Sunday, December 30, 2012

Vinegar Citrus Cleaner

I read about this on MaryJane Farmgirl blog.
I decided to give it a try. It is very simple and I love simple. It is also inexpensive which is always a bonus.
Take the peels from oranges and place them in a jar.
Add White Vinegar with 5 percent acidity. Put on a lid.
Let sit for 2 weeks.
Strain the contents. ( I used old pillowcase)
Store vinegar mixture in a jar.
When you are ready to use place 1/3 vinegar mixture with 2/3 water in a sprayer bottle. Shake well.
When I made my first batch I missed the mix with water step and my cleaner was like WOW with the vinegar smell. I thought maybe this cleaner was not for me.  But after following the directions more carefully it works great.
There will be some vinegar smell when you use it but it will dissipate and the citrus smell will linger.
You can use lemon, lime, and grapefruit peels as well.
I did find a website that has several recipes along with tips on making your own cleaners using vinegar that I thought I would pass along. I am definately going to try some of her combinations.
There are a lot of uses for vinegar. I keep several gallons on hand. Here is another site that gives 1001 uses for vinegar.
Economical, Environmentally friendly, 1001 uses...whats not to love!


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Loads of Fun

I have this sign hanging up  in my laundry room. I don't know if I actually feel that way about laundry but any motivation helps.
The girls informed me that we were out of laundry soap shortly after I had gotten back from my shopping trip in town. I had bought the supplies to make my own soap awhile back and figured this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try. I decided to use a dry soap recipe even though we usually use liquid soap. I may try that another time.  It is very easy to do. You use three ingredients.

 One bar Fels-Napha, 1 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda, and 1 cup Borax
Start with grating the soap with the finest part of the grater.
Next add 1 cup of the Washing Soda and 1 cup of the Borax
Mix together well.

Use 1-2 Tablespoons with each load.
Very simple.
I will try it and see how well it works.
I have read good reviews from others who had used the homemade soaps.
I am just glad that I had the supplies on hand. The last place I wanted to go is to the store and deal with the Holiday Rush, again.
Happy Washing!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dreaming of a White Christmas

December is here but the cold weather is no where to be seen.

Earlier on the news I heard that there was a chance for a thundershower tonight.
Crazy weather. Feels more like Spring.
I have to admit there are some advantages to the warmer weather.
Outdoor chores are much easier when you don't have to bundle up and trudge through the snow or face the cold air but  Christmas is in 6 days and we want SNOW!

They did predict that there may be snow by the weekend.  So there is hope for a White Christmas.

I will have to remind myself that I actually wanted snow when Winter does make an appearance and we are having to break up ice in the water buckets and we are hauling hay with a sled.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

With a Baa Baa Here and a Baa Baa There

With the high hay prices we are feeding grain this winter. I noticed the sheep have been a lot more vocal lately. Normally, I do not hear them but since we have started feeding grain they start making a racket around 3 o'clock.

It didn't take them long to figure out that grain was going to be a part of the daily routine.
They never get that excited about hay.

Thankfully we still have some gates set up outside the pasture so feeding time is very easy. I can put the grain in the tubs without getting knocked over.  The sheep can eat without being pummeled by the horses.
Its a small enough area so  I can get a good look at everyone. There don't seem to be any bullies so everyone gets their fair share. When they are done I just let them back out.

With the daily inspection I can see that everyone is in good health. The one thing I am not happy to see is that they are occasionally picking up a burr in their wool. Burdock is an unwelcome guest that just won't leave....But that is another topic!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Advent Calendar

I went to a Christmas Workshop last month and came home with some great ideas.

One of the projects was an Advent Calendar.
An easy project for anyone to do.
First choose a shape: Their choices were Stockings or Mittens.
I chose Mittens.

Next choose material:
I used the 50 precut mittens made from felt that came with the handmade kits that were given out at the class. But you could use wool felt, burlap or another material that holds it shape.

Gather up Needle and Floss.
Use an overcast stitch to sew the mittens together. (leave the bottom open)

Customize-I  added fur to edge of my mittens, some used white felt, others no edging. You can embelish them anyway you like.

Now decide how you want to display.
IDEAS: Hang from Large Tree Branch OR Clothesline made from Twine or other material.
I chose to hang mine from Twine that I embellished with buttons.

Inside the Mitten I placed cards that counted down to Christmas.
One side of the card I have a Christmas Scripture to read. The other side a Family activity to do that day. (examples: Make Christmas Cookies, Watch Christmas Movie, Make Chistmas Cards, Bring a Treat to someone etc...)

