Friday, December 30, 2011

Enter to win at Cooking Traditional Foods

Are you looking at the new year and thinking about making some resolutions? Is one of them eating better? How about eating locally? Well, we here at Ireland Manor are focused on the same thing. We have always leaned towards a more natural foods diet around here, but this year we are going to be more committed to it! Don't get me wrong - we love our junk foods, but even those can be made in a healthier way, using healthier fats and fermented ingredients.

If this is the sort of thing that interests you, or you are looking for a way to plan healthy meals without having to do all the leg work, you are in luck. Right now, Cooking Traditional Foods is having a giveaway for a FULL YEAR of their menu mailer! You will get a menu mailer each week, complete with a pantry and shopping list and prep page. It really couldn't be easier to feed your family healthy foods! Enter HERE to win!

We have been using their menu mailer for about 6 months and every issue has a great selection of family friendly meals. All meals are based on seasonal items and each menu contains a dessert and crock pot friendly meals. Go on, make a change and get some help along the way by entering to win!

If that link won't work, copy and paste the link below

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving fun!

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. We had a pretty nice day around here. We kept things simple. As you can see by the pictures, everyone pitched in to get our dinner ready. Eddie folded laundry and made the pie dough. Callen and Brody were my prep cooks, each of them peeling and chopping vegetables and Brody helped with making rolls. Liam, well... he did pretty well staying out of trouble. It was a really lovely dinner. Simple and easy and free of even the thought of home repair!

In a few weeks Mr. Ireland's business will slow down and we will resume work on the house and our blog posts will pick up. In the mean time...

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

UnHalloween Fun

We don't do Halloween at our house. We used to, yes, but we don't anymore. Partly because of the insane amounts of candy our children get, partly because Mr. Ireland and I hate dragging kids to go trick or treating. There are some religious reasons in there, but I won't bore you with the details. We do, however, LOVE to dress up around here! Costumes are a part of our daily lives; the boys have a dress up box in their closet that we are constantly adding and subtracting from. Some days I teach math to Darth Vader and Obewon Kenobe (the Ewen McGregor version), others its a ships captian and his little brother, King Tut, playing in the front yard.
Autumn is also our favorite season. To celebrate the fall and keeping in theme with the seasonal celebration of masquerading, I am sharing some recent pictures of the boys and our fall fun, interspersed with advice for making the most of the autumn celebrations!

1. All kids loves leaves. They are wet, moldy and make a mess in your yard. DO let them play in the pile! If you are lucky, they may even bag the leaves up when they are done jumping.

(Liam asleep in the car, sans pants, with a french fry in his mouth, Brody chasing Liam, Brody using wedgits to make himself into a robot)

2. If you must limit the amount of candy your children consume on (and after) October 31st, use the leftovers to get a jump on holiday treats! We have used leftover candies for gingerbread houses, fudge (excellent gift!), and pinatas.

(Brody dressed as an.... I don't know. He's wearing plastic bag lederhosen. Very futuristic.; Verity in her Notre Dame shirt; Raining leaves; Brody S. Holmes)

3. Wax lips (and vampire teeth and moustaches) provide hours of fun. Get them.

(Callen von Dracula; Eddie the Wolfman - same style of wax lips, just flip them upside down!)

5.Find a hay ride, a corn maze or go pick pumpkins. Have a bonfire. You will be giving your children memories to last a lifetime. Take pictures. Lots of them.

(Below, leaf fun)

Taking aim)

5. Bake. Pumpkin muffins, cookies, roast corn or apples. Whatever you do, add lots of cinnamon and nutmeg! And don't forget the hot cocoa :)

I hope you have a fun, and safe, holiday. We will be holed up at home, warm and dry (maybe with face paint on), watching movies and eating candy!

There goes my modern art lawn sculptures!

We said goodbye to our chicken's yesterday. It is sad, but they will have a good home with friends of ours. We have been having a small drama with our neighbor to the south of us. He is fairly polite, but it seems that our chicken coop, which was previously a shed, sits just over our property line, meaning it is completely on his! Rehoming them seemed to be the best and most affordable solution.

