Friday, November 22, 2013

We've Moved!

For today's blog post, you'll have to visit the blog's page on our new website! 

Be sure to make a note of the new address!  It'll be the blog's new home from here on out.

My biggest concern about moving the blog was that I might lose readers in the switchover.  I REALLY don't want to lose you!  If you're having technical difficulties, please comment, and I'll see if there's something I can do to help you with the transition.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Meet Molly

Saturday, Molly came home to live with us.  She is a 7-month-old Great Pyrenees pup.  Isn't she adorable?
Now, I know what some of you are thinking-- yes, we've had our troubles with dogs in the past.  But, there are a few reasons I think that Molly will work out for us (excuse me a moment while I go find some wood to knock on).
1.  Molly is a Livestock Guardian Dog (or an LGD).  Often, livestock guardians are confused with, say, the Border Collie, which is actually a herding dog.  Some guardians will herd, but their primary job is to protect the herd or flock.  Prior to coming to our home, Molly was living with the chickens and chicken wagon as well as a flock of sheep.  Here, we plan for her to serve primarily as guardian of our goat herd. 
2.  She lives with the herd.  Her dog pen is set up within the goat field.  Until she and the goats are comfortable with each other, she stays in her pen unless we are with her in the field.  Once the goats are more accustomed to her, we will open her pen and rig it in such a way that she has access to it for her food and time away from the goats, but the goats can't get in to her personal space.  She will mostly run with the herd.  For now, though, our skiddish goats are unsure about the new addition.  (Check out the video for evidence.)  I guess these things just take time.
3.  She rarely ever barks.  The barking in the video is a neighbor dog.  In fact, in her time here, I've only heard her bark once, and that was upon first sight of Milkshake, the backyard cat.  This is important because her bark is reserved to alarm us to potential predatory threats.  If she's barking, there's something we need to see about.  Also a plus:  her bark is low and gravelly and so not-at-all grating, like the high-pitched yips of some dogs.
4.  She's very well behaved for a puppy and has been trained to kennel, to come, and not to jump up on people. While decent on a leash, she could still use a little training.  She's excellent with the kids and has learned very quickly what people and animals are hers.  She has the personality of a Lab when she's around us but quickly goes on alert when she sees or hears something foreign.

5.  She's cute.  I mean, let's be honest, that counts for something. On the downside, that big, fluffy, soft coat will require some maintenance, especially once we move her over to the farm where she'll pick things up in it more often. 

She loves the farm.  I haven't tried letting her off her leash over there yet, though. 

One of the things we try to do with her a lot right now is walk the perimeter of the area she's to protect.  This allows her to become familiar with her territory.  Eventually, she should learn to take this walk on her own throughout the day.  When she's resting, she tries to position herself so that she can see or hear danger should it approach.  In the case of an intruder, attack is her last resort.  She will first try to position herself between the intruder and the herd.  If the intruder persists, she will begin to bark and charge.  Since her primary job is herd protection, she is more prone to stay with the herd once the attacker has left than to chase it down for a kill. 
We haven't had any major problems with intruders in the goat field, but I think we'll be very happy we have Molly to protect the herd once we move over to the farm.  :)
What do you think?  Have you ever seen a Livestock Guardian Dog in action?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New Pen-Mates Battle It Out

Today, we decided that if Oreo, our buck, was going to get the job done with the ladies this fall, he should've already done it.  That means it's time for him to leave the ladies' field and move in with Dallas, our other male, for the winter.

Of course, as new pen-mates they had to battle it out to determine who would be the dominant goat.  As you can see, Oreo (who starts out on the left), seems to have won out.

You'd think there's a good joke to make here about testosterone, but Dallas is a wether so it's tough to blame his need to defend the pen on hormones.  Also, the female goats are just as keen to prove their dominance.  When the whole herd runs together, it's Queen Razz who calls the shots.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bringing 100 Babies Home

Bringing home 100 new chickens is a lot like bringing a new baby home.  Don't roll your eyes until you've heard me out.

