Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fresh from the Garden

Today was a busy day spent in the garden tilling up another area to plant, transplanting a bunch of the volunteer marigolds around portions of the garden, planting yellow squash, zucchini and spinach seeds, weeding and thinning the carrot bed, and digging a shallow trench and planting the celery plants in it that I had started from seed. The garden is progressing really well so far this spring! And we were able to harvest our first produce from it recently . . .

. . . our first spring garden salad. This one had four different varieties of lettuce and two of spinach. Add to it things such as homemade croutons and homemade salad dressing, and it was delicious. With the lettuce and spinach doing really well in the garden this year, I think salad will be a common item on upcoming menus!

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Dream Come True

Ever since I was in my early to mid-teens, I had a dream of someday having a dairy animal. (Granted, the dream started out as a cow, but dairy goats are the next best thing! :) The idea of having one of these beautiful creatures, milking, drinking fresh from the farm milk, and using the milk to make homemade dairy products, was so wonderful to me. Yet I never thought that dream would ever become a reality. So I just enjoyed borrowing many books from the library and reading all about dairy animals, milking, and a home creamery.

But now, much to my delight, that dream has become a reality . . . as well as Leah's long-time dream of having dairy goats (we have very similar likes. :) Not only do we have the hope of milking Dixie soon, but about a week and a half ago, we were blessed to be able to add her half-sister to our farm. Her breeder (the same lady we bought Dixie from) sold her in milk after she had kidded. And thus, our milking adventure has begun!

Chase enjoying her grain while Leah milks. Notice the milking stand? My Dad built it and did a wonderful job! It works perfectly. (And please pardon the background - we're milking in our shop for now until Dixie and her kids are moved out of the barn.

Leah milking

Learning how to milk came fairly quickly, though aim and speed could still use some improvement. :) We're also working with Chase to teach her to stand still on the milking stand after she finishes her grain. Once she's done eating, she's ready to go! But we're not quite ready for her to go. She did knock the milk bucket over once, but overall, she is doing much better than she had been. We do still need to be aware of her back legs, though, and sometimes have to stop milking for a bit for a brief 'training session.'

Not the most flattering photo, but at least you can see what she looks like

And the actual milking process? We love it. The milk? It's more delicious than we thought it would be. (And much better than store bought milk!)

All ready to be strained

 And once it is done being strained, it goes into the 
freezer for an hour or two to chill

Chase is giving a little over a half gallon a day, and I am hoping that before long (probably after we begin milking Dixie), we'll accumulate enough extra so that I can try making yogurt and mozzarella cheese. Those sounded like some of the easiest things to attempt first, and I am really looking forward to doing so!

So one more dream is now fulfilled . . . the Lord has blessed us so much these past few years. It's amazing to look back (or even look around our place) and see how the hard work and prayers have been answered in so many ways. He has been so good to us! 

Linking up to the "Homestead Barn Hop"

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Celebrating Daddy's Birthday

Daddy's birthday was this week, and he proposed spending the morning and afternoon at one of our favorite conservation areas, Eagle Bluffs. We took care of our morning chores, then gathered binoculars, bird books, my camera, loaded up in the truck, and we were off!

The day was beautiful with bright blue skies and warm sunshine. We took our time driving through the area and stopped often to look at birds and sometimes to get out and walk and photograph. I loved doing the latter, and I hope that you enjoy seeing photos of some of the beauty in God's creation that we were able to enjoy this day . . .

It was so beautiful with the rich greens of the grasses and trees and the 
brilliant blue of the water and sky

 Looking out across one of the bodies of water

It was at the above place that we saw a Double-Crested Cormorant out on the water. I got out of the truck and tried to sneak around to photograph it before it flew, but was unsuccessful. It was neat photographing a sequence of shots of when it was taking off, though . . .

Starting to get some propulsion

Trying to get enough lift off of the water . . .

And he does it! And is off to a quieter place.

A little song sparrow (it sure would be nice to have a good 
zoom lens when photographing birds!)

A line of turtles sunning themselves on a log

Another beautiful view

Blue-winged Teal . . . they were the most common waterfowl species that we saw

A Red-Winged Blackbird

A Great Egret - these are one of my favorites that we saw. They are so regal!

Coots - rather comical little birds. :)

A big ole turtle sunning himself

Looking back towards the truck where Dad, Mom, and Leah were watching a pair of geese from inside while I photographed.

The pair of geese that they were watching (please pardon the blurriness! This photo has been significantly cropped since they were so far away.)

Dad holding a turtle that was on the road

Isn't the bottom of its shell interesting?

This little 'meadow' was a delight to visit! Daddy stopped so I could 
traipse down the hill and photograph here.

A close-up of one of the flowers

If it weren't for the mud lurking underneath those waving flower heads, this would be a perfect spot to picnic.

Northern Shovelers and Blue-Winged Teal

Leah walking a ways out to get a better view of the ducks on the water

Dad and Mom looking at various waterfowl species

A view from down where I ended up

When driving back, we spotted this snake in the road. After looking at the photo and also images online, it looks like it is a Northern Water Snake. For a snake, it was quite pretty as far as markings go!