He did have his property surveyed and if the marks are correct, the entire building is over the line and the shipping container that sits in our back yard is partially over as well. I don't understand how that is possible, considering our house is the oldest house on the street (and was owned by the family the street was named after, we suspect) so we are very sure that the shed and container have been there nearly as long as the house! I think he was bothered by the rooster's crowing and rather than say as much, decided to tackle the problem from another angle.

He was also bothered by the junk in our yard. I know I am, so I can understand his frustration. If he is going to sell his house, you do have to drive by our house first and the impression you get of the neighborhood isn't the best. From the street, you can clearly see that it looks like half a dozen children live here and their parent's don't care much about the property! We don't mean for it to look that way, but put an old furnace in the side yard and tuck a couple of vehicles back into the woods and it begins to look like a run down homestead. We bought our house as a very neglected repo, apparently repossessed more than once, and I am sure all the neighbors had high hopes that the new owners would fix the place up. Maybe we are slacking a bit.

Saturday, Mr. Ireland and his father spent the morning hauling several engine blocks, car doors, half a motorcycle and numerous odds and ends from behind the shed to the dump. They had been stored in the shed before we decided to use it as storage. That afternoon, he and my brother Owen hauled even more to the dump. It will take another work day, but it will get done before the snow is here. The boys and I sorted the yard toys and tucked them under the front porch, put away bikes, and Mr. Ireland moved my bags of compost and bark chips. We will put up new lattice and you won't even know the stuff is there. I did have to give up my boxes of newspapers that I had been saving for lasagna gardening. I am sure that gave our place the air of hoarders living here! Just don't go in the basement....

I have to admit that I was very irritated with our neighbor at first. Admittedly, Mr. Ireland hates yard work. Any of it. I rather enjoy it, though, and felt that it was unfair for him to be so bothered. Couldn't he see that I had just had a baby? Well, no, he couldn't, so how is he to know that we had any intention of dealing with the outside of our home? I do have to thank him for stopping by with his list of chores outlined in the city's ordinances. If I had not gone online to look up our property values, I would have forgotten to pay our taxes! Did you know you can pay borough property taxes online? I was very excited to see that.

I will also forgive him for forcing our chickens to a new home. Another family will benefit from their eggs and they have children that will love caring for them. I think that it is not the fact that the chickens had to go but more the fact that someone is telling me what to do on my own property that irritates me. I have had this dream of having a homestead or farm since I was very young. My plan after high school included a desire to work as a ranch hand! So having farm animals is fairly high on my list of wants. It is okay though. We will start again next year and double our flock size. :D

Whether or not this is our permanent home, we will finish this property and it will not be a smudge on our neighborhood. We have no intention of being "that house" any longer. I hope to invite our neighbors over someday and proudly show them around our little homestead.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Zero Waste Home: How to Get Started

For those who want to know more about what a "Zero Waste" home is, this is a great article from Bea all about getting started! Enjoy!

The Zero Waste Home: How to Get Started: I recently wrote an article for Yes! Magazine, which included 10 tips for a Zero Waste Household. I thought I would share them with you. The...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Free Range

Our experiment of free ranging our chickens last week was a semi-success! The chickens stayed fairly close and went right back into the pen. We did have to herd them in, following them with a rod. I think they see the rod and remember the crook Mr. Ireland used to transfer them to the big pen, which they disliked very much. Whatever the reason, they see a stick or pole and immediately run into the coop!

The reason I call it a "semi-success" is because I let them out again the next day and they wandered off! Here's what happened....

It was a lovely fall day. The sun was out, the grass was crisp and frost free. I was so pleased with how well the chicken's previous day out had gone that I decided to let them out again. They gladly galloped out of the pen. Convinced they would stay in rather close proximity to their coop, I went back indoors. I continued my day, making lunch for the kids, tackling home school projects....

