Easy Nesting Boxes - On the Cheap!

I've kept chickens for the last 7 years or so. I started out with a $40 dollar starter pack of 7 chickens that came with a funky coup from craigslist.com and have moved on up to a pretty decent coup. We've lost quite a few chickens to predators, mostly bobcats and raccoons, so recently Clay and I built a coup with a roof so they couldn't climb in and drag the poor girls out. It's been working really well although I've noticed some holes around the outside showing evidence of critters trying to dig tunnels in. My next project will be to reinforce the bottom - it only took me 5 years to build a proper coup so we'll see when that happens.

Over the years I've learned a lot about keeping chickens, but overall they have got to be most low maintenance pets around and being able to walk out in the yard and get fresh eggs is amazing. Besides my new coup my whole set up was very easy to put together. The hen house is a converted shed and we put together some scrap wood for a roost.

We have had some issues with making a good place for the chickens to lay eggs. Over the years the hens didn't really seem to like the shelf we made so they laid all over the coup and I kept on having issues with Chickens eating their eggs (gross!!!), so with the most recent batch of hens we wanted to get them used to laying in proper boxes.

Clay found a cool, and inexpensive, idea online to create laying boxes out of plastic tubs. (I tell you if it isn't easy we won't do it!) We cut the lids in half added some shavings and put them on our previous laying shelf.

The girls just started laying and they really seem to like the little, private laying buckets.

Kustom Frames for Fathers Day

It's always hard to think of something to give Clay on Father's Day. He doesn't do a lot of the common fatherly stuff that people think about with dads: no fishing, no golfing, not really into TV or main stream sports, doesn't have an office job (no ties here!), and he's mostly a vegetarian (no BBQ tools needed!).
So what to do? Here is Clay in a "nut"shell: be builds traditional hot rods, at Clayton's Hot Rods, and likes to surf. Pretty simple. When I came across the Father's Day craft Car Nut Frame, I pinned it, decided to put a Kustom spin on it and created a few with the girls for his "office" - the workshop.
Below is the end result. Check out the original Pin here: Father's Day Car Nut Frame from Kaboose.com. We sourced the frames on sale (love that!), from local craft shop Beverly's. I loved the look of the distressed barn wood; we lucked out with that. Then we went into daddy's shop and grabbed a collection of old, rusty bolts, screws, washers, and a few fuses. The girls placed them on the frames where they wanted them to go and I helped to place the glue for them. We used Aleen's Original Tacky Glue to glue the items on. It dried clear and held all of the bolts, even the heavy ones, on very securely.
I printed up some photos and wa-la our Kustom Father's Day Frames!


Cheesemaking with the Faves

Ricki's Cheesemaking Kit - For Mozzarella and Ricotta

A few weeks ago, we bought a fun cheesemaking kit from a vendor at our local Farmers Market - Mountain Feed and Farm Supply. This kit makes 30 1lb. batches of either motzarella or ricotta cheese. It comes with everything you need besides the milk. It was a lot of fun and very easy. Our cheese came out pretty good; it tasted great, but did look a little funny. Not bad for the first time though.

From milk to grilled cheese, the whole process took us about 45 minutes to an hour. One piece of advice we got that I thoug was useful to share - if you buy organic, to be aware that Clover brand tends to be more pasteurized than regular milk due to the nature of organic milk. The instructions say not to get 'Ultra pasteurized' milk. So for first time success, you might want to try regular (non-organic) milk. I ended up using half organic and half regular, because you need a gallon to make one 1lb of cheese and I only had a half gallon in my fridge.

Here are pictures of some of the steps - heat, stir, melt, and stretch!

Step #1 Get cute helpers. :-)

Step #2 Heat milk to 90 degrees. (The kit comes with a thermometer.) Once it reaches 90 degrees F, remove from heat and stir in rennet solution with an up and down motion for 30 sec. Cover pot and leave for 5 minutes.

Step #3 After 5 minutes, check the curd. It should look like custard with a clear saparation between the curd and whey. Ours looked close enough, but I believe it should have been a bit more solid. It might have been an issue with the organic milk I used. The suggestion in the instructions was to let it set for a few more minutes. We did this, and this was the closest we got to the pictures in the instructions.

Step #4 Once the curd sets you cut it with a knife, that reaches the bottom of the pot, and place back on the stove and reheat to 105 degrees F. While reheating, slowly move the cures around.

Step #5 Once you reach 105 degrees F, take off the burner and continue to slowly stir for 2-5 minutes helping to make the cheese firm. The longer you stir, the more firm your cheese will be.

Step #6 Water Bath Method. There are two options to the third heating round. Microwave or Water bath. We don't have a microwave so opted for the Waterbath. In another pot we heated water to 185 degrees F. We ladeled the cured into a colander, folding gently as we drained off the whey. Once all of the whey was drained, we dipped the colander into the hot water several times. Then we took a spoon and folded the curds, helping them to become more cheese-like and elastic. You'll notice it become stretchable.
Step #7 When it became stretchable, we removed from the liquid and pulled a bit. This step didn't work out for us like the picture, but good enough to do some stretch like action with the cheese mass. We formed a ball and returned it to the water to help it cool.

