Monday, January 31, 2011

Feeding Time

We had a few scraps of food in the refrigerator that I decided to give to my backyard fiends. They were anxious when they saw me coming to them. Little Red was the first one at my feet, looking up at me for a treat. The ducks of course were hissing in defense, trying to run me back out the gate.

Little Red, first to always greet me.
Guard duck, Spot.
The ducks have never been out of the yard, all they know is the gate is an entrance for us to get in their territory. Unlike Little Red who has gotten out and ran down the street when we first moved into our house. Our 85 + year old neighbor called us one day to let us know our Little Red Hen had gotten out and was running rampant down the street.

I first put the bowls of peaches down. They began to eat. The ducks squeezed in because they weren't going to be left out. All of my fowl like peaches. Especially the fresh ones that come off the tree in the summer. I actually get to hand feed my ferocious ducks. I'm happy to say, I have never been bitten, hand feeding them peaches.

Yummy peaches!
"Move aside, I'm coming in!"
When I saw the ducks crowding the chickens and pulling their feathers, I put down some sloppy joe meat. The chickens flocked to it and began quickly eating, forgetting the peaches. The ducks quickly saw there was something else to munch. They started bulling the chickens to get to the meat. The chickens would run out of the ducks way and run back when they thought the ducks weren't watching, snatching another bite.

They like a little bit of tangy meat.  
Maxine left the peaches for the meat too. 

After the meat was gone, the birds didn't finish the peaches. They wanted more meat and weren't going to settle for less. I will be baking a chicken this weekend. (From the grocery store) I want to see how they respond to a chicken carcass. Stay tuned for Chicken Cannibals next week.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

During the Night

Our chickens snuggle down every night either on top of the nest boxes or in them. Other animals besides our fowl are not usually in there. Max our male dog is normally the only visitor at night. He does his normal backside nuzzling and leaves with my husband.
"Good night chicken"
One night this week was different though. We are not fully complete with out new chicken house. Some areas of the walls the insulation is exposed. One such area during the night was shredded. Something had either nested in it or tried to get out. The "something" my husband found out was a small quail. It may have been small but it did damage to the one section.

Quail damage

Can you find the Bunny?

Sunny, warm days will usually bring my bunny Knuckles out from hiding. She likes to lie in the sun and soak in the warmth. Normally, She is burrowed down in her hutch and only comes out to eat and drink. Whenever she is not burrowing, she is still hard to see because of all the grass hay. I caught a glimpse of her the other day and snapped a photo. Can you find the dwarf bunny?

Pretty easy to see for once. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Grandma's Favorite Childhood Cake

My mother-in-law called me the other night, telling me it was her mother's 86 birthday on Friday. She wanted me to bake her mother's birthday cake. (I thought I can do that. I know how to bake a cake.) She invited me to lunch with them, just us girls. After lunch we would come back to my house and eat cake with the guys. (My son and husband).

This past Tuesday prior to the birthday, Mom dropped off ingredients for the cake she wanted me to use. It was an old fashioned recipe that was her mother's favorite childhood cake. (tomato soup cake.) I was like "sure, Okay, whatever you want me to do." She left a box of spice cake mix, one can of tomato soup and a container of homestyle cream cheese frosting. "I will call later with the list of other ingredients you will need to use. You do have eggs right?" (I have 6 chickens and 98 eggs so far this month) I said "Alrighty," and I started thinking what other ingredients I might need in case this recipe didn't work out, as a back-up plan.

We knew the frosting would be good at least. 
Mom called and left a message, "the other ingredients are 1/2 cup of water and 2 eggs. Bake per cake package directions."

Full Recipe for Tomato Soup Cake: (Unsure of source for the recipe. I will gladly give credit if anyone can find where the original recipe came from.)

1 box spice cake mix
1 can tomato soup
1/2 cup water
2 eggs
1 canister of cream cheese frosting

Mix all ingredients together (except frosting). Bake in greased 9x13 pan at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Thursday came and I thought 'I need to bake this cake.' My suspicions were high over the taste of this cake. I gathered the ingredients, put them all in the bowl and mixed. Didn't look to bad. The smell wasn't too bad, but very different. The batter was a little thicker then most cake mixes. I put it in the greased pan and into a preheated oven. I usually don't worry about preheating and just put the pan in, but in this case I didn't want any mishaps.

Yes I really did put tomato soup in the mix.  
Thicker batter
Low and behold, as the cake was baking and almost done, a power outage occurred.  I have a gas stove but the oven doesn't work during an electrical or gas power outage. I figured the oven was hot and the cake should finish just fine. Allowing food to cook in the oven after  it is turned off is one of my frugal tips you can read here.

