Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Roost!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a joyous Holiday season!

The flock of course also wishes you a Merry Christmas, although they did not like their Santa hats very much. Do you know how long it took to get this picture?!? This poor girl finally gave in fighting the hat and sat in exhaustion on the railing, completely defeated by the humans that were making her play dress-up.

As a reward Santa brought them lots of yummy chicken treats :)

With Peace and Joy,

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Treats

My heart is still mourning for the victims and their families of the tragedy in CT last Friday. It has been hard to wrap my mind around the horrific events, especially seeing pictures of the faces of those precious little children lost. Please join me in continuing to keep the community and the families affected in your prayers.

                                     "I have told you these things, so that in me you may
                                     have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But
                                     take heart! I have overcome the world."  -John 16:33

Sometimes when I am feeling really down it helps me to do something therapeutic, such as gardening or baking. I love to bake but do I always have time for baking? Definitely not. I try to squeeze it into the weekends when I can. I always seem to have high ambitions that go unreached or only partially fulfilled, as in the case of my un-decorated and un-iced gingerbread men. Oh well, they are still yummy all by themselves :)

I like chewy ginger cookies, so I found a recipe located here that makes a chewy ginger cookie. They are certainly good, but not as good as the infamous gingerbread cookies at Burke's Bakery in Danville, Kentucky. Oh my goodness they have the best gingerbread cookies I have ever tasted and I plan to pick up a box while we are home for Christmas. They are a locally-owned family business that has been serving up sweets in Danville for decades.

Another nice Christmas treat available during the season is pomegranates. These beautiful rosy fruits have scrumptious seeds that can be enjoyed in anything from salads to fancy cocktails. We made buttermilk pancakes over the weekend using Christmas cookie cutters for molds, and drizzled the pomegranates and their juices on top. It was delicious- the perfect compliment to the pancakes.

after pouring and cooking the batter, turn over and push out of mold with knife to cook the pancakes fully

I also let my chickies try a few of the pomegranate seeds and they showed no restraint or hesitancy over little rosy rubies after they discovered how sweet and tangy they are.

nom nom nom...... 

The chickens devoured them in seconds from my hands and looked up at me for more with pink juice dripping from their beaks. Sorry babies, no more seeds for now.

I know they may be spoiled, but I like to give my flock extra treats during the Holidays- mainly leftovers from whatever we have been cooking :)

What have you been baking up this Christmas? Anything special for your family?


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

2012 Christmas Wrapping: Recycled Materials

I like to vary my wrapping a little bit each year. I think I must get this trait from my Mom, who seriously could be a professional present-wrapper if she wanted to, with perfectly tied bows and accessories and paper that never has any awkward creases or looseness around the box. She varies her wrapping theme each year--one year she did all of the wrapping and trimmings in shades of blue, silver and white, another year everything was holly leaves, and other year it was all red and white, much like a candy cane.

Last year I tried to wrap most of my gifts in natural wrapping, mostly of brown craft paper with accessories like fresh greenery, twine or raffia ribbon, and burlap as embellishments. It looked similar to the empty 'presents' I put outside on the bench in our front porch, as shown in this post. I really liked doing that and am sure to repeat the natural wrapping again, as it made everything so simple.

However, this year I thought I'd try something new and fresh, and decided on wrapping with old newspapers, using red or red and white ribbons as the finishing decoration.

I even made little 'flowers' out of the newspaper and pinned them to the box with a red-tipped straight-pin. We have so much trimmed greenery leftover from our tree that I may tuck some little sprigs of evergreen into the packages as well.

I shredded newspaper to use for stuffing when bags were required instead of boxes!

