Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Another Birthday..

5 years ago this day right around this time I woke up with a pain unlike I have felt before, I got out of bed and waddled to the computer chair and sat down. 15 minutes later I felt it again, I called a lady I worked with who had a child a couple months ago I explained what I was feeling and she said congrats you are in labor. Completely freaked out but in a weird zone I started to clean to house and let Ronnie sleep until 10, at that point I woke him and told him I was in labor.

We called my midwife and she asked us to come in so she could check me out. As we sat in the office waiting room full of other pregnant woman I had another pain, the other ladies could tell I was in labor and got very excited as me all sorts of questions, my name was called and I disappeared into the rooms. She checked me out informed me I was indeed in labor and I could now go to the hospital. We left but I didnt want to spend my whole day in the hospital so I made Ronnie take me to get a smoothie (the thing I craved my entire pregnancy) and take me home. Pulling into the parking lot at our apartments I yelled out in pain and told him to take me to the hospital right now. He ran inside and grabbed our bags, car seat, and other baby items we were going to need turned the car around and drove me to the hospital, I sat in the seat calling my family and letting them know.

We got to the hospital and checked in, they made me ride upstairs in a wheelchair despite my protests of wanting to stand and walk. They gave me my room and let me get comfortable. I remember it was a large private room with a nice sized window that the sun was streaming in. Ronnie sat in the chair next to me holding my hand as family poured in, then the nurse came to give me my epidural at this point I was crying every time a contraction came and they kept telling me i needed to be still so they could insert the needle. The nurse wrapped her arms around me while i buried my head in her chest and sobbed. Once I was hooked up to my meds the pain was dull enough that when they told me to sleep I gladly did.

The next thing that happened is I woke up to "Ok its time to push" and then it hit me, the pain and throbbing every time I pushed. The vein in my forehead that felt as if it was going to pop, my mom and Ronnie holding my hands and legs and then the crying. The amazing creation that had just come from my body was being wrapped in a blanket and cleaned up. They set her in my arms all bundled and i remember feeling just amazement and disbelief. She was perfect in every way.

Watching her grow into the little girl of today has been an amazing adventure. Through all her firsts, through the first day of school, and now her starting to want to be more independent. I cannot believe that my little baby has turned 5.

My big 5 year old!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bunny Tent

Needing something that could be used to keep the elements off our rabbits and give them an even nicer space we rigged up a bunny tent for under $20

6x 8ft 1/2 pvc pipe
3x pvc pipe connectors
3x 8ft 1x2 wood
1x role of poly rope
1x 8x10 tarp
6x cinder blocks

Its a super simple construction that will serve its purpose and was cheap. In Florida that hot sun can make anyone uncomfortable especially little creatures that are covered in fur!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Rabbits, Chickens, and Fish.. Oh My!

We are coming upon a busy time here at Sunny Spot Gardens. Just yesterday we celebrated our only child's 5th birthday. This year was Hello Kitty themed and she had a blast! While summer here in Florida makes me want to do nothing more then stay inside and blast cold air on myself, I find this to be a busy time.

This year we have big changes. We have rigged up a bunny tent (coming in a blog post soon), This will keep our bunnies in a little more shade, a little more out of the elements, and I think makes their area more their own. Speaking of bunnies I have become something of a rabbit addict. You may remember my posts about when I get my head set on something I go for it, and go all the way? Well what started as a healthy need to raise sustainable cruelty free meat for our own consumption has turned me into a rabbit lady. I have my meat rabbits, but we are also now investing (and I mean investing) in stock bunnies that are dual purpose. They are amazing meat rabbits dressing out at 65% of their live weight but also wonderful show rabbits. Yes, that's right we might just start showing rabbits. I have recently learned that you can be 5 yrs old and show rabbits, so Brooke and I will be learning together and hopefully this will be a nice family activity that will double by teaching her responsibility. We also have considered keeping and angora or 2 as inside pets to spin their fiber. (See my post about spinning yarn)

