30 October 2017

Black Hat Dash

Ready, set, GO!
Having run several dozen miles through Jack's foxtail maze, I decided it was time for the girls and I to do another fun run. The last one we did was in Nebraska with the cousins, when it was nice and warm. This Halloween fun run was a little more...cold.
Feeding off the excitement at the start line. 
Walking over to the start line, Evelyn asked why I had to pick a race on such a frigid day. Well, oops! I told her that we'd just have to start running quickly so we could warm up. The girls, dressed in their costumes as Pikachu, a parrot, a black cat, agreed with me, the skeleton.
Claire could have run circles around EVERYONE.

So, the race started and for the first half, everyone was excited and barely able to keep from flat-out sprinting. Then, the complaints of frozen legs, burning lungs, and tired feet began. Claire could have sprinted the whole way home--and I told her to since Jack was waiting at the finish--but she kept running ahead, stopping and encouraging her sisters to catch up. What a team player!
We made it to the finish...barely.
Henry the Vampire Bat got into some blood, er, marinara sauce.
I offered to push Henry in the stroller but our little vampire bat decided he'd rather watch with dad, along with our little pumpkin, Zoey.
Team Eliker!

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28 October 2017


We brought the horses into the barn the other day for the first time so we could groom them and get them used to the building before winter sets in and they might need to come inside. Stoney met Dolly through a crack in his stall and his sneaking suspicions that we don't just own horses anymore was confirmed.
The jury's still out on how he feels about living with a cow on the property.

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23 October 2017

Giant Puffball

I can see why they call it the giant puffball mushroom!
On Sunday, Jack and I had to take separate cars to church and when it was time to head home, he took the older girls and left before I was done strapping in the other kids. As luck would have it (and it usually seems to be just that with Jack), Jack got lost. In his defense, New Harmony Road is broken up into about fifty segments. While trying to figure out where he was, he and ended up finding something only he could truly appreciate: giant puffball mushrooms.
It was too weird not to touch.
Since moving to Indiana, our family has taken a liking to foraging. We've harvested everything from apples, mulberries, maple syruphickory nutsblack raspberries, asparagus, and have even found a few morels in our own yard. So, I really shouldn't have been surprised to come home to an enormous fugus on my counter.
This giant thing, about two times the size of my head, grows from this TINY stem.
Not satisfied with the mushrooms he'd already harvested, Jack decided to take a trip into the forest to see if perhaps we were lucky enough to have any growing on our property. He took the kids with him while Zoey and I rested. They didn't find anything there but they did find some pokeweed and decided to paint themselves with war paint. Mind you, they'd just had a bath that morning.
Introducing Princess PoPo, Princess PePe and Queen Nanananananana. I'll let you decide who was who.
 Even Henry got in on the fun.

And thankfully, the juice rinses right off.
Undeterred by his lack of further discovery, it was time to cut up the giant puffball and see just what giant puffball mushroom tasted like. To say they're an interesting fungus is an understatement. How they grow, their shape, what they feel like, is so bizarre. Plus, Jack was reading up on them and apparently they're great for absorbing things. So, if you have a bloody nose, just stuff some puffball up there and call it good.
His bouncing baby puffball.
For about an hour, Jack washed, sliced, sizzled, seared, and seasoned the mushroom and served it up with a side of sweetened acorn squash. Ironically, the mushroom tastes like, well, nothing. Unlike mushrooms like morels or truffles, that have their own taste, the puffball absorbed whatever flavors Jack used. He came up with some very creative dishes and I was surprised how well even the kids liked them.

Plus, we all survived eating wild mushrooms, so that's a plus.
I think we ate maybe a third of the actual mushroom. Tomorrow, maybe cream of mushroom soup should be on the menu.

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22 October 2017

Let the Fruit Roll In

This little tree is a bit backward on the seasons.
One mistake that we've made at each of our previous homesteads was not planting fruit trees soon enough after moving in. Eventually, we'd commit to the cost and work of putting in an orchard, only to end up moving right as the trees started producing fruit. Determined not to have that happen again, one of the first projects we've completed at our New Harmony home is buying, planting, and tending our budding orchard.
Since most of the plant nurseries have stock on sale at the end of the season, we got our fruit trees at a pretty good bargain. The gamble is whether or not our trees will make it through the winter without a prolonged growing season to put down roots. That doesn't stop Jack from trying his best to give the trees their best start.
Claire is on fertilizer duty.
We knew we wanted to put our orchard and garden toward the front of the house, where it was easily accessible from the house and away from naughty animals who might otherwise raid the fruits and veggies without permission (we'd share if they'd just ask!), so we lined up the three apples, three peaches, three cherries, and two pears into a neat grid. If nothing else, they look orderly.
Each ball of roots was soaked, the ground was fertilized, and the tree was lovingly planted. Literally. Jack loves plants and planting.
As with every project, the kids all have their assigned chores. Claire scooped out the decomposing manure out of the tractor and took it to each hole, Evelyn was in charge of running the hose, Kate helped soak the trees, Henry stayed out of trouble, and Zoey patiently watched from her stroller.
We picked the perfect time to plant, too. Up until a few weeks ago, our trees were living in our pond, waiting for the fall rains to arrive after a rather long, hot, dry end to the summer.
Easiest way to water trees by far! No hoses, no hauling water!
I know a lot of people dread the cool, dreary, damp days of autumn but I was especially grateful for them this year. It meant less work for me, dragging hoses back and forth and watering trees. I'm notoriously bad with plants and prefer to let Jack and Mother Nature take the lead when it comes to them.
Now to stay put, pray the orchard thrives, and let the fruit roll in!

