30 October 2015

Autumn Afternoon

A panoramic view from our deck.
We've been having some gorgeous fall weather at our place and we're trying to take advantage of it as much as possible before it's dreary and cold and no fun to go outside. Sometimes we like to do stuff together but most of the time, once we're out the door, we scatter.
Everyone doing their own thing.
Being able to go outside without worrying where everyone is is a huge blessing. I check on the girls every once in a while, but usually they're content to play on their own.
Since Claire learned how to swing herself last year, she can whip back and forth happily for long stretches.
Snickers enjoying some attention.
Kate usually chases down the closest animal and snuggles it until they decide they've had enough, then she moves on to the next.
Evelyn sifting through the playground gravel, sure she'll find something fascinating.
Evelyn winds down after school by grabbing a snack and joining us for a bit of quiet alone time.
Beautiful sunset!
We cherish our autumn afternoons: the warm sunshine, the color and especially being outside together, even if we're separate.

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28 October 2015

Defending the Hive

Nothing left...
Before we got bees, I always assumed they were hearty, indestructible insects that nobody (other than maybe a bear) would want to mess with. I've quickly learned they're quite sensitive and though they possess a temper and a stinger, they're still delicate and vulnerable. If it's not an unexpectedly frigid winter, it might be too much moisture, not enough air flow, hive beetles, wax moths, a variety of diseases or in our case this year, wasps.
Sorry little chipmunk! Snickers was too fast for you!
Death is not something new on a homestead. Animals get sick, get old, have accidents or are hunted down by predators. Our cats have caught their fair share of rats, mice, chipmunks, bats, moles and birds (good thing they're vaccinated and healthy!). Just this summer, after our hen hatched her first babies, the cats mistook the chicks as hors d'oeuvres and ate one. Gulp. At least they don't waste what they kill. Usually.
The murderer red-tailed hawk sitting in the tree, eyeing the chickens.
It's not just babies that are at risk or our very own cats doing the preying either. Just a few weeks ago, we were on our way out the door and wouldn't be back until after dark, so Jack went to round up the hens and lock them up, only to find a red-tailed hawk munching on one of our bantams. There's a reason red-tailed hawks are nicknamed murderers chicken hawks.
All that's left of our little gray bantam hen.
Still, we were hopeful that this would be the year that we were successful at keeping the hives healthy and thriving. After harvesting pounds and pounds of honey from one of our hives after a few dry years, we were ecstatic to finally have our hard work pay off. But, shortly after, Jack walked out to check the hives because their activity was nearly nonexistent when we'd seen them heavily active a few days before. To our disappointment and frustration, swarms and swarms of wasps had invaded the hives, stealing honey, killing and cannibalizing the adult bees and starving the babies to death. Within days, two robust hives were decimated to nothing more than empty honeycomb.
The young bees starved to death after all the workers were killed...their tongues are sticking out, trying to find food. Poor gals!
After my run in with ground bees last year, I really have nothing nice to say about wasps. I never thought I'd be so enraged by something so small as an insect but their greedy, destructive nature has left me incredibly bitter. Jack thinks the residual honey we left out for the bees to clean off the combs was what attracted the wasps and eventually, they found the hives to invade. Ironically, it was the bees' prosperity that was their demise and they all died in an epic battle defending the hive.
Sealing up the cracks so the bees have less entries to defend.
Jack was equally as disappointed as I was, if not more so because the bees are mostly his project. As usual, he's shrugged it off and done the best he can to be positive about it and make the most of the situation. He took out the combs that still are packed with pollen, known as "bee bread" and froze them to kill off any unwelcome parasites. Next year, it will be a welcome source of protein to a new hive.
Sad Jack.
Though death is normal around here, so is life. The hen will hatch more chicks next spring to replace those we lost, we'll get another hive or two, hope the third will survive the winter and if we're lucky, will have another swarm join us. Life'll win out in the end.

