Saturday, December 17, 2011

Farm Fresh Eggs!

 Remember these guys I told you about a few months ago?? Well, they are all grown up into big girls now!  We are happy to announce that the dogs are being remarkably good with their new free range friends and nearly all are still accounted for!!  You might also recall that we carefully studied the requirements and worked really hard to get a nesting box all ready for them so they had a nice quiet place to lay eggs...
Who wouldn't want to start laying eggs in this beauty?!?!?!  But chickens are apparently independent thinkers... who knew??  Here's where this guy comes into the picture...

They found one of these to make their own nest and lay their eggs!  If you aren't familiar with these, they are protein tubs that you put out for cattle.  The empty ones can be used for all sorts of jobs around the farm.  We happen to be using a couple out by the chicken pen to hold some extra grass hay to bed the rabbits.  You guessed it... that is where Miss Hen decided she would start laying her eggs.  Once she did, the others followed suit and now that seems to be the nest of choice.  So when the book said they need a nice, quiet, private, dark place to lay their eggs... it was lying.  When the book said it didn't have to be anything fancy... it was right on!

For the record, this isn't my picture.  We only get one or two eggs a day so far but we have great expectations for more!!

And my friend Lyndi was right about the math lessons... so far we have gathered 6 eggs.  Nate has broken 2 of them.  How many have we gotten to eat?  Ally says 4.  Isn't she smart?? 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Tree Countdown Project...

There are so many fun projects out there for the holidays that I wanted to try a few with the kids this year.  First up was this fun Christmas Tree Countdown project.  I found the templates on another blog and cut 24 trees from some Christmas themed scrapbook paper I already had.  Sometimes we get so busy in December that we forget how much fun there is in the sheer anticipation of the holidays for kids.  This project makes us stop and appreciate each day and gives the kids something to look forward to!! 
I spent a couple of evenings tracing and cutting out the trees.  Nate was home sick this week so he helped me hot glue the trees together.  He also picked out all the numbers and labeled the trees 1 thru 25.

When we had them all numbered, we I secretly added a couple of small candy treats inside each tree along with a note of a fun activity or project for us to do that day.  Some are as simple as having a special treat with supper, calling a friend, reading about the birth of Jesus, or watching a fun movie.  Others are projects like doing a Christmas craft, baking something yummy for our friends & neighbors, or playing a board game with the whole family. 

 Stay posted for pictures of all the fun activities.  The most important part of the project is that it sets aside a little fun family time each day to enjoy the true meaning of Christmas.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A time for work, a time for play...

When you wake up to a view like this, you know it's gonna be a good day!  After we got the cattle taken care, it was time to play.  We went sledding, made a snow man, jumped in the piles of snow, and just had a lot of fun!  I think the pictures pretty much speak for themselves!!!
Lexi and Trapper had a ball sledding and playing with the kids!!

My snow angels...

Bad photography or blizzard conditions??

Of course you have to end a day of snow play with a nice mug of hot chocolate and extra marshmallows!!
And just think... we get to do it all again tomorrow!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

When it snows on a farm...

When I woke up yesterday morning, this was the view out my window.   You can imagine the excitement of the kids when they woke up.  I don't recall ever having this much snow at once since I've lived in Nebraska.  Unfortunately, when you live on a farm, snow means as much work as it does play.  Luckily we did a little of both but our first priority is always the livestock.  Hubby was at work taking care of the cattle there so I was on my own to check our cows and make sure they had water. 

 I chose to sport the always fashionable Carhart line of apparel accessorized with my favorite Muck boots.  I thought of my dad when I was getting ready... he always used to tell me "This isn't a fashion show so just get out there!"  I eventually came back to the house for my ski goggles because it was snowing so hard that I couldn't see anything!

The cows were actually pretty content when I found them.  We are blessed with amazing wind breaks all throughout the property so they found a nice tree line to hide behind out of the wind.  The temperatures were comfortable if you stayed out of the wind.

Luckily the 4-wheeler has 4 wheel drive so we were able to get back and forth to the water tank to get it filled.  The kids came with me on my 2nd trip to shut off the hyrdrant. 

Did you know beef cows drink up to 20 gallons of water a day?  A dairy cow can drink 30 to 50 gallons of water each day due to higher milk production.  That's a lot of water!!

Even though it was pretty frigid outside, Lexi couldn't resis taking a quick swim in the tank.  I think she knows her swimming days are pretty much over til next spring!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving from our house to yours!!

