Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bread Making

Colder weather finds me looking for ways to fire up the oven more frequently. Today I made a loaf of bread, experimenting with adding almond extract and poppy seeds. The results were delicious, and the house not only warmed up, but also had a lovely smell all afternoon.

Here are a progression of pictures, showing the dough and the loaf as they rose, and finally the baked results.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Holiday Lights

I put out some solar powered butterfly lights today. I thought they would add a wonderful bit of sparkle to my resting flower bed. The dried zinnia stems make great holders. I hope it snows before a big wind comes along and wrecks my arrangement. I'll take a picture of that if we get a nice snow.

Happy Holidays !
Barney continues to grow and learn. Here's his sweet face...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sleeping Puppy

We have had Barney, the chihuahua, for two weeks now. He is really a good puppy ! We sleep through the night, which seems good with an 11 week old pup. Crate training, and getting the dobermans used to him is also going well. I have to go outside for potty breaks, in the cold, more than I'd prefer, but Barney is really catching on to the family routines nicely so I should not complain.

Here's Barney in one of his beds. I finally found something that fit him nicely, and he has taken to it perfectly.

As you can see, he likes fleece blankets and rubber chew toys. That yellow thing is supposed to be a stick. I put food down the middle and he just loves to dig it out. Here's one more puppy picture, taken by a friend.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

awwww.. Cute Puppy !!

As promised, here is Barney's first little film. He is sitting next to me right now, all tuckered out from a big day. He discovered shoe laces, hard plastic crates, the world outside the patio area, and that big black dobermans like to play with him !

I discovered that it isn't so easy to hang laundry on the line with a little fur ball running around my feet. I guess we all need to do some adapting !

Enjoy the film !

Monday, November 21, 2011

Barney Eats

My blog will probably have a few pictures of Barney for awhile. Today he ate from his brand new thrift store ceramic food bowl. Yum !
Plus, he went to the vet for his very first visit. Barney was deemed perfectly healthy, then got his first round of puppy shots. He weighed in at 2.4 pounds ! The ride in the car went well. He's such a brave little guy. Now he is enjoying a wonderful nap as he sits in the chair next to me.

I also shot a few short movies of him that I hope to post soon. I'll bet Barney never expected to have so much media coverage !

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A New Dog !

Quite suddenly I find my heart and arms full of a little bundle of puppiness. This is Barney !

He is a sweet little boy, just 8 weeks 3 days old. We will both be spending the next few weeks figuring out how to get along. It will be interesting, challenging, and all the fun I could ask for.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Here is a short video I made, using pictures of my crocheted snowflakes. 

I hope it gets you in the holiday spirit !!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cloudy Day Electricity

One tool we use more frequently during the winter season is our gasoline fueled generator. It sits, patiently waiting, all summer long. Then, when the days are shorter and the clouds block the sun more frequently, it becomes a key part of our life at the farm.

Our electricity comes from wind and solar power, and our large battery bank holds about 2-3 days worth of saved power.  This post explains a few details of our system. During the warm sunny Colorado seasons, I can use all the power I want. However, during the winter, the wind does not always blow, the sun is lower on the horizon and it is often blocked by clouds. So a bit more planning has to be done to be power smart.

Different decisions need to be made during the winter months. Heavy use activities like laundry, dish washing, and vacuuming, are done earlier in the day. That ensures that the system has time to create more power during the day to keep the batteries topped off by evening. By late afternoon we take a battery reading, and if they have not refilled sufficiently, we run the generator for awhile. It is very invigorating visiting the generator on those cold early evenings, which perhaps keeps us healthier too ! 

