Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Chicks

Ok so after the loss of Shadow I have been going through chicken withdrawal so what better way to welcome in the new year then new baby chicks!? I couldn't think of one.

So off to the feed store did we go, picking out our little chicks and getting them into the car.. they then made the trip to my grandmothers for a visit, where we sat and watched them... one little girl didn't look so hot. She was small and just laid around not making a sound... we started thinking of names and I scooped up that little chick in my hands. We decided on Happy for her for happy new year, as soon as i held her up to my face and asked her if Happy would be a good name for her, she changed.. she started peeping, I put her back down in the basket.. she was up cheeping loudly, walking around, stretching her wings and legs, acting like a completely different chick.. I was thrilled and knew we had found her name, the other is currently not named but I'm sure she will be soon!

After that we went on the ride home where I set them up in their new brooder, a simple rectangle laundry basket, lined with hay, and topped with shredded newspaper and paper towels.. we set up a little food dish, and their water bowel.. dipped their beaks and set them on a high bar stool under the heat lamp!

I feel wonderful having new little chicks in the house, hearing their little peeping is just wonderful!!!

Resolutions

Ah yes the new year where people make promises to themselves they break within a month.. I want to lose weight, I want to quit smoking, I want to make more money... I hear these over and over and over again, but they are hardly achieved!!

My resolutions this year are different..

- Plant 3 new fruit trees
- Finish transforming my front yard into a garden area
- Start and finish my small scale food forest where there is now just leaves..
- Learn more about ways to work with nature
- Can enough food to fill up my shelves
- Grow as much of our own food as we can
- Start a Bee Garden
- Be the best mother and wife I can be
- Pay off as much debt as I can

As you can see most of my resolutions are attainable with a little hard work and many sweaty dirty days,
but some are harder like paying off my debts.. because after bills we really don't have much left.. just enough for food and a couple packs of seeds to grow our food..
One is personal because I strive to be the best mommy I can for my little angel and hope I am, and this year we will be getting married so now I also will strive to be a awesome wife ( which should come easy because I bleed awesome ;) lol lol)..

I would also like to lose weight.. and I already quit smoking over 4 years ago but I am not setting that as my resolution because its to easy to go off track.. nobody likes going on a diet to lose weight, or going through withdrawal to stop smoking so these things are easily pushed off to the side and forgotten.. but I love being a mom, and I love gardening, working to transform my yards into a living, and producing wonderland of fruits and veggies so these goals though there may be many will be fun projects to work on throughout the whole year, giving me a steady stream of satisfaction when one is completed!!!

So whatever your resolution(s) might be this year I wish you the very best in achieving them!!! Remember pick something fun and attainable because studies have showed that many get depressed after failing to reach those goals they have set.

Have a safe and very happy new year!!!!

My New Years Eve Day

It has been a very exciting 2011 full of happiness, learning, and loss...

But today is the final day and I have a big day planned!

First is the cleaning and purging of our house..
Do you find that you get overwhelmed in clutter and things? I do and I find 2 really good times to purge.. one is in the middle of summer, when your so sick of the heat you just have to be indoors so you crank up the ac pour yourself a glass of iced tea and CLEAN, the second time is right after Christmas and the start of the new year this is the very best time because more then likely you got a bunch of goodies and awesome gifts and need a place for these goods.. so its out with the old and in with the new.. new pan set for Christmas? freecycle the old pans (keeping only the best) and replace with the new! New clothes? Freecycle the old that maybe you don't really wear anymore either do to style or size!!

Second is getting new chicks..
As my readers know the day after Christmas we lost our best hen.. she was the sweetest hen, and laid the biggest eggs of the bunch! Well we need to replace that hen and since chickens HATE being alone we are getting 2 new chicks :) I'm very excited and hope it works out otherwise we will be getting some around the 15th.

Third is cooking new years eve and new years day dinner.
New Years Eve..
So tonight will be filled with appetizers type foods... Swedish meatballs, chips, homemade chicken tenders, etc etc..
For new years day..
My fiance has a tradition of eating sauerkraut and kielbasa for dinner on New Years day so since we have been together we have kept this tradition alive and well!!! All day it cooks in a crock pot (bought a new one today) and fills the house with its yummy smells!

I'm really excited and though this weekend is sure to be a busy one I'm sure it will be awesome!!!

Happy New Years friends, we wish you all the best!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Strawberry Season

Its the start of strawberry season and I am loving it!!!

