Thursday, June 30, 2011

MJT ~ Tribute to a Love Story

This is a story about a young man, a young woman, and a car.  It's the story of how lives as two kids in Pennsylvania are brought together by love and where their love led them.
In the early 70's, she wasn't known by the initials MJT.  She was Mary Jane, a girl with her first car:
A 1971 Alpha Romeo

Maybe you can imagine the times she had in this car and the memories it holds?  Most people have long since replaced or disposed of these wonderful treasures.  Not Mary Jane.  

It wasn't long before Mary Jane met a special boy.  As destiny called it, he too...had an Alpha Romeo.

Some things are just meant to be. 

Mary Jane married this boy, Loren Sr., they moved to Illinois and had two wonderful sons.  Both cars came with them.  Now you know the story of a love meant to be and a car tagged "MJT".

You also know one of their sons...  Have you figured it to be "Long and Lanky Loren" or LLL yet?
We here know him best as Pig Pen's side kick.  I even refer to him as Pig Pen's "other wife" on occasion.  I told them recently they need marital counseling.  They fight like brothers actually.  Because they really are in a sense!

Sometimes blood doesn't make family.  Occasionally the lines get crossed and you are blessed with friends that become family.  And if you are even luckier still, your family are your friends.  They become one.  That's Our "Long and Lanky Loren".  Family and Friend.
Even though he gets ornery and leaves things behind for me all the time...
...We'll keep him.

And this deserves thanks.  Thank you, MJT and Loren Sr. for many things past, present and yet to come -including LLL.

As the years have gone by, many things have changed for this family.  MJT has continued her career in nursing, the boys have all moved out; and ever so sadly, two years ago this July, Loren Sr. succumbed to Pancreatic Cancer -far too young. 

I am sure he would have traveled many more roads with MJT, maybe even in a restored Alpha. 

It's hard to fully understand why God calls us home, but He does to each of us by name.  Finding comfort is so difficult.  It is a long road and maybe the hardest one we ever travel.  When we lose a loved one, a piece of us goes with and pieces are left behind.  Those pieces are cherished as beloved memories of a husband, father, son and friend.

So in memory of Loren Sr., let's propose that the story not end here.  Let's write another chapter.  Maybe he would want that...

How about making some memories come to life?

MJT recently made the decision to part with the Alpha Romeo.  It was not an easy thing for her to do, as I am sure you can understand. 

Remember how I said the lines between family and friends can cross?

Well my friends, it's being crossed.

Here's how...

MJT would have never sold this car to any Joe Blow.  But Pig Pen is no, um -Blow?  It was still very difficult for her and I don't blame her one bit.  But the Alpha deserves to be restored to all it's glory and as it goes, Pig Pen will be taking care of some household things for her that need doing.

A trade of sorts.  Now don't think for one second this car will never delight MJTs loving hands on the steering wheel again.  It will, someday!

Oddly enough, Pig Pen doesn't even want the Alpha for himself.  Before you get all up in arms, it will remain in the family. 

Lines...remember the lines.

Have I failed to mention that POPS has restored many vehicles as pet projects over the years?

Well, this was his Father's Day from us:
Let me tell you, he was ecstatic!  He's always wanted to have a fun convertible and he truly enjoys and takes pride in restoration! 

And the funny thing about the day we brought it over to him, he was working on his sisters 1980 MG convertible too!
MJT, one day...your car will rival this one yet again!  If anyone can work magic, it's Pops!  He will do you most proud!
As hard as it was to let this treasure of yours go, it will always be "In the Family" and loved!

Don't be surprised if sometime in the next year or so, you hear the familiar sound of a horn toot in your drive way...
Because he's already getting parts in...
The work is already underway...
And you will be at the top of the list when this baby rides the road on her own again...
It's all in the family forever my friend...  and if you needed further assurance Mrs. MJT, consider this:
Maybe we can convince Pops to keep the name and think of it as "Mike and Jan's, Too!"

Like I said, some things are just meant to be.

Psalm 34:18
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

At Least Somethings Growing!

Yesterday I received a copy of the book I won from Mama Pea's giveaway!

