Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Tidbitting Rooster Video

Chickens display a great range of language and decipherable behavior. This video of our Buff Orpington Rooster shows a classic example of Tidbitting; when a rooster gets the attention of his hens by finding and moving tidbits of food around with his beak.

Magnet Chalkboard Spice Tins

This system of spice tins is one of my favorite things right now. Have you ever had something, whether you bought it, or made it, that just really changes the way you do something for the better? I love to cook, but rifling through our top drawer of our pantry, looking for spices was always something that drove me crazy. The spice jars were too little to be sharing the same space as large bottles of olive oil, vinegars and other random things. They'd get knocked over and lost among the rubble.

These tins have solved that problem for me and I love it. I also find myself using more of a variety of herbs in our meals because I see them, and think..."hmmm, that would be a good addition."

These tins are being stored on the side of our refrigerator, a space that otherwise wouldn't hold much of anything. I'm not a big fan of tons of stuff on my fridge, it gives me anxiety...that's the anal retentive side of me coming out. The magnets we do have are uniform and well thought out. We have magnet poetry on the front, which is alphabetized, and is uniformly black and white. We also have a few acorn and bee magnets which fit our personality.

These tins pass the refrigerator test because they are all uniform and create organization in themselves.

I have them alphabetized so that I can always find the spice I'm looking for, and putting them away after a meal is a snap...I just look for the empty spots. The 8 oz. tin holds a lot of spice. Which is nice for when I dehydrate home grown herbs in large quantities.

They can be re-arranged to allow for new spices, for example I just started cooking with savory for the first time. I simply made a "savory" tin and fit it in alphabetically.

The chalkboard labels can be wiped with a damp cloth and re-labeled.

Here is where you can order the supplies:

8 oz metal tins
2.5" chalkboard labels
chalkboard marker
3"round magnets

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Homemade Laundry Soap Half Penny Per Load

I've been using this homemade laundry soap for over 6 years and I have no complaints. We live on a farm and Zach is a blacksmith and it gets our very dirty clothes clean every time. I still use a commercial stain spray for tough spots, but I did that when we bought detergent.

I make this soap in our Food Processor. I use the shredding blade to shed the bars of soap, and the mix/chopping blade to incorporate the mixture and grind the soap flakes to a powder.

You Will Need:

1 3 lb. box Super Washing Soda
1 4lb. box Borax
1 16oz. box Baking Soda
2 14 oz. bars Zote soap

You can add essential oils too, but this drives the price up and I feel like I can't really smell that much of a difference once the load is dry. I feel like essential oils might be better used in the dryer or perhaps a fabric softener step if you line dry. I've also used 2 bars of Fels Naptha soap in this recipe. Sometimes the store is sold out of Zote. I prefer the scent and constancy/texture of Zote when I'm making the detergent, but both work fine for cleaning.

Zote comes in pink and white. Both work equally well, but I like the pink because I can tell if the soap flakes are evenly distributed throughout the detergent. But again, this is just a preference. 

I use our large roasting pan and the canning pot to mix everything. You need two large vessels to mix everything.

I start by shredding the soap so it's in a grated cheese consistency.

I dump this in the pot and add all the other ingredients.

I use a large spoon to stir all the soap flakes evenly through the powdered ingredients.

Then, working in batches, I grind the soap flakes with the powder. Each batch gets dumped in the roasting pan.

When all the detergent is ground to powder, I give it a final stir to make sure everything is incorporated. (You'll get some batches that seem to be pinker than others.) This final step mixes it well.

When it's all done I fill a 1 gallon glass jar, plus a half gallon Mason jar.

I use 2 level tablespoons per load and all my load are large loads. (I rarely wash small loads)

I usually get my ingredients at Wal-Mart, it's our closest grocery store. 