I really like how it turned out! So much so, that I'm tempted to do it every year just to save on wrapping materials. An added bonus is that it's the greener option too! I have quite a bit more wrapping to do, so I better get going :)

Happy wrapping, 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (around the Roost)

Can you believe we have less than a month until Christmas???

the kitchen table looking into the den/family room

I don't know about you, but I still have quite a bit to do to prepare- it always seems to sneak up on me and before I know it we are traveling home for the Holidays. We pulled boxes of our Christmas decorations out from the attic the Monday after Thanksgiving. This past week I have been decorating the house with our collection of Christmas decor as well as fresh greenery and pine cones found outside. Decorating always gets me really into the "Christmas Spirit." I love to decorate with Christmas music playing in the background, a good cup of hot cocoa to sip on while working, and a warm fire going.

my giant pine cones from the Sandhills region of NC longleaf pines

I like to keep it pretty simple and use lots of fresh greenery, and therefore it's no surprise when last year I went with a "Plain and Simple" theme using mostly natural materials. To see last year's Christmas decor, click here. This year I am using some of the same decorations from our collection, but in different ways, and of course fresh greenery, as shown in last year's post on exterior Christmas decor.  My husband and I also decided to get rid of (or keep in the attic) some of our older decorations we used when first married that we either just don't use or don't want to fuss with getting them out. It makes it so much easier without all the knickknacks, nutcrackers and such.

Here are some little bits of Christmas around the Roost so far:

my dining room table is ready for the Holidays

Usually these vintage glass bottles sit in my bathroom window sill, but I brought them out with the julep cups to hold fresh greenery and pine cones. I like the simple look of it.

I like the calming colors of white, silver, green and brown for Holiday decorating

My kitchen table got dressed up with this vintage poinsettia tablecloth (I have a matching apron too!) and I filled our bread bowl with pine cones and a hand-blown glass ornament my husband made

Santa mugs on my jadeite cake stand on our open shelving in the kitchen

Little gingerbread men peek out the kitchen windows

This is my tin angle collection made from traditional tinsmiths at Old Salem.
They are holding Moravian Christmas candles. If you have not ever been to visit Old Salem at
Christmastime, it is a wonderful experience and one of my favorite destinations during the Holidays.

I try to remember that above all else this season, this is a time for celebrating the birth of Christ and the life that he gives us. Reflection upon this great gift is key and I have to remember to focus upon Him through all the shopping, stress, and entertaining. Last year I made a simple advent wreath with candles and greenery, and this year I had every intention of making a full Advent calendar, but just have not quite had the time to tackle that project. Maybe next year!

How has your "tree trimming" and Christmas decorating gone this year? I do wish it would would make everything inside and out that much more beautiful!

With Peace and Joy,

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dried Foods from the Garden

In preparation for winter's onset, I planned to dry some of our beans and legumes from the garden for eating later on. It is interesting how I am learning nature's seasonal cycles in terms of food preservation and the how our diet naturally changes with the seasons.

Remember my post on shuck beans? Well, I began drying small batches strung up with thread in my entryway, and prior to Thanksgiving they were all dried out and ready for cooking:

shuck beans dried and still strung together

My shuck beans aren't that great looking-- I think partly because I either picked them too early on and did not let the pods fully mature, or I didn't have the right kind of bean. Either way, we tried a batch for Thanksgiving and I'm going to try another batch for a special dinner sometime in January or February. They actually turned out pretty good after simmering all day!

rather sad-looking shuck beans

I also dried all my southern peas this year. I plan to soak them before using and toss them in with some other dried bean varieties, onion, and some sort of fat or bacon to stew for hours on the stove on a cold winter day.

dried southern peas- I stored them in a breathable burlap bag after harvesting so that they could fully dry out

dried southern peas

I am in love with roasted pumpkin seeds, and we happen to have tons of them from all our decorative pumpkins that graced our steps in October. To roast and dry, simply toss with olive oil and seasoned salt and pop in a 350 degree oven for about half an hour.

Another thing we tried a few weeks back were home-made apple chips from fresh local apples grown here in North Carolina. Although not from our garden, at least they were grown in our state! They were easy to make and extremely addicting. To make them, slice the apples thin with a mandoline if you have one, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake on a low temperature for about a half an hour or so on each side until apple slices are dried into chips.

homemade apple chips

Have you saved and dried any foods from your garden to enjoy this winter?

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Breeding My Flock: Part 2

Today we had our chickens NPIP certified!

The NPIP program stands for the National Poultry Improvement Plan and is recommended for all breeding flocks. State agriculture employees will come out to your farm or house and test your flock for several diseases, including Pullorum, Avian Influenza, salmonella, and others on-site.  Here in North Carolina, it only costs a whopping $5 for your flock to be tested as long as you have fewer than 50 birds!

