Monday, April 23, 2012

Garden to Table Challenge: Asparagus

It's Garden to Table Challenge day again! Wow, where did that week go? I wish I could tell you that I've got some great harvest to write about, but all I've got to show for my gardening efforts so far are some spinach seedlings and inch-high peas and onions. With the warm days we've been having, I am holding out hope that some day... perhaps in the distant future... I will produce some food from this new ground I'm working.

In the meantime, I'm still doing my best to make good use of what Mother Nature has to offer. This week: wild asparagus. Picking wild asparagus is an annual tradition around here, and with the warmer days a bit earlier this season, asparagus is already popping up along fence lines.

I've got a fridge full of asparagus spears standing in jars of water, waiting for canning tomorrow. Tonight's dinner was what I'm writing about today though - fish fillets poached in a wine/garlic/butter sauce with roasted parmesan wild asparagus spears alongside.

If I was cooler - and had planned ahead better, I'd have taken a picture. You'll have to use your imagination, but I promise, it was a beautiful meal.

For the asparagus:

Trim 1 lb (ish) asparagus spears. Place them in a shallow baking dish. Toss with a bit of olive oil to coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on about 1/4c. parmesan*. Or a third of a cup... or a half of a cup. I love parmesan. Cover the dish with foil, bake at 400 degrees for about half an hour. Seriously, it's that easy, and it's so good.

*Don't use that grated powdery stuff that comes in the spaghetti aisle. Buy real, grated parmesan. (Or grate some yourself.) It's worth it. I promise.

And in case you're dying for a new, super fast and easy fish recipe:

Tilapia with Wine/Garlic sauce:

Place 6 partially thawed tilapia filets in a shallow baking dish. Put a thin pat of butter on each filet. Drizzle white wine over it all, then squeeze half a lemon over that. Sprinkle with sea salt, dehydrated garlic and dried parsley. Cover with foil, bake about 25 minutes, til it flakes.

So it takes a total of about ten minutes to have this all in the oven. Then you can walk away and feed the baby chickens and turkeys, hoe a row in the garden, and come in just in time to put it on the table with a loaf of bread. Easy peasy.

So there's my Garden to Table Challenge submission for the week. Again, sorry for the lack of pictures. A hungry family sitting down to the dinner table doesn't look kindly upon Mom insisting they all stop eating so she can photograph their plates. I decided to let them eat in peace.

Crochet Pattern: Tri-colored Rose Barrette

Big hair flowers are in, right? This is one of those super-simple, insanely fast instant gratification sort of projects. I whipped this one up in about fifteen minutes for The Oldest to wear at the dance the other night. Pretty sure I could easily make one to match nearly all of her dresses using just my scrap stash, and she'd be thrilled to wear them. In fact, I might make a couple for myself.

And.... I even wrote the pattern out to share with you! Please note: I am not a pattern writer. There's a good chance there are mistakes here. If there are, let me know - I'll do my best to fix them. I just made this up for my own kids, but it was so darn cute I thought y'all might want one too.

Tri-colored Rose 

3 colors worsted weight yarn (I used scraps), size G crochet hook

With Color A:
Ch 8, sl st into 1st ch to form ring.

Rd 1: ch1, 16sc into ring, sl st to 1st ch to join.
Rd 2: ch5 (counts as 1 dc, 2ch) skip next sc, (1dc into next sc, skip 1 sc) around. Sl st into 3rd ch of beginning ch5 to join. (You should have 8 sections now.)
Rd 3: Sl st into 1st 2ch space. Ch 1, (1sc, 1hdc, 1dc, 1hdc, 1sc) into each section. (8 petals.) Break yarn, fasten off.

Rd 4 - with color B: On the back of your work, join color B into base of one of the dc. (Ch 3, skip 4 sts, sl st into base of next dc). Join at beg of rd. (8 base arches.)
Rd 5 - Sl st into 3ch arch, ch1, (1sc, 1hdc, 3dc, 1hdc, 1sc) into each arch. Join to sl st at beg of rd. Break yarn, fasten off.

Rd 6 - with color C: Again at the back of your work, join color C into the base of a center dc of a 3 dc group. (Ch 5, skip 6 sts, sl st into base of next center dc.) Join at beg of rd. (8 base arches.)
Rd 7 - Sl st into first ch5 arch. Ch1, (1 sc, 1hdc, 5dc, 1hdc, 1sc) in each arch. Join to sl st at beg of rd. Break yarn, fasten off.

I used hot glue to attach an alligator clip to the back of the flower. Another option is to use a brooch pin. I found that attaching it slightly off center, on the back of the Color B rds, helped it hang nicely in the hair.

