Take that, spam bots!

Seriously, comment spam bots are super annoying.  For a brief moment I had this blog set up where people had to register to leave comments, but then my dad had trouble with that so I removed the requirement.  I’ve tried putting keywords in my black list which means they should automatically get moved to spam, but those tricky bots kept getting around it and I kept getting email notifications daily regarding new comments that just turned out to be spam.

So now I have the dreaded “captcha” system set up on the comments form.  It’s a fairly mild type, just basic math problems, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for you fine folks.  And hopefully I will now just receive email notification for legit comments.  Go team!

Man, I have quite neglected my kefir grains.  Typically you should change the sugar water every 24 hours, but I was leaving it for at least 3-7 days because our pantry is fairly cool so it didn’t seem like the fermenting process was going as fast.  Well, then we had the family vacation, and then I just forgot about it because it was in the cupboard….  Those grains had been sitting in the same sugar water for well over a month before I changed out the water.  They kind of had a brownish tinge to them instead of the pure crystal clear color, but I’m hoping to revive them.  Of course, I told myself I was going to be diligent and change out the water ever 24 hours and it’s already been three days, but still!  Fingers crossed that I haven’t damaged them too much.

A couple months ago, our local farm stopped selling raw milk.  The dairy they were getting it from decided to shut its doors due to over regulation from the government or something along those lines.  I was about to FREAK OUT.  Where would I get my raw milk now?!  I NEED MY RAW MILK!  The farm told me there was a store downtown that sold it, Real Foods, so that’s where we’ve been getting it since then.  The drive is kind of a pain, but on the other hand I like that they keep typical store hours whereas the farm only was open two days a week for about three hours each day.  Velvet told me she got an alert that the farm was starting to sell raw milk again, but they had increased the price to $9/gallon.  We pay roughly that right now so the price wasn’t a huge issue, but I just like the availability of the store downtown now.  We will still go to through the farm for our grass-fed beef and pork most likely.

We have a rogue chicken in our flock.  For awhile a couple of the hens were escaping the enclosure and while sometimes they would go back on their own, usually we would have to catch them and drop them back over the fence.  Jesse finally got the fence to the point where it’s probably taller than me.

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You’d think that would be high enough to deter even the most determined chicken, especially after we cut their flight feathers a few weeks back.  You’d think.  We still have one red hen that escapes every morning.  We can only assume she is somehow flying over the fence line but we’ve never been able to catch her in the act.  It seems like her main purpose is to leave an egg under the deck and then forage in the garden area until we go out to get her.

rogue chicken egg

rogue chicken egg

A huge positive about her is she basically will come running to you to be put back in the pen.  She runs over and hunkers down, we pick her up and plop her over the fence, and she goes to find her sisters.  Every morning.  The only way this routine changes is if the dogs are outside because they will run toward her, which makes her turn around and run, which makes them want to chase her.  Then it’s a major pain in the ass to try and wrangle the dogs away from her and to pick her up.  I don’t think the dogs want to kill her; they’ve been in the chicken enclosure before and don’t seem aggressive.  They just like to chase things that run.  We’re still working on that.

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Because we have so many eggs right now, it can take some time for us to use them.  We have a system where we place them in egg cartons and then work from the oldest to the newest, but it can still take days to go through a carton, if not longer than that.  Jesse likes to do the float test on them to test freshness, but I just open them up and go with it.  I figure I’m not eating these raw so if they are a little stale, no matter.  I was talking to a coworker about it and she said really if the egg is bad, you’ll know from the smell.  I am always on the lookout for recipes that use a lot of eggs and I decided to try my hand at a frittata.  I had cracked maybe three eggs in the bowl and was cracking the fourth egg open when suddenly the yolk didn’t look quite right.  It was darker, and kind of broken/chunky looking.  Some had already spilled into the bowl but I opened the rest of the egg over the sink and took a whiff.  My friend was not wrong when she said you can tell a bad egg by its scent.  Holy moly!  That was an unpleasant smell!  I discarded all the eggs, washed the bowl and started again, this time making sure I used a separate dish to crack the eggs into first before placing into the main bowl.  You know, like you’re supposed to.

