Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Living Without- a Russian Family

The story of this family is so amazing, I had to share it.  Russian Family Lives Without Human Contact for 40 Years.  Talk about living off the grid!  There is a link at the bottom of the story to a video documentary - it is in Russian, however.  Makes me wish I knew Russian so I could understand what they were saying!  It is three parts.

Enjoy this piece of unique history!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Household Experiment: Nesting Box Curtains

Recently, we realized that our poor Poppy is no longer just molting - she is being picked on. We've noted in the past that several of the girls are not real tolerant of others being in the nesting box when they want to settle in to have their egg; despite there being two boxes, everyone MUST use the one nesting box.

Past week or so, one or the other of us has found an egg mid floor in the coop when going to turn off their light at night. (The girls have taken to part of them laying during the morning, the rest in the late afternoon.)

So I decided to try this tip I've seen various places about the internet - a curtain over the front of the nesting boxes to give privacy and keep others from picking on them.

So I took some heavier scrap fabric and nailed it over the opening of the favorite box and left the other box open.  I cut the fabric into strips so they can get in and out easily.  This experiment is both short and long term - the short term is  whether they will use the curtained box, or switch to a new favorite.  The long term is to see if they will leave the nesting chicken alone if they cannot see her, and possibly go to the other box.

Of course, it is also to help miss Poppy stop getting her feathers pulled out.

So, we'll see tomorrow how many eggs are in which box!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

It Only Takes a Little Power Outage...

To make you realize you've forgotten some things. Like light.

Today was a very typical January day for this part of the mountain - windy as all get out.  Last January, a heavy wind on a warm day lifted a section of our roofing and peeled it back like it was a banana!  Our roof is a low pitch, rolled roof, and with quickness of movement and thought, use of some boards and decking screws, and the roof was stopped.  A large pail of roofing glue in a high wind is NOT fun - my boots still bear the tarry marks, not to mention the clothes we were wearing.  But a roof rapidly fixed is one saved.

Trees coming down in this type of wind is also rather common; we lost a couple last year, and our power outage was due to a tree down on the line.  And it was this late afternoon outage that made me realize that while i had the lamps from my grandfather's house, the wicks were who knows how old, and I'd put the last of the oil in our first lamp the last time the power went out. (That time it was due to a squirrel who decided that transformers were just the thing for lunch - one loud bang and the smell of burnt fur was convincing to the other squirrels in the area to leave transformers alone.)

So an unloading of my car (I'll explain that in another post), loading of all the wood boxes, and a trip to the hardware store.  Of course, when we returned, the power was back on, but now three of the four oil lamps are ready - a trimming of the wick for one,  new wicks and a fill for the next two.  Only one remains unready, but it needs a special mantle to work.

Another step towards preparedness made.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

History in Ruins: Pictoral Views of What Once Was

As you may have figured out from one of my other blog posts, I like old places.  I like seeing the buildings, going through them, looking at the architecture- inside and out.  I like ruins,  I wish I could fix up so many buildings to be what they used to be.

Tonight, I found a blog full of pictures of places I will likely never get to go, but full of my favorite kind of pictures.

I share a few links with you from it.

Parisian Apartment Locked for 70 years Opened for the First Time

Shameful French History Made Public

Pictures of Detroit Ruins

Detroit - Then and Now

The last intrigues me, because a few years ago, a book like this on Colorado came out.  It made me happy to see so many historic pictures paired with a modern picture, and to see very little change. The book is called "Colorado: 1870 and 2000".  Beautiful work.

This blog, Messy Nessy, has a ton of "related" pages to look at - and a button on the right hand side that says "related" to see more stuff just like this.  I've not even looked at the other pages, I so caught up in the photography and ruins.


Calcium for Chickens - Free!

Laying hens need extra calcium in their diets to help make the shells on their eggs come out thick enough,  Commercial feeds tend to have extra calcium, but if you make your own feed, or let the chickens free range most of the time, they will need a supplement.

Now, you can buy bags of oyster grit at your local feed store; my chickens don't like it because the lumps are so big- and maybe they don't taste good either. ( I don't know - I haven't licked any). Either way, my hens ignore them.

Did you know you had a free source of calcium for them right in your own house? This!

