Archive | March 2014

Spring Chickens

I know we’ve had a lot of chicken posts recently, but I needed to add one more.   For those of you who have been tracking with the Saga of Sylvia the Sick Chicken, I have sad news….Sylvia went to that big chicken coop in the sky last Wednesday.  She’d rallied there for a little bit…and then just started getting, well, slower.  She’d stop in the middle of the yard to nap.  She stopped eating.  She wasn’t really pooping (sorry, but she wasn’t).  She stopped getting excited about seeing us.  And she barely weighed anything.  So Wednesday morning I decided to spend some quality time with her.  I wrapped her up in a towel and put her on my lap while I got some work done on my computer.  She napped most of the day.  She didn’t seem in pain, just content to sleep on my lap.

That afternoon I had to run to a meeting and about 10 minutes after I left Keith sent me a text message: “I think Sylvia just died.” it read.  Then, about 15 seconds later, “Yep.  She’s definitely dead.  She just laid over on her side and went to sleep.”  We were sad to see our girl go, but happy she went in peace.  If you’re wanting to reminisce her short life (like I did) then you can check out this video from last August when she laid her first egg.

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Sylvia snuggled up on my lap napping. She passed away about 30 minutes after this photo was taken.

 

Yesterday was nice weather and Spring seems to have finally sprung, well sort of…so Keith and I decided that it would be a good time to do a “Spring cleaning” in the coop and de-winterize all the little cold weather tweaks that we’d made.  You might remember that we added a heat lamp and a made a few other temporary changes.  So Sunday we shoveled out the pine shavings from the coop floor, removed the heated waterer, heat lamp and indoor roost, rehung the outdoor roosts and gave everything a good cleaning.  The girls seemed really happy with their tidy home and hopped around the backyard eating as many earthworms as they could find.

Although I’m super thankful that we brought Beverly Clucky home to replace our first chicken casualty, Gertude, (who had a brain tumor,) we’re not rushing into getting a new girl this time.  I know it’s Spring and all the co-ops are starting to put out all those cute little chicks and it’s so tempting to bring home a new little critter.  Please, before you do….read all about my experience adding a new girl to the flock.  It’s not all fun and games and cute little feathered friends.  It’s a slow and painstaking process, one that for us worked out well despite my doing everything wrong, but one that I’m not sure I’m up for repeating anytime soon.  So for now, we’re going to hang on to our three amigas and be thankful that everyone else is healthy and happy for the time being.

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L to R: Louisa, Jane and Beverly Clucky. Our little flock of remaining hens.

Paleo Pepper Pot Roast

I’ve actually been making this dish since before I even know what Paelo was.  In fact, it was the first “grown up” dish that I learned how to cook.  It’s a crock-pot recipe so that’s not exactly saying a whole lot, but it was a big deal to me to say that I could cook something.  It was also the first dinner I ever cooked for Keith, way back before we were even officially dating….and it’s been a staple for us since.

So as I was looking for a simple yet tasty dinner to put together for tonight, I remembered we hadn’t had this particular recipe in a while.  And then I realized that it was totally in line with the Paleo diet, so I immediately headed out to the grocery store.  And I thought you guys might like it too…it’s got a little bit of a kick.  So here ya go.  Pot roast anyone?

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Paleo Pepper Pot Roast

Ingredients
  1. 1 chuck roast (mine was about 2 pounds.)
  2. 1 jar peperoncini peppers
  3. celery – chopped
  4. diced or sliced white onion
  5. carrots -chopped into 1 inch chunks, or, 1 package baby carrots
  6. one packet Kroger brand (or comparable)  “Salad Magic Zesty Italian” salad dressing mix (**note….this is just a seasoning packet to make your own salad dressing….not actual liquid salad dressing.)
Instructions
  1. Put half the carrots, celery, onion and jar of peperoncini peppers into a crock pot.
  2. Pour half the salad dressing mix packet mix on top of the veggies and pour in half the pepper juice.
  3. Add the chuck roast, then add the rest of veggies on top along with the rest of the seasoning packet and pepper juice.
  4. Turn crock pot on low setting and cook for 8 hours.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

*Note:  Although it renders the recipe “non-paleo” it’s also really yummy to cook red new potatoes in with the roast.

 

Kitchen Desk

We have accomplished another goal, nursery-wise.  We finally finished the built-in kitchen desk {that we started in January}!  I’d like to blame this delay on Ransom but honestly we’ve always been a little slow in the construction department.  Chalk it up to 14 combined years of engineering school – we think about things from EVERY angle.  Then one of us continues to deliberate about very small details.  Then the other one has to argue with that one about why we should ignore that particular issue, move on, etc etc.  And then finally we make progress.

8 weeks later we have a perfect little desk.  How is this nursery related?  Well, this computer that was sitting right in the middle of the nursery.  I like its new home here, easy access to online recipes, pandora, etc, right in the main family area.

