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Friday, December 17, 2010

2010 Chicken Massacre

On October 19th of this year we became the owners of fifty broiler chicks, after seven weeks of non-stop eating the cute little broiler chicks were not so cute and were well ready for butchering. For seven weeks I prayed that we would be blessed with good weather for butchering day, and we were, Saturday warmed up to a balmy thirty-eight degrees, the sun shone for most of the morning and conditions were perfect for the task at hand. Dave had a couple of friends come over to help, Johnny and Clayton arrived at ten in the morning, and the 2010 chicken massacre began.
Milk jugs make okay killing cones, they held up through most of the flock, but the last ten or so chickens we held upside down by their feet and Clayton would walk by and cut off their heads, as the milk jug killing cones pretty much were done. A few of the roosters were too big to go head first into the cones so they had to go to the chopping block.
We rented a contraption called the Whizbang Chicken Plucker - an amazing machine, it plucks the chicken clean in about 1 minute, and with forty plus chickens to pluck it saves a huge amount of time.
I really enjoyed my Saturday, we were busy for about four hours, the weather was nice, we all had a good time and all ended up with a nice lot of chicken for our freezers.

October 19, the day old chicks arrive

December 11th, into the killing cones

Headless chickens ready to head :) over to the scalder.

Into the scalder for forty five seconds at 150 degrees.

an amazing contraption!

Whirling around in the Whizbang!

Removing all the nasty bits!

Washed, bagged, and ready for the freezer!

Monday, December 6, 2010

St. Nicholas Eve Celebrations at Manitou

Santa is a bit of blur, he just would not sit still!!!

Mrs. Claus eagerly unwraps her present!

Christmas Joy!

Dehydrator Fun - Making Beef Jerky!

As Santa and Mrs. Claus will be away this Christmas, we got together to celebrate the season yesterday, and it happened to fall on St. Nicholas Eve, which seemed very appropriate. Fun was had by all, as a fine dinner of prime rib was enjoyed and gifts exchanged. Pictured is Dave having fun today with his new possession, a food dehydrator, the first recipe he tried was beef jerky!

Monday, October 11, 2010


According to my Oxford American Dictionary content adj. contented, satisfied with what one has.

I have to say that I feel very satisfied and very content, with my life. There are moments that I feel such joy, and it is always over the very simplest of things. For example, in the morning I head out of the back door with the Lady, our puppy, and a bucket of feed for our steer, I walk towards the west, the sun behind me and lighting the trees at the back of our property everything looks peaceful in the early morning light. Lady and I stop to let out the chickens, she always has to jump up at the gate just in case the chickens don't realize she is there, then we head out to Jersey. Jersey always ambles over to greet us, although I am sure his main interest is for the contents of the blue bucket, rather than Lady and I. Then we turn to walk back to the house, oftentimes there is a light mist over the back yard, and I feel such contentment as I see our house rising out of the mist and the morning dew sparkling in the sunlight, it is truly one of my favorite things and when I feel stressed I picture this view.
I feel contentment when I hang out the laundry, behind the wash line there are a number of white pines, they always look beautiful against the blue sky and are a perching place for any number of birds, the clean laundry smells pleasant as it flaps in the breeze, the sun feels good against my skin, it is peaceful.
I feel contentment while making bread, this Saturday I made two batches of bread, each batch requires about fifteen minutes of kneading. I find the rhythm of kneading very relaxing, it slows everything down, it is just me and the bread dough working together, the dough changes slowly from a somewhat gloppy mess to a smooth, elastic mass. Then there is satisfaction in seeing ten loaves rising on the counter, at last ready to bake, and then the whole house filled with the delightful aroma of fresh baked bread. And finally, loaves of baked bread cooling throughout the kitchen, the inevitable cries of, "I want the heel!" as the first loaf is attacked with gusto.
I feel content when I preserve food. It can make for a long day, but what satisfaction in harvesting, cleaning, preparing, canning, and finally storing the food that we have grown.
I feel content when my newest grandson, Patrick, is snuggled up sound asleep on my shoulder, or when I play with him and he squeals and giggles and laughs. I feel content when my two year old grandson rushes up to me and hugs my legs, or calls me MamMaw, or stands in my pantry pointing to the ice-cream cone box and saying, " want ice-cweam".
I feel content when all of my children are home and we can sit down to share a meal together.
I feel content when my husband and I are working together on various projects around the house.
I feel content at the end of Mass, it is a joyful time, I leave feeling renewed, challenged by the homily, content and ready to face the week.
I notice that all of the things that make me content, the above list is but a small sampling of my contentment list, cost nothing yet are priceless to me. I can truly say that I am the definition of contentment - I am satisfied with what I have! :)
What brings you contentment?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Health Insurance - it makes me CRAZY!!!!

