Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hakuna Matata

Here at the university there is a long tradition of decorating "ole Jeremiah" the canon.  This happens almost nightly and sometimes more than once in the night.  There have been some real creative decorations but I think this one today is AWESOME!  They must have spent a lot of time preparing for last night's escapade. 

Who doesn't love THE LION KING?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

101 ways to use Goats Milk

Last December we were given 2 pygmy goats for pets on the farm.  They are curious little things but not good for much of anything.  We spent the spring building them a pen to keep them out of trouble, especially to keep them away from the neighbour's flowers.

In June we acquired a Saanen goat who was giving milk.  I have spent the entire summer and fall milking her twice daily.  Zach, Talia and Amber have even milked her a few times. I bought a hand milker to simplify the process. She started out giving 3 litres of milk daily.  She is down to 2 litres now.  That is a lot of milk to drink! 

We have had to come up with different ways to use the milk.  We pasteurize it for the girls to drink.  Separate the cream for Rod's cereal, butter and ICE CREAM.  And of course there is GOATS CHEESE!  I have tried 3 different ways to make cheese - a crumbly cheese, spreadable and mozzarella.  I have flavoured it with salt, herbs and even fruit flavoured.  There is so much milk that I have even frozen it for using later.

My newest use for goats milk is SOAP.  Last night I made my first batch of soap.  I found a great site on the web where I can purchase lye and different oils and google and the library have provided information on the process.  The first batch has been processed and cut into bars and is now curing.

In 3-4 weeks I should have some soap to share with my family and friends.  I have found some interesting recipes that I want to try.  How does Hot Chocolate Soap sound?  How about Bubble Gum?  Lavendar?  So many recipes to try.  I need more supplies and more shelves to store curing soap on. 

Two ducks on a Pond

Widdle Waddle

Our property started out with a tiny pond the deer were using as a watering hole.  Last summer we had a fellow come in and enlarge the pond.  We were able to skate on it last year.  This summer with the drought we were down to very little water in the pond but the fall rains have improved that. 

When we had the pond enlarged we ended up with huge piles of dirt on the sides of the pond and trees removed and lying around the area.  Rod spent the summer moving the trees to another area but we never got around to landscaping the pond.  The summer had been spent keeping our new trees watered.

Now here it is November and the weather is cooperating so we finally have time to do some landscaping.  Rod created a pathway around the pond and stairs down into the water.  He put some large rocks around the edge.  We have been busy adding rocks to the sides to keep the banks from eroding. 

We also built a simple raft so we could paddle around and clear off the branches etc before the water freezes so that we will have a clear pond for skating on. 

Grandpa and Gracie
November 11 was a beautiful day with the temperature at 16C.  We took the little girls - Gracie, Sydney and Audrey down to the pond and Grandpa gave each of them a ride on his raft.  They had a great time.

We are sure having a great time living in the country.  

Grandpa and Audrey
Audrey, Sydney, Gracie

where has the summer gone?

Wow, is it November already?  I can't believe how long it has been since I have blogged.  Where to start?

In August Cody and Mimi and baby Hannah moved back to Ontario.  How excited are we!?!?  Cody is attending Queen's University studying to be an Engineer.  They bought a cute little house in Kingston and are busy making it their own.  We, Rod and I, were lucky to be able to take a few days in August to drive to Kingston and visit them in their new home.

September was back to school and the start of a big adventure for Gracie as she started Junior Kindergarten.  Gracie is the second generation to attend Gateway Drive Public School.  She is sure growing up.  Gracie loves to print her letters and colour rainbows.

September also saw Talia and Paul move to Ridgetown for Tal to start her VetTech program.  They are enjoying setting up house and starting this new stage in their life.  

October brought Thanksgiving and the arrival of our little grandson Evan William Merrill.  Evan weighed in at a whopping 6lb 1.5lbs.   He is such a peanut but growing quickly.
hours old

one month

And now it is November. Not long and 2012 will be over and we will be starting a new year.  I wonder what excitement 2013 will bring.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Summer Fun

What do you get when you cross a hot Saturday afternoon, a hose and a long tarp?  Some Summer Fun

On Saturday Grandpa came up with a fun activity for the little girls.  He pulled out an old tarp from the barn, staked it down on the lawn, added a small slide and a hose, creating our own little water slide.  At first the girls were hesitant, not knowing exactly what to do but Uncle Zach joined in the fun and showed them how it was done.  After they got started there was no stopping them.  They would have continued for the whole afternoon if the adults hadn't got tired. 

Sydney discovered how fun it can be to roll UP the hill and DOWN again.  

Life is so GRAND when you are a kid!!!

The HARVEST has begun

So it is that time of year again.  The vegetables are coming on and they need to be harvested almost daily.  It has been a very hot dry summer and a lot of the veggies have struggled to produce much crop.  The beans have done fine and the peas are holding their own.  Some days it feels like a never ending job of picking and either snapping beans or shelling peas. 

It's not soooo bad when you get help. Especially cute little helpers like this one.   Gracie and Sydney and Amber all helped although Sydney had more fun dumping the bucket of peas.  Gracie stuck with it to the end and then even came to help snap the beans and shell the peas.  What a GREAT helper she is.  And so happy about it too.  She was so excited when she figured out how to open the pea pod.