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19 October 2017

Sous Chef

Now that Evelyn's eight, she's aged into a girl's group at church where she has a few activities a month to learn new skills, do crafts, offer service, and have fun with each other. As part of the group, she's also begun the Faith in God program, where she can personalize her goal setting while still meeting requirements to accomplish the entire booklet. After flipping through, she decided one of the first goals she wanted to check off was to make dinner all by herself.
She decided on making chunky cheese soup, sweet cornbread, fresh pineapple, and Halloween sugar cookies as an after-dinner treat. At the start, she was eagerly following directions, fetching ingredients, washing and chopping veggies, greasing muffin cups...but as dinner preparations wore on, well, she was less enchanted with being a big girl and cooking all by herself.
Making dinner can be soooo BORING.
She did push through the sheer boredom as she waited for the food to cook. Honestly, I think that's one of the lessons that's important to learn while cooking--not every venture into the kitchen is going to be entertaining but it's still necessary if you want to eat.
Once dinner was done, we rolled out the cookie dough--no complaints about that! Evelyn graciously allowed her siblings cut out cookies, too and once we'd eaten her delicious meal, we spent the evening decorating the cookies.
My little sous chef is on the way to becoming a master!

(Then I'll never have to cook again, right...?)

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16 October 2017

Get Milkin'

Going out to the barn to milk is one of the best ways to spend a morning.
Dolly and Parton (heehee yes, Jack purposefully named the calf Parton and the kids don't get the joke) have been with us for just over a month. Initially, they were one more fun pet to have on our farm. We'd been working on getting them used to us scratching their noses, wearing their halters, and working around them in the stalls while milking has been in the back of our minds. That is, afterall, why we bought a milk cow.
Jack's one happy camper with his brand new milk pail.
Dolly's previous owners were incredibly helpful and sold us a good deal of the equipment we needed--the vaccum pump, the milker, gallons of udder wash and teat dip--but we still had to wait for a few buckets and strainers to arrive. Then, it was time to try our hand at milking.
Jack's not quite sure we were doing it right.
The first several attempts at milking were clumsy and took both of us to get Dolly put in her stansion and get the milker on. She wasn't super happy with us, we had no idea what we were doing, and Parton was certainly vocal about his frustration.
Dolly asking Parton if he's still there.
Each time we milked, it got easier and we became more proficient. We found what worked for Dolly and though neither of us are experts, we can at least get the milker on by ourselves. The rest is sitting on a bucket and waiting for the milk to flow.
I think this strainer is going to come in handy when we tap our maple trees this winter.
Once the milk is strained, it's a matter of pasteurizing it and quickly cooling it, to keep any weird "cow-y" taste from ruining the milk.
Or, you can just drink it raw, with a bit of ice, like Jack sometimes does.
Parton is happy to be back with his mama.
So far, we've made butter and mozzarella cheese from the milk, on top of literally drinking gallons, but I'm hoping to branch out into cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, and of course, ice cream!

Better get milkin'!

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15 October 2017

Eat Up, Babies

Packing and moving is stressful, no doubt, but there is an upside to relocating--there's a chance to go through belongings and decide what to toss, recycle, or donate. While cleaning out our freezer, I discovered I had enough milk to donate to The Milk Bank, to those fragile babies who need milk supplementing. Since I've never had a problem with my milk supply, I've been able to also donate previously with Kate and Henry, too.

So, eat up, babies! There's plenty to go around.

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12 October 2017

09 October 2017

Maze Runners

Jack and Henry working on the maze.
It's no secret that Jack is the fun parent. For example, when I get on the mower, I want mow quickly and efficiently and do my best to avoid running over little children as I raze down straight-ish lines. When Jack mows, he has the kids sit on his lap, they go speeding off, laughing and screaming, and if they get tired of mowing straight lines, they twist and turn until they've created a maze.
The finished product.
In the back pasture is a somewhat unutilized part of our property. Next spring we have plans to plant alfalfa to feed the bees, the cows, and sell the extra to buy the horses hay, but for now, we needed to mow down the foxtail in preparation for sowing alfalfa. Perfect place for a maze, right? Right.
Raven, my trusty maze buddy
While I didn't think the maze was overly complex, to the kids, who aren't quite as tall and don't have as long of legs nor as good as a vantage point, it was terribly frustrating the first time they tried it. They kept running into dead ends and literally were crying because they couldn't figure it out, convinced they'd have to stay there until they could find the end. Don't worry, we didn't make them. Then, while I was gone on Saturday, they spent the morning trying again until they solved it out. That left me as the only one who hadn't run through the foxtail maze.
Everyone watching from the hilltop.
In some sort of post-apocolyptic young adult novel acting out, Jack and the kids obliged me to run the maze by myself to see how fast I could do it. They sat comfortably atop the pond hill while I trotted through the grass with Raven in front and Zoey on my back.
Once I finished, Jack challenged everyone to do the maze as fast as they could and none of our children are ones to back down from a race. It was a close competition with Claire (naturally--she just has a knack for running) crossing the finish line first.
Henry and Zoey had it the best, leaching onto me and Jack for a free ride.
Guess tonight's activity makes us Maze Runners...?


Ah, the entertainment we can make with an open field and beautiful autumn weather!

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