Monthly Archives: August 2009


My oldest at the age of 14 has decided that she really likes to cook. It’s been great! This week she called me at work and asked “what’s Gram’s Pie?”

“Why?”  I ask.

“Well, I just found this recipe card and it says gram’s pie.”

“Oh – that is your great grandma’s pie recipe.”

“Your grandma?”

“No, your dad’s. Why?”

“Can I make it?”

Now I am thinking Grandma Sandage, the legendary pie maker who no one dares to make a pie since she died because it always brings on these irritating comparison sprees, where the pie is analyzed from all possible directions and never ends up being as good as grandma’s, so that the “how is it?” question is always met with “it tastes OK, but . . . “

“What kind of pie do you want to make?” I say.

“well there are all those peaches downstairs that need to be used.”

I had forgotten about those and thought she was going to suggest using canned fruit which never really turns out that good, so I am surprised again. and then I think, Why not let her try?

“OK, go for it.”

“Really?” she is in shock.

“Yeah, just don’t make a mess.” I imagined the house covered in flour and mashed up peaches.

She paused and then asked.  “Will you pick up some ice cream on your way home?”

How could I say no to that?

When I got home, the house was not a wreck as I imagined, but instead, there was a beautiful pie sitting on the oven. WOW! the edges of the crust were a bit dark, but I had forgotten to tell her to put foil over the edges of the crust while it was baking. The crust was flaky and the filling was divine.

The next day she made two, using up the rest of the peaches and she picked some apples off of the tree in the back yard for the second pie. This time she used foil on the edges of the crust.

“Your going to make me really fat,” I say as I bite into a piece of hot peach pie.

The legand lives on . . .

The Proper Care and Feeding of Chickens

This entry is part [part not set] of 6 in the series Backyard Chickens

Chickens are probably one of the easiest pets to take care of. As long as you supply them with food, shelter, and water, they will stay around and mostly take care of themselves. They do not do well with just one. They are flock animals and get lonely, so you should have at least two. If you have a garden, you need to create some type of barrier to prevent them from eating it, or you need to keep them in a pen. They are happiest if they have a large fenced in area (to keep them out of neighbors yards or out of the street) where they can run free, and they do need a small shelter with something that they can perch on. This keeps them safe from preditors like hawks, skunks, and the neighbor’s dog and also allows them a safe, dry place to rest that resembles the old habitat of their ancestors –tree branches–to satisfy their need to perch on a limb. Perching in trees is not really something that domestic chickens do, but they do need to perch on something!

You can buy chicken feed at the store, or you can just buy a mixture of grains and mix your own feed. When I was growing up my dad would just take wheat and dig out a shallow space in a small section of dirt, about four feet square, and he would pour in a layer of wheat. Then he would cover it up and water it really good. After a few days the grain sprouts and we would just dig up a couple of shovelfuls and toss it in to the chicken yard. Chickens love wheat or barley grass, so if you actually let it grow right in the place where they will be, they will graze on it for several days. If you want to do this, you have to keep them out of it until it is grown enough for them to eat, or they will dig it up before it has a chance to grow.

That and plenty of bugs got us enough eggs for our whole family (there were 9 kids at that time) Another thing that I have considered, since chickens require plenty of protein to keep up egg production, is to raise earthworms or maybe composting worms like red wrigglers, which are very prolific. You could also use traps to catch snails or grasshoppers, which are really abundant here in Utah. If you don’t provide them with access to plenty of bugs or other protein, you should buy laying pellets or chicken mask that has a high protein content, or they  will not lay as well.

The problem with pellets or mash (for me, anyway) is that I don’t know exactly what is in them, and I don’t like the idea of feeding my hens food that is not naturally grown. I am really sensitive to eggs, and certain brands of eggs when I eat them give me food poisoning symptoms. I think if we are what we eat, then chickens are what they eat, and if they are eating the equivalent of Twinkies day in and day out, then they will be more prone to disease and their eggs are not going to be as healthy for us.

