In February of 2009, my husband and I bought our first home located on a few acres in Johnson, Vermont. We live here with our dog, Ollie, two cats: Elvis and Atticus, six Nigerian Dwarf goats: May, Chutney, Poppy, Juniper, Willow, and Jokers Wild, and about fifteen laying hens. And to top it all off we welcomed our daughter, Isabel, into the world on January 11th, 2011.

We're slowly updating our 1850's farmhouse while steadily working towards a healthy, meaningful, self-sufficient life together.

This blog details our endeavors along with our successes and failures- all in good fun. Thanks for stopping by, hope to see you again soon!


May and I enjoying some sunshine


Its good to be back

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Monday, March 29, 2010 0 comments

Hey folks!

I apologize for my prolonged absence.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was off on a business trip to Texas/Mexico for the week.  But, happily, I am back home and seriously happy that I missed out on the snow that stopped by our house while I was away.  We are getting a head-start on the 'April showers' here and I'm just hoping that our spring flowers, that really got going over the past month, are going to tolerate the weather alright.  Here's a quick update on the farm happenings:

I got an email from our hatchery last week that our order of chicks will be shipping out on the 31st, this Wednesday.  So we'll have eighty chicks peeping away come the end of the week.  I'm definitely looking forward to their arrival but its always a little difficult when we work full-time jobs as well.  I work from 7-3:30 so we get the call from the post office right as I'm getting to work- so Kyle will, most likely, have to deal with them himself.  This isn't usually too bad, but when there are so many and you have to dip all their beaks in water to teach them to drink, it takes some time.

Our bees will be ready for pick up in two weeks- April 12th.  I'm excited to get that new aspect of the farm going.  I'm hoping that they'll thrive and not have any health problems like we've been seeing all over.  Nothing to do but wait and see I suppose.

I swear the pigs have doubled in size since we bought them.  Brick Top is still the biggest and the BOSS over the other boys, Freddy has become quite friendly and I think Kyle and I are going to have an extra-difficult time sending him off to the butcher when his time comes.  We're really excited about the landscaping they've been doing in their pasture and we're looking forward to sectioning it off so we can plant some quick-growing vegetables for them for later this spring/summer.  Their tilling speed and power have really got us planning away at future gardening endeavors on the rest of our land.  Eventually we're going to start fencing off the rest of the land so we can do rotational grazing/gardening a little easier in the future.

Finally, the goats are still working away at growing their babies.  May is finally starting to look a little rounder in the mid-section, so I'm feeling fairly confident that her 'date' was successful.  Chutney is so big I can't even pick her up anymore without fear of throwing out my back.  And she's actually started making her udder.  It is measly right now, but I suppose that is to be expected as she doesn't need it for another month and a half.  I'm sure in the weeks to come she'll really kick it into high gear.  Her mother is still milking after giving birth to Chutney, so I'm confident about her dairy genes.

Exciting stuff.

You can get the girl off the farm....

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Sunday, March 21, 2010 0 comments

But she's not going to be happy about it.

Yes, thats right, folks I'm headed away for a week on my yearly trip down to Texas/Mexico.  Business, not pleasure.  That means I'll be leaving the farm in my hubby's capable hands, the poor guy.  On the up side, I'll be missing out on a week of cool, rainy weather that is the norm for Vermont in early spring.  But I'll miss being home none the less.  I'm a homebody, not a traveler.

Anyways, so we ordered our chickens a couple nights ago.  We'll be getting fify meat birds and twenty-five pullets for eggs.  Six of the pullets we'll be selling to Kyle's brother, Sean, who has a lovely forested piece of land where the chickens will have a field day eating all their ticks and whatnot.  Fifty broilers is definitely a little more than we need for the year, but we've got some friends and family who will be taking some off our hands once they make the transition from the barn to the freezer.

So, hopefully shortly after I return from my trip we'll be getting our chickens and our bees (which I am picking up April 12th).  Until then we'll just keep plugging away with our seed starting and garden planning.

Well folks, as tonight is my last night home until Friday, I'm off to enjoy some quiet time with my husband and our 'family'.  Hopefully I'll have a chance to check in while I'm away.  Happy spring!!

Local Deliciousness, Peanut butter style!