The cake baked just fine. After it cooled I put the frosting on.

Looks normal. 
Friday we had lunch, just 'us girls'. I left the restaurant first, using the excuse it takes me longer to get in and out of the car with  my crutches. I put the cake on the table and a few candles. When Mom and Grandma arrived we sang Happy Birthday and gave my husband's design intern the first piece to see if she liked it. She said it was good. Still a little cautiously, we took our pieces and ate. What do ya know, it was good. And the smell was great.
I didn't have 86 candles, We settled for seven.
Happy Birthday Grandma!
Happy Birthday Grandma! May you enjoy your day and your 86th year!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Addendum to Cold Weather and Animal Care

I previously wrote a post about how we care for our animals. After reading it, I thought I should put a clarifying addendum to it. You can read the post here.

Our new chicken house is not fully complete as I mentioned earlier. We are wiring it for electricity, insulating and putting up walls inside. Our weather is normally very cold and snowing during the winter.

Until we get things finished we do use an extension cord for our heat lamps for our chickens. The extension cord we use goes directly from an outside outlet to the lights. We DO NOT hook extension cords together. The extension cord is an Outdoor Weatherproof Commercial Cord.

Please, if you are not familiar with electricity, use of extension cords, heat lamps or unsure of any thing related to it, consult an expert before setting up heat lamps for any of your animals. If not done appropriately a fire can occur. I fortunately have a husband and father-in-law who are very familiar with electricity and construction.

January Knee Update

I went to the Orthopedic this past Wednesday. My knee is improving. I'm now allowed to do light-weight bearing on it, as long as I don't have pain. I have isometric exercises I have to do for strengthening. I'm to wean my self off the brace. For those who know me, of course I took the brace off immediately and walked out of the doctor's office with it in hand.

I still have swelling. He said another part of my knee is inflamed. (I forgot what he called the area.) I'm again applying ice (even as I am writing) and heat to get the swelling down. It is a little tender today. I had two teenagers from our church here today to help me clean and of course I had to hobble around showing them what to do.

He basically told me to listen to my body. If it hurts, slow down. I'll try to do that. Sometimes I get so busy, I don't realize until it is too late, I'm hurting and should have stopped sooner. Nurses don't like to be stagnant.
Not climbing stairs yet. 
Next appointment will be March 21st. We will see what happens then.

Frugal Tips-Bathroom

Here is my next post of frugal tips for Friday. These tips I use in the bathroom.

  • Don't wash hair twice. Once is enough. Saves on shampoo.
  • Wash hair every other day. Also saves on shampoo.
  • Take showers instead of baths. Saves water and utilities to heat the water.
  • Keep hot water heater no higher than 120 degrees. Higher increases your utility bill and may scald children or the elderly. 
  • Squeeze toothpaste from bottom to top, when finished cut open and ensure you have all toothpaste out.
  • Clean bathroom with vinegar and water—salt for scrubbing.
  • Use bath towels at least three times. They don't get dirty from just water. As a nurse though, I don't recommend more than three uses because towels can rub off normal skin bacteria and skin cells. 
  • Don't run water when brushing teeth.
  • Install a low flow toilet or add a bottle of water inside the tank to cut down on water usage.
  • Use a bucket to catch cold water when taking a shower until it gets warm enough for you to get in. Water plants with it. 
  • Install a low-flow showerhead.
  • Install a tankless hot water heater. Look for rebates or tax credits to assist in cutting cost.
  • Use a little inexpensive conditioner as shaving cream instead of the expensive shaving cream. (When shaving legs)
  • Dry disposable razors to have them last longer.
  • Rinse hair with a 1/4 cup of apple cider. Works well and cuts away any residues from hair styling products.
  • Use a little baby oil to soften skin instead of expensive lotions.
  • Don't wear makeup or minimal makeup when going out.
  • Use sugar to exfoliate skin.
  • Use baking soda as a face exfoliate.
  • Use a small amount of baking soda mixed in a little shampoo to rub away residues from hair.
  • Limit time in showers or turn shower water off when lathering and turn back on to rinse.
  • Use vinegar and water to mop bathroom floor. Vinegar is acidic and will kill bacteria.
  • Make sure your toilet doesn't run continuously. Either put a dark color of Kool-aid into the tank or squirt a colored shampoo on the inside of the bowl. If there is a leak the Kool-aid will stream down or if using shampoo you will see the water run through it.  
  • Turn off faucets fully to make sure there is not a drip. 
  • To decrease spreading germs, give each family member a cup to rinse with after brushing teeth. Do not reuse. Illnesses are costly—not just financially. Loss of school, work and family time too.  

