Once Upon A Little Farm

A Glimpse Into Our Country Life

Homemade Flock Block

The other day the kids and I were perusing through Country Max and the Flock Blocks caught my eye.  Basically it’s a big square block of grains, seeds, feed, etc, all “glued” together with something sticky and desirable to chickens (and perhaps turkeys, guinea hens and other poultry).

I loved the concept as even my free range gals tend to succumb to a little boredom and get on each others nerves (and feathers).  So the story usually goes, money is tight and allows for the monthly feed order, but not chicken treats!  Needless to say,  at around $12.00, I didn’t bring one home with us.

However, I got to thinking (it usually scares my hubby when I get to thinking) and then I got to Googling (that’s a word, right?).  I found a number of folks who have made their own flock blocks.
So I took a little info from one, some advice from another,  ingredients lists from here and there and yielded to some tips suggested by a few and set out to make my own (with help from my kids, of course). I had all of the ingredients on hand.

Note: Homemade flock blocks will typically be smaller than those big honking ones in your local farm supply store – taking on the shape of whatever pan you choose to use.

Here’s how we went about it….

image

Ingredients:
4 cups scratch grains
2 cups layer crumbs
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup flax seeds
1/2  cup wheat flour
2 tsp cinnamon
6 eggs plus their shells
1 cup molasses
1 cup coconut oil,  melted
1 banana
1/2 to 1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350°.

Mix all dry ingredients together in a BIG bowl.

Peel and slice the banana,  add to the bowl. Toss in the cranberries.

Crack the eggs on top of the mixture, saving the shells.

I divided the shells up into two smaller bowls and gave each of my kids a plastic cup, which they used the bottom of to crush up the eggshells.  When they are fairly pulverized, add into the mix.

image

Pour the molasses and coconut oil over the top.  Mix well with a spoon or your hands.

image

Next, press the mixture evenly into the pans you have selected.

I used 3 greased loaf pans, each filled about 2/3 full. You can use any pan you wish. Remember the thicker you make them,  the longer they need to bake.

At this time,  you may use a chopstick, bamboo skewer, etc to put a hole in the block if you want to hang the finished product up for your chickens.  I skipped this part and just laid the blocks in old shallow baking pans for easy removal (saving some of the treat for another day). The other advantage to placing the flock blocks in pans or on cookie sheets is that there isn’t any waste if the block crumbles.

Bake for 30 minutes.  Remember, thicker blocks are fine, but should be baked longer.

Turn off the oven, but leave the pans in there to cool.  Hours later, after blocks are completely cool, run a knife along edge and remove.  Trying this before they have cooled completely will most likely result in broken flock blocks.

image

Either thread a string through and hang up for your flock, or place in shallow pans/trays and watch just how much they enjoy this treat!

image

image

I placed all of mine out around 10:00 am (we have about 60 hens, so all three blocks at once is necessary) and at 4:00 pm there was half if one and maybe a third of another. So I collected them up and will put out again in a few days. My gals are free range, so they have other things to do (like lay their eggs in nooks and crannies all over the farm).  If yours are cooped up, they may devour the block(s) pronto.

image

Advertisements
3 Comments »

Meals for the Month of May!

When I set out to do my 2-week meal plan the other day, I didn’t think it would end up covering the rest of the month!  My hubby gets paid the 1st and 16th of each month and I try to only hit the grocery store at those times.  I usually try to stay within the $150 range every 2 weeks for the 4 of us (2 adults, 5 year old and 3 year old).  A huge key to our spending less at the store is that we have our own beef and pork in the freezer. Without that, my trips would cost a lot more!

I shop at Save-A-Lot, Aldi and Tops.  Usually it’s 2 of the 3, but this time around, I hit all 3.  Over time, I have learned which one carries certain items and which does not, which one has better produce, and at which location an item is cheaper.

My receipts this go-round ended up like this:  Tops $52.73, Aldi $108.39, Save-A-Lot $15.97 for a total of $177.09.  Granted, it’s about $27 over what I typically try to spend, but it covers twice as much as usual!