Having the generator ready to go is also reassuring from the perspective of available back up power. In the event that something might fail in our overall energy system, the generator would provide emergency power for short durations of time.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

♪ Settling In for Winter ♪

The days are shorter, the temperature is colder, and the garden is done for the season. Carla and Oz, our doberman dogs, enjoy sitting in the sun, dreaming about chasing bunnies and warm summer days.
Oz is red, Carla is black. They are brother and sister. The little birds right outside the window fascinate them, but bunnies are really their favorite to scout and chase.
Snow settled on Colorado this week. It didn't mess around either. Our area got about 6", while neighboring towns got up to a foot. Our oak tree had already lost its leaves, but other local limbs fell on power lines, impacting electricity and internet connections for a day.
So it is time for pumpkin bread, soup from frozen vegetables, and hot drinks. The chickens are still trying to figure out the new temperatures. They don't seem to want to lay many eggs when it is cold. Hopefully they will get back to it again once they understand the situation.

For me, I think it is time to start knitting hats and crocheting decorative snowflakes. I'll add these items to my etsy shop in the coming weeks. I hope to see you there ! Stay warm everyone.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

༺ Garden Treats ༻

Besides having cantaloupe everyday, we are eating, freezing and canning bounty from our garden. One favorite is salsa, which I make from garden tomatoes, onions, and hot peppers. Here are the tomatoes that will go into the next batch !

garden tomato salsaMy 15 plants are just starting to produce. At the same time the tomatoes were turning orange, I had a few days of struggle with hornworms.
hornworm tomatoe
Each morning, as I was watering, I had to search the tomato stems for worms. These fellows can strip the leaves off the plants really fast. Luckily, they seem to be fewer in number now, so my tomato plants should thrive for the rest of the season.

The nights are getting cooler, the plants are getting crunchier, and the horn worms are moving on! Yeah for Summer Bounty!

Monday, August 22, 2011

❤ Honey Day ❤

Last week we took the plunge and extracted honey from our bee hives. The bees have kept to themselves for the most part, since they came to the farm a few years ago. I grow flowers for them, and faithfully put out water for them every day. They chose this blue dog bowl as their favorite watering hole. So with much anticipation, we borrowed the necessary tools from our local bee association, and set out to see what the bees have been making in their hives.

honey bee waterThe extraction site included buckets, a hot blade, an extraction tank with motor, towels, and a suit to visit the bees in. Here's the work area before we started.

hive honey extraction
My work included scraping the frames, spinning them in the extractor, and changing the bucket when it filled with honey. The frames have two sides of combs. Each side needed to be shaved with the hot blade to remove the wax cap over the honey filled cells. Once both sides were exposed, the frames went into the extraction tank.

honey bee hive The tank holds 4 frames. They rest in a big wire cage, so that when the extractor is turned on and spins, the honey drips down into the tank and comes out of the spigot.

We used a strainer to filter out any wax that make it through. The liquid gold was so beautiful as it poured out !! The last step was to put honey into smaller containers. Here's a picture of the final product.

honey jar
The effort was really worth it. The honey tastes fantastic. I'll use it in my granola recipe and we will enjoy it in all kinds of other foods and recipes. Thanks honey bees !

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

༺ Zinnea & Violin ༻

As the long hot days of summer continue, I'm active with gardening as well as learning to play the violin. It isn't unusual to have a daily salad this time of year full of goodness such as fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots. The cantaloupe and watermelon are getting ripe too ! In addition to the vegetables, I also planted some flowers. The bees enjoy them and so do I ! Here is a picture of some zinnea flowers that I grew from seeds I saved last year.

garden flower zinneaLater in the day when it is too hot to be outside anymore, I turn to the violin. I get music ideas from a few online violin tutors I follow. Recently I heard about a song called "The Lover's Waltz".

violin lovers waltzI decided to try playing it after hearing how lovely it was. YouTube is a great resource, and here is one version of this piece that is a good one to follow along with. The melody gets stuck in your head, so listen at your own risk !!!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer season.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

♪ Large Moth ♪

This time of year I'm usually watching for rattlesnakes, so it was a pleasant surprise to see this large moth instead. It was trying to stay in the shade during the hot part of the day, finding a nice spot under our deck to rest.

moth summer shadeThe moth probably measured between 4 to 5 inches long. It was a large one ! I saw it from inside at first, and for a second thought it was a bat hanging on the screen.

