May, 2011

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They’re here…

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

We were out of town for Memorial weekend, living it up at the Hampton Inn with its creature comforts.  It was nice to get away.  It was nice watching TV.  It was nice taking long guilt free showers.  But, now we are back to reality, and it's pretty good.

We came home to find that Agnes' eggs did in fact hatch.  While she was out getting food for her newbies, I snapped a few pictures.  I wouldn't call them cute necessarily.  They are a bit unrecognizable.  I can't really distinguish body parts yet, but I'll be taking pictures everyday to document their progress.

I was a little concerned when I saw that Agnes was not in her nest with the baby birds.  They look so pink and vulnerable, and it hasn't been warm.  I wanted to intervene and put a hot pad under the nest or something, just to make sure they stayed warm.  Was she ditching them?  Did she not sufficiently bond with them?  I decided to trust that Agnes knew what she was doing.  And, it turns out she does.  When she returned, I secretly, and very quietly glanced out the door.  I could see her tail feathers shaking a bit with each regurgitation she unloaded into her babies mouths.  Good job Agnes.  You got this.

The lilacs are filling the air with flowery goodness.  They surround the old farmhouse, and bring it back to life a bit.  I can picture Emma flinging open the windows to let the springtime smell clean out the winter doldrums.

These old trees come back every year with new blossoms.   Old, dark, knotty bark contrasted with fresh new blossoms gives them an instant face lift every spring.

Apple blossoms are "snowing" right now, according to Axel.  And, speaking of snow, the rivers are HUGE because of all of that snow, huh?  While we were driving west, I was amazed at how much water is forging through the various rivers we passed.  We are definitely in surplus.

Rhubarb finally got my serious attention.  I cut a bunch of stalks and am making strawberry-rhubarb pie with it.  I'm thinking of making some rhubarb preserves too.  Anybody ever try that?  Seems like it would be a good thing to have mid-winter for a pie filling or something.

Thank you lilacs for making my house smell better than it usually does.

We have a plethora of eggs and spinach currently, so what better to use those up than quiche?  I got this recipe from my new favorite food blog Smitten Kitchen.  It turned out awesome.  It's made with half and half, cheddar and parmesan cheese, spinach, green onions and eggs (of course), so you can't really go wrong.  I used the spinach from our garden instead of frozen, which is what the recipe called for.  Again, it was super good.

And, with that my friends, I shall end this post.  Happy Tuesday.

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Going on a family trip today to attend a family reunion.  And, perhaps most exciting, going to meet up with a best friend that I haven't seen in nearly fifteen years.  Woke up at 5:30 am.  Can't sleep when there is still packing to do, run to go on, cleaning to happen.  Also can't really do any of that because I'm just having my first cup of coffee, so decided I needed to let my peeps know what I'm doing, and where I'll be in the next coming days.

I almost hate to go.  The homestead is spectacular right now.  I mean amazing.  The trees are in various forms of bursting beauty; fuschia, white, emerald green empresses.  And, we have a mama sheep and her baby lamb taking refuge here in one of our pastures currently, while the other sheep are hard at work eating weeds for the city.  Perhaps most difficult of all, Agnes' eggs might hatch while we are gone.  These fleeting spring days fill me with a sense of nostalgia for the present; a concept Andy and I talk about often. It is when a moment or time period is so good, you already miss it.  Not a bad feeling I guess, just a little sad.

Have a lovely Memorial Day Weekend out there everybody.  I'll be back to share homesteady tidbits on Monday.

Blooming out, Rocking out and Figuring out.

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

We've had quite a weekend.  Monumental in many ways, and totally ordinary in others.  First of all, everything is just about in full bloom right  now.  The apple trees are lighting up one by one with pale pinkish-white blossoms, and are all abuzz with bees.  The pear tree is at it's pinnacle of absolute blooming beauty.  Right now.  In a day, or perhaps even today, the steady fall of petals will begin and fruit will start to appear.  She should really live it up while she's still got it.