Next pay day, there will need to be another run for fresh fruits and veggies and milk, but meals for the entire rest of May are covered! I imagine I’ll only spend about $50 for the second 2-week period this month!

So here’s the menu for the month – paired up with a night each fits best on, depending what’s going on in life:

May 3) Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli & cauliflower with sharp cheese

May 4) Chicken & Cheese Quesadillas (using leftovers from roast chicken), corn & watermelon

May 5) Roast Beef, potatoes & carrots (crock pot meal)

May 6) Chicken Chimies, rice & watermelon

May 7) Pizza (frozen) & salad (so easy as it’s church school/swim lessons night)

May 8) Beef Stroganoff (using leftover from the roast) & broccoli

May 9) Apple Pork Chop Casserole & cucumbers

May 10) Pork Roast (crock pot), mashed potatoes, & mixed veggies

May 11) Broccoli Chicken Casserole & pears

May 12) BBQ Pulled Pork (using leftovers from the pork roast), baked beans, corn & corn bread

May 13) Tuna Noodle Bake & salad

May 14) Stuffed Shells (already in freezer from a previous meal), breadsticks & cucumbers (easy as it’s church school/swim lessons night)

May 15) I don’t have to cook! It’s the Hospital Recognition Dinner – hubby has 10 years in there!

May 16) Ham (crock pot), au gratin potatoes & peas

May 17) Ham Chowder (using leftover ham) & bread (it’s the annual Dogwood Parade, which the kids love to watch, so we’ll be able to come home to this all ready and waiting)

May 18) Pancakes, sausage & eggs

May 19) Ham N Cheese Pasta (using leftover ham) & fruit

May 20) Chicken Parmesan & salad

May 21) Taco Soup (crock pot) & bread (easy as it’s church school/swim lessons night)

May 22) Dinner at my mother-in-law’s (we do this almost every Thursday since my daughter has dance class at 6 pm in the same town)

May 23) Frittata & fruit

May 24) Pork Steaks on the grill, pasta salad & California veggie blend

May 25) Salmon Cornbread Cakes, carrots & fruit

May 26) Steak on the grill, baked potatoes & salad

May 27) Taco Casserole & broccoli

May 28) Pizza (frozen) & cucumbers (so easy as it’s church school/swim lessons night)

May 29) Dinner at my mother-in-law’s (we do this almost every Thursday since my daughter has dance class at 6 pm in the same town)

May 30) Penne with Sausage & Cheese & peas

May 31) Shrimp Alfredo with spinach

 

Perhaps I’ll cover how I come up with such a list of meals in another post.

 

Leave a comment »

Voices In The Wind

Did you ever hear the wind

Whisper as it whirled?

Have you heard it echo

Voices of the past?

The wrinkling rustle of the leaves

Is really Mama hushing baby to sleep.

The creak of the shed door, back and forth

Is just the repetition of teacher and pupil

In the old schoolhouse across the way.

The clang as air wraps around the silo’s ladder

Is really the farmer, calling his herd.

The breeze that rushes around the sill and through the screen,

That’s Grandmother, out the backdoor, emptying the wash basin.

The wind. She speaks.

Leave a comment »

Update on Mama with the Blues

Well, here I am, only a month since I posted my first blog about feeling depressed and trapped.  Oh how much has changed in a month!  I decided that there was no way I could let myself keep feeling so poorly, let alone possibly sink further into the dark.  Here’s what I’ve been up to:

~Seeking the Lord’s guidance more and more.  I pray for patience with my children. I pray for a realistic, yet optimistic outlook on my life.   I pray for calm – to not let little things get to me.  I pray for ambition – that I might complete at least the tasks I need to to keep our home from the brink of disaster.  I pray for my headaches to pass soon when I get them.  I pray for wisdom as I seek to make our home a more stress-free dwelling.  I pray for my relationship with my children – that I would take more time for them and do things they enjoy.  I pray for my relationship with my husband – that we would make time with each other more of a priority.   Basically, I’ve been taking God up on His offer to take every tiny little concern to Him – nothing is too small or insignificant for our loving Lord.  There have been many tears in my sessions with Him as I seek forgiveness for my lack of patience and love with my children and my husband and I ask Him to make me more of the mom and wife that I need to be.

