Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Winter Confidence

Hubby and I have been having a reoccurring conversation lately. It goes something like this:

Me: "Winter is coming up soon and we need to reconsider our current car choices."

Hubby: "Yes, I can't drive the corvette in snow and ice....we need something or I'm going to have problems getting to work."

That is pretty much where we leave it off because neither of us know what to do about it. We have other vehicles but they are just as worthless on snow and ice as his corvette. We sold the one car that was awesome in crappy weather, the Vibe. Why did we sell it? Because it was the back up for the back up car (the conversion van). Which is silly. Perhaps not the smartest move. So that's where we were.

I always said I don't want any more vehicles around here until we get rid of one. It's starting to look like a used car dealership. So we got rid of the Focus yesterday. The Focus was a lost cause. Hubby put a bit of money and time into getting it running, which he succeeded in. It ran. It just didn't run well. So he lost interest and gave the project to his Dad. Perhaps Rich could get it running well and use it as a commuter vehicle back and forth from his travel trailer to our house every weekend (a two hour+ drive). He worked on it and put another chunk of money and time into it and finally decided he was beating a dead horse. So yesterday we loaded it up on the car hauler and dropped it off to be sent through a local car auction. Hopefully someone else will have better luck. I'm just excited that it's gone!

So now enters our solution to the snow and ice issue. We needed a four wheel drive vehicle and low and behold my father has yet another project that Sean was interested in. So we bought it from him. It's a 1995 Range Rover. It had been sitting at his place for several  years so last Saturday Rich, Sean and my Dad went to work tinkering on it. Rodents had decided to chew through many electrical lines so it was a challenge. But after a couple of hours and some true MacGyver fixes, they got it started. Now Sean has his newest project in the shop and he's like a kid in a candy store. Can he turn it into a reliable winter vehicle before the snow arrives? Something tells me yes.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Not all it's cracked up to be.

This time of the year means orange leaves falling, pumpkins, hot cocoa and walnuts.

Walnuts everywhere.

Thousands of walnuts hanging off of leafless limbs and littering the ground. 

 We've been living here nearly ten years now and we've never once harvested the huge bounty of walnuts in our front yard. There are 280 walnuts trees in the grove and I'm thinking it might be time to crack a walnut open and see what's inside. I have to admit though, I've had no desire to eat those walnuts. I don't hate walnuts, I actually like walnuts but I'm not a huge fan of black walnuts.  And that is what we have. What you buy in the store are english walnuts. They are more mild in flavor than that of the black walnut. Black walnuts have a thicker tougher shell and have a more robust flavor than English walnuts, which makes them popular for use in ice cream and baked goods. I bought a bag of black walnuts last year and had to toss em out. They had a very distinctive flavor. I wasn't a fan. But hey, maybe our walnuts will taste better. Home grown stuff is always better right?

First things first, I had to learn how to harvest walnuts. Apparently there is an art to it. Thanks to Google I learned to pick the ones that have already fallen to the ground. Don't bother picking them off of the tree. Also, don't pick up the green ones. Look for the dark brown ones (or mostly brown with a little green). The outer covering comes off a whole lot easier. Trust me. 

I wanted to start with a small batch and just see how it went so I just picked up a little bucket full. I got two more buckets ready, one for the outer husk and one for the actual walnuts. I got a heavy duty pair of leather gloves that I didn't mind turning brown from the oils and a pair of nippers (this is what I call them, they are actually my goat hoof trimmers too...I don't know the actual name of them at the moment). 

I tried a knife but these things worked a whole lot easier at removing the husk. Some were dried out a bit and not messy and others were a wet, oily disgusting mess. All were thrown into a bucket and then laid out in a single layer to dry. Some people said to lay them out for a month or more and some said for only two weeks. I decided to go with two weeks. I used a high tech drying rack (a paint roller tray) and kept them in the shop. Make sure they are kept out of the rain and away from vermin. People online said the drying walnuts could disappear from squirrels or pack rats. We don't seem to have either around here because of our predatory cats that eat everything in a five mile radius. 

