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Homesteading

Introducing Farmhouse Chic!

One of my favorite hobbies is refinishing furniture.  Just about every piece of furniture in our home has been repainted or refurbished in some way by me.  I love how every piece has a story.  I wish that I could sit down with them and just listen to where they’ve been and what they’ve seen.  We have an old antique piano that is over a hundred years old!  Think of all the music and joy it has brought over the years!  Cody’s sweet Grandma has given me several things that I just cherish!  An old tea set from when she was a girl, quilts that her mother made from her dresses growing up, and a set of dining room chairs that have been repainted at least eight times!  (I counted when I stripped them down and repainted them!)

Well every time I refinish a piece my family and friends always say that I should go into business.  I’ve always kind of shrugged it off and said “…maybe one day.”  Well, I guess “one day”  is here!  I’ve decided to start with a couple of pieces and post them on facebook and see what happens.  I will probably post some things on KSL ( a local classifieds section online).  I’ve even talked to a consignment shop in Gardener Village that has a darling little place that is interested in my furniture.  It would be so fun to have my stuff there but they take a huge chunk of the sale.  So I will try to do it on my own first and see what happens.

I’m hoping that some people will like what I do and maybe have me refinish some things for them! I’ve already had one person ask about a bid!  So fun!  I think this little side job will be a fun creative outlet and I’m excited to start experimenting with paint!  There are a bunch of things I’ve wanted to try but my house can only hold so much stuff!  So bring on the paint!

Here are some fun pieces that I’ve done around our little homestead.

 

 

Tea Cart

A Darling Tea Table

Table

A Fun Pedestal Kitchen Table That We Use in Our Living Room

DresserBlue

My Latest Treasure… Old Dresser into a TV Stand

Chairs

Grandma’s Chairs

Blue Chair

Old Kitchen Chair Looking Shabby and Fabulous!

 

 

We’re Weird … And That’s Ok

goat-4-1115(1)I’m a city boy. My wife is a city girl. We both grew up with military dads and only lived the city life. We both kind of hated country music. I never understood the need for cowboy boots, hats or belt buckles. Neither one of us had been exposed much to the rural lifestyle. My mom’s parents had a little farm but we were military and weren’t around it much. The closest that I did growing up that could be considered rural was that I’d go on the deer hunt with my dad and most of the time that turned into a nature hike with the much lacking of deer. I used to see homes in the middle of nowhere (rural) and I’d think that these people are weirdos for wanting to be so far from everything.

I’m not sure why, but all of that changed for us in the spring of 2009. I was finishing up my masters of software engineering (what else would a city boy get a degree in?) when my wife and I were both really feeling a need for change. We even considered a move to Panama for a bit (trying to get a good English education for the kids put a damper on that one).

We had a new born son and two little girls and really felt like we needed something different for them. I started playing around with looking at homes on MLS. One day I noticed a house that seemed pretty nice and it had a big workshop in the back. I wanted a bigger garage so I thought we’d check it out. Another aspect of the property was that it had 3 acres of land. I had not really considered land but I figured it wouldn’t turn me away.

So we’re doing our typical sneak into the house thing and it’s a nice house. It was pretty much the same house plan of the house we had but with a lot more upgrades. We headed out into the back and we both had some kind of “moment”. The grassed backyard was a little bigger than our current place but it had around 2.5 acres of pasture behind the grassed yard. Behind the pasture was just wide open space to the Great Salt Lake. I felt such a peace and awe and really felt like this is something that I had been missing.

We tried to jump on that house but it was caught up in foreclosure and we still had to sell our home. What that house did was open our eyes to something that we never had considered, living in a place that wasn’t jammed right next to our other neighbors and to have the possibility to be a little more sustainable. I served an LDS mission to Puerto Rico and a lot of the country folk there had chickens. I thought they were pretty cool birds. I tried to convince my mom to get chickens when I got home but she was not having any of that. Well that was a must with our new vision of “home”. We started looking for homes that had at least .7 acres or more and were not confined by city/county/HOA rules that would prevent us from having chickens or other livestock.

We finally found some land that fit the bill that we were going to build on. We were all set with money down when we found out that the developer that owned the land and bank that financed the developer both bankrupted. The long story short was that we weren’t going to be building on that land.

