Old-Fashioned Cabin Raising

29 April 2009

higgscabin2Last summer, 11 people and 6 dogs made the trek up the mountain to assemble this mountain cabin.  Kymberly’s Dad designed the building from scratch, and he pre-built as much as possible (floor, stud walls, dormers) back in Kansas. With lots of hard work by everyone, in a little over a week we had an air-tight, solid structure on our property.  The following is a 2-minute timelapse video of the project.  One photo was taken every 5 minutes for 9 days. This summer it’s time to finish the interior.


Blue-Ribbon Honey Oatmeal Muffins

29 April 2009


You are looking at Kansas State Fair PURPLE-Ribbon winning Honey Oatmeal Muffins. No kidding.  I won that purple ribbon more than 20 years ago.  (I originally posted it as a Blue ribbon, but my dear mother corrected me. For you non-4-Hers, purple is better than blue.) An elderly lady at our church gave me permission to use the recipe, and the judges apparently liked them.  Our family has been liking them ever since.  It’s one of our favorite breakfast treats.  I’ve amended the recipe just a smidge to fall in line with our organic principles, but they still taste so good you forget they are (mostly) healthy.  The complete recipe is at the end of this post.

ho-muffins-1To make Honey Oatmeal Muffins, you start with oatmeal, of course.  We use organic, but any instant oats will do.

ho-muffins-2Add all the dry ingredients together in a bowl first.  Sometimes I sift the flour, sometimes I don’t.  Lillyan likes to sift, so today we’ll sift.

ho-muffins-3Once you’ve added the oatmeal, flour, brown sugar (I know, brown sugar is not exactly all natural — I’m still working on an alternative for this recipe), and baking powder, combine them and make a well in the center for the remaining liquid ingredients.

ho-muffins-4Instead of vegetable oil (which is banned at our house), I now use coconut oil in these muffins.  You have to get some Coconut Oil — it will be your new best friend — for your skin, your hair, your baby’s behind and your muffins.  Check out my organic gourmet friend’s post about Coconut Oil.  At 76 degrees Fahrenheit, coconut oil is a solid, like you see here.  So, if I want to be sure it’s all incorporated throughout a recipe, I heat it up just a tad bit (depending how warm my house is that day).

ho-muffins-5At 77 degrees Fahrenheit, coconut oil looks just like any other cooking oil.  Except it isn’t just any other cooking oil.  Here are some of the latest studies.

ho-muffins-6We use local, raw, unfiltered honey at our house.  Did you know local honey can be a treatment for seasonal allergies?  Sure tastes good too.


Besides the coconut oil and honey, I’ve also added a cage-free, hens-fed-organic-vegetarian-diet egg, and raw milk.  Yep, I said raw milk.  Straight from the cow’s udder to our muffins.  Then we mix it all together …

ho-muffins-8… and fill our muffin cups.  For some reason this recipe only makes 10 muffins, instead of 12.  Maybe it’s because Lillyan keeps licking the spoon.  (Don’t worry, we’re not sharing this batch.  If I make these for you, I’ll make her wait until we’re finished to lick the spoon.  Yes, I know there is a raw egg in there.  Discussion for another day.)

Put them in a 375 degree oven, and in 15 minutes …


… Honey Oatmeal Muffins.  All-natural.  We spread a little butter on the tops when they are hot (homemade butter if we have it that day — yes, made from raw cream).

You don’t have to be as big a freak as I am with the ingredients, but let me know if you give them a try.

Happy Breakfast!

Honey Oatmeal Muffins

1 1/2 cup Oatmeal
1 cup Flour
1/3 cup Brown Sugar
1 Tbls Baking Powder
2/3 cup Milk
1/3 cup Oil
1 Egg
1/4 cup Honey
Combine all dry ingredients.  Make a well, add liquid ingredients.
Bake at 375 degress for 15 minutes

Worms Are Eating Our Food

28 April 2009

worms1-01Why is Lillyan looking through a bin of rotting food and dirt?  She is looking for worms.  They “help me feel better,”  she says.

With all the gardening going on around here lately, we’ve decided to start composting as well.  But not just good ole, garden-variety, big pile in your backyard composting  —  vermicomposting!