I'm thankful every single day of the year for all the blessings we have in our life, but today is a special day to stop and really appreciate it.  We are blessed with the most amazing kids anyone could ever ask for, good health, incredible friends and family, great jobs, and a loving God that has given it all to us.  I am thankful for the wide open spaces that we call home and that we can raise our kids with the joys and life lessons that come from living a rural life.  With all the sadness and tragedy we see in our daily news,  it is easy to appreciate the little things in life.  May we never become so busy or distracted that we fail to take a moment to enjoy the sunrise or sunset, the wildlife along the road, the laughter of our kids, and the love of our family and friends.  So today... I am thankful for YOU!  Have a great Thanksgiving!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The importance of good communication

Last Monday, our secretary at work took a strange message from our neighbor. The note I got said “Jim called. He said your cattle got on the trucks fine.” I thought about it for quite a while and finally decided he either called the wrong number or he had officially lost his mind. To our knowledge, we weren’t shipping, receiving, or otherwise doing anything with our own cattle. I dismissed it as nothing more than odd but went over and mentioned it to the hubby prior to leaving work. He had the same initial reaction as I did but we agreed to check the cows later just in case.

After doing chores at a leisurely pace, I went back to the house to start supper. About that time the phone rings… the 6 yr old answers and says “It’s dad. He says it’s an EMERGENCY”. When I pick up the phone all he says is “STALKS! The cows are out on Jim’s STALKS!” By this time it’s nearly 5:00 and daylight is burning fast. As per my instructions, I was to leave the kids at the house and head to the cows as fast as my 4-wheeler would take me. By the time hubby met me at said location, I had determined that about 30 head were in fact missing. It was already getting dark and the cattle were black so things were not looking good for the home team. I headed west on the 4-wheeler and I have no idea where he headed.

I should probably mention a few details to catch you up to speed with the scene… 1) cell phone service is rather hit and miss in our part of the world so our means of communication was pretty much non-existent unless you happen to hit a lucky spot on a hill. 2) Hubby didn’t take time to get the other 4-wheeler so his two options were his pickup and walking. 3) Hubby was supposed to be unloading cattle at work so there was a slight sense of urgency beyond our own issues at home. 4) I have not quite adjusted to the time change and didn’t quite understand that it would in fact be pitch black in a matter of minutes.

So with that, we are both out searching for said cows. I finally came across some tracks after what seemed like forever. Feeling rather Indian-like in my ability to track prey, I starting following them and checked to see if I had signal to alert hubby of my great skill. When I did reach him, all I got amongst the static was “HEAD WEST. THE COWS ARE WEST. GET OVER HERE NOW!!!” By the time I got there, he was 2 miles west of our house and was on foot attempting to herd 30 uncooperative cows back home. Keep in mind that gathering cows who’ve been out joyriding for the day is much like herding cats thru a rainstorm. We headed in the general direction of our pasture and by the time we got there it was nearly dark. We had just finished getting the gate shut when we heard a crash and a lot of rustling. Somebody had the bright idea to jump the fence and take about 10 of their best friends with them. Now we had cows in three different sections all separated by trees and fence. We finally got them all back together and were about to shut the gate when I heard more rustling. At this point it was pretty well dark but we figured out there was one lone cow left in the trees. She was less than cooperative coming out and in the meantime the others were circling back and coming back in. After some colorful language, a foot race, a broken gate, and something about the salebarn, they were finally all together in a new pasture. We still had to go fetch hubby’s pick up which was about 3 miles from the house and then he was off to work again.

The next morning I realized I had missed a call during the ordeal. It was a colorful, urgent message of his discovery of the cows and his request for my assistance at his location. I laughed out loud when I finally heard the message. So after our big adventure, it seems instead of “He said your cattle got on the trucks fine” it was actually “Your cattle are out on STALKS that are MINE!”

Communication people…. It’s important!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The chickin coop...

Remember these guys from the big chicken sale?  Well, the experts tell me they should start laying eggs soon so we needed a chicken coop.  We found some for $150 - 300 but much to the hubby's dismay, I was convinced we could build one for next to nothing.  So I took a handy dandy piece of scrap paper and engineered a very ROUGH plan.  We already had some leftover plywood from the house remodel so I went to the hardware store and bought $13.33 worth of wood screws, L brackets, and a couple of 1x2's. 

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and the hubby was home from work a little early so we set out to build our nesting box.  Since I love power tools, I was in charge of all the cutting.  Go Me! Ally was in charge of photography but all I got was 14 pictures of the power saw (all very up close and personal) so she got demoted.  Actually... she got mad and went inside to read a book.

