Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Easter Eggs for Breakfast

Look! Aren't these the most beautiful, fascinating, and delicious eggs you've ever beheld? OK, I know, they're just eggs, and those of you with chickens are perhaps underwhelmed, but to me, they're beautiful. Now, all of our nine laying hens are officially laying! The blue/green eggs belong to the Americaunas, this I know, and I think the pinky buff ones are from the Buff Orphingtons (all of which I call Maryanne), but the darker, speckled ones? They're from our ginger colored hens with the white collars. I call them all Ginger, but I don't know what kind of chickens they are. Our rooster is, as of yet, unidentified, too, but we call him Professor. There's one more cockrell in the flock. Technically I should not name him, as he's for dinner, but in my imagination, I call him Gilligan. The Americaunas are named Daisy, Lily, and Marigold, in case you were wondering. I love the beauty of their eggs, but they're timid and not as willing to be petted as the Gingers. I'm so glad we have chickens, and I love to watch them do their work of pest removal, mulching, and fertilization. Those seven to nine eggs a day are just enough to keep us in eggs without going to the market, so I expect to have to add some in the future (though perhaps it'll be geese instead, or even ducks?), but for now, they're perfect! Do any of you know of chickens that lay tinted eggs that are also speckled? Or even white eggs that are speckled?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Birthday Presents

Here at Contentment, February means three kid birthdays. We are kind of anti-birthday party around here. We have a big day, of course! We give the birthday child the choice of every meal that we eat, cake choice, we take the day off of school and give the birthday kid the choice of what we do all day, and of course, we give a few gifts. But we kind of nixed the Birthday Party circuit a few years ago. This year, we went a step further, and kind of nixed the giving of more stuff. We have waaaaay too much stuff already and I'm sure the extended family will give us a few more wonderful and unique gifts for each child, so I decided to do something a bit more... entreprenureal. Now, all my kids are interested in gardening. They all get their own little patch, a la Little Men, and we buy the produce the kids harvest from them. This year, my oldest daughter decided she didn't want to grow veggies, because she doesn't want to eat them... she's not a fan. But she loves herbs, so she requested the permission to grow lavender and sage and thyme and then we decided she'd grow medicinal herbs and start researching old remedies for aches and pains. It's still a contribution to the family that is worth paying her for, and hopefully she'll enjoy the educational aspect of the project. I just had the kids go through the catalogs and circle and initial stuff they thought they'd like to have.... my middle daughter took the White Flower Farm catalog, looked through it, told me she couldn't possibly choose, as she wanted everything, put the glossy pages on the table and drew a metaphorical circle around the whole catalog with her finger... she's so cute!
Soooo, for my middle son, we purchased a round strawberry bed with 50 strawberry plants and plastic cover and netting to protect them from the chickens... for my oldest boy, two dwarf fruit trees, for my middle daughter, a couple of rose bushes, potato and onion sets, and we ordered for my oldest daughter a set of medicinal herb seeds and book on using them, plus 10 lavender plants. I couldn't resist ordering something for me, too... I ordered a David Austen rose (Carding Mill) and a blue hydrangea (Endless Summer). It's sort of a birthday/Mother's Day gift for myself! It's perhaps a bit untraditional to buy your children plants for their birthday gifts, but I think they'll enjoy them a lot. Now, on to negotiating produce prices!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Winter's Walk

Well, I'm finding that this farm is just as wonderfully beautiful in winter as in summer and fall. I'm smitten with this place. It so often reminds me of the farm I lived on in Upstate New York when a girl. I hope my children experience that kinship with nature as I did growing up. I always felt as if I could almost feel things growing, like I could sit on a big, old rock and almost hear it telling me the story of the land, of glaciers and floods, of plows and boys in overalls planting trees, of seedlings and flax crops. I think I've lost some of my imagination, but I can see it alive in my children. They roam the farm and name all the little places they like. There is a group of rocks arranged in a large circle that they call "The Cathedral", a little bit of clear ground overhung by an arch of branches from trees that just happened to grow in two rows that they call "Trinity Church." Grand Grove, the Treehouse, and Muddy Bottom are all places that my children have named and inhabited as their own. They don't have the waterfall and mill and apple orchard and ancient graveyard of my youth, but they have magical places of their own, and sometimes they let me in.

Yesterday we took a hike since deer season is over. We sort of were looking for nuts, as we've been studying the wild foods that Native Americans ate before Europeans came here, but of course the squirrels have hidden them all away in their larders. Instead we found a turtle shell right next to a hole in the ground. A freshly dug, neat little hole into some animals winter home. Maybe a fox or badger? We've been reading Wind in the Willows so the children imagined all sorts of wonderful little furniture and comforts in there, but realized that the turtle probably met an unfortunate end in it's dealings with the inhabitant.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Season of Garden Planning

Well, the holidays are over. I hope yours were as peaceful and filled with family fun as ours was. We stepped it back this year and kept it even more simple than usual. It was nice! Maybe it was just lazy, but still Daddy was home for almost two weeks and it was wonderful. So happy new year. And now: it's the season of seed catalogs! I'm so excited to start planning gardens. The children are helping, of course. One wants nothing but pumpkins and melons, another wants lots of strawberries, and another wants to grow herbs and flowers, perhaps "medicine herbs"? My garden will have pickling cucumbers this year, paste tomatoes, lots of tomatoes in general, okra, carrots, potatoes, onions, and some flowers.

Of course, a few things that probably won't make it into my garden this year, in spite of my imaginings. Flax, to spin and weave into linen, of course. A garden to dye wool with. A cottage garden, full of flowers and herbs and veggies all jumbled together with hydrangeas, climbing roses, and plenty of lavender. My husband's ideal garden would probably contain wheat, barley, and hops, if you know what I mean (to brew, sillies!)

White Flower Farms is one of my favorites for browsing and dreaming, but my actual money will be spent on much more practical items. Heirloom Seeds is one of my favorites because it's located rather close to me (in PA). Seeds of Change is also one of my favorites. Our garden size will be doubled this year so I'm gonna probably be putting food away like crazy, but at least this summer I'll not be unpacking or trying to catch up on school with the kiddies. So maybe I'll have more time for canning and freezing. Maybe.

Here's a couple pictures from last year:
A little child labor. Actually, he's getting his garden ready for planting corn and butternut squash. And here is another picture of my pretty pickles! And my canning pot! I know you're just riveted!