Monday, December 27, 2010

I'm In A Chicken State Of Mind

Come this spring, we're planning on the first addition of animals at Casa de Peaceable Kingdom.  I'm going to continue my true homesteading experience with the addition of chickens to our little farmstead.  Music Man got this wonderful book for me for Christmas.  The photography is beautiful, the information informative and very pertinent and a great winter time read for me. 

I've been having a fun time trying to figure out just the right breed for our needs.  So many wonderful types of chickens and the choices are I get ones that can be trusted to be kind to the kids?  Is their relationship to each other most important?  Can they handle the extreme temps changes of New England (being 45 mile an hour winds outside today along with blizzard conditions and I'm more then ever convinced I need a winter hearty breed!  See the arrival of snow to our corner through the window in the picture?).

Also what type of coop do they need?  How large, should it be mobile so I can move them around the yard (helping fertilize and decreasing bug population), or trust that they can truly free range here unconfined (we do have foxes and skunks that we've seen here that would make a quick snack of a non vigilant chicken)?  Should their enclosure be permanent?  So many decisions!

What's the best feed to supplement the grass and bugs they will be foraging around here (oh, we've got plenty!)?  What type of bedding to use that will be totally compostable so they can benefit my garden as well?How many chickens will meet our egg needs per week?  We have decided to start with eggs this year and get our feet wet with egg layers and perhaps next year we'll try our hand at broilers to fill our freezer.

So many choices and decisions...and I've been having a great time learning and reading about them. As a teenager, I worked on a farm that had chickens and I'm not completely novice at this, but honestly, it's been a few years since that time was at hand.  I am brushing up on the care and feeding so I can provide a caring and humane home for our newest additions. 

Not to mention, I just love chickens.  I don't know what it is about them, they are just charming to me.  Hours of entertainment watching their interactions with each other and other animals, chasing a succulent bug or having a dirt bath.  I've heard to them referred to as Farm TV...I wholeheartedly agree!

Wishing you some fresh eggs in your future, ~Peacemom

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gingerbread Houses at The Banke

In light of the time of year, I thought I would do a separate post about the gingerbread house display at Strawbery Banke (not a typo that's how it's spelled).  Some of the houses were meant to be replicas of the buildings in the museum.

I liked the pink rock candy and ice cream trees in this one...and the huge red jelly candy on top of the tree on the right...
The families that made them were really creative.  How can you not smile when you see this snow family fishing?

And this little cottage was enchanting to me, I'm a sucker for the woodsy scenes.  The candy cane fence was a fav here, and I thought the cottage was so well done with it's candy windows looking like warm firelight inside...

I just had to get a close up of the toasted coconut marshmallow Rudoph enjoying the campfire, and the pumpkin head toasting his own marshmallow on a pretzel rod...really clever!

We even got to enjoy this woman playing piano the whole time we perused the gingerbread town, such a lovely touch and she was very talented!  I'm sure it was tough for her to keep her fingers so nimble as she was sitting by a door that was opened almost continuously to the chilly night air.

I thought perhaps you'd be as enchanted by the gingerbread town as I was, hope it helped put you in a festive mood. 

Wishing you candy made into scenes in your holiday, ~Peacemom

Strawbery Banke

For our annual Christmas gift from my inlaws, we get to have an adventure.  We definitely prefer this to things, and so many nice memories have been made and times enjoyed together that may not happen otherwise.  For the past two years, we've gone to Charmingfare Farms.  You may remember if you're a long time reader the two posts I did about those adventures in past years.  A wonderful place, we had a lot of family fun on those nights which included a lovely dinner together followed by a sleigh ride around the woods and fields where they have thousands of lights strung to enchant the night.  A truly fun time.

This year, since we'd done that two years, and well, there are so many things to see in our beautiful state, we thought we'd try something new.  We wracked our brains for days to come up with just the right thing, when Music Man said, "how about Strawbery Banke? Do they do a Christmas thing?"

Strawbery Banke is one of the first establishments in the new world back in the 1600's, when NH was still part of Massachusetts.  It is a museum of sorts, and has 36 buildings original to a time period when the country was still new and beyond.  Thirty two of the buildings are original to the site and 4 have been moved to the site to save them from demolition in other parts of the town of Portsmouth, which is where all this history lies.  Not the least impressive of the buildings relocated to the Banke is the Goodwin Mansion, which used to be on Islington Street and was moved there in 1963 to save it.  To think this magnificent building would be torn down is really sad, but so glad that people with the foresight and ambition saved it for future generations. Below are some re-inactors singing Christmas carols in the parlor of the mansion...they have beautiful voices!