I am really excited to have an interactive Christmas Calendar this year!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

One of a Sheep's Best Qualities

One our "senior ladies"

One of the best thing sheep have going for them is their Wool!

Before I started raising sheep, if you had asked me about wool my first thought probably would have been my Grandpa's old wool Army blanket. Rough and Itchy...

Now,  if you asked me about wool I would tell you all of the wonderful qualities it has and that is has gotten a bad rap over the years.

What do people think about when they think of WOOL? My experience has been that most people had my perception. Rough, Itchy, Scratchy.
I took a quilting class several years ago. They were teaching how to make log cabin quilts. I had just got back some batting from some wool I had processed and bought it into class. When I told the women that I was using it for my quilt  their reaction - "You don't want to use that it will not be comfortable".  I pulled the batting out and they couldn't believe how soft  and comfy it was. Their next response was "Where can I get some."

I have done a few presentations on sheep and wool for young children. When I ask them about wool they respond much in the same way. I always have a sample for them to feel and they cannot believe how soft it is.
I then explain how the chemical  processing of wool is one of the reasons wool can be itchy.

Wool is not all created equal.
The diameter and length varies on different breeds of Sheep and because of that some wool is suited for some purposes better than others.
It depends a lot on the breed of sheep the wool comes from.

Some sheep produce very soft fiber and other breeds produce very course fiber.
They both have their uses.

What some people do not know about wool is that it is:
*Flame retardant
*Stays warm even if wet
*Bacteria and odor resistant
*Helps you stay warm when cold and cool when hot.

I probably sounds like a wool commercial but I do raise sheep which in turn mean I raise wool so I like to get the word out about this wonderful, natural Fiber.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Oh Christmas Tree

It is hard to believe it is December already and Christmas is right around the corner.

What always makes it a reality is our traditional trip to Booth's Christmas Tree Farm the first Saturday in December.

I absolutely love this small family owned business that has helped us create many family memories over the years.

Horse Drawn Wagons, U-Cut Christmas Trees, Wreaths and friendly service keeps us going back every year.

Patty and Casey taking us out to find a tree


Katie and Beth on the return trip

Friday, November 30, 2012

Small Town Libraries

I enjoy our  small town library.

I know that large libraries have some advantages but I appreciate that when I visit our library we are greeted by name. The selection is limited BUT they bend over backwards to get us the books we want.  They carry my favorite magazines, This Old House, MaryJane Farm Girl, and Hobby Farm.

They have a pretty good selection of homestead topics and get new ones every year.

Today I came home with ....
The books can be found at

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Small Fright in the Night


[kahy-oh-tee, kahy-oht] 
noun, plural coy·o·tes, ( especially collectively ) coy·o·te.
Also called prairie wolf. a buffy-gray, wolflike canid, Canis latrans, of North America, distinguished from the wolf by its relatively small size and its slender build, large ears, and narrow muzzle.
I would like to add to that definition- Four legged stalker.

Picture taken from our woods
Last night I was awaken by the sound of Coyotes.
I opened the bedroom window and it sounded like they were right in our field. I have never heard them that close.  That was alarming. I went outside to see if I could hear or see anything. I drove up and down the fence rows. Nothing.
My uncle had just told us earlier that day that he seen a very large coyote on the footage from the video cameras he has placed in the woods that they use for deer hunting. In all the time I have lived here I have never seen one but I have heard them from time to time. Over the last week we have heard them almost every night.
We have been blessed that we have not had coyote problems on our farm. We hear them occasionally in the woods but that is a good distance away.  Last night was a different story.
I didn't sleep well worrying about the sheep and goats.
All looked fine this morning.  I am not sure what we are going to do about the pack that is living in our woods.
I heard someone say that the howling is calming to them....NOT for me. Maybe if I didn't have livestock I would feel differently.  But I do have livestock and that sound if the furthest thing from calming.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Wood for burning

Nothing like a cozy fire to fend off the chill of a cold, dreary day.

When we first moved to our homestead 15 years ago this OLD house only had a wood burning furnace. We used it for the first year and decided to go with a new LP furnace.
I still remember when the furnace guy came and hooked it all up.  Before he left I told him "Thank you". He said don't thank me have had wood heat you are probably not going to like the LP furnace.
Well he was right...the house always felt cold.

We ended up buying a wood stove the following winter for our family room.

Several years after that we bought a high efficiency furnace that could be vented outside and reinstalled the original wood furnace that we had taken out that would heat the entire house.

I love the wood heat. House feels warmer, and with the cost of LP rising I love the savings as well.

I was surprised to find a poem on this subject. Educational as well.

Woods for Burning.