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Friday, March 19, 2010 2 comments

I have fond memories of my childhood.  It was a great time, I had the best parents ever (still do, in fact).  I remember hanging out at home when I was really little eating a peanut butter and fluff sandwich with some chicken noodle soup while watching The Price is Right.  Rubbing my little toes into the shag carpet (ok, not sure if it was really shag, but you know, it was that beautiful, shag-like, orange carpet) I'd munch away on some serious comfort food.

I don't watch The Price is Right anymore; it just isn't the same without Bob Barker (no offense Drew).  But anytime I hear the theme music or any reference to it I have an instant craving for a PB & fluff sandwich with chicken noodle soup.  To me, peanut butter is the key to some seriously hearty, easy meals and snacks: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, peanut butter and honey on toast, peanut sauce and noodles, peanut butter cookies, buckeyes (peanut butter balls covered in chocolate), peanut butter on a spoon.  Yum.

Peanut butter is right up there with eggs as being a super-food.  Full of great stuff like protein, fiber, vitamin E, iron, calcium, and potassium (though not as great a source as bananas, still pretty darned good), it's my favorite thing to bring on a day hike or bike ride up here in the mountains of Northern Vermont.

If you buy what I call 'traditional' peanut butter, you could be outweighing these healthy aspects with negative things like additional trans-fatty acids and carcinogenic mold.  So, buy all-natural, organic peanut butter.  Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

I have to say that I am one lucky gal that we've got a local company that makes up their very own peanut butter (as well as almond butter).  The Vermont Peanut Butter Company is situated right in the heart of Stowe, Vermont.  You can get everything from plain creamy or chunky peanut butter to my favorite: Champlain Cherry, which is a combination almond butter with chocolate and dried cherries mixed in.  Just thinking about it makes me drool all over my keyboard.  The Vermont Peanut Butter Company very well could be the biggest VT thing to hit the globe since Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

Although, currently, they're not nearly as large-scale as B & J's that is one of the things that is most important.  The Vermont Peanut Butter Company isn't owned by any big corporations (like Ben and Jerry's Unilever), run from a distance by people in business suits in a highrise(*Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream who, I hear, is going fully Fair Trade!*).  It is owned and operated by a handful of local folks (one of which happens to be a very dear friend of mine) who you could easily happen upon during an outing here in the Green Mountains. 

Now, you can't find their peanut butter just anywhere.  No, they don't supply the big chain stores like Price Chopper and Hannafords (trust me, I've looked) but you can get your very own jar of delicious goodness (or Karma, or Harvest) shipped straight to your house.  "How?" might you ask.  Well, my dear friends, they've got a nice little website where you can check out their story and maybe pick up a jar or two of anything that strikes your fancy.  I'll make a suggestion: get at least two jars.  Kyle and I went through a jar of Champlain Cherry in a week.

**I should note that I have not been paid or otherwise compensated for this endorsement- I'm just a girl loving her locally-produced products.**

Our Seedlings

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Tuesday, March 16, 2010 0 comments

I am so excited about our seedlings this year.  Last year's tomato plants were tall and spindly and didn't even last a day after I transplanted them outside into the garden.  Using techniques I've learned through The Vegetable Gardener's Bible our tomato seedlings are thriving.  They look so happy in their little containers, I can barely contain my excitement (please pardon the pun)!  Soon we'll be needing to move them into yet another container so they can have more room to spread out.

Transplanting left and right normally isn't my thing.  I know its important to have plants in big enough containers, but we rarely have enough pots to go around.  This year we're reducing the amount of juice and milk containers we send to the recycling center by using those as our planters.  We just cut the tapered tops off, leaving a decent-size vessel that we can fit either three seedlings initially, or one for the second transplanting.

The tomatos we're growing currently are "paste tomatoes"- so they boil down into sauces and pastes much quicker than other tomatoes that have a lot more liquid in them.  We're planning on growing regular tomatoes as well, so we will have our own canned, diced tomatoes and whatnot for soups, chilis, etc later in the year.  But I thought these would be a good start.

I just transplated our hot peppers on Wednesday as well.  They are still fairly small, but they take longer to germinate compared to the tomatoes (which seemed to sprout after only a couple days) so I'm not too concerned.  Last year the hot peppers that we started failed miserably...but I'm sick of buying chili powder so I'm determined to get a good pepper crop so I can dry and grind up my own.

Once all of the tomatoes, peppers, and various herbs had been successfully transplanted to their new 'pots' I started the next round of peppers and tomatoes (and rosemary).  Although it doesn't seem like alot right now, so we're going to order another couple seed packets of tomatoes to be sure we have enough (hopefully) to keep us covered until next year's crop comes in.

