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March 2009

in stitches........

Well, my weekend knitting plans are toast. 

Last night while cooking dinner (which is always chaotic when the parent to kid ratio is 1 to 4!!) I cut myself. And in a bad way.

I went to shake something over the sink, forgetting that I had left an empty can in there ...... I turned my head to talk to the wee one and thought I had hit my hand on the sink....... but no. I hit on the sharp edge of the can lid. 


I saw some things in my hand that a person should not see. So I grabbed a clean dish towel, applied pressure and calmly had the 12 year old young man of the house turn the oven off, call his father and in about 15 minutes the neighbors were watching the kids, the daddo was home from work and we were off the ER.

2 hours, one tetanus shot  and 6 stitches later I was happy to head home. 3 stitches each on my middle and index finger. Right down to the bone on one and down to the tendon on the other. Ouch! I am so lucky not to have cut the tendon. That would certainly have put a damper on my knitting!! 

So now, it's 6 am.... my hand is sore..... and I am thinking I will probably not be finishing up wee one's shorties this weekend. 

I thought about posting a photo..... but that would certainly ruin your day. It's pretty gross.

The good thing is, Doctor's orders were no dishes for 10 whole days. I guess every cloud does have a silver lining.

Well, here's wishing you all an accident free weekend! Hope you have a great one :)

Eat your Oatmeal

I pride myself in being an oatmeal connoisseur. Don't laugh!! Oatmeal is one of those things that when made incorrectly is awful, like eating slimy mush. Who the heck wants to eat that?!?! But if you use thick cut regular oats . . . . . and a little maple syrup. . . . .  and ginger . . . . . and pecans and. . . . . are you still there? 

Well, if you don't believe in perfect oatmeal, take a look at this photo:


Oh yes, that's ice cream. 

And now that I have your attention, here is the recipe. . . 

Gypsy Mama's Oatmeal:

serves 6

8 cups water

4 cups thick cut oats or regular oats (not quick oats!!)

1/2 tsp of salt

*bring water & salt to a boil, add oats and turn the heat down to a simmer. Simmer until the water is absorbed. About 15 minutes.

Mix in some brown sugar, maple syrup or honey to make it just a little bit sweet. 

Add some cinnamon or ginger if you like it spicy. We love ginger in ours.

Add some fresh or frozen blueberries & some chopped pecans.

Then you come to the point where all nutritional value gets tossed out the window. Add one scoop of vanilla ice cream. It is soooooo good. Come on, you know you want to try it. Alden's Organic Vanilla Bean is our personal favorite.

Enjoy your perfect Oatmeal :)

**disclaimer** No, I do not regularly serve my children ice cream for breakfast. We usually put milk and butter on our oats..... but sometimes just to stir things up we throw a scoop of ice cream on it.... and let me tell you that brings a sweet smile to all their faces :)

Isn't winter done yet??

Well....... it's snowing........ again. 

I sped through February this year with a creative burst of energy.... "ha ha" I shouted to Winter..... not getting me down this time :) Only to have March kick my butt. 

We've got a lot on our plate..... getting pre-approved for a mortgage, which I finally realized this week, goes against every thrifty grain in my being.  The idea of buying a home is very exciting...... but knowing we are only going to actually own the front door is a bit daunting. 

We're getting move dates and packer dates.... oh yes we have people come pack up our stuff...... definitely a perk. 

But right here, right now, is the planning part. The "oh-crap-we're-officially-in-debt-with-a-mortgage" part. This isn't my favorite part, can you tell?

So I am trying to remind myself that getting through these next few weeks will be easier than I think....

My parents are coming for a visit and to spoil the kiddos while Joe & I head to find a house. Five whole days of just the two of us. In 75 degree weather. 

I found this planting guide for zone 9..... and it really adds a smile to my face. Year round gardening.... what a treat.... it's right here if you're interested.

I am headed back to the ocean.... a different one then I have ever known, creatures I have only seen in photographs live there. 

And one last final happy thought.... sharing photos with you all, of us when we head out of here in June. The image in my mind of two cars, a trailer, 4 kids, 2 adults, a dog and a cat all loaded up to camp/drive their way to Louisiana makes me laugh out loud. 

The journey is what it's all about :)

Little Sign Maker.....