By morning it was long gone. I enjoyed seeing something unusual and interesting.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

༺ Lightening Damages Turbine ༻

Here on the farm we generate electricity for ourselves using solar panels and wind power. Recently our wind generator suffered a near hit from lightening, which required lowering the turbine and troubleshooting the issue.
wind turbine alternative energy
Here's our wonderful turbine, made by the Bergey company.

The storm was a fast one, but did apparently produce a lightening strike close enough to the Bergey to impact the electronics inside. Luckily, the components protected themselves just as they were designed to do. Up the 104 foot tower, the turbine suddenly started turning very very slowly. This was the sign that something was not working properly.

bergey wind power turbine
In order to diagnose the problem, we had to use the 30 foot gin pole to assist with the lowering of the turbine to the ground. This is always a little scary to do, but the few times we've done it there have been no problems. The process involves anchoring one of the four sets of wires to the bobcat instead of the ground anchor, then allowing the turbine to lower away from the bobcat side. The bobcat slowly moves forward until the pole comes to rest on awaiting supports which hold it just off the ground, allowing the turbine to be worked on.

Once the turbine is available to examine, we discovered there were some broken parts inside. The Bergey company was very helpful in explaining what the parts were, and very quickly shipped us some replacements (2 gas tube arresters, at $3.50 each). These little parts attach between the frame and the recifier, which converts the wild 3 phase to DC power (so I was told). I guess these parts were affected by the storm and died doing their job protecting the other components of the system. While the turbine was down, we also took the opportunity to clean it up and give the blades a new coat of black paint.

What I missed most while the turbine was down was the ability to look up and instantly see which way the wind was coming from. This knowledge helps me with deciding which windows to open in the evening to cool the house down. It gets to be very habit forming !

To raise the turbine back up after the repairs, we pull with the bobcat on the south side, leveraging the gin pole to the ground while lifting the full tower up to position. 3 of the 4 sets of wires (north, east and west) rise up slowly to support the whole thing. My main job was to watch the wires for any problems, and keep alert for any snakes in the area. Luckily we didn't encounter any of those. After securing the south wires back to the ground, it was quite a relief to see the Bergey spinning again.

Friday, June 24, 2011

♪ The Chicks are Growing ♪

Our six chickens are growing up so fast ! I would call them teenagers now. They are busy exploring their world, discovering bugs and miller moths. With all that food, they are building strength to lay eggs later this year.

chicken hen eggThis group is particularly friendly. When I am out in the garden they come up to the fence and talk to me. They cluck peacefully and really seem to enjoy my company. I certainly appreciate taking a break from my weeding chores to visit with them !

egg chicken hen gardenWe have been lucky over the years that our chickens have not been attacked by coyotes or foxes. The only time we had a problem was with a raccoon, which was odd since we had never seen a raccoon before that incident, or after. Coyotes are much more visible to us as they trot by the barn.

Let's all hope these chickens live a long and productive life !

Saturday, June 18, 2011

༺ Spring is For Growing ༻

This spring has been about the nicest one I can remember. The cool sunny days and ample moisture are turning all my plants so green ! My zinnia seeds are sprouting, soon to bring lots of flowers for the bees.

zinnia flower garden Another favorite flower in my garden is the gaillardia. Here is a dew drenched first bloom of the season.

gaillardia flower garden
Here is an update on the asparagus I planted. I watched and watched, hoping the tubers would produce something. One day I even dug up a tuber to be sure it was still there. It had roots sprouting, so I replanted and waited some more. Well, a few days ago I was weeding the area and was happy to see a few delicate asparagus ferns.

asparagus vegetable garden
They grew really quickly ! I love the bright green color and the soft look these asparagus have.

What's growing in your garden this spring?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

♪ Antelope Antics ♪

Two antelope bucks have been passing by our house this week. They slowly walk around, stopping to rub their antlers on rabbit brush bushes and fence posts to mark their territory. We have been enjoying their visits, and I was able to take a few pictures this morning.

antelopeThey were never close enough to get them in the same picture, but my old Sony Mavica got a few good pictures anyway. Enjoy !

