Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Recipe to Share ~ Country-Style Chicken Soup

I don't know about where you all live right now, but here it has taken a decided turn for the colder making one think that a hearty soup would make an excellent dinner on one of these cold nights!


Below is a recipe for one of my favorites which is not only delicious, 
but has the added bonus of being simple to make.

(And I think I remembered to include all my alterations, though the amounts of things tends to vary every time I make it! Which is why I don't have exact measurements on many of the ingredients. :)


Country-style Chicken Soup

--3-4 cups cooked, shredded or cubed chicken
--1 onion chopped
--approx. 3 cups chopped carrots (I always use one quart jar of our canned carrots instead)
--3/4-1 cup chopped celery
--2 tsp. parsley flakes
--1 bay leaf
--1/4 tsp. thyme
--1/2 tsp. basil
--approx. 3/4 tsp. salt
--1/2-3/4 tsp. pepper
--6 cups water
--3 cups cooked rice*

In a 4 qt. or larger slow cooker, combine the first 11 ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours. Remove bay leaf and add rice. Serve when heated through.

*We bake our rice which makes meal preparation even simpler! Here's how it's done . . .

 Oven Baked Brown Rice

--1 cup brown rice
--2 1/2 cups water
--1/2 tsp. salt (if using the rice in a soup, you can omit the salt)
--1 Tbsp. butter

Combine all ingredients in a 2 quart greased baking dish, cover and bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed.

Monday, March 24, 2014

First Flowers of Spring and a Psalm to Share

There's nothing like the first bright cheerfulness that the first flowers of the year bring 
after a long, cold winter. These ones are about a month later than normal, but 
welcomed all the more because of that!

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I was originally going to post just the above today, but portions of a certain Psalm which I know in song have been running through my mind often today, and I thought I would share them here in the hopes that they would uplift and encourage your heart as they have mine . . .

"I love the LORD, because He hears
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.

"Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
Yes, our God is compassionate.
The LORD preserves the simple;
I was brought low, and He saved me.
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
For You have rescued my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
My feet from stumbling.

"What shall I render to the LORD
For all of His benefits toward me?
I shall lift the cup of salvation
And call upon the name of the LORD.

"To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And call upon the name of the LORD."

Psalm 116:1-2, 5-8, 12-13, 17

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Beginning of Spring on Our Farm

 
A sign of spring . . . daffodils slowly growing

With the warmer weather we had been having recently, I so enjoyed spending much of my time outdoors simply enjoying the beauty of my favorite season as well as cleaning up some, cleaning out under all the rabbit cages and hauling everything to either the garden or compost pile . . .


Inside the rabbitry afterwards

. . . and hauling piles of old hay and mulching with it around our fruit trees and the rhubarb . . .


Part of the orchard

With getting the fruit trees mulched, that's another thing crossed off of my March Homestead to-do list! I am loving using my Homesteading Binder . . . it has been so nice to be able to keep up with the egg laying and butchering records (the latter had it's first entries this week as we butchered both rabbits and some chickens!) and to have the monthly to-do lists of regular seasonal tasks, as well as having a running to-do list of outdoor projects.


My Dad pruning one of the peach trees

It has been especially helpful having the the monthly to-do lists. Because of those, I have been able to keep on track and not get behind or forget certain tasks!

Some things did have to be rearranged a bit, though, such as starting seeds. I had originally planned to begin that in February, but since the long-term forecast was for a continuing long, cold winter, we decided to wait a little longer (and it is a good thing we did!) Then some other tasks such as hauling compost to the garden didn't happen since everything was still very frozen.

 Some of the hens enjoyed scratching around where one of the old hay piles had been

As I/we keep thinking of more projects to do, my outdoor to-do list continues to grow! One thing that was added was starting a new strawberry bed which I did this week . . . after hauling wheelbarrow load after wheelbarrow load of compost and sand to the new location, it's ready now to be tilled.


In progress


Finished! (except for tilling to combine the layers)

The compost was from our bins and the sand was from where our old waterfowl pens used to be many years ago - it was so nice to have everything that I needed right here on our place!

 Rich, beautiful compost - I was thrilled with how well our piles had composted!

Next to do after tilling will be to plant the new strawberry plants when they arrive the first week or so of April.

With the warmer weather, there has also been increased beehive activity which is always exciting to see. And especially this year as unlike I had originally expected last fall, all five of our hives successfully overwintered! There is still a bit of a critical time between now and when the first honey flow starts, but I think they should get through that just fine.