And then there are the not fully bloomed but equally spectacular apple trees getting ready to burst into glory.

The rhubarb snuck up on on us before we expected it.  This early bird of a fruit makes a damn tasty beverage too.  It's rhubarb-onade if you haven't heard about it.  Recipe to come, after we make it!

Speaking of recipes, this here is Dandelion Soup, made by Asa and Axel.  Ingredients are: stagnant rain water, sticks, plum seeds from last season, grass, dandelions and a big rubber blue ball.

Asa the Chicken Catcher

My main man Andy had a  rock show reunion this weekend.  Humpy played on Saturday night with other Missoula vintage faves Sasshole and Spanker.  What a line up!  I haven't seen Andy rock out since the late 90's.  They did not disappoint either.  Some highlights were the oh-so-nostalgic mosh pit that formed a few songs into their set, the fact that smoking is now prohibited so you don't go home smelling like a giant cigarette butt, and drinking PBR.  I was home by 12:30, and felt great the next day.  As a thirty something mother of two, you couldn't ask for a more perfect rock show.

In Agnes related news:

She now has three eggs in her nest, and she diligently sits atop them all day.  We don't even use the front door anymore, so as not to scare her.  Though a few times by accident one of us has flung open the door only to be met with an angry Agnes.  She flies over to the fence post, looks you straight in the eye with her head cocked a bit, and unabashedly chirps you out.  Then, when you've given her sufficient space, she'll fly back to her nest, fluff her feathers and settle down onto her eggs, looking quite smug I might add.

Agnes is pretty much always on her nest, except this morning.  I noticed another, smaller, more red-breasted robin was perched on the side of her nest.  I found it curious, so watched for a minute.  I'm pretty sure this new robin is a male, because of his more red breast, so I'll call him Tom.  After a few minutes, Tom flew off, and immediately Agnes flew back into her nest and settled on top of her eggs.

I haven't done my research yet, I aim to tonight, but could it be that the male mate helps protect the nest?  I've noticed Tom hanging around in the front yard near the nest prior to this.  But this was the first time I've seen him actually baby sitting the eggs while Agnes was off shopping or whatever.  In light of this new information, I now have a total bird crush on Tom.

Do any of you have some robin nesting habit knowledge you'd like to share?

 

Going to Seed…

Friday, May 20th, 2011

These emerald green days are hard to resist.  I could, and maybe should be inside doing any number of things; cooking, cleaning, organizing, responding to emails, paying bills, etc.  But the pull of fresh spring air and bright green grass is too tempting.  So, here we are, outside hiking the hills above our little house.  How lucky can I be?

My dad has been here for the past couple weeks, and it has been great.  He helps out with the kiddos, and takes me out to dinner a lot.  It's a real treat.  He loves his grand dudes so much, and I'm very thankful for it.

I am standing by my DIY sentiment I mentioned in this post.  I made bread in the bread maker my dad brought me!  I also made granola bars.  Both turned out fabulously.  I have to say, the bread maker rocks.  It isn't essential if you are an occasional bread maker.  But, if you are looking to cut costs by making your bread instead of ever purchasing it, and you are a busy person like me, the bread maker rules.  It's fast, easy, and can be left to do it's thing without you having to be present.

And the granola bars are really, really good.  I got the recipe here.  The good store bought kind are crazy expensive.  So, I know I'm saving a lot of money by making my own.  I'm hoping to get really technical soon, and actually calculate how much money it costs to make these things, as compared to buying them.  Maybe I'll plan a trip with all the money we save.  Or, buy a  new toilet, which is what we really need.  Uggh.

We have been doing a lot of fishing with Grandpa Eric.  We went to Harper's Lake yesterday, which is a great lake for kids fishing.  Although we did not catch anything, it was still pleasant.  Apparently, they stock the lake with trout quite often, and if you call ahead and figure out the day that they stock it, it pretty much guarantees at least one successful catch.  And, although this might seem like cheating, I'm inclined to do it.  Asa was so hell bent on catching a fish, when we had to leave, he was uproariously upset.  It sucked.  I felt bad for him too.