~ I have been taking a B Vitamin Complex for the past 3 weeks.  I have been taking SAM-e for the past 2 weeks.  SAM-e                                (S-adenosylmethionine) is a naturally occurring molecule produced by your body.  It helps to maintain healthy emotions. It has clinical studies behind it for its ability to improve mood.

~Throwing out and giving away.  I have taken at least 10 bags of trash out of our house and filled a few boxes with items for our barn sale in May which benefits our church.

~Scrubbing things that haven’t been scrubbed since we moved to the upstairs of the farmhouse!!! While it takes awhile to do it and not everyone would notice, I sure feel like I’ve been doing something to improve our home.

~Taking more time for me.  1 kid napping and 1 kid watching a movie means this mama can have an afternoon shower once in awhile instead of at 10 pm.  I’ve also done a little bit of stamping and a lot of baking, which I enjoy…especially when I have a clear counter to do it on!

~Living INTENTIONALLY!!! This is a big one.  My life had become routine.  I did what I had to do.  I was on auto-pilot for dishes(when I felt like it), laundry (sometimes), going to work, making supper, and that was about it.  In order to have relationships, however, you must be INTENTIONAL.  I intentionally organize “Family Fun Nights” now — activities that my husband and kids and I do together about 1 evening a week; such as play-doh, movie and popcorn, a craft, etc.  I intentionally plan at-home date nights for my husband and I.  So far these have included movies, playing the Wii, and making homemade fried ice cream.  The two of us are growing so much closer together now.   I intentionally talk to a good friend on the phone now!  While it may be only every other week or so, it’s a lot more than once every 6 months to a year!  Intentionally reading my Bible and seeking God’s wisdom for my life.

~Oh….remember my aversion to having people over?  It has been just about a year since I have invited anyone over, but on Thursday we will be having friends and their 2 children over for a kid friendly family oriented Valentine’s Day dinner!  Going out on a limb here!

I feel so much better!!! Do I still have moments of being overwhelmed and lacking patience? Sure do.  Is my house spotless? Far from it, but it is getting better. Do I have better relationships with my hubby, kids, and friends? Sure do.  I don’t dread plans or tasks or socializing anymore.  I can handle my normal days again without feeling overwhelmed.  God is good!

A HUGE thank you to my husband, Aaron, for putting up with me and never giving up on me, and for always encouraging me and helping me keep our home from the brink of disaster.  God has blessed me beyond belief with a loving and supportive husband!!  Thank you to my friend Elizabeth for being with me via text and phone every day of this past month!!! Your support has been invaluable! Thank you to my sister(in-law), Jean, for her support and encouragement and for listening to anything and everything and rejoicing with me at the happy times!  Thank you to my boss and friend, Debbie, for your advice, talks, and support.  Our little “therapy” sessions have been such a help to me.  Thank you to my college buddie, Sarah Hoover, for telling me about SAM-e. I believe it is helping a lot! Thank you to everyone else who has sent me a private message of concern and encouragement.  I sincerely appreciate everyone’s care and “advice”.  It was uplifting to find there a lot of folks who completely understand where I’m coming from.  Thank you to God, for His never-ending love, forgiveness, and for each new day He gives to me!

Life is good!

Leave a comment »