I hope you find these tips helpful. If I find I have forgotten something I will add them into my last catch all post.

Beautiful Day

Today, was another unusually warm day. My girls, all six of them loved the weather; perfect for scratching around and following me, hoping for food. I unfortunately didn't bring any food this time. My hands were a little preoccupied with a camera and my crutches.

"Got food?"
"Where's the food? I want table scraps!"
"We'll go back to scratching since you are empty handed."

Thankfully my girls are forgiving when they don't receive scraps. They keep providing food for my family. We've gathered 91 eggs so far this month.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Simplifying My Spiritual Life

After my accident this past September, I've had a lot of time to slow down and reevaluate my life. You can read about my accident here. It didn't take too long to realize I didn't have my priorities straight. It was time to get back on track and put relationships first in my life. You can read about my priorities here.

Bailey Creek, California
In developing my goals for a simpler life I realized I needed a goal for my Spiritual Life (My relationship with God.) Having a relationship with God is an open journey not a marathon. It's not something you do once and then you're done. It is an ongoing process, a daily process. Personally I'm one who is task oriented, likes to do lists and checking tasks off. I've learned changes are needed in this area.

My goal to change this area is:
Establish and implement practices leading to knowing God and other christians by April 1, 2011.

Tasks to include in reaching this goal include:
  • 15 Minutes of Bible reading each day, preferably in the morning—I get easily off track on this one.  
  • Meet weekly with Spiritual Mentor for one hour and review Bible Study through May 2011. 
  • Do Bible study booklet prior to meeting with Mentor.
  • Attend church services every week, unless sick or an emergency occurs.
  • Go to one church sponsored women's activity each month. 
  • Volunteer every eight weeks for childcare during the first church services.
  • Prayer; before Bible reading and study, over worries/concerns/decisions and with family, nightly.
  • Participate in a weekly small groups Bible Study—I normally attend a women's group.
Meeting my spiritual needs is a high priority and a part of a simpler life for me. In meeting those needs I have to ensure I limit my activities and their frequency, avoiding going back to my previous, overwhelmed, busy life.  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ruffled Ducks

Our ducks, Spot and Maxine, have been exhibiting unusual behavior. Spot has been trying to mate with Maxine, chasing her and her chasing him. They haven't tried to mate in the past, which led me to think they weren't happy with their home.

With it being a beautiful day today, I ventured outside to see what photos I could take of my ducks and chickens. I was hoping for fun, comical pictures. HA!

Stepping into the backyard I was greeted by hungry chickens and irritated, ruffled, hissing ducks! Both ducks came quickly at me, hissing and spreading their feathers letting me know I was intruding. Wherever I moved Spot was on my heels. I hobbled on my crutches to the chicken yard, ducks following. I went into the chicken house and found my girl Rockett brooding, two eggs and Spot blocking the chicken door, not letting me out. His feathers spread, hissing. I tried to move him with my crutch. He bit my ankle and lower leg twice as I pushed my way out! He came after me. I finally thought "He needs to cool off". I leaned my crutches against the fence and picked my heavy duck up and put him in a small bin of water. He went in a dry irritated duck and came out an angry wet duck. As he shook off the water I took one picture of him and fled.

Spreading feathers; Warning
Wet angry duck. Cooling off didn't help. 
Maxine hissing and eyeing me. 
"Let's get this intruder! Who cares if she buys our food!"

My ducks are usually not so aggressive. They hiss, follow us, trying to convince us to leave and nip occasionally. My husband believes they have come of age, 1 1/2 years, and it is their mating season. Hopefully all this aggression is hormones and we'll have babies in the spring! This would make getting bit worth it.

Better days. Spot and Maxine 3 days old. 
Happy together

Monday, January 24, 2011

Simplifying Cooking

I enjoy cooking, and love eating even more. Breads and pastas are my favorites. It would be easy to get caught up in spending a lot of time cooking and not focusing on my relationships. Once again replacing previous work time for cooking time.