Besides the new rabbit adventure we have started working to improve the life of our hens. We have been neglecting them for the rabbits or gardens, or numerous other things as the chicken love has faded. 2 of our girls have daily escapes which make us go out and chase them around the gardens until they finally give up and hunch down to be taken back home other then that we go out to see them every couple days, refresh their water, refill their food, collect the eggs but that's all. My chicken love has been renewed by falling in love with baby chicks all over again.. I realized that I cant just love chicks then treat them like the black sheep of the family when they grow up, so i started spending more time with them. Holding them, taking pictures of them, and just watching them be chickens. I do love them! In my time spent with them I saw just how much their coop has rotted away, It served a great purpose for the past 3 years, housing them, giving them a safe place but the wood has rotted and the roof has almost caved in, it was time to upgrade their life (and our yard) so we dropped a hefty sum on a brand new top on the line sturdy and attractive chicken coop. One that will last us many years to come and if we move is light enough we can take it with us. Their new coop will be delivered on the day of our Homesteading Event here at the gardens (May 5th) and will keep them enclosed, happy, and healthy. It can happily keep 6 large hens, we have 4 large hens and 1 tiny hen :) so I am not to worried though it is much smaller then their current area so I feel slightly bad but my gardens will be happy to not be dug up everyday and I think my ladies will like their new digs :)

On to our final new adventure; Fish! Our pond was installed some months ago and has just been sitting there unused. The plants have been growing and frogs have used it to home their tadpoles (THERE ARE SOOOO MANY) but we had originally wanted it to raise Tilapia in. So within the next 2 weeks my husband will be making the journey to find up 10 tilapia that will start breeding and fill our pond with lovely fish that we can harvest for fresh fish. I am nervous about this endeavor more then any other because its so different then what I am used to with the chickens and even rabbits but we all must start somewhere I suppose! The pond has lost a lot of water (its dropped about 3 inches) within the last month so I am going to ask if that's normal or if I have a problem. Otherwise onwards towards the fishy adventure!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Date Night

It is so rare that we get a night away from work, Brooke, the gardens, animals, or whatever other thing holds us to the house. For valentines day this year I got my husband hockey game tickets, Yesterday was the big day! I got off work an hour early and came home, he had dropped off the little one earlier that day at grandmas for the night, we scarfed down a quick buffalo chicken meal that the hubby made, and took off... We had a really nice time at the game. I could only afford the nosebleed seats but it gave us a clear view of the ice and we were surrounded by other Pens fans so it was lots of fun!

Labeling Night

Spread out on the floor on my small living room is jars and jars of jams and jellies. Business items are spread out in front of me as I write out the labels for our products. Tag, logo label, cottage food stamp, handwritten jam name and ingredients.  I am very excited for whatever it is that lays ahead for Sunny Spot Gardens!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Organic MulStraBerry Tea Jelly

4 Organic Back Tea Bags were brewed into 2 cups of water, then 1 cup of mulberries from our garden and 7 strawberries were crushed and added to tea. The jelly was strained 4 times to remove all particles, seeds, and pulp then canned for sale!

Friday, April 5, 2013

What to plant in Zone 9 in April

Plant seeds of:

Beans: Bush, Pole, Lima
New Zealand Spinach
Malabar Spinach
Yard Long Beans
Cow Peas
Southern Peas
Sweet Potatoes

What to do:
* Stake tomato plants with a rigid stake that is at least five feet tall. This will help keep fruit off the ground.
* Keep everything well watered during dry and hot spells

Florida's Cottage Food Laws

During the 2011 Legislative Session, the Florida Legislature enacted House Bill 7209 allowing individuals to manufacture, sell and store certain types of “cottage food” products in an unlicensed home kitchen. The Cottage Food law became effective on July 1, 2011.

 Cottage food products include such items as  breads, cakes, cookies, candies, jams, jellies, and fruit pies.  

