Sunday, March 5, 2017

Cookie Jar House Vacation

I recently planned a vacation to go see my granddaughter for her 6th birthday, however she got to go to New York to visit her maternal grandfather instead, so I regrouped and chose to go to Philadelphia, my original home town. Being of a limited budget, I dialed up a relative and asked if I could couch surf. My cousin and his wife live in the Cookie Jar house , a unique house located in Glendora, New Jersey. Now if you are not from the east coast, you may not know that parts of south Jersey are like suburbs for Philadelphian's. The Cookie Jar house is a unique landmark and it is not uncommon to see folks driving by to snap a picture or two.

The house is deceiving from the outside, but is actually quite roomy. There are three levels and a spiral staircase runs up the inside. It was really cute. Out of respect for my cousins I did not take pictures of the inside, but I can tell you it is really cute inside too. However it would hardly would qualify as a "tiny house." I invited two friends, Sharon and Destiny, to go along on this adventure too. Neither friend had been to Philadelphia or New Jersey, so we really had a great time.




We drove from Oklahoma the first day and stopped in Tennessee for the night. We planned to spend the night at Destiny's sister's house on her couch. Destiny hadn't seen her sister in a long time, so they were super excited to catch up. We stopped in Memphis to visit Graceland. It was closed by the time we arrived, but in true fan style we stood outside the gate and took some pictures. I stared in wonder at the private airplane that is now parked across the street. How the heck did they move that monstrosity into place in the middle of congested Memphis? While we were in Memphis we also took a tour of the giant pyramid that is actually a Bass Pro Shop. It was really cool inside with live fish in ponds and a restaurant on the top floor with an observation deck. We didn't have the time to go eat as there was quite a line, so we loaded back in the car and continued on our adventure.


We arrived at the Cookie Jar house around 3 am on Monday, February 20th. We immediately went to sleep and slept in until after 11 am! After finally getting up and about, our first day in Philadelphia we drove into the city and walked around. It was President's Day and a bunch of whiny ass bitches Trump protesters had the center city on lock down due to police presence. Police were everywhere. That meant we couldn't drive in to park close to City Hall, so we chose to park up by Elfreth's Alley and walk down to Market Street.





Side note, in case you did not know. Elfreth's Alley is the oldest continually owned block of houses in the United States. They were tiny row homes and every once in a while one or two will come up for sale. I used to dream of owning one someday. I just don't know if I could handle all the tourists trying to peak in my windows every day.


On Market Street we made a b-line for Campo's. Oh my goodness, Campo's makes the best hoagies!! A real Philadelphia Hoagie. And, just let me tell you, it was DELICIOUS! Located at 2nd and Market, you should definitely try them. Be sure to get cherry peppers on your hoagie too.


In addition to the hoagies, we ate delicious soft Philly Pretzels with dark, spicy mustard. There is no place in the world that makes a pretzel as good as Philadelphia. After some more site seeing the sun was setting so we headed back to the Cookie Jar.


Day two of our adventure,Tuesday the 21st, we discovered upon waking all the walking and the travel from the days prior had us quite bushed, so we hung around in New Jersey and hit a couple of Goodwill stores with my cousins. It is always fun to go to thrift stores in other states because the donated goods are often quite different. For example, I scored a whole set of Lenox spice jars ($20!!) and a diffuser shade needed for the vintage tole lamps I mentioned in a prior post. We also drove around and down to Riverton, NJ. There we saw the Riverton Yacht Club (first yacht club in the US ) and the century old mansions that line the Riverton River.





Day three, the 22nd, we drove out to Gettysburg National Military Park. This was another full day of walking, but you could not beat the weather. It was a beautiful clear day with a gentle breeze and warm temperatures in the 60's. We walked the battlefield and read the displays. It was sobering to read how many fell during this battle and understandable why President Lincoln felt it so important to visit. Destiny and my cousin chose to go to the top of one of the memorials which was accessible by a tall staircase. That's her at the top with her arms out. Yes, she is kinda nuts. That was way too high up for my comfort and my knee told me climbing those stairs was not going to happen.


When we got back to town from Gettysburg we went to Joe's Crab Shack to eat dinner. I had never been to one before. The food was good, but the drinks were divine. It was a fun evening, but my feet and knees hurt from all that walking and I was ready to go back to the Cookie Jar to hit the sack.


Thursday, the 23rd, we made our way back into the city via the train instead of driving. Sharon and Destiny had both taken public transportation in Germany, however they were interested to see what a Philly subway ride was like. I think both really enjoyed the ride. I was shocked at how little parking was available at the train station. We had to go all the way to the Lindenwald station to find parking. I guess most who work in the city are smart enough not to try to find parking or it is just too cost prohibitive. I know I wouldn't want that hassle.