Three hours later, I realized I had forgotten the chickens! I flew out the front door, ran around to the back yard and they were gone! I checked in the coop "Maybe they're all roosting," I said to myself, "it is very warm out today." The coop was empty. I started to panic and began frantically running around the house, looking for any trace of chickens - a cluck, a feather, a pile of feathers... I worried that they had been eaten or carried off, but I reminded myself that there were 12 chickens, and it wasn't likely that all 12 had met their demise. Then I wondered "Would a neighbor steal my chickens?" I doubted it, and continued to search. Our chickens are very noisy. Where could they be?

I ran down the driveway and made my way to my closest neighbor's house. She has 2 dogs and if those dogs were out, my chickens were in major trouble! I shouted up the driveway, announcing myself, hoping not to encounter the pit bull or the German shepherd at the front door, and notified my my neighbor that all of my chickens were out. She assured me the dogs had been in for quite a while and she hadn't seen or heard any chickens. At this point, I became very concerned with what Mr. Ireland would say when he came home. Oh, he would be so upset! He had spent so much time preparing the coop and fence and now I had come along and set the silly birds free!

I came back to the back yard, hoping to see them poking around the other out buildings. They were not. As I approached the coop and pen, I realized that I had not checked behind the coop. Walking just past the back of the coop, I caught a glimpse of feathers through the bushes. Could they be wandering in the woods? I followed the little trail through the adjacent acre and there, halfway down the path, were all of our chickens! They were flocked together, snacking on berries and lichens, a delicious feast I am sure. I found the crook and after 15 minutes of chasing then through bushes, managed to get them back into their pen.

I am so glad that we didn't lose a chicken to an eagle or dog! I will not be letting them out again. They can have a bigger pen next summer. I'll fence in the whole dang yard and they can eat grass until they pop! That's about as free range as it will get.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Egg hunt

We are trying something new today. Letting the chickens free range in the back yard. Now you might think that this is a fine idea for chickens. If you live in the Midwest or keep a coop in the suburbs of a large city, this might not be a problem. Here in Alaska though, many chickens fall victim to bears while in their coop! Letting them wander about offers the chickens a buffet of grass, yarrow and nettles, sure, but their wandering could provide a buffet for predators! I was feeling sorry for them in their pen - they pecked the enclosed area clear of grass and leaves in the first few days! It may be that we extend the enclosure. The chickens are fairly well trained to go into the coop at night, and I think that they will stick close to their pen.

I thought you might get a chuckle out of the chicken's names. They have been named by the children:

Goldilocks - gold Auracana
Victor- the rooster that we originally named Violet
High Flier - middle sized Rhode Island (R.I) hen
Cinderella - smallest R.I. hen
Ms. Hawkins - white Auracana hen
Lucy - only Golden Wyndotte hen
Buck and Jack - Wyndotte Roosters
Percy - R.I. with lightest coloring
Toby - R.I. with yellow on her back
April -smallest R.I. hen
Shiloh - R.I. hen
Ninja - grey Auracana

One of the hens likes to sit on her eggs. I think it is Percy. She is not quite what I would call "broody", but she will probably sit very well in the spring. I suspect she is the hen laying 2 eggs a day, since I find her sitting on two almost every day. She refuses to let the boys move her and I have to go out to the coop and take her out of the nesting box. Prior to the nesting boxes being installed, she was laying in a corner. When I mucked out the coop, I found two more eggs buried in the layers of hay! She is going to make a good mother hen.

(Above, Callen making hot dog buns)

(Liam and Verity in the crib; Eddie reading to his brother and sister)

There is so much going on around here. I'll be back soon with some good stories and pictures (that actually . Hang in there, fall is nearly finished!

A Day in the Life..... a peak into my kitchen

Today, my kitchen looks like a science lab. On one counter I have a large pot of milk inoculating, another pot of whey waiting to be recooked for ricotta cheese and a stand mixer with a dirty mixing bowl that was used to beat egg whites. Dinner is cooking on the stove, tortillas frying in coconut oil, black beans and ground beef melding with some onions in another pan. On another counter sits a tub of cheese curds, draining into a pie pan, with a plate and jar of salmon sitting on top as an improvised cheese press. And out on the back porch, an old electric ice cream maker is loudly spinning goats milk, cream and vanilla bean into dessert. Its been a busy day in the manor!