The dining room, set for dinner.  I loved the hand made sign on the hearth...
It was a great learning experience for the boys.  They got to see what life was like in times before us as the museum has the buildings set to experience different periods in time.  There was even a general store, which was set in the '40's during the war, with original packaging on products and a re-inactor who told of her excitement of her brother coming home for the holidays on leave from the war. 
She had baked him a special cake...

We enjoyed the packaging and how few products were in stores.  The boys could not get over how this was supposed to be a grocery store, they are so used to modern excess.

We also particularly enjoyed walking around the streets and imagining what it would have been like back in the olden days when we met Sea Captain Keyran Walsh walking amongst us on his way back from the tavern, saw horse drawn wagons and heard caroling and brass band music.

I was able to imagine a time when things were simpler and also more difficult for the people who came before us in their time.  When choices were not as hard or as many, but everyday life was so much more taxing for them.  When clothes were washed by hand, when heat came only from a fireplace, and gardens supplied the food.  The work that went into their every day existence is amazing to me.  I took time to wonder about the people that lived there and if they would like it that people are still able to see their lives and honor their memory.  I had visited Strawbery Banke back when I was 12, but to be honest, it didn't hold the excitement for me then that it does now.  Then, it was just a bunch of old stuff, what was the point?  Now, I understand the true value of being able to glimpse life in the past and the generations from which we have come.  And to truly appreciate the fact that this has been saved for generations to learn from and is open to the public for all to see rather then torn down or just private homes. 

I do not know the people sitting down, they were enjoying the carolers as well, but I loved the happiness on their faces.

The night ended with a cup of warm cider, some caroling, and the cat scavenger hunt that the Banke had arranged for the kids. They had to find a black stuffed cat in 7 of the buildings, a real highlight for them, and kept them thoroughly engaged in the night (what a great idea on the Banke's part!).  A truly fun time for all of us, we loved the whole experience.  I will definitely return when I can wander around in the summer and read all the information and history that is posted all over the museum. 

Thank you to my inlaws for providing this experience and memory for all.   And, if you've never been to Strawbery Banke or maybe it's been a while, stop and see the wonderful Christmas program they have set up, it's a very heartwarming and informative night!

Wishing for you a glimpse at Christmas' past, ~Peacemom

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree...

We were in the pursuit of a Christmas tree.  Not just any tree, but the perfect one for our little family.  This tree had to be beautiful, this tree had to have personality and this tree needed to be skinny and short.  We have a very small house will little room for a tree, so we needed a pretty specific conifer.

We got the little cherubs all bundled up and set out with cash in pocket to the wonderful place we found our tree last year.  We were all set to traipse around on their wonderful farm and find THE tree.  As we pulled up, there was a sign that stated in very small letters:  "closed for 2010 season".  Oh.  No.  The children were upset, and frankly so was I.  I really wanted a tree from that particular farm as we're moving more and more into the "everything as local as possible" mentality.  For us, that included our tree.   Well, shut.  We turned Rudolph the Red Van around and decided to drive towards a neighboring town that we thought would have a cut your own and be open.  On the way there, we drove by a place we stopped at a couple of years ago.  There, at the end of the driveway, we saw this little sign:
We stopped quickly and pulled up the driveway, so thrilled to have found his little farm open.  The man who runs it was also getting out of the business a couple of years ago and there aren't many trees left on the farm, and they are all small.  Small was perfect for our needs.  So we checked out our options...

Music Man found one he liked, but well, I would have to start calling him Clark Griswold and then my house would smell like fried pussycat and who needs that  (You National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation fans will get that, everyone else will just think I'm gross)?  After MUCH deliberation, we found the one that was to be the Haught Family Christmas Tree...
The boys got in on the act and helped Daddy to chop (or in this case, saw) it down...

Then they carried it to the car and strapped it on. 

As the tree was being bound to the roof, I took a look around at the farm. It's a beautiful little place, with the trees on one section and a couple of large garden beds spread around on others.  There is a lovely little arbor and a couple of small barns as well.  It is all very well maintained and obviously loved. I felt both envy and respect for this little farm and it's older owners.  And blessed to be able to share in it for a moment in time.

A fun time was had by all.  Now, the tree adorns our living room with it's lovely smell and graceful way it holds our ornaments.  Thank you, Little Tree for being an intricate part of our holiday celebration, we appreciate your sacrifice dearly.

Wishing you a bit of Christmas cheer of your own today,  ~Peacemom

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cocoa Break!

