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Jan 23 / Jamie

Sewing Again

Melting Snowball Tote

I have spent most of the past two years adjusting to our new life.  Kids away at school.  Me away at work.  I have done little sewing, and what has been completed during that time was utilitarian.

Trio of Heather Ross Pillows

Partly this was because in the summer of 2015 we moved all of my sewing things from our dining room down to the basement, and there they sat for the better part of a year in boxes piled on top of each other.  Partly, I was drained creatively from working hard to create new courses.

KJR Granny Square Quilt

After wrapping up the semester in December, I started sewing again.  I finished two major projects that I had started back in 2012.

Berry Pie Quilt

I knew they had been sitting for a while, but I had NO idea just how long.  I went on to Flickr and looked at some of my favorite pictures and got inspired.  It felt really good to get behind the machine again and I am really trying to focus on excellent technique and craftsmanship.

Felt House Village

I got a years subscription to Creativebug and I am really loving a lot of the tutorials and classes.  I am a visual learner and seeing people make things is my preferred method of instruction.  There will be lots more making in the future.

Split Rail Table Runner

Dec 24 / Michael

Merry Christmas Candying and Baking

For the last several years, we’ve made confections and candies during the holiday season.  This year, we’re a little late, waiting until Christmas Eve to get started, but better late than never!  We have some parties to go to, so we’ll be bringing treats.

This year we’re making peanut brittle, candy decoration with pretzels, homemade snickers and two types of cookies (thumb print and snickerdoodle).  We got the idea for homemade snickers because I’d bought a giant snicker bar to wrap and put under the tree, but one of our dogs sniffed it out and ate about half of it.  He seems ok, but it gave me the idea to look for a homemade recipe.  I found this pretty easy one.  While I was making the homemade snickers, Jamie was doing candy decorations with the kids.

Christmas 2016 baking and candying

Fluff for the nougat, caramels and evaporated milk for the caramel.

Christmas 2016 baking and candying

Cooking the nougat

Christmas 2016 baking and candying

Building the snicker bar in layers

Christmas 2016 baking and candying

Chilled and cut into squares

Christmas 2016 baking and candying

They’re delicious and oh so sweet (almost too sweet!)

Christmas 2016 baking and candying

Pretzel and candy decorations

Christmas 2016 baking and candying

So creative!

Christmas 2016 baking and candying

Thumbprint cookies

Christmas 2016 baking and candying

Snickerdoodles

Christmas 2016 baking and candying

Christmas 2016 baking and candying

Butter, baking soda, vanilla and peanuts (plus sugar and light corn syrup). The basic ingredients for peanut brittle.

Christmas 2016 baking and candying

The brittle must be cooked to 300° F (hard crack stage).

Christmas 2016 baking and candying

The brittle was exceptionally fluffy this year.

Christmas 2016 baking and candying

The homemade snickers was delicious, but honestly I thought it was a little too sweet — definitely sweeter than a regular snickers.  I might leave the some of the sugar out of the nougat layer next time.

I varied the peanut brittle a little bit this year.  It calls for vanilla, butter and baking soda at the very end.  I’ve usually added them all at the same time and then spread the brittle out in the pan with a spoon.  This time, I added the vanilla and butter, waited for that to be mixed in, then added the baking soda and dumped it into the pans without spreading with a spoon.  It stayed higher and the internal bubbles were a lot bigger — it’s definitely different (kind of like aero bars in Britain).  I’m not sure if I like it better at the moment.

We also took the opportunity to make some treats for tomorrow’s breakfast — blueberry muffins (from berries we picked and froze last summer) and raspberry pain au chocolat pastries (with our raspberry jam).  We cheated on the latter with store-bought puff pastry.  Oh what a time to be alive!

Christmas 2016 baking and candying

Rolling the puff pastry.

Christmas 2016 baking and candying

Filling the puff pastry with nutella and raspberry jam.

Christmas 2016 baking and candying

All set for Christmas morning breakfast treats.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Nov 26 / Michael

Thanksgiving Lamb

While we thought we were done for the year, we had a surprise lamb born just before Thanksgiving.  The little girl, we’re calling her Melody, was born to Monarch.  Monarch’s mother is Frances.  Frances has always been our best ewe.  After a stillborn lamb last year, this is Monarch’s first live birth.  So far, she’s been very protective and an excellent mother.

Fall Lamb

Fall Lamb

We hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and look forward to moving into the Christmas season.