I've been in serious production mode, because we are going to be in the Missoula Made Fair.  It is going to require a lot time and energy, but I'm psyched to be doing it!

Happy Weekending!

Axel turns three, sheep arrive, and Agnes reveals her little blue egg.

Monday, May 16th, 2011

This handsome boy turned three on Friday. We celebrated at Axel's favorite park he calls "spaceman park".  My friend Andrea made an amazing cake for him.  It was the best part of the party, besides seeing Axel being the center of attention by a bunch of adoring people.

I'm fairly certain that I could move mountains for him if he wanted me to.

I made a few things for him, one of them being these little pants.  I think they turned out pretty darn cute.  He likes them too.

The annual sheep drive happened on Saturday.  These sheep have been resting in our pastures for the past few days.  Today they continue their journey up to Waterworks Hill and beyond, where they will be responsible for weed removal.  The lambs are a huge hit around here.  The noises these animals make are hilarious, they sound vaguely human.  And the herding dogs are so good at what they do.  They keep these sheep in line, and make sure they don't wander off somewhere they shouldn't.  It's nice to see dogs doing what they were meant to do.

The young lambs follow around their mama  baaaaaaa-ing.  It's a bit reminiscent of my own babes once upon a time.

This lovely, wind-blown robin is Agnes.  She decided to build her nest in a box that hangs directly outside our front door.  The foundation of her nest is actually a nest that Asa build in his preschool class.  She took over, made some renovations and now calls it home.  Unfortunately, whenever we walk in or out of the door, she flies a few feet away onto the fence that surrounds the front of our house.  She chirps brazenly, looking right at us, warning  us to stay away.  She's been much more brave lately, and will sometimes remain in her nest despite too-close-for-comfort kids and such.

This is her giving me a warning.  Can you see her looking right at me?

I figured she must have laid some eggs, judging by her behavior.  So, we are all using the back door now, so as not to disturb her.  Statistically, the odds of a robins egg hatching and the baby bird surviving, are not that great.  So, we want to do everything we can to encourage Agnes to do what she needs to in peace and comfort.

See what I mean?  This is our front door, and her nest is in that little box!

While she was off for a few minutes, I quickly stuck my camera up higher than I could see, to take a quick snapshot of whatever was in her nest.  And, this is what I saw!  Only one so far, I'm not sure if she will lay more or not.  Typically a robin will lay two or three eggs.  Only time will tell.  I sure hope they make it.

All in one big beautiful spring day…

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Seasons here in Montana are never neatly defined.  Especially spring.  It can be any combination of  cloudy, snowy, rainy, sunny, windy, stormy.  But, yesterday was, what I would call, the quintessential spring day; warm, sunny, whispy clouds, and a tiny breeze to blow the hair out of your face.  It was the kind of day we long for and picture in our mind in the darkest of February days.

We found this robins nest in a wooden box  hanging outside of our house right next to our front door.  Asa had made a mud and straw nest at school, and placed it in this box a few weeks ago.  Apparently the robin saw some great nest making potential in it.  She added more straw and shaped it like a perfectly sculpted bowl, and now resides in it when we are not around.  I'm not sure how long she will stick around, as every time we open the door, she gets spooked and flies away.  Andy put a worm in her nest, hoping she would translate that as a peaceful gesture.  But, I'm not sure she noticed or cared.  We sure hope she stays.

We went hiking with some friends up Waterworks Hill.  The cowboys decided to join us, just in case their were any wild horses that needed to be wrangled.  All the kids played for a long time, loving it, as were the mama's.  It's amazing how much visiting you can get done, when your kids are entertained.  I'm thankful every day for these friends of mine.  They listen to my stuff, I listen to theirs.  Sometimes they offer advice, or exclamations, but mostly they just listen, which is all I really want.  This whole child rearing thing would be a lot harder without them around.