This is a cute mug that a dear friend gave me for Christmas a few years ago.  I love the shape of it, how it's big at the bottom and thinner before it goes into a flare for the top.  It's just perfect to wrap your hands around when it's filled with a steaming beverage.    In this case it was hot chocolate. My first official seasonal hot chocolate.  This is, of course, stirred with a candy cane so it can melt all the minty goodness into the already cloying sweet cocoa.  Not the healthiest of treats, but necessary in my book this time of year!

One you can see that my boys feel the same way about!

Yep, Maestro could barely come up for air with his.  Those boys do love their sweets!

Wishing you some sweetie treaties of your own, ~Peacemom

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thankful for Local!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Today I'm thankful for so many things, my family's healthy, Music Man has a great new job opportunity, the fact that I have a job that allows me freedoms I might not have with a different job, a home where we are all happy and comfortable, new friendships made this year with people we have a lot in common with, old friendships that have been like rocks for me in this very challenging year...and the list goes on and on.

One of the other things that I'm also most thankful for is local food.  Once I took the plunge into local eating about 3 years ago, I've since researched sources for so much of what we need to eat locally.  It has been very heartening to me to find that there are still small farmers doing what they do to provide locally grown, more nutritious and in some cases organic food.  I find the quality of the food I get is so outstanding compared to what I was used to in the grocery stores.  No, I don't get one stop shopping, but what I do get is the relationship with the farmers, I can see the animals and how they live, I enjoy the benefits of organic in my own community and can swap recipes with these same farmers and other who purchase from them.  I also get the benefit of having the money I spend on the food stay within my own area. A win for everyone involved!

This year, I got our organic free range heritage breed turkey from a friend's farm a couple of miles from my home. I also served butternut squash with apples and maple syrup, all locally grown.  The organic blueberry pie above I made with blueberries that my family picked last year at Blueberry Bay, even the flour in the crust is from King Arthur, which is located less then 100 miles from my home.  The only things that weren't local in the meal were the lemon in the pie, the butter and the stuffing (which could have been local, if I had made it from scratch like I did last year!), though the sausage I mixed in was from the pig we bought from our friend's farm.  So yummy! 

The only thing we missed this year was the presense of any friends or family.  This is the first year in a long time that we've not shared the day with someone else.  It adds a wonderful factor to the day to share with others in the day of thanks.

Wishing you a local holiday for your family, ~Peacemom

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Breathe...just breathe...

I am so very happy to be able to report that Music Man has obtained a new job!  He will be working for a company that does solar installations on commercial buildings.  Not only is it a JOB, but a really COOL job!!  His official title is Solar Installation Designer.  Any job title that has the word solar in it, is okay by him.  Solar power has long been a passion of his and it's so awesome that not only did he finally get a job, but it's one he can contribute to the healthy future of our planet with.  We couldn't be happier, really.  Our long and unending prayers have been answered in a multitude of ways.  Thank you to all our family and friends who have been there on our side, rooting for us and praying for us.  We deeply appreciate your never-ending support.

And I am so very proud of my husband for never giving up the search, even when it was the last thing he wanted to  It's been a very tough 11 months, but he weathered it with as much grace as could be expected under the pressure of his feelings of responsibility for his family.  He is a hero to his children and myself.  You rock, Music Man.

And, I feel like I've been holding my breath since his phone call that told me he had been laid off again 11 long months ago. On Friday, another phone call from him allowed me to finally exhale and breathe in new air, new life, new hope. 

Just thankful to have another chance, ~Peacemom

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Turkeys, Birthday & Cupcakes

These are the little turkey cupcakes we came up with for Maestro's birthday.  As his actual birthday falls between Halloween & Thanksgiving, he wanted a Halloween themed birthday party and Thanksgiving cupcakes for his class.    So, I hunted around to websites to see what ideas were out there and came up with this one. 

We sure had a fun time shopping for the goodies to make them, then decorating them together.  He actually made the cupcakes all by himself ( I offered some help with the stand mixer and the in/out of the oven, but other then that he did it alone!), and was quite proud of himself.  I thought he did a great job!

So, we have a rafter of turkeys (it's really what they are called in a group, go ahead, Google it, you know you want to!) to please his friends in class with tomorrow.  And Little Red is NONE to happy that there aren't enough for him to have one as there were just enough cookies in the pack to make 20 cupcakes.  But, he's enjoying the left over candy corn!

Happy Birthday, Maestro!  8 years ago today, I wasn't yet a mother.  I was blessed to add you to my life and change it forever.  Music Man and I were very thankful to become a family with you and Little Red and tomorrow I celebrate your birth and the gift of you added to my life.  I love you, Yum....