And here are the results of one days worth of bean picking. Won't they taste yummy in the dead of winter.

9 bags of green beans
With the drought we didn't get a very good crop of raspberries this year.  I had just enough to make a batch of raspberry jam and a another one of Raspberry/Blueberry.   I also picked enough gooseberries to make one pie.  The zucchini are producing very slowly and I haven't seen any cucumbers yet.  There are a few small squash .  Half of my plant died even though we tried to keep them watered.  I guess they just couldn't take the heat. My tomato plants are barely up to my knee and have only a few tomatoes on them.  I guess I will be purchasing my tomatoes at the market for making salsa this year. 

I am hoping to get/make time to can peaches and pears this year.  If I can just coordinate with those lovely daughter of mine (all 5 of them?) maybe we can have a production line going and get enough for everyone. 

Here's to a hopeful harvest at Bellyacher Acres.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

I scream, You scream .....

So what do you get when you cross fresh raspberries from the garden

with fresh goats milk?

Delicious home made ice cream and raspberries!!!

I found an easy recipe on line for homemade ice cream.  This is exactly how much ice cream it made too.  Just enough for a taste.  And it was soo yummy.  I didn't share it with anyone either!!!

To make the ice cream I used:

1/2 cup fresh goats milk (or you could use half and half cream)
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla

Place ingredients in a sandwich size ziplock bag.

In a large ziplock bag put 3 cups of ice and 1/3 cup rock salt.  Add your small ziplock bag.  Zip up tight.  

Now toss the bag back and forth between your hands.  Work it!!  Grab a tea towel cause its going to get very cold.  Keep playing with the bag of ice/ice cream for 5-10 min.  

Voila, you now have ice cream.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Another Merrill Wedding

So May was a busy month for us.  After our wonderful visit to Alberta in April we rushed home to finish getting ready for Talia's wedding. 

Yes that is 3, count them, 3 weddings in 3 years.  And my mother and sister have been here for all of them.  Gma Merrill made it to two and Ginamarie was here for two.  We wish Cody, Mimi and baby Hannah could have come but at least we got to visit them in Alberta.  I am so ready for the break in the action. Thank goodness Zach is only 15.

Here are a few shots of the lovely bride outside the Toronto Temple

the Bride and her Maids
check out the cowboy boots on the bride
Talia made her bouquet and the ones for the bridesmaids but the honour of making boutonnieres for the boys and corsages for the ladies was give to my wonderful sister Sheila.  As always she did a great job.

Ginamarie was able to decorate the cake for us.  Wow she is good.  

Gma Merrill is a great baby tender and story reader.  

Gma with Audrey and Gracie
Everyone looked beautiful

with 3 of my 4 princesses
Gracie Isabella Haw

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I love the Mountains, I love the rolling hills ....

I love the varying landscapes in Alberta, the flat prairies, the rolling foothills, the deep coulees, the river valleys,  the hoodoos, the majestic mountains. 

Looks flat to me

Zach's geography teacher made a comment about how Saskatchewan was flat but Alberta was not.  I am guessing she has never been to Alberta because seems to me that Alberta has some pretty flat spaces too.  I took a picture for Zach to take to school to prove that Alberta can also lay claim to "flat land".

Folks out here in Ontario don't really know what a mountain is.  They ski down large hills or into what I would consider a coulee. They all need a trip to the Rockies to open their eyes to a true mountain.

We had the opportunity on this trip to take Zach to climb his first mountain - a real mountain.  We went to Waterton and climbed Bear's Hump.  There was quite a crew of us with Gma Merrill, Uncle Phil, Morgan, Rod, Me, Zach, Cody, Mimi and even little Hannah.  Hannah and Zach climbed their first mountain the same day.  Zach at almost 15 years and Hannah at almost 2 months. 

Oh how I love the mountains!  And of course what trip to Southern Alberta is complete with out a picture of Old Chief.  And Waterton with its sheep and deer.

And of course, when you are in the country you are bound to run into a herd of cattle somewhere.  Even on the highway.

And then there is Cardston with its' beautiful Temple.  All Temples are beautiful but this one will always be my favourite.

I have now lived more of my life in Ontario than in Alberta but I will always consider myself an Alberta girl. I've learned its OK to love two provinces. They each have their own beauty. 

Hoo Doo you think you are?

While in Alberta last month we took Zach on a field trip to Drumheller and the Dinosaur museum.  Since Zach was skipping school we figured he needed some "education".  Plus, Rod and I had never been there either.  We wandered through the Museum enjoying all the different dinosaurs. I found one I wanted to take home.
At least I think he would have been cute.  It is hard to tell when he is nothing but bones.

A few more dinos

he looks short now

Flowerpot Island

We also drove out to have a look at the Hoo Doos. They remind me of Flowerpot Island up by Tobermory, Ontario. 

Hoo Doo, Drumheller
Here's some more shots of the Hoo Doo.

I've got my EYES on you

A typical Merrill Boy