Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Virginia Snow

I hate cold weather. I'm not particularly fond of really hot temperatures either, but I can tolerate the heat better than I can the cold.

Years ago our travels took us to Virginia and I was completely thrilled with the prospect of experiencing winter and the possibility of snow with my children. 
Ah, the sweet memories I had of my childhood winters in N.J.; the glorious early morning sound of the fire station whistle blast signaling school closure due to snow, opening the drapes to a sparkling, pristine carpet of white, racing across the street to go sleigh riding with my best friend Sue, ice skating at night, snowball fights, forts and snowmen, steaming hot chocolate with marshmallows.... deep sigh.
I was so excited I could hardly wait.

  We were renting a tiny two bedroom house in the woods while we looked for our own piece of property or farm when we experienced our first Virginia snow.

 It was glorious! Bob built the kids homemade sleds and we spent hours playing in the winter wonderland.

But, it wasn't long before the fun ended and the real cold began. When we got our first $300. electric bill we realized that there was only baseboard heat in our little shack and no insulation on the house, so we decided to turn off the heat. Instead, we used a  catalytic heater attached to the top of a propane cylinder to warm ourselves. It was a fine line between carbon monoxide poisoning and hypothermia and it was then that I decided that I no longer liked the cold.
Now, this is how I see myself in the cold:

And this is one of the reasons why today we live in Florida.
Nevertheless, this morning's temperatures were in the low 40's with north winds blowing, chilling down the house, and tonight is expected to drop to the mid to low 30's, so I lit the first fire of the season.

Don't you love the smell of a wood fire burning?!
As lovely as our fireplace is, I've found that the warm air does not circulate very well.  I spent too much of the day camped out right next to it last winter so this year we've decided to warm the rest of the house with this....

The weather forecast is calling for a warming trend for the rest of this week, bringing our temperatures back to near 80 degrees by the weekend. Good. That will give Bob time to finish building the pineapple house and cut a hole in the ceiling and roof of our home to set up the new little cast iron, wood burning stove in time for the next cold front.
Hopefully, it will also give us nice, warm weather for our all-day Ironman Run Station on Saturday.

Monday, October 29, 2012

This is Wrong!

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I started another blog. On dial up internet. Understandably, it didn't last long. Today I was reminded of that blog and I'm stealing an entry because it was too good to pass up - especially at this time of year.

“This is wrong!”  That’s what my husband says. The boys and I are rolling on the floor laughing! Here’s how it begins:   

     And this is how it ends....

I just couldn't resist. I have a feeling our Boy Scout troop will get a real kick out of this!

Here's how to make it:


  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package German chocolate cake mix
  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package white cake mix
  • 2 (3.5 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 (12 ounce) package vanilla sandwich cookies
  • 3 drops green food coloring
  • 1 (12 ounce) package tootsie rolls


  1. Prepare cake mixes and bake according to package directions (any size pan).
  2. Prepare pudding according to package directions and chill until ready to assemble.
  3. Crumble sandwich cookies in small batches in a food processor, scraping often. Set aside all but 1/4 cup. To the 1/4 cup add a few drops of green food coloring and mix.
  4. When cakes are cooled to room temperature, crumble them into a large bowl. Toss with 1/2 of the  cookie crumbs, and the chilled pudding. You probably won’t need all of the pudding, you want the cake to be just moist, not soggy.
  5. Line kitty litter box with the kitty litter liner. Put cake mixture into box.
  6. Put half of the unwrapped tootsie rolls in a microwave safe dish and heat until softened. Shape the ends so that they are no longer blunt, and curve the tootsie rolls slightly. Bury tootsie rolls randomly in the cake and sprinkle with half of the remaining cookie crumbs. Sprinkle a small amount of the green colored cookie crumbs lightly over the top.
  7. Heat 3 or 4 of the tootsie rolls in the microwave until almost melted. Scrape them on top of the cake and sprinkle lightly with some of the green cookie crumbs. Heat the remaining tootsie rolls until pliable and shape as before. Spread all but one randomly over top of cake mixture. Sprinkle with any remaining cookie crumbs. Hang the remaining tootsie roll over side of litter box and sprinkle with a few green cookie crumbs. Serve with the pooper scooper for a gross Halloween dessert.
As if the cake weren't enough, my son made another snack tray to go with it.