“Cottage food operations” as they are called require no license or permit from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), and are
not inspected by any state government entity. 

**Gross sales for a cottage food operation must not exceed $15,000 annually**

Products must be sold directly by the cottage food operator to the consumer.  Sales by Internet, mail order, consignment or at wholesale are prohibited.  

Cottage food products must be labeled in accordance with the requirements as outlined in Section 500.80(5), Florida Statutes, and United States Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, Part 101.      All cottage food products, offered for sale to the general public, must be labeled: ”Made in a cottage food operation that is not subject to Florida’s food safety regulations.”  

The FDACS  may investigate any complaint received against a cottage food operation. 

Label Requirements:

A cottage food operation may only sell cottage food products which are prepackaged with a label affixed that contains the following information: (printed in English) 
~ The name and address of the cottage food operation
~ The name of the cottage food product
~ The ingredients of the cottage food product, in descending order of 
predominance by weight;  The net weight or net volume of the cottage food product;  Allergen information as specified by federal labeling requirements; If any nutritional claim is made, appropriate nutritional information as specified by federal labeling requirements
~ The following statement printed in at least 10-point type in a color that provides a clear contrast to the background label:  “Made in a cottage food operation that is not subject to Florida’s food safety regulations.”

Allergy Info:

As a cottage food operator, you must identify if any of your ingredients are made from one of the following food groups:  eggs, milk, wheat, peanuts, soybeans, fish and tree nuts.   On the label possible allergens are identified as “Contains wheat, eggs, milk, soy and walnuts.”  This labeling allows consumers to avoid food which may be harmful to them.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Foo Foo

Our bunny Foo Foo is totally spoiled, everyone loves her, today she came inside with us while it was pouring outside and Brooke made her right at home!

        Cuddled up and cozy under her blanket!


As part of my goal to learn many new (well old) skills I have picked up archery. It is coming fairly naturally for me. I spent about a month researching bows, arrows, proper stance, etc. Reading website after website, watching youtube after youtube, just gathering as much info as I could on traditional archery. That's right I am going old school, no crossbows or compound bows for me, I wanted either the long bow or recurve.

I ended up with a starter recurve bow made by Bear. Its a 60 inch bow with a 35 pound draw weight and a 28 inch drawback. My perfect learning bow. I couldnt nor did I want to drop over $100 on a bow without knowing if I was going to like it and stick with it. So I coughed up my $60 for the bow, arrows, and hip quiver and waited for them to arrive. I was happy with what came. I nice sized green bow that seemed sturdy. I had no idea how to string it so youtube was pulled back up and i watched 3 videos before I finally found one who shows how to do it without a stringer (something i did not invest in). I got it strung after about 10 minutes of fighting with it and pulled back the string. My arms shook and I couldnt hold it for more then 5 seconds. I practiced pulling it back and holding it all night long.

This morning we went outside during a break in the storm and had a go. I set up my stance, pointed at the target, and drew back my arrow. Everything felt natural and in sync, my arm didnt shake, and I took a deep breathe, closing my eye to aim, I let the string loose and the arrow flew across the yard hitting my target at the top. I was so amazed I actually hit the target I could have done a dance. I felt invigorated, happy, and currently buzzing with adrenaline. I think I am in love but we will see how it goes. If in 6-8 months from now I am still this in love with it, and want to continue I may just invest in a better bow. In the meantime this is my baby, even my daughter loves it asking that when she gets bigger I could get her a bow like mine (Guess who is getting a bow with foam arrows for her birthday this year?). Ronnie has decided he wants a crossbow, which is fine for him but I like the feel and connection with mine!

And I am aware of the current love of bows because of a certain movie called The Hunger Games.
I assure you my love of bows started when I was in 5th grade and decided to pick Artemis as the goddess for my school project, then again when Lord of the Rings came out, then of course we have Brave with the red headed princess being an amazing shot, but I do in fact LOVE The Hunger Games, less the movie but way the books. I read all 3 within a week, so in honor of that I got myself a little something to maybe channel some Katniss...


