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