The onesies have all been washed in Dreft and neatly folded.  The hospital bag (or suitcase) is waiting by the door.  The diapers are lined up neatly in a cute little pastel-colored basket.  You have a birthing plan.  You've read the full What to Expect series.  This baby will not dictate the schedule.  You will get her on a sleeping and eating schedule, nap when she naps, all will be well.  Why does everyone else seem to struggle so much with this baby stuff?  
Then, you actually go into labor (or get the call from the adoption agency), meet your beautiful baby, bring her home, and then ALL HECK BREAKS LOOSE!  
A few months later you emerge from the haze and there are diapers everywhere, you can't remember the last time you had 3 hours of consecutive sleep, every last onesie is covered in spit-up, and it still seems that wee one is calling every last shot regarding when she (and by extension, you) will eat, sleep, and cry.  And, when you look into the mirror for the first time in three days, you notice a smear some unidentified dried substance on your cheek and would not be at all surprised if it's poo.
Or in the case of chickens . . . 
You clean out the mini-fridge, set it up all cute-like on the front porch, handpaint a sign to hang at the road, gather tons of egg cartons (thanks, FB friends!), stack up the bags of feed into a nice and neat pile, purchase your egg-gathering basket, erect temporary electric fencing to protect them, make a plan for when you will feed/gather eggs/water, etc.  Then you bring them home and ALL HECK BREAKS LOOSE!

First, the chicken wagon nearly takes you all out (read yesterday's post, if this doesn't sound familiar).  Then, you realize they can probably fly over the fencing you've erected, so you start your Sunday morning by climbing into the chicken wagon with your husband and 100 confused chickens, catching each one, and clipping her left wing before tossing her out into the field.  100 chickens. Unfortunately, zero of them were down with this plan.  When I emerged from the wagon, I looked like I was giving some new chicken-poop-based all-natural skin and hair treatment a try.
After a quick shower and trip to church and back, you remove the poo-covered nesting boxes from inside the wagon, haul them to the house and give them a thorough cleaning, while once again getting covered in poo. 
Clean nesting boxes, reinstalled
Then, you decide to move the 7 old chickens from your backyard over to the farm with the other 100.  The only problem is at nightfall when everyone else is marching up the ladder and into the wagon for bedtime, the new gals can't figure out where the heck to go, so as a family, you have to corner and catch them and place them in the house. 
But, in the dark of the chicken wagon, it becomes obvious why the nesting boxes were so disgusting.  They chickens have been roosting/pooping in them all night.  So, in the dark, you have to relocate about 50 sleeping chickens to different perches for the night and seal off the boxes, so that they can't return to roost in the wrong spot.  If you happen to be a chicken farmer with a slight bit of chicken phobia, then reaching into a dark nesting box when you can't even tell which part of the chicken you're grabbing is not high on your list of most-fun-ways-to-spend-an-evening (I'm not naming names, but said chicken farmer is not me). 
Are they really out of feed already?  They need more water?  Why did we leave the chicken catching hook back at the house?  Has it really only been two days since we brought them home?  Why did I clip chickens wings all night in my dreams? 

The thing is, though, much like when you watch that new little one sleeping peacefully, when I just sit back and watch 100 chickens scratch and peck and take a dust bath and just enjoy being chickens on a warm, sunny day, I just get giddy. 
We're not yet in a routine.  We don't yet have the eggs in the front-porch fridge.  I may have been just a little late to pick the kids up from school today.  But we're all still loving it.  I know that because when I say, "who's ready to run over to the farm with me real quick?"  the kids still hoot and holler like we're headed to the county fair.  Or, when I pick Girl 1 up from dance and tell her a story that begins with, "You're not going to believe what happened at the farm while you were in practice,"  I end it with, "I bet you're glad you missed out on that one, huh?" And she replies, "I don't know, Mom.  It may have been kinda crazy, but it sounds like I missed out on an adventure."
And, like parenting in the earliest days (and, let's be honest, forever onward), this is an adventure . . . a beautiful, poop-smeared adventure.  And, so far, I wouldn't trade a single minute of it. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Relocating a Farm

For those who feel like our decision to launch our egg production operation seems a little sudden, allow me to give you some backstory.  A few weeks ago, John was introduced through a mutual acquaintance to a family that had attempted to upstart a farm very similar in scope to the one we have envisioned.  Unfortunately, a series of accidents left the farm's primary caretaker unable to continue the farm.  This left them with some very nice equipment and animals that were only a few months old and only gently used. 

For essentially 1/2 of retail, they were trying to liquidate their farm.  So, while we were planning to construct our large chicken wagon in the spring, here stood a good-quality one, ready for use.  BUT, it couldn't be sold without the chickens it currently houses.  And, they are great, productive breeds that are just beginning to lay and have been raised free-range.  It was an offer just too good to pass up.

Additionally, we purchased from them a load of fencing, some feeders, a goat care/corral system, various other items, and Molly, a 7-month-old Great Pyrenees who has been serving as guardian to both sheep and chickens. (Yes, the kids are VERY excited!  More info on Molly later this week.)

The liquidating farm was two hours away in Yellville, Arkansas.  So, we caravanned there early Saturday morning and began the loading process.  There's really no conventional way to haul a chicken wagon this large, so the guys constructed this plan that got the job done!

