Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Chix Packin' Stix

Where in the world did January go?  And half of February?  We just celebrated Christmas, didn't we?  Well, this post is about a really fun, craft retreat!

This is my friend, Cindy.  She is such a hoot!  Her face shows exactly how I felt at this year's Chix Packin' Stix craft retreat.  Wow!  This was the 3rd retreat for my buddy, Joyce, and I to coordinate and hold.  We went from 16 ladies at our 1st retreat, to 27 at our 2nd retreat, and 37 at this retreat!  Word is getting out!  We max out at 40, so we are almost there!

Well, as you can see, there is a little bit of knitting and crocheting going on!  We teach a beginner class for each on Friday evening.  Terri is an amazing knitter, artist, and overall crafter extraordinaire!

We made some cards using rubber stamps, chalk, bedazzles, and colored paper!  So much fun!  Each of us made 4 cards with different themes.  They turned out super cute!

We made some beautiful inspiration flags!  Joyce loves motorcycles, so she's having fun with the "Hog" fabric!  I think Joyce is on No-Doze here since she and I were up 'til 4 am the night (er...morning of) before.  Hey, girls just wanna have fun!

I love this one!  Too cute!  There were an incredible variety of flags being made.  I still need to finish mine.  Of course, mine has chickens on it.  Just sayin'...

Linda Mehler, from Wildflower Studio in McKinney, Texas, taught us how to needle felt these cute Easter eggs.  That was amazing!  I've never had the band width to even try this before, but found it amazingly simple and relaxing.  For those of us who don't have much creativity, Linda provided rubber stamps to stamp patterns on our eggs.  We then felted fiber over the designs.  Very unique!

We had spinners spinning fleece into yarn!  This is Mitchie.  This woman has more talent in her little toe than I have in my entire body!  She does EVERYTHING!  Just an incredible lady...  Super sweet, too!  I wish I had a shot of all of the other ladies that were spinning.  I think we had 5 ladies doing this.  Spinning is VERY relaxing!

This is a "Getting to know you" activity with yarn, to be later made into a scarf!  Yep, it looks just about as crazy as it was!  And noisy, too!  37 ladies cackling at the same time can get pretty loud!

 Some of us made scarves and rugs out of a peg loom!  This is an incredibly easy craft, too.  For those of you with a lack of patience, this is a great tool!  You can make a scarf in little to no time.  Really... it's that incredible!

Others made shawls using a tri-loom!  Remember those placemats you made in Kindergarten when you were learning about the pilgrims and the Indians?  The ones where you would weave the construction paper in and out, in and out, alternating the colors, to make a woven placemat?  That's what this is like.  You weave the yarn in and out, up and down the triangle board, but instead of using your fingers to weave, you use a long sort of crochet hook. This is another really unique craft!

We always work on a charity project at each of our retreats.  For this retreat, we crocheted edging around fleece blankets.  We'll be donating these blankets to Medical City of Dallas and Parkland Hospital's NICU.  Some of the blankets will also be used as lap blankets for older kids going through chemotherapy at the hospitals.

Of course, we always make time for eating lots of great food, too!  We have a baked potato and soup bar Friday night.  We have continental breakfasts on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  The rest of the time we head on over to the chow hall for some grub.  I really sound like I'm getting into the character, don't I?  I didn't say I WAS a character.  I said I was getting INTO character.  Just clarifying...

 The sleeping accommodations are fantastic, with many rustic hotel rooms holding anywhere from 4 - 6 people in a room.  There are also two cabins that hold up to 10 ladies.  Very rustic, as well.  Aren't these cute?  Keepin' with the ranch theme here!

 The views at the Lone Oak Ranch are so beautiful!  It's quiet and peaceful.  We had amazing weather for January, early February!  We still managed to sneak in a fire in the fireplace, though.  'Cause we wanted to.  Enough said...

We even had some cardinals show up outside of our general purpose room trying to figure out what all of the ladies were doing.  They were probably trying to figure out why so many ladies were peaking through the window staring at them, as if they had never seen a bird before!  Seriously... there were about 6 of these beautiful birds hanging out just outside the window.  Bonus!

We intentionally schedule twice a year to get together, relax, craft, and enjoy some girl friend time! Who doesn't want three days to get away from the hectic business of every day life?  Retreating away into the country in a little western theme town with somewhere around 40 other ladies, all trying to spend a little time relaxing and having fun.  We spend time filling up our energy tanks so we can, in turn, head back to our lives ready to fill other people's tanks.  It's kind of hard to do that when you yourself are running on empty. 

But really, the entire weekend is about friendships.  Catching up with some long time friends and making new ones.  Yep, I've read over and over again the value of  having friendships. After all, isn't life too short to just rush through it? I hope you'll consider joining us sometime!  If you want more information, join our little group on Facebook.  Search for Chix Packin' Stix.  Live vicariously through us or join in on the fun!  The choice is yours!

Butchering chickens is not for the faint of heart

Every year about this time, we butcher chickens.  For the past three years, our daughter and youngest son have raised meat chickens for their FFA projects.  After the county show, the chickens are to be butchered.  It fills our deep freezer with delicious meat that we know was raised free of antibiotics, steroids, and were raised humanely.  Plus, another added bonus is that the chicken is absolutely DELICIOUS!