After realizing that we have 1000 square feet of garden the other night I've been kind of cutting loose with my ordering plans.  I added black beans and kidney beans into my shopping cart so hopefully we won't have to buy those this winter either.  I also ordered 12.5 pounds of seed potatos from Fedco today, who came highly recommended from a friend of ours.  I got a combination of storage potatos- and knowing how many potatos we eat I sincerely hope this will provide enough for us.

We'll order the rest of our seeds from High Mowing Seeds, I've got my shopping cart all filled, all I need to do is check with Kyle to be sure he doesn't want some strange something-or-other that I hadn't thought of.

Chutney (aka Mama Goat)

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Sunday, March 14, 2010 5 comments

This is what our little goat looked like last August.  Small, sleek.  Sooo cute.

She was such a little peanut, I could hold her and walk around all day, she was so little.  Well, we're pretty certain our little goat is going to have some kids in a couple months because she's really getting pretty round.  Check out her baby bump!

Its hard to really see because she's still so fuzzy with her winter coat, but when she puts her front feet up on something you can really see a big round belly.

I've added a section on the left-hand column of the blog that has countdowns to each doe's approximate due date so we can all be excited and anticipate the new additions together.  Chutney is due on May 19th and May is due June 22nd.

Success! I am a roofer!

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Friday, March 12, 2010 2 comments

Ok, I'm sure any genuine roofers out there wouldn't appreciate my work, but hey, I put up a metal roof yesterday all by myself so I think I get a few bragging rights.  Its not much to look at seeing as though it's just four sheets of salvaged metal roofing from when we tore down half our barn a year ago.  But, along with the plywood roof that is now underneath it, the shed should keep our four little piggies nice and dry for many rain/snow storms to come.  With the wet weather we are due to get in the next week and a half I was really pushed to get the roof finished so the precipitation wouldn't just seep through the cracks where the sheets of plywood meet.

Kyle and I had intended on finishing the roof last weekend but between finishing the electric fence for the pigs, all the lawn work, Relay for Life at Trapp Family Lodge, snowboarding at Jay Peak, and wedding dress shopping with my BFF, Ali, time got a little tight.  So, I decided that on Wednesday, the most beautiful day of the week (in the mid to upper 40s and sun sun SUN), I would take the day off from my '9-5' job to finish it up myself.

The first order of business was to sort through the sheets of roofing we had stashed away.  Not all of the sheets are really in great shape, but we kept them all because we figure there might be a time we need some cheap covering for something.  Like, its probaby OK to have a slightly leaky roof over what will someday be a cover for firewood (seeing as we'll probably cover it with a tarp as well).  So, once I sorted through and found a handful of extra-long, fairly-leak-proof panels of metal roofing I was ready to go.

I slid the first panel up onto the roof and positioned it so there was a bit of an overhang on all sides (especially on the front- due to the length of our panels it was either way to short or a bit too long).  I had all my tools on the roof so climbed up and got to work.  I used a combination of roofing nails and screws.  The nails punched through two layers of roofing alot easier than the screws but the screws were crucial along the edges of the roof where I couldn't quite see if I was hitting a 2x4 or not.    For the most part I used the pre-existing holes from where the roofing nails had been, but added a few extra here and there if the edges weren't sitting quite right.

It didn't take long at all to finish up the roof.  Before I knew it my main project of the day was finished and I was left wondering what I should do next.  I moved all the extra sheets of roofing to a new, tidier storage area behind where we keep our compost bin.  With right around 30 sheets of metal roofing, this took way more time and energy than finishing the pigs roof!  It was good to get them moved, though, because they had been stowed away within one of the pastures for the goats which just isn't the best location.

March's Lion has yet to show its face.

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Tuesday, March 9, 2010 0 comments

It was yet another GORGEOUS weekend!  Sunny and relatively warm in the low 40's.  On Saturday, Kyle and I spent the entire day outside trying to get some chores done.  We had a big pile of lath that had been buried under snow after our guest bedroom renovation last fall and, since the snow had receded, we were sick of looking at an ugly pile of wood in our front yard. 

After we cleared all the wood, I started raking up old leaves around the house that the girls had decided they didn't like.  After a little bit of raking and ripping up old, dead grass, I found a small city of spring flowers popping up in the gardens surrounding the house.  Spring has officially arrived at the Senesac Family Homestead!!  VICTORY!!!  I did my little happy dance and threw all the leaves and dried grass over the mud pit going out to the barn in hopes that it would prevent me from slipping and falling on my rear end in weeks to come.