My strawberry plants are producing like crazy though the birds keep getting to the ripe ones before me (yes I'm going to get bird netting ASAP) but its good to see such happy plants :)

We took a drive to plant city to enjoy strawberry and citrus season..
We picked up a flat of strawberries for $14, then filled up on fresh strawberry shortcake and strawberry milkshakes that will just blow your mind!!!





We came home and I'm still using up that flat of strawberries! So far I have 8 half pint jars of strawberry jam, 7 half pint jars of strawberry lemon marmalade, and am going to make strawberry lemonade concentrate and maybe strawberry wine jelly, all this and still every time I turn around my daughter has red stained hands and mouth :)

Strawberries are one of my fav fruits so this time of year is perfect for me!!! :)

YAY for eating and canning in season!!!

Above: Strawberry Lemon Marmalade

Below: Strawberry Jam

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wealth

in the future when dollar bills and coins lose their worth what will we be left with?

Only the real wealth.. the knowledge to grow your own food, raise your own animals for milk, eggs, meat, cheese, etc

Only this wealth is real and unchanging it has been around since the start and will be around until the end

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Loss of a Pet


Today we lost Shadow our wonderfully loving hen. She was the friendliest hen of the bunch and we all loved her dearly. She had been having a hard time breathing and when we awoke today she had past.. in what looked like her sleep which is how I hope.

It is very sad and I am crying as I write this but we thanked her for making our life brighter, and we know that this is part of raising animals.

Her sisters seem to be confused and are looking for her..

She is in the back of our yard buried and surrounded by stones.. complete with a marker and a flower.

Thank you shadow for your eggs, and blessing our life!



Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Have yourself a merry little Christmas!!!! Hope all is well.
Enjoy your day of santa stories, family, faith, cookies, good food, and gifts.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Chicken Area Decision

Well Winter has started but its still in the mid to upper 70's here in central FL with the nights in the upper fifties, and low sixties..

Outdoor work is still being done in full force.. this Christmas weekends project is moving the chicken area.

I had it right in front of the screened in porch but as I learn more about permaculture I understand animals should be in a outer zone with the garden beds closer to the door.. already the back half of my yard is garden beds so we are moving the chicken area to a new grassy patch in the corner along the house, fruit trees should also be in the outer zone so along the fence (including one in the new chicken area) is where any future fruit trees will be planted (hoping for plum and maybe another peach). We stuck new long posts in spaced about 4 ft apart with the old shorter posts between.. the old green fencing will be attached to all the poles, and then bird netting will be attached above that to the taller posts giving a much taller fence so the chickens can't escape into the yard without being supervised.

In the old chicken area they have completely scratched up all the grass and roots, littered their molting feathers and poop all around and have made the area a prime start for new beds.. there is currently a Meyer lemon tree and a mulberry tree in that area so those will be left and a couple small herb beds and 1 long garden bed will be placed there.. that also gives more of a area around my rocket stove giving a little more working room.

I'm very excited to get everything set up and fixed around here :)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Winter is approaching

In most places people are preparing for winter, stacking wood, storing produce, putting beds to rest if they are not already, adding blankets to the bed, storing hay and food for the animals.. we do that all here as well..

The comforter is added to the sheet on the bed, the animal food is bought and stored in a sealed container from food seeking bugs, we stack wood for our chilly 30 degree nights ;), and we are harvesting and putting up food all winter long..

hahaha..

Well our nights are in the 50's and the days in the upper seventies.. STILL.. but even though the winter veggies are sulking, the tomatoes are loving it and the extended heat season is finally giving us what appears to be a wonderful growing season.. the plants are loaded with everything from small tomatoes to large tomatoes.. I am very very thrilled!!!

Now that it is closing in fast, I am getting very excited for Christmas, cookies have been baking, ginger bread house has been made, presents are under the tree (except for gifts Santa brings of course), my car is being fixed and should be ready by the middle of the week and even though we might be struggling with money I think our life is very good!! :)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Clear Ice Cubes.. The Trick..

Many people have seen the lovely clear ice cubes with herbs, fruit, or flowers frozen inside..

I've been wanting to do this but always ran into a big problem.. My ice freezes white and clear.. I figured it was my water and gave up.. then I learned the trick...

Boil your water first, cool and then use.. Thank you Food Network.. cant wait to put this trick to use :)

Pictures Around Sunny Spot Gardens (December 17th, 2011)

A Look at our garden harvest today!

Turnips Growing!

Strawberries growing and flowering :)

Thai Chili Peppers Growing!!

Baby Peas growing up!

