Exhausting week

I had a prenatal growth ultrasound the other day and my 30-week baby is measuring in at 35 weeks, and they estimate he is already five lbs.  Good times, right?  I know that ultrasounds can be fairly inaccurate but he feels huge already and with Ezra being over 11 lbs at birth, it would not surprise me in the least if this one is as large.

I had the glucose screening test that day, too, and figured all was well because they didn’t call me the next day to say I had gestational diabetes.  Well, the clinic called yesterday to say my levels were a little high so they want me to come back in and do the three-hour test.  Which I now get to do on Monday.  That’s right, folks.  I get to take the day off work to get blood drawn repeatedly.  Sounds like a dream come true, right?!  Fingers crossed I don’t actually have GD, because that would suck.  Jesse has pointed out it wouldn’t be overly surprising since I haven’t been eating the best (Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream, anyone?) for the entirety of this pregnancy.  I guess we’ll see.

The dogs have generally been driving us nuts, so that’s business as usual.  Potty-training Ezra is going nowhere, also business as usual.

I’ve been having very good luck with the kombucha and water kefir.  I finally turned on the seed starter mat which has really sped up the fermenting process.  I’m not sure why I waited to long this year to turn on the mat.  I’ve also started keeping the milk kefir in that cupboard on the heated mat as well, so we’ve been enjoying kefir smoothies on an almost daily basis.  I opened a half-filled water kefir drink last night and it had so much carbonation that the liquid geysered up, all over me and onto the floor.

it was a little like this

it was a little like this

I guess half-filled bottles should be removed from the heated mat and placed in the fridge sooner rather than later.

Have you guys ever had Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Island Lime Shrimp frozen meal?

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It is AWESOME and I haven’t had it in years, so I went online to find a recipe, and this one seems pretty close to what I imagine was in the original.  I am lacking the liquor, but it might turn out just fine without it.  Hopefully I’ll attempt it in a couple days and I’ll try to remember to take photos and let you know how it was.

We are still trying to figure out what to do with the garden this year.  We kind of want to move the strawberry plants out of their current bed and move the chicken coop to that area of the yard and fence it off so the dogs cannot get to the chickens but the chickens will still have room to roam a bit.  Then we’re thinking of sodding half the yard, and the other half will be gardening space.  We’re getting a tax return back this year so we might be able to scrounge the money to do that, but on the other hand I only get paid for six weeks maternity which means we’ll need to save up for the remaining six weeks that aren’t paid…so who knows.  We may just need to save our coins and put it all off for another year.

We made the first quiche of the year a couple nights ago, and it was DELICIOUS!  We seriously have this quiche thing down.  We make two of them when baking because then I have extra I can take to work.  Reheated quiche isn’t *quite* as good as straight from the over, but it’s still darn tasty.

Here is to spring being just around the corner!  Huzzah!

Activated charcoal, anyone?

How I feel when I have to get up in the morning to head to work

How I feel when I have to get up in the morning to head to work

I’ve been reading up on the beneficial uses of activated charcoal.  Apparently it’s very viable for any number of uses, from poisonous spider bites to gas and bloating.  The main workings of it is that even though the charcoal powder is very fine, at a molecular structure it has a bunch of crags and spaces that help trap toxins which you then eliminate through feces.  I have heard a number of people rely on it for when they feel like they’re getting the cold or flu.  Ezra gets random stomach bugs so I’m thinking maybe this can help him.  It’s also a great teeth whitener, and you all know how particular I am about my teeth (just had my six-month checkup and still nary a cavity!  Win!)  I’ll need to read up on it more, though.  Elderberry syrup is supposed to be great for flu symptoms as well.  Yet another item to look up.  I may end up making my own based off this recipe.

Also, I’m reading more and more about fluoride and how it can mess up a person, so I’m thinking we may switch to a natural toothpaste.  I was looking at Tom’s of Maine, but apparently they were bought out a couple years ago and their items have been subtly changing over time.  For example, they have now included SLS in their toothpaste.  I would imagine it was added because it creates bubbles and the new owners figure their buyers want a frothy toothpaste.  And I hear they used to have some verbiage about river maintenance projects and that has been removed from the packaging.  So, I think I may try the Desert Essence brand; it has good reviews and it’s SLS and fluoride free.

