Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's Time for Baby Chicks

Spring is finally here and I could not be happier.  After the rough, frigid temperatures and the never ending piles of snow, this girl was thrilled to put on Capri's, flip flops and a t-shirt!  I must admit that it was short lived.  Today, when I woke up there was a dusting of snow on my car.  Only in Indiana does it seem that the temperatures fluctuate so drastically on a daily basis. 

One thing I really enjoy about Spring, is all the baby chicks we start raising.  I actually purchased about 70 back in February.  I do this every year, however, the first batch I received from the hatchery didn't survive the cold journey on the mail truck.  The post office called to tell me there was no chirping or movement in the box and I should think about refusing the package.  I refused the package and called the hatchery.  They were so kind and sent another shipment to me within a week.  All of these survived but two.  If you are just starting out and want a good hatchery to purchase from, I suggest McMurray Hatchery.  They are wonderful to work with and their birds are of the highest quality.


These pullets are now about 2 months old.  We kept them in the garage with the heat lamps to start off with and we have now moved them to the small barn where they will be free to roam around inside and outside (when I am home to supervise them and watch for predators).  At this particular age, the pullets are easy pray for predators when they are outside.  Falcons and hawks will swoop down and take them when you're not watching closely.  We have also had trouble with minks, raccoons and neighboring cats trying to prey on these sweeties.  Fortunately, we have our faithful dogs, Sadie and Libby who diligently help control the predators.



I'm not really supposed to share this picture with you (thus him pointing the finger at me), but I couldn't resist.  After we had moved all 70 of the chicks, Bill "reclined" on the cement to take a break.  I can't say enough good stuff about my husband...I fall deeper in love with him everyday.  He doesn't particularly like the chickens, but he loves me and it shows...maybe not by this picture though!  Lol!  It's probably a good thing Bill is there to keep me grounded, or we would have an entire farm of different animals by now.


 
If you are considering starting a backyard chicken project, I would strongly suggest this time of the year.  The Spring weather is perfect for baby chicks (after being under the heat lamp for a few weeks) and for you.   The baby chicks above were hatched at the 2014 Henry County Ag Day event where all the first graders in the county schools came out and learned how pizza ingredients come from a farm.  These little lovelies came back to the farm with me along with two adorable cats.  It's really awesome to teach kids about farm life and for them to learn that their food comes from hard working farmers and not from the back of a grocery store.  Before you purchase any type of animal, make sure you have adequate shelter, food, water and anything else they might need.  If it's chicks, be sure to have a heat lamp (or two), shavings for them to walk on and a good dry area/container to keep them in.
 
Here's to you and a Happy Spring!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Struggling through PCOS


As a high school student, I noticed that I had really bad acne and a lot of facial hair.  That "time of the month" was horrible for me.  Although I was alarmed, especially with all the facial hair, everyone seemed to shrug it off.

It wasn't until my mid-20's that I had gone to the doctor and sought treatment for not being able to get pregnant.  It was then, that I learned that I had PCOS...Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.  I had no clue what this was, but would soon discover that it's something that I will spend the rest of my life trying to deal with.  It would also cause an infertility nightmare.

PCOS is basically a hormone disorder among women of reproduction age.  There are small cysts that attach themselves along the outer edge of the ovary.  As if this wasn't displeasing enough, the symptoms can include:

  • Acne
  • Excessive hair growth
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Irregular periods
  • Obesity
  • Infertility
  • AND MORE!

I have almost all of these symptoms and went through many procedures trying to conceive.  I have to tell you that not being able to have a child of my own is one of the hardest things I have ever had to cope with in my life.

As I started to get closer to my 30th birthday, I really wanted to have a child.  I began to see specialists in the fields of infertility.  Although some of the options seemed a little far fetched, we were willing to pursue what avenues we could afford.  Keep in mind, there are always payment plans!

We began small with several insulin helping medications to see if it would help my ovaries release an egg.  Until you have gone through this, you have no idea how much of an emotional roller coaster infertility is.  Every time you check to see if you might be ovulating (or pregnant), it's heart wrenching to know that you are not.  After the insulin medications, we stepped it up a notch to shots.  Now this was a fun time -- NOT!  Long story short, it didn't work either.

At this point, money is running short and most insurances, including mine, do not cover infertility treatments.  The specialists, whom I was growing tired of seeing so much, suggested that we try invitro.  Invitro fertilization is expensive and they do have payment plans.  For one go around of invitro, taking 3 of my eggs and combining it with sperm was going to be around $20,000 (give or take of course) and so much had to be paid up front.  This is where it came down to the nitty gritty.  I don't know about you, but most average people don't have that kind of money just laying around.  We were blessed to have help with some of the other treatments, but this was a huge amount of money for no actual guarantees of having a child.