Logs to burn! Logs to burn!
Logs to save the coal a turn!
Here’s a word to make you wise
When you hear the woodsman’s cries.

Beech wood fires burn bright and clear,
Hornbeam blazes too’
If the logs are kept a year
To season through and through.

Oak logs will warm you well
If they are old and dry.
Larch logs of the pine smell
But the sparks will fly.

Pine is good and so is Yew
For warmth through winter days,
But poplar and the willow too
Take long to dry or blaze.

Birch logs will burn to fast,
Alder scarce at all,
Chestnut logs are good to last
If cut in the fall

Holly logs will burn like wax –
You should burn them green.
Elm logs like a smouldering flax,
No flames to be seen.

Pear logs and Apple logs
They will scent a room,
Cheery logs across the dogs
Smell like flowers in bloom.

But Ash logs all smooth and grey,
Burn them green or old,
Buy up all that come your way
They’re worth their weight in Gold!


Monday, November 5, 2012

Let out At Last

The boys are being let out of confinement today.  They have been very restless and will be most happy with the new arrangement.
The Ram was let out in the pastures to be with the ladies.
The Buck is staying in the Barnyard and we will put a few does in with him at a time.

I know that it may seem late but we have been lambing in April for many years.
We have had lambs in the winter a few times when we first started raising sheep but
we made the transistion to spring lambing and have never looked back.

There are advantages to both Winter and Spring Lambing, but for our farm goals spring lambing has been the best fit. It is definately the most preferred by me. I am not one that enjoys the cold so after a couple of lambing seasons bundled up and freezing checking on ewes and lambs through the night was more than enough to convince me of later lambing times. Thankfully our farm goals support that decision.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Yet, Another Use for WOOL

I have an ever growing list on my" To Do List" board on Pinterest.
Today I get to check a wool project off the list.

Wool Dryer Balls- I have had the roving stashed for this project for quite some time.

I have read several  tutorials on  different blogs on how to make them.
There were a  few differences on how they were made but the results are pretty much  the same.
You need 100 percent WOOL. Some used yarn, scraps of wool clothing or roving.

I used wool yarn that I have had from a previous project and wool roving that I bought at the Fiber Festival just for this project.

I made a ball of yarn for the inside and covered it with roving.

I had enough to make three.

I put the balls in some tights. One at a time, tying off the end before placing another one in.

I Put them in the washing machine on a setting with HOT water.
They need to be washed more than once.
The second and third washing was  with a regular load of laundry.
( I hate to waste)

You want to wash them until they are felted enough to stay together.
They  become more felted as they are used in the dryer or so I have heard.

After 3 washings...

I have to say that it was one of the easiest projects I have done.  They are definately not perfect but I am happy with my first venture.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the purpose behind the project.
Well according to the experts they:

1. Cut down drying time
2. Eliminate Static Cling
3. Clothes come out softer

A good way to replace the dryer sheets with a more natural resource.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dog Gone Fun

One thing about having Border Collies around is that they can keep up with the kids.

We started them on agility recently. Just tunnels and jumps but they seem to like it.
It has been a great way to burn off some of that BC energy. (works great for girls too)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bread Therapy

What to do on a gloomy, rainy day?

Today we decided to make bread.
I usually just end up doing laundry but with the cooler weather baking is in order.

First thing-Grind the wheat into flour. I usually grind about 5 pounds at a time.  Enough to use for today and some to put in the freezer for later use. 

I have a Ktec wheat grinder. It sounds like an airplane taking off but it gets the job done.
I also have a Kitchen Aid which takes the work and time out of kneading the dough.

I would feel like a pioneer, if it wasn't for all of the gadgets that I have to make the job so much easier.

It can be the best therapy for a gloomy, rainy day.

I have a lot of bread recipes I use.
Here is one of our favorites.

Whole Wheat Bread

2 Cups warm water
2 Tablespoons Yeast
1/4 cup olive oil (can use canola or vegetable)
1/4 Cup Honey (can use less)
1 tsp. salt
5-6 cups flour

Combine water, honey and yeast in mixing bowl. Let sit for a few minutes. (I like to make sure the yeast proofs)
Add oil, 4 cups of flour, and salt.  Mix.  Add additional flour 1/2 cup at a time until the sides of bowl are clean.
Knead for 10 minutes.

Place the dough in bowl, that has been sprayed with oil. I turn the dough over so the top of the dough has oil on it. Cover the bowl (with towel or siran wrap)
Let rise until double. 

Punch down. 

