Monday, October 29, 2012

The Kitchen

Remember back when I showed you my new open shelving and pot rack, I also promised to show photos of our kitchen here at the Roost? Well, here it is!

There is SO much I would like to do to do in this kitchen to mold it to our taste (if only we weren't renting!). For starters, I'd love to rip out all the upper cabinetry, rip out the wooden valence (or whatever it is) over the sink, install a few open shelves in the space, and paint the bottom cabinets white. I'd also love to replace the appliances and the countertops (the wood planks are just not working- and are hard to keep clean!). Eventually I'd also like to paint the walls white for a cohesive, clean look.

Things I love about this kitchen are that it is a large, open space- very roomy, wood floors, vintage cast-iron sink with sides for drying dishes, and nice double-hung windows that let in lots of light. It is conveniently located right off the dining room as well as the den.

new open shelving and potrack

Here are some of the kitchen details:

a vintage tray holds all of our vinegars, cooking wines, and seasonings frequently used in cooking

An antique breadbowl holds fruits on the drop leaf table

So, in short, my kitchen could be a lot worse and I should be thankful. We used to have an island in the middle of the space, but about a year or so ago I sold the island and replaced it with this antique drop-leaf farm table we had. It's perfect for prepping, for use as a buffet for large informal gatherings, or for brunch for two. I feel like it opens up the space a lot more than the island did.

Another update we managed to make was changing out the ceiling fans for these awesome industrial-inspired light fixtures. They go well with the egg-cage pendant and light hanging in front of the open shelving.

vintage industrial light fixtures replaced ceiling fans

peeking from the dining room into the kitchen

I am hoping wherever we move to next I'll be able to start the kitchen design from scratch. I have seen so many wonderful kitchens that I adore either on the web, blogs or magazines, and it always leaves me with a feeling of kitchen envy. Do you have a favorite type of kitchen? I seem to love open, bright kitchens with simple open shelving and vintage details.

So there you go! Our humble kitchen is not so bad after all......even with mismatched appliances and unpainted stock cabinetry :)

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Seasonal Changes- Autumn is Here!

Hi Friends!

With Autumn's arrival and the beautiful transformation of the outdoors, my little blog here also received a new look! I wanted to update a few things and create a design that could be recognizable and unique to Restoring the Roost :)

I worked with the talented Elizabeth at The Mustard Ceiling who was wonderful in helping me come up with this design and putting everything together for me. Thank so much, Elizabeth!

our front porch

So, on to other seasonal changes. I just love fall, don't you? Autumn inspires me to cozy up my home and change things up from what we eat seasonally to the small touches around the house that welcome fall's arrival.

The leaves are starting to change (and fall) at our little homestead and on a sunny day the trees are so beautiful.

trees in our front yard

view from our front porch

I've placed our home-grown pumpkins on the fireplace mantels:

I whipped up some delicious pumpkin butter that goes great with fresh bread:

Pumpkin Butter Recipe: (via One Perfect Bite)

1 28 oz serving of pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
3/4 cup apple juice
2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice or mace
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cups sugar

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for 30 minutes, or until mixture thickens. Cool to room temperature before serving. Store in refrigerator for up to a month. You can also freeze or pressure can for future use. 

And I splurged on a chocolate brown traditional overshot coverlet at the Appalachian Craft Guild Center while we were in Asheville last month:

 I just couldn't bear to pass this beauty up, and I'm thinking I will bring it out for some coziness in the fall and perhaps use it in the guest room draped over the bed. It would also make a beautiful table cloth for fall dinners. It is woven in the old, traditional method from an heirloom craftsman in Kentucky.

I am definitely loving this season- and if you haven't noticed, autumn is my favorite time of the year :)

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Returning to the agrarian life....can we learn from the Amish?

I personally believe that we who are captivated by the recent homesteading movement could learn a lot from the Amish. Okay, I know you are thinking- Megan has really gone off the deep end. I am not saying we need to forgo electricity and the like, but the Amish are a people who revere simplicity and hard work over convenience and self-pleasure. They have foregone many modern conveniences involving electricity, as well as many traditional services that the "outside world" provides. Many Amish families make nearly all of their food from home, only needed to buy basic staples, and grow their own produce in their gardens. They value the good of the whole community over the individual.

It seems to me that new homesteaders could take some clues from the Amish, and I aim to be one of those that studies their culture. I hope that with one of our next trips back home to Kentucky we can visit an Amish community and learn from their ways of living. Whether it be their gardening techniques, preserving methods for food, the crafting of furniture and household goods, or their dedication to their faith, I think we will definitely be inspired by their simplistic lifestyle. Certainly their work ethic is also something to be admired.