To say that I was honored, thrilled, excited to have a little piece of history from someone such as her would be an understatement.  Many, many of us have grown to love her as our own little Mama.  This book will be treasured.  Thank you, Mama Pea!

She had bazillions of entries for this book!  But one entry in particular just tickled me silly!   I know Pig Pen's Aunt Lori is out there reading blogs.  Well, she actually left a comment on Mama Pea's!  I just have to share it again:
Aunt Lori said...
Hi Mama Pea, I am Apple Pie Gal's Aunt Lori. She talks about you all the time. She is rubbing off on me. After my divorce after 26 yrs. of marriage, I am finally trying to take care of me. I have never cooked real healthy for myself so these would be helpful.Glad to meet you, maybe you will inspire me also.
How can you not want to give her a big, squishy hug?  To this I say...ya know what Aunt Lori, you DO deserve a copy of this book.  Your very own is on it don't be throwing out anything from Barnes & Noble my dear!  We all want you happy and healthy!  XOXO

My personal bookshelf has increased tenfold over the last year.  Here are the ones I am working on now:

Soap making is a project that I absolutely have to dig into.  Sure wish my Lavender and Calendula made it thru the monsoons...
Of the two, I like the plain cut language in this one best:
Grains.  Even if small scale, I am off to a bit of a start in that direction.  I have corn for drying and buckwheat planted.  This is a nice book with all sorts of information including how to plant, harvest, even use up your grains.  Yes, it has recipes  :)
Since I have the Grain Mill now, I really needed a great book on bread making with grains.  Jane recommended this one.  Have you noticed two certain some one's like Laurel's Kitchen books?  Well, they cant both be wrong!  It is a very good book.
If I can, I'd like to figure a better process for root crops.  I say "IF" because our cellar is pretty scarey...might have to get over it:
And then Jody and Susan both recommended this one:
Very thought provoking.  I am really enjoying this book!  Talk about a forward-backwards thinking man.  Confusing?  Read the book and you will know what I mean.  In other words, he sees what is happening, predicted it even, how it impacts our farms and the old, kinder ways needing resurrection.  You know, when we actually cared for things the right way and family was family.  Well, I am sure there is much more to come as I just got it and am only on Chapter 5. 

So the only thing growing by leaps and bounds around here is my bookshelf!  :o)

That's not entirely true...
The garden is growing!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Things I've (Ahem) Found...

Things I have found in the last week range from good, to "Oh, what the heck", to downright frustrating!

Let's start with the frustrating and end on a good note!  Ever since we got struck by lightening, the electrical issues have plagued us.  Not to mention dealing with insurance.  Alot of out-of-pocket expenses and we aren't done yet.  For one, we had to get "repairmen" and quotes.  Do I really need to tell you that we don't ever have to call repairmen???  Pig Pen is a built-in, ready-made, jack of all trades.  So dealing with multiples of real "repairmen" has been ....errrrrr.  But we have to in order to get it covered.

I still need to get on them to finish up!  Why do you have to (for lack of a better word) nag to get them to complete a job?  My computers still need a good check up.  I believe we 'lost' one entirely.  My laptop is making me nuts!  I'm not sure if it's zapped or has a virus lurking or both!  And it doesn't help that the new wireless card we had to replace is a real pain in the patoot!  8 times out of 10, I can't even load my own blog-page!  As in, can't even see it!!

But I thought you would get a kick out of a complete idiot-moment I had the other day.  This is what found out when you have too many electrical devices plugged in various outlets that do work:
...and you run your Grain Mill without the catch bucket lid firmly attached.  :o)  Note to self:  sit on lid.

The garden is slowly recovering from the rains.  This is the 5th highest rainfall level for any June on record in our area.  We are sitting just under 15".  Yup, that's alot of water!
See what I found there?

Been doing a little (ahem) shopping around this past week.  Ya know, cuz the garden was too wet to tromp in! 

Tricia needed a super-duper pair of Cowgirl Kicks!  Far be it from me to deny any girl a pair of boots!
I assured her she would walk tall and proud in them.  She does!!

And here are the ones I just couldn't pass by:
Twenty-Bucks on clearance!

And I mighta mabye fell in love with these too: 
But I didn't bring them home, yet.  OK, so there is more to that story, but why go there?