We found a house that was almost out of our price range and was really too far out there but Amber liked the look of it and just wanted to see it, like that hasn’t bit me in the keister before. She thought she might get some ideas for the house we were going to build. As we drove to the house, we really liked the area, everything was so open and quaint. We walked in the door of the house and we both had another moment. The place felt like home and we were only three steps in. We both had complained how our last house never felt like home. I wasn’t enamored with the price or distance from work but I knew what I felt. This was the place to raise our family.

The hard part was that everybody thought we were crazy. Our realtor immediately tried to talk us out of it, said the house was weird. My mom really wasn’t pleased that we were moving so far away and don’t think she got the “farmy” thing.  Amber’s family thought we were absolutely bonkers.  They thought that we were going to be robbed, murdered and raped (yes, in that order) in our sleep because we were were so far from civilization.  We felt very alone in making this change but we had no doubt that it was right for our family so we pressed on.

Moving out here has blessed our lives. We’ve been able to:

  • get animals to enrich our lives
  • develop a healthier lifestyle through Amber’s kitchen efforts and our garden
  • better prepare ourselves for unfortunate events (bring on the zombie apocalypse baby!)
  • let our children learn more responsibility by taking care of animals and the consequences of shirking those responsibilities
  • teach our children about birth, life and death  (those poor little baby chicks)
  • develop a closer relationship through hard work on our farm together as a couple and family
  • gain tons of knowledge by research and experience here on our farm

We’re definitely not done settling out here. We want to get better at our garden and fruit trees. We want to become more sustainable with our food and rely less on the nasty preprocessed foods. We also want to be better at being prepared by building up our food supply and getting out of debt. We do NOT plan on becoming home schoolers anytime soon (no insult to those that choose to do so), it’s just not our thing.

Some of our family have warmed to the idea of us being here. We both understand that a lot of people feel that we’re odd for wanting this lifestyle, they’re welcome to think that. We think they’re weird for wanting to be smushed together with everybody else. We both feel as though we were guided by the Lord to this home and lifestyle and that it is the best thing for our us and our kids. We’re weird and we’re quite ok with it.

2nd Annual Tomato Wars

The “Tomato Wars” started at the end of the gardening season last year. We were cleaning up the garden and getting it ready to till up when someone thought it would be a good idea to toss an over ripe tomato at my lovely wife. Well that caused quite the bloody, just tomato blood, conflict in our little clan.

The kids have been talking about our tomato war all summer long. We finally let them have their little war on 10/13. This year’s didn’t go as well as the first. There were a lot more tears in this year’s “conflict”. I think it was due to us being more diligent this year in removing most of the ripe tomatoes, thus leaving more green, hard tomatoes for the war. I think everybody got pegged by one of those owie things. I think we may do something different next year.

Here’s our video of the event. It’s very shaky and I’m definitely not destined for fame in the film industry. Maybe I’ll get a helmet camera for next year:

Salsa!

I am so happy with all of the salsa that we have put up this year.  It is soooo much work.  And not my favorite thing to do.  But there is such a satisfaction of seeing rows of bottles filled with my hard work.  Our garden did really well this year so I was able to do a bunch of salsa, spaghetti sauce, and diced tomatoes.

I found this awesome recipe at Belle Adorn.  I’ve tweaked it a bit this year and really love the results.

Yummy  Salsa

30 tomatoes peeled and chopped( Or don’t peel them :))
2 green bell peppers
2 red bell peppers
10 cups chopped onions
10 cloves garlic
4-5 yellow banana pepper or 1 cup chopped jalapenos
1/2-3/4 cup sugar
2 cups vinegar ( or lime juice, that’s what I use)
8 teaspoons pickling salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 large cans tomato paste

Chopped cilantro if  you want( love it!)

 

So instead of the bell peppers I used my Anaheim chili peppers that I grew in my garden.  And of course, you can add more or less jalapenos depending on how spicy you like it.  Your salsa will get hotter the longer it sits on the shelf, so keep that in mind.  I also really like the flavor that the lime juice adds.

So, make sure you have a HUGE pot.  Oh, and a food processor.  I got one for Christmas this year and it has changed my life!  I had to hand chop everything last year!  I actually don’t peel my tomatoes, I figure everything is getting chopped and cooked and you really can’t tell the difference.  So why make the extra effort.

