A Good Idea Gone Wrong: Raising Goldfish

It was the perfect day. First swimming and paddle boating at a friend’s pond. Buying goldfish at Meijer. Making homemade aquariums out of Ball Jars. Eating pizza and watching a movie. The kids fell asleep that night with smiles on their faces. I was going to win The Mother of Summer Award.

Then morning came.

The kids awoke ready to care for their new pet goldfish. But something was strange. The little fishies weren’t swimming like they had last night. Instead they all were floating, sideways, at the top of each jar.

Merciful heavens. I had no idea that fish needed air bubbles blown into the jars in order to breath the oxygen in the water. Maybe should have done some research before the project began.

I think my award has been revoked.

Spring Break DIY

DIY. Do it yourself. Sounds enticing, but be careful. Pick a project wisely or it might cost your fingers several pricks and your neck to feel like it’s kinked.

My daughter wanted a stuffed animal unicorn and asked if I could make her one. I said I’d try. After working on it for close to an hour, it didn’t look like it would turn out, so she told me not to bother finishing. In that moment, my competitive nature kicked in. Admit defeat? Never! Using old clothes and whatever else I could find in the house, I made that unicorn. She’s lopsided and a bit awkward. But I did it.



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She now loves her unicorn. Blemishes and all.

From Bad to Worse: The Mucked Up Trench

Like all good horrors, the story must go from bad to worse.

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I believe I lost half of my body mass index just from sweating during this project.

We were tickled with delight to discover, as we dug with a shovel beside our house, that the perforated drain tile was collapsed (hence the reason our yard stays marshy around the deck. It’s simply stunning that our basement hasn’t flooded). Our excitement grew as our natural spring continued to pour out of the ground dousing the clay soil. A splendid gray paste formed that stuck to our boots and shovels like wet cement. Since the lower walls of our trench decided to crumble inward, we had to take the trencher through it again. However the wet clay in the bottom of the trench spewed upward and formed a mound. Staring at the mucked up mess, we knew there was only one solution. We cut a new big butt trench into our lawn.

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My husband’s father, overlooking the trenches, probably wishing we hadn’t called him.

Once the second trench was done, we leveled it and went to work on digging further around the collapsed portion of drain tile. We found a bit of tile at the base of the house that was still round enough, so we patched in a connector, and threaded the new tile through the trench.

Thanks to our reinforcements (my parents and my husbands’ parents), we were able to complete this project in 22 hours of backing breaking labor. If not for the help…goodness…I shudder to imagine.

 

 

Tap the Sap: Making Maple Syrup

When February comes to a close, we get ready to tap our trees. For us, it’s a fun experience that our whole family can be a part of, and trust me, not many things are as sweetly delicious as freshly boiled syrup. We finished our last batch as few days ago.  If ever you wondered how syrup is made, I’m about to tell you.

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#1 Drill the tree and put in the spiles attached to buckets or milk gallons. Collect the sap each night and refrigerate if the night doesn’t get below 38 degrees. Sap will sour just like milk.

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#2 Once sap is collected, it can be boiled down. We’ve created an outdoor evaporator. It’s very efficient, however, it still takes awhile to evaporate the water from the sap in order to only leave the syrup. It’s a tedious process and requires constant supervision and skimming off the foam.

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My son, eager to help in the process.
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Skimming off foam residue

IMG_2432#3 When the sap begins to darken and thicken, bring it inside to finish in order to control the boil on a stove top. It is ready when the syrup is 7 degrees above boiling.

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#4 Pour syrup into jars and seal. Maple syrup is great as a breakfast topping, ice cream topping, in coffee, and to replace sugar in baking.

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A Picture of our Syrup Jars and My Homemade Maple Peanut Butter Cookies

 

 

 

Going Old School: Making Valentine’s Cards

My daughter is now in full time Kindergarten, and at school, all the children exchange Valentine’s Day cards. Instead of being commercial this year, we went old school and made them ourselves. A little card-stock, paint, markers, stickers and presto…cards!