Here's the price breakdown:

Washing Soda                $3.97
Borax                             $3.97
Baking Soda                  $0.54
Zote ($0.97 x 2 bars)     $1.94
Total:                             $10.42

There are 256 tbsp in a gallon
The recipe makes 1.5 gallons so that's 384 tbsps
divided by 2 because I use 2 tbsp per load, equals 192 loads
$10.42 divided by 192 loads equals $.054 per load

So one half penny per load! 

I recommend that you read the owners manual on your washing machine before using this soap recipe. Or contact the manufacturer to see if powdered soap is ok for your machine. We have an old top load washer and I haven't had any problems.   

Here are photos so you can see the prices at the store:

Monday, February 8, 2016

7 Criteria for a Good Nesting Box + Giveaway!

Head over to Community Chickens for a chance to win one of these Plastic Nesting Boxes by Free Range. Also, learn what makes a good nesting box with the 7 feature checklist.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

DIY Eyelet Patchwork Pillow

When I was a little girl, my mom decorated my room in pale pink rosebuds and white eyelet. It was VERY girly! Lot's of pink...lemme tell ya! I had pale pink carpet, a pink bedspread trimmed in eyelet, eyelet decorative pillows, and pink rosebud wall paper. Looking back on my room, it was adorable. But as I grew up I couldn't help but feel like my room didn't reflect my personality. I was something of a tomboy (much to my mother's chagrin) and my framed shadow boxes of dead insects didn't quite go with the cottage princess look.

I never really went through a rebellious stage, but around age 13 I asked my parents if I could change my room. They agreed and told me that I could do what I wanted so long as I paid for it myself. Fair enough.

I had some babysitting money saved up so I bought a gallon of green paint, like a celery/sage color, a set of tan and green sheets and a tan, cargo style bedspread with big pockets on the sides. I hung a branch from the ceiling and placed several bird nests I had found over the years, along with an empty paper wasp nest. More dead insects went up on the walls, a shelf with my sea shell collection, shelf mushrooms, various pods, seeds, acorns and pine cones, a squirrel skull I found in the and drawings of sea turtles, owls and other wildlife, and shortly after my room re-do I got an aquarium for my birthday and a pet Red-Earred Slider. I was kinda obsessed with turtles at the time.

My room looked like a nature center, but I loved it!

I donated all the pink... thinking I would never again re-visit that style. I knew in my heart that I was a nature lover and when I had my own home it would just give me more space to fill with examples of preserved nature. Maybe I could charge admission and give tours like a museum!

Fast forward 20 years and Ive found that while I still love nature, I don't necessarily have to scream it to the world via home decorating. In fact, I've somehow come full circle and love that ultra feminine cottage, shabby chic look. My mom is so proud!

We have an old farmhouse and we've kept the lower level rather rustic with dark stained wood, various antiques and caramel-color painted walls, but upstairs is a totally different story.

We recently remodeled this spare bedroom (I have a room tour coming soon) and we did it in a French Countryside, cottage theme complete with lots of eyelet accessories. To say the least, I am kicking myself for not keeping all the girly room decorations from my youth...but how are you to know?      

Because I couldn't predict the future, I have to find or make new accessories for our spare bedroom, as in the case with this pillow.

It's a white on white, six patch pillow, each patch is 6 by 6 inches.

I treated each patch as its own project.

I started with 6- 6x6 squares of white cotton fabric, then decorated each one with different sewing material.

This square is two strips of large eyelet and two strips of thin eyelet sewn vertically.

This square has a layer of pleating sewn over the straight square. I did a large running stitch with my sewing machine and pulled the end thread to gather.
This is a calico white on white fabric I found.
I did a little embroidery on this square with white embroidery floss.
This square was probably the hardest to make. I used half inch satin ribbon to make a basket weave.
The ribbon kept slipping out of place so finally I used tape to hold it in place. When it was all woven in an over-under pattern, I sewed right through the tape holding the ribbon in place. After it was sewn I pulled the tape off and it worked great!
Then I sewed the squares together with a 1/4 " seam, right sides together, making two rows of three, then sewed the two rows together.
I measured the final patch front and cut a piece of cotton fabric the same size for the back.
I wanted a large eyelet trim so I pinned the trim to the back of the pillow. When I sewed the two sides together, the patchwork side was facing in, and the eyelet trim was sandwiched between the two pieces. 
I left a 5 inch opening to turn the pillow right side out and to stuff it. I stuffed it with loose polly-fill and hand stitched the opening closed.

