Homemade marshmallows

I am not a huge fan of marshmallows.  They are chewy and usually pretty bland and typically I only enjoy them in s’mores (and really it’s the chocolate that carries that treat), but I saw a maple/bacon marshmallow on Etsy that looked pretty good so I decided to do some investigating.  What I found was shocking: making homemade marshmallows is super easy.

I watched a few YouTube videos and then hunted down a recipe. Eventually I would like to find a recipe that doesn’t use corn syrup, but until then I think I’ll stick with this Alton Brown recipe.

gelatin and water

gelatin and water

water, granulated sugar, corn syrup, and salt

water, granulated sugar, corn syrup, and salt

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all set up the next morning

all set up the next morning

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finished marshmallows

finished marshmallows

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The end result was pretty tasty.  Granted, these are a basic vanilla flavor, but I liked the texture and they didn’t seem as weirdly waxy as some of the store bought can get.  There are no added preservatives so they should be used up within a couple weeks.  One of the recipes I saw called for a little bit of peppermint extract for holiday-themed treats.  Might make for some nice homemade gifts around the end of the year.

We buy bananas pretty frequently but usually we have a couple that are browning before we get around to eating them, so I just throw them in the freezer to use in banana bread later.  While I like banana bread, I like banana muffins better.  Ezra helped me make some a couple weeks ago and they turned out very well!  Here is the recipe I used.

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One of Velvet’s friends has a dessert food blog and made some buckeye treats.  Velvet was talking about them so I decided to make some myself, only I didn’t care enough to make them actually look like buckeye nuts, so I coated the entire peanut butter ball in chocolate.  I also swapped out the shortening for coconut oil and it was a great substitute.

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On the home front, we’re still trying to decide if we are going to continue with the rabbits.  A part of me really wants to, but the majority of me is lazy and thinking they aren’t worth the hassle.  I told Jesse we should keep them through the growing season where we can feed them more garden scraps to cut back on the pellet feed food costs, but the rabbits in the freezer just aren’t a go-to protein for us.  I have, however, seen a number of YouTube videos making fried rabbit very similar to fried chicken, so most likely I just haven’t tried them with enough variety.

One of my coworkers gave us a bunch of small, cleaned fish, so I think we’ll be trying them out tomorrow for dinner.  Jesse didn’t seem to enthused about it, but I will try most anything once.

Our chicken are ramping up egg production so many days we get between five to the full seven.  Our smaller chicks won’t start producing until around the end of summer.

We’re still trying to figure out what to do with our garden this year which isn’t really a good thing because I think we should have started planting already.  But, Jesse still has a few more weeks of school and then after that the garden will probably really get going.

I decided I needed more activity in my sedentary days, so a couple of us at work put together a 10k challenge – 10,000 steps, that is.  Every day from 4/14/14 until 7/31/14 we are going to commit to walking 10k steps.  That is roughly five miles a day, and the steps count from when you wake up until when you go to bed.

To that end, I bought a Fitbit Flex tracker and got it last Wednesday.  I’m glad I got it earlier than the challenge started because I wanted to have a baseline for what my days are normally.  Yeah…apparently normal for me is about 5,000 steps a day, if not less, and the average is about 3,000 to 5,000 for most people.  So I am really going to have to push it to get to 10k a day.  The last couple days I have been doing a two-mile walking video by Leslie Sansone, and that usually gets me to around 9,000+, but never yet to that elusive 10,000.  I told my challenge partners that it’ll probably take me a couple weeks before I will be able to consistently hit 10k a day.  Also, it seems like the Fitbit doesn’t count steps very well when the exercise involves a lot of random arm movement, so after I do the two miles I usually manually log the distance in order to get a more correct step count.  It’s not a perfect science but I like the tracker well enough.

Ever since we placed Ezra’s mattress on the floor and dismantled the crib, there is almost no getting this kid to take a nap.  He has free access to all his books and toys now, so nap time is basically kid-locked-in-his-room time while mama tries to get stuff done.  Speaking of, I’m off to put him back to bed once again.