That's right, your egg shells!  Find a container to put them in, ad save your shells!  Now I live in what is considered a high mountain desert area; shells dry very quickly, so I don't tend to rinse them out.  But of you live in a more humid climate, you will want to rinse your shells clean and let them dry on the counter before putting them in the container.  As you can see, I leave the container open to the air. When the container gets full - like this one obviously is - it's time to bake the shells.

Set your oven at 240 degrees and let it warm to temp.  Get a cookie sheet with a lip and spread the eggshells out on the sheet - like this:

Place the cookie sheet in the oven for 7-10 minutes - you will be able to smell them baking when they are pretty much done.  Your shells, coming out of the oven, should look like this:

Not a huge amount of difference, but your shells should look brownish where membrane of moisture remained.  If your white or blue eggshells start looking brown, you've kept them in too long.  Since each oven is different, experiment with yours until you get them looking just right.

Once the eggshells have cooled, crush them up into small bits - they don't have to be a fine powder, but get them into small pieces.  This can be hard on your hands, so what we do is throw them in a container and use a meat mallet to break them up.

Then just scatter them on the ground or in the feed dish - they chickens will eat them up.

Simple, free and easy calcium.

Since free ranging chickens also need more protein in the winter time - fewer or no bugs to eat, no matter how they scratch in the yard - eggs are also your solution to get them that extra protein.  And you can kill two birds, metaphorically, with one pan.

Find your oldest frying pan, and make them scrambled eggs. However, instead of breaking the eggs and putting the shells aside, toss the whole thing in.  As you cook it, you will break the shells up more and more. Cook the eggs thoroughly, let them cool til just warm, and put them in a pie tin or other dish you don't mind being out with the chickens, and let them at it.  They will eat every bite!

We do the same things with hard boiled eggs - smash the whole egg down on a plate, shell and all, and then chop it up to about 1/4 inch sized bites.  Put it in a dish, set it out for the chickens and stand back - you will get run over.

As simple and frugal solution to helping your chickens get what they need.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Museums, Cemeteries and Abandoned Buildings

My job starts again next week, and as part of my job, I do travel around the state a bit - sometimes for the day, sometimes overnight trips. When I do, I take the camera. You never know what you will find of interest.  To me, most often, it's abandoned buildings, museums, and cemeteries.  So, be prepared to see a lot of those kind of pictures - some this spring, a great deal more in the summer and fall.

To give you  a taste, here's some from locally, taken today on my way to the next town up when I went to do the wash.

Oh and sad that I have to say this, but these are MY pictures, MY work.  Don't take them. Don't use them without asking. Don't assume permission for all if I grant it to you for one. You may not realize it, but not only are these copywritten, each digital picture contains a tag from the camera that took it.  I have that camera, and I will come after those who take my pictures,  in as aggressively legal a manner as deemed necessary.  I do, however, encourage you to take pictures of these same places yourself - you may have a whole new angle that I do not.  If I don't tell you where the picture is taken, feel free to ask. Exploring is fun, thievery is not.

When I was in high school and college, this was a working ice cream stand.  Sadly, I don't remember ever stopping there - we were always in a hurry to get to back to school, or it was night, or like a lot of ice cream stands back then, it was seasonal, so driving past on the way home Thanksgiving, Christmas or Spring break ensured there was no ice cream to be had.  It has been cleaned up quite a bit in the past year; it used to be full of junk.  Maybe someone is reconsidering opening it again.

At one time, this area was heavily slated for tourism. After the fox farms closed their doors and let the foxes go,the area was empty except a few ranchers and die hard miners. Then, after World War II, this area became full of "subdivisions" meant for small summer cabins, and a lot of roadside hotels and cabin complexes sprung up. The subdivision idea was defeated by people who bought up 2, 3,5 lots or more and built in the middle of that, making a lot of the "neighborhoods" look haphazard and unplanned.  After that, a lot of these cabins were rented long term as this became less of a vacation spot and more of a home. In the early 80s, these were still in decent shape.  As you can see, that is no longer the case.

The roadside chimney. Been there so long, no one remembers when there was a house with it.  And honestly, the hill is rather steep for a house, but that didn't stop people. Someone tried to tell me that was once the stage stop.  Untrue - the actual stage stop is two miles down the road, though that building is long gone.

Just some other pictures.