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I totally dropped a baby bunny a couple days ago.  They are squirmy!  I was holding one of the larger ones and it squeaked and started flipping around and just flipped right out of my hands.  It landed on all fours and appeared to be in good health when I snatched it back up.  Many of the kits’ eyes are opened now and I didn’t want it running off.  They are getting fast, too.  Haven’t lost any other kits, but white mama has a kit that appears kind of runty.  Will have to keep an eye on it.  Pretty soon they should be moving out of the nest box, though, and eating pellets.  As long as I can get them to that stage they should be all set.  One lady on one of my rabbit forums found her rabbit had 16 kits!  I feel that’s wayyyy too many for one doe to handle.  I’d be curious to hear if she’s lost any of them.  I guess she had another couple does set to kindle, so maybe she farmed out a couple to other new mothers.

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We’ve been kicking around the idea of getting more chickens.  Jesse wants a specific breed (Delaware) and we are already planning on expanding the chicken run so we could probably handle quite a few more.  The trick is integrating them with the rest of the flock once they are old enough.  They can be old enough to move outside after a couple months, but still would need more time before they can be integrated, so we’d have to figure out a way to move them outside but still keep them separate from the adult ladies we already have.  It would be nice to have more chickens in the sense that they could turn over more compost more quickly and could do even more pest control….  We’ll see.

I’ve decided my kombucha is taking way too long to ferment.  You want to hit the sweet spot of 76-80 degrees ambient temperature and we usually keep our house at maybe 70 degrees.  Right now I have the fermenting jars in the bathroom closet upstairs because it’s right above the water heater and that area is the warmest in the house.  But still, I should be able to get good fermenting turnover in about seven days and instead it usually takes about 21 or longer.  And the second fermenting process should only take about 4-5 days and that is also taking about 21 days to get to the carbonation level that I like.  Solution?  I purchased a seed starter mat!  It’s supposed to be used for starting out seedlings, but it seems to work well for my purposes.  I just plugged it in last night so it will be interesting to find out how much it speeds up the process.

We had a bunch of avocados about to get too ripe, so we made a salad dressing out of one of them, and we made chocolate mousse with the rest.

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They are both pretty good, if kind of weird.  Last night I could kind of taste the avocado “greenness” in the chocolate mousse, and not so much today.  What completely random food item will we make next?  Stay tuned….

An abundance of baby kits

Well!  The blue doe totally took me by surprise.  Last week the white doe had her kits, (10 of them!  Five light, five dark.) but the blue doe still showed no signs of impending birth or even that she was pregnant.  I checked in on mama the next morning before work and then Jesse texted me later saying the blue doe had a bunch of fur in the box and the fur was moving!  I was so excited to get home from work that day!  She had six kits, one white and five dark.  I’m not sure if this was a smaller litter because she was a first-time mother, or if rex breeds have less kits, or…  Who knows.

I decided to be more hands-off this time around and that if any of the kits weren’t being fed, so be it.  I checked in on them morning and night and then a couple nights ago I noticed one severely thin kit in the white doe’s litter.  I debating just culling it but decided to take it inside and tried to feed it but it died that night.  The next day I noticed a very thin kit from the blue doe’s litter.  It wasn’t as bad off as the other one, but it died yesterday as well.  So that leaves nine in one litter and five in the other, still a respectable amount.  Even though they are only one day older, the white doe’s litter is HUGE compared to the blue doe litter.  I don’t know if the white doe has more milk or if her kits are just larger due to breed.

We are probably going to dispatch the remaining grow-out kits during Jesse’s spring break.  I figured we’re probably spending close to $80/month on feed and when I brought that up my one of my rabbit forums everyone chimed in and said that was way too much.  For the most part folks said we need to supplement more with alfalfa hay and other items.  Alfalfa is much cheaper than the pellet feed, so we’re going to have to look into that more.  We still haven’t determined if we will keep any of the females or if we want to just stick with the two.  I probably should be handling the grow-outs more if I want to keep one.

Jesse and I have been enjoying our fermented garlic so much that I recently started five more batches.  I need to remember to burp the jars soon otherwise I may end up with exploded glass and garlic in my cupboard.

I recently second fermented some kombucha using a pineapple-coconut juice.  I am not a fan of the results.  I originally bought the juice to use with a ginger bug but because I don’t currently have a ginger bug I decided the juice shouldn’t go to waste.  I am making my way through the kombucha but I’m really sad that it turned out poorly.