Weekends Are The Hardest

Last weekend was when I had my little nervous breakdown of sorts.  My week felt overwhelming, but bearable.  Now it’s the weekend again and I’ve already been in tears a number of times before 2 PM on a Saturday.   I’m not sure exactly why, but weekends are the absolute toughest for me.  I am not sure if it’s the complete lack of routine that gets me all off kilter.  Monday through Friday have more routine with Aaron going to work each morning, getting the kids up and going.  Mondays the kids go downstairs to my moms for 4 hours while I go to work. Tuesdays and Thursdays, Reid goes downstairs to my mom’s while Onnolee and I head to preschool for 2 hours.  Wednesdays, I drop both kids off at their Godmother’s house while I got to work for 4 hours.  Fridays the kids and I usually take my mother-in-law to the store and  on any other errands she needs to do.  Weekends just don’t have the same schedule and set routines.  I think I crumble when I don’t know exactly what is expected of me.  Could be that weekends just hold a ton more time to clean and do some badly needed organizing when there’s a voice inside of me just screaming to do something creative.  I feel guilty spending time on creative outlets and guilty spending money on creative outlets.  I keep thinking I really want to make some things that would sell at our stand come spring – thinking that would justify me taking the time and money to do it – but I don’t know what and I don’t know when or how I’d make them.  So for now, I just keep plugging along wiping the tears and doing all that I can to keep some composure.  My husband, God bless him, has done all of the dishes, so at least we’re back on track with them after almost a week’s worth being piled high in the sink, on the counter, on the table, on the stove top, perhaps even on the floor.  I helped take the Christmas decorations down.  However, the decorations still need to be taken to the attic and the tree carried outside.  As soon as Reid’s nap is over, we’re headed to have dinner with some friends, which will be good for me.  Here’s hoping Sunday holds less tears and more productivity!

Leave a comment »

What I’m Feeling & How I Think I Got Here

Here’s a bit of what I’ve been feeling over the past year or more and recently things have blown out of control.  I referred to it as a depression of sorts in my last post and that apparently alarmed some folks:

~stress ~no patience ~yelling at my kids ~crying easily ~feeling it is just easier to not plan any activities and not socialize ~headaches ~ready to fall asleep at 8 PM, but I don’t, I keep going ~feeling trapped by clutter and messes everywhere I look ~feeling overwhelmed by even small tasks ~and most recently: no get up and go at all

How I feel I got this way:

It definitely did not happen over night, but has been culminating for the past 2 years or more.

Got off on the wrong foot, perhaps.  First off, making the transition to be a stay- at-home-mom in June 2010 was the toughest thing I have ever done.  I doubted that I would be a good full-time mom and that may have been the beginning of my downfall.  I had worked a job of some form since the age of 13 and placed a lot of my self-worth  in the fact that I earned a paycheck and was helping to support myself, and once married, helping to add to our income as a couple, and then as a family.

Socialization. Working outside of the home gave me social interaction.  The decision to resign from my job and stay at home ended most of my social contacts and that continued to decrease until recently when I started working 12 hours a week at our local preschool.   I really have no close friends that I hang out with or speak to on the phone.  Actually, I don’t think I have had a true conversation with a friend on the phone more than 3 times in the past 2 years!!!  I have not invited anyone over to our home in almost a year and would be mortified if anyone showed up unannounced.  I don’t let anyone over here due to the state of mass mess that the upstairs of the farmhouse, which is where we dwell, is usually in.  It’s so messy it is embarrassing.   Having an aversion to folks in your home sure puts a damper on socialization!  My socialization with my husband is even lacking according to some.  We go on dates about once every 6 months (which would mean we’re due since last we went was just after our anniversary in July, I think) and we have not had a night away without kids since….before we had kids!  We don’t see ourselves as “abnormal” because this is the way it has always been since the babies came along and we put them first.

Me time.  I have no hobby.  I’ve dibble dabbled in crafts, but usually devote about 2 hours total to a project before it gets set down, shoved aside and forgotten.  For the past 2 years, I’ve had the mindset that I cannot do anything for me (such as a hobby, or watching TV) unless I get the work done.  Turns out the work is never done.  There will always be laundry, dishes, cleaning, animals to care for, weeding, canning, planning for church school, work in church fundraisers, etc.  Therefore, I don’t allow myself a break or a hobby.  The kids get put to bed, I attempt to get more done because there aren’t enough hours in the day, and then I go to bed.  After a long time of that way of thinking, I’ve just turned off my hopes/ideas/plans for projects to do, books to read, and all things “me time”.  This has dampened my spirit.