Ta-da! Cheese!

And what do you do with the cheese! Tomato soup and grilled cheesers, of course!

Skull Shirt

As most of us have, I've been going crazy pinning things on Pinterest. I found myself feeling a little bit unaccomplished because of my ratio of pins to actually getting off the computer and doing something creative. So, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and take up blogging again as well as create a new section called 'Pintertested' where I would actually try some of the things that I Pinned.

A few weeks ago I found this really cute cut out skull shirt idea. Well, actually I found a few of them, but this one in particular caught my eye because of the cute little bow that was tied in the top of the skull's head. The project descriptions were really easy to follow and the shirt turned out great. Below are some pictures from my 'Pintastic' creation....ok, I'll stop now...

How cute is my little model! She rocks the shirt all the time and proudly wears it as momma's latest creation.

Test Results: A Pinning Success!

Step 1: Create a Template

Step 2: Cut out, place on shirt and trace with chalk. Oh, I also cut out the neck and cut the arms off at a 45 degree.

Step 3: Draw horizontal lines across the tracing.

Step 4: Cut out and place on cute model! (When cutting I cut straight along the chalk lines, stopping when I got to the eyes and nose.)

Love her and the shirt! The bonus is that it is big enough to fit the both of us.

Bath Fizzies!

For Valentines Day we got the girls little gift bags full of pink goodies including a nail file, lipstick pen and a pink lip bath fizzy. These bath fizzies are always such a hit with the girls. I have gotten them before and they always add an extra element of fun to the bath and make the girls (and bathroom) smell so good. This particular lip one made the whole bath pink and smelled wonderful.

As usual they wanted to go get more and as usual I said, why don't we figure out how to make them? I found tons of resources online about making bath fizzies (also called bath bombs).

Here are a few of them:

- Recipe from TeachSoap.com
- Recipe from Martha (Is there anything she can't do? She had me glittering everything this past holiday.)
- Recipe from MakeLotion.com (Simple Recipe)
- Recipe from ehow.com (This is the one I am going to try.)

Cool Video:

* I love the music during this one...get's you all pumped to make fizzies!

It took me a while to find the citric acid, but eventually found it at a local health food store. The last thing for me to find is the witch hazel. I hope to make them this weekend and post my outcome. Wish me luck!

We made the bath fizzies! A few notes for the next batch.
  1. Make sure all ingredients are in powder form. I will ground the Epsom salt into a flower like consistency next time.
  2. Work with the die. We tried to make purple fizzies. Not sure that I added enough and the accidental addition of the yellow coloring probably didn't help the poop like color.
  3. Fragrance. The two tsp is a lot. I used essential oils (a combination of what I had laying around). I will be more prepared next time with enough of one smell. I might even try fragrance oil rather than an essential oil. (Etsy looks like they have some good suppliers of that Etsy Fragrance link. They also have citric acid.)
Overall, very fun and they fizzed when added to the bath. So mission accomplished.

New Year - New House - New Inspiration

I just got an email from one of my biggest gardening inspiration - Love Apple Farms. She was already talking about Spring veggies! I can't wait. I need to figure out what I am going to plant this year. Gardeners.com has a really cool drag and drop application on their site that tells you how to plant what you want in your garden. Gotta get on this. I guess you can already start tomatoes, peppers and eggplants from seed inside 6-10 weeks before you place them outside. That should be good because I have a lot of preparing to do in my garden bed before I am ready to plant in the ground! I'll upload pictures later. Beautiful but needs a lot of work.

Which leads me to the other thing. I just moved! And while my new house is really nice it is overrun with weeds. The transition has been a little hectic, but the girls are doing great. I thought it was going to be a lot harder. It was definitely bittersweet for me to move from my old house. I lived there when I got married and brought both of my babies home to that house. We had some really great memories there. I am confident that we will also have great memories a the new house.

Work is moving along too. Just launched a new website this week: www.diggardensnursery.com. (Great client and awesome store.) I got a little store credit out of the deal and I can't wait to trick out my house with a cool terrarium and get some veggie starts for the garden. Looks like I have a few projects brewing. Keeping the positive vibes flowing towards greatness!

Over and out!

Halloween Fun On a "Sick Day"

Today my daughter came home from school "sick". So we made the most of the day and decorated the house and did a quick and easy craft project.

House Decoration

I pulled out the decorations from last year which included 4 mini paper skeletons, a scary skeleton mask, some fake cob webs and some plastic spiders. Oh, and some fun window clings. We pinned and taped everything up. Now it really feels like Halloween. We don't get trick-or-theaters where we live, but at least we get to enjoy it!

Craft Project
I cut out the pieces of a jack-o-lantern and let them glue the pieces on. It was easy enough for my 3 year old and still fun for the 6 year old.