Archive | July 2012

Sewing Retreat

I love to sew, but with young children, it is hard to find time in my schedule.  I am not that good at it that I can pick up and start sewing from my last attempt.  I have to go back over the directions and figure out where I was when I left off and then by the time I do this someone needs me and the cycle starts all over again!  After many attempts to get some sewing done, I have given up unless I have some simple mending to do.

However, my sewing group does a couple of day retreat every so often.  My husband is awesome and allows me to go on these retreats.  He just took off two days of work so that I could go on a 4 day retreat with my sewing ladies.  I love to sew.  I’m not that good at it, but I love getting together and sewing, eating, and conversing with my friends!

We drove to a sewing retreat house a couple of hours away.  It had room for 10 people.  It also had tables for each person, a fully functional kitchen, 2 bathrooms etc.  We had 8 ladies all together.  We each brought 2 dishes to share.  However I think we all brought a few extra goodies.   We had plenty of food, too much really.  We ate and laughed, and sewed for 2 1/2 glorious days!

I got 2 projects done in the first day and a half.  It was awesome.  I even ran out of things to do for a moment, but one of my sewing ladies went through her stash and pulled out some of the cutest fabric for a baby blanket for our new baby.  In just a matter of a few minutes I had hours and hours of work to do to make a very cute baby blanket.  It is  green and pink and very cute.  I am doing a disappearing nine patch.  So cute.  I will show you a picture of it when I get it done.  Be warned…it may be a while.

Here are some pictures of the weekend.

Jean hard at work making a project for her soon-to-be grandson.

Millie sewing a baby blanket too!

Sharon, Marlene, and Bobbi checking out the food.

Donna cooking up a storm!

My coffee-themed table runner. I can’t believe I got it finished!

The dessert table.

A handmade doll that Jean made.

Sharon working on a Super Queen sized Christmas quilt.

Heidi our only non-sewer. She is a scrapbooking queen. She was just as busy as we were.

What a fun weekend.  I can’t wait to do it again!

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I Took The Littles Skateboarding

My younger boys really like to skateboard.  It has been an on again off again obsession for a couple of years.  We have a local (if you can call a 30 min. drive local) skatepark that has ramps etc. that they just love.  When we haven’t visited the skate park in a while they talk about building half-pipes and buying wood to build grind rails etc.

They have kind-of been off of skateboarding until recently.  Summer vacation brought out the skateboarder in them again:).  After trying to take our 4 wheeler up to my in-laws next door to get wood out of the woodshed, we decided to hit the skate park again.  I’m glad we did.  They have new owners and instead of $22 per 2 hour visit.  It is now $10 for a half day.  I still limit their time to 2 hours as it is very hot for the observers (upstairs of a big  warehouse) and they are plenty sore and tired after a couple of hours.

T, my 10-year-old is really pretty good for his age.  He doesn’t mind falling, and re-trying tricks over and over again.  S, my 7-year-old is still working on the ability to just keep trying and trying again.  My daughter isn’t into skateboarding yet.  She doesn’t like to fall down and get hurt.  But when no-one except our kids are there at the skate park, she can run around on the skateboarding ramps and stuff.  She loves being with her brothers.  She ends up a filthy mess, but she is worn out.  It is worth a bath to see her have so much fun.

S coming down off of a ramp.

T going up a ramp.  In the background to the right you can see the half-pipe.  They love this, but it is too hard for their little legs at this point.

S learning to do a pop-shove-it.

A just finished running up the skateboarding ramp.  She is getting ready to slide back down.  Fun times.

T going down another ramp. This leads to a large ramp that he can go down. S can’t go down the big one after this small one yet.

T and S “best buds”. They pretty much stay together while skateboarding.

One hot and sweaty girl!

Re-purposing Our 24 ft. Enclosed Trailer

In order to try to be more efficient around here, we are changing things up a bit.  We currently have 2 enclosed trailers.  One is 24 ft. long, the other is 14 ft. long.  We also have an open trailer.  We have 2 big tractors too.  My husband has dreams of fixing up one of them (it doesn’t run), and the other is huge and rusty, but it runs pretty well and has a backhoe attachment on it.  It is really too big for what we need it for around here, but it’s hard to get rid of a working tractor.  We talk about selling it and getting a more appropriate sized tractor, but that hasn’t happened so far.