We harvested tomatoes and grapes last night.  I love our grapes so very, very much.

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They are what all grapes wish they could be.  Well, except for our very tiny deep blue/purple grapes.  I’m not a fan of those.  They all have seeds and seem fairly bland to me.  Jesse says maybe we will take those vines out and replace them with my beloved style of grape.  I don’t even know what variety they are, but I do know that they are great!  Jesse steam juiced a bunch of them last night and this morning it appears he made three quart jars of grape juice.  Mmmm!  We also picked enough tomatoes and peppers that he can do another batch of salsa.  We still have a ton of tomatoes ripening on the vine, so it looks to be another bountiful harvest year.

grapes, tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, peppers

grapes, tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, peppers

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Jesse also harvested some of our pears that had fallen beneath the tree.  Some of the fruit he threw to the chickens, but we have a fair few pears in the fridge now and they are quite tasty.

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Ezra was much taken with them when I cut one up.  I’m trying to get over thinking that produce has to look perfect.  For example, the pear had a hole in it where something had burrowed in and maybe laid eggs.  Cut out that part of the fruit and the majority of the fruit is still edible.  Eventually it’ll be second nature and I probably won’t think about it, but for now it still makes me think, “Ewww, there was a bug in that!”

It’s gettin’ hot in here (so take off all your clothes)

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Yeah.  You all know what I’m talking about.  It is frickin’ hot right now, and I am not loving it.  And for some reason, it’s been a bit muggy, which is weird because our Utah location is usually arid desert.

When we take Ezra outsize, we often like to let him run around naked.  Part of it is because it’d be nice to have him start potty training and I’d like him to know what it feels like when he pees instead of having his diapers whisk it away, but mostly I like that he’s getting vitamin D from the sun, and he gets to play in the dirt which I’m sure is beneficial.  And also, we can just hose him off when we need to.

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Our garden is still going strong.  We have more tomatoes than I know what to do with.  The thing is, we have a vast abundance of cherry tomatoes as well.  A lot of them are “volunteers” from last year when we just let the tomatoes rot on the ground.  Now, the larger tomatoes we will do some canning and make a tomato base and whatnot, but what to do with the ginormous amount of cherry tomatoes?  I’m going to have to go on YouTube and see what others are doing with them.

large tomatoes from the garden, second harvest

large tomatoes from the garden, second harvest

a tiny showing of our cherry tomatoes

a tiny showing of our cherry tomatoes

growing spaghetti squash

growing spaghetti squash

shallots

shallots

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Those really tall things in the front with the wilty bottoms?  Yeah, that’s lettuce.  Lettuce!  I never knew they could grow that tall.  I figured they just stayed these nice, neat little round-shaped heads and that was it.

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Our yard looks a treat, doesn’t it?  We have so much stuff just lying around, it’s ridiculous.

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These sunflowers just started growing and we figured it they get the nice heads we can feed them to the animals, although from what I understand, the black oil sunflower seeds are the best.  I guess they are really high in fat and animals just love them.  Although, just now looking over some images on Google, maybe that’s what we have growing.  Who knows, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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We are now getting about 5 eggs a day from our hens, so Jesse decided we needed to start making quiche.  Now, I’ve made quiche before but was never overly enamored of it, and I never used to use a pie crust with it because of the extra carbs, but Jesse wanted these to have a crust, so he set about learning how to do it.  His first attempt at quiche was delicious and they just keep getting better.  (Side note: Our first quiche we used some fresh basil in the mix.  OMG!  Why don’t we use basil more often?  It was great!)  Last night he decided that he shouldn’t be the only one to know how to make pie crust, so he taught me how.  To be fair, he actually made the dough, but then he showed me how to roll it and bake it off.

amazing quiche

amazing quiche

Mmm.  In this iteration we used numerous cheeses, spinish, cream, eggs, salt and pepper, and diced ham.  The crust was perfect!  All it needs it a couple slices of fresh tomato and some asparagus and it would be even better!  But I’m fairly lazy, so usually I just eat the quiche on it’s own.

We got our Vitamix blender the other day and tried it out that first night.