From this description, you might think that we have a spacious kitchen, and wall to wall counter tops. I assure you, it is far from it. It is a crowded and over worked space, currently holding 2 refrigerators, one of which is blocking a window and blocking out the day light. My cabinets hold more small appliances than I would care to admit I have. Because there are so many, several of the large, less used pieces are relegated to other areas of the house - the basement storage shelves, the bureau in the dining room. Some of the upper cabinets are screwed together, and screwed to the ceiling, because we found that some of them are not fastened to the wall correctly! I can't complain too much though - I do have a working gas range. Yeah, maybe it only has one oven rack, but it bakes a pie.

My kitchen is the center of my home. I cook to show my family how much I love them - birthday cakes, beef wellington, home made ice cream. These are my love letters to my family. Give me a working coffee pot and a dishwasher and I am pretty happy! It's my creative space. Someday it will be remodeled and perhaps become the kitchen of my dreams, but for now, I make it work.

I'm sharing this to encourage those who might feel like their hands are tied - their kitchen is tiny, only has a hot plate and a microwave, no dishwasher. Whatever the situation is, you can cook delicious, healthy foods for your family. Make use of what you have and try to enjoy the food itself, not the process.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sabbath Egg

We recieved our first little egg this morning! Edward was the lucky finder of the egg. We cracked it open and it had two little yolks! We made french toast with it so everyone could say they ate the first egg.

Our little egg next to a store bought "large" egg; two little yolks!

I have a secret to share -our children primarily care for the chickens. Every day each boy does their part: Callen brings them grain and feed, Brody brings kitchen scraps and weeds from the garden, and Eddie hauls their water and scrubs the dispenser. Eddie is also the one who lets the chickens out in the morning and shuts them in at night, so he has the privilege of bringing in the eggs. Mr. Ireland and I change out straw and check on the birds every other day. We don't expect the children to look for health problems. Caring for the chickens is a responsibility that we all share.

Having chickens is very educational too. Our littlest boy, Liam, can crow just like a rooster! He is very loud. We have also had some interesting conversations about where eggs come from, how chicks get in the eggs, and why the roosters jump on the backs of the hens! There is nothing that teaches children about mating like keeping animals!

Here are some photos from the early part of September. Verity is growing quickly - she is starting to reach for everything and watches me when I eat. I am trying to hold out on feeding her solids until she is 6 months, something I find hard to do when the baby is watching every bite I take.

The other pictures are of Edward holding an enormous mushroom found in the woods. It was so big we could see it from the dining room, growing an easy one hundred feet from the house to its dark hiding place down the hill. The boys tolerate my mushroom forays. They lost interest in identifying them, but they will still come pick them with me. I just love to find out what they are. We have yet to eat what we find, but that is because I am usually pregnant or nursing an infant and I don't think it is wise to try new mushrooms in those circumstances. I also refuse to feed them to others without trying them myself. We are very good at identifying a couple of choice edibles and may be ready next year. I have found a few mushrooms on our new property that I have never found before and I am so excited. Some of them can be used as dye, something that I will try this winter with the specimens I dried after picking. I also went to one of the clinics at the local mushroom festival yesterday and learned how to grow oyster mushrooms at home. I'll share results when I get around to these projects.

All of these were found on our property! The white one on the right had an icy cold root (stipe) - odd.

Hope you are having a wonderful fall. I was told that the first official day of fall for Alaska is today. I know seasons usually are marked by an equinox, but the seasons shift much earlier here. The trees and I think that it feels like fall, don't you?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Work IS Learning!

Oh August. How you crush my spirits and hope of an Indian summer with your constant rains!!