Well, as you might remember, a week ago I was not feeling well. Coughing headache sniffly feverish chills..... the only cure I know in my mind is to sit in a hot tub with lots of eucalyptus. And so, as I lay soaking ..... and telling myself I would get well..... a wee person began talking to me from the other side of the door. 

Do any of you remember pre-kid days when you would use the bathroom?? It was quiet, now they like to check on us. Find out what we're doing. I always tell them something random like "watching the circus" or "baking cookies". That gets the giggles going....... anyway, back to my story...... 

Miss 6 whispers loudly "Mama, are you in there?"
"Do you know how to spell stop?"
"Oh good, tell me one letter at a time."
S - T - O
"Hold on, I didn't make my T yet.."
I wait...
"...okay what's after T?"
O - - - - - - P
"Thanks mom. And just so you know, I'm whispering because Dad said you had a headache and we shouldn't bother you. . . . . Have fun in there mom."
Thank you sweetpea.
And then quiet for a bit. And then I hear the Daddo asking if she made something all by herself and if he could take a picture and this is what was waiting for me on the camera when I finally emerged from the bathroom.


That is a picture of me in our old clawfoot tub. It is my "Do not Disturb" sign. I think it is one of the sweetest things ever....

What's for Dinner??

This is a favorite around here. Unfortunately I did not get pictures of dinner on the plate...... sorry. When food is served around here, people get pretty excited and photography takes a backseat. And besides Miss 6 had all ready told me "You're taking pictures of cold chicken, that's weird"...... hmmmmm...

Anyway, on to the recipe. We serve this with salad and crusty homemade bread or sometimes with egg noodles & sesame roasted broccoli. Enjoy :)


1 whole chicken, cut up 
1 pint of cherry tomatoes 
2 cups mushrooms halved
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Splash of Balsamic Vinegar (optional)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Put mushrooms & tomatoes in a large bowl & toss with a splash or two of olive oil, salt and pepper and optional Balsamic Vinegar.


Arrange chicken in a baking dish (preferably clay). Add a little salt & pepper to the chicken.


Pour vegies over chicken and cook 30-40 minutes until vegies are slightly blackened at the tips and chicken is browned and all that. Serve with egg noodles or crusty bread and a salad. YUM!!

A Week of Chickens, Day 5 :: Complete


I hope you've enjoyed our Chicken stories :) It's been a fun week sharing this with you. As most of you know, we are relocating to Louisiana this summer.  A good friend of ours is helping us find just the right family to give our hens to. They get the coop too. It's a little sad for us, but the kids are definitely excited about the prospect of baby chicks in their future. And while they often remind me that no hens will ever be as good as these hens....... I know their little hearts will be able to love the next ones just as much. I am sure Miss 6 will remember how to hypnotize baby chicks. And who knows, maybe we'll get another one that likes to perch on shoulders!

Some photos within the last month of our chickens & coop: (The snow is melting!! Yeah!)


Like all of our pets, they put with all the love the wee one can dish out.


I just love this one, my friend Theresa made the hat!

Luke & Red


My Sailor and his bird (Lucy)...... 


And this is the daddo's favorite picture... Red is such a sweet Hen.

Hopefully this week has inspired you to start your own backyard flock! 

Have a great weekend!

A Week of Chickens, Day 4 :: Upkeep Basics


Today I'll share basic care and upkeep of Chickens. And some numbers to show you the thrifty benefit of chickens too!

What they give us :: Eggs of course! In the summer we get 3-4 eggs a day! Through the winter we got two a day. We're just now starting to occasionally get three a day again.


All about their Food :: It costs about $10 a month to feed them in the winter and $6-$7 in the summer. They eat tons of pests in the garden and yard. I let them go through my flower garden last summer several times to weed and eat bugs.  They eat lots of kitchen scraps. All our apple cores, veggie peelings, etc.

Daily Care & Coop :: They are easy to care for! Fresh water & food daily. Scrape the poo from the platform onto the ground..... change out sawdust (nestbox bedding) once a week. That's it! Don't forget to put all that poo into your compost or garden when you clean it out! (If you have a chicken tractor, the poo can stay on the ground and the grass loves it! If you have a regular coop, you'll have to clean it out every couple of weeks depending on it's size.)

