Friday, December 31, 2010

A Very Goaty Update

Gertie's visit to the vet this past Wednesday went pretty well. She was diagnosed as having a respiratory virus and a case of lice - lice which are mercifully species specific, per our vet, thank goodness.

She gave Gert a shot of oxytetracycline, an antibiotic, and an oral dose of ivermectin, which is a wormer/lice treatment. We were also sent home with one more needle full of antibiotics for Gert and a dose of the ivermectin for each of her brothers, so that we can hopefully, with the help of the cold weather, eradicate the lice altogether. I gave Gertie her second shot of antibiotics today and she hobbled around and shivered for a bit afterwards, which made me feel like a big meanie for causing her discomfort and also made me wonder if I had somehow screwed it up and made her worse. But Bill and I hung out with her and the boys in our lovely 20 degree weather until she was back up and about and snarfing up her grain and apples. I am optimistic that within the next week or two she will be right as rain again.

As far as having the vet confirm the pregnancy, we weren't able to. The doc said that ultrasound was really the only way to go, but of course, it's expensive and that they'd have to shave a decent sized patch of fur off of Gertie's side to get the instrument to make sufficient contact. No thank you, not in this weather! So instead we're officially back to staring at Gert's lady business every day to see whether or not she comes back into heat. If not, then that means we've got babies on board.

So, all is essentially well again with our four-legged fuzzballs, and we have a wonderful new goat vet, Dr. Hoaglund, who I would highly recommend to any Thurston County area goat owners. She keeps goats herself, and very clearly knows her stuff. We might well owe Gert and her baby/babies' life to her, which is why we're going to stick with her, even though she's changing clinics. She also recommended that I read this book to get myself fully geared up for Gertie's pregnancy and delivery, and for caring for her babies. I feel like I am informationally always behind the eight ball a little, so I'm going to storm the library and scoop up every last goat book that I can find and read like a fiend for the next 4 1/2 months.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Glimmer of Hope

Today is another one of those mixed days - the last of the bantams have gone, leaving me feeling like the whole hatch-your-own endeavor was an enormous waste of time, energy and money. And yet, just when we're down about as low as we can get, a little miracle.

Liv found an egg in the nest box today. A mid-winter egg, out of the blue! I feel especially buoyed by this little sign of providence after having been laid so low by loss after loss with the bantams. We're not sure which of our remaining six girls laid the egg, but we suspect Annabel or Miss Cotton, as it is pale, pale brown and slightly pointy - a sight for sore eyes if ever there was one.

This Winter and ice and the retreat of growth can't last forever. Now I just need to hang on with all I have to my vision of Spring forthcoming - baby goats, half a dozen eggs per day and flowers everywhere, and I will see my way through this biting season.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Queen Goes to Town

Our sweet Gertie girl is going in for her first ever vet visit tomorrow. For the past week or so, she's had a wheezy cough that comes in little fits. At least I think that it's a cough. The girls say it's hiccups and Bill initially thought that it was a sneezing fit. Whatever it is, it's not going away, and it can't be good.

Like I normally do when I'm blindsided by something weird, I googled the bejeebus out of "goat coughing". Most sites say that it is likely lungworm (EWWW!), but we wormed Gert & the boys just a month and a half ago, so I'm not too sure about that being a the culprit. Other sites say that it can be a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics like erythromycin. I'm not overly keen on the idea of throwing antibiotics at every little sneeze and cough, but when you see a creature in your care suffering, you do what you've got to do. I would gladly give her the meds to make her well again, but with our girl being in the family way, and so early in her pregnancy, well, I'm hesitant.

And so, the Gertinator is going to take a little ride into town with us tomorrow to see the doc. I'm not sure how I'm going to get her there. Dare I let a goat loose in the back of my station wagon?

Assuming that we get there in one piece, I'm hoping that the doc might be able to confirm Gert's pregnancy & dates for us, just to be sure. At this point, according to my voodoo math, Gertie is due to deliver on May 8th.

So here's hoping that we'll all make it to the vet and back safe and sound (and without hoof-shaped bruises on our foreheads) and that our sweet Herd Queen is restored to health lickety-split. Viva la Reina Gertrude!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Last Call for Stick to it! Menu Planner Winner

Yo! Jennifurla! You won, mamacita! Email me your info at - pisceschick99 at gmail dot com so that I can send you your prize, lady, or I'm going to have to draw another winner.

Thanks again to everyone who entered. Have a wonderful 2011!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Scarlet, the Chirping Knitter

Most of my posts lately have been knit-centric, mostly because at this time of the year, pretty much every year, my life becomes knit-centric.

I learned to knit when Olivia was a toddler, about 9 years ago, from my husband's Aunt Janet. Yes indeed, I learned to knit from Janet Jackson. How many people can say that???

Ok, ok, she's not that Janet Jackson, she's way better. :) She taught me one of the most useful and satisfying skills that I have, and I've since been able to pass the joy of knitting on to others myself, most recently, my baby girl, Scarlet.

I was showing her the knit stitch, and when pulling the new loop of yarn through the existing stitch, I advised her to keep her right hand needle in contact with the left hand needle, so that the stitch wouldn't slide off. I told her that they should rub together like cricket legs.

Later that day as she sat knitting, I heard her mumbling under her breath, talking herself through each phase of the stitch, upon reaching the "cricket legs" phase she whispers "bbeeeeed-deet", in imitation of a cricket's chirp.

Just when you think you can't love your kiddo anymore, they become hyper-focused little knitters, chirping in earnest. My heart is fit to burst with sappy love over this girl. I am one proud mama today. :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Stick to it! Menu Planner WINNER!