Of course any time you are in Philadelphia you must visit the Liberty Bell. We had a great time taking pictures with this symbol of freedom. It is a shame you cannot touch it like you could when I was a kid, but you can still get up close and that is nice. We went and saw the first post office started by none other than Benjamin Franklin. We mailed postcards and letters home there because they still hand cancel at that Post Office. It is odd to consider it has been continuously operating since before our country became independent. You will notice no flag flies outside that office. It is the only Post Office in our country without a US flag flying in front.



We ate lunch across the street at the Common Wealth Restaurant. It was so good. I had a Smoked Turkey and Brie sandwich as well as Seared Scallops. I also had a really good local brew, but I cannot remember the name of it. All I can say is it was delicious.


After walking around seeing the sites, we headed to the Reading Terminal to get Canoli and a Tiramisu for desert after dinner on Friday. My cousin had been planning to cook a dinner of Braciole and Pasta for us and of course we had to get the desert from my family bakery. We made our way back to the train and headed home. We were bushed, so along the way we picked up Cheese Steaks for dinner. Are you following the food theme? Ooh ya. This is what vacations are made of, lol.



Day 5, Friday the 24th, we were sad to find out Sharon's brother-in-law had passed away and we needed to wrap up our trip sooner than planned. We spent our final day running errands, doing wash, and preparing to go home. We made final stops at places Sharon and Destiny may never have a chance to see again. We ate at a diner so Sharon and Destiny could try Scrapple. There is nothing as good as breakfast at the Penn Queen Diner on Route 130. We purchased foods we planned to bring home and foods we promised to bring back in order to get them in the freezer overnight. I bought Scrapple and Sharon and Destiny bought wonderful homemade chocolates from Bayards Chocolate House. By the time we got back to the Cookie Jar, Ed and Nancy had cooked us dinner of Baked Rigatoni and Braciole and we gorged ourselves. It was sad to have to leave, but by 9pm we were packed, showered, and in bed to get enough rest to leave early in the morning.


We were up by 5am and putting all our things in the car. At 7 am we headed across the Walt Whitman Bridge one last time and drove through the quiet Saturday streets of south Philly. We had one last stop to make before heading back, the Termini Bakery original location. Fresh Canoli and a cup of coffee were purchased and we were back on the road. We took a different route home so we could avoid tolls. We discovered tolls on the way to our trip had cost nearly $30. This time we knew we could skirt the toll booths and get to see West Virginia as well.



We passed through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and on into West Virginia. We decided to detour, get out and stretch our legs at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. Harper's Ferry is a neat little town for a couple of reasons. First off, you can see Three states from there: Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. Secondly, John Brown, a famous abolitionist, led a raid there. Thirdly, it is the home of the halfway point of the Appalachian Trail. I had dreamed of hiking the Appalachian Trail for many years prior to having broken my back in a car accident. It doesn't stop me from being green with envy for those that have completed the journey. We stopped in to see if Destiny could find some of her college pals who had made the journey and been photographed in the many volumes of hikers the Conservancy document each year. We explored Harper's Ferry a little bit, refueled, and were back on the road within an hour. I plan to go back at some point and really enjoy learning the history of the area more in depth.

Driving through some rain storms as we crossed Virginia, we made our way back to Tennessee and stayed the night once again with Destiny's sister. Reheating left overs of Braciole and Rigatoni, we ate and hit the sack. By 7 am the next morning we were back on the road. Tennessee, Arkansas, and finally Oklahoma zipped by quickly. We arrived back in Oklahoma before the sun set.


I was bummed for Sharon for the loss of her brother-in-law, and bummed our trip had to end, but I did manage to make some great memories and a couple of new charms for my bracelet.

Hmm, where to next?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

My Chicken Laid The Strangest Eggs

Check out this very odd egg I found in my coop. Strange eh? Kinda looks like it is a little old man egg. My chickens recently began laying again after a sporadic December and January. It was both fascinating and alarming to find such an odd egg, so I immediately started researching what could possibly be going on with my hen.  I had no idea, but turns out wrinkly eggs are a semi-common thing.

Wrinkly eggs have a couple of causes. The first can just be the age of the chicken. It is not uncommon to see an egg or two that is wrinkly. Most of the time the eggs that follow are normal. If your chicken is young, it is as though the chicken is working out the kinks in the reproductive machinery. On the other hand, as a chicken ages, the albumen will become more watery. When the albumen is watery, it is more difficult for the chicken to wrap the shell around it and the yolk. Wrinkled shells can be a result.