Here we are, at the end of another month. I am at the beginning of a big "purge". Why would I do this to myself and my family, with everything we already have going on? Because there just isn't room or time to keep everything and have any hope at ever getting completely unpacked! I am at the beginning of a journey to a "zero waste" home. If you aren't sure what that is, it is a home that produces no waste. Is that possible with a family of 7? I'm not sure, but I'm working towards it. Slowly, mind you. I talked Mr. Ireland into getting trash service. He has always hauled our garbage to the transfer site, but we live on the opposite end of town now and it was obviously an inconvenience for the busy man. We were delighted to find that the can was only 1/3 full after the first week! With both of the wee ones in cloth diapers now, and me hauling the recycling in my car, we make just 3 bags of garbage a week! This is quite a decline, down from a bag a day! We try to be more mindful of our puchases - buying glass or paper packaging that can easily be recycled, baking more, buying second hand. The goal is to rid ourselves of as many unnecessary items as possible and free ourselves and our time up to work on hobbies or projects (instead of using it managing the mess). Family be warned: We plan to go zero waste for holidays and birthdays as well! More on that later :)

Liam holding his little sis, Verity

If I told you the husband and I spent the last Friday night out chasing chicks, would you believe me? *grin* After moving the chickens to their permanent pen and house, we looked out the kitchen window to see ALL of them roosting on the fence! Yes, we had forgot to provide a roost for our chickens on their first night in the coop! We have gone back and forth about what to use as a coop and finally, we chose to go with using an existing structure, the shed, which is well insulated and already wired for electricity. The bathtub that was stored in there is now in the basement, and all the cabinets we are saving for our kitchen redo have been moved to another out building. The chickens seem quite happy in their new home. The boys each had a turn helping their father with the project - Callen helped with the pen construction and Edward helped catch each bird and bring it to the new pen. Before we had a door up, and could shut them in at night, there were 3 little pullets that were out every night. They didn't just roost along the fence, but had hopped from the top of the new fence to the the top of the old pen, which made it difficult to bring them down from their 7' perch in the waning twilight. Our white Araucana seems to be the mastermind. What can I say but, Chickens are very entertaining!

The permanent coop and winter pen.

As you know, we home school. With the end of summer practically here, school should be starting. *Should* But... it isn't, at least not in our traditional way. With the decluttering project and the list of my projects around the house being pushed off for most of the spring and summer, our schooling will revolve around projects for a while. The boys have used graph paper to help me plan out my cuts for the chickens nesting boxes, using division to create a scale diagram of our pieces. We will be using math for a lot of our projects: "If we have 30 pairs of pants that Mom will never get around to repairing, and each pant leg can be cut to a 12" x 12" square, how many pairs of pants will we need to create a quilt that is 4' x 6'?" This is the year of "practical application!"

Some of our entries in the Kenai Peninsula Fair; Callen's pyramid, titled "Entombed", took a blue ribbon!

We are back to semi normal level of cooking and cleaning, though much of the daily labor is shared by our two oldest boys. Thank heaven for these handy children! I hope they are learning as much as I think they are - they could be very capable people if we work this right. :)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Alaska Rug Company

I'm loving these rugs from the Alaska Rug Company! They are based out of Port Bailey, Alaska, on Kodiak Island. The owners bought the old cannery and are cleaning it up, turning it into a full service tourist destination, and have been selling off what they can and reusing or upcycling other items. These rugs are made from ropes from the cannery.

I think I am in love with this rug particularly - very celtic! It would be a good addition to the front porch.

I do like this one, but there is no way it would stay white in our house!
Maybe it could go in the new bathroom?

Round is good...

Yep, I might need this one too!

I guess I know what I am saving up for next!

Monday, July 11, 2011

July flew by!

Okay, it has been a month between posts. A dozen times, I have sat down to share what we are doing around here and every time I have been pulled away by a child that needs to nurse, needs a diaper, can't stop bickering with his brother... you get the idea. NOW, right now, the baby is sleeping, Liam is content and chores are done. So I might have a chance. I'll start with the biggest one:

We bought a new tub!!!

