Thursday, October 29, 2009

Afternoon Harvest

A few pictures of the harvest from the other day. In these photos: Kale, Butter Lettuce, Red Leaf Lettuce, Parsley, and Cinnamon Basil.

I harvest Kale, Basil, and Parsley almost every day for the rabbits, but this was our first time harvesting the lettuce and so far it's been salads every night for a week! It is amazing eating out of your own garden! Already looking forward to planting again in the spring!

Next week I'll be picking lettuces again and zucchini (had a gorgeous zucchini ready this week, but the dogs snuck into the veggie garden and snatched it. At least someone got to eat it...) and perhaps a pumpkin will be ready before it freezes...

We have tons of broccoli plants that are huge-I've been feeding leaves to the rabbits, but no florets are forming??? I need to do a little more google research on that one.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Month-long Saga of our Chicken Coop

Chillin' with my Peeps

(one of our Easter Egger hens pictured above)

This photo album chronicles the month-long project of building our chicken coop and filling it with chickens! 95% of the coop was done in a weekend, but it took us another 4 weeks to put the finishing touches on it and finally get our birds!

We didn't have any plans or blueprints going into this so we were winging it (no pun intended) the whole way. I think we learned some lessons along the way for next time, but overall it turned out pretty good!

Organic eggs here we come!

Hubby with the floor frame

Yup, our chickens get vinyl floors, it's like a deluxe chicken condominium :)

Taking measurements for the window and door

The frame!
All built out of plywood and 2x4's

Putting together the nesting box

Max-the chicken stalker

The finished product! Minus the barn stars I bought for the doors that the kids keep taking down...

One of our Zinnias blooming under a Sunflower

A couple of our Plymouth Rocks and our White Leghorn (daddy was a Rhode Island Red, so she has some red highlights)

Kids feeding the chickens pasta

Happy hens gobbling up the treats in their run!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Homemade Wine-Fun to make and fun to drink!

This post has been a long time coming. For Christmas last year, I got Pete a winemaking "kit", which is basically the grape juice concentrate-pre-squeezed-and some essential additives, yeast, etc. that make the whole process work. I also bought all the equipment we would need to turn it into wine! I figured this would be an easy way for us to start out and experiment with making different varietals and learning about the additives, and then maybe eventually we would squeeze our own grapes, or even grow them!

This was my wine-making bible during the process:

Their info was a lot better than the directions the grape juice came with and we were able to compare notes between the instructions and the website and make sure we were doing everything the right way for the type of wine we were making.

The grape juice concentrate that I got was a Rioja varietal-it's Pete's favorite and it is named after La Rioja, a region in Spain, that totals 75 miles and has 14,000 vineyards. Since Pete lived in Spain and I lived in Italy, I think we'll try a Chianti next. :)

Here's how it went down:

Christmas morning-what could that be?

Our equipment is sterilized and ready to go-now it's time to mix the must! In goes the bentonite, water, and grape juice concentrate-now stir til' your arm falls off.

Now take a sample of the must and measure the Specific Gravity (SG) using a hydrometer.

Add the oak chips and make sure the temp is between 70-80F before adding the yeast. Sprinkle the yeast over the top. Snap the lid onto the primary fermenter, fill your airlock half way with water and attach your airlock and bung for a airtight seal.

In 2-3 days it should be fermenting away!

After 7 days test the SG again and record it. Continue to test every day until it reaches the point where primary fermentation has finished (differs by kit).

After primary fermentation has concluded, rack the wine into your carboy, leaving behind the sediment. Let simmer for another week and test the SG again. If it is below 0.998 proceed to the next stage-stabilizing and clearing.

It's really important the sterilize the equipment every step of the way.

Rack wine back into primary fermenter and add sulfites, potassium sorbate, and Isinglass. Stir. Wait. Stir. Rack from fermenter into a clean, secondary carboy. Top off carboy with water or a similar wine until it is full to 2" below the bung. Stir twice a day for 3 days-in about a week the wine will clear.

(are you allowed to make wine in your flight suit Pete?)

Rack it again, leaving the sediment. Depending on the kit it will take 1-3 weeks to clear.

It's ok to rack and wait, rack and wait. The more patient you are the clearer the wine. It doesn't clear after you bottle it, so if you get anxious and bottle cloudy wine, you're stuck with it!

Pour it in a glass-if it's clear and the color is good, it's time to bottle! Siphon into wine bottles-we saved up and recycled wine bottles for this.

Cork it!

Now let it rest. 4 weeks at a bare minimum-3-6 months is better.

We've just gotten to the 6 month mark with ours and it definitely has improved with age. So far, it has gotten pretty good reviews from the few people who have gotten a taste of it. I think we can safely send more samples out but these come with a warning-we have an inkling that the alcohol content is actually higher than originally predicted! It's not going to make you blind or anything, but it does make my husband act pretty silly.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Vegetable Garden Expands...

We finally got all the pots of vegetables off our deck! We fenced off a corner of the yard and built a number of raised beds, with a central bed and walkway. We still need to add some finishing touches, like an arbor around the gate, but at least we got our seeds in the ground in time for fall harvest!

We spent the extra $$ to get really good dirt for the garden with compost and turkey manure already mixed in. Now we just need to get our own composting system set up and we'll be good to go next year!

Here's a little photo album of the project:

The kids love to help out in the new garden...

We just have to keep Izzy from picking all the tomatoes!

Heirloom Winter Squash sprouts only a day after we planted them!

Several thousand pounds of topsoil was dumped in our driveway at 7pm, needless to say we worked into the night to haul it all, poor hubby!

Sowing our seeds

Checking out the handiwork

Laying down newspaper to deter weeds

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

More Soft Pretzels!

So, I love soft pretzels, and my new favorite recipe I got off of taste just like the Auntie Anne's pretzels in the mall! But you can make them less-greasy. :)



  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/3 cup baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt


Make the pretzels: Warm the milk in a saucepan until it's about 110 degrees; pour into a medium bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Let the yeast soften, about 2 minutes; stir in the brown sugar and 1 cup flour with a wooden spoon. Dice 2 tablespoons butter and soften; stir into the mix. Add the remaining 1 1/4 cups flour and the fine salt to make a sticky dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour if needed, until smooth but still slightly tacky, about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and grease a large baking sheet. Punch the dough to deflate it, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface. (If the dough seems tight, cover and let rest until it relaxes.) Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Roll and stretch each piece with the palms of your hands into a 30-inch rope, holding the ends and slapping the middle of the rope on the counter as you stretch. Form each rope into a pretzel shape.
Dissolve the baking soda in 3 cups warm water in a shallow baking dish. Gently dip each pretzel in the soda solution, then arrange on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with the coarse salt. Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes.
Melt the remaining 8 tablespoons butter in a shallow dish. Dip the hot pretzels in the butter, turning to coat; place on a wire rack to let excess butter drip off.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Life's just a....

No recipe required!

Fun Plates for the Kiddos

I got these cute little divided plates at Target the other day. They have pictures of animals inside the different compartments, like a frog and an octopus, etc. The kids really think it is funny to eat up their lunch and then exclaim, "Look, a monkey!"