I called our insurance provider today to ask who the least expensive service provider (hospital) is in our community - they cannot give out that information! How exasperating!!!!
I was told by our insurance provider that they have contracted specific pricing with each hospital and that they cannot let me know what it is and that my only option is to call the hospital ahead of time to find out what they will be charging. This option works well if you are scheduling a test or procedure ahead of time, certainly you can call around and find out who has the best price, but it really would not work well in an emergency situation. I suspect that the insurance provider pays the exact same amount for specific procedures at any of the hospitals so probably my out of pocket will be the same regardless.

BUT WHAT IF all of the medical facilities had transparent pricing, so you knew exactly what the charge would be and could compare prices to determine who has the best price? WOW what a novel idea and one the medical providers hate, because obviously we would all flock to the best price hospital and it would only be a matter of time before the others in town would have to offer competitive pricing in order to keep patient count up. This would be a win win for the patient and the insurance company.

Instead we have mystery pricing, there is the amount the hospital would love to charge, the amount they will contract to charge with the insurance company, the amount they will charge if you can pay cash up front, the amount they can charge to medicaid/medicare, the amount they can charge to the uninsured. Could you imagine going to Sears to buy a sweater, there is no price tag on the sweater, you will not know the price until it is rung up at the register, and then you HAVE to buy it, and your price will be completely different to the next person in line buying the exact same sweater, because their insurance is different to yours? It really doesn't make sense at all does it? But this is exactly how medical billing is done.

It is unfortunate that medical billing has become such a murky, convoluted mess, and there seems to be no way out of it, and I seriously doubt that any of the Obamacare solutions will make it simpler, or cheaper. Most medical bankruptcies occur to people who have insurance - think about that, they have insurance and still cannot afford to pay the remaining balances owed.

The best thing to do is make sure that you fully understand your insurance coverage, have a savings account with at least your full family deductible saved, and then add to it, this way when a medical situation occurs you are not left high and dry, work towards saving $10,000 as a medical emergency fund, you cannot afford not to. And, take care of your health, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pictures from a recent visit to Shipshewana, Indiana

One place I have always wanted to visit is the Shipshewana Flea Market, well on Labor Day I had an opportunity to check it out. It was okay, not something I would visit again, as most of the booths either sold knick-knacks, or "as seen on TV" merchandise. Usually while the Flea Market is open the cattle/horse/antique auction is also going on. Many people descend upon the little town of Shipshewana to attend one or both of these events each week, traffic is very heavy, so be warned if you ever decide to go.
I love visiting Shipshewana, one of my favorite stores there is Yoder's, they have a hardware store, department store and small grocery all sort of separated yet together in one building, there is a large hallway running through the center of the building, the walls are hung with beautiful quilts, and lined with an abundance of rocking chairs, mainly occupied by husbands. The hardware store carries all the usual hardware type things, and looks of cooking ware, china, toys, very heavy duty laundry drying racks, carts to haul your laundry basket to the wash line, brooms, outdoor cooking cauldrons for making large vats of apple butter, just to name a very few of the items to browse. The department store reminds me very much of an old five and dime store, it has a large fabric department, with an amazing selection, large rolls of table cloth fabric, bridal fabric, quilting fabric, wools, flannels, and on and on, rack after rack of quilting stencils, tons of quilting notions, and cross stitch items, hook after hook of buttons, lace, and that is just one half of the store, the other half sells good quality shoes, work boots, cowboy boots, underwear, cowboy hats, Amish hats and bonnets, work clothes, and baby clothes, they have lovely cardigans at very reasonable prices, handkerchiefs, cloth napkins, table cloths and dish towels.
While visiting Yoders' I was pleased to find a child size broom for grandson Henry, he is two, and just loves to "help" sweep, I also found a couple of quilt stencils that will work well for the quilt I am currently working on.
Shipshewana is the home of the Davis Mercantile Building, the original building burned down a number of years ago, but a new one was built and it is four floors of fun, there is a very large carousel on the top floor, a favorite with many children, an old fashioned candy store, a wonderful fabric store for quilters called Lollys, and the usual knick-knack stores, it is a nice place to wander around. There are plenty of restaurants in Shipshewana, the largest is, The Blue Gate, great food for a good prices, lots of noodles, potatoes, fried chicken, roast beef, you know lots of comfort food and then there is dessert, if you have room.
For a relaxing day out Shipshewana is the place to go, I visit a couple of times a year and always enjoy myself.
Below are a few pictures from our most recent visit.