So this weekend I decided to open a few of those bad boys up. I kind of thought it would go easily and I'd be rolling in delicious walnut meat. That is not what happened. First I placed the walnut in the vice like so.

Then I used every bit of my strength to pull the lever on the vice to try and squish the walnut. Seriously every bit of my strength. My husband likes to say I'm a wuss but I'm really not. Those are some crazy tough shells. They didn't just pop open either, they splintered everywhere. Nut meat flying all over. This is what you are left with:

So I got to pick through the shards of shell trying to pick out anything resembling walnut meat. It took two hours to go through 55 walnuts (half of my paint roller tray of walnuts). Two hours! So counting the time it took to pick up the walnuts, de-husk them, dry them and crack em open we are talking at least three hours.  Are you curious how much meat I was able to harvest from those 55 walnuts?

I'd be lucky if that was a 1/3 of a cup of nuts. Grumble. So not worth my time but still a good learning experience none the less. This evening I made banana bread and dumped my precious little bowl of walnuts into it. It turned out tasty, but not "three hours of work" tasty.  From now on I'll be buying my walnuts from the store.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Instagram Love

I just recently became a fan of Instagram. But not the actual photo uploading part. I don't partake in the website or anything social like that. I just like all the beautiful filters that they provide on the app. As a person who graduated with a degree in Graphic Design I understand filters. I've spent many an hour on Photoshop using and manipulating filters. So to have a free app that I can download on my cell phone that immediately turns my average photos into something more than average is just totally cool. I find myself reaching for my cell phone instead of my Nikon to take pictures just because they look so much neater in Instagram. They've even made their way onto this blog. I'm sure you can pick out the manipulated photo's. Like the zinnia picture in the last post. They are just more vibrant and clear. I love it! I've got to say it also makes self portraits a little less homely (you know for us old, wrinkly people). It's a win win.

 I was looking around the photo gallery on the cell phone and found all sorts of winners that I haven't shared on the blog. Aren't you excited? This first one is from today. Both kids are out of school today and tomorrow for parent teacher conferences so I thought we must do something fun. What's more fun than the movies? We went and saw Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. I'm a fan of the first one and the second didn't disappoint. Wesley really enjoyed it, Greta was acting like a typical 4 year old. She lasted about 30 minutes before loosing complete interest. But it was still fun and I'm so happy to have kids old enough to do these fun things with.


One of Greta's favorite things to do in the whole world is to take a bath. Not just some quick little bath but rather an hour of mermaid, splashing fun. I don't mind it, it gives me an opportunity to play Candy Crush (blasted game). Then she gets out, dries off and runs to find the biggest area of sun on the carpet to warm up. It's a cute routine.

The next one is just another picture of my goofy kids. Four and six are fun ages. They still adore each other and play well together. I hope they stay friends through life. And yes she's in a swim suit in October. Ugh.

I love taking Greta out to lunch once or twice a month. It's our girl time and she enjoys it probably more than I do. This last time we were headed out to lunch and I asked my mom if she'd like to go spur of the moment. She did join us and we had a nice lunch at Jason's Deli (my favorite place) and a nice walk around the small lake behind the restaurant. It was a nice outing. I'm thinking we need to do that again soon.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Loose Teeth, Zinnias and Kick Boards

I'd like to say there is something fun and exciting to blog about but alas there isn't. It's a pretty slow Tuesday morning. Sesame Street playing in the background with the super annoying voice of Elmo resounding against my ear drums. It's like fingernails on a chalkboard. But it entertains the four year old while Mommy drinks her tea and catches up on the internet. I realize I haven't blogged in nearly a week because there is just not much of anything to blog about around here. Just everyday happenings. Wesley has his first loose tooth. I can't believe my oldest is old enough to be growing in his permanent teeth. That's just crazy. He's doing great in first grade. Still happy to go to school and learn. We'll get to talk to his teacher tomorrow at parent teacher conferences to see how he's doing. I'm looking forward to that.

