Sierra +Birthday= Chicken Jalapeno Soup

That is a lot of candles! She blew them all out in one try, make your wish

Today, my third daughter, Sierra Anne, turns 13.  My how time does fly.  Sierra is very petite, but don’t let her size fool you.  She is a firecracker.  But, she is every bit as sweet as she is feisty.

When it is your birthday on the farm, you don’t have to do your chores.  The other siblings chip in and get them done.  All of the kids like this perk.  I also cook the birthday person’s favorite meal for dinner.  So, tonight we will be having chicken jalapeno soup.  What is funny about this recipe, it that I leave out the Jalapenos!  Cheyenne and I like it hot, but we are about the only ones, if only 2 out of 6 like it I will tone it down.  No matter, this soup is still awesome!  Sierra also has a thing for jello.  She will choose the Chinese food place in town just for the jello, the food there is not that great.  So, I told her that I would get her some jello- one flavor for every day of the week.

The birthday banner goes up and stays up for about a week.  Why not?  I am so glad that God sent these wonderful people to be my children, so why not let the celebrating linger on?  Birthdays are fun and we enjoy them. Regardless if people admit it or not, everyone likes to have a fuss made on their birthday.  It feels good to know that there is someone who is delighted that on that certain day in history, you entered this world.

Here is the recipe for the birthday girl’s favorite food:

Chicken Jalapeno Soup
1 whole chicken
1 tbsp of olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
garlic clove

To the broth add:
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 cups cream (half/half will work great, plain milk is ok, but not nearly as creamy)
2- 4 oz cans of green chillies
1 jalapeno seeded and chopped
1/2 cumin
1 lb velveeta cubed.

Boil chicken until tender, remove from broth (save broth- you should have about 8 cups add water if you don’t), pull chicken from bone and tear into small pieces

In skillet heat oil and cook onions until clear, add garlic and cook for about 1 minute.  Add onions to broth, then add the ingredients listed above except the velveeta.  Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add velveeta and cook over low heat until melted.  Stir in chicken and cook on low until warmed through.  Serve, this tastes great with cornbread.

Sisters, Savannah and Cheyenne teamed up for this cake

Ripped in 30

Well, I wouldn’t exactly call my body ripped, but it is certainly different!  Part of my fast this January was to give up 30 minutes of sleep each weekday morning to exercise.  I have known for a while that it was time to take better care of myself.  This past Friday marked the 30 day marker.

Thanks to my sister Windy, I found out about Jillian Micheals “Ripped in 30”.  I must say that I am very impressed with how thoroughly she can kick my butt in 20 minutes/day. (I know mom, we don’t say “butt”)  I am a firm believer in her now.  I am also really impressed with the folks that would go on Biggest Loser and give that woman full access to them.  She gets results no doubt.

I plan for this to be a lifestyle change.  I have met the first goal, one month down. However, I don’t plan on stopping.  I love gardening with my 81 year old grandmother and I want to garden with my grandkids and nieces when I am that old.  So, it begins today to be healthy for the end years.

I hadn’t blogged about this because I hate to throw things out there and then not deliver.  In the past, I could have found a thousand reasons in 30 days to “justify” not completing this.  5:30 am comes early and I did not want to crawl out from under the warm covers, but every time I did I was proud of me.  When week four came around, it was hard.  I felt the worst of all the weeks.  But, when Friday came and I finished that workout, I was proud of me.

A belly button ring has always been something that I have wanted.  By the time I had the guts to get one, I had given birth to 4 babies and by belly was in no condition to be host to a belly button ring.  I have always said that if I got my belly back I would get one.  I never really believed that this would ever be a reality.  However, thanks to Jillian Micheals, it just might be.  September 29th will be my 40th birthday.  My long term goal is to work out consistently until then and on my birthday my reward will be the belly button ring.  But for now, we will just take it one 30 day bite at a time.  For now I am going to do the “Ripped in 30” again.  Then I plan on getting her “Yoga Meltdown”  I really like yoga and if she can results with yoga like she can with the other, I am excited. 