The actual stress of my body trying numerous medicines, the emotional toll it was taking on me mentally and the spiritual journey of not understanding why God had not entrusted me with such a special gift became almost too much to handle. 

After a lot of prayer and discussion of if we should try invitro or pursue adoption, it was decided to do nothing.  I know there are a lot of kids in the world who need loved, my (step) Dad adopted me and my brother, but for some reason, it wasn't an avenue that was pursued.  Later in life, when I divorced my first husband, I was able to look back and be thankful that there wasn't a child trapped in the middle of a divorce.

I will tell you that all of this did not just go away.  It was heart breaking.  I went through a depression.  I couldn't attend baby showers, or be happy for co-workers and friends that were pregnant.  Every little baby that I would pass at the grocery store, brought tears to my eyes.  Nothing in my life made sense and I found myself asking God, "why me?" 

I was finally given the book from Focus on the Family called, "When the Cradle is Empty."  What a book.  Everything in there is accurate.  I learned that by not being able to have a child, I had to go through a grieving process over a child that I never even had.  Plus, I learned that God would use me in other ways.

I believe that God has placed me in my current job at the Extension Office for a reason.  For 2 full weeks during the month of July, I consider myself truly blessed to have a family of over 500 4-H youth that I get to see, love, encourage and support during the annual county 4-H fair.  I have an adoring husband who makes my life complete and nieces and nephews that I spoil even more because I don't have children of my own. 

I often wonder who will come and see my when I get old and am in a nursing home.  My heart still aches knowing that I don't have that special son or daughter to watch over me in my old age, but I know that somehow God will provide.

I still struggle with PCOS.  The facial hair and the weight gain are the most embarrassing aspects, but I know it's not the end of the world and that God loves me (and YOU) no matter what we look like, what we've gone through or where we have been.  Without my faith in God, I couldn't have made it this far.

For more information, visit: http://www.pcosfoundation.org

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Chocolate Chip Cookies


I've been on a cookie kick lately, making them, eating them, freezing them...they are good no matter what.  For years, I have been trying out different chocolate chip cookie recipes, but just had never come across the perfect one until now.  I guarantee you that these cookies are going to be a hit at your house.

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Ingredients:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 (12oz) package of semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:
In a large bowl, cream the brown sugar, butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Combine the flour, salt and baking soda and gradually add it to the creamed mixture and mix well.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Shape the dough into balls and place about 2" apart on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until edges are golden brown.  Cool and store in an air tight container.

Note***We ate the first batch of these cookies, BUT I made a second batch and froze them in ice cube trays to make later.  I covered the ice cube trays with parchment paper and aluminum foil and store them in the freezer.  I have to admit that I've eaten several of these raw (I know, I know - I am not supposed to do that, but I did and they were delicious)!  Plus, it is an easy and fast way to make cookies when time is of the essence.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Texas Caviar

I admit it...I was a slacker the month of February.  We were enrolling youth in 4-H, there was snow (lots and lots) on the ground and the temperature seemed to always be freezing.  With all of that going on, the only things I really wanted to do (and did) was read and curl up on the couch with the cat and dog and watch movies.

Now March is here and I am ready to get back in the saddle again.  I've decided as of last night, that I am no longer going to drink pop.  My husband has me hooked on Diet Mt. Dew and I just don't need to consume that anymore.

Enough rambling...

Bill and I were recently introduced to this new type of "salsa" and I must say it is addictive.  If you are having friends over, or a Super Bowl party, this would be a wonderful dish to serve up.  Be prepared, because this make a BIG batch.  The picture is deceiving (I know it doesn't look appealing, but you will have to trust me on this one) as far as looks go, but the taste is exquisite.


Texas Caviar
 
 
Ingredients:
2 (15 oz) cans of shoe peg corn
1 (15 oz) can of black eyed peas
1 (6 oz) can of chopped green chiles
4 small tomatoes chopped (or just mix in some salsa you have on hand)
1 chopped green pepper (optional)
1 chopped large onion
2 T of minced garlic
1 bunch of green onion, chopped
1 medium sized bottle of Zesty Italian dressing
Tortilla Chips
 
 
Directions:
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Drain before serving.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pioneer Woman's Dark Chocolate Brownies


 
Pioneer Woman's Dark Chocolate Brownies
 
I admit it, I love most things sweet...especially brownies.  On one of our recent snow days (and there have been quite a few), I was looking up recipes to use some of my unsweetened chocolate that I had in the cupboard when low and behold I came across this recipe.  If you like chocolate, rich chocolate, then these brownies are for you.  When they first came out of the oven and were warm, I fixed a glass of milk and ate 2 of them!  They are delicious.  Of course it's a recipe from the Pioneer Woman so you know it has to be good.  Beware: these will go fast!
 