Also after I put my tomatoes in the food processor Cody suggested I strain them so that there is not so much liquid.  It was a great idea!  It makes it so much thicker and I don’t have to cook it down as long.  I use the strained tomato juice and cook it down into tomato paste.  Super easy!

 

So, chop, chop, chop and put everything into your pot.  Then let it let it simmer on the stove for 1 1/2- 2 hours.

Make sure that you have sterilized your bottles and your lids.  I usually just toss the bottles into the dishwasher and they are all ready when I need them.  Fill your jars and put your lids on and put them in your water bath canner.  Start timing it when it gets all steamy for about 20 minutes.

Then after they cool, admire the fruits of your labor and pat yourself on the back every time you open a fresh can of salsa in the dead of winter.

 

Next Year’s Priority

My lovely woman and I sat down tonight to decide next year’s priorities for money. We made a big list of wants and then categorized them into “Really Want”, “Nice to Have” and “Someday”.

Really Want

This list is in desired order. We hope to be able to do it all next year.

Bees Finally going to get them next year
Kitchen Fridge Our current fridge isn’t doing so well. Want to replace it and put the current one in the garage for when we need the extra space.
Chickens-Meat Worked out well last year.
Trees in the Pasture Add more shade for the babies in the pasture. We have four out there now and plan to add more every year.
Apricot Tree Our apricot tree died last year. Would like to replace it.

 

Nice to Have

This list is not in any order. I’m doubting we’ll able to do much on this list.

Pigs We’d like to do pigs both for the meat and for the 4H opportunity for our kids.
Outside Water We hate having to lug buckets of water during the winter when we shut off our sprinkler water.
Greenhouse Amber would really like to have one of these. We have most of the windows, just need to do a foundation and lumber.
Hoses for the garden We’d like to rework how we do our watering in the garden.
Fence We’d like to help encourage neighbor dogs to stop pooping in the yard.

 

Someday

Again, not in any order. Mostly to keep it in our sites as we strive to move forward with our little farm and house.

Gravel for side Garage Right now we have weeds in this driveway. Gravel would help immensely.
Cement For Driveway Rip out the “nature” area between our two car garage driveway.
Workshop\Barn Area to store farm stuff and for me to keep my tools.
Porch in the Back Allow us to enjoy the evenings without being carried away by mosquitoes.
Stove and Oven on Porch Cook on the porch without heating the house in the summer.
Walkway to Pasture Flagstone Right now we have worn down grass path to the pasture. Would like it to look better.
Patio Furniture Enjoy the covered porch.

 

What Have We Come To

My oldest daughter was feeling pretty gross today so my wife took her to the doctor at 4. That meant that I was supposed to be responsible for getting dinner together for the family. I know, scary. We picked a bunch of raspberries Friday before the frost came and I didn’t want them to go to waste. So I made some German pancakes with raspberry syrup, who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner. The whole time growing up my dad would make waffles for us if mom wasn’t around to make dinner. It always turned out pretty well, although there was that one time that he tried to warm up Dominoes pizza that didn’t turn out so well. Maybe he should have stuck with breakfast.

My mom made German pancakes for our family for as long as I can remember but we called them funny pancakes (because of the bubbles). We started making them for our kids and they dubbed them silly bubble pancakes. They absolutely love these things and we usually have to double the batch because they scarf them down.

The raspberry syrup recipe came from here. It worked out pretty well except the blender didn’t stay sealed when I tried to blend the hot berry sauce … what a mess, tasty but a mess. The corn starch clumped pretty badly too so I don’t think I’d mess with the corn starch next time.

Take a look at our beautiful raspberries. Ever since I was a young boy I’ve loved raspberries. My Grandma Cloward had a ton of raspberry bushes in her garden and I would spend hours stuffing my face. I definitely need to increase my number of raspberry bushes.

Getting Started With Your Own – Laying Chickens

So you want chickens, do you?! It can be very daunting to start a new animal hobby. We’ve started new animals a couple of times and each time I was super worried that I was going to kill my new pets due to my lack of knowledge. Hopefully this post will give you a great start and you’ll be able to learn from our mistakes.

First thing that you need to do is decide if  you are going to raise chickens for eggs, meat or both. If you want just meat chickens, you’ll have to look at a later post about that. Laying hens are pretty easy and if you want them for meat when they’re done laying (about three years), you can do that too. Just keep in mind that chickens that are three years old are not going to be the roasting type, they’re better in soups or put in a pressure cooker.