The lady who came to do the NPIP testing swabbed the mouths and drew blood from each of my little flock of 9 Dominiques. Poor babies!  It was very quick though, and before they had much time to protest they were released and set free to forage. They also each received metal leg bands. Of course, Rosemary was her usual pouty and mean self, throwing the biggest hissy fit of them all screaming her head off while the NPIP lady tested her. Way to set an example for the younger girls, Rosemary. 

With NPIP certification, we can show our chickens at any show without having to do testing or vaccinations immediately before the show, and we don't have to worry about passing on diseases to others if we plan to sell offspring from our breeding program.

Breeding your flock of chickens requires planning, attention to detail, and persistence. It is not something you want to let naturally happen and get out of hand if you are trying to maintain a particular breed standard. You must decide to either cull or not breed the birds that have flaws or defects that you don't want passed on to future generations. If you missed my first post on breeding, click here.

For us, that means choosing our top 3 or 4 hens that we will let mate with each rooster, only because although one of the roosters has a better comb, the other has lighter feathering (better for future pullets) and a less-crooked and longer tail. We plan to put these 3 or 4 pullets into the breeding pen for a couple of days at a time with each rooster. Hopefully this will produce enough fertilized eggs for us to put together for a successful hatch.

A potential chicken Christmas card photo- what do you think? 

The most controlled way to breed is to use an incubator, but I'm a sucker for watching mama hens raise their babies, so I will probably place these eggs in the nest box, mark them with a sharpie, and wait until one of our hens decides to go broody. I will collect the new eggs laid on top of the batch we want to hatch out (they will be the ones that are unmarked). Once a hen decides to "sit tight," on her nest, it takes about three weeks for the babies to hatch!

Stay tuned for Part 3 of the Breeding My Flock series where I will *try* my best to discuss how genetics plays into poultry breeding.

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thanksgiving Table 2012

It's almost here, folks! Can you believe Thanksgiving is just days away?

Here at the Roost, we don't have a large family Thanksgiving dinner because we always travel to Kentucky to spend the Holidays with our families (which are quite large!). However, that doesn't keep me from setting a pretty table and inviting a few friends over for a 'pre-Thanksgiving' or an in between Holiday meal.

I love decorating the table for Thanksgiving--it is such an important, symbolic meal where we can gather and reflect on all that we are grateful for. If you missed my Thanksgiving table from last year, you can see it here.

This year, I used the same brown transferware, but layered it on top of our good china. I placed napkins with the world "thankful" embroidered on them on top of the plates, and then spray-painted the mini pumpkins we grew in our garden silver for some sparkle and a little take-home favor.

In the center of the table I placed a breadboard that was made from the side of an old Buffalo Trace bourbon barrel, and topped it with an heirloom white pumpkin, an artichoke and another silver mini pumpkin. Since I was sort of on a silver theme with the pumpkins, I pulled our our silver julep cups and placed artichokes in them. I was just playing around with the candlesticks and the artichokes--and realized they actually could work as a candle holder. Pull apart the center leaves, burrow the candlestick down in the artichoke, and you're done! So simple.

And remember that chocolate brown and cream traditional overshot coverlet I bought from the Appalachian Craft Guild shop while in Asheville? Well, I used that as a festive tablecloth, and added a burlap table runner down the center.

An few ears of Indian corn hang from my china cabinet for a festive fall touch. I think I'm going to add another maybe on the window and one hanging from the fireplace.

The best part of all was that I didn't have to buy anything additional that won't get used up or isn't functional in some way. I literally had everything I used for the decor already here in my house except for the tall candles, silver spray paint, and the artichokes (which will get eaten one night this week).

I hope everyone has a lovely Thanksgiving this week. Despite the hard year my husband and I have had, I am extremely grateful for SO many things. I'm especially thankful for complete healing of my broken leg (tibia fracture) without needing surgery, due to a car accident that occurred almost exactly one year ago. Those were long, dark days full of anxiety, trauma, and thoughts of whether I would ever walk normally again.....but I am happy to report that with patience and persistence I have resumed all my normal (even high impact) physical activities :) God IS faithful!

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