What's also fascinating to me (as a preservationist) about the Amish, is that from what I've heard at least in Kentucky, when an Amish community settles in a new area or a family purchases land, the property values increase sharply from what they were. Why is this so? I believe it is because they are such good stewards of the land.

I have had a deep longing for a few years now to be able to return to a more agrarian lifestyle, working as a farmer from home, keeping my house as a haven for my family, and trying to be as self-sufficient with food and basic supplies as possible. I like my job, but there is definitely something deep within my soul that senses how wrong it is to be cooped up in an office building most of the time, sitting at a desk in front of a computer. My body yearns for movement and sunshine (natural Vitamin D), my muscles need to be worked, and my mind needs to be refreshed by the outdoors and the satisfaction I feel producing a product from my own hands.

Don't get me wrong- I love what I do and I don't think I will ever stop being an architectural historian in a sense. But there are days when I feel that how we operate within the confines of our workplace, our commutes, our lack of human interaction, our lack of communion with nature, and the never-ending bureaucracy- that just seems so unnatural to me and only promotes stress. Our bodies weren't meant for this, and mine has certainly paid a price for it.

The Amish have found a way to survive and thrive in an increasingly hurried, frantic, and stressful world where we are bombarded with commercialism, technology and consumerism every day. There is a book called "Almost Amish: One Woman's Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life" by Nancy Sleeth that I hope to read over the Holidays-- once I'm finished with it I will share with you the  wisdom beneath its pages!

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Breeding my Flock: Part I

Want to learn about breeding your flock of chickens? Well, so do I!

I thought we could learn together so I am starting a series of posts called "Breeding my Flock" that discuss the successes, failures, and particulars of breeding a line of chickens (in my case Dominiques) in order to best preserve that breed's standard of perfection (or at least come as close as possible, ha!).

 A well-managed breeding program is sooooooooo important when raising chickens. If we didn't have good, thoughtful, careful breeders, the number of distinct recognized chicken breeds (over 100) would  dramatically decrease pretty quickly.

I have many many challenges in my young flock of Doms, but I am trying to learn the things I must do and in what order to attain those characteristic features that identify my stock as American Dominiques. Here are a few problematic things I've noticed:

(FYI- I will no longer be naming any more roosters that we hatch unless they pass the test and are keepers for the breeding pen. All roosters that don't pass will be culled and go to "freezer camp" to be used for yummy meat and chicken soup :))


One of my hens, Sassafras (shown above), has a single comb. This is a recessive gene in the Dominique and an obvious defect, because Dominiques should have a rose comb.

"Lavender," has a crooked toe. She is super sweet though and probably the friendliest.
One of the hens has a crooked toe (shown above on her right foot), a genetic defect. She will not be bred.

"Peppermint" aka "Pepper"

Another one of the hens, Peppermint or "Pepper," is totally wrong, with much too dark feathering and dark grey legs rather than yellow legs. She will not be bred either.

The alpha rooster, Oregano, or "Reggie" will probably be used for breeding, but his feathering is a little dark for my hens since I am hoping for lighter pullets in the future.

Cori is standing here in mid-crow. Cock-a-doodle-doo!!

My beta rooster, Coriander, or "Cori" is not the most popular guy with the ladies. Bless his heart, he doesn't get lovin' very often and when he tries the girls will scream and try their best to run away. Occasionally he succeeds. Even cooping him into the breeding pen with the girls may be a challenge to get fertilized eggs. If Cori tries to mount the ladies inside the pen with Reggie in view, Reggie WILL HAVE A FIT and probably tangle himself in the netting trying to rescue his girls (he did this once already).

The rest of my girls are so-so in terms of being up to the breed standard of perfection. For all my hens I need to work on their overall shape and slope of the back.  I will outline these next hens below:

Parsley is actually not too bad, but her feathering is getting a bit "smutty" and dark for my preferences. Her comb is better than the rest, but she has a little too much "poof" in her rear and her tail could certainly be better.

Sage is not too bad a specimen either. Her tail is much nicer than some of the others, but again, her coloring is a bit "smuttier" than I like and her comb is rather beefy and not as flat on the top as it should be. I would like to see a better "U" shape slope to her back.

"Pennyroyal" aka "Penny"
I think that Penny has the best coloring in her feathers of all my pullets. She also has nice bright yellow legs. I am eager to see how her form turns out once she is fully developed, but she is definitely one of my best pullets in terms of type and breeding.