We’ve been enjoying some nice weather lately.  The temperature has been in the 50s so the snow is all melted and the air feels almost balmy.  I’ve been outside without my coat a couple times and it’s felt comfortable.  Jesse let Ezra run around without shoes on yesterday.  Ezra is going to want to live outside in the spring, I can tell.  I’m eagerly awaiting spring as well.  Summer, not so much because it can get blasted hot here, but I do like spring.

We’ve been talking about what we want in the garden this year and how we want to shape it.  One of the pear trees died, so that kind of opens up the floorplan.  Jesse says it looks like something ate the roots, so now we’re down to just the one pear tree.  Hopefully it’s either a self-pollinator or there is another pear tree in the neighborhood.  Our other trees are looking good, though.

On a completely different topic, I like to read other homesteading blogs.  I get ideas and can dream about having a small farmstead, learn about canning, processing animals, etc.  Some of these bloggers are religious and occasionally that comes out, but typically it’s kept at a minimum so I don’t mind.  However, I *just* read a blog post by Rural Revolution and it quite irritated me to the point where I have deleted the blog from my favorites bookmarks.

The post was about Girl Scouts and their affiliation with Planned Parenthood, and the writer included an excerpt from someone and to my mind she completely took it out of context.  Then there were a bunch of comments afterward that were all “Praise God, hallelujah!”-style comments and to me they were very ignorant and ignorance just pisses me off.

I believe that you can have morals and teach your kids restraint and consequences but you can also know that not everyone is going to have the same morals and restraint.  Pointing a finger at Planned Parenthood and saying that the program encourages women to stray from a moral path is just bad math.

Planned Parenthood is not only about abortions, which is what everyone seems to focus on.  They are about education and providing services to women who need them.  I don’t think it’s the right mentality to say that if we took away Planned Parenthood and only taught our children abstinence and to keep their legs closed that our country would be so much better.  Again, that’s ignorance, willful ignorance.  Because it’s not going to happen.  People are going to fornicate.  That’s just the way it is.  It’s much better to provide education and the means to protect oneself than to just hope everything works out for the best.  This is not to suggest that we should just give up and not try to teach our children morality.

I know some Christians, good people, who seem to realize that they can have faith and their beliefs and still not point the righteous finger because they understand they can’t force everyone to think like they do.  They realize that there are options, that there *should* be options, and that people should have freedom of choice.

I don’t know, I’m kind of rambling here, but I will no longer be reading that particular blog, that’s for sure.

Holiday treats are hard to let go

Sometimes during the year, I feel like I’m on top of things when it comes to treats.  I don’t make them, don’t buy them, so we don’t eat them.  And then a holiday will come around and I’ll think, oh, I’ll just make a little bit.  And then suddenly it’s three months later and I’m chowing down on cookie dough.  Granted, it’s homemade chocolate chip cookies with homemade toffee bits, but still.  Not awesome for my health.  That being said, here are some shots of the treats we made for New Year’s eve.

boiling toffee

boiling toffee

toffee bits

toffee bits

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chocolate-toffee cookies

chocolate-toffee cookies

pouring the caramel

pouring the caramel

cut-up caramels

cut-up caramels

This was our first time making caramels and we’ve decided that while they are tasty, they may be better with more browning.  Something to think about for next time.

We had a delightful New Year’s celebration.  We had friends and family over that night and we all brought snacks.  I don’t think I’ve eaten that much processed food in quite some time.  Well, not since our Christmas celebration, at least.  Jill brought over these bacon-wrapped lil’ smokies.  Oh. Good. Heavens.  They were amazing!  And again, nothing says healthy like pork products swimming in bacon fat and brown sugar.  They were so good!

We put Ezra to bed early, but everyone else made it to the midnight mark.  We saw the ball drop and then, I kid you not, everyone was packed and out of the house within 10 minutes.  It was crazy how quickly we had the house to ourselves again.  We cleaned up a little and then went to bed.  It was nice having people over; we may get something started like a once-a-month game night.

A couple days ago, we decided to go up to Big Cottonwood Canyon and go sledding for a bit.

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Fun was had by all, but Ezra and Kate seemed to tire of it pretty fast.  Later that night I found I had torn a bit of skin on my belly.  Drat you thin-skinned stretch marks!  I guess that’s what I get for taking those runs on my stomach on the saucer sled.

