Honey bees have arrived!

We have bees!!! Three pounds of them, or approximately 10,000 bees. They are Russian, Carniolan and Italian hybrids raised in natural small cell comb. So says the husband, who is entirely in charge of these little guys. I had a hard time staying the same room with them, but stood fast to show the little ones not to be afraid. No reason for them to inherit my irrational fear of insects. I surprised myself by remaining relatively calm, though. The little buggers are actually kind of cute. 

Kind of...

My husband is considering doing a post or two on the bees, such as how to buy them, information about the hives, maintenance, etc. Maybe even some videos! Don't worry, I'll just keep poking him in the ribs until he agrees. :)


Sunday Meal Prep

  • Put 1 whole chicken in the slow cooker Sunday night, then picked the meat off and strained out the gravy Monday morning. Bones go into a big bag in the freezer for stock.
  • Roasted carrots, potatoes, and onions
  • Put 5 cups rolled oats to soak overnight, cooked Monday morning. Ate some for breakfast, then mixed the rest with cinnamon and vanilla extract and spread in a Pyrex dish. Will slice, fry in butter, and top with homemade jam for the rest of the week. (I’m not a fan of reheated soaked oatmeal. Tastes different to me somehow.)
  • Ground 2 lbs buckwheat, most likely used for pancakes
  • Giant batch of beef for taco bowls- 1 lb grass-fed ground beef, organic corn, 1 container black beans (I soak and cook a whole pound at once, then portion off into pint containers with some bean juice and store in the freezer. I use each container like you would a can), two large onions, homemade taco seasoning.
  • Big batch rice (used the sprouted rice and quinoa blend fromBJs)
  • Shredded a block of cheese
  • Pumpkin and Sunflower Seed Butter (seeds were soaked and dehydrated last week)
  • 2 quarts of yogurt (cultured overnight)
FYI, I don’t have a meal plan. This is just stuff that we eat a lot, so I figure why not make it ahead of time? Many different meals can be made with this prep and what is already in the fridge/pantry.Tonight, we are frying up some plaintains, and will eat those alongside some of the beef/bean mixture, topped with the conveniently pre-shredded cheddar. The seed butter can be spread on the oat bars, blended into smoothies, or just eaten by the delicious spoonful. The potato mixture can be reheated and eaten with the chicken, topped with gravy, or fried in the morning and topped with overeasy eggs. I don't always do this, but it is so helpful that I hope to continue. 

Do you prep for meals? What are some things you try to do ahead of time? I'm always looking for ideas to get ahead in the kitchen!


BJ's Grocery Haul

Grocery hauls seem to be all the rage at the moment, so I thought I would jump on the bandwagon with one of my own. It’s like going through someone else’s cart at the store, but way less creepy and intrusive. I have never been one to snoop through someone else’s medicine cabinet, and I don’t care for eavesdropping. But I will stare down your cart at the supermarket like an exhibit at the Guggenheim.

I LOVE BJ’s Wholesale Warehouse. We’ve shopped there for years, and continue to do so even after moving an hour away. It’s that good. And it’s getting even better! I found some awesome stuff there yesterday, things you may not think a place like that carries. Hence this haul post! 

I’ve included my plans for the item, as I’ve seen others do that and I think it makes it more interesting. 