Long story short - two weeks ago, our freezer died (turns out it was fine) so I hopped on Craigslist to find one that might get us through and in the appliance section, there was a listing for a claw foot tub! Why it was there, I will never know, but there it was. Now, I've had my heart set on this tub since we first made an offer on this house and I knew it would be a while before we could afford it. At $1300 for the tub, plus the shower kit, it could have been forever. But here it was, listed for $600, with the kit!! So we shuffled finances (after clearing out our savings to buy a new freezer that we could have put off buying) and last Friday, Mr. Ireland and my brother Owen went to purchase the tub and bring it home! It is waiting in the shed for our bathroom remodel. All the major pieces for my bathroom (well, the girls bathroom) are waiting in the wings; I have the new mirror, the paint, the tub, the towel bar.... Everything but the tiles, which is really all we are waiting on.

By the way, we are still collecting bottle caps for our flooring and I am now collecting broken dishes and pottery to help with that. I have been saving any dish we break since we have been married, hoping to do a mosaic table or something, but I think I will use the pieces to create tile sheets for the bathroom. I haven't settled on a design, but the colors are greens, golds, whites and blues. If you have any of these lying around, let me know and I will take them off your hands! I'm open to odd, leftover tiles as well.

If you are wondering, the second floor bathroom is the boy's bathroom, and is also due for a remodel. I won't neglect them, I promise. First thing on the list: add a window to their dark bathroom! Something that will fit between the studs to make it an easy install, like a port window.

Lets see... Other interesting things from the month of July...

As I said, we thought our freezer died, so we bought a new one to replace it. We had planned on purchasing one this fall and then shifting the older, small one upstairs to become a refrigerator. When we got the new one home, we plugged it in and nothing happened! Huh. Mr. Ireland is a good electrician. He tests things before rushing off to spend money, trust me. It wasn't the outlet and it obviously wasn't the new freezer. No, it was the tip switch! In both freezers! Apparently the house had shifted enough to trip the tip switch (say that 5 times, fast) and shut it off. I blame all the earthquakes we've been having. We had already purchased the freezer, so we rotated everything anyway. Lesson learned!

We also had a fire drill! One of the electrical outlets in the nursery started smoking! Thankfully, we were all up and it was early in the morning, so Mr. Ireland was home. He smelled an electrical fire and we all ran out the front door in our pajamas, me with the littlest 2 in my arms, and piled the kids into the car. Mr. Ireland ran down the steps into the basement and started flipping breakers to isolate the bedroom. This is something that we have not done - label our circuit board! But he quickly found it and later that day, replaced the receptacle with a brand new one. It turns out that a piece of a plastic outlet plug had somehow started a fire in the outlet! Like a friend of mine said "Aren't those child safety devices supposed to make your house more safe?" We will be switching to child proof outlet covers. I am very proud of how our boys responded to the "fire drill".

Fourth of July fun with red, white & blueberry popsicles; the enigmatic Mr. Ireland, watching the parade with Liam.

Other than that, not much is happening around Ireland Manor. We are gearing up to move our chickens to a bigger coop and yard. Something that will stay fairly warm through the winter, so probably up against the exterior of the house to utilize the heat coming off of it.
The chickens are nearly grown and should start laying around the end of September. Our roosters have started crowing, but we have not had any complaints yet. We have great fun watching the chickens defend their feed from the Steller's jays, running straight at them when the get too close! Our Araucana's seem to be the fiercest.


The potatoes are growing well and I have managed to find a few minutes to bury the plants as they grow. With any luck, we will have a good deal of potatoes for the winter.
I have not finished my garden as I had planned, but I am learning to forgive myself and continue to acquire the wood mulch for the flower beds. I am determined to have it done before the snow flies!
I have also decided to forgive myself for not fishing or canning fruits and veggies this summer. We have never had a baby this late in the spring and I have to say, it has really put a crimp in my summer plans! I wouldn't trade our little girl for the world, of course, but sitting still during the summer is a difficult task for me! Before long, she will sleep regularly and I will be able to resume a semi normal day of homeschooling, cooking, cleaning and projects. And I'm guessing she will be my best little helper :)

Little Verity; the whole motley crew :)

Hope you are enjoying the lovely summer we are having in Alaska - beautiful, warm sunny days and the lovely rain at night (which means I haven't had to drag the hose out even once to water the potatoes!). I'm ready for August! Are you?