Swiss Chard

The kale the chicken feasted on :(

Lettuce Bar!

Garden!

A little Eggplant Baby

A flower almost ready to bloom

Garden Beds with newly sprouted plants!

Tomato in my hand.. its huge, and still growing!

Ripe Lemon!

More tomatoes!!!


Serrano Peppers!

My Yard!

The Heirloom Life Gardener- Review

So being a girl who has read more then her share of garden books I wasn't overly tempted to buy this book right away, sure I love Baker Creek but it seemed like just another gardening book, that is until they were nice enough to ask me to review it.


Title: The Heirloom Life Gardener
Authors: Jere and Emilee Gettle with Meghan Sutherland
Publisher: Hyperion
First Edition ~ Copyright 2011



My book was sent in the mail and arrived maybe 4 days later (is true Baker Creek fashion), I ripped into the packaging exposing a beautiful hardcover book. I immediately got cozy on the couch with a blanket wrapped around me and dove in.
The first thing I noticed in the front couple pages of the book is that it is printed on sustainably harvested paper, I would hope for no less but glad they had the stamp and followed true to their ideals.
Next I did a initial flip through and was thrilled to see numerous colored photos, some taking up a whole page!
I then started reading..

This book is like sitting down with a old friend, you read it easily as the words flow off the page and you can almost hear them being spoken to you. It starts off with a basic intro.. why they wrote the book, what went into it, etc.. they also give a brief introduction into what a heirloom is.. summing up to a heirloom is a un-hybrid, open pollinated seed and in most cases have been around for over 50 years (many much longer), it also goes into Monsanto's chemicals and how our quality of our precious food is declining.

The first real chapter is Growing Up with Heirlooms and that's where the story begins.. starting out with Jere's childhood on their little homestead in the Boise Valley. Following this boys life from child to teenager is amazing and what many were hoping to read. Learning the joys a child find in nature, and the simple fun one can have in a patch of dirt is truly uplifting and wonderful to read. One part I really enjoyed was when he was speaking of being a young boy at his parents homestead and being sent out in the middle of winter to get food from the root cellar.. "I'd pull on my boots, clomp through snowdrifts, and shovel out a clearing so I could unlatch the enormous wooden door and climb down inside. Once I was down there, the earth warmed me- and then I'd remember the black widows that lurked in the dark corners, just as I was about to start hunting around for a jar of pink applesauce or a box of parsnips. Despite the snow and spiders, the taste of those veggies was always worth the search." I'm not sure why this stood out to me so much, it just seemed real, and lovely. Some might not understand how a jar of homemade applesauce or homegrown vegetables could counteract deep cold and spiders but I think those people must never have had the joy of eating those foods!


The book then follows Jere's journey to Baker Creek farm and the joy he and his family found there, starting a simple small seed business then as he made some money traveling to far off places to find and collect rare heirloom seeds. He writes about how he could not speak their language and that the farmers seemed confused that all he wanted was the seed and how he would take out a knife right there on the side of the street, cut into that vegetable, and scoop the seeds into a bag, label it, and move on. How wonderful these trips must have been, discovering foods you had not even thought would or could exist... eggplants in yellows and greens, tomatoes in whites and strips, squash in every size, shape, color, wow just wow.

After following Jere's journey to where he is now, we enter the typical gardening book. There's a small section of selecting you garden spot. Then preparing the soil, sowing cover crops (which helped me understand more how to do it vs. Other books that just say do it), then finally planting those wonderful seeds. After you plant the seeds there are brief descriptions about watering, mulching, and pest control. They of course warn you away from that awful chemical stuff and even give some examples of organic pest control methods which I found nice and helpful to some.

The 6th chapter is about seed saving. Its not long and drawn out but a simple start to saving. Basics are learned, and there are even lists of easy crops to save seed from and harder. They go more into detail about saving particular seed later in the book. Remember friends, seed saving is very important so we can save the future of these plants!!!


Chapter 7 is about the city farmer, I almost wish they had cut this out and extended something else in the book but it is pretty much a basic overview of container gardening, what grows well, their favorite container plants, and type of pots to use. It briefly goes into small gardens, and community gardens but just giving the basics.
I know that they wanted this book to be all inclusive but I just dont think it was "enough" to be included.
Though I love that they included a site to find community gardens near you.
Click Here for that Link

The last half of the book is their A-Z growing guide.. most gardening books have a version of this nowadays but I immediately loved this one because they included amaranth.. You almost NEVER hear about this veggie/grain and since I'm planning on growing it I loved that they included it! Now this Heirloom Life A-Z is different some letters have multiple plants and some letters are left out completely, I might have found a different name for it but their idea was pure. They include pictures, background, use, seed saving, and growing tips for each fruit or vegetable listed, and personally I think it's fun learning the history behind that little seed. :) Besides amaranth the include artichoke, cowpeas, ground cherry, kohlrabi, mustard, parsnips, rhubarb, sorghum, rutabaga, and then of course all the basics like cauliflower, cabbage, corn, melons, etc.