One of the booths at the flea market!

Emily took this picture, I really like it, it is another flea market booth.

Henry is very pleased with his new broom!

A cutsie schoolhouse we found on a back road as we traveled home.

This made us laugh, a buggy towing a boat!

Some type of steam powered contraption sitting by a barn.

AHHH, one of my favorite places to go, YODER's!!

Well you know, when there are horse and buggies around you are going to have manure.

Horses waiting patiently for their owners to finish shopping.

Friday, September 10, 2010

You were a good dog Tasha - we will miss you dearly!!

A sad day at our home today, we had to have our dear old dog Tasha put to sleep. Tasha joined our family 16 years ago. Dave came home one day and said come out to the car I have something, I followed him out, and there on the front passenger seat was what I thought was a kitten. I was wrong, it was a very small puppy, the runt of the litter, Dave had taken pity on her and brought her home. Tasha grew into a nice dog, she was a german shepherd/chow mix, she was loyal to the family, behaved well and shedded a lot!!! As Tasha grew older she suffered from arthritis, particularily in her hips, she became less and less active, but still pottered around the yard with us, followed us out to feed the cows, and really liked to lay on the deck and snooze her days away. Over the past several months Tasha declined, she barely left the deck or front porch, she would occasionaly wander a little ways into the yard, but getting up was a struggle for her, it took a huge amount of effort to stand. Yesterday evening I heard a strange noise and went to investigate, it was Tasha, she was attempting to get up and go into the kitchen, but was unable to get her back legs up, Dave carried her to her food bowls. Tasha eventually did get to standing and limped to the living room where she laid down. This morning she was still in the living room and completely unable to get up, we knew that the time we had dreaded had arrived, I made an appointment with our vet. Amber came over to help me carry Tasha to the car, carry her into the vet, carry her back to the room, it was very upsetting, yet I knew that it was the right thing to do. We were with Tasha to the end, we petted her, we cried, we sobbed, it was so sad........ We love you Tasha the cow dog, we miss you, you were a good dog and much loved and we are so glad that you were a part of our family for the past sixteen years. Good Bye Old Girl.

Friday, September 3, 2010

To-mah-to, To-may-to........

The jars make an attractive display in my dining room.

A 5 gallon bucket of tomatoes will fill anywhere from 7 - 10 one-quart jars.

The tomatoes are washed and ready for processing.

Into boiling water for a few minutes, then plunged into cold water to loosen the skins, then peeled and cored.

Peeled and cored tomatoes are put into quart jars, each jar has 2 T of lemon juice and 1 t of salt added ahead of time. The lemon juice MUST be added to ensure that the acidity is high enough for safe processing in a hot water bath canner.

Jars are placed in the hot water canner. Quart jars process in boiling water for 1 hour and 25 minutes.

Time for a break, how about a delicious cheese and tomato toastie and a giant mug of tea??

Canned goods stored in the basement.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Homestead Update

Banana The Steer update: Last Saturday we went to the meat packer to check on our steer, Banana, we decided exactly how we wanted to have him butchered, and then to our surprise we were allowed to go back and see him. Hanging in the cooler were two large halves, formerly Banana, that were aging prior to butchering. One half weighed 330 lbs and the other 337 lbs. We anticipate a call later this week asking us to come pick up our meat, hopefully just in time for Labor Day.

