Saturday, December 14, 2013

Carol Me A Christmas!

    It was a magical wintery day in a million ways. To name a few ...
    Our friends drove just under two hours on icy roads to come spend a day with us. They helped us chop and gather firewood in the forest all afternoon before coming inside and warming up by the fireplace with good hot apple cider.  
    Just a note: We love this family. My sister met their oldest boy at a Quad-Stake Dance, realized that our families have a lot in common (home schooled, good morals & values, family oriented, etc.), and after we all got together and met we were instant friends.
    We've never actually been to their house. So far, they've been the ones to drive the distance, and (on top of that) they're always so helpful when they come. They've helped us chop firewood, prime the basement, prune the raspberries, and much more  We are so lucky!
    Once it got dark we hopped into our mini van and their camouflage bus (yes they own a camouflage bus ... they kind of need it in order to tote all thirteen of their children from place to place ... and yes, they are all biological brothers and sisters from one mother :). 
   We went and caroled at three different homes (all Amish families that we both love). We had a snowball fight at each and every house which was very fun. The snow was perfect--moist and melty. It was a beautiful night. Merry Christmas!  

Friday, December 6, 2013

One Week In a Treestand

    I looked out my window this morning and saw a funny looking orange blob high up in a tree across the field. It took a second for me to remember that it was the first day of the deer hunting season and that that orange blob was my brother. I knew he was building himself a tree stand, but I didn't know that it was that far up off the ground. I got vertigo just looking at him. 
    If you look closely, you can see some orange down at the base of the tree. That's Dad, since my brother isn't eighteen yet he has to hunt with an adult. Dad was good enough to get up at four and sit out there in the cold. I love my Dad! 

    Later that evening, my brother got dressed up in his hunting garb a second time, gathered his gun (a good friend let him borrow his) and went down to the woods where he had built himself a shelter. He picked the place for his shelter well. There were deer tracks and scrapes nearby as well as the creek where they drink.

A Deer Scrape
Where the buck's antler's scrape the bark off of trees as they feed on the grass below.

    Here is the shelter he made.
   If you look closely, you can see that his school books are in the paper sack. My brother is very responsible and really tries hard to get all of his responsibilities done. I don't know how many other hunters that try to learn math concepts as they hunt 

    My brothers are so good to let me take pictures of them and blog about their adventures. He didn't shoot any deer this year, but he's already planning his locations and strategies for next year. Good luck with this hunting season and all those to come!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Family Pictures to Hang ...

    Remember those family pictures that my Aunt took of us when she was here this summer??? Well we ordered a collage of canvas prints and hung them today. It was beautiful. My aunt did such a great job taking those pictures, editing, sizing and ordering these prints for us. Again, go check out her website, she and her partner are SUPER talented and incredibly fun!

    We laid the prints out on a piece of brown paper, made sure they were straight, and drew dots where the nails would go. That made it so much easier to level on the wall with the laser level. Dad was such a great sport. We had him on the ladder all morning with: "To the right a little bit", "It needs to come your way", "a little higher", etc.
    It was good to have my aunt from Texas here (not the same aunt that took our pictures) because she's hung pictures like these before and we really haven't.

    That ladder was kind of precarious. One leg was on a stair while the other was on a cinder block. The other two ends (as you can see) had socks over them so they wouldn't scratch the wall. When you climbed to the top you got some slight vertigo.  

    And there they are. To see enlarged versions of these pictures visit my post: Family Pictures In Queen Ann's Lace. I didn't get any pictures of the last step, but we also put a vynal saying at the top of our collage. It said:  

We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another and gain instruction, that we may all sit down in heaven together. ~ Eliza R. Snow. 
    That is our family's goal. We are all striving to do our best in this life so that we may all sit down together -as an eternal family- in the life to come.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Jumping Around with Texas Cousins

    Our cousins are visiting from Texas!
    It's Deer Hunting Season so their dad and grandpa (my grandpa in law :) decided to hunt on our place this year. They didn't shoot anything, but all of us sure had fun. Today we were jumping on the tramp and even though it was chilly we were enjoying it. It was probably the very last day to go out without shoes ... and we were even cutting it a little close :)

    These three little girls are some of the cutest red-heads I have ever met. My mom and their mom are sisters, but they were pretty far apart in age so my sister and I are almost like aunts. We love having our cousins here. With them, every day brings something new.

This is their little brother and I adore his curly red hair!