Thursday, May 12, 2011

♪ The Birds Are Back ♪

Here's wishing you a happy, sunny springtime ! In our yard one special meadowlark has decided to adopt us. Here are a few pictures of her foraging on our property:meadowlark bird

Sunday, May 1, 2011

༺ New in the Garden ༻

This year Spring has been slow in coming. Colorado has been chilly and windy. However, on the days I could get into the garden, I've planted a few seeds and these wonderful new plants: Asparagus !

asparagus These plants involve a commitment, because it takes a few years to get the bed established. I needed to dig a trench in the row, place the crowns, then cover them lightly with soil. As they grow this year I'm supposed to continue covering the young sprouts. By season's end the original roots are supposed to be about 5" below grade. So they require some pampering to get started, but if all goes as planned, in years ahead we'll have tender asparagus sprouts to enjoy each spring.

My other garden focus has been planning to get this &*%*&*# tomato plant out of the house. As you have read, we experimented with bringing a potted tomato plant in for the winter. tomato Well, it was an experiment I probably won't repeat.

While we did get a handful of little delicious tomatoes to enjoy, we also got little bugs in the deal. The plant sits in front of a south facing window, and the little flying bugs congregate on the top of the window on warm days. I have to use a rag to capture and remove the little devils. Whew, I'll be glad to get this plant into the garden soon. I think I'll be fighting the bugs for the summer, but it was worth it to have the fresh tomatoes on cold snowy days. Next year I hope to have an outdoor greenhouse to run the experiment in !

It is nice out today, so I'll head out now to water the rows and add a few more early seeds to the beds.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

❤ Blog Reader Special Discount Code ❤

etsy.com is an online buying & selling spot, yet it is so much more. With all the many talented people spenting time on etsy, it is also a wonderful place to get creative ideas. For example, do you need a gift for an upcoming birthday celebration? etsy is full of birthday gift ideas on their interactive buying page.

As an etsy seller, sometimes I wonder what is selling, or what other people are listing. How can I explore those questions? Easy, I visit the Time Machine. Since sellers on etsy seem to spend time making their product's pictures enticing, look through them is a real treat. On other selling sites pictures are expensive to include, which makes etsy special because they allow sellers to use 5 pictures as part of the listing fee (20 cents). This gives buyers the ability to see products from many angles, in artistic poses, and everything in between.

I just wanted to celebrate etsy a bit this week on my blog. So if you haven't explored etsy.com yet, give it a try ! Within a few clicks you'll wonder why it took you so long to visit.

Blog Reader Special: Thanks for reading my blog. If you find something in my etsy shop that interests you, it is my pleasure to offer blog readers a 10% discount. Just enter this code BLOG10PERCENT during the checkout process and the item's price will be discounted before you make payment. This Reader Special is valid until May 29th, 2011.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

♪ The Chicks are Here ♪

A sure sign of Spring is the appearance of cute baby animals. Our farm is no exception!

These chicks are a variety called Barred Rock. They will be grey striped chickens when they get older, including having strikingly pretty red combs. We had one chicken like this years ago, and I remember her fondly. I'm excited we now have 6 chickens of the same type. She was a good egg layer, although sometimes she picked a spot under a wood pile to put her treasure. Maybe it was because the other chickens picked on her, who knows.

These chicks came to us very young, only 2 days old. They need to have a heat lamp over their pen so that they stay warm enough as they grow. We try to talk to them and pick them up daily, so they get used to our voices and our hands coming near. That makes gathering eggs later much more pleasant for everyone involved.

By the Fall we should start getting eggs from these chicks. If all goes well, happy chickens usually lay one egg per day. I can't wait ! It is difficult to have to buy eggs once you experience gathering them yourself.

Monday, March 21, 2011

༺ Beautiful Flower ༻

This week I was pleased to see that my Christmas Cactus has decided to bloom again. It feels like a good preview of the summer flowers coming in a few months. Here is how the bud looked just as it started to open. There were originally two buds, but for some reason one fell to the table.