Upkeep Costs for 4 Hens ::  Yearly average of $8 a month in food and $2 a month for sawdust. ($10) and a yearly average of 18 eggs a week. Free Range eggs are about $4 dollars a dozen most places, so you can see keeping chickens is a good deal. They are fun easy pets. And I truly believe in being connected to where our food comes from, so having the source of eggs living in my backyard and being a part of my family makes me feel good too.


8 weeks old & headed to the coop

I get this question a lot :: Don't you have to have a Rooster? Nope,  you do not need a rooster. Your hens will still lay without one. 

How long until they lay eggs :: This depends on the breed, but usually when they are 5-6 months old.

My little Chicken Enthusiast, Miss 6 would like you to know :: "I only hypnotize one chicken at a time. I flip them on their back and rub their belly and say "steady girl" and I do it very carefully and they just stay still. Only baby chicks would lay in my lap when I hypnotized them. I can only hypnotize one of the chickens now that they are big. I like that chickens lay eggs because then you don't have to get eggs at the grocery store. And I like to feed them worms and bugs in the summer."


The Amazing Chicken hypnotist! 

Stop by tomorrow for our last day of Chickens!

**Our hens are young and haven't had any health problems, but if you notice your chickens not doing well, ask a farm friend, vet or your feed store. 

A Week of Chickens, Day 3 :: The Coop

I think baby chicks grow faster than any other living thing. Seriously. That tuft of fluff has real feathers and has tripled in size by then end of the first month. So, we'd better talk about coops before you end up with hens laying eggs on your sofa.....


Getting their real feathers in....

There are several types of coops. Your choices vary depending on how many birds you have. When I grow up and we stop moving every 2-3 years, I'd like to have a raised coop that I can close up at night. I would like to let the hens run free all over my property..... but with a smaller backyard your kids will track in chicken poop. Which is not so fun. Someday I will have a big flock of free birds :)

For now, a chicken tractor is the perfect answer. You can see lots of photos here. We love ours. Essentially it is a coop with wheels on the back so you can lift it up and drag it to a new location every day. 

The pros :: No coop to clean. Well, almost, you do have to scrape above the nest boxes daily, and change the bedding once a week. But no shoveling out chicken poo. The hens spend the day eating weeds and bugs in your yard and then you move them. Their poo fertilizes your grass. How easy is that ? Plus the birds diet is that of a free range chicken since they do live on fresh grass and bugs daily. The hens love this! Also, moving your coop daily makes it less likely for a hungry critter to dig under the sides to get to your hens.

The cons :: The coop can be heavy to move. In areas where the ground is really moist, it can leave deep tracks in the ground each time you move it. Of course you could make a lighter smaller coop with wide wheels to help with that issue. You need a good sized yard so that you can move the coop around and give the grass time to recover. If you leave the chickens in one spot for a few days..... they will ruin your grass.

Do not let chickens eat grass from chemically treated lawns!! 

Here are some photos of our beloved coop :)


Coop Front, the hens roost in the roof at night.


Side View of the Coop. You can see the wheels on the back & rope pulleys on the front.


Nest boxes, there are three but they like to share the far left one?? Must be the best for some reason :)

Daddo built it out of some scrap materials and some purchased material. He is a handy sort of guy, but a beginner could also easily tackle this project. The coop is 4x8 feet. The sides are about 4 feet tall and the peak of the roof is about 6 feet tall. The frame was built with 2x4 untreated pine. The roof is covered with a box of wooden shingles we found in the rafter of our garage. There is 1/4 inch plywood on the sides of the coop and vinyl siding over that. The siding is leftover from a house. The biggest expense was the type of wire we used for the sides. Chicken wire is certainly suitable, but I would HIGHLY suggest hardware cloth, it's a fancy name for heavy duty wire. It's a thicker wire and mostly indestructible. We have lots of critters that lurk around our coop after the sun goes down, and I feel really good knowing they are as safe as they can be. The door opens in and has a spring loaded hinge so it shuts on its own. It also has an outside latch. There is a place where the chickens can sit above their nest boxes. (The ledge visible in the picture has since been cut off so they didn't have to crouch under it to get in.