Lawn work hadn't really been on our agenda for the day.  Really we were just planning on cleaning up the lath and running the electric fence for the pigs' pasture.  But once I saw how nice the house looked without the dead stuff cozying-up to it I decided to keep going.  Kyle and I raked leaves and broke down dead shoots from last year's flowers, throwing all the goodies either over the mud pit I mentioned earlier or right into the pigs' pasture.  We did bring a couple armloads of dried leaves over to the girls, who had retreated to their window seat for a nap after spending the morning on their outdoor platform.

It was glorious working outside without jackets and hats to keep us warm.  The sun was shining down on us as we toiled away in our flower gardens for the first time.  Last year we were too preoccupied with home renovations in compliance with the requirments of our home loan to have any fun come spring.  We had hastily planted a garden and promptly went on to other projects: primarily getting ready for our wedding.  That was the extent of our gardening. 

Of course, now, having seen all the bulbs that are sprouting I can say with confidence that we have WAY too many flowers in our flower beds.  The poor crocuses, tulips, and lilies have been multiplying for years and have become a little cramped.  I think its too late to 'divide and conquer' this year, but now I know the situation and will put it on my gardening 'To Do' list for this fall.

At this point we've only got a little more snow left in our yard, which I am seriously considering spreading out so it melts a little faster....

Make your own wraps!

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Tuesday, March 2, 2010 2 comments

Ok, time for part two of my Sunday Kitchen-Extravaganza!

I don't know about you, but Kyle and I really enjoy a good, wrapped sandwich.  Whether it be a burrito, curried fish and rice, or even some quesadillas, we really enjoy using wraps.  Ok, I know that traditionally with Mexican food we should be using corn tortillas, but I really like whole wheat, so thats what we use.  Anyways, so as I mentioned yesterday, these wraps are one of the two last bread products we still buy.  But as of yesterday we've stricken it from the grocery list.

Just a quick note that on Sunday I made wraps using KAF Unbleached All Purpose White flour, not whole wheat, just because that was the recipe I came across in my King Arthur Flour Bakers Companion book that I recently bought.  I'm going to try it out with some whole wheat flour next time, I'll let you know how it goes.

Ok, so here we go.  Start off with 1.25 cups of water on the stove and get it boiling.  Once its bubbling away pour it into two cups of your flour.  Mix it all together pretty well with a spoon and then set it aside, covered, for about half an hour (until it cools).

While that's sitting get the rest of your ingredients mixed together:
1 cup of flour
1/4 cup potato flour (or 1/2 cup potato flakes- which I happened to have in the back of the cupboard)
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil (the recipe called for veggie oil, we only have EV olive oil at our house...tasted fine to me)

In a small bowl I mixed together 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast with about a quarter cup of warm water.  I let it sit for the thirty minutes while the water/flour mixture cooled.  The recipe actually called for instant yeast, in which case you can just mix it in with the potato flour, salt, etc, but I don't have instant yeast at the house so we use what we've got, right?

Ok, moving on.

Once the flour/water mixture is cool, add the rest of the ingredients to it, stirring it as well as you can, but trust me, you'll have to get in there with your hands to really get it all incorporated.  It'll seem a little hopeless at first, but you'll get there.  After kneading it for a few minutes, form it into a ball, cover it lightly and let it rise in a greased bowl for an hour.  Oh, and I guess its important to use as little flour as possible while kneading, KAF actually recommends using a little bit of oil to keep it from sticking to everything as opposed to flour.  But I didn't read that far ahead so I used flour (not alot, I'm a frugal lady), and trust me, they turned out just fine.

After the initial rising has finished, break the dough up into smaller pieces (I made them a little bigger than a golf ball, which yielded 12 smaller portions), and then let these rest, covered, for another 15-30 minutes.  This is when things start to get a little hectic.

Its hectic because these suckers only take 1-2 minutes per side to fry (over medium/medium-high heat), and this just happens to be the exact about of time it takes for me to roll them out.  I rolled them out to be pretty big, and really thin (we're talking about 9" in diameter and about 1/16" to 1/8" thick).  Once it is all rolled out, carefully pick it up by the edges and lay it down in a dry frying pan (no oil, no butter, nothing). 