At this point you are coming the the end of your heirloom journey and they leave you by explaining simple ways to get your dose of heirloom fruits and veggies, you can go to a roadside stand, u-pick farm, farmers market, join a CSA, or attend a produce auction.

Even after my initial doubts this book wowed me so much many times I would read some aloud the my fiance or daughter just because I thought something was funny or interesting. The only thing I wish is that they would have expanded Jere's story more but all in all I consider this a must read by Baker Creek and heirloom enthusiasts alike.

Rating:
3 out of 4 peppers.. This book is HOT!!!


Thank you Baker Creek for giving me such a wonderful chance to review this book. :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The tomatoes

The Cherry tomatoes are starting to blush,
I even had a full ripe one a couple days ago..
and let me tell you that splitting a cherry tomato is hard to do 3 ways (Brooke, Ronnie, and myself) but we did, and man was it SUPER yummy!!
I cant wait to have a handful, or a large bite of a super large tomato that are still growing on the plants :)

Yay for what looks to be a AWESOME tomato season ahead!!!

My Car..

Well my car broke down.. its in the shop.. its going to cost $1000 to fix.. I dont have that type of money.. Sucks :(

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Book To Review

Well as my blog increases in readers, views, and fans I become happier that my message is spreading, but I'm not the only one who takes notice..

After my post about Baker Creek I was offered a wonderful, very exciting chance to review their new book.

The Heirloom Life Gardener

Today the book was in my mailbox.

First reaction.. lovely hardcover book, great front picture and style.

The inside: quickly flipping through I see lovely pictures (some I recognize from the seed book) and decent sized writing (unlike some books where you have to squint to read)

I'm very excited to jump in and see what this book is all about :)
Stay tuned dear friends!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tis the Season..

to be jolly... falalalalalala

:)

This season has been filled with ups and downs, drama and joy..
But this weekend I had a wonderful joyous night.

It started with a lovely dinner at my dad's.. the family was there.. Brooke, Ronnie, Dad, Traceen, Casey, and Cameron and it was very lovely, afterwards we piled into my SUV and drove to see a lovely christmas light display. Staying together in the Florida Cold (which to you northerners would be cool) was very nice, walking through the lights experiencing that Christmas joy as a family was just so nice, and I feel brought us just a little closer together.

See even though we live just 30 minutes apart we almost never see each other, and that dinner and time together made me so happy, just being together.. it was such a wonderful visit..

Heres some of the light display we saw!












It was mesmerizing and so wonderful, they had a fire going, and music, lights flashing and just the joy and smile on everyone's face.. that is what Christmas is about.. Family, laughter, joy... Not presents under a tree or in a stocking..
I loved every minute of it!

Afterwards I decided I wanted to treat everyone to a ice cream. So i asked around and got answers like 30 minutes away, or there's a Wendy's or McDonald's up the road.. but a little phone search pulled up a Custard shop 6 blocks away.. we drove over hoping they were still open and we were in luck.. it was called Rudolph's Custard Shop.. The owner has the place decked out in Rudolph Christmas stuff but not because of the holidays because his last name was Rudolph.. It was a small cozy place 3 seats lined a counter along the wall, and there was a table set up with kids toys but that was all besides the counter.. he had 3 simple flavors, vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate.. his trademark.. what really made him stand out was that his custard was made with honey..


and friends let me tell you.. Oh My Goodness..
We all ordered our cones, and took our first lick.. we were all stunned and mmmm'ed in unison.. that little custard shop in the middle of a not so great neighborhood that not even the locals who have been there for 50 years knew about had the most delicious fantastic honey custard.. no scratch that.. the best ice cream.. any of us had ever had.. WOW.


This is what made me so happy, we all by pass the little local places for big names we all know, but why.. when even the smallest of places can have such a big yummy impact. We will now make that a normal spot.. anytime my family ventures into St. Pete we will be stopping in a Rudolph's and having a fantastic cone!!


So that wonderful night the Christmas spirit came out in us all and we had a very memorable time that I wont soon forget!