After our lovely hike we went fishing with Grandpa Eric who is visiting for the next few weeks.  We didn't catch anything, but it didn't really matter.  It was more about being outside, near water, watching geese chase each other, and casting our hooks out into the water.

Axel's face describes how all of us felt yesterday.  The sunshine melted our troubles away.  Until about 9pm when I realized that the same sunshine that made us so happy, also gave us all sunburns.  Axel had a very red neck, despite the hat and the neckerchief I had him wear all day.  Any of you natural products lovin' mama's have good sunscreen advice?  Recommendations? What do you think about it in general?

Happy Wednesday!

keepin’ it cheap

Monday, May 9th, 2011

I'm challenging myself to try to make as many things that we need as possible.  Especially things that are ridiculously expensive.  Some items I have in mind are crackers, bread, granola, graham crackers, vegetables, date books, blank books for my kids, and rugs.  I've already started on the rugs, actually.

This scrappy mess is an almost complete rug made from ripped up t-shirts.  I started it 10 years ago.  I have lost it in storage for years at a time, working on it here and there.  And, now it is finally almost complete.

The first job I ever had in Missoula was at The Black Dog restaurant, and I wore my Black Dog t-shirt around town while meeting people who have changed my life.  I fell in love with Missoula while wearing that shirt.

There are also some Big Dipper t-shirts mixed in there, another job I had in Missoula with big memories for me.  Some band t-shirts, a Zapatista inspired rebel t-shirt that I got in San Cristobal, Mexico.  Oh, the memories. And now they all reside in this rug that I plan to put somewhere in our house.

I couldn't stand the idea of giving these t- shirts to goodwill, they held too many memories, but I also didn't have the space in my drawers and closets to store them any longer.  So, why not make a rug out of them?  And...

This rug is made from bed sheets that I dyed different colors and then crocheted using a huge hook.  This is a great way to get rid of stained, or worn thin bed sheets.  You could also tear up old clothing made of woven fabric, like mens dress shirts, or skirts, etc.

Next on my list are date books and blank books for the kids, made from old cereal boxes and scrap paper.

Happy Monday!


New home for the teenagers…

Friday, May 6th, 2011

First of all, anytime I see a bluebird up here on the Homestead I take it as a good omen.   Good things often happen after a sighting of these lovely birds.  Just another reason why I love this place.

Yesterday was a productive one on the homestead.  In preparation for a visit from my dad, and also our first official open-to-the-public Saturday upon us, there was, and still is, plenty to do.

The boys helped out.   They grabbed their wheelbarrow, and followed us down to the chicken coop.  Today's big project was cleaning it out and getting it ready for the teenagers.

Asa helped take wheelbarrow loads of old dirty straw from the coop down to the composting corner of our garden.

Axel's job was to guard the garden gate to make sure the chickens didn't get in.

In between all this hard work, their was coal drawing happening in the fire pit.  Give a kid some coal for a pencil and a rock as a canvas, and interesting things happen.

Throw in a bone or two, and you have caveman toys for the tots!  Which, for the record, seemed to entertain them for quite a while.  Hmmmm, maybe I should re-think the birthday wish list?

We are hoping these older ladies will take in the younger teens with grace and helpful role modeling.  It's a big change for everyone.  They will figure it out.

Have a splendid weekend!

Tee shorts and Brown Butter Betty’s

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

The boys and I went to one of our local grocery stores here in Missoula.  For you locals, it was Orange Street Food Farm.  This grocery store is locally owned and operated, and is a solid fixture in Missoula.  And, they currently have a sale on organic strawberries; two pounds for three bucks.  Screaming deal on such a hot commodity.  They are not the true gems that you would find locally in a month or so, they are from California I believe, but when you are craving a strawberry, they pass the test.

So, we ate one pound of them fresh.  And with the other pound I made Strawberry brown butter Betty's, from a recipe I found off of Smitten Kitchen, a nice food blog with great recipes.