Another thing to think about while feeding your chickens, is that chickens actually also need plenty of fresh greens. They can decimate an entire garden in less than two days (trust me 🙁 I have seen it.) Spinach or beet greens are both really good, because they are great sources of iron and calcium, and they are really easy to grow. You can grow them in batches all summer long, starting them a few weeks apart so you will have fresh ones all year round. In the hot part of the summer you will want them to be partly shaded so they don’t bolt as quickly. Also, if you grow them yourself, you will know for sure that they are truly organic.

Another good source of greens for chickens would be lambs quarters, which grow wild everywhere here. You probably have them growing in your yard even. (You can read about them here at the Veggie Gardening Tips blog)

Another thing that you can do is save bits of produce like the outer leaves on lettuce that you don’t use, strawberry tops (they LOVE those) cantaloupe rinds, and other greens to feed them. The kids love to take these little treats out so much that once they took my entire green salad that I had just made for dinner. I was putting the food on the table when I discovered that the salad had just vanished! It is not hard to make sure that chickens get all the nutrition that they need, and you shouldn’t have to rely on a store bought pellet or grain mix to have great results with very healthy chickens and plenty of eggs!

The 20 Day Challenge

The idea behind the 20 day challenge is that if you do something for 20 days, it becomes a habit, and then you will continue to do that thing (hopefully) for the rest of your life.

Writing in a journal can help you:

  • make difficult decisions
  • get rid of anger in a positive way
  • think more clearly when you are confused
  • understand yourself better
  • set goals
  • sort out your feelings
  • solve problems
  • preserve memories
  • develop dreams

“You don’t have to see miracles or change the world in order to have something worthy to record in your journal–your thoughts and feelings are exciting enough. When you catch the greater vision of writing in a journal, you’ll find it can become one of your best friends.”  –unknown

Since my daughter was challenged to write in her journal for 20 days and was given a handout with 1 journal prompt a day for 20 days worth of journal writing, she has, as I said in my previous post, become almost a different person. I remember how much writing in my journal helped me when I was her age, and I understand what a powerful outlet for the emotions writing is for many people.

She has run out of writing prompts on the handout that her teacher gave her, but she has kept writing, using writing prompts out of ‘”The Write Brain Workbook: 366 Exercises to Liberate your Writing.” I have also given her a new list, using the same format as her original handout, and you can see it here: The 20 Day Challenge

Who Are You, and What Have You Done With My Daughter!?

My teen has a very strong controlling personality, and when things don’t quite go her way, she gets angry very easily. All her life she has butted heads with me, but a few months ago, I discovered a little trick to help avoid out and out war . . . when she is irritated about something if I could figure out how to make her laugh before she starts pushing my buttons, (remind me to have surgery to get those removed) then I am usually spared most of the temper tirade. And still we have had many difficult days. Until recently. I suspect the body snatchers, but I’m not sure.

But wait! I am NOT complaining. The body snatchers can keep her for all I care — she has been heaven to be around. She cooks, and does an occasional load of dishes without going nuclear, and she comes in my room and engages in intelligent endearing conversation when I get home from work. She even kissed me on the cheek yesterday.

What a darling adorable girl has taken her place, and it has gone on for nearly three weeks straight.

What have I done? absolutely nothing. But I did learn about a change that she made on her own about three weeks ago that could have a huge part to play in this little drama.

My daughter wants to be a writer when she grows up. She ‘made’ her fist poem when she was barely 4 years old, by grabbing my hand and demanding “Type!” as she dragged me to my computer keyboard. I didn’t mind much, since she didn’t bite me as was her usual approach in those days. She put my fingers on the keyboard and assumed a calm thoughtful pose, and began to recite:

A Tree was in my back yard,
with a yellow leaf that falls down
I went in my house.

I asked her what she wanted to call it. She said “Tree.” and then she ran off.

