Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tell Your Time - Just What I Needed

Lately it seems the prayer most often escaping my lips is "Lord, help find the time to get this all done!   Please!"  I look at all the people and things vying for a chunk of my time - all of which seem to be good, if not great - and have no clue how to make it all happen.

Something has to give.  Is sleep really that important?

Over the years, I've read several time management books, but with way things have been going lately, I needed another shot in the arm.  A BIG shot in the arm!

Enter Tell Your Time,  a short (20 minutes to read), to-the-point and right on book about breaking down your to do list into what really matters.  I'd forgotten that I really can decided what is non-negotiable in my life and in the life of our family!  It was so great to find a time management tool that is user friendly (worksheets included) and doesn't require hours to figure out and implement.

I can "tell" my time what to do and make it work for the joy of myself, my family and others - all to the glory of God!

Check it out!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

And Now She is Three...

Today, the youngest Young'un turned three years old.  What fun! And whew!  Birthdays are work, but it's good work. 

Elaborate gifts are something which doesn't usually happens here on the Little Farm.  Mostly this is an economics thing -  5 kids x cost of elaborate birthday gifts = a big hole in the family budget.

We try to make each child's day special in other ways.  Afterall, it's not all about the gift when you get right down to it.

Young'uns here get to choose the menu for breakfast and dinner on their special day.  We also decorate the dining room where we eat these meals and we tend to linger over the meals a bit longer, too.  Oh yes, the birthday guy or gal also eats their meal off of the "You Are Special" plate.  If I forget this part, one of the kids remembers every time!  Apparently, the plate is a big deal.

At some point during the day usually during a meal, the Big Guy and I recount the "Day You Were Born" story.  Even though it is pretty much the say each year (the details don't change after all), they all love it!  I love hearing what the older kids have to add to the stories of the younger ones.  It's fun hearing their versions of when I went to the hospital and what they did while we were gone or what they thought when they first saw their new sibling. 

I chose the breakfast menu this morning because Abby would have picked sandwiches.  Call me strange, I just have trouble with sandwiches at 7:30am.  We had chocolate chip pancakes.  She had one in the shape of a 3 with a candle in it.  She was completely enamored!

Abby's dinner choice dogs. 

"Do you want anything with the hot dogs?" I asked.

"No thank you.  Just hot dogs," she replied.

We had hot dogs with a few side dishes and she was very happy.

For the most part, everyone gets a birthday party each year between ages 4 and 10.  Their party is part of their gift for us.  Again, nothing elaborate, but still fun.  We've had army, Lego, tea party, spy, Star Wars and pirate parties.  We've had parties where guest spent the whole time cutting out and decorating (and eating) sugar cookies or making structures and weapons out of duct tape. The whole family gets into the planning and preparing.  It's good stuff and we do it at home.

Everyone gets to put in their 2 cents about the cake on their birthday also.  I've made the Millennium Falcon, a army battle which took place on a camo cake, a pirate ship complete with an island and about 25 lbs of cookie dough.

This year has been the year of the dog cake.  Ellie, our oldest daughter, turned 7 earlier this month.  She had an animal party and wanted a dog cake.  Apparently, this dog made an impression on Abby because when asked she wanted a dog cake too.  Ellie's cake was a brown beagle looking sort of thing.  Abby wanted a pink poodle.  Hmmmmm....

Here is the result.  She was very happy!

Not exactly a poodle...but she isn't too picky.

So, it was a good day.  When I tucked her in, Abby declared this the "best birthday I ever hadded."  She's only had 3 and I'm pretty sure she can't remember either one of her 2 other birthdays, but I'll still take it.  Abby Grace is ready to take on the next year.

I'm feeling a bit sad, however.  At some point today, I picked her up and she took my face between her hands as she does several times each day to give me a kiss on each cheek.  (There's a whole French thing going on here...we've no clue from whence it comes.  Odd.) 

When she grabben my face, I realized there's been a change in her hands.  They felt more like thing little kids hands and less like chubby toddler hands.  Sigh.  I've seen this happen four times already, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

The red thing in her hand is a pack of gum.  HER own pack of gum which she got for a gift.  She tried to go to sleep with it.