Another frequent cause of wrinkly eggs is Infectious Bronchitis. Highly contagious, Coronavirus also called  IB, is spread within the flock quickly. Chickens will cough, sneeze, rattle, and makes sounds like a baby with a bad cold. Chickens may even get watery eyes and seem droopy. IB damages respiratory, urinary, and gastrointestinal organs. The chickens will most likely recover from the virus, but will remain carriers of IB for the life. Wrinkled eggs may be all she lays from that point on.

Poor water quality can also contribute to wrinkled eggs. If you are feeding your chickens a healthy diet, including calcium and grit, are sure there was no IB in your flock, and still continue to get wrinkled eggs, look into water quality. Make sure to have plenty of fresh clean water available to your flock and plenty of shade during hot weather.

Oh, and no worries, while the wrinkled eggs may look odd, they remain safe to eat as long as there are no cracks in the shell. I wonder what they would look like dyed?

There are lots of causes of odd eggs.

BONUS FREEBIE PRINTABLEAlltech (specialists in animal nutrition and health) created a very informative poster showing common eggshell issues and lists possible causes. You can download a copy to print for future reference here.





Saturday, January 28, 2017

My Thrift Store Challenge

Before I made my big move to live tiny in the country, I was a city/suburb person. I lived in big houses, bought the latest trendy crap, and dreamed of the "simple life." When I finally made the choice to jump in feet first and make my move, I started making lists. Lists of everything I thought I would ever need in a house. My lists were formed room by room. I mentally checked off everything at first, then I actually made paper lists. For example, a bedroom would need a bed, two dressers (long and tall), two night tables, two lamps, two changes of sheets, etc. You get the idea. I poured over catalogs, wandered in stores, visualized my particular style, and slowly began ticking things off the list as I purchased them. By the time I made my big move I had collected almost everything on the list.

Two Lamps for $10.95. Score!
Over the years I had discovered I got great joy of finding an expensive item at a fraction of the cost on places like Craigslist, Goodwill, and thrift stores. I made a game out of it - a type of adult scavenger hunt, if you will. I got a rush and sense of personal victory never paying full cost for the things on my list. I made a commitment to buy the best, but never pay full price. I also like the idea of buying things secondhand because I feel it is more environmentally friendly.

I went with a good friend thrift shopping on Saturday and scored two terrific vintage tole lamps for my new recording studio at just $10.95 for both. I also found some fantastic vintage oven pads someone's grandmother crocheted for just a dollar. But other than those two purchases, I didn't find anything I didn't already have or simply did not need.

So here I am surrounded by the things I researched, coveted, and collected. But here's the weird thing: Now that I have all these things and the challenge has been met, I find myself kind of bored and miss "the thrill of the hunt." Shopping no longer seems fun. There are no pressing needs or personal missions with which to focus my nervous energies. I didn't realize how much I enjoyed those personal challenges. This got me thinking about setting up a new challenge for myself.

I am setting up a "Self Sufficiency" or "Prepper" challenge for myself. I am going to scour Craigslist, Goodwill, thrift stores, etc. for items for the homestead that will allow more independence. Here are some of the items on my list:
Old School Meat Grinder

  • Sausage/Meat Grinder
  • Grain Mill
  • Kitchen Aid Mixer Add On's
  • Cider Press
  • Cheese Press
  • Large Crocks 
  • Dehydrator 2/4/17 ($5 at thrift store)
  • Pasta Machine
  • Berkey Big Water Filter
  • Solar Cooker
  • Manual Crank Ice Cream Maker
  • Vintage Storage Baskets

I love an adult scavenger hunt. How about you? What are some of the things on your "want" list that you think you could find at substantial savings second-hand?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Considering a Straw Bale Garden

It's that time of year again. The time when I pour over seed catalogs and dream of boundless harvests after an idyllic summer of warm sunshine and soft rainfall. I dream of a fantastic harvest of a wide variety of vegetables with visions of endless fresh veggies and plenty left over to preserve. If you are a homesteader or dream of being a homesteader, I bet you are doing this too.

This year will be my 3rd summer in Oklahoma. On my homestead plan this is the year of the garden. I have a vision of how my garden will ultimately look, however my budget prevents me from buying the galvanized stock tanks ($70 each x 15) the plan calls for. I am not willing to give up my vision, so I decided to explore some other, less costly options until I then.
  1. I could grow my garden in bags. Yes, bags. This is a form of container gardening I have considered in the past, but dismiss because I don't like the look very much. 
  2. I could just slap together some wood and form some beds, but then I still have to fill them with soil (costly) and then when I am finished with them I will have to find a way to move all that soil. Not the way I want to spend my energy. Too much labor with too little reward.
  3. Thirdly, I can use what I have on hand. I have lots of straw bales on hand. Bingo. 