I went and looked in our pond and was stunned to see all these weird things swimming around. There were thousands. I was afraid they were almost adult mosquito so I posted a picture on facebook asking what it was... turns out we are about to see a HUGE increase in frogs or toads around the gardens! Maybe they will keep the pests down :)


Creating a Business

For years I have dreamed of having my own business. When I was younger I started a lingerie online business but after not having the passion or desire for that field I just cut the strings on it. Since I started canning and creating jams I have considered selling them. Sometimes selling to family, friends, or online. I wanted to go bigger and start at farmers markets but that requires start up money, time, and energy that I just did not have. So for the past couple years it has just been a dream until recently. Ronnie got a job that was bringing in decent money which freed mine up a little more then it had ever been. I slowly started getting the things I would need in order to actually maybe sell my goods. I researched laws, scouted markets, and had long talks with my mom who as always encouraged me.

I started buying jars and creating recipes for my own original jams and jellies, I would lie awake at night creating kooky creations in my mind and writing them down. Then I purchased tags, and ribbon to label our jars for sale. I ordered my first basket of goods with the Sunny Spot Gardens logo and info on them. During one of my long talks with my mom we both bought a domain name for our businesses (yup she is starting too)! I just ordered a new batch of items with the Sunny Spot Gardens URL on it. Have learned the laws and now just need to figure out what else we need to start selling at the markets. I am so excited. We are going to offer so much to our customers. One of a kind awesome jams and jellies created in my head and in our laboratory (I mean kitchen)!

Life is Good!

Lets Welcome:
Sunny Spot Gardens
Artisan Jams and Jellies

Spinning Yarn

We have been up to so much around here as of lately. There has been no time breathe let alone blog. So here we go into catch up mode.

One of the skills I desired to learn was yarn spinning. I stalked pages of spinners, read about it, and them at the SweetWater Sunday Market I saw a spinner, sitting and spinning on her wheel while selling her goods. I stopped and we talked and talked. I loved her yarns, each different and amazing. I asked about her wheel and when she told me the cost I about gave up my ideas right then. There was no way I could drop $250 - $500 on anything let alone a spinning wheel. I went home and started thinking, what can I do.. I looked up making one but that didn't seem likely so I started searching the web and decided to hand spin. I searched around for the tools I would need... fiber, directions, and a drop spindle. I ended up finding my perfect match on Etsy, a starter pack that included alpaca fiber, directions, and a top whirl drop spindle.. it costs me a whopping $14 plus $4 shipping.

A week later my kit arrived in the mail. I was so excited!

 I read the directions 5 times, not understanding parts but going with it as best I can. I started spinning my first thread, messing up many times, breaking the fiber and adding more. It was fun you have a starter yarn, let the yarn hang in the air and spin the bottom on the spindle.

It took me about 3 days of learning to get my first thread ball completed. Then I had to learn to take it off the spindle and create this nifty little ball so it didn't unwind.

In order to make yarn you need at least 2 threads (as seen above) then you unspin them and respin together. After you have spun your threads together you tie them off at points to keep the yarn from tangling itself up while setting. Once you are tied and ready to go you soak your yarn in a bath of HOT water and shampoo for 20 minutes.

Once it has soaked for the amount of time pour out your soapy water, and add room temp water and let it soak in that for 5 minutes moving around just a little to get the soap out. Once finished squeeze out your yarn by hand then set on a towel and press it to get more water out.

Hang to finish drying overnight (I used the shower), I set a can in the nook while drying to help it dry a little more straight. Now you have a completed yarn, I could have dyed it at this point but I liked the natural look of the alpaca fibers.

The finished result is beautiful to original and was all my own work. I am thrilled and have even started considering get a fiber rabbit to raise since I cant raise alpacas in Tampa :)