And the winner is....

Commenter #4, Jennifurla! Congrats, lady! Email your address to me at pisceschick99 at gmail dot com, and I will forward your info on the the good gals at Stick to it!

Thanks again to one and all for entering, and please stop by again soon!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Maniac Manic Knitter

Ten days 'til Christmas, and I still have three projects left to finish and four to block. Why do I punish myself so?

Today's project was an earflap hat for one of Olivia's teachers who is a MAJOR San Diego Chargers fan. Here's my baby, the Football Fan Earflap Hat-

I improvised/designed/whatever-you-want-to-call-it this hat myself, so there is no proper pattern to post, at least at this point. I'm hoping to write it up soon, but in the mean time, the basic project outline is up on Ravelry.

Ok. Falling into bed now. I get to wake up bright and early with kiddos, then dive head-first back into Craft Cram-a-thon 2010. Woohoo!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review & Giveaway - Stick to it! Menu Planner

About Stick to it! Menu Planner -
Stick to it! is handy-dandy magnetic menu planner. It was created by two busy moms who wanted an easier way to plan their family's meals and the grocery shopping required to make them. It comes with 40 blank magnetic "tiles" which you personalize with your family's favorite breakfasts, lunches or dinners, to plan a whole week's worth of meals in advance.

My experience with Stick to it! -
I got mine the week before I had my surgery, and used it to plot out a meal plan for my husband to follow while I was down and out. Having several days worth of meals planned in advance (all the way down to the side dishes) also made grocery shopping a lot easier. Here is what my planner looked like that week -

I only set mine up through Saturday, because I was expecting to be back up and about by Sunday. Alas that wasn't to be, but that's on me. I could have easily planned and shopped for an entire week's worth of meals using Stick to it! as an organizational aid.

You might notice that I used labels on the magnets, rather than hand-writing my menu items on them. I initially wrote on a few of the magnets with a fine-point Sharpie, but found that they were still a bit wet and smudgy even a week later. I spoke with Amy, one of the creators of this planner, and she told me that a regular ball point pen works best if you choose the write-in option.

Your chance to win!
So now we're down to the good stuff - a giveaway! If you think that a Stick to it! meal planner would help to simplify your life and would like a chance to win one, simply leave a comment expressing your interest in the planner and you'll be entered to win! I'll draw a winner and post the result this Friday, the 17th, at which point you can email me your mailing address which I will pass on to Stick to it!, so that they may mail you your planner directly. BUT - if you can't wait that long and want to lay your hands on one now for yourself or as a gift, you can place an order via Stick to it!'s Facebook page.

Thanks for taking the time to read this review and to those of you entering to win - Good luck and Happy Holidays! :)

**Full disclosure - Amy (one of Stick to it!'s creators) is a friend of mine. That being said, my opinion and subsequent review of this product is an honest reflection of my personal experience with it. I don't tend to do reviews because my opinions aren't for sale. If I sing the praises of (or rail against) a product/service/business, you can bet that I'm doing so because of my first hand experience with it. I hope that you will trust that this will always be the case with this and any future reviews on this blog.**

Knitting Project: Decreasing Rib Capelet

My lovely and talented friend, Kris, over at Quilted Simple made this lovely capelet and sang the pattern's praises, most importantly to me, that it was a quick and fun to knit. And it was! Here is my finished capelet (which is actually more like a poncho-let), modeled by the talented, beautiful and not yet fully awake, Olivia.

You can find the original pattern here. Like Kris, I made a few modifications, which in my world is usually code for errors, but most of these were actually intentional.

My changes-
I cast on 195 stitches, which is 30 more than the largest size given in the pattern, because I fell in love with a yarn that was smaller (DK weight) than the bulky weight yarn called for in this project, and naturally also used smaller needles, size 8 rather than 10.5. I also made a cowl neck (6 inches long) instead of a turtleneck, and switched all the way up to size 13 needles to make the cowl, because I tend to knit a little tight.

I am so happy with how it came out! Now I can only hope like crazy that this will fit the intended recipient, or in lieu of that maybe her daughter. This paranoia about garments not fitting well has been the chief reason for my long-standing aversion to knitting clothes. If this one goes over well, I may have to rethink my position on that, because this was a really fun project.

Thanks again, Kris, for the inspiration. I hope to someday be half the knitter/mom/superwoman that you are! :)

By the way - I used 2.5 skeins of Cascade Yarns "Eco Duo" undyed baby alpaca/merino yarn in a light brown/natural twist, on a size 8, 40" circular needle, and switched up to a size 13, 24" circular needle for the cowl. This project took me just over 3 days of fairly intense knitting.

P.S. - I finally got my booty in gear and got going on ravelry. This capelet is posted here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Random Act of Kindness

My local organic grocery delivery service, SPUD! asked its customers, via Facebook, if they had any critters that enjoyed eating fruits and veggies. I have several, of course, but when forced to choose, I had to go with my man, Archie the smiling goat.

Arch is almost always the first one to jump up and say hello when I wander down to visit my goaties. He doesn't liked to be petted all that much, but he is a very curious little bugger, and he truly enjoys having visitors.

Here he is, nibbling on my sweatshirt.

Well, apparently the folks at SPUD were as charmed with my Archie-boy as I am, because along with my regular grocery order, they sent me an entire case of less-than-perfect produce for my critters.

How cool is that?!?