My husband is working on his Ph.D.  He has all of the course-work done, has passed his Qualifying Exams and is  researching and writing his dissertation.  He needs an area where he can work where it is quiet.  As you all know by now we have almost 7 kids in an average sized house, so there is no available space for peace and quiet.  Also, when he is home, the little kids search him out because the is more of the yes parent than I am.  There are constant interruptions all around. Thus our dilemma.  We need him to be out of the house, where he is less accessible.

We have talked about a bunch of different options, but all take time (in short supply when you have a bunch of kids) or money.  Not really a problem, but not easy to part with.  We have plenty of space (acreage), but no outbuildings except a chicken house and 2 yard sheds.  All three are at full capacity.

My husband got the idea to use half of the long 24 ft. trailer as a writer’s shed.  I had never heard of the term writer’s shed, but he showed me some really cute pictures off of the internet at http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/famous-small-offthegrid-worksp-140587  Of course a huge trailer isn’t cute, but my husband doesn’t care about cute.  He is all about function.

Our 24 ft. trailer.

We currently have a race car in the back half of the trailer and beekeeping stuff in the front half of the trailer.  The trailer is equipped with heating and A/C, so that is a real plus.  We haven’t tried out the heating or A/C in a couple of years.  So, we moved the big trailer and moved it back to the house, and my oldest son and my husband washed the trailer and then the rest of the kids and my husband moved the bee stuff out and into our smaller enclosed trailer.

J cleaning the trailer.

It is almost cleaned out.  Today the race car comes out and I mop the floor.  A desk goes in and my husband finishes up the wiring that needs to be done so that he can not have to use an extension cord for the power and then keep the doors closed to conserve the A/C which seems to work, but we don’t know exactly how well until we get the wiring finished and the door closed and the A/C tested completely.

My husband out with my son rinsing off all of the debris that my son was washing off of the trailer.  Yes, he is on a diet.

I will post some more pictures and the finished project soon.  Here’s to a productive day!

2012 4H Judging And Results

S getting judged on his Cloverbud project for 4H. He did tornadoes.

It is that time of year again, when the kids scramble to put the final touches on their 4H projects.  Some do better than others.  Some are pretty much ready to go…some still need a kick in the pants to get theirs finished before the “show and tell” that our 4H club does the week before fair.

S pictured above was the most prepared this year.  Granted he is a Cloverbud.  But he knew from the beginning of the year that he wanted to do tornadoes and he didn’t waver.  He did his poster board without complaining and he loved the 2-2 liter bottle tornado that he made.  My husband would tell all of the kids to work on their projects and S would dutifully go and swirl the tornado over and over, never tiring of watching the tornado water transferring from one bottle to the other!

J my oldest did Teen on the Road to Financial Success. He got 1st place.

J also did Grill Masters. He got 3rd.

J did a pretty good job of getting ready for the judging for Grill Masters.  He grilled a lot this summer.  I think he learned a lot about charcoal grilling.  It wasn’t always easy.  Charcoal can take a while to master.  Timing was his biggest issue.  He of course got better with each grilling session.

Teens on the Road to Financial Success was good for him.  There was a really thick book to fill out.  The judge commented that they were surprised that the entire book was completed.  I guess a lot of kids get bored with it and never finish the book.  He also had to make a poster to put on display at our fair.  He got 1st place and qualified for State Fair!

T (in the red shirt) getting judged on Collections.

T collected “GoGo’s” little plastic figures that all of his friends trade back and forth.

T did Collections this year.   He was one of the last to get his work completed.  We were sticking those GoGo’s on 2 days before judging.  He really enjoyed going to the judging as adults and kids were asking about his project.  He got to feel what it is like to have a good project.  I think that good “feeling” will stick with him for some time.  He got second place!

R finishing up with the Welding judge. He got 7th in Welding.  He made the black stand in the picture above.  It is a stand to hold a forge that he is working on.

R did Welding and Creative Writing.  I didn’t get a picture of him with his paper.  It was a short story.  He was in the Jr. category because he is under 14.  He finished 4th in his category!  R had some problems with his welding project.  He chose some thin welding material for his stand and then he didn’t practice enough with his “beads” on this material.  He burned through the metal on some of the welds on his project.  He also had some ugly “beads” from not practicing enough.  He was ticked that he got 7th, but my husband and I were surprised that he even placed.  He rushed through the entire welding process and doesn’t strive for perfection.  He is in a hurry to get it done, without care for how it turns out.  These are things to work on for next year!