~Wishing you the deep love for your child, ~Peacemom

Thursday, November 11, 2010

With Thanks

Today, Veteran's Day is one that has me torn.  As a Quaker, one of my deepest personal beliefs is pacifism.  So, the armed forces is something I struggle with personally.

But, as an American, I recognize that our country would not be the place it is today without our troops defending our shores.  There are many things about the military and it's actions that I can't agree with.  But, I'm able to take this on a more personal level as my nephew, Roberto, is in active duty in the Marines. He just came back from a long deployment in Afghanistan, having returned from a long deployment in Iraq before that.  I know the sacrifices my niece, Melissa and he have had to make.  They've been apart more of their 5 year marriage then they have been together because of his deployments.  The sacrifices on those levels sure become a whole lot more personal when you see it in your own family.  He's not one of a lot of faceless Marines to me, but he's the face of all the men and women in service.  The sacrifices they make for what they believe to be important is astronomical.  For that, I am grateful.

So, to all the servicepeople who feel called to duty to defend our country, I humbly thank you for your sacrifices.  It seems like it's insufficient, just a simple thank you.  But it comes from my heart and with deep respect for your commitment and sense of duty.  Thank you from this little family in New Hampshire.

Grateful and humbled, ~Peacemom

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


For whatever reason, Autumn is a time of deep reflection for me.  I'm not sure if that's true for everyone, but for me, it's a time to sit and think back on the year that's past.  To take stock in what has been great in the year and what has not.  As I'm reflecting on 2010, it's been one of almost constant stress for our family.  It started with Music Man being laid off again at the end of January and has not stopped since.

I'm not a person who likes to dwell on stress.  Generally, I acknowledge that it exists, solve the problems that I can and move on.  But this year has been filled with too many problems I just can't solve.  Can't get my husband a new job, can't sell the condex that's dragging us down, can't make a family member's battle with very rare cancer any easier, can't take away my husband's feelings of helplessness as he works every day to try to find a job, can't take away the problems my son is having with a bully at school, can't solve the money concerns that are coming more pressing as unemployment rolls on, can't remove myself from a physically unhealthy job right now, or the worry of health insurance ending soon....the list goes on and on.  I have spent many, many a sleepless night trying to work up solutions for these things.  So far, can't seem to do it. 

As a spiritual person, I have always believed that God does not give you more then you can handle.  This is the year that I have changed my mind about that.  I am most certainly dealing with a whole lot more then I can handle right now.  It's causing me to throw up my hands in despair a lot more often.  I guess the only choice I do have is the old saying, "Let go, let God"...if only God would pay the rent and make sure my kids have food and clothes, I could surrender to that.  But, it doesn't work like that, does it?

The picture above is one of the reasons I feel I continue each day.  My deep appreciation and reverance for nature, which is my church, is one of the things I turn to when I'm needing to feel closer to God.  I also sing.  Singing has a strange release for me that nothing else has.  As my friend Elsa will tell you, I've sung my whole life. It used to drive her crazy that I sang all the time.  But for whatever reason, it is a form of prayer for me, a release and a connection to something else.  I don't know why, it just is and has always been.  I have not been singing enough since Music Man and I have been sharing an office.  I used to put on music and sing when no one was home.  Now that we're sharing the same space all the time, I don't want to disturb him. So my pipes remain silent except on the rare occasion that I'm in the car alone.  Then it's full volume and singing at the top of my lungs, but it doesn't happen often enough anymore.  And alone time is preciously scarce, and I'm a person who really needs some alone, quiet time to be in my head.  I dearly love my family, but we all need some peaceful meditation time, don't we?

What do you do to rejuvenate when the stresses of life overwhelm you?  Is there somewhere you like to go, something you like to do to regroup and relax? 

Needing more to go right, ~Peacemom

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Hallow's Eve.....eeewwwwhhhhhooooo!

Here are my little ghostie Goblins on Halloween!  Little Red is of course, Spiderman.  I had to laugh, he kept saying he wanted to be Spiderman.  He has NEVER seen Spiderman in his young 6 years.  Too violent for our family taste.  So, I'm not sure which friend of his has a Spiderman obsession, but I'm thinking one of them must.  So, I kept telling him, you don't know who Spiderman is, him insisting he DOES TOO.  I didn't want to, but I caved and  bought him a Spiderman costume that I found at Big Lots. 

A few days later, I said to him, "Little Red, who did you want to be for Halloween?" 