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How to describe it…It was good, but totally not what I was expecting.  I mean, the machine works perfectly, and even though I knew it was a blender and not a juicer, I guess I was still expecting it to be more juice-like, with less pulp.  But of course, we were blending the entire fruit and veggies and I really didn’t put in much extra liquid, so it turned out to be a very thick concoction.  And I used two carrots, so it was more fibrous than it needed to be.  I know there are probably thousands of actual recipes out there, but we’ve just been winging it.  Last night I made a batch that included kale, spinach, apple, banana, strawberry, raspberry, peach, carrot, honey, and cherry juice.  It is good, but it looks like sludge.  It’s brown.  Sludge brown.  It’s tasty once you get past the visuals.  And I’m getting more veggies in my diet, which was the whole point.  I gave some to Ezra last night and finally gave him a spoon to eat it with.  He thought that was pretty cool.

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Aren’t these grapes so pretty?!  On the old deck for a backdrop, it’s almost like something you’d see in a magazine.  These are the grapes from our back fence.  The yellow jackets were starting to eat them, so we harvested the grapes and Jesse borrowed his mom’s steam juicer.  I didn’t have high hopes, I’ll be honest, because I had tried eating those little purple grapes off the vine and they were still pretty tart.  But Jesse put all the grapes into that steam juice and brought me down a sip from the results and I was shocked!  Shocked I tell you!  Because it was really very tasty.  I think we filled out a couple quart jars with the juice, and that juice was drank quite quickly.  So, I look forward to next year’s harvest.

the good grapes

the good grapes

Jojo-kitty hanging out by the coop

Jojo-kitty hanging out by the coop

I will leave you with your moment of zen:

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Rabbit gender fail!

As you all know by now, a few months back we acquired 4 rabbits; 3 does and 1 buck.  We lost 1 doe to heat stress, but the others were doing fine, so we decided to begin breeding them.  We took the New Zealand White doe and placed her with the NZW buck.  They smelled each other a bit, and then the buck started doing his business to the doe’s head.  It was the wrong end, but we figured he’d get it eventually.  Soon, though, the buck was running around his cage, grunting, and trying to hide in the corner.  The doe mounted him a couple times, but I had read about that, dominance games.  Eventually, our buck just looked so stressed and freaked out that we took the doe and put her back in her own cage.

Two days later, we decided to try again, only this time with the Californian doe.  Pretty much the same thing happened.  When we took out the doe, we decided to check her gender, just to make sure.  After all, these are our first rabbits, and I relied on the breeder we got them from to get me the correct genders.  So, I’m checking out her equipment, and it doesn’t look quite like I thought it should.  We took out the other doe and looked her over as well (and let me tell you, none of them like being picked up.  Thank goodness for Jesse and his long arms, able to reach to the back of the cages) and her parts looked way different.  On a whim, we decided to look over the buck, so we could compare him to the other two.  Only…his equipment looked a lot like the NZW doe.  Crap.

We went inside and watched a few YouTube videos, then went back out to check the Cali doe again.  Yeah.  It was an epic gender fail.  It turns out we do have two does and one buck, we just had a couple animals incorrectly labeled.  And that explains why the NZW “buck” was freaking out and running in circles; a doe does not like other animals in her den, they can get very aggressive.  Typically they will attack other rabbits, especially males, and here we were putting other rabbits in her den!  I guess we were lucky that she’s a fairly gentle rabbit.

We tried putting the other NZW doe in with the actual buck, but nothing happened.  They kind of just hung out.  Now, the Cali buck is about 2 weeks younger than the other two, so it could just be he’s a bit on the young side, or it could be the heat is making him uninterested.  We’ll probably wait a couple weeks and try again.

We’ve been making ciabatta bread like it’s going out of style lately.  It’s such an easy recipe to follow, though, it’s hard not to want to make it.  We made some zucchini bread the other day as well.  It was like cake, delicious!

A lot of the time, I like to be literally hands-on with Ezra.  I like to stroke his face when I talking with him, give him kisses and cuddles, that kind of thing.  Yesterday he was in his high chair and he stretched out his hand, so I leaned in to kiss his finger, and then he cupped my cheek and stroked it.  It was frickin’ adorable.  I practically melted on the spot.  He is such a sweet boy.