I want to keep the goodness going! I am hereby declaring a giveaway. Something knitted and something chocolate, most likely, but the details aren't yet full formed. I really just want to make someone feel as lucky and grateful as I felt as the recipient of someone's thoughtfulness. You don't need to follow my blog or answer a trivia question to win, just leave a comment on this post and you're in the running. ;)

Thanks again to the good folks at SPUD for the critter treats - they will be very much enjoyed. :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Knervous Knitter goes under the Knife

I don't think that anyone would describe me as high-strung. Neurotic, certainly, but hyperactive, no. In fact, I may well be the embodiment of hypoactivity. Yet for the past few days I've been too wound up to sleep worth a darn, grinding my teeth and fidgeting non-stop because I'm nervous over a surgery that I'm having this week. I like to make it sound all Beverly Hills-y by saying that I'm having my sinuses "re-done", but really, I'm just having the inside of my face cleaned. Again.

The again part is where I think that the nervousness comes in. I'm no stranger to surgeries, but this is the first surgery (besides my c-sections) that I will have had twice. Forewarned may be forearmed, but it also means that you know exactly how awful things are going to be.

And so, I've found myself up at all hours, knitting like a fiend to both occupy my jittery hands and get myself as far ahead of the Christmas rush as I may before I'm out cold on a Vicodin cloud for a few days. I've been shockingly productive, whipping out 2 scarves and 3 dishcloths this past week. I'm keen to start up another scarf tonight, though I don't know if I'll finish it before the surgery, and know myself well enough to know that knitting and inebriation of any sort do not mix. I've had to frog more projects on account of one too many glasses of wine than I have because of my poor mathematical skills, and that is saying something.

At any rate, the original intent of this post was to extol the calming virtues of knitting, even upon someone as rattled as I. I fear though that I have strayed from my point a bit and instead have painted myself as a fruitcake with bad sinuses and a one-sided relationship with boxed wine. So, back to my point - knitting gives nervous hands something to do. Knitting satisfies my OCD-ish need for symmetry and order with it's patterns and incessant counting; it satisfies my weird need to be productive on some level at all times and, this week in particular, it has kept me from biting my fingernails down to nubs.

If you are a knitter and know of any tipsy-proof patterns that I can fumble through while recovering, send them on over or leave a comment with a link, purty please. I (and whomever eventually receives said knitted good) thank you in advance.

Smell ya later - I hope.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010


We've had our first "big" snow here in western Washington. The kids are loving it, the grown-ups are hating it, and my baby bantams are mystified.

Must.Not.Touch.WeirdWhiteStuff! says Charlotte

Poor half-blind Gracie couldn't distinguish the chunks of white bread that I was throwing her from the snow.

Mostly, the chickens stayed close to the coop.

We've been feeding all of our critters extra calories since the weather turned cold, with the most popular dish being what I have dubbed "Goatmeal". The goatmeal is enjoyed by chickies and goats alike, with the only difference being that I do not add molasses to the chickens' ration.

Chelle's Goatmeal
Cooked Brown Rice (or any cooked whole grain)
Fresh frozen corn kernels
Flax Seed meal
Hearty drizzle of molasses

Mix rice & corn together and microwave until warm but not hot. Sprinkle with flax meal and drizzle with molasses. Viola - warm and happy critters!

Thanks, Maaaaa!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Series of Unfortunate Events

This is my Spikey-boy-

This is Spike saying Hello!

This is Spike discovering my camera strap-

This is my camera being hurled to the ground, landing in wet straw and goat turds.

Archie - Wasn't me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Bright Side of Bad Weather

Last night we got wailed on over here in Western Washington. The winds were as high as 60 mph, and let me tell you, being inside a little old house in a little hollow on a peninsula doesn't help to lessen the feeling of living in a wind tunnel in any way. After a night of howling and banging, I was scared to go outside this morning and see what might be missing, and/or freshly impaled by a tree limb.

But the goats wait for no wimp, so I had just decided to suck it up and go outside for morning critter patrol when I felt my couch gently, rather soothingly, rock back and forth under me. Yes indeed, we had ourselves an earthquake.

It was a small one, especially by West Coast standards, just a lil' 4.2, but fresh on top of a clobbering windstorm it was a little unsettling.

I sat back down for a few more minutes to wig-out on facebook. Am I nuts or did we just have a little earthquake? Almost immediately, my cousin Jen seconded my quake theory, and a quick trip to the USGS website confirmed it. Yikes what a morning! When do the other plagues arrive? I'm hoping that the four horsemen of the apocalypse get food poisoning or take a wrong turn at Albuquerque or something on the way to my house. I've had plenty of excitement for one day, thanks.

Anyway, beyond the inconvenience of navigating my house by head-lamp and this morning's initial world-coming-apart-at-the-seams paranoia, all inhabitants of Boggy Hollow escaped mother nature's wrath unharmed, which I will call blessing number one.

Blessing number two came from the skies in the form of limbs and branches. The wind knocked down a lot of tender branch tips as well as quite a few heftier limbs. The goats LOVE a good fresh evergreen tree and there were literally tons of them laying in the streets throughout the city. I only needed to go about 20 feet from my front yard to collect a yard cart full of them from the street in front of my neighbor's house. I'd say that we jammed a good 30 pounds of Douglas Fir needles & branch bits into my cart, which will supplement the goats' hay & sweet feed rations quite nicely, for free.

I may go get another cart load from a little further down the lane, but for now I'm going to chalk up my free goat chow score and my safe little house as my wins for the day, and sit back with a hot cup of coffee and a blazing fire and just enjoy my many blessings, in whatever strange forms they choose to present themselves.

Monday, November 15, 2010

For my fellow Cheese Fiends

My homegirl, Suzanne over at Chickens in the Road is giving away a boatload of home cheesemaking supplies to one lucky winner.

Check it out here- Do you know Jack?