Welcome to 3 Abby Grace!  We can't wait to see God work in your life this year.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The 2010 Harvest is Done

 Tomatoes and Applesauce galore!

Isn't it amazing that what's in this photo turned into lots of what's in the photo above?

Whew!  It's all in.  The garden is cleaned out and put to sleep.  (OK, almost cleaned out.  We've still got some lettuces, kale and carrots which are still chugging away out there.) 

If you've read the Little Farm from time to time over this past spring and summer, you know it hasn't been the best year for growing things in our neck of the woods.  Lots of rain...lots and lots.  The Farm is also basically located on what used to be swamp which means it's one low lying piece of ground.  This is great in years which are dry, but not so good in years like the one we've just had.

Our harvests weren't as big this year, but we're thankful to our Provider for all we did get.  Thinking about it all makes me in the mood for Thanksgiving. 

Dilly beans, pie filling, various jellies and salsas and the cereal stockpile.

Here's what we've canned, frozen or otherwise stored in our basement:

20 pints strawberry jam
1 gallons of whole strawberries
80 cups of shredded zucchini
82 cups of green beans
15 quarts of dilly beans
30 cups of corn
8 cups of kale
15 quarts of salsa
10 quarts of Italian tomatoes
10 quarts of Mexican tomatoes
18 quarts of diced tomatoes
3 gallons of roasted tomatoes - frozen
2 gallons of whole tomatoes - frozen
30 quarts of tomato soup
35 quarts of apple sauce
22 quarts of apple pie filling
9 pints apple butter
48 cups sliced apples - frozen
3.5 quarts of pears
7 pints corn relish
5 pints tomatillo salsa
1 gallon ziploc full of cubes of pesto
1/2 gallon of fresh basil frozen in ice cubes
10 pounds of purple potatoes - they are really cool!

Here is what we ate fresh all summer:
peppers - not too many of these
fresh salsa (I have dreams about this stuff!)
green beans
mixed greens - arugula, lettuces, spinach, etc.
egg plant
various herbs
sugar snap peas
swiss chard -not much
rhubarb - not much

Please know we didn't actually grow ALL of the above.  The corn and apples were given to us and we bought about 2 1/2 bushels of tomatoes.  We did do all of the processing once these things got into our house.  Didn't want to mislead anyone...

Oh yes, one more thing I don't think I've mentioned.  We live in a home built in the 1870's, thus the basement with walls made from river stone.  When we initially looked at the house and saw the basement walls and the gigantic hand hewn beams which form the basement ceiling, I was a bit nervous.  After all, we were from California and this house wasn't screaming "Earthquake Proof" to me.  The Big Guy assured me this house would be standing for a LONG time and gently reminded me we weren't in CA anymore.

But back to what I was saying...  The basement is not the prettiest part of our house, but it does the job.  I'm really letting you all see the good, the bad and the UGLY now.  Maybe someday I'll post photos of The Closet of Chaos...maybe.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chickens on the Farm, A Drama in Three Parts, Part One

The Gals of 2009

This is our second year of having chickens here on the Farm.  We like them.  Not only do they provide us with yummy, healthy, non-contaminated (remember the big egg recall this summer) eggs, the Gals are also a source of entertainment and a chance for the Young'uns to learn a bit more responsibility and good work habits. All in all, chickens are a good deal.

Last year, we got day old chicks in late April/ early May.  The four little babies were cute (yes, I am saying this about an animal) and lived out their first week or so in a Rubbermaid tub on a table in our dining room.  Ellie took to carrying her chick around in her sweatshirt pocket which is not something I'd recommend.  Young chicks apparently don't like such treatment and we had to find a replacement chick for the one which Ellie loved a bit too much.  We had lots of visitors (young kids), all curious and wanting to hold our new Farm residents.  It was such fun to watch them!

Totally amazed!

When they got a bit bigger, the chickens moved into the basement where they stayed for about 3 weeks.  They seemed to like their little blue swimming pool home.  We hung a heat lamp over them to make sure they stayed warm enough.  During this time, pretty much every visitor to our home made the trip to our scary basement to see how much the Gals had grown.

While the chickens were going from newborns to adolescents (in just a few weeks), Farmer Ron was building them a swanky chicken tractor.  He spent a good deal of time looking around the Internet at different types of coops.  Ours ended up being a bit of a few different coops he liked all rolled into one. 