Straw Bale Gardens by Joel Karsten
Straw bale gardening is a form of container gardening. You basically prepare your bales by fertilizing and watering, then when ready, just poke a hole into the straw, put some soil in the hole, plant your seed, and keep the bale watered and fertilized. The bale will decompose over time and the plants will flourish. Use good straw bales and you won't even have to weed! Mind you this is a very simplified explanation, but have no worries, I will explain the entire process with pictures when I begin. You, dear reader, can follow along on my adventure and we can see if it will work.

Interested? Intrigued? Interested in trying straw bale gardening at your place?

You can read a great article about straw bale gardening written by Mary Yee here that gives a good overview of the process and has anecdotal information from the American Horticultural Society's attempt at a straw bale garden in Virginia.

You should also get a copy of  Joel Karsten's book (he is the guy who wrote the book on this process literally) Straw Bale Gardens Complete: Breakthrough Vegetable Gardening Method. This book is the straw bale garden bible!

Currently I use my straw bales to insulate my tiny house against wicked cold winter winds, but soon winter will be over and I will drag the bales out to the open sunny spot where the garden is planned. I have 10 bales at this time and will pick up another 10. I figure 20 bales is a decent sized garden. By the way, 20 bales of straw is just $140. Fertilizer and a couple good size bags of garden soil is all I will need. How budget friendly is that?!!

Bring on Spring cause this gal is ready to grow stuff!





Sunday, January 8, 2017

Tiny House Homestead Podcast #34



Podcast Title: County Extension Service, Home Remedies for Ear Aches, and Farmer Barbie

Podcast Episode 34 Show Notes

This episode covers….

Welcome to the New Year and the first podcast recorded in the new Tiny House Recording Studio. Today we talk about home remedies for ear aches, the invaluable resource of the County Extension Service, a great recipe for home made granola, and the oh so glamorous Farmer Barbie. Welcome to Tiny House Homestead.

Connect with Me:

Follow my blog at www.TinyHouseHomestead.com
Follow me on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/tinyhomesteader
Join the conversation on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tinyhousehomestead
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Check out my snaps on Instagram: https://instagram.com/tiny_house_homestead
Add me to your circles on Google+: TinyHouseHomestead@gmail.com
Shoot me an email at TinyHouseHomestead@gmail.com

Links from this episode:

http://www.pickyourown.org/countyextensionagentoffices.htm




Check out this episode!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Someone Shot My Dog

His stature reflected his pain level.
I let my dog out at 7 am on Monday, January 2nd. I fed the goats and chickens and puttered around the homestead. Around 11 am I noticed Airies sitting off to the side of the house. Something just didn't look right. I called him over and noticed him favoring his front left leg. He cried and laid his head in my lap as I searched to see if something was stuck in his paw. That is when I noticed the puncture wound and a little blood on his left shoulder. I took him inside, cleaned up the injury and put some antibiotic ointment on the wound. It didn't look bad and wasn't even bleeding.

By the time we got to the vet
he was clearly not himself
He seemed to be doing ok at first, but as the day progressed I noticed he just seemed to lay around and wasn't his normal, spunky self. He looked so pathetic. He continued to favor his leg and cried out when he put pressure on it. I was getting very concerned. Even the way he would stand looked uncomfortable. Could he have gotten caught in a barb fence or maybe run into something hard enough to cause the puncture and maybe dislocate his shoulder? Getting annoyed with me fussing over him, Airies took himself to the lower pasture and just laid in the grass, continuing to look pathetic.

That night he cried out frequently and could not seem to get comfortable. After a very long, sleepless night, I called the vet and scheduled an appointment. Airies knew he was in for a visit to the vet because that is the only time he ever rides in the car. He looked torn between the pain in his shoulder and concern over the car ride.
The vet took one look at the wound and said, "I think he got shot. Lets get an X-ray and take a look."

 Here is what the doc discovered: 

The X-ray revealed the bullet
Can you believe it? I couldn't. Honestly, I was shocked. Yep, that is a 22 caliber bullet in his left shoulder. Thankfully the bullet did not hit bone. Thinking back over the morning, I didn't recall hearing any gunshots, however I live out in the country on a large tract of land. With a .22 I may not have heard it. but there are a couple of ways my dog could have met with the business end of a gun. 

First, he could have been on someone else's property. Out here a strange dog on your property normally means your chickens or other livestock may be at risk. It is not uncommon for folks to shoot an animal threatening their livestock.