Then Marcia and I hit some awesome Garage Sales!  If you ever see small town wide sales, as in rural communities...Pay Dirt!

We went home with some awesome antiques that were a steal!  Random type things and of course something I have always wanted...
Full working order!  Again, $20 was the magic number!

So I either have really great friends who are bad influences on me or vice-versa.  You can decide.  Either way, I really enjoyed hanging out with my girlfriends!!!

But before you decide if I have great friends or not...
Marcia gave me this belt on long-term loan.  I say long-term because when she told me how much it cost her brand new, I about threw up in my mouth and needed to rip it off me.  Me thinks I should have security guards surround me when I go out in it.

Saaaweeeet!  Yeah, it was way more than $20 bucks!  She's my Cowgirl Queen  :o)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Smarter not Harder

Every Summer, my niece picks a week or few and stays with me.  I asked Andrea if she was going to be Smart about it this year.  Last year, she was here during Sweet Corn and Peach harvest. 

Not Smart.

This year, she decided to come earlier than usual.  She thought that was being Smart.

She forgot about Strawberries.  :o)

We only picked around 35 pounds, so it wasn't too bad.  Then of course you have to clean, hull and do something with them. 
This year I dried quite a bit, made two batches of jam and two gallons of Strawberry Wine.

I am a wine novice.  Right now, we have one gallon of Rhubarb wine fermenting.  I will rack that early next week.  Strawberry Wine is the one I am most looking forward to.  Recently, Jody at Spring Garden Acre did a great post on their wine-making.  You should check it out if you are interested!  Since my girlfriend Tricia gave me this great book for Christmas, I decided to try a recipe from it however:
MightaMaybeMadeMistakes, so rather than share the recipe now, I'll wait to see if it turns out!

Now on Strawberry Picking and my niece, ...she was quite proud of herself for her accomplishment.  This was her first time ever picking and she easily out-picked me almost 2 to 1.  She is also 23 years younger than me.  The brat! 

I let her think she out picked me due to her youth.  What these "old bones" lack in speed, they certainly make up for in endurance!  I wasn't the one whining in "my back hurts, are we done yet" type way...  I saved it for later and suffered silently!  Ha!

But I ask you, did I work Smarter or Harder?  (wink-wink)

And lastly, if you ever needed yet another reason to start pressure canning meats maybe this will help!  Late afternoon yesterday, my SIL Jen called and was a wee bit upset because once again...her freezer went on the fritz.  Just this Spring, she got a 1/4 beef from our farmer up the road!!  So she was wanting to know what she could do with all that meat that was thawing.  UGH!

Hopefully she got it cooked up.  And hopefully she gets a new freezer.  TODAY. 

There again, note to self/nudge to work smarter not harder also.  No one wants to lose that much meat! 

Sorry Sis, hope you got it done or had one heck of a feast!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chicken Pickin'

Some days I hate making decisions.  Let's face it, some are just easier than others.  Most days it's a snap.  Not because I am easily persuaded or a pushover.  Generally, I just know what's right for us and don't like alot of blah, blah, blah.

Ever since the Chicken Tractor magically materialized over the weekend I have been debating what breed of broilers to go with.  I have been following many of you closely on your choices too. 

Y'all know how I feel about white Chucky chickens.  Call me crazy, we all have our nightmarish phobias, right?   
However, in chatting with Stella, she has me re-thinking that many of the problems these poor birds are riddled with can be handled with proper care and nutrition. 

On the other hand, one bad birdie and it's bye-bye for me.  I have been scouring information and it all boils down to two choices:  Cornish X or the red broilers most commonly referred to as Freedom Rangers, Red Rangers or simply Red Broilers.  The last three breeds vary just slightly in some instances but for the most part are relatively the same from what I gathered.

Here is the ongoing debate in my bird brain: 

Cornish X commonly suffer from leg issues.  Their bodies grow so fast that their legs and bones can't keep up.  The tendons and ligaments can tear away, rendering them lame.  Supposedly, Freedom Rangers suffer fewer occurrences with this.

Freedom Rangers have been breed to maintain basic chicken characteristics, namely foraging.  So they are more likely to do well ranged in the Chicken Tractor and Electric Fence.  Cornish X have been known to epitomize the 'bird brain' mentality and not know what to do with a worm and walk away from it...if they can.