 
(this link has her step by step instructions with pictures)!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Butter
  • 5 ounces, weight Unsweetened Chocolate
  • 1/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla
  • 3 whole Large Eggs
  • 1-1/4 cup Flour
  • 3/4 cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • Powdered Sugar, For Sifting
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium-large saucepan, melt the butter with the unsweetened chocolate over low heat, whisking occasionally until smooth and melted. Sprinkle in cocoa powder and whisk to combine. Remove the pan from heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

Stir in sugar and vanilla until just combined.  One at a time, stir in the eggs.  Gently stir in the flour until halfway incorporated. Add the chocolate chips and stir just until combined.

Pour batter (it will be very thick!) into a greased 8 x 8 or 9 x 13 baking pan. (Square pan will result in thicker brownies.) Spread to even out the top and place in the oven.

Bake for 40 minutes, then check the brownies with a toothpick. If it is overly gooey/messy, return to the oven for 5 to 10 more minutes. (Just be careful not to burn the edges.)

I didn't allow my brownies to cool all the way, but Ree suggests that you: Allow to cool completely (important!), then sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into small squares. The brownies are very rich!



 


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Irresistible Potato Soup

 
Irresistible Potato Soup

 
A perk of having friends with the same interests as you, is that you can share things like recipes.  My friend Misty gave me this recipe and we have made it several times on these cold, Indiana winter days. 
 
 
Ingredients:
1/3 lb bacon, chopped (not cooked)
6 medium potatoes, diced to the size you like them (Bill like his potato soup a little chunky, so I don't dice mine as fine)
4 cups of chicken broth
2 cups of milk
1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of butter
1 medium sized onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, diced (optional)
1 cup of sour cream
1/4 teaspoon of white pepper (regular pepper works too)
potato flakes (if needed for added thickening)
salt (to taste)
 
Toppings:
freshly chopped parsley
sliced green onions
grated cheddar cheese
crumbled bacon pieces
 
 
Directions:
Add bacon to a large soup pot and cook until it has rendered it's fat.  Remove and set aside.  Then add onions and garlic to bacon fat.  Cook until onions begin to be translucent and then add butter.  Let the butter melt and then whisk in flour.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Add chicken broth and bring to a boil while scrapping the bottom of the pan.  Add milk, potatoes and white pepper.  Bring back to a boil and make sure to stir constantly to avoid lumps.
 
Cook over medium heat until potatoes are very tender, stirring from the bottom every few minutes (this can be a slow process, but the outcome is worth it).  After potatoes are done, if your soup is too thick, add more broth or milk to it.  If it is too thin, add some potato flakes a few teaspoons at a time, until you get to the desired consistency that you like.  Wait about 2 minutes in between adding potatoes flakes to see what the consistency will be like before you add more flakes.  Don't forget to add salt if it tastes a little bland!
 
When soup is done, remove from hear and stir in sour cream.  Serve soup with your favorite topping(s).

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Doritos Taco Salad


Doritos Taco Salad




Any time that you can eat lettuce, you know that leafy green stuff, you are doing good.  Growing up, my Dad always had a salad and ice tea with whatever we were eating.  I admit that I don't eat it as often as he does, but I like mixing it up every once in awhile like in this Doritos Taco Salad.

This is a great salad to throw together when you are in a hurry, or on nights that time is limited.  You can actually prepare everything the day ahead.  How easy is that?  It is also an idea dish to take to potlucks, reunions and church pitch-ins.

Doritos Taco Salad

Ingredients:
1 bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos (crushed)
1 bottle of Catalina Salad Dressing
2 pounds of ground beef, seasoned with  2 packets of taco seasoning
1 onion
2 medium size tomatoes
2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
2 small bags of shredded lettuce OR 1 head of lettuce cut up
1 can of black olives (optional)


Directions:
Brown your ground beef and season it with the taco seasoning packets.  Drain and the beef and let it cool.  Open your bag of Doritos and squish the bag, to crush the chips.  In a LARGE bowl, add the onion, tomatoes, olives, cheese and lettuce and toss well.  Next add the chips and cooled ground beef.  Toss again.  Add the bottle of Catalina Salad Dressing (depending on your taste, you may like a little more dressing or a little less).  Toss again and serve.