Drama with dressers

This past weekend we decided to clean up the downstairs of the house.  We cleaned out all the soap business stuff from Ezra’s room, moved the bookcase against the other wall in his room so he could use the cubby holes for his tpys and books, and we went to Ikea to look at toddler beds.  We decided against a bed for now and we are just having Ezra sleep on his mattress on the floor.  When we got home from shopping we decided to put him down for a nap, and Jesse just took the mattress out and put it on the floor but we didn’t take out the crib or dismantle it.  Ezra was VERY excited with the new setup.

Watching tv, I thought I heard something from Ez’s room so I paused the show.  Ezra was screaming!  I ran downstairs, thinking that he had probably been messing around with the crib and gotten a foot stuck in the mesh slats.  I only *wish* that’s what happened.  I opened the door and found Ezra on the floor with the dresser bureau laying on top of him.  It’s an Ikea dresser so it’s not super heavy, but it was completely full.  So he was trapped under the dresser and somehow his hand was smooshed UNDER the very bottom drawer, between the drawer and the bureau bottom.  I got his hand out, complete with bruised, scraped fingers, shoved the dresser back up, replaced a drawer that had fallen out.  In the meantime Jesse had run downstairs as well and was soothing Ezra who was completely freaked out.  I felt so bad!  We had meant to secure the dresser and the bookcase both to the wall but wasn’t able to find the brackets at that time.  You can be sure that once Ezra was situated upstairs with some ice on his fingers that Jesse found the brackets right quick and now everything is secure in Ezra’s room.

For the rest of the night Ez would show people “mah finger, mah finger”.  Luckily nothing was broken and he doesn’t seem to have any internal injuries.

We decided to put off butchering our growout kits.  We were going to process them, but Jesse and I both came down with colds, and there was yard work and shopping and it just didn’t get done.  Then I decided that maybe I would try to sell a couple of the rabbits as breeders.  If we can sell a couple from each litter, that would definitely help offset the cost of raising the others.

buck growouts

buck growouts

buck growout

buck growout

Blue Baby and kits

Blue Baby and kits

Mama and kit

Mama and kit

Mama's kits

Mama’s kits

Jesse finished putting up the first half of the new chicken enclosure.  The girls aren’t happy they don’t have the whole yard to roam, but it’s a good amount of space and eventually we’ll put in more fencing and double the run.  Our new chickens inside the house look like they are doing well.  We basically spend no time with them at all, not handling them or anything, but who has the time?  And really, as long as they are maliciously pecking at us or Ezra, I don’t need them to be too docile.

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We’re planning out where we want the garden rows to go.  Well, Jesse is planning them and I just nod amiably.

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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.

New kits coming up!

Am really quite certain our mellow white doe is with child(ren).  I went to feed some hay a couple nights ago and she immediately started haystaching.  Definitely a good sign, but now I’m paranoid she is planning to have the kits early.  February 4th would be the 28th day, so that’s when I will put in the nest box, and she didn’t kindle early last time but you never know.  She’s also lying on her side a whole lot more, like it’s hard to move around.  The blue doe, on the other hand, still has a pretty trim figure and is not haystaching and seems to have a lot of energy.  I have a feeling she is not pregnant this time either, but who knows.  I will still put in her nest box at the same time as the white doe because they are due at the same time.

The kits are getting bigger every day.  We need to get another cage so we can separate out the bucks and does.  I kind of think I would like to keep the gold-tipped steel kit if it’s a doe.  Seems a bit more friendly than the black kit and is roughly the same size.  I need to check its gender, though.

And now for some photos from around the yard:

Ezra loves to be outside, even when it's way cold.

Ezra loves to be outside, even when it’s way cold.

Joline surveying the flock

Joline surveying the flock

Ross clothes and Ezra 007

our girls are still giving us eggs

our girls are still giving us eggs

chickens like to come into the rabbit area and scratch around

chickens like to come into the rabbit area and scratch around

gold-tipped steel kit

gold-tipped steel kit

such a handsome lad!

such a handsome lad!

Bye!

Bye!