Smoked Salmon- I have some leftover cream cheese in the fridge and couldn’t resist. Plus, my toddler loves it and it packs a ton of nutrition.
5lbs organic carrots- stir fry, juicing, raw with dressing, red bean stew
4lbs frozen Wyman’s blueberries- pancakes, stirred into yogurt, smoothies
3lbs frozen organic mixed berries- to make jam
Cabbage - spaghetti squash chow mein
Luke's Organic Brown Rice Chips- Splurge item. My husband is gluten free at the moment and I had a coupon, so I thought I’d get him a treat.
Kosher salt- to clean my cast iron pans and for kid crafts. (We use sea salt for eating.)
Truroots Sprouted Rice and Quinoa blend- how awesome is this?! Real food is truly making a comeback.
Bota Box Malbec- mama juice.
Harvestland Kielbasa- no funny stuff like preservatives, corn syrup, etc. Haven’t tried it yet, but how bad can it be?
Avocados- because of course
Bear Naked Bars- I usually make my own snack bars, but I love having something like this around as a treat, for car trips (mine are kind of sticky), or those days when you really just need a quick something to hand to the toddler before they get hangry. Haven’t tried them yet, but the 2 ¾ year old loves them.
Land O Lakes Light Cream- not exactly my favorite, but I REALLY want to make ice cream and raw cream is like a million dollars a pint.
Organic Maple Syrup- 13.99!!! Most are double that, even for non-organic. There’s no grade listed, which is a bummer, but hey sometimes you need to take what you can get.
Organic Russet Potatoes- for fish and chips this Friday
Plantains- I was like a kid in a candy store finding these. I may have actually squealed with delight. I LOVE plantains! Thinly sliced, fried to perfection in palm shortening, and sprinkled generously with salt. My dad used to cook them that way when I was little. Add a lightly mashed avocado on the side and you are golden.
J&J Floss- hygiene, you know.
Kerrygold Dubliner cheddar cheese- to be honest, this is not my favorite it terms of flavor. But it’s the only grass fed cheese available to me, so I make it work. It’s pretty great in other stuff, just not for plain eating. It’s a bit like Gruyere.
Kale- for juicing
Izze- This was a splurge. We never buy soda or anything like that, so we get this every once in a great while. There may or may not be a bottle of Absolut Citron not pictured that is awaiting a union with one of these bad boys later tonight. 
Not pictured- 2 adorable board books and a 100' hose

There you have it! I really need to put myself on a strict grocery budget, as I simply cannot be trusted in a store with good food like this. I am a master of justification. 

If you enjoyed this, let me know and I will keep it up.


The state of things

Things are picking up around here.

 We have a beehive! Bees are arriving in early May!

Two baby chicks sleeping in their food bowl. They did this regularly.

There are 14 chicks in our front porch. 10 are one month old, 4 are one week old. 

We lost Rizzo over the winter. She was one of what we called the Old Guard, the first 6 chickens we bought back in 2011. We also lost 5 chicks from the first new batch, and 1 from the second, which was the hardest. I tried desperately to keep her alive- giving her water with a little dropper, fortified with trace minerals and a bit of raw apple cider vinegar. She drank reluctantly, and became increasingly lethargic. I then switched to feeding her a bit of milk kefir, hoping to give her some much needed calories. But I guess it wasn't enough, and she died. Homesteading is hard, man. Not for the faint of heart. 

 I started a bunch of seeds last weekend, and many have already sprouted. However, I somehow managed to lose my heat mat and haven't been able to buy a new one yet, so I fear many of the more finicky seeds won't germinate (cucumbers, tomatos, and peppers). I have to see if I have enough time to try starting them again (with a mat) or if it's too late and I should just purchase transplants in May. The growing season is quite short up here in Maine, so if you don't start early, you lose. I wonder what homesteaders did back in the day, before the creation of heat mats and grow lights and the internet, when you simply saved your seed from last year and started them in a sunny window. Did they have trouble with things like tomatoes and cucumbers if it wasn't warm enough? Or has the internet led us to believe (like so much) that things are far more complicated than they really are?

This weekend, we will have a brand new lawn tractor, 210 cubic feet of soil, and 90 concrete blocks. So, weather permitting, this weekend we will finally be able to mow the land, mulch the leaves, start our compost pile, build the raised beds and plant the spring garden (lettuce, peas, carrots, kale, cabbage, radish, and probably other things that I can't remember right now). Most people relax on the weekend, but that's our busiest time! 

 We were totally going to get a dairy cow this year, but figured it would be piling waaaay too much on our plates. So we're sticking with the huge garden, bees, extra laying hens and 50 meat birds. Next year, dairy cow and pigs. This year, trying to figure it all out and not let anything else die.