So, what was once a spot for a stand-up freezer in the “laundry room” is now a built-in desk with two drawers.  I use “quotes” because the laundry room is right in the kitchen, separated only by some air.  In general, we wanted to make this desk simply ‘fit in’ with the rest of the space, so the countertop roughly matches the floor, and we used the same paint color from the cabinets.

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Its sort of a narrow hallway that makes it near impossible to take pictures of.  Oh PS, Ransom is enjoying healthy snacks of course, as per usual – popcorn dipped in sour cream.  I’m kidding about the sour cream, there are actually choco chums in that bowl. 

Also, you can see the much deliberated ‘off-white’ paint in action, next to a healthy dose of ‘butter’ up top.  We’ll bust out the ladder one of these days.

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The desk has two drawers that are pretty useful for storing staplers, pencils, highlighters, etc. There is more work to be done, but at least we’ve got functionality.  First, we need a new printer, either a wireless one that can be tucked away somewhere else, or one that can fit in the adjoining broom closet, perhaps?  How many brooms does one family really need?

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Either way, the current “printer on the floor” solution is just temporary.  The other problem situation is the rat-nest of cords behind the chair.  You can’t see it all that well in this pics, but its there. And finally, we want to add either open shelving or some sort of shelving/mail sorting/router hiding unit up high.  Something like this:

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All in all, we do kind of love little carpentry projects.  Even if we take forever.  Perfectionism is worth the wait?  It is what it is?  Something like that…

Winner, Winner, Chicken….Winner.

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After having had a long week of hand-feeding Sylvia the chicken and freezing weather, we had a brief moment of beautiful sunshine and the girls were more than ready to run around the yard eating whatever they could find.  Booger the cat and I sat outside with them and as I fed them treats, they all started to congregate around me on the steps to our out-building.  Keith, ever-ready to grab a great photo op, snapped a photo and posted it on facebook where a friend mentioned we should enter it in the “Flaunt Your Flock” photo contest that Tractor Supply Co. was running.  We did.  And we voted and asked people to vote, but with so many entries, we didn’t hold our breath.

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Fast forward to this morning when I woke up to the sound of my phone ringing.  Since it was a number I didn’t recognize, I screened it….and then squealed with delight when I listed to the voicemail from Matt, from TSC, who was calling to find out what prize I would like to choose as I’d been selected as the week 2 winner!  What!?  Awesome.  Since our girls have been eating food like they were teenage boys, I chose the ten-pound bag of feed and container of dried meal-worm treats (the favorite delicacy to our feathered ladies) which they assured me would arrive in the mail in about a week.  I’m sporting my brand-new “Sriracha” rooster tee all day in celebration.

Here’s the thing though.  The weekly winners are based on the merit of the TSC judges.  The overall grandprize is based on popularity….so your vote counts….and there’s still time to vote for my photo.  Just CLICK ON THIS LINK (or on the photo below) and it will take you straight to the contest so you can vote for me.  And, you can vote for me once every 24-hour period if you feel super motivated/dedicated.

My photo as featured on the winners page!

My photo as featured on the winners page!

So excited that my sweet girls got some recognition…….and some yummy food coming their way!  THANK YOU Tractor Supply Co, for such a great competition and for supporting hobby farmers like myself.  We appreciate all you do!

Paleo Mashed Faux-tatoes

When we started on our Paleo adventure we certainly started branching out a bit, but there were some things we swore we’d never do.  Or at least, one thing we swore we’d never do…mashed cauliflower.  If you just gagged or said “ewwwww” out loud, I feel ya.  I did too.  All the way through about 5 Paleo cookbooks I gagged.

Then for some reason, I just decided what the heck.  Keith had planned Bison burgers one night and I thought mashed potatoes sounded amazing.  But potatoes aren’t on the diet.  (Well, sweet potatoes are in moderation….but that wasn’t what I was craving.  I was craving mashed potatoes like my grandma used to make.  White, fluffy, buttery, creamy mashed potatoes.  And that made me start thinking about all those recipes I’d seen in all those cookbooks claiming that mashed cauliflower was the perfect substitute for mashed potatoes.  I figured why not give it a whirl?  All I had to loose was the $2.50 for a head of cauliflower and the 20 minutes to make it.

I was shocked at not only how easy this recipe was, but how absolutely delicious they were.  They took me back to my grandmother’s kitchen and my cauliflower-hating husband not only ate a gigantic portion, he also declared they should become a “staple” in our household.  So without further ado, I bring you:

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Paleo Mashed Faux-tatoes

Ingredients
  1. 1 head of cauliflower (about 4 cups of cauliflower)
  2. 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  3. 1/2 teaspoon of dried rosemary
  4. 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  5. pinch of onion powder
  6. salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Chop cauliflower (florets & top piece of main stem) into 2 inch pieces (I broke off the leaves, held the head over a bowl and just sort of hacked at it, then threw the bottom of the main stem away.)
  2. Steam the cauliflower until it’s tender (I think it was between 10 – 12 minutes for me).
  3. Once the cauliflower is steamed, dump it into a food processor.  Add coconut oil, rosemary, oregano, onion powder, salt and pepper.
  4. Puree until creamy and smooth. Serve with steak, grilled chicken breast, etc.!