A couple hours after arrival, we were all loaded up and ready to head back to our farm.  The whole load consisted of 3 trucks, 2 trailers, 1 chicken wagon, tons of equipment, 100+ chickens, 1 giant dog, 3 adults, and 3 children.
(Thank you to the best father-in-law ever for his great help with all this madness! If you ever need to haul a chicken wagon 2 hours along all kinds of road, he's your man!)
We were quite a spectacle.
As crazy as this day seemed, the real excitement came once we got home to the farm.  Sam backed the trailer carrying the chicken wagon into the temporary fencing we'd constructed for it.  Then, we just had to figure out how to get it off the trailer.  Unfortunately, we were on a little bit of a decline, too.  We decided that the three of us could probably control its weight and steer it off the wagon as its momentum brought it down.  We were wrong.  John and Sam were on each side of the back of the wagon, and I was in the middle, doing my best to steer it as it came down.  The sheer weight of the wagon coming off the trailer was more than we expected, and it just came barreling off the trailer pushing us back into the temporary fencing we'd erected.  In the madness, I got tripped up and was going to the ground.  Because I was between the other two fellas, I was headed under the out-of-control wagon.  That's when my amazing husband shoved and kicked me aside so that I rolled out of the wagon's path.  Though John and Sam were able to stop the wagon, John was unfortunately injured in the process.  The top of his foot is swollen pretty badly.  We thought yesterday that it might be broken, but he wanted to ice it and see how it felt the next morning.  Now, it's still pretty tender and swollen but is better than it was last night, so he's thinking it's not a break.
The whole incident shook us up pretty good.  And needless to say, the kids were pretty freaked out.  They each needed some extra attention last night, and we decided to treat ourselves to a family dinner out once we had everything  unloaded.  I don't really want to think about what might've happened, but I am surely thankful that we were protected from what could've been.
Seriously, there's never a dull moment around here!
Now, to clip the wings of 100+ chickens . . . .


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thanksgiving Week Challenge

(Disclaimer:  If some of this sounds familiar, it's because pieces of it were borrowed from last year's post.)

Thanksgiving will be here soon!  That means that we're all busy planning our menus and making our grocery lists and readying our tables.  Most of us will gather with family and friends and eat amazing, comfort food until our belts need loosening.  Let us not forget in this season of thankfulness the many who will not be joining us in our overindulgence. 

World hunger statistics are sobering, to say the least.  I like this video because it uses the numbers to get our attention rather than the emotionally evocative images involved with so many of the world hunger videos we've been subjected to over the years.   One child dies hungry every 6 seconds.  Now that's sobering.  How many children would that be during just our Thanksgiving meal alone? 

As our family met to discuss how we wanted to approach feeding the hungry this holiday, I mentioned this statistic to Girl 1.  She just looked at me and started slowly counting as the tears welled up in her eyes. 

I don't mean to be a downer this holiday.  I do mean to challenge you to do something about the plight of the needy.  So, I'm doing what the video asks of me and telling a friend (who will hopefully tell a friend who will hopefully tell a friend, etc.). 

Our family plans to do our part this season by donating to Bread for the World.  We plan to raise the money for this the same way we did last year.  And, you can do it, too -- without even having to reach into your pocketbook (what is a pocketbook exactly?  Does anyone even really use one?)  You want to know how, don't you?  Well, lean in.  And promise not to tell MeeMee that we plan to do it again this year.  Promise?  Okay.

We plan to eat Ramen noodles every night for a week.  The grocery money saved will be donated and help to feed others.  We do this in an attempt to better understand the plight of the hungry.  Now, rice and beans would be a much more appropriate meal if we were trying to eat the way most of the hungry world eats.  But, my kids won't eat rice and beans.  They just won't.  And, contrary to what MeeMee seems to believe, we do plan to feed our kids this week.  (Bless her, she's only got their  best interests at heart!)  We choose Ramen because it's about the cheapest thing I can think of to feed us that we will all eat.  Also, it probably pretty closely approximates the way our closest hungry neighbors eat. 

Why the same thing every night of the week?  When you're truly hungry, food diversity is a luxury you do not have.  You eat what is available, and often it's the same thing . . . over and over again.

The week leading up to Thanksgiving seems a fitting time to undergo this challenge and prayerful focus.  So, we will begin this coming Wednesday and continue until the following Tuesday, two days prior to Thanksgiving.  (Ideally, we would run it right up through Wednesday, the day before the holiday, but it just doesn't fit our schedule this year.)  To focus our mealtimes on the task at hand, we will begin each of our seven evening meals together with a special prayer.  (This was my favorite part last year!) Here are links to the beautiful prayers we intend to use this year.

