Sunday, October 31, 2010

Skeleton Brownies

Happy Halloween everyone!  I made these yummy treats for Lewie's office this week via a neat mold from Wilton that was sent in a Halloween package from my mom.  They came out pretty halloweenie.  The mold actually makes two full skeletons that is meant for one brownie so it appears the skeleton is coming 'out of the ground'.  I ran out of eggs though to make my second batch of brownies so I had to make each brownie smaller and therefor each brownie only got a few bones but it was still fun to make them and I'm pretty sure it didn't change the way they tasted.  :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tapping maple trees

One of our maples

Twenty-one and six.  We have twenty-one red maples and six sugar maple trees on our property that are over 10 inches in diameter.  We set out to mark them last weekend because we would really like to make maple sugar next year and we wanted to do so before the leaves fall off.  Apparently, you can tap both sugar and red, which is good because we have quiet a few red maples.  The problem however may be that we can't tap here because we are too warm.  Sap in trees is actually a starch but in the winter months when the temperatures are just right the sap turns to sugar and this is when it can be tapped.  The temperatures have to be below freezing at night and above freezing during the day for the sap to flow.  This usually happens in February and March up North and the sap will for for 4-6 weeks.  Knoxville might be too warm though.  So far we can't find anyone around here that taps maples which probably means we can't do it, however I did find some historical references mentioning how maple syrup was important to settles in East Tennessee.  I guess we won't know until we try.

The treehouse in our woods on our walk to mark maples

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How to: Make a magnetic spice rack

Spices are pretty neat.  They make boring bland dishes, great yummy ones.  Egyptians used to bury their dead with precious spices and cinnamon was once considered as valuable as gold in Rome.  With this is mind, spices don't belong behind a closed pantry door, they belong in the kitchen in plain site ready to use!  At least, this was my excuse for creating my magnetic spice rack.  It's been a few years in the making, slowly collecting the magnetic containers and finding the perfect magnetic board to hold them on, but now it has a permanent place in our new house so I thought I'd share how I did it.  

First, I got the magnetic board at Ikea.  Second, I've been getting the spice containers that are also magnetic at World Market.  They are different from the office ones because they have twist holes on the sides so you don't have to open it to get spices out, you can just shake it, or pour if you use the larger opening.  

Thirdly, I made labels for them using Avery Print Or Write Permanent Filing Labels in size 5202.  The font I used was Claritty which I just think is so pretty.  I have attached a template here.

After printing on the labels, I had to cut them down on the side to fit in the clear top.  I peeled them off and stuck them on after they were the right size.  It is easier to apply them if you pop the clear top out of the lid.   

When the label was on, I popped the clear top back in the lid and filled up my containers.  

And there you go, a nice convenient spice rack in arms reach to the stove. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

1941 Ford 9N

Meet our tractor.  She's a 1941 Ford 9N who's sole purpose in life right now is to grade our driveway.  Our driveway is gravel, down one side, straight up the other side and it's .2 miles long.  As the mover said when he called with our stuff from the street, "Yeah, I'm not sure I'm at the right place.  I'm at your address but then the road goes down into a canyon...?" Yup, that's our driveway, a gravel road that goes into a canyon.  Because of the fact that our road is also in the middle of the woods, the leaves and the drainage to the middle of the canyon make for a messy road in the fall.  So, we are learning to use a tractor now to help with this.  She leaks a little oil and will need new wheels sometime soon, but she's our tractor and she's found a new home on our new small farm.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How to: Repaint an old wheel barrel

This old wheel barrel came with our house.  It was in a sad state when we arrived.  It was left to rust behind the barn.  So, with gardening on my mind, I decided it needed saved.  I started by taking the whole thing apart and hosing everything down.

After it dried I used a wire brush and gave it a good scrub.  I tried to remove all the old paint and the rust, making a nice smooth finish.  Then I washed it again and let it dry.

The next day I started to paint.  I picked Rust-Oleum Gloss Protective Enamel spray paint in a nice blue.  The only hard part was the wheel which I had to tape out as not to get the entire wheel covered in paint.  I let everything dry and applied a second coat the next day.

Here is the finished product.  After two coats of rust stopping spray paint and then putting it back together the wheel barrel is ready to go.  I mainly did all this to stop the rust from eating it away, but I have to admit I think it looks really nice.  You can't beat a wheel barrel makeover for under $5 because new ones are pretty pricey!  I know that it will get good use because we have already started planning out our garden and talked about building a compost pile - now it's ready to do the job!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wa na na na na na Bat Shawl!