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27 October 2015

Pre-Halloween

The butterfly witch.
Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. It's a combination of the beautiful weather, the gorgeous leaves, a hint of spookiness amid the fun, dressing up and of course, candy.
Kate aged overnight!
We always put up our decorations early in October and after Jack discovered the face paints at the bottom of one of the boxes and immediately began decorating the girls, I've endured a month long barrage of queries regarding when they'd be able to go trick or treating. Try explaining to children who really can't grasp the concept of time that they have to wait almost a month to do something fun. I'm asked multiple times a day whether or not Halloween has arrived. No girls. Not yet. 
At a pirate themed haunted house!
Thankfully, there have been plenty of other pre-Halloween activities to keep us entertained (and give our costumes a test run!) before any actual trick or treating. We went to everything from the Indianapolis Children's Museum Pirate's Revenge Haunted House...
Posing with Dorothy.
...to the Boo at the Zoo...
This is what happens with you try to sneeze with your eyes open...
...to goofing around with some sticky eyeballs...
They tried to make a team effort but couldn't pick the big one up.
...to picking out pumpkins at the pumpkin patch.
One pumpkin down!
Since Jack had to go out of town this week, we had family night on Sunday and did our traditional pumpkin carving together. I can still manage to carve three pumpkins to Jack's one (and this year, with a baby on my lap!) but while I'm stuck in doing two dimensional work, Jack whipped up a devilish little 3-D goblin.  
Creeeeepy!
Jack did such a good job on his pumpkin that the next day, Raven walked upstairs, took one hard look outside to the table where Jack's goblin had been placed, let out a low (and very rare!) growl and bark and immediately went back downstairs. She's convinced it's real enough to be freaked out by it.
Kate's face makes me laugh every time! She looks like an ewok in a bat costume. 
The highlight of the weekend though was a trip to a fun Halloween party at a small town nearby. There were games for the girls, CANDY!, and a fateful costume contest. Why fateful? We happened to be there in time for the youngest kids to line up to be judged so Kate, following our instructions, walked onto the line and awkwardly held out her bat wings. She won scariest costume in her group. Hooray!
Evelyn, the cheetah and Claire, the snow leopard, ready to be judged!
After Kate stood and grinned for her photo with the winners, Evelyn and Claire, who were in the same age group, stepped up to the line. A zombie won scariest, a girl dressed as Elsa won the prettiest and lo and behold, Evelyn won best overall costume. She was so pleased, and so were we, except for poor Claire, who immediately burst into tears. Is a snow leopard not as cool as a cheetah?!
Posing with the winners.
One of the wonderful things about being close with your siblings is that they've always got your back. Though Evelyn won the big prize, she marched right over to Claire and handed over the best gifts and candies to make her baby sister feel better. There will always be more candy, but sisters are forever.
Winning a costume contest is hard work!
So far, our pre-Halloween celebrations have been wonderful and there are already a few more parties lined up this week. It's been a spooky, sugary, heartwarming time already!

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26 October 2015

Hay Hopping

Queen of the hay bales!
Ever since Claire saw Jack jumping from bale to bale last year, she wanted to give it a try. This year, I had our hay guy drop the round bales off for our little piggies closer together so she could do hay hopping on her own.

She was out there for hours.

Joining in the fun, Jack instigated a game of tag on top of the hay when he got home.
Evelyn's it!
And me? I was conversing with a very pleasant two month old.
Henry had a lot to say!
Hay hopping is becoming a tradition!

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25 October 2015

Sunday Morning

The view last Sunday
What do muck boots, a dress, Raven, doing early morning farm chores before church, beautiful autumn leaves, quiet time and frost with bright, clear sunshine have in common?

A perfect Sunday morning, in my opinion.

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24 October 2015

Better-Than-Boxed Brownies

Chewy, chocolaty and decadent? Yeah, way better than boxed brownies!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 cup sugar
11 Tablespoons butter (1 stick + 3 Tablespoons)
2 eggs, cold
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325F. Line an 8x8 or 9x9 inch pan with parchment or foil sprayed with cooking spray. Melt butter and add sugar. Heat for about another minute or until sugar is dissolved. Let cool five minutes, then stir in the vanilla and cocoa. Add one eggs at a time. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, soda, cornstarch and salt. Add into butter mixture and stir until smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips, then pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until brownies are set. Cool in pan for 30 to 45 minutes, then pull out with foil or parchment and cut before serving.
Enjoy!
Thanks to Life Made Simple for the recipe inspiration!

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23 October 2015

Photos at the Farm

Our growing family!
One reoccurring goal we'll be trying to complete every year is to take professional family photos. It's not that I don't take plenty of pictures of the girls, the animals, of Jack doing silly things or projects we're working on, but it's pretty rare that we get photos of all of us together when we're dressed nicely and smiling. Here are a few of the photos  our friend Tasha managed to get.
Tasha came to us and we took photos at the farm!
Smile, Evelyn!
Evelyn and her missing tooth.
Evelyn
Claire and her cute little dimple.
Claire
Kate and her cheesy grin.
Kate
Henry and his serious stare.
Henry
Our cuties!
All of our beautiful children!
Jack and me
Smile Stoney!
Of course I got one with Stoney!

We had a lot of fun taking photos with each other at our little farmstead. Maybe next year we'll add a few more animals to the mix to keep things interesting! But, we're happy to cross this goal off the 2015 list!

Photos from Natasha Cope Photography

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22 October 2015

DIY Fleece Ghost

We love decorating for Halloween but have a hard time buying things from the store that cost an arm and a leg and are made from what feels like foam and balsa wood (or things that are incredibly gory--we like Halloween fun, not gross). Here's one of our new additions to the Halloween decor this year and here's how to make this fun, not-too-scary ghost!

You'll Need:

Fleece
White yarn
Batting
Hot glue or needle and thread
Twine
Fabric paint or permanent marker
Fabric scissors
Wire
Wire Cutters

1. Shape wire into round head piece
2. Attach twine in a loop to top of wire head
Attaching it in a loop makes it easier to hang when ready to display.
3. Shape arms, attached to head piece
Loop the wire at the end so it doesn't poke through the fleece.
4. Drape fleece over wire and at the center of the fabric, cut a small hole for the twine. Close tightly by hand stitching or hot gluing
5. Stuff head with batting. Close off head by tying yarn around the neck and attaching securely
6. Cut or tear bottom of material to give it a tattered appearance
The tattier, the better!
7. Paint or draw on face
Hang to display! Enjoy!

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