I'm not only hoping to win these, but to use them soon too, as we *think* our little goat princess is going into heat, and have found a sweet boy to breed her to which should equal goat cheese for us as early as late spring. Viva el queso de cabra!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

It's the Water - Keepin' it Real, Oly-style

Even if you've never been to, never heard of my home town of Olympia, odds are you've still heard of our beer.

Olympia Beer has always been considered a working-man's type of beer. A simple, refreshing lager, who's biggest selling point, as well as it's slogan was "the water". The brewery was located right next to the Deschutes river, and essentially right on top of one of our city's many artesian springs, thus providing multiple sources of naturally ultra-pure water for brewing. Leopold Schmidt, the founder of the Olympia brewery, recognized that starting with pure, crystal-clear artesian water was the key to making a superior beer. Around here, it seems that people agreed. Olympia beer was once carried by nearly every tavern and pub in the Pacific Northwest and was the preferred beer for my Grandpa's generation. Alas, long story short, the Schmidt family sold the brewery, which eventually ended up being owned by Miller (who was at that time partly owned by the evil Philip Morris Company), who rather quickly after purchasing the plant, decided that it wasn't profitable enough and summarily shuttered the brewery for good, choosing instead to brew Olympia beer out of it's Irwindale, California plant.

If you're still with me after this seemingly random crash course in the ups and downs of our local beer, hang in there, I'm getting to my point. ;)

The basis, the inspiration and the slogan for Olympia beer has always been "It's the Water", and once upon a time it was. Now the artesian wells that used to supply and endless flow of naturally perfect water sit unused, their precious water re-routed to storm drains and sewage pipes, an utter waste. Meanwhile, Miller is making our city's beer with God knows what kind of municipal, probably chlorinated, fluoridated water that they simply filter the bejeezus out of. It's not the same.

And so after paragraphs of rambling and bitching, I finally arrive at my point. I will not go gently into that good night. I am an Olympia girl, born and raised and a tree-hugging granola to boot. There still exist just a handful of the once abundant artesian spring wells around town, the best known of which is in a downtown parking lot, of all places, flowing quite unglamourously out of crooked pipe, burbling 24/7 for anyone who wants a cool drink. And many do! People bring empty milk jugs and giant Culligan water bottles down to the Diamond Lot to fill with the one-of-a-kind water. Local restaurants boast about serving the artesian water. It's reputation is such that it is a selling point for them.

So, when Bill and I held our mini brew-fest this past weekend, it was a no-brainer that we would use the artesian water as the basis for our wine and beer. It may not be fancy, but the difference in taste - especially when compared with our well water - is obvious. The result is a better, purer-tasting brew, with the fringe benefit of stickin' it to the man. Awww yeahhh....

And so it is with my stubborn, hippy chick, fight-the-power attitude that a new, finnicky generation of home brewers like us insist on sticking by the old ways for the sake of (barring any brewing mishaps) a superior brew. I think you'll agree that not only is it the water that makes all the difference, but the passion for the craft.

If you ever find yourself in our soggy little neck of the woods, stop by and have a pint of Bill's Pilsner (tentatively named "The Billsner") or a glass of my rhubarb wine and tell me if you can taste the difference. ;)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Inspirational Reading (the goat edition)

Tonight I'm up late glued to a book called "Goat Song". Yes, really.

Who am I, and why have I got the Goat Fever all of a sudden? I'm simply besotted of my sweet, curious, playful little goats, and I can't get enough information about them at the moment. It is my unfortunate experience, however, that most critter-related reading is either the cold and clinical kind or - worse yet - the I wub my putty-tat!!! variety. Egads, NO. No Chicken Soup for the Goatherd's Soul, for me, thank you.

Goat Song is actually quite poetically written, by a man who's relationship with his goats has become, by his own description, a quiet, symbiotic paradise of a sort. He describes the milking of his does as a time of quiet meditation for he and the doe alike. He further details the nitty-gritty, down and dirty details of animal keeping (sometimes in very graphic detail), interspersed with bits of the story of the history of the human/herd animal relationship through the millennia, with heavy meditations on what it means to be so life-and-death linked with another creature whom you sustain and in turn sustains you. It's good reading - educational, inspirational and so sweetly written.

In the end, it really just compels me to dive further and faster into this goat herding thing for the joy and satisfaction that there is to be found in it.

And his description of eating his hours-old chèvre rolled in homegrown herbs or honey is enough to get me chomping at the bit to get our Miss Gertie bred this fall.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The keys to a happy Me

I've been doing more than my fair share of whining lately, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate you all putting up with it. I've been working on getting myself sorted out, and have tried to focus on those things that make me get my bedraggled butt out of bed every morning. So here it is, the good stuff. In no particular order-

Homemade Wine

Experiencing Nature

Brown-eyed girls

This Guy :)

Goofy-Sweet Goats

Enough good food to feed my family

Flocks of fat chickens

Knitting nutty things for the people I love

Add to all that a Venti Caramel Macchiato, the middle of a warm cinnamon roll, and a good thunderstorm, and you've got one blissed-out chick on your hands. :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The (partial) Reformation of a Layabout

I've had a little energy crisis of my own these past few months, in that I've had none. Laziness abounds with no end in site. But farm girls don't get breaks. There are critters to feed, leaves to rake, trees to prune, etc. I'm just having the devil of a time getting off of my comfy little spot on the couch where I've been holed up, watching Law & Order re-runs and knitting hats for everyone I know. And all the while, the chores, they call.

For one thing, my yard is teeming with weeds. Hawksbeard, English ivy, Scotch thistle, Scotch Broom, you name it. Why the weeds of the UK seem to find my lawn & pasture so attractive is a mystery to me, but here we are. I really should get on top of these puppies before they take over, but I haven't been getting it done. However, I've found a new way to trick myself into doing little bits of yard work.