I have absolutely loved having chickens. They were our first rural animal. They are super easy to take care of and require the least amount of work of all our animals.

Items You Need:

  • Chicken Coop
  • Feed
  • Water
  • More Knowledge
  • Chickens

Chicken Coop/Run:

Chickens don’t need a big fancy coop and they don’t need to be super expensive. We spent $300 on our first coop that could hold 8 to 10 birds and I think we paid too much. Check your local craigslist or other online classifieds for good deals. Also check your local farm store, IFA and Cal-Ranch for us. You need to decide how many birds you want. The size of the coop will depend on the number of birds you want. The standard is 4 square feet of coop space per bird and 10 square feet of run space (check here). We fudged this a little and did not have any problems. Just realize that these ladies poop a lot and a lot. Many birds in a small space will lead to a big mess for you to clean often and they will get agitated with each other if they don’t have enough space.

A coop should have a nesting box or two. When we bought our first coop, we were excited to see that it had 6 nesting boxes and thought that would be sufficient for our 8 hens. We soon learned that all 8 birds only used two of the boxes and they chose the hardest ones for us to get at. We closed off four of the six boxes. In our current coop we have six boxes again with 13 hens and they all share just two boxes again. Silly girls. Sometimes we see two of our fluffy butts in the same box.

Also make sure that the coop has a roosting bar. Our first coop had a couple of different levels of bars and the ladies fought and fought  for the highest bar.  Our new coop has a single bar so that they wouldn’t fight as much. They still fight for the spot closest to the wall but it’s not as bad as before. Also keep in mind that the hens like to snuggle, especially in the winter. They don’t need a ton of roosting space. Beware of the area below nesting boxes. Chickens do most of their #2 while they are roosting. So keep the area clear and put something underneath to catch it so you can just remove it, scrape it and return it.

You also need to make sure the coop has ventilation but not drafts. Chicken don’t need heaters in the winter, at least in Utah, but they don’t do well if they have cold wind blowing directly on them. If you do put a heater in with them, they don’t climatize as well and if you lose power to the heater you could lose your babies.  Because chickens are such awesome poop machines, the ammonia can build up if you don’t have good ventilation. That ammonia is not good for the girls or you.

For our current coop we found a used firework stand in the classifieds and paid $150 to have it moved from SLC to our house. It’s not the prettiest but it’s big. We converted the right side to a chicken coop and the left side to a shed/milking area for our dairy goat.

Feed:

Feeding chickens is pretty stinking easy. We just buy layer pellets from the local farm store. You can make your own if you want. They don’t eat a lot either. For just a couple birds, a single bag would last at least a month. You can buy a plastic or metal feeder to put the feed in. We built the current one we’re using now out of wood scraps. Make sure that the feeder and waterer are not under where the chickens sleep, they will poop in their own food and water.

Example

Water:

Nothing too special about watering your chickens. Just get a waterer and try to keep the water as clean as possible.

More Knowledge:

If you have any kind of question about chickens, feel free to ask a question on this page or look at backyardchickens.com. I had to scour backyardchickens for months to feel comfortable enough to get our chickens. They have lots of useful information.

 

Chickens:

Now for the fun part, choosing your chickens. This is my favorite part. There are so many different types of chickens. Each one has their own unique traits. Try to pick chickens for your needs. There are people down the street from us that get 25 birds of the same breed every year. I like having the variety of different birds.

If you want to research the different breeds, I’d recommend going to the Chicken Breed choosing tool at backyardchickens. They have a lot of breeds listed. Watch out for the chicken math. Last year we were supposed to get five birds and ended up getting 15 new birds.

I’ve always picked up my birds from the local feed store in the spring but you can order them online from places like Murray Mcmurray or you can hatch out your own eggs using an incubator. The eggs should come from someone that has a hen that is “contact” with a rooster or order them from online. I’ve never done the incubator thing so I can’t give you any advice on that.

Once you have your babies, you’ll need to keep them contained in a brooder box. Chickies aren’t very good at keeping their own body heat so you’ll need a heat lamp to help them out. They also a need a special chicken feed called chick starter. It’s typically medicated. After six weeks of being in the brooder, they’re ready to get out to the coop. Depending on the breed, I’d expect them to start laying at 4 to 6 months old.  Every time that we move our babies out to the coop we are very tired of being chicken mamas.  However, every spring we are very excited to have new babies.