Vermicomposting means using earthworms to aid in the process.  Everything you could ever want to know about it is here, at Worm Digest.  Worms eat organic matter and turn it into enriched soil.  They are little, wiggly natural fertilizer factories.


worms1-02This is our worm bin.  It came from Worms Wrangler, but there are plenty of places on the web to find one.  Ours has five trays and a drip pan with a spout for “worm tea.”  We’ll talk about the tea another day. 

The idea is that you fill the bottom tray, the worms completely compost whatever is in there and then they move up to the next tray.  You don’t have to mound and sort and dry out and separate your worms from your compost like you do in a traditional worm bin. 


worms1-03The worms need bedding along with all the old food, and from my research, Coconut Coir is their favorite.  Lord knows we want these worms to be happy!  Coir fibers are found between the husk and the outer shell of a coconut, and coir is a sustainable resource.  It is sold in compressed blocks like this, but I didn’t need near that much, so I cut one in half with my trusty hand saw.  More difficult than you might think.  That’s one dense block of coconut hair.


worms1-04You have to soak the coconut coir in a bucket of water.  That one half-brick was way too much for this bucket.  As you can see it’s still pretty dense in there.  Be sure you give yourself plenty of room for coconut hair expansion, I guess.  Who knew.



Then squeeze the excess water out of the coir and you have worm bedding!  Those worms are just going to be in worm heaven … wait … Would EARTHworms enjoy heaven?



Then you add a couple of handfuls of organic potting soil, and voila, a five-star hotel for Red Wigglers.  Just wait until they hear about the 5-course meals!


worms1-08It’s helpful to have a two-year-old mix it all up for you while you take the photos.



Most compost bins just love grass clippings, so Daddy has been saving these for us, but we discovered worms are just not that into them.  They can’t be bothered with grass when there are organic navel orange peels to eat.  Guess the grass clippings have to go.


worms1-10This is the stainless steel pail that sits on our kitchen counter for collecting food for vermicomposting.  It has filters in the lid, so even though there may be strawberry tops growing fuzz in the bottom, you’d never smell it.  We put all our fruit and vegetable waste in here, but no meats, fish or dairy.


worms1-11Again, try to get a two-year-old to do your dirty work.  She’s mixing up the old food with all the presoaked coconut coir and a tiny bit of potting soil.



All set.  Now all we are missing are the worms.  We wait eagerly everyday for the mail lady to arrive.  (Worms come in the mail, didn’t you know that?)



Delivered fresh by your US Postal Service:  two-pounds of Red Wiggler Earthworms.  There are about 2000 of those little guys in that sack (according to the seller). They are packed with a little more of, yep, you guessed it, coconut coir.  Lucky worms.


worms1-14Here they are, in all there wiggly, rotten-food-lovin’ glory.  Lillyan was thrilled.



Yes, we used our hands to mix them all up with the old food and coir.  Nothing like squishly earthworms and black banana peels under your fingernails.   Now those worms just need to get to eating!



Everyday we peek in at our worms.  Lillyan insists on telling them “night night” before every nap or bedtime.  They are shy creatures, though, so she has to make it quick.  They hate the light, so when we take the lid off, they dive under the surface. 

Now we just wait …  and let the earthworms feast at their all-inclusive resort. 

We’ll let you know what happens in this riveting tale of rotting food and squirmy worms.

SPOILER ALERT:  We started this project about a month ago, and boy, have those worms been busy.  Stay tuned for more.

A Liberating View

28 April 2009

blog-ranch-sunset-for-webAhhh …  sunset.  Travis’ favorite time of day.  Whenever we are at Liberty Ridge Ranch, we take time out to enjoy the sunset and are rarely disappointed.  Those are the awe-inspiring Sangre de Cristo mountains, named “Blood of Christ” for the color they turn with the sunRISE hits them.  We’re more sunset kind of people, so it may be a while until you see sunrise photos on here.  The banner at the top of this site showcases their majesty even better (it’s the future view from our front porch).  What a testament to the Creator.


blog-sunset-from-higline-trailHere’s another sunset, looking in a different direction in the middle of summer.  The sun is setting directly over the Collegiate range at that time of year. (The photo above was taken in January.)


blog-chainsaw-and-fireIn case the sunsets just aren’t flaming enough for us, the ranch is a perfect place for a daily/nightly bonfire.  We still have plenty of brush piles that need clearing from when our driveway was built.  There’s not too much Travis loves more than a good day of chainsawing.  Maybe someday he’ll long for his white collar job in retrospect, but for now, a good fire and some piñon pine to cut up make him very happy.


blog-ranch-backsideHere’s a view from east of our 35 acres looking down at our meadow and two peaks.  We still can’t believe we will get to live there full time someday, Lord willing.


blog-meadow-flowersDown in that meadow we have a creek running through, and the springtime brings beautiful Colorado wild flowers.


blog-late-summer-viewUsually by late summer, the Sangres have finally lost their snow.  We long for the pleasant days, afternoon thunderstorms and cool, quiet nights filled with a million stars during these sweltering desert summers. 