 EEWWW!  (Peanut Butter, mini marshmallows and popsicle sticks)

As you can see, the Kitty Litter Cake was a hit!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Cooler Weather Coming!

Except for an unusual cold spell a week ago, for a while now our temperatures here in Florida have been in the 80's during the day and in the high 50's /60's during the night which is pretty typical for this time of year, though I do have memories of many a balmy, hot end of October. This is lovely! I've been spending time outdoors gardening, and yesterday I went riding with my daughter- it was her first time riding with me and we had a great time together -  except for the brief time that Dixie unexpectedly turned tail and took off for home with Jessica hanging on!  We switched horses back at the barn and everything went well after that.
  This morning I pulled up the weather and saw that the projected forecast for Sunday night is a low of  41 degrees. BBRR. Not pleasant for pineapples! Pineapples grow best in temperatures between 65 and 95. Though they can survive a freeze, temperatures below 40  can cause their leaves to become significantly damaged, resulting in poor growth or dying off altogether. I looked at the forecast again and then I noticed that the low for Monday night is said to be 32 DEGREES!  Oh my gosh, that's FREEZING! Do you know what that means?? That means that Bob is going to be a busy boy today and tomorrow!  It means that he has to build the entire "pineapplehouse" before the freeze prediction.  This is what it looks like right now:

Hopefully, by Sunday night it will have a whole new look!  It also means that I'm going to be busy planting all the pineapples in the ground. It seems silly to drag all the pots of plants into the new addition without permanently planting them.  Not to mention that the %#^@* chickens discovered the fruit this past week and ate the entire pineapple, skin and all!  I came home to find the top of  a pineapple plant lying in the driveway. Initially I thought a chicken must have uprooted a new transplant, but then I saw that the fruit had been broken off the stalk and every part, save the very top had been devoured -and  it was the biggest pineapple we'd grown yet. As I looked around I saw another and another... The dang chickens had eaten every one. Some were larger than this:

So now it's even more imperative that we house all our plants - not only to keep them from freezing, but to keep them safe from the chickens!  Sometimes the cost of having free-range chickens is more than the price of the eggs!
I'm off now, to feed the billies, water gardens and trees and begin to prepare for frost.
I'm also thinking of friends and family in the Northeast as Hurricane Sandy heads their way. 

Be Safe. Be Prepared.

Oh, and speaking of cooler weather coming... Yesterday, while Jess and I were out riding we came upon a cleanup crew in the park cutting up and stacking downed trees. As we primarily use our fireplace to heat our home in winter I asked what they planned to do with the wood. Back from our ride an hour later, the two of us loaded the pile into our truck.  Ah, the favor of God!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Goat Day!

What a ride! Just like a mechanical bull: Get On, Turn On and HANG ON!

This past Saturday was Goat Day in NW Florida. It was our first experience with this annual festival put on by the local Rotary Club, and until the previous Monday, we had no idea that we would even be involved, so you can imagine what a week of preparation it was!

  It all began over a year ago when a friend suggested we bring our goats to Goat Day. She said that the goats that were there the previous year were few and left much to be desired. She said it was very disappointing and thought that our goats would be a fabulous addition.  Later, another friend mentioned that she too, had been to Goat Day and had to ask someone, "Where are the goats?" That year there were none.  My understanding is, that for the past 20 years there has been a celebrated Goat Day Festival in Blountstown, Florida, but actual real-life goats have seldom been on display for this event.  I put the idea on the back burner and left it there for quite some time.

  This year, two weeks before Goat Day,  I began to try to contact the Rotary Club to find out more information - yes, I had waited until the very last minute, as is typical, but eventually I had the scoop and we were invited to bring our flock and participate in the festivities. Having never attended this celebration before, I had no idea what to expect, so the day before the show Bob and I went to the fairgrounds to see where we would be located and how best to prepare. I had envisioned a few small pens crammed up against bandstand bleachers, as we had been told that we would be right next to the stage, so I was more than pleasantly surprised with what we found when we arrived.  The setup was way beyond our expectations! The large, 40ft X 20ft tent was being set up, center-stage, giving us plenty of attention and shade throughout the day, and shortly thereafter a crew of workers came to build the goat pens to our specifications.  We had them put together three pens: a large area for a petting zoo, and two smaller areas for the milking goats and the sale bucklings. Those were located at the back of the tent so that towards the front we could pass out samples of fresh, cold milk, delicious homemade chevre cheese and goat milk soap, a hobby I've just recently become enamored with.