Here's how it works - Whereas on a typical day, I would walk by a weed a hundred times thinking "Man, I should pull that." before actually pulling it, I now walk by a thistle or mat of ivy and think "Wow, the goats would so love to eat that", at which point I ACTUALLY PULL THE WEED and shove it in the num-nums basket to take down to my goats. The same is true for the bunnies and chickens. All have their favorite weedy snacks, and it has changed my perspective on weeds completely. Now I see those gnarly weeds as free critter food, which will eventually yield us "free" milk, eggs and fertilizer. Therefore the two minutes of my time spent pulling a weed today will net me even more free food/free time (less grocery shopping, fewer feed store runs) in the future, and therefore pays dividends in the form of time to nap and extended couch-sitting sprees. (Naps as currency - now there's an idea that needs exploring!) The chorus of excited MEHHHHHH!'s that I get the minute the goats see me coming their way with my basket o' weeds is just the gravy on top. ;)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

We're Legit!

We now officially own "livestock". Wow!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Stuck in Funkytown

You know what it feels like to be in a funk for a while, before realizing that you've been in a funk for a while, and even after becoming cognizant of your funky disposition still find yourself unable to bust out of said funk? Well, that's where I am. Uhg.

For one thing, I have horrifically bad sinuses that have been whooping on me for the last two months, sucking the energy right out of me. Come November, I'll be having a surgery to square them away, which I am simultaneously dreading and looking very much forward to.

But that's not the whole story. I'm not sure if I've even sorted out the whole story. All I know for sure is that I'm in valley right now and I could really go for a peak. I have this gorgeous new land that would love my attention/mowing/pruning, but I seriously cannot work up the gumption to go out and do a darned thing. My mojo, she is M.I.A.

I've often wondered if I have a touch of the Seasonal Affective Disorder, but this seems rather early in the season for that to be hitting already. And I like Fall, I really do, so what the heck?

Help a sister out. What do you do to bust out of a funk?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Recipe: Out-of-this-World Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm not much of a baker. At least, historically, I haven't been. I'm a slayer of yeast and, up until we moved this summer, the owner of the world's crappiest oven. No more, my friends!

My new old house came with a new old oven. Oddly enough, the very same one that my Grandma G.G. used to have. It's a 30ish year-old Maytag and it works like a dream. Emboldened by my new-to-me, perfectly functional stove, I decided to make my girls some cookies.

Of course, my cookbooks are all still buried somewhere in a box in the basement, so instead I Googled a recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I found one that sounded good, then naturally, I monkeyed with it. Let me just say this - Holy cow, NUM. I love these cookies. I crave these cookies. I eat them in such quantity that I probably should not make these at all anymore. And so, I must share the joy/addiction. The original recipe can be found here. The following is my modified (and if I may say so, improved) version.

Chelle's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cups unbromated, unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup maple sugar
1 large egg
2 tbsps applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned oats, uncooked
1 package (12 oz) milk chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add egg, vanilla and applesauce and mix well. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet and mix thoroughly. When well combined, add the oats, followed by the chocolate chips and mix well. Drop by scoopfuls/spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 9-10 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Enjoy with a tall glass of milk or a hot cup of coffee. Yummmmm...... :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

And the Winner is....

...Kris @ Quilted Simple! Congrats, my friend!

As I only had four entries for this giveaway, I went old school and had Olivia draw a name from a hat. Here is your small but lovingly assembled prize package-

Kindly shoot me your address to pisceschick99 at gmail dot com and I'll get it in the mail today. :)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Last Call for Granola Giveaway #2!

If you haven't yet entered my drawing for a package of homemade goodies delivered straight to your door, do so now! :)

I've finally gotten around to doing a little much-delayed canning this weekend, including the very interesting corn cob jelly that I've been ogling over at Chickens in the Road. And so, now that I feel confident that I can send out a varied assortment of jams, jellies and all things knitted, I'm about ready to draw names.

So enter here or enter there and tomorrow evening I will draw a winner.

Thanks again for stopping by and for your comments - they make my day!

:) Michelle

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Everything's coming up... celery?

My latest weird kitchen experiment - regenerating celery!

Growing celery, Day 7

The detailed instructions about how to do this can be found here. Basically, though, you just save the root end of your bunch of celery, set it in a shallow dish of water for a few days, then plant it in about an inch of potting soil and set it in a sunny location, like a kitchen window, and watch it grow.

Day 14

Eventually, I should be able to harvest my new celery, and re-replant the root, again. Did that last sentence make any kind of sense? Anyway, at just over 2-weeks into the experiment, I have about 2 or 3 inches of new growth on my first plant, and have since planted another as well, which has grown about 1/2 inch in 5 days time. Who knows if this will be worth it, but it's really not much trouble and if all else fails, I can compost the lot.

Thanks to Suzanne at Chickens in the Road for the idea!

Lost in my knitting...

...send in reinforcements in the form of quad-lattes and assorted colors of Debbie Bliss "cashmerino", please.

Seriously, I'm deep in the zone. I've been averaging one hat per day for the past week. I can't help it. Between the Fall weather, the warmth of the wood stove and endless Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns on Netflix, I've been a knitting fool, a FOOL I say!

If loving yarn is wrong, I don't wanna be right.

Here are a few pics of the hats. There are no patterns being posted at this time, this is just me bragging about actually starting AND finishing a few projects in a timely manner.