Wednesday -- Sharing our Abundance
Thursday -- That We May Be Satisfied
Friday -- Prayer of Confession
Saturday --  May I Hunger Enough
Sunday -- Traditional Native American Prayer
Monday and Tuesday (this link contains two separate prayers) --  Prayers at the Table

Will you join with us?  Put your own spin on it.  Eat something else.  Or, don't change the way you eat at all but click on the prayers when you sit down to the table each night and join with us as we pray for the hungry of our world.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Clean Taco Soup

Well, it's cold outside.  And, I've got a freezer full of grass-fed beef since our half of Georgie came home from the meat packaging plant (I don't know. It's just what the kids decided to name him).  So, it seems like a good time to make a big pot of Clean Taco Soup.

Lots of taco soup recipes will invite you to toss in a packet of store-bought taco seasoning mix.  I could do without the unrecognizable ingredients found in some packets; plus, all the ingredients needed to create the same effect are waiting patiently in my spice cabinet.

So, forgo the packet and make your Taco Soup the clean way, using whole ingredients that you recognize.

Throw it all in a CrockPot:

1-1.5 lb. cooked ground beef
a can black beans, rinsed and drained (or 1/2 lb. dry beans, cooked)
a can/jar diced tomatoes
box/jar of your favorite broth (I used chicken because I have a ton made up right now)
1 can corn, drained or 1 c. frozen
1 Tbs. each of chili powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder
1/2 to 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
salt to taste

Give it at least a few hours in the CrockPot, but you could leave it all day on low, if necessary.  Serve it up alongside a salad or as a stand alone meal with shredded cheddar and tortilla chips.  Yum!

It fogged up the lens of my camera. :)

Everyone gobbled it up.  But, Girl 1, who has a tendency to eat like a bird, kept going back for more and was the last one to push away from the table.  "It's like Mexican chili!"  Yep, it's pretty tough to beat!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Change is Brewing: Brood Farm Site Will Launch Soon

This picture is unrelated to the content of this post, but I think posts without pics are dull.  ;)

If you're one who enjoys the blog but avoids change at all costs, you may want to crawl into a hole right now or mentally take a little visit to your happy place.

As we prepare for our farm to grow, we feel it's time for the blog to move.  We will soon be launching a full-fledged Brood Farm website.  And, if I may brag on my techy hubby a moment, it's a pretty cool one.  It's still under construction, but I'm loving the way it looks and reads!

We want the blog to feature prominently there, so its web address will need to change.  This is not a big deal.  The blog may look a little different.  The way you have to get there may change, but its content, pics, and all my crazy ramblings will be business as usual.

If you, say, access the blog daily via a button on the home screen of your iPad (Mamaw, I'm talking to you now ;), you'll need to create a new button using the new web address and delete the old one.  Or, ask one of your super-handy grandkids to help you out.  ;) 

When the new site goes live, I will feature a link to it from this blog.  We're looking at some time next week most likely.  This will give those of you who've visited the hole or your happy place some time to adjust to this new reality.

Now, those of you who use FaceBook to link up to the blog each day are probably getting all snooty right now as you think, "This doesn't affect me, I just click in FB and it magically takes me where I need to go, so I'll barely even notice this change."  Not so fast.

We will also be launching a Brood Farm Facebook account. This is something I've been wanting to do for awhile now.  It will allow me to separate my farm dealings from my personal life a bit.  If I want to share with you the funny things my kids say, I'll do that as Ashley Carroll Beller, as usual.  If I want to tell you about how the chickens got out yesterday and our lawnmover friend and I had to herd them all back into their pen using soccer nets, I'll probably do that via Brood Farm.  All blog posts, which are really about farm life (with a healthy dose of personal life because, let's face it, it's hard to keep them entirely separate) will be posted via Brood Farm. 

So, if you think my human kids are really cute and would like to see pics of them at dance competition, on the soccer field, or in their superhero costumes, but could do without all the commentary regarding my goat kids in the backyard, continue to be friends with Ashley Carroll Beller and enjoy your newly decluttered newsfeed as you'll no longer have to endure daily links to the blog.

I have a pretty strict FaceBook policy which I've used for awhile and think it serves to protect me well.  I can be friends with any woman all day long, but I am only friends with men who are related to me.  Sometimes, this has seemed like a policy that's a little over the top (like when one of my good friends' 60-year-old dad friend-requested me), but I feel like it's a policy that I self-employ for my protection and once I start making exceptions, things get muddied. 

So, having a Brood Farm FB account makes it possible for anyone to "like" what's happening on the farm, get farm updates, schedule egg delivery, and more without necessarily also having to be my "friend."  And, let's be honest, just because you'd like to have fresh eggs delivered weekly, doesn't mean you also want to have to endure my posting about how my too-juicy burgers fell through the grates of the grill last night.