Did I say cemeteries and museums too?  Well, I took some museum pictures today as well, but I'll save that for another post.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Warm(ish) Weather, The Light Method, and Egg Count

After a week of very cold temperatures for here, ones where I had to put a heater in the garage just to keep it moderately cold, we're in the 40s again for daytime temps - a pretty standard thing for this area, this time of year.

the chickens love it- back to several hours outside a day, lots of dusting.  The silly things all found the "Perfect" spot yesterday, and all tried to dust in it at the same time.  If you've never seen a chicken dust, they lay over in a wallow of dirt, flap their wings to throw dirt around and onto their backs, stretch their wings and tails out to the sun, and get this look on their faces that's a cross between beatitude and stupification.  You can pretty well do anything to my chickens when they are in this state; it's how one go stepped on in November by the mostly blind dog!  All is well there - Pip was a bit startled and came to sit by me for a while after the offended madam jumped up and squawed in her face, and then proceeded to stomp around the yard bellowing, her ego the only thing hurt.

So happy chickens the past two days; sadly nothing green poking out in the run, but a great deal of dusting, and pecking and scratching has been had.

So happy have they been, that today EVERY chicken laid an egg. All seven birds, even the one who has not laid in over a month due to her molting.  Now that her feathers are growing back in quite well, she decided to give it a go,  Just like when they started laying, the egg was rather small and had a trace of blood on it.  The chicken is quite fine - she was checked - it's just what happens sometimes when the vent isn't used to having an egg squeezed out of it.  Seven eggs.  We've not seen that since early November, when it was warm then too.

But the warmth has nothing to do with it.  What matters is the LIGHT.  Chickens lay a lot in the later spring, summer and fall. Why? Because the days are long in terms of sunlight. Chickens are used to 12-14 hours of sunlight.  If left to their own, during the darker time of year, there will be fewer eggs and sometimes no eggs at all.

The way to combat that is what I've been calling the light method.  You put a light on in their coop to emulate a summer light cycle.  The light goes on around 6 am, stay on until 6 pm or later.  Now, you DO have to give them the cycle of darkness too.  If you do not, they get weird, and will not settle down on their roosts to sleep.  How we've been doing it here is light on early morning, off when the sunlight is coming in through their windows, and then the light goes on about 4 pm.  Since they are in the coop in the garage, we have the light inside the coop, and the light in the garage.  When I turn off the light inside the coop, I leave the light in the garage on for about a half hour so they have enough light to move about the coop, get settled for the night. I come in, check to see if they are all settled, tell then goodnight, and the garage light goes off.

This method has been effective.  This week, we've had four or five eggs everyday - until today, when we got seven.  That's pretty good for only seven hens! That is fall numbers for us.

So if you have hens that aren't laying like you would like them to, give them some more light.

Tomorrow, we shall try the front/side yard free ranging again while I give the coop a good cleaning - last time we were out of the fence, that did not turn out so well for one of our girls.  Since we want to keep the seven we have now, I think the dogs will get to come out to play as well.  They're good with our chickens - Pip follows them because she wants to lick them and treat them like puppies - and the other two will guard them.

Wish us luck! Maybe we'll even have a spare human out on guard duty getting some sun too.  I'll also put the Christmas tree down for the hens - several people have said chickens will eat the needles - I'm curious to see if that is true of these girls.

They've Got Us Surrounded!

Sounds ominous, doesn't it? Those of you who read the Facebook page are wondering just what I mean, because I've said NOTHING about this at all today - it's been a rather normal day - what does she mean??


The weather is warmer again, some of the plants have a bit of sap flowing, and the deer are all over our yard.  No fences, except the chicken stockade and the dog run, so it's an easy wander through our yard, and on to other places.

This close to the house.  Go ahead, ladies - eat that bush so I don't have to clear it -I hate those bushes.  They usually get this close and closer to the house, but the dogs were i the run trying to be intimidating.  Note to dogs - barking with your head up and tail wagging? NOT intimidating.  The deer know it too, and ignored you.

There must be fresh green stuff at the base of these bushes.

This girl was originally eating the mistletoe out of the tree. Good.

Right off the front deck.

A little better prespective - I'm standing with my back against the front door.

Yes, we're over here too. When you gonna take those Christmas lights down?

A couple videos as well.

They were accompanied by a couple of youngish bucks - a four pointer and a two pointer.  Those guys scouted us out yesterday afternoon.  One of the deer was in front of the garage eating the scratch from the last time the chickens had been out front.  The two pointer has a broken antler, and since he's hanging out with the girls, I'm going to assume he won the mating battle.