    The little girls wear their Amish dresses and miscellaneous dress-ups  everywhere and I love it.  When my sister and I were little we played dress up quite a lot too, but after we discovered fabric and safety pins we started to raid the sewing room and leave our dress-up box alone. A piece of fabric and a few safety pins can become anything: an apron, a veil, a train for a gown, a floor-length shawl, or even a bag. 
    Where have the days gone? Yesterday I wore flannel ball gowns with long blowy sleeves made from old sheets ... and today I wear the same two denim skirts every day all day. When did I get to be so dull?

That apron was getting in the way a little bit ... so off it came!

    And, of course, I can't get away without posting a picture of my own adorable brother. I do love red hair, but this little man of mine looks perfect under his head of sun bleached blond. I am glad Heavenly Father made everyone different. 
    I'm also glad that my aunt's family was willing to drive all that way to spend the week. We are having a great time!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Butchering & Canning Chicken

    We are friends with a really great Amish family and this year we paid them to raise forty broiler chickens for us. They also helped us butcher them which was really nice because I would have had no idea what to do. The pictures above show you the difference between Broiler chickens (on the left) and regular laying hens (on the right). Can you see how much fatter the broilers are?
    WARNING: I tried not to post gross pictures, but ... we were butchering and cooking chickens ... so browse carefully if that sort of thing bothers you. 

    My brother's job was to catch the chickens and bring them to us. They often wriggled out of his arms and off they went all around the barn chasing them down. He's such a cutie!

    This sure looks like I was really involved with the killing/skinning/gutting process, but that's really not how it was. I didn't get sick, like when I watched our neighbor's cow give birth, but I kept shivering and my hands were weak ... ya, so the chicken you see me skinning is actually the only one I skinned and I only skinned it halfway. After that I ran errands, made dinner, and carried buckets to and from the barn where we butchered the chickens and the house where we washed and gutted them.
    I've butchered chickens before with other Amish friends, but that time we dunked the chickens in hot water, hung them upside down in the tree, plucked the feathers off, and burned the hairs off with a blowtorch. This time we skinned them and it was so much faster, but of course, if you lose the skin on your chicken ... so, we're seeing how we like this batch.    

     Up in the house we washed the chickens, gutted them, and packed them three-to-a-bucket in ice. I had to run to the store twice for ice. The cashier at the store remembered me and we had a good laugh. We packed the buckets in the back of our van and kept them on the front porch over night with cinder blocks on top so the dogs or wild animals couldn't get into them.
    We brought the buckets in one by one and froze/canned it all over the next week.

     Last year, we bought our chickens already butchered and some of them were even cut into peices for us ... talk about ease! This year we cut them all up ourselves. Because the breasts on these birds were so HUGE we  cut a lot of them off and froze them in seal-a-meal bags. 
    Last year, we also saved the hearts and livers, but none of us could bare to cook them in anything so we ended up feeding them to the dogs in the end. This time we gave all of the hearts, livers, and gizzards to the family who helped us butcher.  

    Here, Mom is trimming up the chicken breasts as she reads to my little brother out of the picture edition of The Book Of Mormon. He has a list of things he has to get done in the morning before he can eat like get dressed, make his bed, brush his teeth, brush his hair, etc. and one of them is read his scriptures. 

Trimmed-Up Chicken Breasts ...

    I washed them before I froze them. I actually didn't get any pictures of how we vacuum sealed the bags of chicken and then froze them ... but there are a few more pictures of us doing that last year if you wanted to check out the process.

My sister washed the chickens-minus-the-breasts before they were boiled.

    They sat and boiled for two hours or more. We know it's time because the meat just peels off the bones. We had meat boiling on our stove for two days ... try and imagine what our kitchen smelled like after that. It's infinitely better than boiling beef bones, but it still didn't smell pretty.

    After the chicken has boiled enough we pull it out into one of our huge metal bowls and once it's cool enough we pick the meat off the bones. The dark meat and the white meat is put in separate jars because we like white meat for chicken salad and dark for soup and gravy.   

JACKPOT! There were forty wishbones to find, but we didn't find all of them. 
They're all in a jar on the pantry shelf for anyone who feels like having a friendly competition.

    After the jar is filled with chicken it is completely filled with the water that the chickens boiled in, a sanitized canning lid is popped on the top and a ring screws it all together. We have the pressure caner in the green house now, which is nice because it keeps the counters free in the kitchen and the sputtering weight-gage-noise to a minimum.