Goal for cooking: Provide at least one nutritional, home cooked meal for my family a day with the focus being on family not the food.
Cooking is fun, especially when shared with friends. 
Tasks to include in reaching this goal include:
"Thank You for limiting meat!"
  • Use frugal food tips, you can find them here.
  • Bake (at a maximum once a week) snacks, breakfast foods, breads. 
  •  Limit convenience foods—they are not a frugal purchase and usually not nutritionally sound
  •  Limiting frequency of cooked meals; related to family not always home at the same time, all can cook and fix their own meals and quick alternatives are available i.e. fruit, baked goods.
  •  Keep foods simple; eat raw vegetables and fruits, limit condiments and time consuming recipes
  • use a Crock Pot.
  •  Limit meat purchases, which are expensive and time consuming to cook.  
  •  Have my family spend time cooking with me, if they are available. 
  •  Prepare mixes for pancakes, cakes, muffins in advance. Just add liquids to mix and cook.
  •  Plan out a menu with family on a weekly basis to decide which meals to cook, coordinate schedules and decide when to shop together for foods.
  •  Plant a family garden. (Ours will be planted at the end of May beginning of June because of  weather. )
  •  When a large fancy meal is desired, make it a family affair and invite guests.
  • Try once a month cooking. Cook all meals for the month in one day and freeze. 
    Grandma's cooking, the best!
    Food is wonderful and needed for life. Being consumed by food to the point it alters your health and relationships doesn't lead to a simple life.

    Goal Setting for a Simpler Life

    Burney Falls, California 
    I have been reviewing and evaluating my steps toward a simpler life. Trying to figure out where I started and where I am going now.  I believed I had made a lot of baby steps toward my overall goal of simplifying. I had performed some tasks, planned and cut things out of my life. But I never wrote my actual goals down in words to keep me on track.

    I sat down today to write those goals; guidelines for achieving a simpler life. When writing goals I decided I needed to ensure they were: defined, realistic, measurable and had a final deadline time or date.

    Defining a goal is deciding what I really want to accomplish, what the end result will be. Defining what I thought my goal was, I envisioned what a simple life would look like for me. I realized simplifying my life is not really a goal, but an end result of several other smaller goals. Defining these goals actually helps me get a real grasp on what I want.

    Realistic—Can I truly accomplish this goal? Is it within my means to do it: financially, academically, emotionally; Do I have the will power?  Can I perform the smaller goals to get to the peaceful place I want to be? I believe I can by setting smaller goals and following goal setting criteria.

    Measurable—How do I know I'm on track? Have I met some of the smaller goals; such as I will clean out one dresser drawer a week? One drawer is the standard I am measuring.

    Deadlines help us finish tasks in a timely manner to meet these goals. Deadlines can be set by a certain date or amount of time, such as 10 minutes or one week.

    After setting the criteria I wanted, I chose to breakdown my life into different areas. This way I could set smaller goals for each area and feel a sense of accomplishment.

    The areas at present time I want to set goals and tasks for completion are: spiritual life, family relationships, housework, cooking, scheduling and errands and crafts/extra activities. As I go through these areas I may choose to include more as time goes on. But, for now I will start here and blog my progress.

    Please share some of your goals, struggles and tips for a simpler life.

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    Road Trip Date and Photos

    Saturday the weather was absolutely beautiful here in Northern California. The temperature was in the 60's, sun shining, and I had cabin fever. My husband for the first time in six years heard me say "I'm bored." He took my cue and out on a date we went.

    My husband and I don't have a lot of time alone. We have a 17 year old son and 12 animals to care for. Our usual outings are to run errands. Many times we end up taking our son and dogs with us. This doesn't provide for a chance to nurture our own relationship.

    God designed marriage because He saw, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Genesis 2:18 (NIV). God has set priorities in our lives about relationships you can read here. Marriage is a high priority only second to our relationship with God. To have healthy relationships with God and our spouse we have to put time and effort into them.

    Our outing began with lunch at a small local restaurant. We ate and visited with the owner. In this town everyone knows everyone.

    After lunch we stopped by the kennel where we train and board our dogs. The owner has become a good friend of ours. I thought it would be a nice surprise if I took her some chicken eggs and one of my re-potted spider plants. You can read about my surplus of eggs and spider plants here.

    After our visit with the dog trainer, off we drove farther north making various stops and taking photos along the way. Hope you enjoy the photos.

