Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The troll house...

The other night I was talking with Holly as we were getting ready for bed and she said to me, "You know that little blue house that Dad built out by the dryer?"

I said, "Yes, why?"

And then Holly proceeded to tell me this:

"Well, I asked Danny what it was and he told me it was a troll house.  He said that the law says that if we have grain bins, then we have to have the house for the trolls.   I asked Danny why the trolls need the house and he said it was because they eat corn and make things with corn, like corn stew, corn pie, corn casserole, and other corn things.  The state laws said that Dad had to build them the house if he wanted to keep the grain bins.   Mom, have you ever seen these trolls?"

I sat there in disbelief--utter shock!-- I think my jaw was literally hanging open.

Then, thank goodness, she said, "But I didn't believe him.... right?  There aren't REAL trolls around here, are there?"

And at that, I LOST IT.  I am STILL laughing about it.

Ahhh... Older brothers.  Everyone should have at least one!

Truth be told, the guys built that little house as a moisture testing station for the new drying system they installed this summer.  The dryer is pretty impressive, but as I lay awake at night listening to it hum, I try not to think about the power and propane burning through it...



Sunday, October 19, 2014

Autumn...

Greetings from Northern Illinois!


The trees are gorgeous, the days are crisp and the nights are frosty, and the harvest is in full swing!

The calves are weaned and we've picked out the special ones to take to the fair!













This is all that is left of our garden, a big pile of rubbish to be burned next weekend.











And on top of it all, school is as busy as ever with papers to be graded, lessons to be planned, and help to be lent for my own little scholars!

I love this time of the year!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My contribution to "throw back Thursday" is...

The DEHYDRATOR!!!!

When we moved, I acquired this lovely piece of 80's kitchenware.  

Just about the time we got back into our crazy school life, the tomatoes started ripening by the minute.  This baby was the perfect answer to my lack of time plus too many tomatoes problem.

I washed, sliced, and spread the tomatoes out on the trays, sprinkled with Italian seasonings and sea salt, plugged it in and walked away. I let my tomatoes dehydrate for between 15 hours to whenever I remember to unplug it.  


I have big dreams of adding these lovely dried tomatoes to stews, soups and homemade pizzas all winter long.  












And come to find out, I'm not the only one who a) owns a dehydrator, and b) secretly loves it more than anything in the world, even the waffle iron.  As I've been bragging my phat dehydrating skillz up all over town, I'm finding that quite a few people my own age ALSO own dehydrators!  

Are you one of the cool ones, too?  Share your recipes, please!!!!



Sunday, September 28, 2014

It's been over a month...

since we left the fair and I haven't posted even 1 picture.  SLACKER!
Well... moving on...
We survived another year... barely.  It was exceptionally stressful this year for no other reason than because I think I may or may not be losing my marbles.
 Anyway, here are some pictures of the boys!




Every year we are SOOO ready to be done with 4-H by the first week in August.  It's a LOT of work, walking, washing, walking, washing... and no matter how much we work the animals, I'm always afraid that it "wasn't enough".  Like I said earlier, I think I'm just losing my mind and will look back on these days with regret for how much I worried and how little I sat back and just enjoyed it all.

But, now that a month has passed and records are turned in, it's time to start picking out next year's projects (times 3 since Holly will be a full-blown 4-Her this year!).   Today-- right now-- I feel ready, slightly less crazy, and I look forward to another year!

Monday, September 1, 2014

The newest member of the family!

When we went to the fair, I was sort of thinking about getting another rabbit (Spot died last summer), but hadn't figured out the logistics.  There are some coyotes that live a little too close to us; we lock our cats in every night for safe keeping.  Bringing the rabbit into the shop every night isn't an option and we're afraid that a rabbit left out would be easy bait.