In total, we counted eight, though they were spread out and they could have been on the other side of the rise in our neighbors yard, or across the road.

Normal day, this time of year.  Doesn't stop us from getting the cameras out though.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Discussion About Copyright

Apparently, then needs to be said once again. A fellow blogger and chicken fan, The Chicken Chick, has had some of her work stolen and posted on someone else's blog, verbatim.  This is not how we help each other, folks.  The Chicken Chick spends a great deal of time on the articles she writes, comes at them from an informed place, and writes so that the articles are easily understood even by a chicken beginner.

I like her work.  I have posted links to her blog on my affiliated Facebook page, I have tried out a recipe of hers and linked right back to her page.  I have her here in the links. She does something I don't do.

This happens to other people too -  I've had it happen to me.Folks, this is NEVER cool or acceptable. People put time and energy and often a great deal of research into their writing. That makes it theirs. Just because it is on the internet does NOT mean it is public domain- the writer still retains ALL copyright over that work.

Share links to people's work - go ahead and do that all day long. It helps the author, because many of us are earning at least a little income from our work. Post it on your Facebook pages, put the link in your blog, write a short blurb about the article. But RESPECT THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR AND DO NOT CLAIM THE WORK AS YOUR OWN.

I've had my own work stolen before, and it sucks. Know that if I see you have stolen someone else's work, I will report you to the original author and the management of your blog. The blog sites uphold DMCA, and so do I.

Enjoy our work, share our work, but don't steal our work. Thanks.

Edit: In case you don't know what DMCA is, it's the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.  Follow the link to read up on it. It is a PDF, you will need a reader for it.

Monday, January 14, 2013

40 Free Mostly Classic Books in Ebook Form - 1/14/12

While perusing this evening, I found a number of classic books that are free TODAY in Ebook form. Since most of these books are converted from print by a community of volunteers to get historical and classic books out to the public, they will likely be available a while longer, but I would get the ones you want as soon as you can.

Not all the books are classics; I did slip some history in here as well.

I thought I'd share:

Les Miserables

The Complete Sherlock Holmes

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Grimm's Fairy Tales

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Jane Eyre

Pride and Prejudice

The Art of War by Sun Zi

The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

The Valley of Wild Horses By Zane Grey  (OK, not offically a classic, but Zane Grey!)

Free Air By Sinclair Lewis

The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne

Dante's Divine Comedy

The Night Before Christmas and Other Popular Stories for Children

My Experiences in a Lunatic Asylum by a Sane Patient by Herman Melville

The Einstein Theory of Relativity

The Ethics of Aristotle

The Secret Garden

Wuthering Heights

Charles Dickens' Children Stories

A Christmas Carol

Anna Karenina

The Mysteries of Freemasonry

Little Women

Crime and Punishment by Dosteyevsky

Dracula by Bram Stoker

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Glinda of Oz

The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde

Common Sense by Thomas Paine

Persuasion by Jane Austen

The Confessions of St. Augustine

The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

The Legend of King Arthur and His Knights

Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson

Paradise Lost by Milton

It's a NINE Chicken Day!

I was originally going to say it was a two chicken day, but that doesn't have the flair and drama that saying it is a nine chicken day does. And, after all, I did deal with nine chickens today - only seven are still quite alive.

After finishing up that soap experiment, I now had a very clean and empty pan. Since it is still rather cold up here, soup is in order.

Now, I make soup a little oddly for some people - It's a two day or more deal here.  For example - today, I started chicken soup. That means a whole chicken came out of the freezer and went into the pot with a lot of water, to cook at medium temperature for the next couple of hours.  Later, this pot is going to go in the fridge until tomorrow, when I will cook it a few more hours, and then take the chicken out.  By that point, the chicken should be falling off the bones, making it easy to clean.  I will season the broth, add some onions and carrots and whatever other vegetable strikes me for this pot, and it will be ready for the evening meal.  Since tomorrow is supposed to be cold but not as cold, that will work just fine.

I will also have an attentive audience waiting for the skin and what meal bits I decide are unfit for the soup - very attentive.  This is them as I cleaned off the turkey carcass at Christmas:

Chicken number two went straight into the crock pot for dinner tonight - and it's a big one! I don't have a small crock pot, but this chicken filled it.  Daughter, who works as a baker at the store, said it was the smallest one available. A little Tarragon, a little Marjoram, and dinner will cook itself - my main effort is done.  Since it was noon, a pizza was sacrificed to the oven gods for all to enjoy 20 minutes later.
See what I mean? Big chicken!