(if you don’t own a food processor, you can use a stand mixer, hand mixer and bowl, or possibly even a blender.)

What’s in a name?

So, the calendar here seems to be telling me that I have about three weeks of pregnancy left. Can that be right? Compared to the first go-round, Pregnancy #2 has gone at approximately the speed of light. We are a little bit behind in the “preparation” department, but the one thing that’s most concerning is the baby name process.  We did some major deliberation to settle on Ransom’s name, and even then, we went into the hospital with a list of ten or so mutually approved names.  We didn’t settle on the final combo until about 3 hours before we checked out of the hospital.

Now, if only I could find that list. But alas, no.

So we are starting from zero with Baby #2, and the current list only has about 4 options on it and none that we’re in love with yet.  The stakes here are so high.  Is your name not one of the most important things your parents give you?  Most people seem to grow right into their names.  Is that because their parents are a little bit psychic or more likely, do their names shape who they become?  Your name certainly influences how other people initially perceive and treat you.  All that to say, this is serious business.

We have some pretty particular criteria in our house:

  • Significance.  We go for names of family members, generally.  Significant Biblical or historical figures could work too, as long as we had a good reason for the choice, a good story behind the name.
  • Unique but still pretty classic.  With a last name like Johnson, its only fair to have a first name that’s somewhat off the beaten path.  Plus, we’re three for three in weird first names, so why stop now?
  • Sounds right.  Yes unique but it still has to sound right in this day and age, you know.  This eliminates a lot of family names – such as Harold, Clarence, Jethro, Thedford, etc.  And then there’s a whole set that just don’t work with Johnson, like John, Johnstone, Magic, and Howard.

So while we continue to ponder the options for the next three weeks, I wanted to take a few minutes to write out the stories behind all of Ransom’s names.

First, Ransom has three given names: Ransom Robert Fletcher.  This triple name tradition started with August’s dad and was passed down to August and then to Ransom. (And is further reason why we need more than four options.)

IMG_9437Nine given names among these three Johnson men

The name “Ransom” comes from Ransom Riley Hall, his 4th-great-grandfather or as I usually say – Ransom’s great-grandmother’s great-grandfather.  In other words, he lived a LONG time ago.  We learned this name when we were digging into Ancestry.com, and I thought it fit the “unique but classic” bill pretty well.  We don’t know much about Mr. RR Hall: he lived in the 1800s and migrated from North Carolina to Alabama while having a whopping sixteen children, all with the same wife.  But his tombstone inscription is what put us over the edge:

R. R. Hall??????????
Born Feb. 19, 1814
Professed hope in Christ, 1822
Married Miss Liddy Roberts
Aug. 15, 1834
Licensed to Preach in 1859
Died Dec. 21, 1889.
————
A sinner saved by grace.

How cool is it that R.R. Hall (or his children) chose to document those few events as his most important achievements rather than sticking with the usual tombstone “-“?  His hope in Christ, his marriage, and when he became a preacher.  And a proclamation that he was, like me, just a sinner saved by grace.

And also for bonus points, Dr. Ransom is also the name of the protagonist in CS Lewis’s Space Trilogy, great books by my favorite author.

Ransom’s first middle name “Robert” is after my dad, who I have always been very close to.  And to top it off, Ransom actually looks a lot like him.  My dad is named for his uncle Robert, my grandmother’s beloved older brother. That Robert was something of a mountain man in northern California, a great outdoorsman who got in a tangle or two with a grizzly bear but always made it out on top.

grandad 002My grandmother and her brother Robert

grandad 007My grandmother and her son Robert (my dad)

Finally, “Fletcher” is one of August’s middle names, after his grandfather, Hubert Fletcher, after his father, Floyd Fletcher, after his father Richard Fletcher.  That makes five Fletchers in six generations.  I love connecting Ransom  with so many generations of ancestors.

1994 granddadAugust and his granddaddy Hubert Fletcher Carraway

All of these men embody characteristics that we want for Ransom:  men of faith and kindness, lovers of the outdoors, diligent hard workers.  Ransom’s name is perfect for him.

Now the trick is coming up with three more for Baby #2.