The club that we were in as kids started a petting zoo (probably sometime in the early 1990s).  The kids always like to go feed the goats, see the llamas and this petting zoo is housed in the rabbit and chicken barn. Well, this year there was a cage full of baby guinea pigs with a "for sale" sign on it.  Totally out of curiosity, I went up to the leader of the club that puts on the petting zoo and asked how much for one of the guinea pigs.  She steered me toward her daughter's 5 month old guinea pig, who was also for sale--cage, food, pig-loo, and all-- included!  She introduced us to her daughter who explained that she is in high school and just didn't have the time to give the pig as much attention as it deserved.  So, of course, Holly fell in love.  We have been telling Holly that --NO MATTER WHAT-- she could buy a hamster with her birthday money in January.  But this kind of was a deal too good to pass up.

So, I spent the rest of the day mulling it over in my head and consulting with Dave  (not really, it was more like, "Hey, we're getting a guinea pig.").  Early that evening, after the cattle show was done, I went back and wheeled and dealed with the nice lady and then after dinner and finishing up cattle chores, we went back and picked up "Elsa" and brought her home!

She is a super sweet guinea pig.  The first night we had her, she sat in our laps and actually purred!  Just like cats, it's a sign of contentment!  Another night we had her out in the living room and she was sitting in our laps chattering away at us, also a sign of contentment, I guess!  I read that when they need to go to the bathroom or are sick of the attention, they'll nibble on your shirt or your fingers or whatever is closest.

Sure enough!  Elsa was sitting on my lap and started nibbling on my shirt, then nipped at my finger, so we put her back in her cage and immediately... um... well, you know... did her "business".

I think that Elsa will be a nice addition to the family.  Holly's really good about going outside to shut in the cats every night, so making sure this inside pet has food and water every day is definitely something I can trust her to do.

I've been reading up on guinea pigs and came across this quote by the French poet Anatole France:

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Random sightings around the farm...

Remember the polar vortex?  Yeah, me too.  I hated this past winter!  I was hoping for weeks and weeks of sweltering 90 degree weather.

Didn't happen (or at least so far, and since we start school in 6 days, I'm done hoping for it).  We've had to wear a sweatshirt every morning except for a couple; we've had our a/c on maybe 5 days --not consecutively, either, and I haven't put more than a toe in the swimming pool.  But, these volunteer sunflowers all popped up in front of the pool and make me happy every time I look out the kitchen window!















Our garden has been bountiful, and I'm really getting into this pickling thing!  The tomatoes are coming along and I finally have strawberries!  Our second crop of green beans should be ready to harvest Labor Day weekend.  The garden is getting a little weedy, but I am o.k. with it.

So, despite the cold weather and the shortened vacation due to snow days, it has been a beautiful summer, nonetheless.



Tonight we are headed off to the fair with the cattle!  Wish us luck and patience... I know I'll need it!!!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Black Angus Veggie Burgers!

It's August, aka National Zucchini month.  Yesterday I whipped up some delicious brownies (more on that in a minute) and had about 1/2 cup left.  We were having hamburgers for supper, so I thought, "Hmm... what would it taste like if I threw in the rest of the zuke?"

I added some seasoned salt and a little pepper, as well...

slapped them on the grill...

...and I have no pictures to show of the final product because they were so fantastic that we snarfed them down in record time!  Absolutely the best cheeseburgers I've ever made!  I think that the zucchini helped soak up some of the grease from the burgers and while you couldn't taste the zucchini at all and we didn't really notice a difference in the texture, there was just something better about these burgers.  I would HIGHLY recommend them.  In fact, I'm going to freeze some shredded zucchini when more get ready-- some in 2 cup freezer portions, and some in 1/2 cup freezer portions for this very recipe!

And about those brownies:


In a smaller bowl, combine:
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a larger bowl, whisk together:
2 c. flour
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Using a mixer, add wet and dry ingredients.  This will be almost powdery.  Fold in 2 cups of shredded zucchini, you may add a tablespoon of water if you need a little more binding.  My zucchini was so moist that I didn't need to add water.

Spread into a greased 9 x 13 baking pan and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  I used a can of chocolate frosting, and these brownies turned out so fudgey and gooey!  You can barely taste the zucchini, and if I had a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, I'd be in heaven! A link to the original recipe, along with a homemade chocolate frosting can be found here.

What are your favorite zucchini recipes?