    And there we are ... that project is finished for another year. Next year, if we do butcher chickens again I want to force myself to be a little more involved (even though I'm totally comfortable with he whole killing/skinning/gutting thing). I think times are ahead when it will be important to know these types of things and I want to be prepared.
    Happy Thanksgiving ... fifteen days in advance!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

All it Needs is a Coat of Paint ...

    We're finally getting the basement painted. It's a great feeling! After all that cleaning and priming it feels like we ought to be finishing this basement up soon. As I mentioned before, we're not planning on installing carpet, permanent doors (we have a couple cheep ones that we're using for the time being), or woodwork like baseboards or windowsills ... so that means we're coming to an end for a little while. I'm looking forward to that ...

   "You will do as I say, or get paint on your nose!"

    These two love to work together! They have so much fun. Sometimes it's risky letting them work together, because they often start having too much fun and forget about the job they're trying to get done :). I get after them a little too much I'm afraid.    

    Anyway ... short post, but I just wanted to remind everyone that we havn't neglected the basement, it's just such a HUGE job what with trying to prepare for the neighborhood Christmas party (which is being held at our house this year), getting ready for company (my aunt's family is coming up for Texas for the first week of deer season), and still trying to finish up canning.
   It truly is a wonderful life! 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Two Young Hunters

    As a part of our schooling we do something called mentoring, where each of us older ones take a half hour (or more) every day we can and mentor a younger child. Right now, my youngest brother is the only one young enough to be mentored, but we used to mentor my youngest sister too. I mentor writing and reading. The sister below me mentors him in math. My youngest sister mentors him in arts and crafts, and my other brother me mentors him with frontiersman skills.
    Today they decided to make a target and practice their shots. 

    Thanksgiving is getting closer and my older brother has been invited to go rabbit hunting with some Amish friends of ours so he decided to draw a rabbit on the target (to prepare :). The next thing he plans to do is make a rabbit, tie a long string around it and have my youngest brother pull on it as he tries to shoot it so he can get some moving-target practice.

    Mentoring with his brother is the best part of my little brother's day, and it's great because my older brother enjoys it too. They just got finished building a tree house in the woods and they've been working on a board game together. They love being together.

Bulls-eye? Or (in this case) Rabbits-eye!

   My littlest brother shoots a Bolt-action pump BB/pellet gun at 300 fps (feet per second). It's the family's gun, but he has an unofficial claim on it since he's the only one who shoots it. This is the family's second BB gun, the first one is pictured below. 

    These are pictures of my youngest brother three years ago when he was only four, but still the gun lover that he is now. He carried that poor old BB gun around everywhere, in the wheelbarrow, over his shoulder, etc. and had the best time pulling the trigger and creating his own sound effects.
    We weren't worried because the BB's were hidden away, high on a shelf where he couldn't reach them, but one day, that gun stopped working and we found out that he had been loading it with fishing weights and it finally got jammed. We still have that gun, but, of course, no one uses it.      

   My older brother worked and saved up for this gun of his own. It's a .22 caliber Russman Breakbare Pellet gun at 900 fps. It's relatively new so he hasn't gotten to do much with it yet.

These are the pellots that he uses. The pouch is from Belize Central America where my grandparents are serving a two-year mission.

    I love my brothers. They're are so good to allow me to take pictures of and blog them.My family has always been good to let me blog them all. I think they actually like it. 
    Well, that is it for now ... enjoy preparing for Thanksgiving! 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Spice it Up ... Round Two!

   We Ordered MORE Spices! Bottling the cumin and garlic powder felt like a lot but this time we ordered four pounds of nutmeg, ginger and cloves today and that really was a lot. I think we're stocked for the winter now ... I mean, what else is there :)?

    We got these spices through our little Amish-run bulk food store just like the cumin and garlic powder. We get a lot of our bulk items (the ones we don't get from the LDS Church Storehouse) from that little store like spaghetti, baking soda, raisins, etc. We get our fresh vegetables in bulk (the ones we don't grow ourselves) from the family that let us take a tour of their sorghum molasses farm last year. We get apples from a local orchard, almonds through my grandparents out west, and our bulk paper products at Costco.  

And, of course, my two greatest helpers ...
   Their aprons are so CUTE. My brother's green one was a gift from my mom's parents. They've been serving a senior mission in Central America for the past two years, but they will be home before Christmas. The orange/blue one was a gift from my Grandma who we visited just last year.    

    And there we have it ... I think we're through with spices for a while. We're moving our second refrigerator downstairs just as soon as we finish painting the new drywall and Mom wants to put all of the spices and seeds for planting in there. But until then, we'll just store the bottles in our food storage room.