It would be easier to make this smaller (or larger) by either omitting the third color, or following the same pattern and adding another color.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Day Spa for Two Little Girls

This farmy life doesn't leave much time for being a girly girl. Reality is that sun and wind and dirt are a constant, and little girl skin and hair suffers. Mostly, we just ignore it, but once in awhile, it's fun for a girl to stay indoors and be pampered, to feel a little bit like a princess and just relax. For me, sometimes it's just nice to rejoice in the fact that I have Two Little Girls.

Yesterday morning after the animals were fed and the house was (mostly) clean, we retreated to the bathroom. There I gave them clay masks and cucumbers for their eyes...

We did a conditioning treatment on their hair...

And after they soaked their feet, I massaged them with oils and then gave them each a pedicure.

Since there was a dance in the evening, we sent some time fixing up their hair all pretty...

And they put on their favorite sundresses.

Of course, they didn't need a spa treatment to make them beautiful, but it was a great way to spend a morning. I spend so much time focused on getting things accomplished around here, it was great to just focus on my kiddos for awhile, and they seemed to really enjoy it.

Life with Two Little Girls is a good life, indeed.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Middle Ages and Whittling

For our History studies this term, we've been focusing on the Middle Ages. As per the Simply Charlotte Mason website, we are using Famous Men of the Middle Ages for our primary text. I love all the Famous Men books, as they really give such a solid grasp of the way life really was. Many of the stories do tend to blur together, but the gist of it really comes across beautifully, and in such a fascinating way. As a supplement, we are using the Kaleidoscope Kids' Knights and Castles activity book. (Kaleidoscope has several absolutely wonderful activity books, depending on what your subject of study is. This is our third. I highly recommend them.) Anyway, so in addition to our reading, we've got a diorama of the Four Alls, a Code of Chivalry (though shalt treat thy sister with kindness and fairness) and several other projects. We also have a Medieval Literature book that gives basic stories like Beowulf, The Dapple Grey Palfrey, and others, when we get tired of just reading about Famous Men. Oh, and we read a child's version of Macbeth, because the opportunity to introduce my daughter to Shakespeare arose and I couldn't not jump on it.

So anyway, there's a basic rundown. In case you were dying to know how we're studying the Middle Ages.

The best part of all though is our Literature study. It doesn't always work out that our chosen Literature book falls in line with other homeschool studies, but in organizing all the books in our school room, I happened upon The Door In The Wall by Marguerite de Angeli. If you're not familiar with it, it is set in feudal England, and the primary character is a ten year old boy named Robin who is struck with an illness that renders him unable to use his legs. It was first published in 1949, making it one of the most recently written books we've read for our studies of classic children's lit. But it's a fantastic book, the vocabulary and dialogue are to die for, and my Oldest Girl is enjoying it immensely.

Which brings me to the whole purpose of this post. (Sorry it took so long.)

In one part of the book, Robin learns to whittle. He learns patience and diligence as he works to create different wooden pieces with the tools made available to him. This whole idea of a boy, not much older than she, being able to whittle real little toys intrigued my Oldest Girl quite a lot. While I may not be ready to hand her a pocket knife sharp enough to be carving solid chunks of pine, I was at least comfortable with this:

Using one of Daddy's pocket knives to carve a bar of Ivory soap.

My Oldest Girl, who can hardly stand to sit still for even five minutes, sat for an entire hour carving this little bird.

 And after a short break, she was back at it again, this time attempting a bear. It's a good thing I bought a 3-pack of the soap.

I wish I could say I'm awesome enough to have come up with this idea on my own, but I'm not that cool. I found the project in a book called Early American Toys and Games that my parents gave us for Christmas last year. It proved to be a wonderful success. Except that now she's asking for her own (sharper) pocket knife, and wondering what kinds of woods are easiest to carve...

Anyway, I thought it was a fun enough project to share with y'all, I know several of you have kiddos the same age who might really enjoy doing this (and who would really enjoy some of the books I mentioned, too!) Here's to homeschool, where we can give our kids the chance to experience history with each of their senses and really understand what we're teaching them!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Garden To Table Challenge: Dandy Bread

It's Garden To Table Challenge time again!

Alas, I now live in the mountains, where even if you have the nerve to get out and plant seeds before June, the weather isn't warm enough to make them sprout. And so... I got nothin'. At least as far as gardening goes. I have a sneaking suspicion I have no idea just how hard it will be to garden in this new climate.

However, I refuse to let our lack of homegrown spring veggies stand in the way of Wendy's fun blog challenge. While gardens up at our elevation might not be producing much, the weeds don't seem to mind the lack of warmth. We have a lawn full of dandelions right now (much to my husband's chagrin) and where there's a homesteading will, there's a way.