Cleaning off in a garden sprinkler

Cleaning off in a garden sprinkler

At night, he’s gotten into a routine where he wants me to tickle daddy, and then tickle his (Ezra’s) belly right after.  He just laughs and laughs, he loves to be tickled.  But, he always wants me to tickle daddy first.  I’m telling you, I wish I had a video camera set up to record it, or may a pair of those Google glasses that can record right then and there.

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We have a couple types of grapes along the back fence, some are juice grapes and some are table grapes.  I’m not impressed with the juice grapes so far, and I thought the table grapes were going to be these green, very tart types – not my style at all.

grapes for juicing

grapes for juicing

I was walking the back fence last night and saw some of the green grapes actually has a blush color to them, so I thought I would try them.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Those grapes are amazing!  They are juicy, and sweet, and have just a *hint* of tartness.  They are what all grapes should be.  I totally want to rip out the other grapes and just plant this style of grape.  Jesse says he is going to take clippings this fall and plant them around the yard, and maybe over the chicken coop.  I am ALL for that plan.

the most amazing grapes!

the most amazing grapes!

Speaking of juice grapes, we have decided that we need to get more fruit and veggies into out diets.  For the most part, we pretty much have a protein, maybe some bread, occasionally a vegetable for our meals.  I mean, I like vegetables well enough, I just don’t prepare them that often.  To this end, we decided to get a Vitamix!  This blender is purported to be the end-all be-all to blenders.  We were going to go with a cheaper brand, but watching side-by-side reviews on YouTube led us to go with the higher-end brand.  I, for one, didn’t want to be drinking what could turn out to be a very chunky salsa-type drink.  I want smooth and creamy.  I want to be able to chug it, because I’m probably not going to be enamored of the flavor at first.

We purchased directly through Vitamix website, one of their reconditioned models.  They all have a 5-year warranty on them, so I’m not too worried about it being reconditioned.  The only thing that was weird is that you cannot select which model to get, they basically tell you it is going to be a model out of X line of models and you get what you get.  To be fair, they are all pretty comparable when all is said and done.  The delivery countdown begins!  And really, who needs a credit card with any spending limit left over, right?

Our chickens are still pretty miffed that we are not allowing them out of the coop run.  But, until we harvest most of the tomatoes, there they will stay.  We have another one or two giving eggs now, so we get about 4 eggs a day.  Two of them are typically very small, and lightly green, so they must be coming from the Ameraucana birds.  Jesse wants to learn how to make quiche, and you just know we need to learn more recipes that call for eggs.

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We had a very productive last couple of days with regard to reorganizing the house.  I wish I would have taken before and after photos!  We took the kitchen racks and pots/pans out of the soap room, organized the soap room, took the soap display shelves upstairs into the soap room, and moved the packing materials into the soap room.

We decided to overhaul the library room and we spent time organizing what books to keep and which to sell.  I have a kindle now and a good portion of those books in digital format, so really it makes no sense to keep a tangible copy, it just takes up space. So now we have about two full bookshelves for books to be sold, and another couple for keepers.  We have a lot of bookshelves.

By bringing the soap display racks upstairs, it opened up space in the downstairs family room.  The whole point of this is to make it more childproofed so Ezra can come downstairs and play around.  School is starting again, and we’d like to be able to have Jesse work on homework and keep an eye on Ez at the same time.  We were able to move Jesse’s tool rack upstairs in the library room, and I moved Ezra’s changing table around.  It’s amazing how empty a room can look when you take everything out of it:)

We mounted the TV to the wall, and we plan to move the printer station.  We are kind of thinking of getting one of those hexagon dog fences and stretch it out to partition our computers from the area Ezra can get into.  He loves clicking the mouse and keyboard buttons.  I come home and my settings are changed.  Not so fun.  I told Jesse the layout of the room seems to be calling for a bean bag chair.  My grandparents had one, and I remember we used to run and throw ourselves into it.  I bet Ezra would love one.  But, while I’m willing to pay good money for a Vitamix, I am not so quick to pay out for a bean bag chair.  So, he’ll just have to lounge on the floor for now.

See what I mean?  Productive!