The day before the show was a blur. Bob had already worked a 40 hour week outside of the farm, and now it was a race to build a portable, yet sturdy milking stand, shop for last minute necessary items, procure and load the horse trailer and pickup truck with all the necessary equipment: tables, chairs,  feed troughs, hay, milking machine, buckets, hoses, power cords, tools (to complete unfinished jobs), display items, ice chests, food stuffs, etc. etc. We were up until 10:30 or so packing and preparing and were not finished when we finally called it a day and collapsed, exhausted.  The next morning we were up at 2:30am to slug down a quick cup of coffee and finish loading last minute items and goats.  Thankfully a good friend came to help and stayed throughout the day. Another friend joined us at the park, and I'm telling you, we couldn't have done it without them!  The goats loaded relatively easily, we aired up the trailer tires and were on the road by 6:00.

  This was the first time we'd ever taken our animals off the farm.  It was our first public show and our first visit to Goat Day, so we had no idea what to expect. The doors opened at 8:00 and the crowds grew as the day progressed. It was a combination Goat Day and Pioneer Day with a small 4H show and Horse Drill Team exposition and lots of vendors! Unfortunately, we were kept so busy there was no time to walk about and see the rest of the park and exhibits. I saw only the inside of our tent. I would have liked to explore and take pictures of the different events.  Next year we'll be better prepared.

 I thank God for our helpers!
Crystal met us at the fairgrounds and immediately got to work setting up tables, filling feed bins, and doing anything else she could to help.

 She was superb at greeting guests and offering samples of goat milk and cheese.  Most of the visitors to our booth had never tasted either and were a bit hesitant to try, but a sweet smile and a little encouragement from Crystal, and most all walked away with a whole new outlook and appreciation for these delicious and wholesome foods!

Darby saved us and showed up at our house at 3:30 am to help load the truck and entice the goats into the trailer. We brought approx. 25 goats with us; a variety of Nubian and Saanen milk goats, 7 month old Nubian bucklings, and small Nigerian Pygmy Goats perfect for the petting zoo.

Once the vehicles were unloaded, the goats settled in their pens and the booth was set up she arranged a beautiful display of handmade goat milk soaps to sell. Several months ago Darby helped me to achieve a longstanding dream of learning to make soap. I had researched, read, and watched videos, but she gave me the hands-on confidence I needed to begin, and now it's become a passion of mine.

Darby stayed the whole day, meeting and greeting, and handling wonderfully a task I've found I'm not very gifted at - selling the soaps.

Bob was the entertainer (and builder, and brawn, and mastermind...) Two days before this affair he began building a heavy duty milking stand so that we could give milking demonstrations throughout the day. Once the trucks were unloaded, the goats were penned and we three girls were arranging everything, Bob set to work running electricity and hoses, and then finished the construction of the stand. It was definitely last minute, but perfect timing!
 He held the major jobs of overseeing the children in the petting area, and setting up and administrating the milking game -

A race to see who could milk their little cups full the fastest! Too fun! The kids loved it!

At 1:00 I gave a soapmaking demonstration. I cut the mixing time in half to hold interest so the soap was quite soupy and messy later during transport, but after a night in the fridge I was quite surprised to find that it turned out perfectly!
I also milked goats periodically. I was relieved to find that even with all the newness and commotion of  the fair - with  gospel music groups playing on the bandstand just behind us and a continual wave of people coming and going, not to mention a brand new milking stand that they'd never been up on, my milkers did just fine and jumped right up to be milked - and get their pelletized feed, which they love!  I was also a little concerned that they might not be as anxious to be fed on the stand since they been offered handfuls of feed all day long.

Truly, that was the hit of the day -  the petting zoo where children and parents could go in and interact with the goats.  Bob was there to oversee and be sure no ears were pulled, no  toes were stepped on, nor any of the goats terrorized by the little darlings. I think the goats enjoyed the attention and had as much fun as the kids did!

Goat Day ended at 4:00.  It had been a beautiful, sunny, fall day - a complete success!  We met lots of wonderful people, shared over 9 gallons of  milk and many containers of cheese, sold a good amount of soap, passed out blog cards, and brought smiles to the faces of  a multitude of children.
We gave it our all and we were whipped when it was over!
  My only regret was not taking more pictures.  There were a few things we'd do differently, but it was a great experience and now we'll be better prepared to do it up even bigger NEXT YEAR!