One thing I liked about this workout, is that each week was different.  You don’t do the same exercises twice.  For those that loose interest in things quickly like I do, this is awesome.  Now, in the first week- Jillian says that when the push-ups are gone they are gone forever.  She lied.  The push-ups came back each week in varied and evil forms, but because of the strength you built the week before, you can do it!  She is also very fond of the plank.  Again, I was surprised with how quickly I built strength.  Given the almost immediate results, I was motivated to keep going.  Each Friday that came, I was walking around in a different body.  The scale changed slightly, but my physique changed considerably.  Experts tell you to weigh daily, but I did not.  I found that if I looked at the scale, it became all about the number.  If the number did not change I got discouraged.  By waiting till Friday to weigh, the changes in my body had convinced me that this was working.  I did not need the scale to change to be happy.  I have gotten a chest lift and a lift in my backside with no surgery!  I highly recommend Jillian Micheals “Ripped in 30”.

The Farm Has Expanded

Minnie Pearl and Lou Lou, my new lambs

Last week some friends gave us a Boer baby that was the smallest of a set of triplets.  She was just a few hours old and very small.  We were so excited.  However, as it happens, she did not make it.  I was very upset.  I knew better, but we hadn’t had a bottle baby in a long time and I was so excited. 

My sweet family began whispering behind my back and making me leave the room so they could talk.  They were making plans to buy me a new bottle baby because I was sad.  So, tonight I was surprised when Tony said we could go get these little lambs if I wanted to.

At first I wasn’t sure.  Painted Desert sheep are not my favorites.  I prefer the “regular” looking sheep or the Jacob Sheep.  When I started with milk goats I choose the breed that I thought was the cutest.  The problem with that was that I choose Saanens which originated in the Alps.  For those of you not familiar with that area of the world- it is very cold there.  This means that these guys are great for snow, but not Texas summers.  After last summer I made the decision to sell the Saanens to folks more north of us and switch to the desert breeds- Nubians and La Manchas.  I am glad I did.  So when pondering the sheep questions, the thought popped into my head “Are we really going to do that again?”.  So, I went with the desert sheep.

These little girls are so cute!  The are furry and warm, very different from goats.  Now, when these girls get big enough we will breed them.  Then lamb will be on the menu at the Farm On Holly’s Hill.  The thought of eating lamb may make some of you squeamish, but you need to understand that lambs that go to the butcher are weighing in at 125 lbs or more.  Lambs are not the little furry cute things you see in the picture books.

But for now, we will simply enjoy bottle feeding these two and watching them play.  You never know, I may decide I like Painted Desert Sheep.  I didn’t think I would like La Mancha goats either, but I love Salsa now!  She is my favorite dairy goat- next to Saphire.  But she is my best milker.  Being breeders, it is ok to get attached, breeders don’t go to the butcher.  The girls are named Minnie Pearl and Lou Lou, after Hee-Haw one of my favorite shows growing up.  The kids love to get those DVDs from Netflix.

New Peeps!

The first little puff ball- he surprised us by being early.

In November, my biology teaching sister hatched some eggs for a class project.  They had one hatch out of 2 and a half dozen eggs.  I had hatched just before her and only got 3 out of 18 eggs.  I have never had hatch rates so pitiful.  So, I decided to get to the bottom of the problem.

Considering the awful summer we had, I suspected the heat.  I still think that was a factor.  I also wondered about the potency of my rooster.  This was the first time I had hatched eggs that he was responsible for fertilizing.  I never witnessed much from him, but thought maybe he was a gentleman and private lives were just that- private.  There are a few humans who could take lessons from that bird and then we would have a lot less “reality” on television.  Anyway, I collected another batch of eggs once the girls were done with their molting.

Molting is when the chickens shed feathers and put on a fresh, new batch.  The first time your chickens molt it can be quite a scare.  You walk into the coop one morning and there are feathers everywhere!  However, once you start counting chickens you realize that none are missing or injured.  Then in a few days you begin to notice naked necks and bald spots.  This is normal and during this time the laying declines and the fertility is decreased.  I just learned from a very seasoned chicken fellow that if I pull the rooster away and put out a high protein feed like game bird feed, the molt will be over much quicker.  That little tidbit of advice has been filed away till next fall.