 I'm still adjusting to life with two littles and a big house. To say I haven't found my rhythm yet is a massive understatement; I don't even know what song I'm playing anymore. Each day is a new chance to flounder and stress out, to raise my voice too much and leave another project unfinished. I'll get it, I know. I keep writing my lists, planning things that will never get done, but hey, I tried! I sometimes look back on the day and wonder what on earth I accomplished, what exactly prevented me from doing what I needed to? Then I remember that I kept two little humans alive and (usually) happy. The house is clean, just a bit cluttered. We ate real food that didn't come from a box, even if it was just scrambled eggs and an unseemly amount of cashews. Everything else is secondary, everything else has time. Childhood is fleeting. 
The last of the snow still holding on for dear life.
If you are interested in our little journey and what's happening in my kitchen, make sure to follow me on Instagram. And put your email address in that little white box at the top of this page, so you will get my new posts via email. And comment! Facebook is totally lame and my posts hardly reach anyone anymore, so the conversation needs to move here. Do you homestead? What are your spring plans? 

Oh, and does anybody use MeWe? It seems like an awesome alternative to Facebook and I am considering making the switch. 

Stay tuned for a homestead tour, my favorite toddler snacks, and a peek inside my medicine cabinet!


A full life

Since mid-summer of last year, I have had a 'this too shall pass' mindset. I have calmed myself with the idea that while life may be crazy at the moment, things will settle down after - I have the baby/we sell the house/we buy the new house/we move/we finish unpacking/we drive all the way down to Massachusetts to visit my dad/Patrick goes on his business trip/the snow melts/pigs fly. There is always this idea that right now is somehow unusually busy, and that there is that One Big Thing on the horizon after which all will be smooth sailing. Yeeeeah.

Helping with the bread dough

This is just life! Stuff happens, like, all the time. There's no more lounging in bed until noon on weekends (I'm a stay-at-home mother, weekends don't even exist anymore!), no aimless puttering around the house, and certainly no time to experience the luxury that is boredom. We have children, now, and a house to manage, land to work, checklists and appointments and obligations. And that is GOOD. Not that I agree with glorifying busyness, but a busy life is a full life, and that is something to be truly thankful for, not spiteful of. I need to throw myself down into the trenches and get with it. This is like an MMORPG- there is no end, no winning, no finish line to run across triumphantly. Instead, there is the husband pouring you a glass of wine at the end of a terrible-twos type day, kissing you on the forehead and saying I love you. There are the quiet moments of morning snuggles when your toddler crawls into your bed, dragging her gigantic blanket and insisting on using your pillow (nevermind that Papa's pillow is currently vacant and EXACTLY the same.) There's your five-month old who won't stop cooing and giggling at four o'clock in the morning, and it's the cutest thing in the world but you are afraid she will wake the Papa and the toddler (the win here is that she doesn't). These are the triumphant moments. Winning is no longer about a finish line, it's about closing each day with a smile, with the knowledge that although I may have yelled too much and the house is a disaster, my family is happy and healthy and loved.

A captured moment between our two girls - and the natural state of the living room.

There is a post I once read (somewhere on some blog that of course I can't remember) that discussed viewing each day through the eyes of your children instead of feeling regret or disappointment in yourself. Did they learn something and have fun? Sure, I regret yelling at my toddler when she spilled the glass of water, but she had a blast wiping it with the cloth, and learned how to clean up after herself. I was stressed to the max when my newborn wouldn't stop crying, but my toddler did a great job of trying to comfort her sister, giving her kisses and rubbing her back. I feel guilty for leaving my baby in the walker a little too long while I did dishes, but during that time she practiced hand-eye coordination and had fun pushing herself around the kitchen. I'm usually not big on make-yourself-feel-better motivational stuff, but the message really struck me. This, of course, does not advocate a lack of accountability; I really should not have yelled, and the dishes could have waited until naptime. The point is to release the selfish critiques and instead focus on the good stuff, and on improving ourselves without the negativity of regret. 

And so, I will stop waiting for the magical day when life slows down and learn to 'embrace the crazy' as my sister-in-law so aptly put it. One day I will look back on these times with longing, and I want to make sure we have great memories to sift through.