Project 1, Annie's Hat

Project 2, The Cupcake Hat

This is from The Weekend Crafter's Knitting, by Catherine Ham. The pattern is actually called Where'd you get that hat?!, but a) That sounds dorky, and b) I modified it by throwing the cupcake theme in the mix, therefore necessitating the new name.

It will be finished-finished when I can sew on the "sprinkle" beads, which will happen just as soon as my sewing box can be located.

Project 3, Boys' Earflap Hat - In progress

This may be for one of my nephews, or it may be for one of my friends' kids. The who wasn't really part of my plan, it was really more of a primal must keep knitting thing. It'll be like Cinderella's glass slipper, whoever it fits shall be the lucky winner.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Burn, baby, Burn!

I successfully built a fire in the wood stove this morning! It may sound like nothing much, but this is kind of a big deal for me.

I grew up in 1980's suburbia, in a "development". Baseboard heaters and pink-panther insulation kept us warm enough. Fires in the fireplace were heat-inefficient, and therefore were built only when the power went out, and once in a blue moon on a snowy evening. So while I appreciated a good fire in the hearth, I never really thought of them as needful, much less something that might require skill to make happen. Learning how to build a proper fire was simply not on my radar.

Then I married Bill, who doesn't build cozy fires, but face-melting infernos that will send you outside in a blizzard to escape their "warmth". If I wanted to wake up each morning, a raisin on wringing-wet sheets, I'd have Bill build the fire. Surprisingly, I'm actually not a fan of that, so I undertook to learn the craft myself. With much coaching from the hubby, but perhaps slightly more restraint in the shoving-in-as-much-wood-as-will-fit-in-this-thing arena, I struggled to get things going. My goal was to come down somewhere in between the strictly decorative presto-log fire of my youth and Bill's dehydrating blaze. And I feel like I may finally have the hang of it.

This morning's fire has been going for 4 hours now and the furnace hasn't clicked on once. Woot-woot!

Let's hope that I can keep this mojo going, because the bill from having the oil tank filled last week (270 gallons!) nearly gave me a stroke. So it's either the wood stove and lumpy homemade knits keeping us warm this winter or mama's going to need to sell a kidney to pay the oil man.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Attack of the UFO's

U.F.O. - n. 1. Knitting Knerd shorthand for "Unfinished Object".

I faced down my UFO pile this week, and it wasn't nearly as painful as I had expected it to be. Here's where I started-

One scarf, 5 dishcloths, and 2 pair of mittens.

I actually managed to tuck and weave most of these in about 20 (gorgeous, lovely, uninterrupted) minutes of sittin' and knittin' on my front porch. Knitting on the porch, drinking my coffee and watching the chickens is my new favorite morning activity. Besides napping, of course.

The 2nd blue mitten is in the home stretch, and one of the gray baby mittens will have to be remade, as it fell to assault by moths during it's long, lonely wait to be finished. But the others are done! That wasn't so bad. Now I'm free to go nuts at the yarn store again, right?

You win some, You lose some

That statement is particularly true of home brewing and wine making. Our homegrown cider seems to be fermenting well.

Note it's promising "krausen" as Billy, the beer snob would doubtless have me point out. ;)

Let's just hope that it keeps on keeping on and doesn't go funky. We unfortunately lost an entire 5-gallon batch of cider last year to some sort of mystery contaminant and had to compost the whole thing. Talk about heartbreak! I feel pretty confident that we will not face that same problem with this batch though, since we not only washed and dried our apples well, but also used a steam juicer rather than a fruit press to juice them, effectively pasteurizing the juice and hopefully, hopefully killing all the bad guys before adding our little yeasty friends.

So, we have 2 1/2 gallons of apple cider, 3 gallons of dandelion wine, 24 bottles of grape wine, 1 gallon of rose hip wine and 1/2 gallon of apricot schnapps to the good. Alas, we lost the blackberry wine this week.

It, like the others, had been somewhat neglected during our move. Somewhere along the way, something funky snuck in and messed it up. My first clue was a bit of white mold in the airlock. Though most of the home brewing websites that I googled said that a little mold in the airlock was no big deal, I'm not really one to gamble with food poisoning and/or going blind. So of course, I had Billy smell it. Our eventual conclusion was that it had probably turned to vinegar, which would have been fine if I could have been sure that it was safe to use. I wasn't, so it too ended up on the compost pile.

Drink up, little wormies!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I will can this weekend...

...I will can this weekend. I will!

Because I know a certain soldier, far away from home, who has specifically requested some blueberry jam, I will get my act together and make the jams that I have been putting off making. And then I'll drag my lazy butt to the post office and send those jars on an exotic journey. Hold me to it, people. Otherwise someone on the other side of the planet is going to be eating some dry mess hall toast, and that's just not cool.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wine Time is Nigh

In spite of utter neglect on our part, our wines seem to have been doing just fine during their extended aging. The dandelion is good, very good according to Bill, who has both a sensitive palate and an iron stomach, and is therefore usually the first one to try anything home brewed.

At almost 5 months old, the dandelion was only just sampled and racked to age for another few months before being bottled. Oh the anticipation!

The grape wine (variety unknown) finally reached it's first birthday, and was therefore bottled and laid aside to age further.

Annnd in goes the cork!

The grape is one of my favorites so far, but Bill finds it kind of hum-drum. It is a dark rosé color and reminds me of a lower-shelf white merlot. It's nothing to write home about, but most grape wines aren't until they're at least 2 years old, according to what I've read. I can wait... I think.

Or not. Cheers!

Thursday, September 2, 2010


My apples are ripe! My apples are ripe! At least as far as I can tell, they are.