Oil Pulling

I first discovered the joys of coconut oil when Keith and I started our journey into the Paleo eating plan.  It was a recommended alternative in cooking to butter or other fats and so we bought a jar and started using it in our cooking.  Then my mother-in-law mentioned that not only did she use it in her cooking, but she often used it as a makeup-remover or in place of facial lotions.  My love for the stuff was cemented when I got a painful sunburn on our trip to Mexico last year.  I rubbed coconut oil into the burn, went to bed, and it was almost completely gone the next morning!

But then I started to see things online about a mysterious thing called “oil pulling” that was being credited for solving just about everything except world peace.  What could this magical cure-all possibly be?  So the other day armed with some spare time and intrigue, I did some research.  Since the list of potential benefits is high and the cost is low, I decided it was worth giving it a try so this past Friday night I purchased a gigantic tub of coconut oil from CostCo for $14 and Saturday morning I started my regimen.  But I’m getting ahead of myself and you’re probably thinking, what the heck IS it?  I’ll give you a brief run down.

What Is Oil Pulling?

Oil pulling is a practice supposedly rooted in some ancient medicinal practice from Asia.  You swish the oil around in your mouth and it supposedly absorbs or “pulls” all the toxins from your mouth into the oil, then you spit it out.  You’ll want to use the highest quality oil you can find, of course as it is the purest and has the most benefits.  And just what benefits does this practice have?  Well, here’s a list of what I’ve found online:

* Helping to strengthen the gums, jaws and teeth.
* Helping to prevent gum disease, cavities and even gingivitis
* Helping to prevent bad breath
* Provide a holistic method and remedy for dealing with bleeding gums
* Helping to prevent dryness of the mouth, throat and the lips
* Helping to prevent general soreness around the area of the jaw (such as TMJ sufferers)
* Relief for migraines and headaches
* Reducing arthritic inflammation
* Helping to reduce the signs of eczema
* Helping to reduce insomnia
* Reducing the effects of a hangover after consuming too much alcohol
* Helping to support the normal function of the kidneys
* Helping to reduce the symptoms of bronchitis
* May help to reduce pain
* Some oil pullers have even reported that it helped to improve their vision

How-To Steps

  1. Oil pulling is apparently most effective when you do it first thing in the morning before you eat, drink or brush your teeth.
  2. Take a teaspoon (approx) of coconut oil and stick it in your mouth.  (I stick it in there in its room temperature state and it quickly melts in your mouth.  However, it does make me gag a little at first, so if you have serious texture issues, you might want to melt it for about 10 seconds in the microwave.)
  3. Set a timer for 20 minutes (no more, no less) and swish the oil around in your mouth.  (This would be a great time to take a shower, read your morning devotional, cook breakfast check your email, whatever.  Doing an activity makes the time pass quickly!)
  4. At the end of 20 minutes, spit it into the trash can.  DO NOT SWALLOW (remember, it’s got all those toxins in it!).  DO NOT SPIT DOWN THE DRAIN (or your drains will quickly clog.)
  5. Brush your teeth and go about your day.
  6. Repeat each morning.

Opposition and Disclaimers

Because I do my research carefully, I checked out both sides of the story before trying it, or bringing this blog to my readers.  And just as there are millions who claim it heals everything from acne to cancer, there are an equal number of folks who say it’s total malarkey.  I checked out what Snopes.com had to say  (they think it’s neither helpful nor harmful) and also found this blog of a girl who had a crazy-bad reaction after “pulling” for 2 days with coconut oil (she had done 2 treatments a day, so 4 treatments).  Other folks have said that while they had a reaction to or couldn’t handle the texture of coconut oil pulling but have had positive results with safflower, sunflower or olive oil (the blog author referenced above switched oils and did fine!).  However, a note of caution, the Paleo guidelines recommend you avoid safflower and sunflower oils at all costs, so there’s that to consider too.

My Experience

Granted I’m only a few days in and I don’t have any particular horrible maladies.  I’m not sure that it will really affect the dry scalp that I battle in the winter (although I certainly hope so) and while I do think that my teeth look a tiny bit whiter, that could really honestly be the power of suggestion.  But here’s what I DO know.  My mouth feels cleaner than it’s ever felt.  Like straight-from-the-dentist clean.  And it lasts most of the day even after I’ve eaten.  And it’s amazingly relaxing.  I’ve been using the time spent oil-pulling to read my Lenten devotional and pray and that combined with the swishing is such an amazing way to start my morning.  So if I have a super clean mouth and a relaxed mindset going into my day, that’s enough reason for me to keep doing it.

I guess the bottom line is that oil-pulling, like ANY out-of-the-ordinary health practice, probably isn’t for everybody. Listen to YOUR body! If you have a particular health condition you might want to check with your doctor (or dentist as well in this case) to make sure they don’t know of anything that might conflict or react with your medicines or illness.  And know that results can vary….something that cures one person might not cure another, etc.  But so far…my experiences have been positive.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!  Have you tried it? Liked it? Heard of it? Hated it?

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