the woods and interacting with the animals and birds.  There is something about the freedom of a child being a child when they can get back to nature and truly learn hands on from God’s creation.  The sun set came too fast and they had to say goodbye, but the squeals, giggles and joy of the children linger in the trees.  I’m not exactly sure the chickens were sad to see them go. 

Our weekly visit to the nearest town is always heartwarming.  Instead of just going to town to shop for necessities, we live in an area where going to town means seeing friends and neighbors.  That is one of the things we love about a small town.  People know you by name and are quick to say hello, shake your hand or hug your neck and share the latest news until time demands you move along to finish your list before returning home.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  We even stopped by the local vet this week only to find a beautiful draft horse there being prepped for the gelding process.  Not only was our daughter allowed to watch, but she was recruited to help.  Much to her joy, it was quite the experience she will never forget.

I understand that we are facing some colder weather for the next several days so I’ll say goodbye for this week in order to stock up on the fire wood and transplant some of the plants that I want to bring in.    

Have a blessed week! 

September 09, 2013

Barn Home Project ~ Part 2

Let's see, where did I leave off?  We picked a beautiful spot, cleared the trees, leveled the ground, anxiously awaited getting the well drilled, brought in too many loads of gravel to count, and got everything ready for the concrete.

The top picture is of the trees being cleared for the electricity to be put in.  Believe me when I say that we fretted something awful about this part.  This location is heavily wooded and they were telling us that they would cut a 40' swath of trees.  It may not look that bad in the picture, however, nothing could have prepared us for what looked like a tornado had gone through.  Prior to the clearing of the trees, you couldn't see into the woods very far.  After they were done, we could see clear over to the next pasture.  It has kind of grown on us though since we can see our Scottish Highlands lazily grazing over there through the front picture window.

Next came the concrete trucks.  

We still don't know how the concrete trucks got all the way up the hill, but we are grateful they did.  One of the other things we had to consider was a place for these trucks to turn around.  After clearing the trees for the electricity, we absolutely refused to take out one more tree.  Thankfully, the concrete trucks were able to circle the house to turn around.  

It was fun watching these men work together in unison.  They had a great sense of humor....until after the concrete was hard they informed me, with a dead pan face, that this was their first concrete job, they were just hesitant to tell me before they did it.  Needless to say, I was not amused, however the joke was on me and they thought they were hilarious!

This concrete process began early in the morning, took all day and into the wee hours of the next morning.  The Amish crew has a driver that also works on the construction crew.  When the sun began to set, the driver headed for the nearest hardware store to get some big construction lights.  The sun went down and we still couldn't see any lights up at the construction site.  About 9:00 p.m., I headed up there in our truck and saw a sight I never will forget.  As I topped the hill, my lights came upon Amos with the machine that smooths out the concrete surface.  He was working in utter darkness while he waited for the driver to bring back the lights.  Leaving my lights on, I quickly jumped out of the truck to ask how on earth he was still working in the dark.  His only response was 'I can feel my way along'.  Our concrete was incredible when he was finished.  

It was also fun to see how quick they framed the walls in.  

The water on the floor is from melted snow.  Remember this is still winter, lol.  

This back wall is the kitchen area.  We designed it with one long counter and no top cabinets in order to capture the beautiful Ozark Mountain view.  We picked this spot specifically for the view and I wasn't going to cover it with kitchen cabinets.  The long opening now accommodates four windows with the kitchen sink centered in front of them.  One thing I have learned from the design of an Amish house is the joy of having a large pantry so we designed one into the plans and won't have any lack for space regarding cabinets.  Here is a picture showing the outside of the back wall.  Part of this design is open from the back kitchen wall to the front living room wall to enable the wonderful breeze that blows across the hills.  It keeps the house cooler in the summer which is truly a blessing! 

Below is a shot from the outside showing the shop/garage wall.  We are planning to someday, Lord willing, build a kind of a lean to off this end for storage purposes.

Below is the front wall taken from inside.  As I referenced earlier in this post, if you look through the center window, you can see the cattle up on the next hill.  Just ignore the ugly electric pole!  We will probably end up growing something in that area so we don't have to look at the electric poles.

Here the roof is fixing to get put on.  Do you see this little concrete pad sticking out in the middle of nowhere?  We had leftover concrete and had to come up with something quick to do with it, so we made a spot for a little patio.  We knew we might have a small amount of extra concrete so we framed an 8' by 10' area for a chicken coop, but then there was still extra so we thought of the patio idea.  Since the framework was still in place for the foundation, Amos refused to put it as close as possible.  He said it would look like a mistake, which he could not tolerate, lol.  So we put it out a ways and built a little porch between it and the house.  I plan to plant several kitchen herbs in that area so they will be handy for me to step outside and pinch off when I need them.  

In order to remind us that this was still indeed winter, a beautiful snow fell and the winds turned very cold.

However, the work continued and we began to really see it take shape.

Remember, if you have any questions, be sure to ask!  I'll go searching for more pictures for Part 3, until then, have a blessed week!


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