Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Buenos Aires Bound!

I can't believe that in 2 days we will be in Buenos Aires, Argentina!  We've had our passports for 4 years, and are finally putting them to use outside of Mexico and Canada.  We've conquored lots of cities in the US of A and now it's time to explore other parts of the world!  I feel so lucky to be able to accompany Cam and be a part of Tales of the Cocktail on Tour.  It'll be nice to be in a foreign country and recognize familiar faces.  Tales has their annual event in New Orleans in July and since 2008 we've been turning Cam's work assignment into a mini NOLA vacation, and making some pretty cool bayou friends!  We arrive to Argentina on Saturday morning and will be attending seminars and amazing meals as part of Tales while Cam does the documenting and I do the eating and drinking ;)  The convention is over on Monday, and then we are on our own to relax and explore!  It's the end of summer, beginning of fall in Argentina, which south of the equator means 70 degree days! We've got a tango lesson under our belts, but I have a feeling we won't be doing much dancing.  My Poppa Bert arrives to Portland tomorrow to house sit and take care of the dogs, hens, and garden!  He'll probably head back to NY wearing overalls!

As excited as I am to explore new territory, I'm also really looking forward to getting back!  I love Portland and all that goes along with it. I love our simple house, our slim dogs, and our crazy chickens!  We'll only be gone for 10 days but I know when we get back we are going to notice many changes around the 'hood and in the garden.  My dad has visited once before and we had a lot of fun, but it was in the beginning of the year when things were cold, wet, dreary and dark!  There are so many outdoor things we can do with him when we get return.  This morning at 6:30am the sun was shining bright and it's not supposed to set until 8:08pm tonight.  It'll be nice to come home from a vacation to a few days of hanging out with Poppa Bert. 

See ya in May Portlandia!

Friday, April 12, 2013

April Showers bring May Flowers!

Spring Fever!

Spring is in the air! 
The days are getting longer, flowers and trees are blossoming, and the birds are singing at 6am!  I love having the windows open and listening to all of the sounds.  Cam and  I heard a woodpecker the other day - it was cute!
Garden Preparations!
Before we moved to Portland I read that for the most part you can think of the rain as being broken up into three categories.  4 months of constant rain, 4 months of equal parts rain and sunshine, and 4 months of constant sunshine with barely any rain.  We're in the 50/50 stretch right now for sure!  The mixture of rain and sun not only makes beautiful rainbows, but everything is coming alive and growing so quickly and lushly.  The lawn grows so fast it could be mowed every day, and the dandelions are growing like the weeds they are! ;)  The plum tree is blossoming, the dogwood tree is blooming, and the sunflower and poppy seeds that we planted are starting to sprout...I LOVE IT! 

Friday, February 22, 2013

"Making It"

I enjoy all of the seasons but Autumn has always been my favorite, followed by Spring, Summer then Winter.  Having lived in Portland for a little over a year now I have to say I enjoy them all equally! I'm definitely getting a little "cabin fever" and the occasional sunshine and nice weather, although a tease, has me really excited to start planning the garden!  I want to start right now (because the sun is out) but last year I started seeds indoors a little too early and none of them made it. 
Homemade bars of Soap, "rebatched" soap in molds
Winter's the perfect time to be lazy and snuggle up on the couch and gear up for the exciting months ahead. Although the days are cold and dark (and super short!) I've been keeping myself busy with plenty of homesteading projects.   I've been "making" soap for the past year - and by that I mean melting down pre-made bars of soap, adding essential oils, color, and exfoliants (oatmeal, crushed almonds, etc.) and pouring them into my own molds.  I have a book called "Making It" that has the recipe for making soap the "real" way.  Cam and I looked like we were filming an episode of Breaking Bad the first time we made, it wearing goggles and rubber gloves!  The bars seem to be a success but won't be ready to test for four weeks.  Right now they are still chemically changing and would be too harsh on our skin.  When they're done I can melt them down and do what I have been doing but the result will be completely homemade soap.  So if the zombies attack come find me if you want to clean up ;)
I've also been making all of our own cleaning products such as laundry detergent, dish soap, window cleanser, floor cleanser.  I've tried making homemade essential oils from our own dried lavender, and one of my latest winter projects has been homemade lip balm and muscle salve.  I really enjoy playing with the recipes and testing my creations!  I hope one day to not have to follow any instructions. 
For Christmas, Rebekka and Damien gave us a cheese making kit so that has started us on a whole new venture!  We were set on making "Farmhouse Cheddar" but decided to start with a simpler, "Frommage Blanc" when we realized how complicated the cheddar was.  We've been experimenting with it but for the most part it's super easy - slowly heat milk to 86 degrees, add cheese cultures and let sit for 12 hours at room temperature. After that you just ladle the curd into cheese cloth and hang dry for 4-8 hours.  It's a very versatile cheese similar to a sour cream or cream cheese (depending on how long you dry it). The problem we have been running into is that the milk me buy at the store is homogenized so you have to play with different ratios of whole milk and heavy cream to compensate for it, which has proven to be a bit tricky.  Instead of a gallon of milk yielding 2lbs of cheese, we've only been getting about a cup of the finished product - but it's SO GOOD!  I'm taking a 
Mozzarella and Ricotta making class next week so I hope to be a semi-pro after that!