Friday, February 5, 2016

80's Dance Music and Mixed Seafood Alfredo with Homemade Fettuccine

My friend Stacey is one of the best cooks I know. I love spending time with her in the kitchen bringing a meal to the table. We have very similar ideas as to how food should taste, be prepared and enjoyed. We love to cook from scratch, but don't take ourselves too seriously, in fact this meal was brought to you via the soundtrack of late 1980's dance music on Pandora. Yes, that's how we spend our Saturday nights, two of the whitest girls you'll ever come across, singing and dancing to Destiny's Child and MC Hammer and cooking Italian food. Welcome to my world.

But cooking with Stacey is fun! She more than knows her way around my kitchen and she just goes to town. There's not a lot of discussion about the meal, she just starts grabbing ingredients, and I grab some ingredients and we each know what needs to be done. There's not a lot of excess consulting, which allows us to concentrate on really important things, like the lyrics to Ice, Ice Baby.

Stacey has a magical way of making bland food amazing. (Is bland the right word?) Maybe not, but food that doesn't rely on a lot of spices to make it delicious. Her biscuits are out of this world, and after eating her homemade pasta...well, she's created a monster. A pasta craving monster. The pasta tasted like butter. There was no butter used in the recipe, but that's what they tasted like. She claims it's the farm fresh eggs but I think she's just trying to hide the fact that she's magical.

Beautiful, magical pasta

This is the key to good Alfredo, 4 bricks of Parmesan cheese. You can't go wrong!
It's hard to translate this recipe to you all because neither one of us measure anything. But it was so delicious, that I feel like it's worth the try.

Nate and Stacey went to Italy last year, and Nate said that the Fettuccine Alfredo tasted like true Italian cuisine.  Well, he didn't day "cuisine" Nate is just not a "cuisine" saying type of guy. He's more like...Zach, ....more like "This dish makes me want to timber frame!" or "this is better than shopping for antique tools!" or "More meals like this and I won't be able to button my flannel!" Both our men like good food, they just have their own way of articulating this to us. We understand....

Stacey will be sharing her pasta recipe over at her blog Investing in a Delicious Tomorrow. 

For the Alfredo:

Lobster Meat
Raw Shrimp
Sea Scallops
Lots of a pound should do.
Cream (about 2 cups)
4 bricks Parmesan cheese shredded plus samples for kitchen members to enjoy while cooking
Cooking Sherry 1 cup
Garlic (2 cloves chopped)
Garlic salt
pinch of Nutmeg
Prepared fettuccine pasta

Melt a half stick butter in pan. Begin sauteing the seafood in small batches on medium-high heat. Don't over cook! Like 60- to 90 seconds per side. If the butter starts to cook away, add more as needed. Season both sides of seafood with garlic salt. When the last of the seafood is sauteed, deglaze the pan with the cooking sherry. Let it reduce by half, then toss the seafood back in the reduction. Remove seafood again with a slotted spoon. In the same pan melt another stick of butter. (This is why you need to dance while you burn off the calories.) and the garlic. Add the cream and the cheese and turn the stove to low. Be patient and let the cheese slowly melt stirring constantly. When melted, season with LOTS of pepper, salt and a pinch of nutmeg. Toss with the pasta and the seafood.
Counter filled with random delicious Italian food like balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, Italian seasoning, garlic salt pepper and pesto with baguette to dip!


Saturday, January 30, 2016

How Do Honeybees Make Comb?

Ever wonder where all that wax comes from in your hive? Learn about comb formation in my new Keeping backyard Bees post How Do Honeybees Make Comb.