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Taking Care of the Garden and Gimpy

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My two kids and I had a diverse night. It started with thinning rows in the garden and ended with giving a hen a sitz bath.

We planted a variety of veggies and fruits in our 16 x 60 garden. We have modeled our garden after Paul Gautschi’s “Back to Eden Organic Gardening.” You can check it out via http://www.backtoedenfilm.com/how-to-grow-an-organic-garden.html.

Below is a picture detailing the layers we did to prepare our garden. First, we laid newspaper to kill the grass and prevent weeds. Second, we spread a 2 inch layer of compost onto of the newspaper, followed by 3 inches of wood chips and a sprinkling of manure. My neighbor who owns a huge cow farm across the road was so kind as to bring a scoop of manure over with his John Deere. Bless his heart! Nothing like free manure for the garden.

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It has been a real learning process doing our garden this year and its far from perfect. We chose the absolute worst spot on our land to put it. We didn’t know that until the first bad rainstorm and half the garden was washed out in places. The water likes to run through the middle of the garden. So we dug trenches around the outskirts and through the center of the lower half. Its looks completely redneck, but its working. We planted sweet corn, cucumber, carrots, spinach, lettuce, green onions, sweet onions, bell peppers, summer squash, dark zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, golden zucchini, cantaloupe, and watermelon. I got real fancy and marked the rows with rocks that I labeled with a black sharpie.

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In the meantime, we are doing maintenance. Tonight, Bella helped thin out the row of cucumbers. She continued to ask, “What can I pull next?” Gabriel didn’t bother to ask, he was proactive and started to pull on his own. Cute little bugger.

Afterwards, we had to deal with Josefina, my gimpy hen.

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Two days ago, I went outside to check on the girls. All the hens and ducks came running up to say hello. (They’re hoping for treats.) Poor little Josie was limping up the back forty, trying to reach me. She had to stop several times to catch her breath. I hoped it wasn’t anything major and gave it a little time. But gimpy isn’t getting better. After a google search, I found that a chicken limp can mean three things: a stroke, a lodged egg, or a pulled muscle. Either way, there’s not much that can be done, except a warm bath, massage to loosen a bound egg, and baby aspirin for a tender muscle. We started with phase one. THE BATH. I poured warm water and salt into a 5 gallon bucket and put Josie in. I think she liked it. I massaged her belly and checked her all over.

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Tomorrow if there’s no improvement, I’ll give the aspirin. I hope she’ll be okay. I like my Josefina. She’s a sweet little girl. My kids think so too!

Butcher Day: Meat Chickens

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Attention Readers: Some pictures contain blood.

Yesterday was butcher day for half our flock of meat chickens. They are Cornish Rocks. The key is to have hot water or the rotten chicken feathers will not pull off.

My father, my husband and I processed 13 chickens in 2 hours. And for our first time butchering, I thought we rocked it.

Our birds weighed roughly between 5 – 7 pounds after 8 weeks of raising them. They are not filled with hormones and other growth stimulators. They were raised on a natural blend of grains (from a local feed supply) and for the last two weeks of life, they foraged grass inside our chicken tractor. When you buy a rotisserie chicken at Meijer, it will weigh 2 – 3 pounds, and you will pay $5.00, which would mean that my 6 pound chicken would cost $15.00 at the store. But because we raised our own, when we subtract feed and bedding, they costed us roughly $6.50 a piece! Between the cost of savings and the knowledge of what I’m actually consuming, I’ll keep raising my own chickens.

Now if you’re thinking you’d like to do it too, let me walk you through butcher day, so you will know if you can handle it.

Step One- Take out all food 12 hours before the butcher.

Step Two- Get all your supplies and equipment set up. Needs: Sharp carving knives for slicing the throat and gutting the bird, metal bucket, 6 ft. table, cooking thermometer, salt, 3 totes (depends on amount of chicken), bags of ice, 2 gallon freezer bags, hose with a spray nozzle.

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Step Three- Get the fire started and water close to boiling in the bucket. Water should read 180 degrees.

Step Four- Slit the throat of bird and hang upside down for three minutes to bleed it out.