Four of the hives

The first pollen coming in!

Yesterday we moved Aurora and her bucklings from the barn out to the pen with the young Boer does. The little guys were so fun to watch! They were racing all around, leaping up in the air, and having a thoroughly good time.


The bucklings

And Aurora has a 'new look' now . . .



Since her horns are sharp and she has a tendency to use them on other goats, we put tennis balls over the ends of them to keep her from horning one of the other young does (a fairly common practice for horned goats in order to prevent injuries.) She looks a little comical, but I don't think she realizes. :)



The above photo goes with another big project - or projects - that we are in the process of working on . . . converting the chicken coop into a milking barn and the adjoining current chicken pen into a pen for our two milkers! I wrote out the long list of things to be done in order to reach that goal (some of which are already done!) and it includes:

--building a chicken tractor (or two) for the laying hens
--cleaning out the entire coop, removing nestboxes, and setting up all of the milking things
--reinforcing parts of the chain link pen
--building a hoop house
--building fence in order to enlarge the pen
--and more.

Leah and I are both so looking forward to how much easier and faster this will make milking time for us! And speaking of milking, that will likely be beginning in just a few weeks. It will be really nice to have our own fresh milk again!

Me with Dixie's sweet doelings - the darker one is especially so!

With the coming spring, there has definitely been an increase in outdoor work . . . and I am loving it. It feels so good be be out doing physical labor again, accomplishing so much, and enjoying these beautiful, springtime days!


In addition to all of this, Leah's doe, Willow, kidded this week as well! A post about 
that will be coming soon.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Starting Seeds

We have had some glorious days here recently with the temperature sometimes climbing into the 60's and 70's! And despite the colder temp. and blustery winds of today, it still feels like this winter is finally coming to a close and that spring is on its way.

Signs of the coming season are all around, and I have been thoroughly enjoying it all . . . daffodils peeking above the surface of the ground, birds singing, warm breezes blowing (some days! :), honeybees buzzing around, spring peepers 'singing' (I always love hearing them for the first time each year), flocks of snow geese calling and flying high overhead, and more. My favorite time of year is awakening!

In preparation for the coming spring, I started the first seeds indoors a few weeks ago . . . celery, eggplant, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower; and this past Saturday, planted the peppers. Tomatoes will be last seeds to be started indoors, and they'll be planted later this week.

Seed trays, seeds, and popsicle sticks to be used as plant markers


As I planted the tiny seeds, covered them with a layer of dirt, and anticipated the coming growth and harvest, I thought of how parallel this is to our own lives. We are continually planting seeds . . .

-- Seeds of joy
 -- love
-- wisdom
-- peace
-- patience
-- truth
-- and more.

Or seeds of anger
-- worry
-- fear
-- frustration
-- selfishness
-- pride
-- and more.

It was a poignant and convicting reminder to my heart as to what kind of seeds am I planting? What 'harvest' would they produce? The thought that sharing the gospel and being a light of Christ are also seeds that I am to be sowing was convicting as well.


What seeds are you planting?

" . . . for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

Galatians 6:7b-9 
(while speaking specifically of salvation in verse 8, the 
principle is there for obedience/disobedience as well!)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Kymber

As mentioned in my last post, something exciting was happening last Wednesday! It was the day that Leah was going to be getting her puppy, and she, Dad, and Mom drove down to southern Missouri to pick her up from the breeder (since one of Dixie's kids was still not nursing without assistance, I needed to stay home.)

They had a wonderful time, enjoyed a tour of the breeder's place and saw their dogs, and came home with this little sweetheart . . .

Kymber snuggled on Leah's shoulder

Isn't she adorable?

Leah and Kymber

The first day she was quite shy and timid, but now her personality has really been showing itself and she has started to bond with us and especially Leah.


She is a playful little puppy and so fun to watch! And to snuggle with. :)
 
Her current favorite activities are:

-- Sleeping


-- Chewing on things 
(she's starting to figure out now that hands, feet, and clothing are not chew toys!)
 
-- Exploring outside

Outside is her very favorite place to be

-- being with/by people

-- and looking cute
(which she does quite well)


 She certainly has added a new and fun element to life right now!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Kidding Times Two!

I could hardly have asked for a better start to this week . . . beautiful weather with highs in the 60's and 70's (which I thoroughly enjoyed!) and during which time, both of my does decided to kid - each on the morning of their due date.

