Monday, June 11, 2018

Chive Blossom Infused Vinegars

Did you know that you can use those fluffy purple chive blossoms and create a tangy, slightly oniony infused vinegar?  It's super easy!  All you need are chive blossoms, any type of white vinegar, a jar and some patience!


First step is to gather your chive blossoms.  You can either use scissors/clippers, or just pop them off with your fingers.  Once you've gathered your blossoms, you'll want to soak/rinse them really well in water to make sure you don't have any creepy crawlies hiding in them.  A salad spinner works great for this.

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Once the blossoms are cleaned, place them in a mason jar - I used approximately 1 cup of blossoms in each pint jar.  Cover the blossoms with your choice of vinegar.  You'll want to use a light colored vinegar because the blossoms will transform the vinegar into a beautiful shade of pink.  I did one jar with Champagne Vinegar and one with White Balsamic.  I had a cup of the Champagne and just over a cup of the Balsamic.


Seal the jars and tuck them away for 7-10 days.  You'll see that after letting the blossoms infuse, the vinegar color has been transformed and the it will have a slight onion scent to it.

    

Strain the vinegar(s) through cheesecloth or a coffee filter into a jar or bottle.  Be sure to squeeze the blossoms to ensure you get all of the chive flavor.


Use in dressings, marinades, or anywhere you'd use vinegar.  Enjoy!


~ Sara :)

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Early June Garden View

We have been busy busy with our garden this year.  Most things are looking great!  We have had a lot of rain this spring and that has definitely taken a toll on some of our crops.  Our beets never sprouted, out of 24 Yukon potatoes, only 7 sprouted, one batch of pole beans did not sprout well and our corn suffered as well.  But, everything else is thriving!  I wanted to take a few photos of the garden now - beginning of June - to compare to photos at the end of June and into July and August.  So, here's a peek into our happy place :)

This is the when you walk into the main entrance of the garden - the northwest corner:


Here is a view from the northeast corner of the garden:

  

This view is from the back (south) side of our garden.  When I took these photos, neither the carrots or fingerling potatoes had been weeded because they were still sprouting:


Still facing north in the garden, this gives you a vision of everything behind the cucumbers:


And, a view of everything in front of the cucumbers:


A view from the southeast corner:


It's our first year growing Jerusalem Artichokes and they are doing amazing!  This is the southwest corner of the garden (the bees are behind the Jerusalem Artichokes):


There is a small peek into our garden!  Looking forward to comparing these photos to new ones in a few short weeks!

~ Sara :)

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Moving the Baby Chicks into the Chicken Run - Part One

The time has finally come - we're getting our garage back!  The chicks are now five and six weeks old and, most importantly, fully feathered.  They've been without their heat lamp for a couple weeks now so they're ready to get the boot.....out to the chicken run.

Our chicken run is quite extensive with different areas that can be gated off as needed.  Jason put a lot of work into our run a couple years ago.  We decided that we would put the babies into the first area of the run.  They would have a lot more space and be able to see/hear our two big girls, Libby Mae and Bork, but they couldn't get to them (well, until they fly over the fence....)  So, just a few things needed to be done before we could get them completely situated.  First was to line the fence with chicken wire so they couldn't fit through it.

    

Jason knocked that out fairly quickly - he first lined up the top, stapling as he went, then went back to secure it in the middle and bottom.

    


All done!

    

Jason and I lugged the dog kennel with the chicks outside to the run and got them situated. They didn't know what to think; they stayed huddled in their kennel for awhile.


Jason headed out with some tools and plywood to secure the dog kennel and to make it a makeshift coop.  The noise scared some of them enough to come out.  Half in.....half out.


It didn't take terribly long for them to finally get brave and leave their safe place.  

    

In order to secure the kennel and make it predator proof, Jason secured plywood to the top and both sides.  Then, at night, after we lock the kennel door, we use bungee cords to keep the cover from an old playhouse taut and in place.  We also put a large stump in front as an extra precaution.

    


Would we use this as a permanent coop?  No, definitely not.  But, we are hoping to transition the chicks in with the two big girls this weekend. #fingerscrossed  Then, they'll be in the large coop at night.  I had a 'supervised visitation' today and let the two big girls into the run with the smaller ones.  Everything is fine until Bork feels that one of the smaller ones is going to take her food.  Then she pecks and scares the crap out of them.  I mean, I feel the same way sometimes....