Still no baby bunnies.  I was looking at my blue doe and she seems to be getting fat.  At least, her skin is starting to look pretty bunchy, but I’m not sure if that if something that is normal for Rex breeds.  I’ll have to investigate.  For the last month or so I’ve been free feeding because it’s cold out and they need the extra calories, but fat bunnies can’t get pregnant as easily or have as many kits, so I might need to restrict feed for her.

I’ve been making kombucha pretty regularly and am enjoying taking bottles in to work so I can drink it with lunch.  The only thing is they look like homemade beer bottles, so it totally looks like I’m a lush.  Oh well.

Will be starting an exercise program here shortly.  Have no idea what exactly it will entail but really any kind of movement would be beneficial at this point.  Wish me luck!

Finally fermented!

Today I opened my last bottle of second-fermented kombucha.  I flavored it with ripe raspberries and grated ginger.  It is so good!  I’m bummed that it takes so frickin’ long to double ferment, but we do keep our house fairly cool, relying more on layers of clothing than on turning up the thermostat.

raspberry ginger kombucha

raspberry ginger kombucha

Look at those bubbles!  See, I could drink my kombucha way earlier, but the longer I let it sit the more natural carbonation occurs.  I’ve been drinking kombucha at work during lunch in place of soda, so you can see why carbonation would be important.  I used up the rest of my ginger bug and bottled it like I do kombucha, so I’m hoping to get a fizzy ginger drink.  I placed the bottles in the kitchen instead of the back room because the kitchen is so much warmer, it should enable a faster ferment.  Hopefully they will not take as long to bubble up.

I checked on my fermenting garlic  as well:

fermenting garlic

fermenting garlic

The brine is a bit darker, and you can see some cloudiness near the bottom.  I checked in with my fermenting group and they said it was just the microbes dying off, which is supposed to happen.  Everything appears to be on course!

I bought a couple cabbages a few days ago to try my hand at making sauerkraut, so we’ll see how that goes.

Last week I tried to palpate one of my does to see if she was pregnant, but I didn’t feel anything going on down there so assumed she was not pregnant.  When you palpate, any fetuses are supposed to feel like marbles at that stage in the supposed pregnancy.  I thought, “To heck with that!” and put her back in with the buck.  Now, this is the doe who usually submits fairly easily, and this time she was not having any of it, no matter how nicely the buck groomed her (rabbits do kind of court each other and grooming plays a big role).  She would kind of growl and run around, so I finally snagged her and put her back in her cage.  She was not pleased with me.

I decided that I was going to try our youngest doe, the blue rex, earlier than I did the white rabbits because I heard that young rabbits make good mothers, and let’s be honest, I’m tired of waiting for our rabbits to get knocked up.

blue rex doe

blue rex doe

I’ve put her in with both bucks but while they are willing, she doesn’t seem too interested.  She doesn’t bite or freak out, just kind of lays down and ignores them.  I’m not worried about it at this point because she is rather young, about 5 months maybe.

This is a very long winded way to say that while I was doing hutch duties today (cleaning out poop pans, filling water), the maybe-pregnant doe was digging at her cage floor, like she was trying to burrow.  A light blub went off, so I grabbed her some straw we had lying around and she immediately began haystaching.  What is a haystache?  I didn’t get a photo, but here is one I found on google:

rabbit haystache

rabbit haystache

My rabbit began picking up hay and making a nest with it, so I’m a little more sure she’s pregnant this go around and I just didn’t palpate correctly when I was feeling for kits.  Her kindle date is anytime around 11/26-11/30.  Of course, that is the Thanksgiving holiday time and we might not be around for the actual event, wouldn’t you know it.  I hear a lot of first time mothers don’t know what the hell they are doing, and so lose the kits because they leave them exposed to the elements, or they don’t feed them, or….  I guess we’ll just have to see how it goes.  Maybe she’ll be a stellar first-time mom and we will not have to do a thing.

We’ve been getting some snow at our place, and our backyard is like a forgotten wasteland of mud.

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Good times.

I made toffee today, and while it’s delicious (how can butter and sugar really go wrong?) I feel like I should have let it boil longer.

toffee

toffee

The thing is, I’ve made this several times now.  When I let it cook longer, the butter starts to separate back out of the sugar, so that when I do finally pour it onto the cookie sheet it sits in this huge butter pool.  Anyone have any ideas on how to cook it longer without the formula breaking?  I’d love to hear them!

And because no mother should be without blackmail material on her kids:

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naked baby bath time!

naked baby bath time!