Lack of routines and organization.  In plain English, I suck at organization.  It is one of my biggest downfalls.  I have never been any prized housekeeper, but when children came along and the amount of items in our house increased and my time decreased, well, our home has often looked like something that should perhaps be on one of those reality TV shows.  People are quick to say that I should not care about dishes or cleaning and I should care more about my kids.  Trust me folks, I care about my kids.  I regret already the time I have lost with them while trying to just keep this household afloat and 1 step away from filth.  I regret deeply the time I’ve lost with them while I’ve had my head in the clouds lately feeling sorry for myself and feeling trapped beneath the rubble.   I honestly don’t mind a few undone dishes.  I don’t mind clutter.  It is when the dishes are piled so high that they fall on the floor, when they’ve covered the only 3 feet of counter space I have and the entire stove top, too, that I start to get stressed. Or when the kitchen table is so cluttered the kids can’t do an activity at it, let alone eat dinner at it.  Or when there’s so much clutter it’s tough to walk.  Or when all 4 hampers overflow onto the floor.   When the tree is still up on January 18th, dropping needles everywhere.  I could go on, but you get the general idea.  I am embarrassed about it, but it’s my own fault.  I just want people to understand that it is not the messes themselves that are the problem ~ it is the stress that it creates within me when I have no room for things, spend extra time looking for things and still never find them, wake up each morning to see the same mess and have a repeat stressful day ~ it is the stress that is the issue.   The kids and I are lacking on routines which we desperately need to make our days together go more smoothly (sad that a teacher is lacking in the routines department, I know).

Distance from God & His word.  You wouldn’t think it possible for someone to go to church weekly, teach church school weekly, head-up church fundraisers, and STILL be far from God, right?  Well, it is possible and I’m realizing that’s me at this moment.  Do I often attempt to complete one more task at night instead of sitting down and reading the Bible like I should? Sure do! Do I often neglect to take every care and concern I have to the Lord? Sure do!  Do I act in ways that are displeasing to God (yelling at my kids, having a negative attitude, not being as grateful as I should be)? Sure do!  If I spent more time in God’s word and more time on my knees, I might not feel as trapped in the dark as I do right now.  The greatest thing about being a child of God, however, is truly knowing that how I’m feeling right now is truly only for a season and that joy surely will return.  Despite my shortcomings in reading the Bible as much as I should lately, or praying as much as I should, the darkness is not as dark as it could be because I do know Jesus and Jesus is the light of the world!

There you have it.  My theory on how I got to this point of nervous breakdown.   Don’t think I’m not working on how to fix it though, because I am.

Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  – Matthew 19:26

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting  – Psalm 139:23-24

Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I l.ift up my soul to You.  – Psalm 143:8

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6

1 Comment »

Time to Face It

My blog started off strong and then trailed off into the dark.  That’s because I’ve trailed off into the dark.  After hitting my lowest low this past weekend, I decided that it is finally time for me to confront the fact that I am depressed.  Not major.  Perhaps more of a dysthymia.  Have I had this clinically diagnosed? No.  Awhile back I was at my doctor listing of a litany of symptoms, but more were to do with abdominal pains I had been having for awhile (which have since completely disappeared).  Enough of my list must have been related to my emotional and psychological well-being because my doctor said “If you think you are depressed you can have anti-depressants.”  No thanks.

My typical days are full of negative thoughts, little patience, yelling at my children, stressing over everything and anything. I see piles of laundry just getting higher, clutter everywhere, dishes not done for days, disgusting bathroom, kitchen table buried under rubble, and I do nothing about them. Just before this time last year I would have kicked it into high gear and cleaned up messes, had clutter, but cleared it sooner, and kept up better on dishes.  Not a lot better, but still, not 3 or 4 days worth of dishes undone.  Though I have been experiencing  most of this for awhile (afterall, I have flat out refused to invite anyone into our home for almost a year now), as of late, I just do not feel like tackling anything.  Every task seems too big and overwhelming.  Everything seems overwhelming.  Often now, my only accomplishment for the entire day (other than going to work 12 hours a week) is making supper.   I have some theories on how I got to be this way.  That’s for a later post.