Cornish X have a high feed conversion to meat.  They are eating, pooping machines.  Which ultimately means they are ready to butcher in 6 - 8 weeks.  However, when they start creeping up there in 'age' you are more likely to encounter other issues as well.  Their little lungs are prone to flu-like diseases.  If they can't take in enough air, particularly in the heat and their hearts can't pump enough blood, they get lazy.  Who wouldn't?  You also run the risk of breast blisters at this point.  Apparently this can be attributed again to their legs not being strong enough to support the birds weight.  So they start laying down more often which puts pressure on the breast area where fluid can builds up (not necessarily rendering them inedible unless it gets infected).  Wait too long to butcher the Cornish X, and you could easily lose your flock on any of these accounts.

Freedom Rangers handle warmer weather better and grow a bit slower.  Typically they can be ready to butcher between 9-11 weeks.  This means more in feed costs.  However, they do forage which may balance the feed cost out.  Some folks claim they are like a fine wine and the added growth time makes them taste more "chicken-ee".

On both breed accounts, it's reported they can suffer all the same issues to some degree.  However, with proper care, the right balance of vitamins and nutrients, they both produce well.  Even to the point of getting them back on their feet in some cases.  Respiratory issues of course would require medical treatment of some sort, albeit home remedy or pharmaceuticals.

All that back and forth, blah, blah, blah business leads me to think that I should go with the Freedom Ranger as it may be less likely to freak me out.  I'll fly that flag!

Being the new Chicken Farmer that I am, methinks it might be the safest and less traumatic route.  However I have never been one to shy away either. 

And I'm kinda hungry.

Therefore, I may just conduct my own experiment and come to my own conclusions first hand.  I was able to find a couple of sites that I could get both breeds.  Not nearly as easy as one would have thought actually!

Of course, typically there is a minimum order of 25 chicks...Huh...gonna need a bigger Chicken Tractor!

Kidding!  Just thought I'd mess with Pig Pen a little...hehehee!

So, all you experienced Chicken Farmers, what do you think? 

Chicken Pot Pie Gal

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Friends, Fortunes and Fowl

Boy it sure has been a busy around here!  Pig Pen ended up having two weeks off, so that was a real novelty!  It also meant he had projects galore.  He's like that pink bunny without the pink. 

My niece spent the week with us last week also.  Which explains why my computer was no longer my own!  If we weren't out picking, jamming or farting around, she was online.  Since my computer is in the front room where the spare bed is and her hours are way different than mine - well that pretty well explains the lack of posts! 

We also had friends stay the weekend with us and had loads of fun!  Any time you can cavort around and just "be" is time very well spent. 

My girl, my MiniMe in the making, Tricia, and I have been conniving a Chicken Tractor for some time.  Recently, I read an article about the FDA coming clean and confirming there is arsenic in our commercial chicken.  You can read about it here.  (Erin, this would be a 'glaze over moment' for some folks I believe?)

I suppose if you put some barbecue sauce on it, most people wouldn't notice.  I suppose maybe folks feel sorry for the death of a bird as opposed to the good life it lead.  But would you choose an arsenic cocktail from a bird that never walked and lived in a 1 square foot space instead?  I digress, on with happier thoughts.  Deglaze.

We are even more determined to raise all our own meat birds and Tricia is even more determined that we girls can build it ourselves.  Surely we could, but surely it wouldn't pass Pig Pens inspection.

So Saturday afternoon, while Tricia was away a bit, I said to Pig Pen and Keith: "Hey, the four of us should build a Chicken Tractor tomorrow!  It would be fun and Tricia would be excited!"

Of course, Keith was discriminative in a humorous way.  You know, the yeah-can't-wait-to-see-this kind of way?  Well, the guys sorta wrote me off and back to the shop they went. 

Tricia was excited!  So her sister Amber, Tricia and I started surfing and investigating.  We were dead set on this and taking it very seriously!

Pig Pen came in and we got to talking.  He asked Tricia, "So how many 2x4s will you need?"

Ponder, ponder, think, think..."Six!" she says.