This was taken from what we call “The Top of the World”.  It’s about 400 feet above the meadow floor and 100 feet above the future house site.  Obviously, this is our “happy place.”  We’d love to share it with you.

Lilly and Daisies

25 April 2009


In her daisy-belted Easter Dress, Lillyan was a willing model in our ever-evolving home studio.



Here’s a tight shot with our new 31mm f/1.8 portrait lens.  We shoot with a Pentax K10D.



She is always ready with a smile (as long as snacks are promised when we are finished).



It might appear that she’s saying, “Oh, Momma, this is so embarrassing”, but actually, it’s “Where me?  I still hiding!”  We do this over and over all day.


“Oh, you found me!”


And now, for my favorite shot of all …



Since we got married, I’ve said I wanted to have a little girl who had her Daddy’s eyes.  Lucky me.

Next time won’t you sing with me.

25 April 2009

Lillyan is learning the alphabet song, but she still gets stuck like a broken record at times. We’re pleased that everything is about letters for her right now, and she points out our “names” all day when she sees the letter for Mommy, Daddy, Pappy, GeeBee, Grammy and Gramps, VeeVee, Aaron, Tyler, Justice or Liberty. Surely reading is just around the corner for this 2.3 year old!

Painted Ladies

15 April 2009

butterflies-0Wanna know what Lillyan’s Aunt VeeVee gave her for her second birthday?  This Painted Lady butterfly.  Here’s her story …

butterflies-1Along with the Live Butterfly Pavillion that she unwrapped at her party, there was a voucher for Painted Lady caterpillars.  We sent the voucher in the mail, and two weeks later ten tiny caterpillars arrived.  They were about the size of a two-year-old’s fingernail.

butterflies-3The caterpillars grew VERY quickly, feeding off the special food that came supplied in their sealed little containers.

butterflies-4About ten days after arriving at our house, they all began to crawl to the top of the jars and attach themselves upside down from the lid.  (See a few chrysalides beginning to form.)

butterflies-5This is a butterfly chrysalis (not a cocoon – only moths make cocoons).  Learn all about it here.

butterflies-9Once all the caterpillars had formed into chrysalides (one didn’t ever quite finish), we moved them very carefully into this butterfly pavillion.  We pinned the disk at the top of the container to the side of the net.  Apparently, a couple of the trapped-inside caterpillars weren’t fond of this transport, as they started violently flinging themselves side to side.  One continued this “banging banging” (as Lillyan called it) for more than 15 minutes.

butterflies-6Another ten days later, the day before Easter, the butterflies started to emerge from their chrysalides.  It took them only a couple of minutes to get out, and then their wings slowly began to unfurl.

butterflies-8Within two days, all of the beautiful butterflies had emerged.  They spent the first few hours walking around only, then they started to flap their wings a bit, but it was quite a few hours before they could think about flying.

butterflies-7Here’s one of our pretty ladies showing off her colors.

butterflies-10Three days after they were all out and flapping around, we had a little “butterfly release party” with a bunch of Lillyan’s friends.  The idea was to let them go in our flower garden in hopes that they might stick around (their life span in only 2-4 weeks).  Wishful thinking …

butterflies-11The coolest part of the whole project is that I was able to take each butterfly out of the net one by one and let each child hold it on their finger before the butterfly got up the nerve to fly away.  Lillyan was fascinated, of course.

butterflies-12Here’s the butterfly that enjoyed her time on a friend’s hand (see his Momma’s blog about the experience).

butterflies-14M wasn’t quite as thrilled, but all five kids held the butterflies carefully and squealed with glee when they flew up into the sky.

butterflies-13One little lady just didn’t want to say goodbye, so we put her on a rose.  She eventually went off to “find her Mommy”, as Lillyan suggested.  Later that night, about 15 minutes after I said goodnight to Lillyan, she called me back into her room.  “I can please get some new butterflies?” she asked.  Sure.  That was cool.