Greta and I are a little sad to report we had our first freeze this weekend. You see, her favorite past time was running back to the garden and picking several zinnias and making bouquets for everyone she knows.

The zinnias were so pretty this year. Coming in nearly all colors and standing taller than Greta. I'm thinking next year it would be neat to have an entire garden devoted to zinnias. They are definitely my favorite garden flower. But they are all brown and dead now. It makes me a little sad. I promise Greta we will plant more in the spring and that makes us both happier.

One of my fall projects was to preserve a large amount of basil. I had researched it and decided on the food processor method where you chop it all up in the food processor and slowly add olive oil to make a paste. Then you pack that into ice cube trays and freeze it for future use in sauces, soups and (my favorite) pesto. Naturally, I kept putting it off and the freeze got to the basil before I did. Boo. That will teach me, next year do it before October.

Hubby and I did manage to get the new horse shed (nearly) completed this past weekend. It went up pretty easily and the animals seem to like it. We just extended the roof line of the existing shed and made a new 8 foot by 10 foot enclosure. So now the goats have an 8X10 building and the horses have an 8X10 building. I'll get some pine shavings down and a nice layer of warm straw spread before the frigid weather moves in. Now all that's left is to get a gallon of paint color matched to the shop color and give it another coat of paint (it already got one coat on the outside and bottom) and to put up kick boards on the inside. Kick boards are to protect the siding from the inside.....goats and horses are pretty rough on everything.

That's about all for now. I hope everyone is having a nice week!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fall Projects

Cool fall weather means a spike in outdoor projects and activities. This past weekend was our towns little Fall Festival. It's cute and quaint and the kids get super excited about it each year. That's mainly because of the candy, but I'll take what I can get.

When that was done I hopped in the truck and filled up the back at Lowes. What do you think is being done with all this?

Five sheets of siding, six roofing panels and a couple of bags of concrete = a new animal shelter of course! The current horse/goat shelter was only meant for one miniature horse and one goat. Yeah, well now we are on two mini's and four goats. It gets a bit cramped in there in winter and a new shelter was on the list before another winter hits. Sean got the holes for the 4X4's dug and we got the framing up on Sunday. Not bad for a few hours of work (the goats were a big help...yea right!). We'll finish it this weekend if the weather cooperates.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Patch

I've had to keep Wesley home two days this week due to the creeping crud that has swept through my house. Wesley was running a pretty high fever on Wednesday. Now ever since having a kid with a 105+ degree fever, I don't feel like 104.7 is high anymore. High enough to keep him home, obviously, but not "go to the ER" high. Thursday I kept him him home for good measure. Problem was Greta and her preschool class was scheduled to go to the pumpkin patch on Thursday. So I either had to make her miss it or bring el sicko kid with us. Wesley wasn't that sick, just had a sore throat. I decided to bring him and I'm glad I did. We had a great time! I'm almost thinking of taking him out of school next year when her class goes again.

Greta and her best friend Lucy.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fed up

You know how I said I was having a bad week in the last post? It started out when I did my annual ankle sprain last Thursday. Once a year I do my stupid human trick of falling down some stairs. There is just something about how my ankle lands when my foot goes down. I've got wussy ankles. But this time was different, this time my foot swelled up instead of my ankle. Like the top of my foot. It was strange. I got to use crutches for the first time. I couldn't even put any weight on it. Horrible horrible pain. So I decided on an x-ray just to make sure it wasn't broken. Yea for unnecessary radiation! It wasn't broken, thankfully. Here I am a full week later and my poor foot has got some pretty freaky bruising going on.