Second, it is hunting season here in Oklahoma. Because the bullet did not go further than through muscle tissue, it is possible it was a stray bullet. That thought is not very comforting either.

Finally, someone could just have been being mean and have shot him on purpose. I am certainly hoping this is not what really happened.

Recovering at home

The vet said because the bullet is in soft tissue and did not damage any of the bone, the bullet will remain a souvenir of the time my dog got very lucky and dodged a bullet, so to speak. (Sorry, I could not resist.)

Three days of pain pills and a week of antibiotics combined with rest and Airies will be good as new. However, I have greatly curbed his freedom and now am securing him on a zip line when he is outside until I can afford to build him a dog run. Unless I can be sure he remains on the confines of my four acres, Airies will have to get used to the 70 feet of zipline he is allotted.

Airies has been spending a lot of time relaxing indoors as he heals. He even seems mildly irritated when I put hims on a leash to go outside. However, a good farm dog is invaluable and I don't want to see him come to harm. I consider my farm dog a member of my family.

Lesson learned ... the hard way.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

County Extension Offices: A Homesteader's Best Friend

For many of us former (or hoping to be former) city slickers, the purpose and role of the County Extension Office is somewhat of a mystery.
Whether you live in the city, suburbs, or country, the County Extension system today is an invaluable resource available to everyone.

To understand the role of the Extension Service, you must travel back in time to the start of Land-Grant Colleges, commonly known as Land-Grant Universities today. Land-Grant Universities were identified by a state to receive the benefits of the Morrill mmActs of 1862 and 1890. The Morrill Acts granted Federally controlled land to the states to sell, raise funds, establish, and endow Land-Grant colleges.

In 1819, after the American Revolutionary War, the American Farmer encouraged farmers to report on achievements and their methods of solving problems. This forum was a popular way for farmers to exchange information on what worked and what didn't work. Being able to share useful, practical, and research based information made sense and caught on quickly.

The mission of the Morrill Act of 1862 was to build Land-Grant institutions foucssing on teaching practical and useful agricultural, science, military science, and engineering skills to the population without excluding classical studies. This movement was in direct response to the Industrial Revolution and the evolution of the social classes. The first Morrill Act provided funds to allow educational institutions to study and develop scientifically proven methods for agriculture, science, engineering, and military science and then to share that knowledge with the public.

The Second Morrill Act of 1890 was aimed at the former Confederate States. The same principles and goals of the 1862 Act held, however new limits were imposed. The new limits stated the states benefiting from the Act could not consider race a criterion for admission or, if they did, a separate Land-Grant institution for people of color would need to be established. The states were granted cash instead of land for these new Land-Grant institutions.

Then in 1914 the Smith-Lever Act was a federal law establishing a system of cooperative extension offices connected with the Land-Grant universities which would be used to "inform on current developments in agriculture, home economics, public policy, government, leadership, 4-H, economic development, coastal issues, and other related subjects." This education would be in the form of "home instruction."
By British government - Original publication:
Poster in Britain in 1917-18*

There are 100 Land-Grant Universities. Some examples are Pennsylvania State University, University of Arizona, Oklahoma State University, University of Wisconsin, along with Rutgers (the oldest University to receive the Grant), and Iowa State (the first to receive the grant.) Every state has at least one Land-Grant University.

Extension offices really began to shine during WWI. During the Great War extension offices helped increase wheat production from 47 million acres in 1913 to 74 million acres in 1919. The Extension Service partnered with the USDA to teach canning, drying, and preserving of food. The Extension Service helped with war-time labor shortages by organizing the Women's Land Army and The Boy's Working Reserve.

Many, many programs have come from the Extension Service. One of the most well known is 4-H. 4-H is a youth development program that has served over 1 million of America's youth. Programs vary, but in my neck of the woods 4-H students raise livestock, grow crops, and learn public speaking. Extension Service can teach us to grow our garden, grow our lawns, manage our forests, control pests, learn to preserve foods safely, offer community gatherings, and much, much more. It is useful even if you reside in an urban or suburban environment. Remember how you could just dial up your local librarian back in the day? How you could just dial up, ask a question, and get an answer? Your local extension office can do the same. The local extension office in your area will produce materials dealing with plants, pests, birds, game, basically anything in your area. They can help you identify that unknown mushroom growing on your tree, identify what pest is eating your prized tomatoes, and help you maximize the use of your land. If you are not utilizing their services, you don't know what you are missing. Get to know the folks in your county extension office. You won't be disappointed.




*By British government - Original publication: Poster in Britain in 1917-18 Immediate source: http://www.rosiesworkwear.com/blog/?p=1327, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48248817