Last but not least, there is Rosemary, whose overall form and type is probably the best. That is, before she became an old hen and and a mama. Since then, her tail feathers have never really been quite as good, all the yellow has gone out of her legs, and her feathers have sort of "grayed" since her youth. Poor Rosemary, she is just getting old......but still very useful for breeding!

Important features to work on in breeding (for Dominiques):

1. The slope of the back

2. A nice comb (sits straight on the head, flat, with upward turned spike)

3. Tail spread

4. Overall size and shape

5. Bright yellow legs

6. Short, stout beak

7. Good feathering (dark tips on barring, no green sheen or other colors, with nice "lace like" effect)

8. Dominiques in general are on the smallish side for standard fowl. It's important to keep them from weighing too much or too little (around 5 lbs. for hens, 7-8 lbs for cocks).

These goals will obviously differ depending on which breed you are working with and trying to improve. Another thing you have to think about is their temperament-- is it characteristic of their breed? For instance, Dominiques should naturally be excellent foragers, very curious, hardy, and good layers and mothers. If I was trying to decide between two that were very similar, I would perhaps pick the one that exhibited its breed's qualities better than the other.

In Part II of this series I will discuss my plans for breeding this winter/spring and how to overcome some of the problems discussed above.

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Save the Historic Preservation Tax Credit!

I'm not sure how much or whether you've noticed all this talk between the 2012 presidential candidates, Gov. Romney and President Obama, on reforming the tax code.......but the historic tax credit is one thing that SHOULD NOT be cut.

Why, you ask?

1.  Because it creates jobs -- 2.2 million of them!

2. It fuels local economies-- this credit has generated nearly $100 BILLION in rehabilitation projects.

3. It revitalizes communities-- 38,000 of our historic buildings have been saved because of this credit!!!

It's simple and clear, folks -- you don't have to care about aesthetics or history or even architecture to know that historic preservation works and this tax credit is worth saving. The historic preservation tax credit helps the economy. Period.

A tax credit project: Murhpey School, Orange County, NC. "Before" rehabilitation.
A tax credit project: Murphey School, Orange County, NC. "After" rehabilitation
A tax credit project: Murphey School, Orange County, NC. "After" rehabilitation

Obviously, I think we can all agree that the federal deficit is a major problem. But this tax credit more than pays for itself. It helps generate tax revenue.

Please, please PLEASE contact your congressional representatives and urge them to support the historic tax credit and to consider making it a permanent program. If you would like to sign the pledge, click the link here: historic tax credit pledge.  Otherwise, it would be awesome just to let your representative know that this program is good for America in so many different ways.

Thank you!!!!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Easy Homemade Chicken (or Turkey) Stock

I have made from-scratch chicken stock a couple of times now, and I can't believe I am only discovering it now! It could not be simpler and is SO much cheaper than store-bought chicken stock.

In case you are wondering, I did NOT use my sweet chickens for this chicken soup :)   But in the future, any extra roosters that are not used for breeding will be processed for meat. It will be tough, but a necessary part of homesteading for us.

To make homemade stock, simply use the leftover chicken carcass from a whole chicken that you have cooked for dinner.  I like to buy organic, free-range chicken if possible.

Step 1.  Fill a huge pot with water and place the chicken carcass in the pot. Bring to a boil.

Step 2. Add onions, carrots, celery, or whatever you like to your stock for flavor.

Step 3. Add spices- salt and pepper, parsley, bay leaf, and other herbs if you choose.

Step 4. Simmer stock for several hours. You could also cook this in a crock pot if yours is big enough.

Step 5. Take out chicken carcass and strain stock. When cooled, funnel into glass jars for freezing.

It's that simple! Whenever you know you will be using some stock for something, remove a jar or two from the freezer for your meal to thaw. I would guess you could easily make 10 pints or more from one whole chicken.  Since I already have the spices on hand, the stock literally costs me nothing to make!

The best part is that this type of slow-cooked, homemade chicken stock is extremely nourishing. Important nutrients and proteins from the chicken bones and organs leach out into the stock and provide a healthy, nutrient-dense bone broth.

Turkey leftovers can work just as easily to make stock - if you are lucky enough to have a local, fresh, free-range turkey then you will have plenty of leftover bones to make enough stock to last you for a long time.

Do you make your own chicken stock? A nice cup of hot chicken soup makes a dreary day so much better :)