M getting judged in Creative Writing.

M really enjoyed the Creative Writing category.  His paper was just below the 2,000 word limit.  He worked diligently at it until it was completed.  He thought he did an awesome job.  The judge said it was one of the best that she read this year, and…he didn’t place.  He was pretty upset.  He was in the Sr. category which is 14-18 year-olds.  He is 14, so one of the younger in the category which is a disadvantage.  We talked with him about how to improve for next year because he said he wants to do it again next year.  For example, he didn’t have us proof-read for errors.  He didn’t have us read his paper and give suggestions, etc.  I think not placing when you think you will is a good, but hard, life lesson.  There is competition out there and you have to work really hard to get what you are going after in this world.

M getting judged in Getting Started in Art. He got 5th place!

M also did Getting Started in Art.  He worked on a Pointillism picture.  This is a work that you do all in dots.  Up close it looks like dots, but as you back away it looks like a picture that was colored with colored pencils.  He got 5th place.  He was a little disappointed, but thankful to place after not placing in the Creative Writing category.

A wasn’t old enough for Cloverbuds yet, but she is talking already about what she will do next year!  Girls are so different than boys.

Our Garden Is Doing Awesome!

Our most recent harvest. Camera operator was my seven-year-old son.

I think this is the best year of gardening that we have ever had!  Yahoo.  I did cheat a little by buying the plants at the nursery but considering I was in the beginning stages of my pregnancy with no energy and lots of exhaustion, I cutting myself some slack!

Here is the recent collection again. My 7-year-old took this one too. This time he added the rest of the collection!

We also have 2 huge pumpkins starting to turn orange, 2 cantaloupe, 6 red cabbages, tons of cayenne peppers, lots of red, green, orange, and yellow peppers and a dozen or so onions.  Our broccoli didn’t do well and our cauliflower didn’t do well.  I will study these over the winter to see what I should have done differently.

The things that I think that helped the garden this year was the chicken manure from last year, the rabbit manure, the ashes from the fire and the Miracle Grow top soil stuff that we used.  Also, we water faithfully every day that it doesn’t rain.

I have a tendency to be gung-ho early in the spring and plant and weed etc.  Then when the weather gets hotter, I slowly stop taking care of the garden until it looks like the weed pile that it has turned into, and then give up and say I will do a better job next year.  Fortunately, we have done pretty well with keeping up with it this year.  Also, we normally vacation towards the end of July or early August and by the time we get back, everything has died from lack of water and I just give up.  This year we vacationed in June before any of the crops came in, so I had our house-sitter water while we were gone and of course that helped enormously.  When we got back from vacation everything looked good and was getting ready to harvest.

I will get some current garden pictures up shortly so you can see how awesome it is doing!

It’s A Girl…

As you can tell from the title, we are expecting a baby!

Number 7.  Yes, you read that right seven.  I am due on December 3, 2012.

I have been wanting to blog about it since I found out in March, but I was too scared.  I am 44 and know that there can be a lot of complications and up to a 50% miscarriage rate after you turn 40.

Anyway, I made it through the first 12 weeks with no problems whatsoever!  Then I had a slight problem for a couple of weeks.  It has resolved itself (thank God!) and we found out last week that our new addition is a girl.

If you don’t know by reading my blog, I have 5 boys and 1 girl (plus this new addition).  My boys are  16, 14, 13, 10, and 7.  My girl is 5.  Before my daughter was born, I didn’t think that we could have a girl.  Apparently I was wrong.

We were shocked to be expecting another baby when our youngest is 5.  Of course we got rid of all of our baby stuff when my youngest was 3.

It will be fun to get some new (pink) stuff!

Here she is:

I am labeling the top picture number 1.  It is a picture of her foot.

Picture number 2 is her profile.

Picture number 3 has the “girl” parts.  We just had to believe the ultrasound tech because we can’t tell at all.

We are thankful for a healthy baby.  My children are really interested in this baby and the pregnancy.  They are always touching my belly and talking to her.  Cute!