My main work of the day was done.  After lunch, it was time to let the girls outside - the live seven!  It was up to a whole 13 degrees, but as I opened the coop, out they trotted to the yard to happily peck and scratch and apparently dust.

I checked the nesting boxes and found FIVE eggs today! The most at any given time since the cold of winter has set in! I think part of it was because it was so cold, their heat lamp was on at 6 am yesterday, and then on and off throughout the day until around 9 pm. The day before, we'd had it on several hours as well. It gives off a lot of light, and not as much heat as expected - but we did do it on and off so that they did not get over warm, since that is detrimental to their health as well. Proof that 12+ hours of light does increase their laying.

New feed, fresh water, cabbage, and the girls happily come in when called.  Only one was slow, so I went back to the run to get her. As I'm standing there in the sunlight, I can see the next storm front moving along to the west.  It was too far north to hit us, but there, sparkling in the sun, were teeny flakes of snow, just drifting here and there. Just a few. I get the last chicken, and note she's covered in dirt.  I have to pick her up and put her in through the chicken TV sliding window, since the door is shut with everyone else inside and I have no desire to play chase the chickens in order to get one chicken in. And she decides to flap her wings.  Lucky me, I've gotten a dust bath too.

Bring in more firewood, and settle in to write for you fine folks today.  Later will be a lovely chicken dinner, some more time crocheting, and an overall nice evening at home.

Hope you all have a wonderful evening!

Household Experiment: Homemade Liquid Soap, Part Two

Back to the soap making. Now, the other evening, when I first started the soap making, I went downstairs and checked on it - and it looked like this:

A solid, gelatinous mass, akin to that corn starch "playdough" kids make in school. Everyone poked at it yesterday before I started; I flipped the piece over and because of the oatmeal in it, the bottom side looked a lot like congealed cream of wheat.

You weren't hungry, were you?

So I follow the next and supposed to be final step - heat it again while adding water - a lot of water. I added 18 cups of water, stirred it up, was worried it was a bit thin, but put in back in the basement again to cool.  Around 9 pm, I stop and look at it, and I am dismayed - now I have a double sized batch of gelatinous mass!  AHHH!  I stuck my hand it, and started mixing it around. It is actually, once you got the surface stirred in, more like running your hands through too thick slimy pudding - there's lumps and clots that I'm breaking up with my hand. and I'm not happy.  I rinsed my hand off only to be happily surprised - no residue, no slime.  But I had enough of messing with it for the night, I decide to wait til morning.

This is it before I add even more water - looks appealing, doesn't it?  But wait, if you aren't grossed out by that, I have VIDEO!  

This morning, I bring the pan up and add more water. But instead of reheating it, I add hot water - enough to bring us to a total of 30 cups of water for this second stage in the soap making. I stick my arm in it again, and mix it around to get the water through and the lumps broken up.  I'm still not thrilled with it, but it is more like a soft soap consistency now, the pan is full nearly to the top, and I want my pan back - it's make soup day.

And then failure starts. I have the clean bottles to put it in - recycled plastic two quart juice bottles with twist on lids - I have the funnel, but trying to do it with the ladle is an utter failure.  It is still clumpy and slimy, and more sticks to itself and runs out of the ladle than I can get to the funnel and into the bottle!

I resort to using the bath tub. If there's a possibility that this is going to make a bigger mess, I want it in a easy clean up place.  I also resort to a large measuring cup, which has similar problems, but does get more of it into the bottles.  I also put some into the soft soap dispenser that we've have hiding in a cupboard for years, in order to actually try it out.  Once I get it in the dispenser and put the lid on, I shook the hell out of it to make sure it was well mixed.

As I watched it glug and slime into the bottles, I was not impressed.  But I am not ready to call it a failure.

In the end, tub was the right call, I have almost 10 full quarts of this liquid soap, and the CLEANEST pan in town!  Cleanup was actually rather easy - just a use of the sprayer head and all was clean.

I have had the family try it out - daughter complained that it did not foam up when she washed her hands; I pointed out that soap did not foam up that much in bar form either. She declared it usable.  I found that with this old dispenser it does take 3 pumps to get enough on my hands to actually wash, but no residue.  However, it does leave my hands feeling dry.