    Windy Rest Stop.—Ravendale, CA
    High Desert Pond (With Fresh Water Springs)—Ravendale, CA
    High Desert (Fresh Water Springs From A Distance)
    Not uncommon, Cougar tracks on a side dirt road. 
    Shoe Tree.—Ravendale, CA
    Cows get to run free here.—Ravendale, CA
    Cows free ranging next to paved road.—Termo, CA
    Horses at local horse sanctuary.—Dry Valley, CA
    Some of the horses are domestic, others wild mustangs
    'Eagle Lake' In California. Frozen along the shores.
    'Eagle Lake' photo taken from 'Stone's Landing'

    'Eagle Lake' frozen at dusk

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    Frugal Tips-Laundry

    Friday's Frugal Tips—Related to laundry.  It may sound crazy, but laundry is one of my favorite housekeeping activities. Not sure why, but it may have to do with having clean clothes, using my frugal tips and also being outside to hang clothes. Tips I use consist of:
    • Hang dry clothes either outside on a clothesline or inside on clothes racks. 
    • Use 1/4 cup of vinegar in rinse water for fabric softener; Brightens clothes and gets rid of static cling. 
    • Use cold water instead of warm or hot water; Clothes get just as clean.
    • If you use a dryer, use a gas dryer. Gas is cheaper than electric (In many areas of the country).
    • At the end of a wash-cycle, turn the knob back to spin (to wring out the extra water.) Clothes will dry quicker this way.
    • After hanging clothes to dry, if wrinkled either dry in dryer for 10 minutes or hang up on a shower curtain to expose the clothes to steam (gets rid of wrinkles.)
    • Use a little less laundry detergent than what the package recommends. I usually use 2/3 to 1/2 of what is recommended.
    • Make your own laundry detergent (To help save more). Recipes here.
    • If laundry wash water is not too dirty, dip out some of the water, before it drains out, to mop with. 
    • Never buy dry-clean only items. 
    • To preserve clothes, make sure you zip up zippers and button buttons to decrease friction on fabric.
    • Use dryer lint to make fire starters in your wood stove. Find out how to make fire starters
    • A little dish soap is a great stain remover. 
    • Wash only full loads.  
    • Reuse jeans and bath towels more than once to decrease laundry.
    • Wash comforters in commercial washers only. A comforter is too big for a standard washer and can actually damage your machine. 
    • If using dryer sheets, cut them in halves or even thirds. 

    Accident, Illness and "Homey" Activities

    The last week and a half has been a little hectic. Last week on Monday my son went for a bike ride and had an accident. He attempted to apply the back brakes which failed (on a brand new bike), then proceeded to put on the front breaks. He went flying over the handle bars. When he used his arm to shield his face, he fell on his right elbow fracturing it.

    Off to the urgent care clinic we went. At the clinic Chris underwent an assessment, an X-ray was ordered, a splint applied and an orthopedic referral made. Of course, there is only one orthopedic doctor in town and he happens to be my doctor too. He was a little surprised to see us in his office. I'm sure having two family members, different accidents, three months apart who are patients is not the norm for him. He ordered an MRI. On our follow-up visit he told us the right elbow joint was fractured. It will take four to six months to heal. Some gentle bending and flexing of the elbow in the shower is needed and physical therapy will begin in three to four weeks. The next visit for Chris's elbow is in two weeks.

    Oh, before I forget we went to our family doctor on Tuesday, and my son is also being treated for strep throat.

    All the running to doctor appointments, x-rays and pharmacies hasn't left much time for my daily homey activities which I enjoy. That is, until today.

    Today, with my son feeling better, I was able to do some things on my to-do list. One thing I have been slowly working at is de-cluttering. On my back porch I have an old refrigerator and a freezer which I use for storage.  I put items in there I don't use every day but use frequently enough I want them nearby. The fridges also serve as storage units for sales items and additional pantry stock.

    Refrigerator storage
    More stuff for refrigerator storage

    Another task on my to-do list is splitting and replanting my spider plant. The task doesn't take long but I haven't been in the mood to do it. The original plant had been split and replanted more than a year ago.  From the first plant I made five cuttings. I kept three and gave two away. My three have now turned into seven. They grow so fast. Now I'm making plans on who to give those to. I also decided to plant one of my peach seeds. We will see it if grows into a tree or not.

    Spider Plants
    Pot with planted peach seed

    Last I did a little baking. Not my typical frugal recipe of making things from scratch. Wait!  Let me explain. My husband found a really good sale on loss leaders at our local IGA. I believe he got the cake mix around 39 cents. Something outrageously cheap. In an inexpensive case like this I can go along with it not being made from scratch. However, I did use frugal, homegrown eggs.

    Baking cupcakes and mini-cakes for sharing
    Baked and Cooling 
    Frosted. Ready to eat and share

    At least my chickens have kept up on the homey activities of laying eggs. I've had almost six dozen eggs recently. Now, I'm down to four dozen. I used some for baking and cooking and gave a dozen away to my Christian Mentor when she visited on Monday.

    Product of six busy chickens
     five of my busy girls (Sixth Not Pictured)
    Things are getting back to normal. I feel complete again.

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