Frying them is interesting in that huge bubbles form causing the wrap to balloon-up while you're trying to cook it.  Personally, I popped the bigger bubbles with the tine of a fork to try to get them to cook more evenly (if you go this route BE CAREFUL, hot steam escapes which continually singed my fingers if I wasn't careful).

After each one was done cooking I placed it on a wire rack, stacking them all up to keep them soft until they were all done.  I let them sit for an hour or two until I was ready to finish my day up by making some chicken/bean burritos.  Kyle and I each had two burritos (after baking all day I realized I hadn't had any lunch!) and decided that these home-made wraps were awesome!  After dinner we were left with eight wraps that I bagged and put in the fridge to eat for lunch the next couple of days.

And looky here: I found an online recipe at the King Arthur Flour website for this, so you can print out the recipe and try it yourself!  Let me know how it goes!

A Quiche in Time Saves Nine.

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Monday, March 1, 2010 0 comments

Sunday was an incredibly busy day for me.  Kyle was working one more day for his old boss to pay off his new cross-country ski boots (only had to work two days for some wicked nice boots) so I had some time to kill.  He didn't have to be at work until 10:00, so in the morning, we worked together on the new kitchen pantry that Kyle's been working on for the past week.  We're so close to being done, really only need the doors to be made and hung, but our quirky, old house is definitely making things difficult with the slightly slanted ceiling and floors.  Oh well, we're quirky, too, so it all works out.
After Kyle headed out I made myself a quick "to do" list (these things are the only way I can find to keep myself on track) and set a few old movies to play on my laptop while I worked away in the kitchen.

To Do:
Make Quiches
Make Bread Dough
Make Pasta?
Make Flour Tortillas (aka, wraps)
Do Dishes
Strip meat off chicken for dinner (we had roasted a week ago, then I made stock a few nights ago)

After a couple weeks of not selling eggs and not seeing any family/friends (therefore not giving away any eggs either) we found our fridge loaded down with too many full egg cartons.  So my first order of business for the day was to make a few quiches for the freezer.  To start things off, I made a double-batch of pie crust:

2.5 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
enough cold water to just bring it all together with some work

You know the drill: cut in the shortening until you have little pea-sized pieces then carefully add water to bring it all together. 

I split the chunk of dough in half, rolled each piece out to about 1/8" thick, pressed them into a couple glass pie plates, and threw them in a 450 degree oven (covered in foil) for 8 minutes, then for another 5 minutes uncovered.

While the pie crust cooled I whipped up 16 eggs with about 2 cups of milk.  Then set 2 cups of chopped mushrooms, a tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper, and a teaspoon or so of dried thyme in a pan to saute.  When that was set I poured it into one crust, topped it with a couple handfuls of shredded mozzarella cheese, and covered the whole thing with about half of the egg mixture.

In the second crust I had about two cups of chopped spinach, and some quartered, canned artichokes that I had on hand.  After adding a handful or so of shredded mozzarella cheese and the rest of the egg mixture I tossed them both in the oven (at 325 degrees) for about an hour (just until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean).

These little beauties came out looking delicious, smelling amazing, and I set them on some wire racks to cool completely (after all, these were for later, last-minute meals, not for a day I had all the time in the world).  Once they cooled, I covered them in two layers of tin foil, then wrapped with plastic wrap before throwing them in the freezer (marked with the date and description of the quiche) with the last of our chickens and apple cider.

After quickly scrubbing all my used bowls, utensils, etc, I threw all the ingredients for my bread dough in the mixer and got it kneading away while I got to work on the rest of my list.

By the end of the day my 'to do' list looked like this:

Make Quiches
Make Bread Dough
Make Pasta
Make Flour Tortillas
Do Dishes
Strip meat off chicken for dinner

On top of that I made two apple turnovers for dessert with the leftover pie crust (there's ALWAYS a little leftover when I roll out my crusts) using just a diced up apple, a tiny bit of honey, and a splash of vanilla extract.  I was pretty happy with myself.  Though, I was a little bummed I didn't get to try making pasta, but seeing as I'd never made wraps before I was pretty psyched to have been able to try something new that day.  Wraps and english muffins are the only two bread products we buy anymore.  One down, one more to go.

Tomorrow I'll post how I made the tortillas- because they turned out AMAZING and weren't all that difficult.  I'm hoping to make another batch or two soon so we can have some stored in the freezer.  Have I mentioned how much I love our chest freezer?  Well, I do.