So let's grade this experiment  on a scale of one through ten - One being a total failure, Ten a total success.

Ease of Doing - I'd say a 7.
Time Spent - 4 - took a lot of time with the cooling periods.
Overall Desired Results Achieved - 5.  I'm taking a neutral stance on it for now, with the idea of using some of this bottled product to do more experiments with in the future.  For now, it achieves the goal - it is usable, we can wash out hands with it.

My dad, watching me do the second phase yesterday afternoon, suggested adding some aloe into it.  Since I have a huge aloe plant, I think we will experiment with some of it that way.

If anyone tries this with their own soap scraps, let me know what brand of soap you used and what your success was. I am curious to know if one soap is better than the other.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Basics of Firemaking

The liquid soap making is on phase two, but since it is still cooling, I cannot report its success or failure to you yet.  Instead, I thought I'd write about another important skill to have  - Fire making.

Several years ago, I wrote an article on the basics of firemaking, as was demonstrated at the Littleton Museum.  I have a great video with it, but somewhere along the way, the video has been lost.  So, since I cannot share that with you, I have wandered about the internet to find you relevant articles and videos on fire making - banking a fire, starting from tinder, other ways to start a fire when you have no matches.

Banking a fire - very useful in a woodstove or fireplace, helps you make sure that you can easily restart yesterday's fire rapidly.  This is how our ancestors used to do it, and it doesn't hurt us either. This article talks about banking a fire in a fireplace.

Now, most of us have a wood stove - or would like one - so banking the fire in a wood stove is similar.  The difference is closing the vents almost completely- not the chimney flue, that will lead to smoke in the house - and have that reserve of coals built up and in the ash.

Other methods include using flint and steel, or a coal with charcloth or other tinder.

This video is about how to make char cloth.

In a bind?  How to make a fire using cattails

This is making your own fire starting kit to carry in your pocket.

Living History School on You Tube has a whole bunch of great videos on a number of topics - you should check them out.

Here's a little different approach - no flint and steel? No coals? How about a 9 volt battery and steel wool?

Here's a funny story from someone on how not to build a fire in the wood stove.

So, I hope this helps you all to get an idea on how to start a fire, bank a fire, and things you can carry with you for fire starting.

Even on this cold, cold day, the girls gave us four eggs.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Household Experiment: Homemade Liquid Soap, Part One

For a while now, I've been saving the ends of the bars of soap - you know those pieces; too small to hold well, annoying to use in the shower, easier to get a new bar of soap.

But to throw them out is a waste, right?  Well, I tried using soap savers - these cool crocheted net things that you stick in tiny pieces in and you use the whole thing to scrub with.  My grandmother used to make these, and when I was a little kid, I found them the most awesome way to take a bath. So I made one, but they weren't popular here.

So I started looking for recipes to make new bars out of the old. I have yet to find one, but I did find a recipe to make liquid soap.  The one I found calls for using bars of Ivory soap, but when I shared the recipe around, I got the advice that the liquid soap it made was rather slimy and got everywhere when you tried to use it.

Now, we use Yardley Oatmeal and Almond soap - mainly because it has been the most effective soap, and didn't irritate our skin - a problem when the kids were little.  It's also only a dollar a bar at Dollar Tree, so it is worth it to keep using it.

So the liquid soap experiment begins.  The first part is to gather all the scrap bars.  I have a bag full, so we used about 1/4 of them.

Next part is to grate the soap,  Now, grating soap is not a new thing for a homesteader.  Back in the 1800s and early 1900s, if you weren't using soap you made yourself, and if you bought specialized laundry soap, it still came in bar form.  To wash clothes, you would grate some of the soap off into a pot of hot or boiling water.  It gives the same effect that you will see in process of making liquid soap - foamy, foamy, foamy!

This part is time consuming.  My lovely husband volunteered about an hour and a half of his time to grate most of the soap bits for me!

Here it is, all grated up.  Next, get a large pot you can easily reach into - I used my largest stock pot.  This, however, is where I started eyeballing and guessing. Looking at the amount of soap powder now in the bowl, I figured that at most it was equal to 1 1/2 full sized bars.  Now, the original recipe called for 12 cups of water into the pan; I started with eight.