Of course, a writer myself I was beside myself with giddiness. After that, she would ask me to type every once in a while, and now at age 14 she fills up notebooks all on her own. Sometimes she will be sitting there on the couch staring into space and I used to have to shake her a little to snap her out of it. “What are you doing?!” I asked her once. She said she was making up stories.

So what does all of this have to do with her transfiguration? Well, I learned that she had been given a 20 day challenge by her teacher. 20 days of journal writing. 1 writing prompt a day for 20 days. And she had been doing it. As it turned out, it was exactly what she needed for her emotional constipation. Will it get rid of her temper completely? I doubt it. I think her old self will resurface occasionally, and if she doesn’t I will be pleasantly surprised. At the same time, I am also going to make darned sure she has as many writing prompts as she needs.

Looking Forward to Back to School Shopping?

Only 16 more days until school starts and I have not even touched back to school shopping . . . I really wonder where I am going to scrape up the money this year. They have all grown out of everything, and I no longer have hand me downs that will fit anyone. This is the breakdown:

New clothes, backpack, and school supplies, plus $91 in school fees for a 9th grader:

  • 6 pairs of jeans — $40.00 (I hope, if I can find them at thrift shops)
  • 10 tops — $30.00 (again thrift shop prices)
  • 1 pair of new gym shoes — $15.00
  • 1 messenger bag — $12.00
  • Socks, etc. — $45.00
  • Notebooks, pencils, colored pencils, pens, index cards, binder, etc. — $25.00

Total: $167.00

New clothes, backpack, and school supplies, plus $65 in school fees for a 6th grader:

  • 6 pairs of jeans — $40.00 (thrift shops)
  • 10 tops — $30.00 (thrift shops)
  • 1 pair of new gym shoes — $15.00
  • 1 backpack — $15.00
  • Socks, etc. — $45.00
  • Notebooks, pencils, colored pencils, pens, index cards, binder, etc. — $25.00

Total: $170.00

New clothes, backpack, and school supplies for a 1st grader:

  • 5 pairs of jeans — $15.00 ( thrift shops)
  • 10 tops — $25.00 (thrift shops)
  • 1 backpack — $12.00
  • Socks, etc. — $30.00
  • Crayons, glue, etc. — $10.00

Total: $92.00

New clothes and a backpack for a preschooler:

  • 5 pairs of jeans — $15.00 ( thrift shops)
  • 10 tops — $25.00 (thrift shops)
  • 1 backpack — $12.00
  • Socks, etc. — $30.00

Total: $82.00

Grand Total: $667.00

assuming that I will be able to find some killer deals, (I usually do) my clothing and supplies budget is going to stick right around a grand total of about $500.00, not counting school fees — this I think I will be able to manage, but if I end up not finding what I need at thrift shops, I am going to have to cut back quite a bit since this does not include instrument rental, reeds, rosin, extracurricular activities, or anything else . . . wish me luck!

Fork Attack

So we are sitting there peacefully eating dinner, and Bee decides that she doesn’t want to eat her chicken. No big surprise there. The next thing I know Zee snatches the chicken off her plate, she starts screaming like a banshee and she stabs him in the face with her fork. While everyone sat with their mouths hanging open in shock I jumped up and grabbed the hand Zee was using to cover his face and pulled it away  — I was really afraid that she had forked him in the eye — but no, there on his forehead was a nice neat little row of pindrops of blood. A fork mark. This is one girl you really don’t want to cross.

French Toast

6 Eggs
2 Tbsp Condensed Milk
1 tsp Cinnamon
Whole Wheat Bread

Beat eggs, mix condensed milk with cinnamon and whisk into eggs until mixed evenly. Dip bread in egg mixture and fry in pan on medium heat with butter, being careful not to burn the butter. Top with your choice of fruit, butter and honey,  or syrup.

For stuffed French toast, beat 8oz cream cheese, and ¼ to ½ c of your choice of fruit. Using thin sliced bread, spread 1 slice of bread with filling, place two slices of bread together, and dip in egg mixture. Fry in butter and top with powdered sugar or fruit.