So then to add to my pretty rotten week Miss Greta gets sick. Really sick. The fever started at midnight and wouldn't go away. Fever reducers only took it down a degree at a time. It finally got up to 105.7 on Sunday evening so Greta and I went to the ER. Poor little gal was so warm. They took a urine sample while there. Have you ever asked a four year old to pee in a tiny cup before? Because that was an experience. She firmly decided that there was no way she was going to urinate into a cup. I offered her a quarter and she jumped on that toilet. I had to hold the cup and let's just say that most ended up on my hand and not in the designated container. Ugh.

Turned out to be a urinary tract infection. They put her on Bactrim, an antibiotic, and she's almost back to her crazy self.

That was Sunday night. Now Wesley has the fever. Will all this sickness ever leave?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


What a week. It's been one of those weeks that you wish you could just write off. Delete it. Poof its gone.

My good friend Jessica's dad passed away last Friday. Words can't describe how sad I am for his loss. For the pain his family and my friend are going through. I met Jessica when I was eleven years old and Rusty was like a dad to me too. He was such a jovial man, always there to make us laugh or share a story. Those stories will be missed. I pray that Jessica and her family can heal from this loss.

The funeral was especially moving. When I drove up to the funeral home and saw all the active military in full dress uniform along with the lines of motorcycles from the Freedom Riders, it was all so impressive. Rusty would have loved it! Jessica did a wonderful tribute to her dad at the funeral. She fully encased his true spirit and managed to get people laughing in the process. He was sure proud of his daughter.

He'll be missed.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


So last weekend I was cruising Craigslist when I ran across something I'd been looking for. I found someone selling their local, raw honey. I've always heard about the health benefits of local, raw honey and, up until now, had only found raw honey. Nothing harvested locally. The benefit of local honey is all the pollen that is native to your area is in it. Local pollen is said to help wonders with season allergies. I suffer through spring and fall and jumped at the chance to try out this theory. Six miles later and I had three pounds of honey in my truck.

After a quick google search I found this information in case you were wondering about the health benefits of local, raw honey.

"Raw honey is full of minerals, vitamins, enzymes, and powerful antioxidants.  It has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties."
Other uses:

  • Helps digestion
  • Strengthens immune system
  • Eliminates allergies
  • Stabilizes blood pressure
  • Balances blood sugar
  • Calms nerves
  • Relieves pain
  • Treats ulcers
  • Sore throats
  • Colds
  • Indigestion

Naturally, I have flirted with the idea of bee keeping for a little while now. It intrigues me and I follow several bee keeper pages on facebook. I might start to read some books about the topic this winter and see if that is something I might dive into in the spring. Being self sufficient in general interests me and this could be one leg of that journey.

We do like flowers on our property and bees might have a nice home here. Might be a fun excuse to plant more. I think my daughter would love that idea. Greta is my flower girl. She likes to go back to the garden and pick bouquets. The zinnias are growing like weeds and have these giant heads on them in every color you can imagine. The problem with zinnias? They are tough stemmed. When she pulls on a flower she sometimes pulls the whole plant out of the ground. Oops.

The garden is an overgrown mess (like it always is this time of the year) but it keeps pumping out those tomatoes. I didn't feel like canning them so I fill freezer bag after freezer bag with them and pop them into the freezer. They'll keep forever and work great in recipes that call for canned tomatoes. I can almost taste the chili now.

Someone else besides Greta that adores tomatoes? This one.

Dear old Dym has got to be my favorite animal around here. She's always got one eye on me hoping I'll bring her a treat from the garden. Lately it's only been tomatoes and basil as that's the only two things growing anymore. She's ok with that.

I've been thinking about how to put more weight on Dym before another cold winter sets in. I was doing the shredded beet pulp last winter and I plan to start that back up again but I wanted to get her a better quality hay as well. She did really well on alfalfa while she was pregnant so I started searching for a local farmer selling alfalfa and I came up with nada. Then low and behold I found it in compressed bales for sale at my local farm and garden store. Score! After putting several bags of feed in the back of my little car I had to resort to letting it ride shot gun. It even got buckled in for safety. Oh the lengths we'll go to for our animals. :)