Overall we're just trying to live a simpler lifestyle.  Why buy it when you can grow it, or make it on your own.  We like knowing what's in our food and where it comes from.  For Superbowl we were making a french onion dip and started looking at the ingredients in the dry packet mix.  It was a ton of stuff we couldn't pronounce.  I went on the good ole' internet and quickly found a recipe to make our own "dry" ranch and french onion mix.  It was a hit at the party.  We've added it to our homemade cheese a couple times and it's definitely quite the accomplishment to eat it knowing that we made it from scratch ourselves!  Homemade Italian Dressing is on our list, so is homemade bread!  But mostly I'm just so excited to start playing in the garden again!


Breaking Bad!
LayLa dustbathing dreaming of summer


Friday, February 1, 2013

February already! 2012

The first day of February has brought beautiful weather.  Although I usually enjoy a cloudy day with rain, today's sunshine is getting me excited for the spring and I'm eager to start planning the garden!  With Shelldon gone, the hens are happily sun bathing and the yard is mostly quiet except for the normal cooing and clucking of the ladies.  Slim and Stan are building up the courage to go back out in the backyard without the fear of the rooster coming and pecking them in the behind!  What an experience having a rooster was!  I hope that one of the hens goes broody again soon, this way we can try all over again.  Pete from the farm store said they just got in some Cream Legbar hens and will be expecting baby chicks in a couple of months. 
"The Cream Legbar is an autosexing type of chicken. This means that you can tell the sex of the chick at hatch, and they breed true. The Cream Legbar originated as a cross between Brown Leghorns and Barred Rock with some Araucana blood in them."

So a guaranteed hen - and they lay blue eggs!  Very appropriate too because they are a mix of LayLa's breed with a little bit of Shelldon's blood. I hope the timing works out! 

Cream LegBar Hen
Cream Legbars lay only blue eggs!
It's hard to say if the chickens know that Shelldon is gone.  Today they went about their business but last night EggBerta was the last one in the run at night and I believe she was looking for her "son".  The rooster was always the last one in for the night making sure his ladies were safe and sound.  I'm looking forward to visiting him next week, but overall I'm happy that he's gone and glad that he is in a safe place where he can happily live his days!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Being a farmer ain't easy!

I love my chickens.  I'm probably a little too attached, lets be honest!  Martini, Layla, and EggBerta hold an extra special place in my heart since they are my first "flock" of hens, and we raised them in a refrigerator box in our spare bedroom from 3 days old.  So you could imagine my horror when Shelldon the rooster "mated" with Layla today, fiercely chasing her and biting her neck, ripping out feathers and leaving a huge bald spot on her.  It was quite traumatic - and I wasn't even there I just heard about it from Cameron.  I love all of the chickens differently but just yesterday I was remarking how Layla is the perfect image of a "Mother Hen".  She is (very) round, and pretty and just a simple creature.  She goes with the flow and grazes on the lawn and minds her own business.  She is friendly and kind.  The perfect target for Shelldon.
Yesterday, with a crop full of oatmeal!

 We planned on driving out to Estacada, OR to a chicken rehabilitation farm called Oregon Peeps next Tuesday.  Pete, the owner, also works at The Urban Farm Store where we got all of our chickens, but Cam and I thought it would be a fun day trip to drive Shelldon to the actual farm and see where he'd be spending his days.  I also wasn't quite ready to say goodbye to him because he's funny to have around, although lately becoming a nuisance with his crowing, and chasing the dogs, and overall "cocky" attitude.  I figured a few more days with him would be perfect.  But when Cam sent me a picture of LayLa after the "mate" and told me what had gone down I was angry!  I know that it's nature, but these are my baby girls!  He put LayLa in the coop and closed the door to the run because Shelldon was relentless and kept chasing her.  When I came home I barely said "hello" to the dogs and ran out to the run.  Her neck looked much better than it had in the picture, but she was definitely acting like she had been defeated.  That's the only way I can describe it.  I brought her in the house and let her drink some milk while I made her oatmeal and she kept making this sound that I had not heard any of the chickens make before.  It was a coo, very low and gentle, kind of..sad.  Cam recognized it too so I know that I wasn't being that crazy, and her fluffy chicken butt that I love so much was wet - almost like she sat in water.
Today after the "mate"