Into the pan it goes, and the water is set on high.  The idea is to mix in the soap flakes and boil the water until all the soap is dissolved, while at the same time whisking it to make sure it stays mixed.  This is where life gets foamy.  I judged that the mixture was a little thick, so I added another 2 cups of water.  I got out a gravy ladle to check the mixture - I couldn't see through the foam, so I'd stop whisking and and push the foam aside, and scoop some of the liquid up.

All in all, this process took less than 10 minutes before it looked all smooth and dissolved to me.

See? Foamy, foamy, foamy!  

And this is where it becomes a two part experiment - this needs to sit overnight.  So I will be taking it to the basement to sit, cool and thicken, and tomorrow finish part two.


Egg count today was three, and boy howdy was it cold!  Some of the chickens had to be forced to go outside for a bit- we literally had to pick them up and put them out.  Coop got a quick cleaning so that they could come back in sooner.  They were not happy campers. 

Current temperature as the sun starts to set? 12 degrees, with a feels like -4. Tonight expected to get down to - 8.  Winter is back in full force.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Storm That Wasn't, Lemon Cake and a Find

I have been cooking since 3:30 pm.  It's now quarter after six, and I'm still cooking.  Of course, for me, cooking involves a lot of different things.

I be honest, I probably started cooking around 11;30 am, when I decided the water tank was full enough to run the dishwasher and wash the pans.  We live on a low yield well, and that makes things interesting sometimes.

Today, I finished the Lemon Cake.  The zest I'd already grated had been in the freezer, the zested lemons in the fridge; it still took six more lemons to get it all right.

In the middle of zesting lemons, I did other things.  I put the chickens outside for their daily run about, realized how cold it was, gathered eggs, put out fresh water and food for the chickens, cut up some cabbage and then brought the chickens back in, who happily came- even Baby, the one who likes to stay out the longest.  No fights, no protestations, just in the coop which was much nicer than outside.

Now that seems like a coherent list, until you realize I would zest a lemon, then go do something else. Then zest another lemon, go do something else. It's how I do a lot of cooking.  In fact, I'm doing it right now - the chicken breasts are defrosting in the microwave while the broccoli cooks for the chicken broccoli on rice we'll be having for dinner, upon special request.

And then I went on a search for the juicer.  Several years back, I was collecting antique, but useful, dishes The house still has many of my blue Fire King pans and dishes in it - a few I kept because of how rare they are, the rest I kept to use.  My husband had inherited a refrigerator water bottle in a design called "criss cross", so I  collected that too.  After being here a year, I decided it was time to clean the stuff out.  Part of the criss cross set was two juicers - a large and a small.  Over the years, I've sold off most of the stuff - the water bottle stayed, of course, and several pieces.  What I didn't sell was in a box.  Now, I started on the box I thought they were in, only to find other things I'd forgotten existed.  So I went to the box in the garage, and found not only the juicer but the bowl set, and a lot of refrigerator dishes.  I think that the refrigerator dishes will be coming back in the house.
Juicer found and in use!
Juicer found, several other treasures found, the sink refilled with dishes to wash, I juiced the lemons, and mixed the cake. Batter test by everyone in the house declared it GOOD.
Look at those fresh eggs! That's real egg color!

In the pans and ready to bake!
As the cakes baked, the find was discovered by my daughter.  In addition to the dishes I'd brought upstairs, there were two recipe boxes, picked up a few years ago, full of recipes. They'd been in the box of dishes too. She sat down at the counter and decided it was time to go through them.  She found treasures like "Deviled Ham Pops"  and many "one pan" meals.  So finished cooking for the moment, I sat with her and we went through them all, sticking them in categories.

Some were in a field all their own, like the recipe to make your own salami. Some were typed, some handwritten in pen and pencil, some culled from the newspapers, giving us a date range of mid 1940s to the early 1950s, though some were clearly marked as "mom's recipe" and even "grandma's recipe".  The hardest part is going to be deciphering the handwriting on some of the ones written in pencil- they are rather faded. The ones on pink paper will be the hardest.
The stacks of recipes
So back into the boxes they go for now, for us to look through again, decode and even try.  We might even create a recipe book out of them.

This drink mix packet was in among the recipes, because it has recipes on the back.
The lemon cakes are out of the oven, have cooled the requisite time, and the lemon syrup has been drizzled in.  The recipe states that they should be taken out of the pan and then drizzled, but I decided these are much like making Jello Cake, so in the pan they will stay until the syrup is all absorbed, and they are fully cool. Then they shall be glazed with a lemon glaze.  (I'll admit I licked the spoon after drizzling the syrup -  WOW! was that lemony!)