He surprises me, after his vehement insistance that he wanted to be SPIDERMAN!, and says "I don't know yet".  This, after I already bought the costume, the little stinker. Which, I might add, I didn't want to buy in the first place (always, ALWAYS listen to your little inner voice, folks).  So I said to him, "Do you remember who you said you wanted to be?" 
"Nope" came the reply.  (GGGRRRRR)
So, I started to pull the costume out of the bag.  And I get it part way out and he's looking at it all befuddled.  "What's that?" he queries.  So, I pull out the mask, which as you can see is a dead giveaway. 
"Do you recognize it now?" I ask.
"What's that?" comes the reply.
Ummm...are we kidding?  I had tried and tried to tell him that he did not know who Spiderman is (I DO TOO!).  So, I said, "It's Spiderman, buddy". 
"That's not Spiderman" he firmly states.
"Oh but it IS,"  I tell him.  It was not until I showed him the package with the SPIDERMAN! label that he believed me.  And as you can see, he wore it whether or not he knew who that superhero was.  I was not going back to Big Lots!

Maestro wanted to be a mummy, so I spent almost 8 hours making an entire mummy costume from 3 yards of muslin and some thread.  He was so excited to have this costume and we all thought he looked great. 

We all had a fun time walking the dark street with the boys' Grandmother.  Halloween in our town is literally taken to an artform.  We even have one house that is owned by a retired professional opera singer who puts on a "Phantom Of The Opera" song every 10 minutes or so.  Hundreds of people walk along a 1/2 mile stretch of the oldest houses in town. 

Many decorate their houses to the nines, some have haunted houses in their barns or haunted corn mazes and the college even gets in on the act with a candy/water stop for the kids.  A local horse person dresses up like the headless horseman and gallops up and down the street (and it's a fantastic costume, too.  So very cool).

There is a huge pirate ship where the homes owners dress up like pirates and hand out the candy to all the unsuspecting kiddies. 

Our town takes Halloween to a whole new level!  Very fun and I've never seen anything like it in any other place I've ever lived.  A very fun Halloween indeed!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

"You're Kinda a Homemade, Mommy, aren't you?"

Today, I had to smile.  My almost 8 year old  Maestro asked me to make lunch for him.  I was fishing in the fridge for the cheese to make a quesadilla for him.  As I've got my head in the cold box, he says to me, out of the blue, "You're kinda a homemade Mommy, aren't you?".

I wasn't quite sure what he meant, so I said "well, that depends on what you mean, I guess".  His understanding of that went like this:

"I mean, you make most stuff from homemade, don't you?"

It didn't take me long to answer that with a resounding, "yes, that's very true". 

"Because it's healthier" came his reply. 

By God, I really think some of this is getting through. Just when you think your message isn't making it through the car racing, music drumming, sports obsessions in his head, he comes out with something like that.

I leaned over, gave him a big kiss on the head, and simply said, "That's right, you've got it."  Meanwhile, my internal grin could not have been bigger.  Sometimes it's the seemingly simple things that can just make your whole month.

Wishing you the knowledge that your guidance gets through the static sometimes, ~Peacemom

Sunday, October 24, 2010

October Camping

I can not believe it's been 20 days since I posted on here last.  Wow, and what the heck?  I have no idea where the time has flown to, just crazy.

Last week we took the kids out of school for one of our famous "homeschool days".  We went camping up at Recompence Shores Campground, our very favorite campground in the world.  It's located in Freeport, Maine, the home of LL Bean mothership as I like to call it.  It's the headquarters, largest retail store and outdoor adventure school all rolled into one HUGE campus.  We didn't buy anything, but did have a great time roaming around the store dreaming about all the stuff we'd love to have.  The boys are infatuated with the huge fish wall there which has a little dome where they can stand and actually be up inside the tank.  It's quite fun.
When we arrrived at the campground, the annual fall festival was happening at the farm.  This campground is located surrounding a free range cattle farm.  The kids has a great time feeding sheep and goats...

Seeing the HUGE Belgian workhorses pull...

and watching some live music played by Squash N' Gourds, a little family bluegrass band, really quite good.  Music doesn't get better then when listened to perched on some straw bales...

We had a marvelous time and got to see a gigantic pig bale, no really, it was just that, a pig bale...

 And among all the animals there, this handsome young man was watching over his ladies...

The sheep seemed to take it all in stride...

And the world's cutest calf.  We used to call them Oreo Cows (though their real name is Belted Galloway), but Little Red renamed them Whoopie Pie Cows in honor of our treats from Wicked Whoopie in Freeport...

We had so much fun, and I will write more in another post, but it was great time that included lots of outdoor time, games of cards, a resurgence of a beloved kayak, lots of fishing and a much needed break from the stress of our lives here. 

Wishing you a fun autumn tradition of your own,  Peacemom