A bit older here.  See the more adult feathers on their wings?

FYI- Farmer Ron is not the handiest of men; he just doesn't roll that way.  A man can't be good at everything, after all!  However, he did a great job on the coop!  I was proud of him and the Gals seemed to approve when they moved in around mid-June.

Our poultry residents spent their first couple of weeks out in the real world in our back yard.  They'd poke around the yard during the day and head into their coop at night.  We had to put boards around the bottom of our fence because those things can squeeze through some pretty small spaces!  It was amazing to see how many fewer weeds our yard had while they were back there.  Also, the grass in the spots where their coop sat (chicken tractors are designed to be moved) grew like crazy.  The grass in those places was a deep, dark pretty green and completely weed free!  Just a little chicken bonus...

When they were a bit larger and young adultish, the Gals moved out to the field next to our house.  We put their coop next to the gate in our garden and made a yard of sorts for them out of chicken wire.  They liked poking around their yard and the garden.  I wondered if they would damage the garden plants and was happy to find they left most of it alone.  We lost a few tomatoes and some kale, but in exchange we got some good fertilizer and had fewer bugs and weeds.  Good trade!

It was around this time we realized 2 of the "Gals" should actually be called the "Guys."  This wasn't good.  First, it is legal to have hens in the city limits, NOT roosters.  Second, as any good biology student knows, boys don't lay eggs.  We wanted some eggs.  Thankfully, our Chicken Lady (as we called her) was very gracious and allowed us to make an exchange.

Chicken Lover

All this time, Ellie and Farmer Ron were falling more and more in love with the Gals.  They both spent time sitting on the ground next to the coop just watching them walk around pecking at the dirt.  It even got to the point, that when Farmer Ron walked into an area where the chickens were roaming, they all ran to him and followed him around.  He had his own little clucking harem!

Also during this time we were waiting...and waiting...and waiting.  For eggs.

Being the rookies that we were, we hadn't been too picky out the breed of chickens we got.  Nor did we realize different breeds take different amounts of time to start laying eggs.  Our chickens took their own sweet time and it was late August before we saw our first eggs.  It was a big day here on the Farm, we even took a photo!

Once they started laying, the Gals got busy and we had four eggs each day for about 3 1/2 months.  It was great!  The eggs were various shade of brown and eggs and had deep dark yellow/orange yolks on the inside.  We'd never seen scrambled eggs that color before!

The chickens were the stars of the Farm - the kids enjoyed showing them off, neighbors and passer-bys stopped to see if they were really seeing what they thought they were seeing in the middle of town, young visitors loved opening up the coop to check for eggs and Farmer Ron had his Gals.

We were all full of chicken love...but a cold wind was starting to blow...stay tuned.

Rubbermaid house with heat lamp. Don't tell my Mom we kept this in the dining room...please.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What I Didn't Do Today

It's the end of the day and things have quieted down here on the Farm.  In fact, the house is blissfully quiet right now as I'm the only one awake.  Now is the time when I putz around tying up loose ends from the previous hours and laying out new ends in an attempt to prepare the coming hours. 

As I putter around, I usually find myself mentally taking stock of my day; going over my to-do list and making notes on what did and didn't get accomplished.  The days when I see I've made checks next to everything on my agenda are very few and far between during this season of my life.  I'm OK with this.  I've gotten over seeing my worth in those check marks.

Today was a normal day; it was busy and fun and loud and full of the following:

-three loads of laundry washed and folded
-3 meals planned
-2 meals cooked (The Big Guy made the dinner I'd planned - this is better than flowers!)
-washed dishes 2 times
-2 math lessons taught
-1 spelling lesson taught
-2 books read aloud
-2 writing lessons taught
-explained some Spanish and Latin
-figured out how parent/teacher conferences work at the high school
-went shopping for a couple last minute birthday party supplies
-got 2 school books coil bound at Office Max
-went grocery shopping -2 stores
-took Ellie to Target because her birthday gift card was burning a hole in her pocket and "her" boots were on sale
-took Jake and Zach to Tae Kwon Do
-picked up Nate from basketball
-watched half of Jake's football game
-gave orders to the Young'uns
-picked up lots of odds and ends around the house
-watched a fashion/singing show by Abby and Ellie
-delivered a cake and gift for a new sweet baby and her family
-worked at my "work from home" job for a while
-made the cake part of Ellie's birthday cake
-dropped off and picked up Nate from his calculus class
-had some conversations with the Young'uns about the miners in Chile, slums in India and our lonely alcoholic neighbor
-dressed a 2 year old (three times)
-kept working at potty training a 2 year old (see above)
-sorted the mail
-washed Lip Smacker off of 12 Webkinz (compliments of the 2 year old)
-sewed the nose and mouth back onto a Webkinz (Yes, her again.  Thankfully, she has a gracious older sister.)
-sent and replied to some emails
-spent a few minutes (really truly) on Facebook
-laughed a bit with a couple of friends and my family

There is more, but I won't bore you with things like brushing my teeth and making my bed, etc.  You get the idea.  None of this is put down here to make you think, "Wow.  She got a ton done today" and I am not "tooting my own horn" (as my Grandma would say).  Lots was done today and MANY things were left unchecked on my list. 

However, it's not the lack of "all done" marks on my physical or mental checklist which gives me pause tonight. 

A little earlier this evening while scraping butter into a mixing bowl, I realized something very important which has gone undone today.  I've cooked and cleaned and taught and shopped and even talked with my kids, but I'm not sure if I hugged all of them and looked them in the eye today. 

In fact, I'm pretty sure I haven't.  This brings tears to my eyes.

I have these five amazing creations of God, living and growing in my house all within arm's reach.  But I failed to reach out and touch them all as I rushed around to make sure they were clean and fed and in the right place at the right time. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is this:  I "touched" their lives physically, but I think I might have failed to touch their hearts.

Guess what's going to be at the top of my list tomorrow?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Papa Ron's

We eat lots of pizza here on the Farm...lots and lots of pizza.  I can't say all of this pizza is made by my two little big hands, but 99% of it is.  (In fact, we actually had a pizza delivered to our house for only like the 2nd time in our lives just 2 short weeks ago.  It arrived at 12:15 am.  Long story, but let's just say that the things people will do to keep from losing their frequent flier miles is amazing.  Sheesh!)

Homemade pizza is great on so many levels - it's delicious, it's easy to make, it's cheap, it's a great way to use up stuff you've got hiding in your fridge.  You can even use it to sneak some crazy veggies into your kiddo's bodies.  Not that I've ever done that before...

My crust recipe is just your basic french bread recipe - 3 cups flour, 1 cup water, 2 tsp yeast, 1 T salt, 1 T oil.  I can tell you more about that later.

What I'm excited to share is that I think I've finally found it - The Sauce!  I've been searching for a sauce recipe for years.  The sauce is important.  The sauce is the border zone between the crispy, chewy crust and the ooey, gooey cheese.  You don't want it too sweet or salty.  It shouldn't be watery.  There should be some spice to it, but not too much.  It's a tough thing to find, but find it I did.  We've had The Sauce twice now and there have been rave reviews by all.  Yeah!

As a bonus, (you knew this was coming), this sauce is healthy since there aren't any "funny" ingredients and it's cheap.  I "sixed" this recipe (what is it called when you multiply a recipe times 6 anyway?) and got enough sauce for 18 big pizzas.  I think the huge batch cost less than $6.00 which comes out to a sauce cost of only .33 per pizza.  Say that 10 times fast, "sauce cost."

In honor of my Big Guy...

Papa Ron's Pizza Sauce
makes enough for 2-3 pizzas depending on how saucy you are

16 oz can of tomato sauce
6 oz can of tomato paste
2 t sugar
1 t dried basil
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t salt
2 T olive oil

Put all of this in a pot and simmer until the flavors mix.  Wham!  You're done.

You might want to add a bit more seasoning depending on your tastes.  A small shake of crushed red pepper would be yummy if you don't have little ones eating that pizza.

After the sauce cooled, I put 2 cups of it into ziploc sandwich bags and froze them.  Now making pizza for dinner is even easier!  Next time, I'll probably only put 1 1/2 cups in each baggie.  I used one bag tonight on 2 pizzas and had enough to sauce up a 3rd.

Happy Eating!