This is a really poor photo, but I had to include it as after all, it is what the conservation area is named for. :)

We stopped at one place and with an express purpose of finding the elusive Sora. We've seen them at this location during other springs, and they didn't fail us this time! We were barely down next to the water when I spotted this one back in the cattails . . .

Can you see it?

Here's another view of it.

An interesting water plant at the place we saw the Soras

After thoroughly enjoying our time at the conservation area, we headed to a farm store to pick up some fencing wire. Once that was stowed in the back of the truck, we enjoyed the rare treat of eating out. By the time we reached home, we were all getting a little tired, but the highlight of the day was still to come. Being joined by Ryan, Ashley and Adelyn for a wonderful evening together. The only photos of significance that were captured were of this adorable little girl who is quite mobile now. :)

Yes, she can crawl! And is quite adept at it, too. She was being a little stinker, though, when I was trying to photograph her accomplishment. Every time I tried to get her attention and take a photo, she would sit up! Eventually, though, I was able to capture these two. Notice her mischievous grin in the next photo, though . . .

All in all, it was a delightful day! Though, a day spent with ones' dear family and in the beauty of God's creation could hardly be anything but wonderful. :)

Friday, April 20, 2012

And the Days Keep Passing By . . .

This week has been a simply wonderful one! Each day has been brimful from morning 'til night, and hence, my lack of blogging so far this week. There were just too many enjoyable things to be doing to stop and spend time on the computer . . .

~Monday was general housecleaning, teaching a sewing lesson, and various miscellaneous things.

~Tuesday, Mom, Leah and I ran errands in town in the morning/early afternoon including a trip to Jo-Ann as they were having some amazing sales. Add to that a 20% off coupon for one's entire purchase including sale items, and it was a perfect time to stock up on things! Then in the afternoon, we disbudded Dixie's kids (not a fun experience, but a necessary one.) It's a relief to have that done!

~Wednesday was Dad's birthday, and we had a fantastic and relaxing day together! (Photos will be forthcoming. :)

~ Thursday the weather was beautiful - sunny with a high in the 70's - so I spent the entire day outdoors mulching, transplanting, hoeing, pulling weeds, setting up cucumber trellises, cleaning, mowing, inspecting a beehive with Dad, and putting tomato cages over the plants (yes, they are finally planted now! And photos will be coming soon of the garden progress.)

~ Then today Leah and I spent the day deep cleaning and organizing our entire room and our craft/sewing area (a big project!) and also helping Mom clean and organize our family's main storage closet. It was tiring, but oh, so satisfying!

As mentioned, there will be photos of some of these things coming soon as well as photos of a very exciting thing that took place last week. But, until then, here are a few photos of our baby rabbits that I have been meaning to share for awhile . . . they are growing so quickly!

These first two were taken March 25th . . .

Peeking over the edge of the nestbox

Snuggled together - their eyes are just beginning to open here

And now here they are about three weeks later . . .

Aren't they cute? Baby rabbits have to be some of the most adorable little babies! We did have a surprise in one of the three litters, though (and still a cute one :) . . .

A White New Zealand! New Zealand rabbits have three different color phases - red, white and black (and the whites have pink eyes.) Ours are reds, but some of them must be carrying the white gene, as in one of the litters, we were surprised with the above little doe. She stands out in stark contrast to her red litter mates!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Sunday Hymn ~ Praise Him! Praise Him!

Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
Sing, O Earth, His wonderful love proclaim!
Hail Him! Hail Him! Highest archangels in glory;
Strength and honor give to His holy Name!
Like a shepherd, Jesus will guard His children,
In His arms He carries them all day long.

Praise Him! Praise Him! Tell of His excellent greatness;
Praise Him! Praise Him! Ever in joyful song!

Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
For our sins He suffered, and bled, and died.
He our Rock, our hope of eternal salvation,
Hail Him! Hail Him! Jesus the Crucified.
Sound His praises! Jesus who bore our sorrows,
Love unbounded, wonderful, deep and strong.

Praise Him! Praise Him! Tell of His excellent greatness;
Praise Him! Praise Him! Ever in joyful song!

Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
Heav’nly portals loud with hosannas ring!
Jesus, Savior, reigneth forever and ever;
Crown Him! Crown Him! Prophet, and Priest, and King!
Christ is coming! over the world victorious,
Pow’r and glory unto the Lord belong.

Praise Him! Praise Him! Tell of His excellent greatness;
Praise Him! Praise Him! Ever in joyful song!

Words by Fanny Crosby


"It is good to give thanks to the LORD
and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning
and Your faithfulness by night . . .

"For You, O LORD, have made me glad by what You have done,
I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands."
Psalm 92:1-2, 4

"Praise the LORD!
Praise, O servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD.
Blessed by the name of the LORD
from this time forth and forever.
From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the LORD is to be praised.
The LORD is high above all nations;
His glory is above the heavens."
Psalm 113:1-4