Please feel free to ask any questions or correct me if you have a different opinion.

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A Bun In The Oven!

Literally a Bun in the Oven! Haha! I am talking about an awesome artisan bread baking in the oven. So yummy! I was chatting it up with Cody’s cousin’s cute wife, Jinger and she was interested in my whole food approach that I am trying to implement on our homestead. Basically I try to not have processed junk in the house. I make lots of things from scratch. This includes bread. I found an awesome no-knead artisan bread on Theitaliandishblog.com that I love. I also make honey whole wheat and french bread. I’ll post those recipes eventually.This recipe is so great because you mix everything together and then you can stick it in the fridge and just take out a bit of dough when you want a fresh loaf of bread.

 

This is what you need:

  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated fast acting (instant) yeast (Iuse SAF yeast)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
  • 6-1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached all purpose white flour ( I substituted 2 of the cups for wheat flour.. still amazing)

Just mix it all together, cover it loosely and then let it rise for 2 hours on the counter.  Then you can cut off a chunk and let it sit on your pan  for a half hour or toss it in the fridge.  You can let it sit in the fridge for a couple of days and just pull out what you need whenever. The longer it sits in the fridge, the more it takes on a sourdough taste.   Which is awesome because I can never get sourdough to work for me.  It can stay in there for up to 14 days.   Again, just let it sit for a half hour and then bake. Oh, and make sure you take a sharp knife and put some little slices in the top.  It helps release gases while rising, and it makes you look like a pro!

When you bake it, fill up a pan of water and put it on the bottom rack of your oven.  This will give your bread that thick crusty crust.  Yumm!

Put your pan of water in and then bake at 450 degrees for 30 – 35 minutes.  Or until you have a gorgeous golden brown loaf.  The website I got it from says that it makes four, 1 pound loaves.  But I usually make two, 2 pound loaves because I have super hungry kiddos.

Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of my beautiful loaf before half of it got devoured.  Oops!  It was soooo good though and it made the house smell amazing.  So, I dare you to try this recipe!  Your family will thank you for it!

I Feel Manly Today

You know, there are certain days that I don’t feel too manly but today is not one of them. Over the last couple of years we’ve added several new animals to our collection but all of them could be together and enjoy each other’s company quite freely. With the addition of our little Puck the goat, we no longer could let all of them join in the fun on our wonderful farm. Puck had to stay away from the pigmy goats or they would die horrible miserable deaths during pregnancy because his offspring are too big for the little bodies of the pygmies. So to protect unwanted deaths and pregnancies, we created a second pen. The pygmies and sheep still could use the shelter in the other pen.

That worked fine until we got our new Leila goat. She is supposed to eat the real good hay so her milk doesn’t taste like weeds but we didn’t want the pygmies to eat the expensive hay. Thus we needed another separation. We decided we’d keep Leila in the pen by the shed and the sheep and pygmies could stay in the pasture. The only problem was that they didn’t have any shelter out there. A wet goat is not a happy goat. A wet cold goat is a dead goat (pneumonia). We found a guy that had pallets on KSL for a dollar piece and he had four of them that were 6 feet long instead of the typical 4 feet. We put three of the six foot pallets together as the the sides of the shelter and used a four foot one for the front. Put some plywood on the top and voila, a pretty cheap shelter. It’s nice to be able to put something together like this. I’m not super skilled in wood work but this I can do.

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Love My Hot Stuff

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that this post is about my smokin’ wife but sadly it is not. She is most definitely my hot stuff but I’m referring to something not as hot, those beautiful peppers. I absolutely love spicy food.

We were at my in-laws’ house last weekend for a birthday party and someone brought some fresh salsa. I was way excited and then my father-in-law stated that the salsa was probably not the type of salsa I would enjoy. I thought, “Hey it’s salsa, it’s got to be good.” But I was wrong, the “salsa” was basically pureed tomatoes  and poured into a bowl. So disappointing…..

The above picture is some of our blessed crop from the garden. For some reason we only had a couple of plants survive this year which is very disappointing compared to last year. We had enough peppers to do two batches of salsa and for a whopping TWO bottles of canned jalapeños. I almost don’t want to open these bottles because I think they look awesome. There is something just super satisfying about growing and canning your own crop. You can see these beauties in the below picture, I think they look lonely.  Necesito mas.