My daughter was so excited that it was a girl when I called to tell them that she wanted the new baby to be born on that day because she couldn’t wait to meet her!

There is nothing like a new baby!

Getting Our Broiler Chickens Processed

We recently got our broiler chickens processed.  This year’s outcome was so much different from last year.  You can read about those adventure here if you are interested.

This year was completely different thankfully.  I changed some of the ways that I handled things with the chicks this year.  For example, I kept the chicks in the brooder for 3 weeks instead of the 10 days that I did last year.  Also, I gave them the vitamin stress pack that I purchased each day until it was completely gone instead of once a week or so like I did last year.  The vitamin pack lasted about 4 or 5 weeks out of their 7 to 8 weeks before processing.  Another thing was that this Spring was much warmer and there was hardly any rain, unlike last year.  I think all of these factors helped us to have a much better year this year.

This year we had one casualty when the chicks were a day old.  They actually gave us 26 chicks on our order of 25, so we processed 25 birds this year.

The price for processing was $74.50.  This included 2 twenty pound bags of ice.  I purchased 2 gallon Ziploc bags before I took the chickens in to be processed.  That was about $12.50, but I had 5 bags left over.  They sell bags at the processing place for $.50 each, so that would have been the same price, but without the leftover bags, so I save a few cents there.

My son and I got up on the day of processing at 6:15 a.m. because we had a 7:30 appointment.  We loaded the birds into 2 big rabbit cages on the back of the pick-up truck and took them the half-hour drive to the processing plant.

We only waited a few minutes before it was our turn.

I always watch them kill the birds to make sure nobody suffers.  I couldn’t take knowing that they suffered.  This is a great operation.  The birds are pulled from the cages and killed within 30 seconds.  None suffered at all.  The most stress for the birds is the travelling to the butcher, I think.  They are in the back of the pick-up with the wind blowing and bumping along the road when they are used to stable ground.  Of course none of this hurts the birds, but I am telling you what I think would cause the most stress.

At our processor, after killing the birds at one end of a building, you can see them heat the birds to loosen the feathers, and tumble the birds until all the feathers are gone.  Then they wash the birds to get all of the dirt and debris and manure off of them.  Then they put them into bins to go into the building where they do the actual butchering.

We took the truck and drove around to the other side of the building and got our containers ready.  They told us the price for the processing and the ice.  We paid and they put the birds in our containers.  We put the birds into the back of the truck, poured ice on them, put the lids on the containers and were on our way home.  This whole process took 30 minutes.  I checked my watch and we had a 7:30 appointment, and we were completely finished and driving home at 8:00 a.m.

When we got home, we put the containers in the garage to get them out of the sun.  I checked on them every 15 or 20 minutes to make sure there was enough ice and water to cool them down.  You have to wait about 4 hours or until the chickens cool to 40 degrees before putting them in the freezer.  I waited the correct time, I didn’t use a thermometer to check, but I could have.  I just know that when I was bagging the birds for the freezer, the birds were really cold, and the ice water was freezing!

I bagged the birds in the garage where my freezer is located.  I made sure my freezer which became my countertop was clean.  I took the birds out of the ice water and placed them on clean towels to let the excess water drip off to help avoid freezer burn.  I put 3 birds on each beach towel.  I  patted them dry and put them in the freezer bag.  I did this for all 25 birds.  Then I put them in one section of the freezer to make sure they were this year’s birds, and not last years.

After finishing the birds, I checked the freezer for last year’s birds and found one, so I pulled it out to eat and now I know that all of the birds left are this year’s.

After getting the birds put in the freezer.  I cleaned the freezer, put the towels in the washer and dryer on sanitize.  I sprayed the bins with cleaner and let them sit for an hour.  I washed everything thoroughly.

This was any easy way to get a year’s worth of whole chickens for the crock pot.  I know what the birds ate, and drank.  I know that they are hormone free.  I how they were treated kindly and that they had a good life.

The broiler chickens the day before processing.

The broiler chickens sitting in ice water cooling down.  I had already started drying and bagging them at this point which is why some are sitting on top of the ice water.

Letting the birds drip off the excess water before patting them dry and putting them into the freezer.

A few birds bagged and ready for the freezer.

The birds in the freezer! Yeah.

Making sure everything was clean after touching the birds.

Washing and drying the towels on sanitize to make sure all the germs are killed.