So, we're headed toward this next big stage, but for those of you who have a nostalgia for the past, will remain available with all its 602 past posts.  Additionally, all the posts to date will be imported to the new site, so you can search for them there as well. 

We are really hoping to use the Brood Farm FB site to generate lots of interest in our egg sales, so when you see it go live, please "like" and "share" it to your little heart's desire! 

Okay.  Enough for today.  Don't be scared.  Change can be good.  I think once you see the new site, you'll agree!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Homemade Organic Chicken Feed

Our hens live a pretty cushy life.  They get lots of goodies, including garden goodies, kitchen veggie scraps, and fresh ground to forage.  And, though, we've always made an effort to use feed that is antibiotic free, we've never taken it the extra step and gone full-out organic for their feed.  This is for two main reasons, I guess:
1.  It's VERY expensive.  We're talking 3 to 4 times as expensive as the feed we use now.
2.  It's not readily available to us, so to add to the already high feed cost, we'd have to pay for shipping. 
I did, though, find a recipe for homemade organic chicken feed that I wanted to try out.  I was able to get all ingredients but two from my food coop (which means that this feed is actually human food!).  The last two ingredients came via Amazon.  You gottta love Prime!
The recipe is a mix of 10 different ingredients, so we had to use shovels and our hands to mix it all up in our giant feed bin.  I was a little bit afraid that Girl 2 might fall in, but she was a big help in getting it all mixed together.

The recipe calls for the following wholesome ingredients:
oat groats
sunflower seeds
hard red wheat berries
soft white wheat berries
hulled millet
sesame seed
flax seed
rye berries
brewer's yeast
kelp granules
And, of course, all ingredients are organic. 

It just looks like a bunch of seeds -- which, if you think about it, is what chicken feed ought to look like.  They are birds, after all. 
The gals are absolutely loving their new feed.  So far, I can't tell that they're picking around any of the ingredients, so I assume they like it all.  How it will affect their laying habits remains to be seen.
This particular mix cost us a pretty penny to put together and is just intended to be an experiment for now.  I would have to figure out a more economical way to source the ingredients before I could entertain continuing with this recipe in the long-term.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Fence-Building Weekend

Brrrr.  It's cold out there today.  Looks like the cooler weather may now be upon us for awhile.  This just makes me even more thankful for the weather we had this past weekend. 

We were able to make use of our long weekend together by stringing up about a half-mile of electric fencing at the new farm.  It was our first attempt at working with these new fencing materials, and we had a lot of fun together figuring it all out.
We were able to make use of these cute little pigtail posts (can you see the tops of the white posts?)

And these reels of electric wire and polywire

And, of course, the solar energizer that makes it live.

Here you can see the pigtail posts as they await use in the garage.
This fencing is designed to be temporary.  We put it up along the road and property line until we can get the permanent fencing complete.  We're steadily working on that as well, but with corner posts that need to be 4 ft. deep to accommodate high-tensile fencing, it's a slow process. :)
Of course, the three youngest of us bounced between helping with the fence and exploring the farm.  I wonder if I'll ever get over the sight of them coming up over the hill toward us with their hands full of walking sticks, binoculars, field guides, and hand-drawn maps of all their secret trails. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The New Chicken Wagon

Here's a sneak peak at the new chicken wagon we'll be bringing home next Saturday (along with the 100+ chickens who sleep inside). 
This amazing contraption is large enough to provide sleeping/egg laying space for nearly 200 chickens and is easily moved from place to place so that we can allow them constant access to fresh foraging ground. 

These chickens are happy and healthy and on the cusp of egg-laying age.  What a very exciting enterprise!  Brood Farm egg production.  Ready or not, here we go!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Deer Season Is Upon Us

It's getting to be that time of year again -- when early morning runs are accompanied by a soundtrack of leaves crunching underfoot and rifles firing in the distance. 
The new farm is home to a good-sized group of deer.  I've seen two separate bucks and several does.  I happen upon them nearly every time we drive the road, but I love to come up on them when I'm on foot, running the road.  That's when I'm able to hear them talking to each other, warning one another of the approaching danger.  Things about them remind me of my goats.  They're beautiful and strong. 
And, yet . . . I know that when we establish our orchard and gardens, they will become my enemy.  They'll become my new squash bugs.  So, I'm not completely against inviting hunters to the farm this fall.  If the menacing deer can be removed AND provide food for a table, I'll get on board.  But, I do still feel a twinge of sadness for the strength and beauty that is so easily and quickly snuffed out -- for all the Swirlers I've shared a moment with on our farm.
Thinking of Swirler: a poem by Mary Oliver
One day I went out
into a wonderful
ongoing afternoon,
it was fall,
the pine trees were brushing themselves
against the sky
as though they were painting it,
and Swirler,
who was alive then,
walking slowly
through the green bog,
his neck
as thick as an ox,
his antlers
brushing against the trees
his three good feet tapping
the softness beneath him
and the fourth, from an old wound,
I know he saw me
for he gave me a long look
which was as precious as a few
good words,
since his eyes
were without terror.
What do the creatures know?
What in this world can we be certain about?
How did he know I was nothing
but a harmless mumbler of words,
some of which would be about him
and this wind-whipped day?
In a week he would be dead,
arrowed down by a young man I like,
though with some difficulty.
In my house there are a hundred half-done poems.
Each of us leaves an unfinished life.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Brood Farm is Growing . . . to Include YOU!