I happened to mention to my Littlest One that dandelions are, in fact, actually food. This prompted her to go outside, grab one, and eat it. Um, yeah. Not the best tasting thing she's had lately. I told her I'd read about making things like dandelion bread and dandelion muffins, and even dandelion wine.

"Oh! If I make dandelion wine, can I drink some?"

We opted for bread.

But first came the pleasure of 'harvesting' the dandelions.

Because picking dandelions is about the most fun you can have when you're four years old.

Eventually she enlisted the help of The Oldest.

It didn't take long before they had a basketful of dandelion blossoms.

Of course, it took twice that long to separate the petals from the sepals to actually use them in baking, but we managed.

And so, we baked our dandelion bread. The result? It really doesn't take much different from any other quick bread, but at least it's got pretty yellow specks in it. And when you're four, the novelty of eating flowers is worth all the effort.

This post is shared at Greenish Thumb's Garden To Table Challenge. Head on over to join in the fun!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Cheep, cheep, peep.

Once again, we went to the feed store. And once again, there was the "cheep cheep peep!" of the baby poultry. I'm tellin' ya, it's virtually impossible to walk out of that store without a box of fluffy, peeping little birds. Sigh.

And so... meet Tinkerbell, Freckles, Penelope, and Twilight.
If you've ever tried to photograph baby chickens,
you'll understand why all of these pictures
are so awful.

Penelope is a Blue Andalusian. She'll lay white eggs. Twilight, the gray one, will lay blue eggs. I believe she's a variety of Auracana, but I can't remember for sure. Tinkerbell and Freckles are banties - they'll lay eggs the size of marbles. The only reason we got banties was because The Oldest was dead set on owning a couple of banties this year. I will admit, though, that they are absolutely darling little things.

These four will be pets, in addition to Jupiter, Grammy, Matilda and Goldilocks, the four egg-laying hens we already have. They will be tormented loved and cuddled and hand-fed worms and vegetable trimmings, and will hopefully live long, happy lives as beloved chickens.

And while we were picking out our pet chickens, we noticed a sign over one of the brooders at the store that read, "Buy Any 50lb Bag of Chicken Feed, Get 10 Roosters Free." Well now, who can turn down a deal like that? It's like 10 free dinners.

Meet "The Boys"
Note the little green dots on their heads, identifying them as Roosters, and therefore mostly unwanted by the general population, who are primarily interested in buying egg-laying hens, not roosters for eating. They are Buff Orpington roosters, and will be butchered in September.

The Turkeys are all alive and well, growing rapidly, as baby birds are wont to do. They seemed so small still, until we brought home the baby chickens. Now we realize how big they really are already!

Turkeys are surprisingly calm for baby birds. When you hold them, they just settle right in and relax. And they are curious as all get out, pecking and picking at everything they see. I'm thinking next year, we'll need some heirloom turkeys to keep around because I think I like turkey personalities.And this is a quick shot of our "nursery" set up.
The guest house on our property is set up to be more of a workshop. It is the perfect place to raise baby poultry, and baby plants. Note the plants growing happily under the lights on the table at the right-hand side of the photo. Currently tomatoes, bell peppers, an assortment of cole crops, and some herbs and flowers are sprouting and growing. The two tanks together are where the Meat Birds live, and the new pet chickens are on the far left. And in the background, all the shelves and boxes of Miscellaneous Stuff that the previous owner left for us - screws and nails and other bits of hardware, cans of paints and wood finishes, and all kinds of other yet-undiscovered treasures.

So the poultry count is now up to 22: 8 pet hens, a pet rooster, 10 meat roosters, and 3 meat turkeys. Hopefully we don't have to go to the feed store again until after chick days are over. Clearly, I lack the self control to keep going in there.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Standardized Testing proves... what?

Here in Colorado, in order to legally homeschool our children we must Test them every other year, using a nationally standardized Test, and file it with the school district every other year in order to prove we are actually teaching our children at home, and that they are learning something. Since the beginning of this school year, our first Testing Year, I have quivered in fear at the thought of having to give my daughter the Test.

Am I the only one who finds it outrageous that we are expected to test our children in the same way as public school kids? The reason we are keeping them at home is because we want to teach them differently. If we are teaching them differently, how can testing them like public school kids actually show anything?

Part of the reason I'm feeling disgruntled is probably because I'm starting to freak out a little bit more. After so many other mothers said, "Oh, she'll do just fine. You don't need to worry," I ordered the testing materials for The Oldest last week, and got them in the mail on Monday. As I flipped through the test booklet, I was feeling a little bit smug because everything covered looks so simple. It's all stuff she knows, and it should be easy. I figured we'd breeze right through it, she'd score in the 90th percentile, and my success as a homeschool mother would be proven to the school district.