Step Five- Dip bird in and out of hot water for thirty seconds. Pluck out all feathers. Then blow torch off the small hairs.

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Step Six- Put bird into cold, saltwater. (Helps draw out blood)

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Step Seven- Cut off the legs. Put bird on its back with chest facing up, slice under the top of chest cavity (breast). Pull out all the organs until bird is clean within (the gizzard and heart are good eat’n if you’d like to keep). Cut off the oil sack on the tail. Hose the inside of bird. Stick into bucket of ice.

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Step Eight- Continue procedure for all other birds and then double bag the birds in Ziploc freezer bags.

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Step Nine- Celebrate and eat those good chickens!

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This is a quick version of the process. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Also one book you ought to purchase is “Pastured Poultry Profits” by Joel Salatin. It has everything you need to know about meat chickens and egg laying hens.

We are on the road of small hobby farming. One small step for the Cordero’s, one giant leapt toward self-sustenance! 

 

Star Trek Cordero Style

 

 

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THE BELLA EXPLORER SPACESHIP

This adventure was a by-product of the saying: “If there is a will, there is a way.”

My daughter announced today that she would like a spaceship. “Okay,” I said and rummaged through the pile of boxes in our basement for a large one.

Thus our creation began. It wasn’t too hard. We used: a box, clear tape, wire, a barbie doll table, stickers, markers, and glitter paint.

Our star fleet spacecraft turned out pretty good. I have patted myself on the back.

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Princess Elsa Joined Bella for a Trip Into Space!

 

 

I Want a Heifer

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We drink milk like its water at our house. Especially my daughter!

As we move toward a more self-sustaining lifestyle, we are going to obtain a diary cow for milk and making our own butter, sour cream, yogurt, ice cream, etc.

The breed I want to purchase is called a Dexter. Dexters are a smaller breed of cattle originally from Ireland. They are tri-purpose, great for meat, milk and draft. They are very intelligent and can be easily trained. Their tender personalities and love of attention make them not only great cows but great companions!  

Dexters also give birth to their babies without need for assistance unless the baby is breached. They must give birth to a calf once a year in order to continue to produce milk.

Everything about these cows make me excited! I really want a little heifer.

MEET ANITA AND ARISTA:

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ANITA
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ARISTA

These precious little girls are located at Shamrock Acres Dexter Farm in Hudsonville, MI! That is only 15 minutes from my house!

I am so thrilled. I want to buy a girl and hug her and love her all day. The only things that stand in my way are needing a proper enclosure and fencing for her. So friends, if you have any lumber or fencing hanging around that you don’t want.. let me know!

Cows…they are a beautiful thing.

References:
http://www.kefircheese.com/cattle.html
http://www.realmilk.com/how-to/have-a-dexter-dairy-cow/
https://sites.google.com/site/shamrockacresdextercattle/for-sale

Thanksgiving Rooster

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My Rooster Named Morph

Our Thanksgiving morning was a bit unusual this year.

Of course, we first had breakfast while we watched the Macy’s Day Parade. But once we’d drained our coffee, we donned our winter apparel and headed into the snow to fetch the rooster.

Over the last few months, my rooster Morph has morphed into a bad boy. He has developed a big ego, probably due to the fact that he’s grown into such a behemoth and thinks he’s a stud. Morph constantly bugs the girls, especially my dear, Aretha. He has the biggest infactuation with her, which means he’s relentless. She hides in the nest box most of the time. And since the girls are so fast, he now tries to grab them with his beak. Poor Ginger, got caught by her cone. The little girl was bleeding pretty terrible.

Well, that did it, it was time for Mama Catie to intervene on behalf of her girls.

Opening the gate to the run, I scooped Morph into my arms. And that sucker hauled off and bit me in the hand! Let me tell you…that sealed the deal. Chicken dinner…coming up!

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Step One: Cut Off The Head
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Step Two: Stick Bird into Boiling Water for About Thirty Seconds
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Step Three: Pluck Feathers Off the Bird and Singe Off Any Leftover Hairs
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Step Four: Cook the Bird and Set the Table for Dinner!