Yep, we're growing . . . big time!  While we've been producing eggs in our backyard for about 2 years now, we're about to REALLY expand that operation so that we can make these amazing eggs available to you, too!

In about 2 weeks, our new farm will be home to over 100 pastured egg-laying chickens, and we couldn't be more excited about it! 

We've done our homework to find out what we have to do to legally sell our products and are pleased that we now have a marketing plan. 

Basically, eggs have to be refrigerated up until the point of sale.  Luckily, we're in a pretty handy location for people to stop by and pick up a dozen.  We plan to make it even easier for customers by having eggs available in a mini-fridge on the front porch.  You won't even have to feel like you're interrupting us -- just drop your $3 in the jar and grab a dozen farm-fresh eggs! 

We are also toying around with a small-scale CSA so that local folks could sign up for once-a-week delivery.  (I'm open to suggestions about how this ought to work.)  So long as the homes we're delivering to are close enough to our home/refrigerator, we're cleared to do this.

Additionally, I can arrange to bring eggs to the many folks I see throughout the normal course of my day (school, dance, sports practices, etc.).

For now, we plan to reuse as many store-bought cartons as possible.  So long as we make a clear attempt to black out the previous markings on the cartons, this is acceptable practice.  Additionally, we plan to affix our own sticker, claiming the eggs as ours. 

That said . . . ALL DONATIONS OF USED EGG CARTONS WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATED!!!!!  Drop them off on my doorstep, gather them for me in your classroom, bring them in big bags to me at church!  Seriously, we need them all! 

So, to recap:
1.  We need egg cartons ASAP.
2.  We'll have eggs available in a couple weeks.
3.  Do you have any thoughts on the weekly delivery idea?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Brood Farm Soap now for sale in Ashdown, Arkansas

If you can't get in close enough to read the sign, it says . . .

Hi, my name is Razz!!!
My owner's name is Ashley Beller.  She is the granddaughter of Alma Carroll, one of the favorite friends and customers of the Flower Shoppe.
We live in Cave City, Arkansas, and Ashley milks me everyday to make this wonderful goat milk soap and lotion.  These products are not harsh or cause any drying of the skin.
Please give it a try and let us know what you think!

Thank you, Mamaw, for networking for me and getting my soaps into the Flower Shoppe.  I love you!
And, thank you to Becky at the Flower Shoppe in Ashdown for giving my soaps a chance and for putting together such a fun sign and nice soap display!

Also, in soap-related news:    I've ordered some new scents and am looking forward to trying them out on some new soap that should be ready in time for Christmas sales!  
And, remember, for those who are local and won't be making any trips to Ashdown in the near future, Brood Farm's soaps are now available at Olde Towne Mall in downtown Batesville, as well.  :)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

After the Frost

Remember my post about how I'd been too lazy to get my cold frame up before the first frost hit?  Well, I still don't have it up. Here's my two-fold explanation/excuse:

1.  I'm sick.  It's about all I can do to get out of bed and shuffle around a few loads of laundry during the course of the day.  Seriously.  This thing is awful.  So, the thought of getting outside to construct my cold frame is simply laughable right now.

2.  We've now had two hard frosts, but most things in the garden are still going strong, despite being unprotected.

Sugar snap peas are blooming and about to fruit.

Purple turnip tops are peeking through the soil.

Kale is growing like crazy.

And, there's more arugula and parsley than I could ever even think of using.

The basil did succumb to the frost, though.

I should really make us a big salad for dinner . . . and go harvest some of that parsley to put on the dehydrator . . . and make the last batch of pepper jelly with the peppers in the fridge . . . and feed the chickens the lettuce that has gone to seed . . . and make Girl 2 some of her favorite kale chips . . . and get that cold frame up . . . and so on . . . 