If you happened to be there this year I'd love to hear from you, and even if you didn't, we appreciate your comments, suggestions and ideas.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Random Weekly Thoughts and Updates

* My everyday, carry in my pocket to be able to take pictures of everything camera broke awhile ago so I'm having a hard time shooting the day by day Homestead Life photos. For me that's frustrating. So much of what goes on here is spur of the moment, or wet and dirty and I can't bang around my good camera like that, so pictures of what we're doing are at a minimum.

* The milking machine broke this morning. It's not pressurizing the canister therefore there's no suction. My Saanan goats have teeny tiny teats and are impossible to milk by hand. They also produce the most milk- one girl gives in excess of a half gallon at each milking.

UPDATE: Since writing this, Bob completely took the machine apart, gave it a good cleaning and it's up and running again.  I've realized though, that I wouldn't be able to do this without one - or him!

 * Something is destroying eggs in the hay barn. I've set a live trap but it keeps springing the trap and getting the bait as well.  I thought we had eradicated the problem two nights ago when we removed two raccoons who were on the porch eating the cat food. (I have to feed the cats at night because during the day the chickens will converge and take over the food bowl. Everything is afraid of the chickens around here: the cats, the turkeys, the Rottweilers... me too!) I think I need a bigger trap - I suspect the predator is an opossum. Whatever it is chased a hen off a nest she'd  been sitting for two weeks.

*  Today we begin building the Pineapple House. For years we've been dragging potted pineapple plants out of the greenhouse every spring and putting them back in the fall, but those suckers have become quite large and they're sharp! I vowed this past spring that I would NOT drag them back inside again! Not to mention they take up the entire floor of the greenhouse, leaving no room to begin Aquaponics - which is NEXT on the list! 
 The plan is to take down two sets of glass panels on the greenhouse, build a weight bearing wall, extend a glass addition on to the south side of the greenhouse specifically for the pineapples, and plant them in the ground. I'll let you know how it goes (once the milking machine is fixed!)

* I've been making goat milk soap fairly regularly and have begun packaging - even the boxes are handmade. (from scrapbooking cardstock - Use what 'cha got!)  As you can see, I'm targeting sales for the holidays - The ingredients I use to make my soaps are: coconut oil, olive oil, goat milk, and palm oil - no lard or tallow, and so far the fragrances include: Oakmoss, Ylang Ylang, Very Sexy For Her, Heavenly Heather, Peach Mango, Frankincense and Myrrh, Cool Mountain Lake, White Satin and Bay Rum.
Below are just two of the many bar designs I make.

 * The bees are back.  Last weekend we consolidated trailers and brought back our hives from the cotton farm. I'll tell you more about that soon.


*  AND the most exciting news of all... After a two year engagement, there's whisperings of a date!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Family Time

My daughter and future son-in-law left yesterday to head home to London. They were here on "holiday" for 10 days and what a wild ride we had! We see them twice a year when they come to visit and Homestead Life stops, except for the absolute necessities, so we can spend time playing together.

  In the past days we've:

Had family dinners out more than we ever have.  Once a year we have a special evening dinner at Carrabbas. My son works two jobs and my daughter works full time and goes to school. My youngest is in school as well, so arranging schedules so that we could all be together was tricky, but on this night we managed to!

  Been boating - both to the beach and across the lake and up the creek. The Pontoon boat engine tried to be difficult, but Bob was able to fix it. Had he not, we'd still be there! We dodged rain storms all around us but stayed dry for the most part - except when we wanted to...

Gone riding.  This was the first time any of my children have been riding with me. Now that the ice has been broken I hope that they'll come ride often!

Spent time on the range

Gone to the rodeo - another yearly family tradition

The kids spent additional time together shopping, visiting with friends and enjoying eateries and night life closer to the beach, but finally, after saying goodbye to her siblings in town, my daughter and fiance met us for breakfast

 and we said our goodbyes. It's always so hard - we won't see them again until July of next year.

So now, it's time to get back to Homestead Life. There's fall transplants to put in the ground, a pineapple greenhouse to build, wood to cut and stack, orchards to mow, the bees need sugar water....

And I think we'd better hive this swarm before they split!