This year, however, we decided to do things a little different.  We purchased a large, deep sink from the Habitat for Humanity Store and built a large stand to place it on.  Our friend and partner in crime for this years butchering, Sergio, helped out with building the stand.  This thing was great!  We added a down spot for the drain that attached to a hose that we drug over to the pasture.  That way, we wouldn't have water pooling up around where we were working.  We also added a spout to the top that a host attached to, giving us fresh water to work with when cleaning the chickens.

 Another item added to the list was a chicken plucker.  In previous years, we have skinned the chickens.  It is very tedious and also takes away the skin which is useful in keeping the meat moist while cooking.  This is the frame for the plucker.

 I put all of the rubber "fingers" into the blade of the plucker.  This thing rotates around and literally removes all of the feathers from the dead chicken.

 Here are a couple of our helpers bringing the chickens into our butchering area, from the barn.  We had 44 chickens to butcher this day.

Here is a picture of the inside of the chicken plucker.  The large plate, shown earlier, sits on the bottom of the plucker and more "fingers" are stationed on the sides of the barrel.

Here is a picture of Sergio using the plucker. We shoot water, from the hose, into the plucker while it is operating, to help wash the feathers out.

 And here is a shot of my brother, Lynn, using our new sink!  Love, love, LOVE it! (I love him, too!)

 Our resident comedian on staff was my sister-in-law, Jennifer.  She was cracking us up throughout the process!  I love her!

Finally, after all of the birds were processed, we used a different process to bag the meat.  These bags shrink when heat is applied.  So, the meat becomes vacuum sealed in these bags to provide better protection in the freezer.  They were fantastic!  We'll definitely be using these again.

 Here is the finished product!  22 whole chickens ready to go!  What a deal!

I hope you enjoyed the post!  Have a super day!

Chickens and MORE!

You know, you can just never have too many chickens!  LOL!  I love chickens.  I love the way they look, how they behave, and how they sound.  There is something therapeutic about chickens.  On nice days, I love to sit out under a large oak tree in my backyard and watch the chickens while I work. 

A recent purchase I made was for a new chicken waterer.  I love it!  Gone are the large tanks that need to be filled and cleaned all of the time! 

 The new waterer consists of a pvc pipe with small, metal nipples inserted on the bottom.  A float valve automatically fills the pvc pipe with water.  The chickens and ducks simply walk up to the waterer and hit it with their beaks, dispensing droplets of water into their mouths.  They really seem to like it!

The chickens and ducks took quickly to the new setup.  I love that the water is always clean and available.  

 Here is a little video showing our ducks in action with the new watering system.  Again, I can't speak highly enough of this new system.  It's the little things in life that make me happy!  Ha ha!  I get so excited when I find a new toy for the barn.  Hey, this toy makes my barn chores a little easier, too, and THAT makes me happy!

And as if we don't already have enough chickens, look what else arrived!  I ordered another 40.  It's an addiction!  No, really, we have so many egg customers that are interested in free range, non-GMO, non-Soy eggs, that we can't keep up with the demand.  So, we're adding to our numbers.  Aren't they cute?!? 

It's just a little bit more of my slice of heaven!  Living the life...


Monday, January 12, 2015

Collin County Junior Livestock Show

Okay, this post is going to be a bragging post on my youngest two kids!  There.  I got it out.  Now you know.  The Collin County Junior Livestock Show is a BIG show for FFA students.  We had a huge number of students from the three Plano high schools do well again at this year's show!

Hailey, again, showed both her poultry and 2 heifer projects.  Here she is with Alex Wilson, the owner of the two heifers Hailey is showing this year.  This is a picture of London.  She has been quite a handful to halter train this year, but she has turned out to be quite a beautiful Brangus!

Here Hailey is with her 2nd year project, Malibu.  Malibu, also a Brangus, is due in April sometime with her first calf.  She will be shown for a final time at the San Antonio Rodeo and Stock Show.  After that, she returns to the pasture to be a breeding mama.

Here was a surprise!  Hailey was on the front page of the Murphy Monitor on January 15th!  Congratulations to her for getting Reserve Breed Champion with Malibu!  I love this picture of her.  I need to see if I can get the Murphy Monitor to give me a copy of this picture.  Hailey's poultry didn't fair so well at the show.  More on that in another post.

Here Harrison is with his rabbit pen.  He did great and made 7th place overall, getting him a place in the Premium Auction on Saturday.  Here is a little plug for the Plano East FFA group (notice his jacket?).  This has been such an awesome experience for my kids.  Hailey was so shy before starting in her FFA career.  She hadn't found a place where she "fit in".  Karen Buechman, her FFA advisor at Plano East, commented on how shy Hailey was.  We've watched her blossom and grow in confidence and leadership, through the years.  Hailey has served as an officer at Plano East (she is president this year) and at the district level (Vice President) for FFA.  This year, she even made the top 4 in her small animal management proficiency at the National FFA Convention!  FFA has taught her so much!  FFA has been quite an encouragement for Harrison, too.  I can't wait to see where it takes him on his journey of learning!

Overall, Plano ISD had 29 students make the Premium Auction from the Collin County Junior Livestock Show.  That's amazing!  Congratulations to all of the students on a job well done!