Well, 21 days have come and gone and hatching began yesterday afternoon.  I am definitely suspecting the rooster now.   Out of 1 dozen, only 3 have hatched.  All three are from the same colored egg and the chicks are identical.  So, it would seem that he had a particular girl that he was cozy with and ignored the rest.  One might equate this monogamy with being a gentleman, but in the farm world this is considered being a slacker.  Time will tell, I won’t get rid of the eggs for another few days.  We might have a few more pop out.

Hands down, every batch of chicks thinks the top of the feeder is the best place to sleep.

Hatching eggs is so much fun.  You would think it would become mundane as many times as we have done it, but it doesn’t.  I love seeing the chicks emerge.  It seems to me that if anyone watched this they would have a hard time believing that there is not a Creator and all of this happened by accident.  I also find it amazing that an egg can go from embryo to fuzzy chirping chick in 21 days- that is less time than it takes to grow a cucumber. 

What a Week

As I write this blog today, I am enjoying the warm sunshine at Third Monday Trades Days in McKinney, Texas.  This weather is just beautiful.  I was worried about being cold, but no need to worry.  Folks are out and having a good time.  Tony and I are alone this month because we thought the weather would make any of the kids who came along miserable.  Nope, but we are having a good time.
McKinney was the cap on a very busy week.  Savannah had her interview with the Dallas Zoo for a volunteer position in the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park.  All went well.  He complimented her on her speaking skills and her easy demeanor and she then told him of her public speaking experience- thank you 4H.  He was impressed, of course.  He then asked about her experience with animals and she proceeded to list our livestock and he said “Wow, so you have a zoo at your house.  He has no idea how right he is!  Again, thank you 4H.  We won’t hear for a couple of weeks, Savannah is set to volunteer in the summer, so they will fill the spring session first and then tend to the summer schedule.
Savannah’s meeting was on Tuesday morning and she went to Renea’s house to make a dress.  I must say I was impressed with her first full blown sewing project.  I am grateful to Sara for helping them do this.  She came back home on Thursday, which means that Jonathan is owed two more days of having her do his chores for him.
Early Wednesday morning, Tony & Cheyenne headed west to Stephenville to pick up the 2012 show lamb.  This is always very exciting for Cheyenne.  She loves the lambs.  With all her experience in dealing with market animals (animals destined for the dinner plate) she understands not getting too attached.  We were all so shocked at the tears she shed last year when her lamb was sold at the Youth Expo Auction.  It was so sad, and to boot, if we had known she wanted the lamb her buyer would have given her back.  She told us that she didn’t say anything because she didn’t know she was so attached.  Sometimes you find your heart in the darndest places.  This year, however, we will make a deal to get the lamb back so Cheyenne can keep and breed her.  
The day was eventful for the two of them.  Long about Weatherford, fluids began spewing out from under the hood.  The limped along for a few miles till they got to the Ford house.  As it turns out, another defect of the 6.0 diesel is that the vibrations split the radiators.  Isn’t that just dandy?  Thankfully, they had the part in stock and Tony was back home by 5:30 that evening.  In the meantime, our trusty extension agent, Tommy Phillips was headed down to get lambs with a few others.  He was kind and picked her up and away they went to pick out the lamb.  
Thursday was less eventful; once Tony and I headed to Athens to decide what vendor space we wanted in Winnie & Tallulah’s- an antique shop on the square- we worked at home.  I had a stack of sewing and painting  to be done to get things ready for my booth in Ye Olde City Antique mall in Tyler.  Once we get back from McKinney we will head there on Monday.
Friday was intended to be a work at home day; however Sierra woke up saying that her neck hurt.  This is not too unusual for her; it seems that when she gets wound up her neck is where her stress goes.  But this day was different; she was in tears in a short time and just got worse.  I made her an appointment with Dr. Tina Ingram.  Tina ran tests and discovered that Sierra had viral meningitis.  It seems that the vaccination that Cheyenne got a few weeks ago had made Cheyenne a carrier or at least contagious. So needless to say, no one else in the family will be getting that vaccination.   Dr. Tina worked her magic and before my eyes Sierra got better.  I could not believe the difference in that kid from when we walked in and when we left.
I told Sierra how happy I was that she was so much better.  I wouldn’t have left for McKinney if she was sick.  She replied, “I know and I have been looking forward to this weekend and I didn’t want it to be ruined.”  You gotta have thick skin if you are going to raise children!  Thankfully, she is fully recovered and enjoying her weekend with the parents out of the house.