Besides hardness, how does one determine the ripeness of an apple? I figure that since they are essentially leaping off of one of my trees, that at least that tree must be ready to go. And so I picked a few today, 5 pounds worth, which didn't even make a dent in that side of that tree. I'm excited for this harvest. This quantity of apples is a wonderful gift for many reasons. They will become applesauce, fruit leather, snacks for the bunnies, and more. But I have to admit that the one apple incarnation that stands head and shoulders above the rest is Bill's hard cider. Some have described Bill's cider as strong. Some have gone so far as to call it hallucinogenic. It packs a punch.

So as soon as we acquire either a steam juicer or a fruit press, we'll have ourselves a little harvest-fest and crank through some apples. And a few months after that - hopefully by Christmas - we'll be knocking back some Boggy Hollow cider. :)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pay it Forward ~ Granola Giveaway #2!

Last month I was the very grateful recipient of a package of lovely assorted British Columbian goodies, courtesy of Megan at Tomato Tots's Pay it Forward giveaway. Here are the tasty treats that I recieved-

Not surprisingly, the Whistler Organic chocolate was the first to go, followed very shortly by the lemon marshmallows. We, uh... have a bit of a sweet tooth over here. ;) We're down to the granola and the peach syrup now. Everything has been so good!

And so, it's my turn to pay it forward! My prize package's exact contents are still yet to be determined, but one thing is for sure, with a new house and back-to-school having just laid waste to our bank account, most of the goodies in this basket will be homemade. I have a lightweight scarf that I'm finishing, and a whole cupboard full of this summer's jams and jellies with more to come. So, if jelly and scarves appeal to you, simply leave a comment on this post to let me know that you'd like to be entered to win and, BAM, you're in the running. Good luck to all and thanks again for reading!


Friday, August 27, 2010

The Bog Blog

For your reading pleasure, a little off-shoot of my Granola adventures, focusing on getting this farm up and running, I humbly introduce, The Bog Blog.

Yes, indeedy, the farm finally has an official name, Boggy Hollow. We were going to go with Boggy Bottom, but a Google search revealed that there were several farms with that name.

I probably am getting a little ahead of myself by even referring to this place as a farm, since, as of this moment, it isn't really. But I can picture everything that it will be - someday. As for now, 13 chickens, 6 fruit trees, 3.5 acres and a whole lot of big ideas are all that we've got. Stay tuned ;)

Monday, August 23, 2010

We're here!

Just a quick howdy to all my homeboys and girls on the interwebs. We're in the house, surrounded by boxes, overwhelmed by our new yard (and missing our old garden), enjoying the quiet, adjusting to the taste of well water ;p and just generally exhausted and blissfully happy to finally be HOME.

Pics forthcoming, as soon as the camera can be located.

By the way - the farm name debate drags on. Bill leans toward Boggy Hollow Farm (because Boggy Hollow Beer sounds better as a name for his homebrew, so he says), while I and many of you prefer Soggy Bottom Farm. Maybe a compromise? Boggy Bottom Farm, Soggy Hollow Farm? Help!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Input Requested - Name this farm!

Our very soon-to-be new place, our little farm, is going to need a name. I've been mulling this over for a while, trying to think of something unique, witty and fitting. I've got so many weird possibilities that I thought I'd run a few by you, but first, you'll need a bit of info on our farm and what we hope to do with it.

Our new place is located on one of many peninsulas in Western Washington, which means a few things -
A) The soil is clay, rocks and more clay, but mostly, clay.
B) We get a lot of rainfall.
C) Our back pasture is a very small valley with clay soil, which is to say, it is boggy.
D) The main food crop grown on our little peninsula is blueberries, because they don't mind the standing water or the acidity from our abundant fir and pine forests.
E) Our main focus will be poultry, at least at first. Chickens and turkeys for sure, maybe ducks too and somewhere down the line, we'll look into getting something with hooves. We will also, of course, have a hefty garden - eventually.

With all that in mind, I humbly toss out a few of the names that have drifted through my head, when thinking of this farm-

*Homemakers Acres
*Soggy Bottom Farm
*Jackson Family Farmstead
*Pampered Poultry & Produce
*Two Sisters Organics (This is the girls' choice, though I think we'd have to be certified to use this name - d'oh!)
*Little White House Produce & Poultry
*White House Farmstead

Feel free to leave your thoughts and suggestions in the form of a comment or email, though I don't know if/when I'll be able to view it, since my internet was supposed to be shut down yesterday, Comcast could drop the hammer at any moment.

See y'all on the flipside! ;)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sometimes it's the Little Things...

We've been packing up this house, bit by bit, for more than 2 months now. I started with our least essential items - baby books, my wedding dress, Christmas decorations, and slowly progressed toward our more everyday items - towels, clothes, dishes. In this weird period of living without 90% of my stuff, I've had a chance to rethink my take on simplicity and which material goods have truly become essentials, as in, the stuff you should pack 10 minutes before you leave your house for good. Here are my findings-

Stuff I actually needed:

-Cell phone chargers
-An old-school paper phone book
-Deodorant, hairbrush & toothbrushes
-Diana Gabaldon Books
-My Knitting

Stuff I thought I needed:

-DVDs (As if I have the time. These were actually more for the girls, but they prefer to follow me around asking Whatcha doin'? every 10 seconds instead.)
-Curling Iron (I curl my hair a few times a year. Did I think that someone was going to ask me to prom between now and the weekend?)
-Toilet plunger - I'm pretty glad that this turned out to be unneeded.
-Blankets (It's been in the upper 80's and 90's all week, which is like living on the surface of the sun to a born and bred Washingtonian.)
-My P-touch labeler (Who the hell am I, Martha Stewart?)

Ahhh... live and learn.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

When you ignore the garden for three days...