Sep 6 / Michael

Late August Harvest

Our garden is going bonkers right now.  Sometimes it feels like it overwhelms us as we can’t keep up with everything it produces.  We’re getting a ton of tomatoes, corn, peppers, brassicas and eggplants right now.  Our winter squash is looking fantastic and the flowers are amazing.

Late August Garden Harvest

Late August Garden Harvest

Late August Garden Harvest

Late August Garden Harvest

Jul 26 / Michael

Baby Ducks on the Pond for the First Time

After about a month of keeping the baby ducks closed up and bringing them food and water everyday, we’ve finally opened them up to the pond with the three adult ducks we already had. This is going to be a big help because we won’t have to bring them water multiple times a day, though we’ll still bring them food once or twice a day.

Here’s a video compilation of their first time on the water. The ones zooming about under the water were so fascinating. They clearly loved it.

Jun 30 / Michael

Ducklings Hatched

Our first ever home-incubated batch of ducklings hatched this week.  We got 24 eggs from our friends Kim and Andy.  I was able to fit 23 into my Brinsea.  The eggs go for 28 days, with lockdown (no more turning) after the 25th day.  These eggs started hatching exactly on time, and they all came out quickly, over the course of less than 24 hours.

Ancona Ducklings Hatched

We’re very excited about this breed, too.  They are Ancona, a wonderful dual-purpose (eggs + meat) duck.

Ancona Ducklings Hatched

They’ll be inside for a little while, but we’ll get them on the pond as soon as we can, probably with a protected water run like we’ve done in the past.

May 30 / Michael

Ducks Back on the Pond

Ancona Ducks

Owing to the our generous friends Andy and Kim, we’ve finally got ducks back on the pond (Ancona).  It’s been a trying several years, with weather and predator issues hurting our efforts to reestablish our flock.  It has been at least two summers since we’ve had waterfowl on the pond with regularity.

I got a couple of dozen fertilized eggs to hatch in my Brinsea and they were thinning a bit so I also got three adults, a drake and two hens.  I’ll update progress on the eggs, but I just started them today and they take 28 days (7 days longer than chicken eggs).  This puts their hatch date around June 26.  I’ve never hatched duck eggs, so I’m interested in the new challenge.

The ducks took quickly to the pond.  I’ve got a fenced “water run” for them until they figure out how to get in and out of their new home.  That should keep them happy and safe from predators.

Ancona Duck Eggs in Incubator

Ancona Ducks on Pond

Apr 27 / Michael

Prepping the Garden

It’s that time of year again.  The weather is getting nicer, Spring sports have started and we’re beginning to prep the garden for initial planting.  Except for a few Spring cold snaps, we’ve had an incredible run of nice weather.

The garden starts out pretty rough, having been left to it’s own since the Fall and over Winter. The first step is to remove all the old plants and rake the garden in preparation to be tilled.

Spring Garden Prep

I then bring over last year’s barn muck as compost.

Spring Garden Prep

Then I use the 5-foot tiller on the back of my tractor to work everything in and cultivate the soil.

Spring Garden Prep

We’ve been doing this for a number of years and the soil is getting so nice. It will definitely be ready for planting this weekend.

Spring Garden Prep

Spring Garden Prep

Happy gardening everyone!

Mar 28 / Michael

Spring Calves

We had two calves born in March, a bull born to Sweet Mamma (our Dexter) and a heifer born to Buttermilk (our Dexter-Belted Galloway cross). We named the bull ‘Lucky’ because he had lax tendons when he was born, and we didn’t think he’d make it. On the advice of our veterinarian, we gave him a BO-SE (Selenium and Vitamin E) injection and helped him nurse for several days by literally holding him under his mother. He’s really bounced back and his legs have strengthened and he looks almost completely normal now. The heifer was named ‘Marshmallow’ by our 5 year old. She’s all black. He explains this by saying she’s like a burned marshmallow.

Sweet Mamma and Lucky

Sweet Mamma and Lucky, nursing on his own

Buttermilk and Marshmallow

Buttermilk and Marshmallow, just born

Marshmallow

Happy Easter 2016

Happy Easter!

Feb 2 / Michael

Our first “Spring” lambs

It’s a little early, but our first pair of spring lambs were born to our ewe, Frances. The boy and girl lambs were born a little before 5am this morning. Jamie woke and had the maternal instinct to go out early and check on them and there they were.

Spring Lambs

Luckily we’re in the middle of an unseasonably warm spell — our high temps were close to 60° today. It feels like Spring already.

Frances is such a good momma. She let the little lambs latch right on for nursing this morning and is so protective of them.