And then we sat down with the test prep book, to get a feel for how it all works. And I realized... we might be in serious trouble. No, scratch that. We're screwed.

The problem comes, not from lack of knowledge, but from the fact that my homeschooled third grader has never before seen a test of this sort. Or a test of any sort. If I want to find out how much she understands of a concept, I ask her. I say, "Tell me about...." and I listen to what she says. If she explains it correctly, in her own words, using her own examples, I assume she understands. She proofreads her own papers, she works her math problems in front of me. I don't handle her multiple choice and ask her to fill in bubbles.

Apparently multiple choice is completely overwhelming to a child who has never seen such a thing before. Where she might be able to form her own (correct) answer with no trouble, suddenly when presented with four different options to choose from, she's able to talk herself into wrong answers. And it's all so sterile-looking, these questions laid out in this little booklet (that heaven forbid you write on,) and I think it intimidates her into thinking she doesn't really know as much as she does. There are concepts she's had mastered since kindergarten that suddenly she appears to have forgotten, because now she has to fill in little bubbles with her No. 2 pencil to prove she really does know them.

And so we will now put regular school on hold while we spend each day focusing on how to take a test. We will practice like crazy, and hope she doesn't forget everything she's learned in the meantime. Then the test will be administered and we will hope and pray that she doesn't accidentally skip a question and get 'off' by a bubble, therefore rendering the test a failure.

Someone should seriously rethink the way we test homeschoolers. In public school, teachers pass any kid who can guess enough correct answers to make it look like they learned something. In home school, kids don't have that option. And yet we're the ones panicking because our kids might not be able to prove what they know. Who decided on this, and where is the logic in it?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Happy Easter

Today was Easter.

I know this, because the Easter Bunny came. The girls are fascinated still by the fact that the Easter Bunny knows their favorite things, and provides them with gifts in their baskets perfectly suited to their interests and favorite colors. Funny how smart that Easter Bunny is.

We hosted Easter dinner at our house this year. This is a Big Deal. We've never had the space to have family over for a holiday before. But up here at our Forever Home Farm, space isn't hard to come by.

First, we hunted eggs. 78 of them, to be exact. Well, 77. The puppy found the first one, as evidenced by the small wad of half-chewed bubblegum we found lying next to an open egg. Silly puppy.

We flew kites in the hay field.

We held target practice.

Even the dogs played happily. (Yes, that's what happily looks like.)

My mom hid eggs again, this time with lottery tickets for those that found the Golden Eggs. I don't have pictures of that - I was looking for Golden Eggs.

I made dinner. This is actually a big deal. I've never cooked a holiday dinner before. It was a sort of coming-of-age experience for me. I feel like a grown up now. We had ham, roasted potatoes, macaroni and cheese, homemade rolls and parmesan green beans, along with some snacks and appetizers and such. It turned out pretty well, I think. Anyway, everyone ate it without complaining.

And we all ate in our dining room. Because we have a dining room now, and that's exciting.

There was some more kite flying, a bit more walking around, and then someone found a recently dead snake and Littlest One decided to bring it in.
It really was a wonderful Easter. Reading back through all that makes me realize we sound amazingly redneck - hay fields, lottery tickets, target practice, dead snakes... I promise, we have more class than it sounds like. :-)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Because I'm a softy.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to walk into a feed store, and hear all the chirping and the peeping of the sweet, fuzzy little baby poultry, and not walk out of the store with little baby birds?

Two Little Girls compound the difficulty of leaving empty handed when they start saying things like, "Please, Mom, we'll take care of them!" and "But look at them! See, I think this one really likes me!"

Sigh. It's nearly impossible, I tell ya.

And so, meet The Turkeys.

They are unnamed, and will remain that way, as they will be arriving on our dinner table in about four months.

But for now, we'll enjoy their fuzzy cuteness, and giggle as we watch them play together, and care for them lovingly. The Turkeys are going to have the best four-month life we can possibly give them.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


So someone is running cows on the property neighboring ours. Mostly, it's not bad. The sound of cows lowing in the distance is rather quaint, mostly.

Except for this one cow that, well, here try this:

First, give me a good ol' regular 'moo'. Maybe a couple of 'em, just for comparison's sake. Deep, low, long mooooooooo.

Okay. Now imagine an old lady-ninja wildly attacking her assailant, and then accidentally choking on a jelly bean half-way through her wild lady-ninja scream. Go ahead, make the sound that comes to mind.

Yeah. That's what that one cow sounds like. It's only occasional, but clearly that cow never passed the "how to moo" class at cow school.