Gail was in charge of all the measuring.  He had trouble reading my blue prints so I had to translate the little scribbly lines for him.  "... Of course that is the top piece... isn't that obvious??"

Nate was a big help.  He even got to use his own drill.  Doesn't every 6 year old have their own power drill??  I see he is using a screw driver here... battery must have been dead.

Ally finished her book and returned to help us finish up the project.  I think she really came out to see how  much longer I would be so I could come in and make supper.  Anyway, while she was there we put her to work.  She measured and cut some of the dividers.

Here we are putting the dividers in.  Apparently chickens like privacy to lay their eggs.  So privacy we gave them.  They better get to work.

Here's the finished box.  We stole the hinges off the old rabbit cage and I still have my 1x2's left so we made the whole thing for less than 5 bucks!  YESSSSS.  I think we should go into mass production.  You can send me your orders via the comments below.

By the way... I am selling them for $150.  Labor is expensive you know.....

Now go buy some chickens!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Halloween Horse Show 2011

A few weeks ago, the kids got to participate in the annual Halloween fundraising horse show.  Their horse club puts it on every year as a fun day for the kids and their horses.  All the class entry fees go towards a purchase for the arena.  This year it was for an electronic score clock. 

Ally chose to be a jockey.  Sonny was not so thrilled about it but he seemed to tolerate it for the day!  At least he didn't play the part of a race horse and take off with her and for that we are thankful!

The kids do a costume class and then all sorts of fun contests like the pumpkin race, the keyhole race, and the ribbon race.  They have a great time and don't even realize they are improving their riding skills at the same time! 

Nate was a mounted policeman.  He was in charge of security at the fairgrounds.  He took his job very seriously.

Here are just a few of the creative costumes... a World War II fighter pilot, an angel, my cop, a 90's hip hop dancer, and Jessie off of Toy Story.  Hats off to the many creative kids and their parents who make this such a fun day!!

Apparently the jockey got into some trouble with the law.  Luckily the cop was there to keep the situation under control for public safety.  Thanks Mr.Cop.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pumpkin Carving

Fall means all sorts of great things but one of my favorites is pumpkins.  We generally don't carve many beacause they last so much longer when you set them out whole, but this year was different.  A friend of ours invited us to their annual pumpkin carving party!
Here is the before with most of the kids and their pumpkin of choice!  You should have seen their excitement!!

The only requirements were to bring your own pumpkins and to have FUN!  The kids really got into the cleaning part.  What could be more fun than sticking your hands in gooey, slimey, sticky stuff?

After looking at the pictures, it is beyond me why we gave all these little kids knives to play with but they were under close supervision at all times!  And I think the host was prepared with a very large first aid kit!!

I'm happy to report no children were harmed in the filming of this activity.  However, I can't say the same for the pumpkins!!

And the best part... the AFTER pictures!!  They were so proud of their pumpkins!  I don't know who was cuter... the kids or the pumpkins!

Gotta have a "crazy" photo!  Thanks so much to Kelsey & family for hosting such a fun day!  And yes... we did this before Halloween but I'm a little behind on my blog.  They were too cute not to share even if I'm late!!  Besides... pumpkins never go out of style in my book!!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Storing nuts...

 Like any good squirrel who stores up a supply of nuts for winter, we've been trying to stock pile all the amazing, fresh produce so we can enjoy it all winter long.  Our most recent project was freezing sweet corn.  I know it might be easier (and probably cheaper) to pick up a few cans in the grocery aisle throughout the winter, but it sure does taste good when you pack it yourself!   
My only additive is a little butter to melt during the cooking process.

I discovered the use of my grill for cooking sweet corn last year while we were under construction.  I was without a kitchen for several months during the summer and experimented with all kinds of things on the grill.  It keeps the heat out of the house and the mess is minimal.  I just wrap about 4 ears at a time in foil and cook on the grill for about 20 minutes.  I flip the package halfway thru the cooking.

Right off the grill.  They look, smell and taste amazing!!

The absolute most important step is to have a professional label all of your packages!

Who wouldn't smile everytime you pull out a package of corn all winter?  I might just keep it for sentimental purposes!

The finished product!  This will taste amazing this winter when it's 20 below outside! 

The best past is having a fresh, wholesome food supply for your family all winter.  No preservatives added here!  I like knowing where my food comes from and who was involved in the process!
And when you are done, you get to feed all the shucks and cobs to the cows.  They LOVE this part and nothing goes to waste!!  They come running when they see the buckets on the four wheeler!