A Meeting at the Zoo

Savannah and a Giraffe.  The zoo has really great exhibits!

 Sunday, Savannah had the first meeting at the Dallas Zoo to join the volunteer program.  She & I went while the other kiddos hung out with Aunt Patty and Uncle Jay.

Savannah had spent the week with Uncle Ken, Aunt Sherri and Stephanie.  Needless to say, she had a great week.  Jonathan covered her chores everyday, so now he gets a week of her doing his chores.  We drove up to pick her up on Saturday and along the way, we stopped at Half Price Books.

Sierra was given two gift cards to Half Price Books and a $5.00 coupon.  I wish those that had given her the cards could have been there to see her face.  She was just giddy as we left with her big stack of books and her little eyes were just shinning.  Between the Nook she was given and all the books she bought, she is looking at a long list of reading.  In reality, it will probably only take her about 2 weeks to read all this- unless I purposely slow her down. So, thank you Aunt Windy and the Kimberling Family.

All of us enjoyed visiting with the Kinsey’s.  After we left their house we headed to Aunt Patty’s.  She let us sleep at her house so that I did not have to drive all the way back in for Savannah’s meeting. As always, she was a great hostess.  The kids loved watching movies with her and Jay.  Patty and Jay are two of those kind of people that really make you feel good about yourself, they are very encouraging.

The meeting was really just basic information and a time to sign up for her interview.  However, we did get into the zoo for free and made it around to see the penguins, giraffes, and gorrillas.  As the leader of the meeting went throught the duties of each kind of volunteer, the duties of the Junior Zookeeper sounded basically like me kids chore list every morning.  Savannah is applying to volunteer at the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park. 

The Children’s Aquarium has several touch tanks and Savannah’s duties would include monitoring the tanks and interacting with the children.  In monitoring the sting-ray tank, she would have to get in with the sting-rays!  Excited doesn’t even come close to the way she feels at this prospect.  I am excited because it gives her some marine biology experience.  Finding hands on stuff for her in our land-locked area can be tough.  As she plans on following the path if marine biology to be a marine mamel behaviorist, these experiences will be very valuable in helping her get into programs later on down the road.  So, we will drive into Dallas once a week for about 13 weeks this summer.  I am looking forward to it because it will give me a great chance to take all the kids on many field trips to take in the art and sites of downtown.  It should be a lot of fun!

I Love Grit Magazine!

I really do love Grit magazine.  They have so many fun and interesting articles, great pictures and awesome recipes.  My little face just lights up when I find it in my mailbox!

Some times they also say the cutest things…. Like this issue for instance.  The article tag line is “An ancient plant with staying power, spinach will keep your salad fresh all summer long”.  That may be true in areas that are just beginning to thaw in May, but here in Texas where the temps may hit 100′ before May turns into June- you won’t be growing spinach in the summer.

That said, I love growing spinach.  It is easy and tasty.  You just have to know when to plant it.  Spinach planted in September will grow through most of the winter.  Only the hardest of freezes lasting several days will knock it down.  Then you can plant again in about February and enjoy it for several more months.  Once the heat starts hitting 85-90′, the spinach will start to bolt.  Bolt means it starts sending up seed pods and is done for the year. 