Our plan is to sneak the chicks into the coop tomorrow (Friday) night while they're all sleepy and roosting.  That generally is the best way to introoduce new chickens.  Hopefully the transition is somewhat smooth.  They are getting more adventurous, but are still quite flighty and aren't too sure of us yet.  Oh, and I have I mentioned that one of our "pullets" is a rooster!?  He will most likely be going to a new home soon.  Of course it's one of the Easter Eggers that I wanted so badly....and also has the most beautiful coloring.  That's him on top of the kennel (where he should not be!)


Stay tuned to see how the full integration goes - I'll be back with an update soon!

~ Sara :)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Transferring Our First Bee Swarm

It was just a few short weeks ago we earned the titles of "Beekeepers" when we brought home our first nuc of bees.  Well, yesterday - on National Bee Day coincidentally - we ventured even farther into our new title. 


Jason's uncle called us up late last week and told us that he was pretty certain there was a swarm of honeybees in his compost and, if we wanted them, they were ours.  Jason jumped at the chance to gather his first swarm so he loaded up the car and made the hour-plus drive to his uncle's farm.  And, much to our excitement, there was in fact quite the swarm of honeybees!  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to tag along so there aren't any photos of him extracting the bees, but he did snap one photo before diving into the swarm.


Once he got home it was raining (of course!) so we had to wait a little longer to put them in their new home.  We got our Warre Hive all set up and tried to figure out the best way to transport them.  Now, with a Warre hive, there aren't premade frames like a Langstroth hive.  So, a Warre hive is ideal for new swarms - you can just dump them into the hive.  But, Jason had recovered a few pieces of honeycomb and we wanted that to be in the hive with them.  Ultimately, we decided to use our transfer box that we purchased to use with our Warre Hive.  Jason left three empty Langstroth frames in the transfer box and tucked the honeycomb in between the frames.

    

Thankfully, the rain didn't last long so we got geared up and got to work!

    

First, Jason blew a little smoke into the box to try and disorient and calm the bees a bit.  


Then, it was time to open the box.  There were so many bees!  SO MANY!!!  He started by removing the honeycomb and tucking that into the transfer box.



    

Then, it was time to carefully dump and sweep the rest of them into the hive.

    






The amount of bees swarming around us was unreal!  Once Jason had gotten the majority of the bees out of the box, he closed up the top and started carefully sweeping them towards the entrance of the hive.

    



One of the coolest features of the Warre Hive is that there's a window!  We opened it up just to take a peek and they were already in there working.


Raising bees has been such a fun, interesting venture so far.  We still have a lot to learn, but we're doing that as we go!  Bees are such a remarkable creature.


Until next time,

~ Sara :)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Planting the Garden....and Trying to Stay Dry

You know what we've had a lot of lately?  RAIN!  So much rain!!  How much rain you ask?  Well, I snapped a few pictures of the kids playing in the easement that runs alongside our property.  This area flooded, dried up and then flooded again in less than two weeks.  It's been W-E-T here!



     

Mother's Day weekend was no exception to the rain, but we had to get the garden in.  Thankfully, I had already done some planting which gave us a little less to do over the weekend.  We had already planted our Yukon potatoes, beets, corn, tomatoes, and peas.

    

    

Jason and I took advantage of a break in the rain on Saturday and knocked out a lot of the planting.  We were able to get the watermelon, zucchini, eggplant, cantaloupe, jalapenos, radishes, bell peppers, kale, cabbage, cucumbers, and Brussels sprouts all in before we were tired and ready to call it a day.


It rained a lot on Saturday night.  The garden was such a mess!  But, we wanted to get it done and only had a handful of things left to plant.  So, we headed back into the garden and got to work.  Sunday we planted our fingerling potatoes, onions, carrots, bush beans, and pole beans.  It felt so good to get all of that done!

    

    

 

All the crops were in, but we still wanted to add some herbs and marigolds.  I really wanted to companion plant the herbs in with the veggies, but due to my poor planning - not leaving space for the herbs in our rows - I wasn't able to do that.  I was able to put a few herbs (parsley, borage, and dill) with the onions and (basil and borage) with the tomatoes.  Other than that, I just made a row of herbs in the extra space we had available.