...this is what you get.

Nearly 8 pounds of zucchini! Suffice it to say, all visitors to my house lately, willing or not, have left with at least 2 giant zucchinis. I've got less that a week left to hoard these little beauties before my zucchini patch becomes someone else's zucchini patch. Brace thyself, freezer!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Un-duh Press-shuh

T-minus 5 days until the start of the big move. I am oscillating between hummingbird-like packing frenzies and shut-out-the world napping sprees. I AM NEVER MOVING AGAIN.

In the midst of all of the crazy, we've all been managing to distract ourselves quite nicely from that whole cleaning/packing/sign-you-life-away-on-the-dotted-line thing. Bill and his Grandpa went fishing up in Alaska for a week. Together, they came home with over 80 pounds of salmon and halibut - that's the filleted weight!

Those handsome Jackson boys and their fishies

The girls and I have been crazy busy with camping, berry picking, county fairs and walks on the beach. The county fair may have been a mistake. My cousins' girls were there showing everything from chickens to pigs, and I think that a pair of 4-H maniacs have been born. Here we go again. Liv is already ogling the model chickens in her backyard poultry magazine, and lobbying for a pond so that we might raise her beloved Cayuga ducks. My head is spinning with the possibilities and the more pressing matters of actually getting the real estate stuff wrapped up. I need another nap.

When I resurface, I'll be whipping up a batch of Oregon Grape Jam, showing off my British Columbian foodie prize package (thanks again, Meghan!) and hosting my own pay-it-forward foodie package giveaway.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Weird Things that Chickens Will Eat

I'm cleaning out the cupboards in preparation for our move and purging all of our grocery items that didn't fly so well with our family. You know, the stuff that gets shoved to the back and lurks in the darkness until either you clean your cupboards or a desperate midnight snacker decides to roll the dice. Just for grins, we tried feeding some of what we were going to compost to the chickens. Not surprisingly, they liked everything, including Trader Joe's High-Fiber O's (softened with water),dry quick grits & nori seaweed sheets.

This fits in nicely with my personal theory that chickens are practically pigs with feathers. There isn't much they won't eat, so long as you render it small enough or soft enough for them to swallow. Some of my hennies' favorite snacks-

*Leftover movie-theater popcorn
*Carrot tops
*Bread of any sort
*Pumpkin, sunflower and flax seeds
*Cooked rice & pasta
*Carrot peelings
*Fish skin (especially salmon - they go NUTS for this!)
*Grapes and berries, right off of the plants :(

Between the husband, the chicks and the bunnies, who needs a garbage disposal?

Strawberry, chowing down on my carrot tops

I've got a bucket, got a bucket full of sunshine

Fresh off of jam-a-thon '10, I find myself with still more apricots to use up. Cakes? Fruit roll ups? Pies? Nahhh... How 'bout a little something for the grown ups instead? I'm making apricot schnapps. :)

Homemade Apricot Schnapps:

- 3 lbs cleaned, pitted apricots
- 1 cup sugar (adjust more or less to your liking)
- 1.75 liters vodka (Cheap is fine, the sugar will smooth out the rough edges.)
- 6 apricot pits (kernels) - OPTIONAL*
- Fermentation vessel w/ a lid (a food grade plastic bucket, large glass jar or stoneware crock)

Clean, pit and slice or dice your apricots. Throw them into your clean jar or bucket.

Sprinkle sugar over the apricots and let them rest for 20 minutes or so to release their juices.

Pour vodka over the top of it all.

Add pits, if using. Stir well. Cover and allow to steep in a dark place for at least 3 months. Strain through a cheesecloth or coffee filter and bottle.

*Apricot pits, or kernels as they are more often known, are a key ingredient in making Amaretto liqueur and amaretti cookies and have a wonderful almond flavor. However, they also contain trace amounts of cyanide, so use sparingly and at your own risk. ;)

I documented the whole process of making the schnapps, then, like an idiot, forgot to download the photos before my husband took our camera with him on a week-long fishing trip. D'oh! So I'll eventually update this post with pictures, but for now you'll just have to take my words for it on how lovely this brew looks. As for the smell - at the moment, I can only smell the nose-searing vodka. But, as the cots steep and break down, we should have some golden loveliness, ready to drink by the holidays.

Update - 9/8/10 - Now with pictures! :)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Gotta Whole Lotta 'Cots

Today was a tag-team jam-o-rama. Jen and I made no less than 48 jars of apricot jam & conserves, with apricots to spare. In case you didn't know, 24 pounds of apricots is A LOT of apricots.

Even after we canned the bejeebus out of our 'cots, I was still left with four pounds of fruit. Since I'm a little apricotted out at the moment, I'm thinking of using the rest of mine to make some Apricot Schnapps. It takes a few months of steeping and "aging" for the schnapps to be properly drinkable, by which time I will hopefully have regained my love of the lovely "cot".

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Do you suffer from dangerously high self-esteem?

Try running from yard to yard through your neighborhood, wielding an 8-foot long salmon net, in pursuit of an 8-ounce chicken. That should destroy your dignity quickly enough. Should you insist upon trying it for yourself, allow me to share my insights with you regarding my experience -

What you will net:

-Innumerable scratches from blackberry brambles.
-Looks from neighbors and strangers, ranging from surprised to highly amused.
-Poorly timed, very specific questions about the pros and cons of chicken husbandry.
-Half a dozen spider webs on your person.
-Intimate knowledge of your neighbors' back yards.

What you will not net:

-The escapee

In the end, she flew back over the fence herself. I love my birds, but I was about ready to write this one off.

Scarlet, with the white menace herself, aka &%$@#&! bird