So here I am, a self-diagnosed mama with the blues. Why did I not fess up this sooner? I’m not sure. Embarrassment maybe? Fear? Unwillingness to take anti-depressants and feeling that was my only option? Very few folks have really even noted my hum-drum-glum demeanor. I think I hide it well.  Some who did were not much of a help, but rather more of a harm, driving me further back into my shell with their “tough love” approach and “expert sounding advice”.  Some things they said to me have gone pretty deep and have actually caused one issue to worsen. My husband says I’m definitely not the happy-go-lucky-always-smiling girl he fell in love with, but that it has been so long since I’ve been her, this has become the new me and he is so used to it.  That by no means is a reason for me to stay this way.  I want the old me back.

Other than my hubby and my God I’ve confided in one dear friend who is with me every step of the way. I’ll update on my journey back into the light!

Please note:  this is not an invitation for advice.  

2 Comments »

Song of Summer’s Passing

 
When the dusks and dawnings
develop that crisp chill.
When the suppertime sky
begins to darken.
When the greens transform to
reds, oranges, yellows, browns.
When the machinery lies idle
behind closed barn doors.
Blessed are those who store up
hot, humid, sunny memories.
Sing of brisk north winds.
Sing of pumpkins, laden with frost.
Sing of cornstalks, brittle and dry.
Sing of the eerie call of the
coyotes, wandering past,
under a silent November moon.
Sing of snowflakes –
descending lazily to the cold,
dead earth.
1 Comment »

15 Days of Fall Fun ~ Day 4: Chocolate Candy Corn Fudge

Mmmmm….fudge and candy corn unite! So easy to make and so irresistible!

Here’s what you will need…

  • 1  14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped candy corn, plus more for sprinkling on top

Here’s what you do….

  1. Butter an 8 x 8 pan completely or coat with cooking spray.
  2. In a pan, heat the sweetened condensed milk, butter and vanilla over med-low heat until butter is melted and everything is combined.  Stir frequently.
  3. Remove from heat and immediately add chocolate chips.  Stir until smooth. Mix in the 1 cup chopped candy corn.
  4. Spread in prepared pan and top with additional candy corn if desired. Let cool

Makes 64 – 1 inch squares

Image

Leave a comment »

15 Days of Fall Fun ~ Day 3: Pumpkin Seed Noise Makers

The kids had fun with this cute multi-step project.  Here’s what you’ll need

  • 2 small paper plates
  • orange paint
  • brush
  • 3 green pipe cleaners
  • buttons or other decorations to make pumpkin’s face
  • single hole punch
  • dried pumpkin seeds (if pumpkin seeds are not available, use beans, dried peas, or sunflower seeds in the shell – rice is too small)
  1. Early in the day or the day before you intend to put the project together, paint the backs of both plates with orange paint.  Allow to dry.
  2. Hold the plates firmly together, front to front.  Punch holes  through the edge of both plates at the same time.  Remember to keep the previously punched holes lined up as you continue around the plate.  These holes will need to line up for the next step.  About 2 inches apart worked well.
  3. Keep holding the plate firmly with the holes lined up. Grab one of the green pipe cleaners and put it through 1 set of holes.  “Tie” the pipe cleaner off at the edge of that first hole so that it does not pull all the way through.  Bring the pipe cleaner around and down through the next hole. Continue this until you do not have enough pipe cleaner left to go through another hole.  Twist a new pipe cleaner onto the end of the first one and continue around.  My 3 year old was able to do this as long as I held onto the plate while she weaved, and I hooked a new pipe cleaner on when needed. When there is not enough left of the second, add a third.   When you get to the last hole, stop before going through.
  4. Using your fingers to make a small gap where the last hole punch is, place some pumpkin seeds in between the 2 plates.  How many is your choice – my toddlers put them in so they may have gotten about 20 or 25 in theirs.  The fact that it make noise when you shake it is all that matters. When the seeds are in, continue lacing up the plates with the pipe cleaner.
  5. When the third pipe cleaner meets with where you started, poke the third pipe cleaner down through the first hole and bend whatever is left in half at the top of the plate and twist around – this is the stem of the pumpkin.
  6. With the stem at the top, glue on eyes, nose, mouth of the pumpkin.
  7. Allow face to dry a bit and then shake, shake, shake! Image

Image

Leave a comment »