It's OK, you can laugh, we did too.  And no my dear will never live it down.  Ever.  :o)

Away to the shop the guys went again.  So we got down on the ground and we measured, we modified, we thought of everything!  Of course we did all this with my sewing tape measure and a steno pad!  Ha! 
She even did her best to hoist a golf cart trailer from her Dad.  No luck.  So now we have to build that part too!  It was so cute when she asked me, "How are we going to build an axle?"  I told her I didn't think we needed to, but wasn't sure. 

The couple of hours we put into our design was well spent.  We were SO proud of ourselves!  We were High Fivin' and practically dancing!  We just knew this was IT!!!  After all, her fortune cookie said so:
How could we go wrong?

Victoriously, we marched out to the garage Saturday night to cram our fabulous design straight up the nay-sayers noses!  Pleased.As.Punch!

Open the door to the shop and this:
SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!!!  And the worst best part of it all, they had started the darn thing before I had even suggested we do it on Sunday!

So the sneaky little liars PLAYED us!  We got played!  Keith said they were putting BEE BOXES together!
Man o man, my jaw hit the floor!  Keith's eye brows clearly read "Busted".  If only I had eyes in the back of my head and could have seen Tricia's expression, I am sure it was a priceless too!  I couldn't see Pig Pen either, but I heard him ask Keith if they were busted. 


12 hours, about $200 bucks and some scrap, 2 sneaky little players and 2 unnecessary chicken tractor engineers later...
We have one!

Please note:  there are only 2 - 2x4s and no axles  :o)

They did real good! 

Thank You to the dirtyrottenlittleliars!  We love you!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Damage Control

Even though the garden is still quite smushy, I had to get out there yesterday and do some damage control.  The weather has been cooperating!  For now at least!  Temps have cooled and it has been really nice!

Here is what the garden looked like before I got going:
Obviously still pretty darn wet and washed out.
Any plants and seeds that had sprouted, have thus far pulled thru.  Even a few of the ones that I had already re-seeded are hanging around.  I will have to re-seed a third attempt at alot of the carrots.  Pig Pen thought we should give it a little longer and see how things turn up.

And things went a bit faster this time since I ditched the Weasel.  We now have a "His & Hers" version of a tiller:
Worked things up pretty darn well!  :o)
Since we did have such nice weather, Pig Pen was able to check the hives:
They are all doing great!
We should be moving a fifth hive in pretty soon too.  Hopefully it's not too late to be moving it because where they are 'hanging out' now -keeps dripping honey on the farmer's equipment!

We also found our very first fruit in our orchard we have been trying to establish:
And now, something completely sweet that Pig Pen did for me...we lost our Cherry Trees a year or two ago.  Well, they were on sale and he got me new ones and planted them already!  Now the chickens just loved the mulch.  He had it mounded up all nice and neat...they had other ideas and spread it out themselves.
Oh, and the Cherry Trees he got me...
HA!!  So dang cute!  Well, the picture led him astray!  They will be pretty at least - in my FRUIT orchard!

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Baby Owen "Sprouted"!

I told you something sprouted!

Just a few short weeks ago, we were showering the Mommy-to-be, whom most of you couldn't even tell was pregnant!  I am sure she appreciated that by the way!

Well yesterday, little baby Owen graced our lives!
We are happy to report that Owen and Mommy are doing just fine!  Meg was battling preeclampsia, so the little guy came a month early weighing in at ... Are ya ready for this? 
Did ya catch the part that he was a month early??? 

Considering that he's perfectly healthy, I'd say Mommy might be appreciating the fact that he didn't have four more weeks to stew! 
What do you think?  She looks pretty darn happy to me!

Oh yes!  Someone else made it thru delivery just fine too...
The proud new Daddy holding his first born son!  Rumor has it, Daddy was a bit squeamish...heheee!
The New Family
Meagan, Ryan and Owen
A photo of Meagan's family!  This is the first baby for the new Grama Mona, Grampa Eric and Aunt Tricia!

To our dearest nephew Owen,
Uncle Pig Pen and Auntie Apple wish you the best of everything! 
May your life be filled with much joy, lots of dirt and many, many blessings.
We love you already!
Wait for it, Little Man!!