Form dough into 2 loaves.
 Place into greased bread pans. 
Let rise 20 minutes.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes (until lightly browned)

*** I use mostly wheat flour but I do usually add at least one cup of white flour.
*** I usually double recipe and freeze loaves.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Working Farm at Greenfield Village

We went on a field trip to Greenfield Village.
First time for me.   It was not a dissapointment.

It is a great place to visit.

One of our favorite places was the Working Farm, of course!

Merino Sheep
 Carding Machine
Wool Picker

Brick Farm House...Loved it!


It was a great time with more than enough to see in one day.  Looking forward to another visit.

Sunday, October 7, 2012






shep·herd·ess·es Plural


woman shepherd: a girl or woman who looks after sheep
Is that what I am?
I have been raising sheep for the last 14 years. Does that make me a shepherdess?
It has been an adventure, to say the least. 
I have learned a lot.
My girls have been raised on a farm. They have a different outlook  than I do. I am a city girl- gone country.  I feel like I am still not quite in my element at times.  The girls have known  nothing else.
I wonder how many years I will have to raise sheep before I will feel like a "true" shepherdess?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Five thing I love about Fall in Michigan

Defiinately number one on my list is fall colors! Nothing like natures artwork. Absolutely beautiful.

Cooler weather. Time to pull out the sweaters, after the heat we had this summer it is most welcome.

Campfires. Cooler nights are perfect weather for roasting those marshmallows. Relaxation at its best.

Harvest/Autumn theme- Straw bales, indian corn, pumpkins, gourds, mums, scarecrows.  Lets Decorate!

Easy Farming- I don't know why but fall seems to be the easiest time of the year raising livestock. The Lambs are gone, ewes are still getting enough grass so we are not having to feed hay yet, cooler weather means less stress for them. They seem to enjoy the fall weather as much as we do.


The only thing I would like to change about Fall is that it would last a little longer. It always seems to be the shortest season of the year.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sharing the Harvest

We were blessed to have some friends share their garden bounty.
Our garden did not do as well as we had hoped. We did get some peppers and cherry tomatoes but not enough tomatoes to can.
But thanks to some friends there are tomatoes in the pantry.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ram Lamb-less

Well today was the day to take Lambs to market.

We were able to sell several of them over the past month for Breeding Stock. But what didn't sell had to be taken to the livestock auction.

We raise sheep and the lambs are raised for Breeding Stock and meat. I definately enjoy selling breeding stock more than I like the market lamb part of the farm.

With our hay field not making it and hay prices being so high we were not able to keep any rams back. We also had to sell some goats that we were not planning on parting with.

Tough decisions this year.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Why you do NOT Tag Goats

We noticed that Recital was acting funny. She was throwing her head around and something just did not look right. My daughter investigated and found her ear to be infected where she had a tag put in for fair.

We have complained about having to tag our goats. Most fairs do not require tagging and accept tattoos. They have been considering allowing the tattoos if your goat has papers.I am definately going to be voicing our opinion on the matter again.

When we checked the other goats our doe kid is infected as well. But worse than the infection is the fact their ears have been torn a little from the tag, which is what caused the infection.Mike cut the tags out of their ears, we cleaned them really well and put on some Blue Kote. We will watch them closely and if necessary we will give them antibiotics. I am hoping we caught it early enough that it will not be necessary.

We have several goats with rippped ears from last years fair tags. I hope they make changes to the Fair requirements for showing the Dairy Goats. The girls love it. I just don't enjoy the problems we have had with the ear tags.I am not sure what these goats do and how they manage to cause such problems but if there is a way to get in trouble they will find it.

Goats will be Goats!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Gladiola Farms

We live among many fields and most of those contain soybeans, field corn and an occasional hay field but the most eye catching is the Gladiolus. They are a beautiful site when in bloom.

I learned today that Bronson has 1400 acres of Gladiolus causing it be known as "The Gladiolus Capital of the United States"

Who knew?


Monday, September 3, 2012

Virginia Visit

Mountains, rivers, winding roads and one lane bridges are a few of the things we seen in Virginia.

It was a beautiful state. We found a Blackberry Farm, quaint yarn shop, Historic Grist Mill, and other historic sites.
We couldn't resist taking pictures of a sheep farm we found along the way.

It was the end of the season but the girls managed to pick a few pints.

Blackberry Farm
They were very close to the road. Delaney was convinced they wanted their picture taken.

The sheep got pretty noisy when we pulled to the roadside to take pictures. I think they thought we were there to open the gate and let them out to pasture. A lot of the pastures were hilly. Some were really steep.

This was a Historic Grist Mill. They sold all types of flours and mixes. We purchased some Buckwheat pound cake mix and Hush Puppy Mix.

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