But, I imagine I'll do the same thing I did yesterday which is pour myself another cup of coffee, shuffle to the living room, flop down on the sofa, and, if things get really bad, maybe moan a little.

Tomorrow.  Yes, tomorrow.  That's when I'll get it all done.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Adoption Awareness Month

November is Adoption Awareness month.  As an adoptive mother, I was asked to write a blog post for fellow blogger Bethany (remember when she was featured here on this blog?). She'll be featuring blog posts throughout the month by people whose lives have been affected by adoption.  So, be sure to bookmark her blog address and check back in for the other bloggers who will contribute this month.  (I'll try to share them on FaceBook to help you out.)

To read my contribution, click here:

Thanks again, Bethany, for the opportunity to share my heart.  :)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Purchase Your Brood Farm Soap Now!!

My all-natural goat milk soap is now available for sale in the Patti's Place booth of Olde Towne Mall On Main Street Batesville.  Once you're inside, take a left at the register -- you won't be able to miss it.  They're selling for $4 a bar.  Pick up a bar of unscented for your favorite hunter so that he can go undetected in the deer woods and a pick a favorite scent for yourself.  :)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Going Into Business!

I've been prepping my display for soap sales.  I don't think I've had this thought since I was in school and passing notes across the aisles, but I'm envious of those girls with the super-cute handwriting.  

I guess this isn't too bad considering I was the 4th grader who would have to miss recess to stay in and re-do my handwriting pages.  

It is done in chalk, so if anyone of you girls with envy-inducing handwriting would like to come to my rescue, I'd welcome the help!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

Seriously. . . are these not the cutest little aliens you've ever seen?

We are aliens.  Who are runners.  
We came for the intergalactic marathon.

We stayed for the CANDY!

I know this seems like a weird thing to be, but, thankfully, it turned out pretty cute.

How does a family decide to be running aliens for Halloween?  Well, it's funny you should ask.  

We ALWAYS dress as a family for Halloween.  If the kids are allowed to dress up at school, they can be their own thing there.  But, when we set out together, it's dressed as a group.  Each year, as the time approaches, we have a family meeting where ideas are thrown out and mostly immediately shot down.  (Why did they not want to be a BLT sandwich?  I don't get it.)  The real possibilities go onto a list, we make a case for our favorites, and we put it to a vote. It's all very democratic.  

This year, we determined that we would be marathon runners.  That should be easy enough.  We've got lots of running gear.  But, we needed to match. Enter the red shirts.  (Why are we always wearing red for Halloween?  Our super hero outfits were red.  Our pizza delivery uniforms were red. . . )

But, "runners" is kind of generic, and the kids were really pushing for something a bit more along the lines of standard Halloween gore.  We are planning to participate in Saturday's Zombie run in our costumes, so John had the idea to add zombie masks to our running outfits.  The kids loved the idea, and I got to shopping.

And, I just couldn't do it!  As a kid, I was never allowed to dress in anything scary, bloody, or gory for Halloween.  And our own kids have always played it pretty tame as well.  I just couldn't picture my sweet 4-year-old in the zombie masks I was seeing online.  

I found the alien masks and proposed a compromise.  Alien runners it was, then.  But, why are we alien runners?  It just seemed too random to me.  We needed a tie in.  John saved the day when he came up with the lettering on the shirt:  "We came for the intergalactic marathon.  We stayed for the CANDY!"

Sure, you have to read our shirts to make sense of it, but I just can't get over how cute Little Boy is as he dances around in his little get up! 

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Work Begets Work

Lately it feels as if every time I cross something off a list, another thing is there to take its place.  I just can't seem to get ahead.  

As I mentioned before, our half a cow will soon be on its way, so I needed to clear out some freezer space.  After a bit of work, I was able to free up half of this freezer and another fridge-top freezer.  Hopefully, that'll be enough space.  So, I can cross that project off the list.

But, in order to create all this space, I needed to make some chicken broth.  

Often when I take a chicken from the freezer to the kitchen, it's just to make use of the breast, thighs, and legs.  I stick the rest of the carcass back into the bag and toss it into the freezer.  I do the same with leftover parts of celery.  

To make a batch of broth, I just throw in two carcasses, chopped celery, chopped carrot, chopped onion, garlic, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, and salt and let it all simmer for as long as I can stand it.  Yummm!

Once the broth has been strained off, I pick the bones of any meat that's leftover and store this cooked, shredded chicken in little 1/2 c. bags so that it's at the ready for chicken salad and the like.

This is actually a great time of year for me to be making broth.  It's at the end of the growing season, so I'm able to make use of whatever jars aren't already occupied.  And, we're just now entering the season in which I use a lot of broth for cooking hearty winter soups or big pots of rice or beans.