This winter we put a piece of clear corrugated roofing on each side and raised the coop up so the door would open in the snow. We put plywood up under the nest boxes so the hens could get out of the elements. And we also put a 100 watt bulb in this area to help them stay a bit warmer. We saved all the leaves from our yard to put in the coop and it helps keep the bottom of the coop dry, the chickens also LOVE to scratch through the leaves. The snow piles up around the sides and keeps the coop warmer.

Our Coop cost just under $100 to build.

One last glorious sunny photo of the coop from last summer.


Stop by tomorrow for Part 4, "Upkeep"

A Week of Chickens, Day 2 :: Breeds

There are so many breeds of chickens..... I don't even know where to begin on this topic! You can google info and check out books from the library to help you narrow done your selection.

Here is some info on the breeds we have : : : : :

Miss Lucy is a Black Australorp. She lays medium-large brown eggs, often times with speckles. She is our alpha female and a wonderful layer. She has a very spunky personality.


Little Red is called a Gold Star or a Red Sexlink . She lays HUGE brown eggs. And I didn't find much information online about her. She has a lovely disposition and lays very well.


Chestnut and Sunflash are Ameraucanas.  One lays light olive green eggs and one lays light blue eggs. You can also get pink and golden eggs from these hens.  These two don't lay quite as much as the other two, but their colored eggs are so much fun to get in the nest boxes!  These birds also come in a variety of colors.  Chestnut is a deep brown and Sunflash is a golden tan.  Aptly named by the kids :)


These chicken breeds all do well in our cold climate. Be sure to talk with local farmers or your feed store to find out which breeds do well in your area before you get started with your chicks!

Stop by tomorrow for Part 3, "Coop Info"

A Week of Chickens, Day 1 :: Chicks

I can't believe I haven't written about our 4 hens aka "The Girls".

March marks one year that we've had our little backyard flock.  We got them as sweet little chicks..... their fluffy little bodies were so cute. The kids carried them around the house and played with them all the time! I suppose that is why they are so tame now, as adults!

This info is what worked for us and our chickens in the Wisconsin/Minnesota area. Keeping chickens varies by climate and personal preferences, so do some local research before you get your chicks.

So, let's start the week with the cute factor... Chicks! This is so much fun. You can order Chicks through feed stores or google it online and find fancy ones that can get shipped to your house. Order a few extra as it is common to lose one. We had 8 and lost one. We chose to keep 4 and gave the extra 3 to a friend with a farm. You might be able to contact a local farm to get a few chicks too. 


The kids did great being very gentle with the babies.... 


Little Red

A place to keep your Peeps :: Here is a photo of our chick incubator. Daddo built it out of an extra large tote and some chicken wire, the little cage was made from that shelving you can take apart.... it has clips to put it together. This was done to ensure no little viewers would burn themselves on it. Unless your house is 70 or above, (ours is not!) you need to keep the heat lamp on all day  & night until they have some real feathers.



They would spend hours looking at "the peeps".

Food, Water & Bedding :: You can borrow or buy special containers to feed your chicks. They will dump over anything else.... They need fresh water daily. They usually need food daily too. We always kept ours full. They will sleep on a 3 inch layer or sawdust and you sprinkle fresh sawdust over it daily to keep it clean and smelling fresh. You change the sawdust out once a week. We dumped ours right into our compost.


Hungry Peeps!

The Roost :: You can make your own roost like the one pictured here, it's just a stick screwed onto pieces of scrap wood. The chicks like to sleep on it and it will ensure that they roost in their outside coop when they move outside.


 Roosting at about 3 weeks.

A few More Basics ::  Baby chicks only cost about $2-$3 each. It costs only a few dollars a month to feed them. They eat "chick starter" until they lay their first eggs and then you switch them to "laying mash". Chick starter food comes in medicated and non-medicated formulas,  we chose to use non-medicated for our chicks. They need to live inside until they have feathers or until it's warm (65-70 degrees) We got our chicks in late March and they lived inside until early May.


Miss 6 with "Chinese Pecks", a rooster we gave to our friends.

Rules, Rules Rules :: Check with your city clerk to make sure you can keep chickens in your city. If you can't consider starting a group to get the law changed. This recently happened in Duluth, Minnesota.

A great website : My Pet Chicken

Stop by tomorrow for Part 2, "Different Breeds"