All picking aside- I do love Grit magazine.  This is a great publication to have coming to your home.  All of us take turns reading every issue.  Gardening in Texas is a completely unique endeavor, so keep that in mind when you read articles on planting.

Spring Spinach- you can harvest this by March in most years

A January Harvest

Not a bad harvest for January 5th!

Today was a very pretty day.  It was cool, but not at all unpleasant.  There was a very full list waiting on me, but it was all things I enjoy.  When you love what you do it just doesn’t feel like work.  Yesterday’s list was full as well, so much so that about half the list got bumped to today.

I spent the morning processing the herbs I had drying in the kitchen for a few weeks.  Once I had them stripped off the stems and chopped up, I made three different kinds of infused oils.  Once the oils are done in 10 days, I will strain the herbs out and turn the oil into massage oil, bath oils, and salt scrubs.  This is fun work and you get a huge session of aromatherapy to boot!  My girls have gotten spoiled to handmade bath products with organically grown herbs.  The benefit to your skin is huge, make growing herbs for this sole purpose worth it!  Of course, my herbs have many purposes.

Mint is going great.  Once you get mint started, you don’t have to give it much attention.  Unless, of course, it grows like mad and tries to take over your bed.  For this reason I only plant mint in a container or in an area of the yard I want it to take over.  Who wants to mow?  Dandelions are also flourishing.  In my garden these are NOT WEEDS!  If you want to be healthier, make a tincture of dandelions.  That is my go-to medicine around here.  Not only does it help with colds and such, for us it works great on allergies.  And unlike man-made medicines, there are no side effects.  Rosemary, of course, is doing great.  This plant actually doubled in size over the horrid summer with no extra water!

Surprisingly, I found Dill coming up in the garden boxes.  The freeze should have killed it, but it did not.  So I picked it!  There was a bit of lavender left to harvest and some parsley.  All in all, I was very pleased to find so much in the Garden.  Sage, Salad Burnett and Thyme are still doing fine, but they had not grown much since my last harvest  and I choose to leave them for another day.  So many of the herbs are evergreen and hardy through the winter, at least here in East Texas.

As you can see, herbs really pull their weight in the garden.  Everyone should have some.  Your food will taste better and you will be healthier.  Most all culinary herbs double as medicinal herbs.  The local library is a great resource for learning about herbs.  Then, if you find a book you like you can purchase it online or at a used book store.  This keeps you from buying books that are really not that helpful.  My favorite herb book of all time is Growing 101 Herbs That Heal, by Tammi Hartung.  101 herbs may be more than you are looking to grow, but this book is very good and you will learn how to grow the ones you want to use.

Beginning With The End In Mind

The Ross Family wishes you a happy new year!

Well, 2011 is recorded history now and we begin a new year.  2011 for us was a great year with a lot of changes.  I am excited as to what the year will hold.

Each year we begin with a fast that is at least 2 weeks long, sometimes a month.  After all of the wonderful craziness of the holidays, it is a great time to hit the pause button and see what God has to say about the year to come.  Tony and I also make a list of what we would like to accomplish in the coming year and goals both personal and for the family, and now for our business.

People often get funny notions courseing through their brains when you say the word “fast”.  Most think of odd hippie-type folks going without food for days.  Absolutely nothing spiritual takes place if I go 8 hours without food much less days.  However, the point of a fast is to deny your flesh something in order to give your spirit-man time to grow strong.  Think about how much we put in our mouths in a day that has nothing to do with health.  So, there is plenty to fast from that won’t make your blood sugar or your blood preassure do funny things.

Also, there are things to fast from that have nothing to do with food.  Facebook, t.v., Secular movies, and internet (not work related) are some examples that come to mind.  I can’t tell you how much benefit you will get from a fast.  Just be prepared, the flesh will not like it and it will act up.  If it feels like your whole family just went crazy, hang on it will pass!

That is where we are at The Farm On Holly’s Hill right now.  We are beginning this year with the end in mind.  Right now, we are still waiting to hear what our goals should be.  If 2012 has as many good times in store, it should be a great one.