If you're looking to make use of your chicken leftovers and are thinking about making your own broth, you should definitely give it a try.  The finished product is so much more flavorful than anything you can buy at the store.  And, if pressure canning is out of the question and you don't have a 1/2 a cow headed your way, you can always freeze your broth in quart- or gallon-sized baggies.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Plentiful Peppers

Our first frost meant that I needed to harvest all those beautiful peppers that hadn't yet made their way to the table.  and ASAP.
We busted open a jar of pickled peppers that I'd put up a couple months ago to determine whether they were worth repeating.  Yuck.  Both the texture and flavor were less than ideal.
So, I decided to play it safe and make some more purple pepper jelly. 
When I picked the kids up from school, Girl 1 informed me that she had "easy" homework. "Great!" I tell her, "You can help me make some pepper jelly!"
Her response:  "Oh, ummm. Did I say easy?  What I really meant was . . . "
Luckily, Girl 2 was a much more eager helper.

She even created a ring pyramid.  :)

Of course, all 3 of the kiddos were fans of the finished product.

Girl 2 was so much help, I decided to reward her with a big tub of sour cream.  ;) 
This picture cracks me up.  Actually, we are trying to clean out the freezers a bit to make room for our half of a grass-fed cow that should be headed our way in the next couple of days.  I've got lots of individual servings of lime frozen yogurt that we've got to go through before the cow comes home. 


Monday, October 28, 2013

A Rest for Razz

So much of farm life is seasonal.  It is now solidly fall.  The tomato plants are on the compost pile, the cool-weather kale is thriving, and it's time to dry the milker. 
It's time to give Razz. our milking doe, a rest for the winter so that she can conserve her calories through the duration of her pregnancy.  We will get to milk her again when she gives birth in the spring.  In fact, we're hoping that Honey and Izzy will become Mommas/milkers this spring as well. 
Last winter, I was ready for the milking break when the time came, but this year,  I find myself wanting to delay it.  Knowing that this time would soon be here, I've been freezing milk in ice cube trays to have for soap production throughout the winter. 
To gradually dry Razz off, I've been milking her just once a day.  Gradually, I'll go even longer between milkings until she's dry for the winter.
Until spring, I'll miss my quiet mornings in the milk shed, but I'll bet these two will miss milking time even more than I will. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Frost-Bitten Garden

This morning, I woke up with a sinus headache that made me feel like my left eye was going to pop out of my head.  You know the kind I'm talking about?  I don't get these very often, but I'm particularly upset about this one because I have a big race tomorrow.
Anyway, I go about my early morning routine with my eyes closed as much as possible (it just seems to hurt less that way).
I don my headlamp, grab my milking pail, and head out into the still-dark, very cold morning. Wait a minute!  What is that glimmer on the grass?  My headlamp is illuminating little diamonds on each blade.  How beautiful!

I finally get past my sinus-headache-induced euphoria enough to realize that these beautiful diamonds are in fact frost . . . heavy frost.


And, I've been so busy with other things, that I've failed to check the weather forecast and erect the cold frame that could've saved my poor garden plants.

I know they say not to cry over spilled milk, but surely it's acceptable to shed a tear over frosted kale.  Yesterday, it was so healthy and beautiful.  Now, it may not be salvageable.  

Looks like my procrastination has come back to frost-bite me in the bum!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Jelly-Making Secret

Our canning club is careful only to endorse methods and practices that are USDA-approved.  But . . . I've heard whisperings.  At one meeting recently, we were making jelly and an older lady I was sitting by was surprised to see that we were putting the jelly-filled-jars into the boiling water bath at all.  "I've never done that, and my jars seal just fine," she whispered.  

What?  This went against everything I'd ever heard!  This would be BIG.  This would make jelly-making accessible to the masses.  The idea of "canning" is too big hurdle for some to get over.  But, what if all you had to do was bring the juice, sugar, and pectin to a boil and pour it into jars?  Would they really seal?  Would they be shelf-stable?
I didn't do anything to test the theory then, but I filed this experience away in my mind.  
Then, I came across a recipe for sugar-free jelly that RECOMMENDED not processing the jars in a canner.  Once the sterilized jars are filled with jelly to 1/8" from the top, you just twist on the lids and turn them upside down for 5 minutes.  Once you turn them back right-side-up, just listen for that wonderful "ping" that lets you know they've sealed.  

So . . . listen.   I tried it yesterday, and . . . 

lean in . . . .

(you promised not to tell, right??) . . . 


Every jar sealed beautifully.

I didn't love the particular recipe I tried, so I'm not reposting it today, but once I've got a good recipe to use with this, I'll let you know.  This sealing business is BIG news, guys, BIG news.