 Blocking the bat shawl on the deck

So, I lied, the black alpaca I got wasn't for a Christmas present it was for a birthday present.  My mom's birthday is right around Halloween and we are a family way into bats.  My parents were both cavers and we all admire bats.  So, when I saw this shawl as a show in tell at my last knitting group in New Mexico, I thought, I have to make that for my mom!  The pattern is free from The AntiCraft you can get it here.  Seeing as it was my first shawl, my first lace and my first time working with charts, it was a trial and error for the first month of working on it.  My errors included the fact that I discovered I knit with a twisted stitch which I have now corrected thanks to Sally from my knitting group and Emilee from The AntiCraft.  A twisted switch is when you knit and pull the yarn from behind instead of in front of your needle.  What a difference a untwisted stitch makes. 

 This is the first part knit with a twisted switch - you can't see it!

So, I had take it out several times, make it survive the move across country last month and then figure out where I left off, but I did it!  I think it is lovely and it is perfect for Halloween.  I don't have a great picture of it on, but if you go to AntiCraft you can see what it looks like on someone - although as a side note, I did not do the border, I only blocked it in a scalloped edge.

See all the bats?!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Six new feathered friends

Lady & Goldie getting a drink

We have chickens!  We went to Wisner Farm in Dandridge, Tennessee and picked up six hens yesterday.  We got two of each breed:  Goldenlaced Wyandotte, Bluelaced Wyandotte and Dominiques.  Wisner Farm is great.  They started with 500 plus pullets this summer and sold them to locals to raise their own hens for eggs.  When we were there they had less then 150 left.  They also have geese, ducks, turkeys, peacocks, and roosters.  In fact, we put a deposit down for our Thanksgiving dinner when we were there.  If you are going to eat turkey for Thanksgiving, I'd rather be eating a Wisner Farm turkey then a store bought one.  These turkeys have a huge 1-2 acre run, feed on pasture and all natural gluten free feed.  As do the chickens and other animals.  It is hard to go there and not get excited about chickens.  They raise mostly heritage chicken breeds; breeds that have been around for ages and even some that are endangered.

 One of our Dominiques

 One of our Bluelaced

From reading about chickens and doing research what I've learned is that when the corporate farming movement happened in the 1930's cities started to outlaw backyard chickens and the egg and chicken industries started growing but only used a few breeds - that way meat and eggs were always consistent.  So all these unique backyard breeds like the Dominique started to become rare.  It was really neat to be with so many different kinds of chickens at Wisner Farm.  It was hard not to leave with more then six!  The six we did bring home though seem to be pretty nice.  They don't mind too much to be picked up, they all forage very well, and so far are pretty quiet.  I have already named two of them; Lady & Goldie.  Those are the two Goldenlaced.  Lady seems to be the biggest out of all six and has gorgeous feathers.  Goldie is of course the most golden of the two.  The others don't have names yet, but I'm sure they will.

The coop is mostly done.  The fence is up - it is about a 25x25 foot yard around the coop - enough for the chickens to walk around and keep busy.  The outside of the coop has snake wire (also known has hardware cloth) around the bottom of it and it is partial buried to stop anything from digging its way into the coop.  Lewie put a nice lock on the human door so it can't be opened by an animal.  We still need to put some roofing on the nesting boxes just to protect it more from the rain and eventually I'd like to paint the whole thing, but for now, it serves its purpose.  We got pretty lucky with this chicken coop and also tried to reuse a lot of what we already had.  The basic structure came with the property so that was very helpful.  We also found a bunch of t-posts on the property and old fencing so we recycled that, the plywood, the gate, a few 4x4s and 2x4s.  Really all we had to buy for this coop was the feeder, waterier, a few more 4x4s and 2x4s, screws, nails and snake wire.  It is always nice to use what you have and it saved us a lot of money. 


My guide through building a chicken coop and raising chickens has been Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens: 4th Edition (Storey's Guide to Raising Series) which is by far the best chicken book.  She answers every question you could have about chickens and it has helped us with everything from dimensions for the pop-hole door to what kind of feed to get.  I also had help from my cousin Carla who, along with her husband, owns nine chickens. 

Our chickens should start laying eggs with the next month and I'll be sure to keep Off The Map updated with any chicken news.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chicken Coop - Day 3

 The finished french doors (human entrance)

I only took a few pictures today because we worked all day.  Lewie was amazing as he felt under the weather but pretty much finished the chicken coop today.  He finished up the french doors, the nesting box, the snake wire around the bottom of the coop and the gate to the place.  With our chickens scheduled to be picked up later this evening, I made sure they had a roost inside, bedding (ours are getting pine wood shavings - you know, the kind hamsters get - can you say spoiled chickens?!) and of course feed and water.  Then, we are driving an hour away to Danridge, TN to meet our new feathered friends and hopefully leave with some.  They will spend the night in the coop and hopefully tomorrow when they are less stressed they'll get to explore their new front yard.  I'll post pictures tomorrow of the new arrivals.