Aurora was first, and she kindly waited to start labor until right after Leah and I were up and ready for the day (save for breakfast. :) Unlike last year, her labor went fairly slowly . . . and like last year, she became extremely affectionate which I always enjoy since she usually doesn't care much for being petted at any other time!

Her kidding went smoothly and while the kids weren't presented perfectly (one had a leg back and the other's head was twisted sideways a bit), she didn't have any difficulty which was nice!

The first buckling

Both of her kids were bucklings (which I was a just a little disappointed about - I was hoping for at least one doeing from her!), and they are healthy, rambunctious, and super cute. :)

Almost all dried off and waiting for little brother to make his entrance

Aurora with both of her bucklings

Her kidding over, both bucklings looking great and nursing on their own, Aurora being the excellent mother that she is . . . everything was going perfectly! Or so we thought.

A few hours later, though, Aurora was acting like she was rejecting her kids, she wouldn't let them come anywhere near her, was acting scared of them, and definitely wouldn't let them nurse. I posted on a goat forum for advice, and the responses all said about the same: it is likely due to her being in pain (from contracting/expelling the afterbirth) and to just tie her periodically, hold a back leg up, let the kids nurse, and hopefully she would accept them back. 

So throughout the day, we forcibly held her and let her kids nurse. It wasn't an easy task as Aurora was not happy about it! My Dad would hold her by her horns and pin her body against the stall wall, I would hold up one of her back legs, and Leah would help the kids and would pull them away if Aurora got too feisty. And so went our day.

Until evening when I went out to check on them and saw that Aurora was tentatively sniffing one of the kids and following it around. I watched with bated breath, hoping . . . and before long, she started nuzzling it and bleating softly. A few moments later, the kid ran up and started nursing! I slowly went into the stall hoping not to distract her and brought the other little guy over to her so he could nurse as well.

After observing them for a bit, I could see that Aurora was back to being the amazing mama goat that she has been in the past which I was relieved for!

After a good nights sleep, we had a repeat the next morning: as soon as Leah and I were up and ready for the day (though yet again before breakfast!), Dixie started labor. Hers was faster, went very smoothly, and both of her kids had perfect presentations. And . . . they were both beautiful doelings! I was excited about that!

The first doeling just beginning to figure out how to stand - it's so fun to watch this!

The second doeling getting all cleaned up right after entering the world

So that was how our week began. :) No matter how many times I see the births, I don't think I will ever tire of it . . . there is something so . . . amazing and beautiful . . . about seeing new life entering the world. To hear that first gasp for air, the first tiny bleat, the first wobbly step, to see how God has so amazingly designed His creatures with the instincts that they need to survive, and more.

Aren't they adorable?! The one in the back looks a lot like her sire, and the one in the front is going to look like Dixie, I think.

It was so nice to have two smooth kiddings, have the mamas healthy and able to care for their kids on their own (no bottle feeding!), and we are loving the little goat kids. All of them are very sweet! And they're just starting to explore more and be a little more energetic which makes it especially fun to watch them.

Now today another exciting thing is happening . . . and I'll post about that soon!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

His Word Our Lamp

 A new post is up on my other blog!
"Last evening I continued reading through Psalm 119 (one of my favorite Psalms!), and came to verse 105. This verse never ceases to fill my heart with thankfulness no matter how many times I read it:
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” 
Psalm 119:105 
No matter the circumstances, decisions, joys, sorrows, trials, struggles . . . God’s Word is indeed a true lamp and light . . . ."

To read the rest: click here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

At the Close of February

-- We celebrated my 28th birthday --

 Which was a special day! After the very full few weeks that preceded it, it was so nice to have a quiet day at home with my family.

-- Leah found a puppy that she is going to be getting! --

Photo: It's official... just a few more weeks and I will be picking up this little girl and bringing her home with me. <3

Isn't she adorable? She is an Akita, and she'll be old enough to pick up in less than two weeks. Leah is quite excited! And I am, too. :) It will be so fun to have a little puppy around the house again.


-- Leah and I got our barn all cleaned out and ready for kidding --

We have three does due this month, and their due dates are in 6, 7, and 14 days. Aurora and Dixie have already been moved to the barn, and we are looking forward to having little goat kids again!

Dixie

Aurora with her doeling, Sierra, from last year (Sierra's just in there to keep Aurora company.) Aurora certainly doesn't act like she's due to kid in just six days!

So this is some of what February came to a close with, and now March has begun. It is already off to a wonderful start, though I wouldn't mind if it was just a little warmer :) - yesterday morning it was -2 with -12 wind chill here . . . I am so ready for spring!