They turned out outstandingly good, in my humble opinion.  However the little boys did not like them.  They say they are too sour. I love the fact that they are in individual cupcake size portions. And, I appreciate the tartness mixed with sweetness, mixed with the nutty browned butter flavor.  The recipe is quick and easy, and relatively inexpensive especially if you have home-grown strawberries, or got a good deal on them, like I did.  Also homemade whipped cream to top takes the tartness down a notch.

These are some recycled tee shorts I've been working on.  The pockets of the purple shorts are from a Flaming Lips tee shirt!  I will be selling these at Blackbird, and in our Etsy shop.  I hope to have a boat load made soon.  Along with my dresses and some skirts.

In other news, the fox is still around.  I saw her this morning with her kits.  Apparently, I wasn't as scary as I thought.  I'm secretly just a little bit glad.

Happy Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

The Fantastic little Fox…

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Exciting day and evening here on the Homestead.  While Andy was presenting his James Welch light box to the public library folks who commissioned it. I was at home having a standoff with a fox.

I was casually heading out the door to retrieve my purse from the car and looked up into the front pasture, not more than fifty feet stood a fox and at least two if not three kits.  I was stunned.  She was stunned.  I'm assuming it was the mama (vixen), however, I just read that sometimes a fox (male) will hunt for the vixen and kits as well.  Anyway, the fox ran away a few yards and turned around to look at me.  I almost ran inside to tell the boys so they could see this little family of foxes too, but I knew they would yell and scream and scare them off.  And, honestly and maybe selfishly, I wanted this moment to myself.

Ever since my honeymoon, when Andy and I were driving to Bowman Lake (near Polebridge) on a little foresty road, and two kits tumbled out of the bushes into plain view on the side of the road, I have had a fascination with foxes.  They are mysterious, smart, fast, and always just out of reach.

Anyway, so there I was, waiting for her to make a move.  I talked to her, told her it was okay, I wasn't going to mess with her babes.  But, I warned, out loud: "You need to relocate, I won't let you hurt my chickens." She yelped/barked a few more times, as if trying to reply: "Yeah, but I need to feed my babes. You understand, right?"

And, the thing is, I would probably be willing to sacrifice one chicken on her behalf, for her kits.  But I know that if she got one, she'd take out our entire flock.

I ran inside to get my camera because the kits were starting to wrestle and I just couldn't handle it!  This is all I got, a very distant shot of one of the babes.  The mama was clearly a red fox, but the kits are this gray/black combo until they get older.

I know, it's so hard to see.  But, isn't that so right?  I think part of why I am so enamored by these little critters, is that it is nearly impossible to get a good look at them.  They have insanely good hearing, and are so fast!  Apparently they mate in January or February, and give birth end of  March/early April. Which would make this kit just a few weeks old.  The vixen usually starts to leave the den to hunt after the kits are about three weeks old.  I'm guessing this kit is somewhere around four weeks old.

So while I was trying to take a picture of these amazing little creatures, the big fox took off like lightning towards some of our chickens.  I thought she had one in her mouth, so I yelled loudly and forcefully. She stopped, looked at me, and retreated. The kits must have ducked  back down into the den pretty quickly too; I didn't see them the rest of the evening.  I did see the big fox a few times far up on the ridge, but eventually she completely disappeared.

I stayed outside and kept watch for the next hour and a half, waiting for dusk, when the chickens start waddling their way back to the coop.  The boys and I chased the last three hens into the coop at about 8:30, and I battened down all the hatches to make sure they were all as safe as can be.  As we strolled back up to the house I took some pictures of the beautiful light.

 

I felt good about saving our girls.  But, I know we are going to have to scare the fox and her kits off, if they decide to hang around.  And for that, I'm a little sad.  I wish there were some way to coexist peacefully.  Apparently foxes typically have several dens in an area, so hopefully this vixen and her kits are relocating somewhere else now.  They will have to survive on field mice and rabbits.  We will have a close watch on our chickens for the coming weeks.  Even though they aren't as cute and mysterious as the fox and her kits, they do provide us with over a dozen eggs a day.  They definitely earn their keep.

Happy Monday.