Finished the snake wire around the coop and finished the gate

Chicken Coop - Day 2

Chicken coop - Lewie working on the French doors

Today was all about finishing the doors on the chicken coop.  Lewie finished the pop-hole door, the human french door and the nesting boxes.   I wasn't much help, but I did finishing laying the t-post so today we can put then fence up.  We didn't run into a whole lot of problems other then the nesting boxes taking a lot longer then we thought they would.  Lewie and I both agree though that if we laid eggs, we would love to lay eggs in our nesting box, it's pretty nice!

Pop-hole door - open

Pop-hole door - closed

 Working on the nesting box

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chicken Coop - Day 1

Dog shelter 
What it looked like when we bought it

Our new house came with this building just up from our barn.  The original owner was using it as a dog shelter and when we moved in it was just being used for storage.  Lewie and I took one look and thought chicken coop.  We have wanted chickens for a long time but haven't ever gotten any because we haven't been in a permanent place.  When we were in Magdalena, New Mexico we were lucky enough to have a few friends that had chickens and always seemed to have fresh farm eggs.  Once you eat fresh farm eggs it's hard to go back to eating store bought.  So, this weekend we starting construction on our chicken coop because this week we are picking up six chickens!  The coop is mostly already set up for us, but we did need to reinforce the floor, improve the human entrance, build a pop-hole door for the chickens, build the fence around the coop predator proof and build some nesting boxes.  Yesterday, I spent most of the day mainly cleaning up the area, like moving a brick path to make room for the fence, and getting nails out of recycled plywood we used for the floor.  Lewie worked on the pop-hole and also planning out the nesting boxes.  Today, we plan on finishing the pop-hole, nesting boxes and maybe finish the fence.  Eventually we would like to have free-range chickens but we'd like to fence in our whole property and we haven't gotten there yet, so for now they will be fence-range.  Our chickens will have a nice big area to run around in and all the breeds we are getting are good at foraging so hopefully they'll enjoy being in the woods as much as we do!   Follow the break that says "read more" for more pictures of our work on the chicken coop yesterday.

 Before: dog shelter

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Moving Anouncements

I decided to make moving announcements this time around.  For one thing, it has saved us the trouble of forgetting who we've told our new address to.  This way everyone knows at the same time and they have a little copy of the new address and phone number to keep for themselves.  I made a simple Photoshop image that was 4x6 and then just ordered them like you would photos through Snapfish.  I addressed the backs, put a stamp, and off they went.  As easy as 1-2-3.  I have attached the template for the moving announcement here.  Of course, I have blocked out our new address and phone number for privacy, so that is the only thing you will have to add to the template.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wine bottle ruffle

How cute are these wine bottle ruffles?  They aren't just for decoration either, they are to stop red wine drips from getting on your table after your pour a drink. I had some extra black aplaca and owed someone a small thank you gift after having us over for a dinner party and I thought it would be a fun little project. I got the idea from Interweave Presents Knitted Gifts: Irresistible Projects to Make & Give.  They are very easy to make - just a few hours at most.  Black will work great too because if the yarn was too pretty, you wouldn't want to get wine on it either! 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Update on the last two months

Well, for the past new months I have been extremely busy.  First off, we won the lottery, not really, but we feel like we did.  Lewie got a new job in Knoxville, TN and we moved here a few weeks ago.  In the process, we bought an amazing house and we've been settling in.  I spent the first week of being in here painting and I'm almost finishing with all the detail work (that is if you don't count the fact that I haven't yet to even start to paint the ceiling, perhaps that's a spring job...?)  The house didn't have baseboards when we moved in so after painting, Lewie spent most of his free time laying baseboards and it has made all the difference. 

I was pretty excited to start painting.  In New Mexico, the rental we lived in was painted one color.  The kitchen cabinets,  the walls, the ceilings, the light fixtures, in every room was one color: Navajo Sand.  I was inclined to stay away from any paint color that veered toward Navajo Sand.  I ended up choosing Glidden's Swiss Coffee for the bathroom, Cappuccino White for the bedroom and closet, and Smooth Stone for the kitchen and great room.  They are all shades of an off white but with enough difference that the whole house doesn't look white.  So far, I'm pleased. Here are a few pre-move in, pre-painting, and pre-baseboard pictures:

Stay tuned for before and afters!