I have left one cake un-syruped, so that we can decide if this is something more for the everyday that we may like.
The finished product!

Cakes have now been taste tested by husband and myself, and WOW! is that lemony. And super rich- one small slice was almost too much for mys stomach to take - it started a small ache!  Half slices from now on.

As for the storm that didn't happen - it was an on and off snow morning.  I'll demonstrate in pictures and video.  Over all, less than half an inch accumulation, and by noon, all was sunny and bright and windy -and cold.

The view out front at 9:30 am.  

The view out back right about the same time - you may be able to tell that it's sunny near the house, but in the distance...

And five minutes later, literally - Out front:

Out Back

And then back to sunny skies! Welcome to the mountains!

Egg count today was three. 

No soap today - spent too much time cleaning up and messing up the kitchen. Tomorrow!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Getting Ready for the Snow

Today, we spend some time doing some of the outdoor things that needed to be finished in order to get ready for Winter Storm Gandalf. Why is it called Gandalf? I'm not exactly sure, even though tried to explain it.  This storm has been talked up as a big deal; but looking at the weather maps, we'll be lucky if we see 3 inches of snow.

Oh well, the chores needed to be done anyway.  It was cloudy most of the day, and one of those days where the temperature keeps fluctuating up and down; It was cold but not too bad when I went out to stack wood, but when husband went out to clean the dog run it was much colder! And then, when it came time to let the chickens out, suddenly warmer again! I got the woodboxes filled full anyway, and the rack outside the door out of the snow blow area is full, just in case it is needed.

I was a day of stoking the woodstove, and making creamy wheats to fill our bellies and keep us warm. Dinner came in the form of a very large package of chicken thighs,cooked with just some salt and pepper, stuffing and peaches. Enough leftovers for a few more meals, just as with the cabbage rolls.

It's amazing how much the weather can change in so short a time - just yesterday, husband and I went out and about, enjoying the warm weather - over 50 degrees and sunny.  Today, mainly cloudy in the 30s, to go down even more overnight.

The chickens noted the weather change as well - they happily spent longer than normal out yesterday afternoon pecking and scratching, but today, they were ready to come in after just an hour.  When they stand at the door and peck at it, you know it's time to come in.

Four eggs yesterday, and four today - a wintertime record so far! I don't know if it was helped by a couple days of warmer weather, or by the fruits and veggies we've been giving them to supplement their regular diets (strawberry tops and fresh cabbage) but either way, we'll gratefully take the eggs.  Feather regrowth after the molt is going splendidly; Bird Flu looks more like a porcupine than ever!

Some of the seeds I planted for the "chicken salad" chicken treat have already sprouted. I don't know how well you can see them, but here's a picture:

Our tin can garden is going strong as well - the peas are climbing, and the tomatoes are getting much bigger.

We even have new pea sprouts just starting up out of the dirt - can you see them? The green in the front two cans!

I also started a granny square baby blanket today - it is one large square.  It's about 1/3 of the way done already - I may be finished tomorrow.

Aruba Sea, Perfect Pink and Lavender are the colors.  Is it for anyone specific? we'll see!  

I also mostly finished a small doll - the body is crocheted, but the face needs to be embroidered - I'll show you as soon as I finish her!

Tomorrow, we try recycling soap. I'll keep you up to date on the snow as well.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Free EBooks on Crafting, Sewing, Knitting, Crochet and Other Things - 1/9/13

This is a list of free ebooks you can download onto Kindle, items with a Kindle app, or do like I do - keep them in your Kindle Cloud.  For today, these books are free - I make no promises they will continue to be free, so please be sure to check the listing before you hit that purchase button!

Several of these are reprints of much older books on sewing, knitting, hat making - all kinds of good stuff. Sometimes the older the book is, the better it is.

Remember, I'm just a source, not the author of any of these books. If you don't like what you're reading - stop. I have not checked any of them for accuracy- just passing them along to you.

NOTE - Apparently, some necessary illustrations may be missing from some of these books in Ebook form.

ALSO, the links are being awfully weird in appearance today, but they still work.

Other Crafts

French Polishing and Enamelling A Practical Work of Instruction - 1910