Tomato update: I have canned 40 quarts, and was worried that I would not get many more, but with the very hot, humid weather we have had this week, 90+ degrees each day, the remaining fruit has ripened and I think I will easily get 20 quarts, or more, canned.

Cabbages update: We planted our cabbages very late, once the peas and onions were harvested we had room to transplant all of the cabbage seedlings , they are progressing slower than I had hoped I think in part because of the very dry, hot weather we have had. I hope that the cabbages take off because they probably have about 5 or 6 weeks at best to finish out.

New Puppy: Lady is doing well, she is still having a few "accidents" in the house, but has made a lot of progress (thank goodness for carpet cleaner machines). Lady now spends a good portion of her day outside, and enjoys going for walks, she sleeps in her cage at night and when we leave for an extended period of time.

Ben's car: finally the mechanic called, it definitely needs the water pump replaced, and the other problem is either a broken timing chain, or a problem with the cam shaft. We will repair the water pump and broken timing chain, but if it is the cam shaft we will not proceed with repair as it will cost more than the car is worth.

Fresh Salmon: Our neighbor went to NY state to fish, while there he caught a lot of salmon. Last night he gave us a huge filet taken from a 20 lb salmon, this was in "payment" for us feeding his pig while he was gone fishing. Emily and I enjoyed some of the salmon last night, pan fried in butter and served with a slice of homemade bread and butter - YUMMY!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Henry's Birthday

Here are a few pictures from Henry's birthday party.
I like this cake!

Little Brother Patrick enjoys the party.

Henry shows off his favorite toy, Rex the Dinosaur.

Look at my new undies!!!!!

Ooooh, Birthday Cake.

Showing off my new Big Wheel.

Hurry up with the singing, I want to eat my cake.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yogurt - How to Make It - EasyPeasy!

Pictured above are the items you will need to make yogurt, Powdered Milk, Water, 1/4 cup of yogurt with live cultures, a thermometer, whisk, pan, and incubator. In a large pan add 1 and 1/3 cups of non-fat dry milk with 3 and 3/4 cups of water, whisk well, let sit, then whisk again. Heat the pan of milk on low until it reaches a temperature of 180, remove from heat and allow to cool to 115. When the milk has cooled to 115, add the 1/4 cup of yogurt and stir until blended.

Pour the milk/yogurt blend into the incubator (ours is a rubbermaid water cooler).

Put the lid on and let the yogurt sit overnight.

The following morning pour the thickened yogurt into a storage container and refrigerate. This recipe makes approximately 1 quart of plain yogurt.

This is an easy peasy way to make yogurt, I have always had success with this method, just make sure that you have plain yogurt with live cultures to start with, and that you do heat the milk to 180 and then make sure that it cools to 115. To make more, simply use a 1/4 cup of the yogurt you just made to get the next batch going!
Not only is this an easy recipe, it does not take any expensive equipment and it uses no energy while it incubates. I made a double batch in a larger water cooler, and I would assume that you could make large amounts in a regular cooler. The key is to have a container that is well insulated so the mixture stays warm long enough to thicken.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Farewell Banana

Hey, What's going on?
I DON'T want to get in the trailer

Okay, I will get in the trailer but I am NOT happy about it.

You win, I'm in the trailer.
All good things come to end and this evening Banana left us, but not before putting up a fight about getting into the trailer. Emily took things in stride, as the truck left she said, "Bye Bye Banana, see you at dinner in a few weeks!"

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Promised Pictures

Lady, our new puppy, loves to lie on the register and cool herself with the a/c.
Lady supervising feeding time in the cow pen!

There were three in the feeder and the Big Steer said, " Move Over, Move Over", so they all moved over the Jersey was out,

There were two in the feeder and the Big Steer said, "Move Over, Move Over",
so they all moved over and the Big Steer said,

"Ah, that's better. "

Patrick's baptism, May 15, 2010.
I had a lot of fun figuring out the pattern to crochet the gown, blanket, and bonnet!

A Picture of me holding my precious grandbabies!