Now the flower is in full splendor. It looks so lush and tropical. I just did a bit of research online and found out that these plants originated from the forests of Brazil. This last shot is my favorite. That flower is so amazing, with all the layers of petals !!In time, I hope this plant continues to grow and produce more beautful flowers !

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

༺ Thinking About Gardening ༻

As the sun warms the days, my mind is turning to thoughts of the upcoming gardening season. I reviewed my 2010 notes, remembering when I started planting, the wind and hail that took tender early crops, and the successful pumpkin vines. What will this year bring?

We are still enjoying food from last year's efforts. I cooked up the last two pumpkins yesterday, creating roasted pumpkin seeds first, then using the steamed pumpkin to make quick bread. Today I used last year's cucumbers in a pasta salad. The juice they were stored in gives the salad a nice zing. Salsa continues to be enjoyed, and the dried hot peppers bring spice to life! We recently ran out of onions and frozen carrots. Hopefully the 2011 season will allow us to put as much food by.

The garden has a new coating of compost, which gave me something invigorating to do on warm winter days. Shoveling, turning, and carrying heavy shovel fulls of compost is actually a pretty good workout! The rototiller stands ready to turn the soil, which is a sure sign that plants will soon be enjoying the garden soil.

I'm ready to get outside and put on gardening gloves. Last fall I planted some garlic bulbs, so I keep walking by the garden looking over to see if they are popping up yet. It is windy today, which warms up the air. I think I'll go take a peek at the garlic row right now !

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

♪ The Horse Hair and the Frog ♪

The violin bow hold is something of an art. Relaxed hand. Curved thumb. Bent pinky. Arranging the hand can be a gymnastic challenge to master.

My violin educational resources include YouTube videos made by people who seems to know what they are talking about. RedDesertViolin and ProfessorV are two that I have learned a lot from so far.

The geography of where each finger is supposed to be on the bow is explained very well in RedDesertViolin's video. Not only is the instruction good, the finger positions are easy to see and understand. Making my fingers do it is another story though ! In the above picture, my index finger is too far forward, and the pinky is certainly not bent. More to improve on !!

Violin practice sessions give me a number of things to work on. I have to learn how to hold the violin and how to get my left hand fingers positioned to play notes. I also have to focus on musical elements such as tempo, volume, and how to phrase notes with the bow. Plus, I need to strengthen the muscles needed to accomplish it all. After initial soreness, it is satisfying to see the muscles improving and helping me move as I need to.

ProfessorV's version of the same bow hold instructions reinforces what I need to learn. His voice is soothing and gives me hope that my bow hand will soon be doing the correct grasp !

(The bow string is made of horse hair, and the black part at the base of the bow is called the frog)

Friday, February 25, 2011

༺ Rose, Bouquet & Violin ༻

January was full of adventures here at the farm. I continued to work on my perfect goat's milk soap recipe, finally got some patterns written, and have started learning to play the violin !

The sound of the violin has always a favorite of mine. It seems sweet yet powerful somehow. I had played the clarinet in my youth, so taking on a different instrument sounded like something I could do. This violin was a find from Craig's List. It is a student model, but I think it sounds lovely. Some beginner books, DVDs, and many YouTube videos later, I'm actually playing scales and songs after only a few weeks. It is fun !!

My other recent accomplishment has been getting crochet patterns written for my popular roses and bouquet wraps. I had been asked many times if I offered these patterns for sale, so once I had a few weeks to give the task some attention, I finally got them written and posted in my etsy shop's pattern section.

I made this arrangement a few years ago after finding this pretty vase at the dollar store. I thought it was such a pretty ivory color with gold accents. Roses can be put in vases like this, or in bouquet wraps, or even just given as single stem gifts.

Next I'm back to working on soap. I have a good recipe with hibiscus and lavender flowers that I just need to get poured into a log mold and cut. That's my next goal for the winter !