All the crops that we planted over the weekend seemed to have survived the storms that we had both Saturday and Sunday night.  One good advantage to the rain - it's made weeds easier to pick!  We started a lot of sunflowers this year so I transplanted eight of them outside the bee fence.


Next up is to do some work with the rhubarb - I have one bed that needs weeded and another one to plant.  The to-do list is never ending, but I love it!

Happy Gardening!

~ Sara :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Greek Inspired Bean Salad

I whipped together this salad yesterday and it is so delicious!  The best part is that all of the ingredients are staples in our house.  Well, except the olives.  Although I don’t mind kalamata olives in very small portions, I don’t like them enough to keep them in my pantry.  So, no olives in this batch!  But, that’s another great thing about this salad - use as much or as little of the veggies to what suits you.  Same with the beans.  I used one can of great northern and one can of chickpeas.  Use whatever you prefer and have on hand.

Greek Inspired Bean Salad 


Ingredients:

2 (15 oz) cans beans, drained and rinsed well
1/2 large cucumber, chopped
1 bell pepper (red, yellow, or orange), chopped
1/2 small red onion, chopped small
8-10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4-1/2 cup kalamata olives, drained and chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine or champagne vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried oregano 
1 tsp dried parsley 
Salt & pepper

Directions:

1.  Combine the beans, cucumber, pepper, onion, tomatoes, olives, and feta in a large bowl.  In a mason jar add the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and seasonings.  Seal and shake well.  Pour over salad and gently toss to coat.  Serve immediately or refrigerate.  Enjoy!


Bon  App├ętit!

~ Sara :)


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Chicken Fever

I mentioned in a post about a month ago that we had added some adorable fluffiness to our homestead!  I'm now - finally - dedicating a post just to these little (well, not so little anymore!) balls of cuteness.

We knew for awhile that this was going to be the year to add to our flock.  So, once we got home from Spring Break, the kids and I took a trip to the store and picked out 8 fluffy little babies to bring home.  We got 2 each of - Barnevelders, Black Australorps, Silver Laced Wyandottes, and Golden Comets.  All four of these are breeds that we've never had before and I'm pretty excited to add different colors/breeds to our flock!

    

Jason transformed our kids old playhouse into a brooder for them in the garage.  There are four crucial things that you need when raising baby chicks - food, water, heat, and a place for them to escape the heat.  Chicks need lots of heat when they're babies, but they also need the ability to get away from the heat if need be.

    

A week after we got our chicks Jason had to go out of town for business.  Ashlyn and I took a trip to our local Tractor Supply for chicken food and what do I find there?  Easter Egger chicks!!!!  Now, for those of you not familiar with chicken breeds, Easter Eggers are an adorable breed with puffy, chipmunk-like cheeks and will (generally) lay eggs in light shades of blue or green.  I've been really wanting some of these chicks.  So, I did what any chicken-loving wife would do.  I called Jason and begged.  #noshame  Guess what?  Our brooder grew by four :)


I mean - LOOK AT THESE CHEEKS!!!


I was a little nervous about introducing the new babies in with the other chicks but, thankfully, since they were only a week apart, the integration went smoothly. 


And they all cuddle in a big pile of fluff.


One of our Golden Comets battled pasty butt pretty badly for a few weeks.  Pasty butt is a common issue among chicks.  It's basically when poop sticks to a chicks vent.  I know, not the most glamorous thing, no one ever said chickens were glamorous animals :)  But, she got lots of TLC and after many treatments, she's good as new.  You can read more about pasty butt and how to treat it here.


For the first few weeks we used puppy pads in their brooder.  It was the first time we had done this and I must say, cleanup was super easy!  But, once we were through the package of puppy pads, we filled the brooder with pine shavings, which is what we use in our chicken coop.  Jason also added a small roosting bar for them which they love.

    

They have really grown in the past four weeks and were beginning to get a little crowded in their brooder.  So, Jason took our old dog kennel we used when Oliver was a puppy and put it up against the door of the playhouse.  Voila!  A second wing to The Hayes Homestead Brooder :)

    

The girls are getting louder and stinkier the longer that they are in the garage.  We are patiently waiting for them to get a couple weeks older so we can serve them their eviction notice and move them out to the coop with Libby Mae and Bork.  We've got our fingers crossed that's an easy transition!

Cheep Cheep,
~ Sara :)