A Playhouse for Peeps

This is the playhouse.

002_playhouseIt’s called the playhouse because we used to play in it as kids. I think my dad and aunts and uncle may have played in it too. If you look to the right you can see where the roof connects to the wood shed – underneath that there is a brick path and there is a window in the side of the playhouse. We spent a lot of hours playing ‘drive thru’ as kids.

Before this was the playhouse it was a chicken coop. I believe there were four of these little coops towards the back of the property; I’m not sure of the exact spot. I guess once my grandparents (or great grandparents?) were done with having so many chickens they got rid of these coops. But someone was smart enough to realize one of them would make a great playhouse so they moved it up closer to the house and fixed it up for play.

Ellie is too small for the playhouse. Plus, there is an amazing spot back behind the buildings where Mike wants to eventually build her a playhouse. It’s a small pine forest and it’s so cool – the perfect spot.

Thus, it was time to re-purpose the playhouse. It was time to take it back to its original glory.

Every year we end up with peeps in a giant rubbermaid tub in our basement. Then they get big enough to fly out but not big enough to move in with the other chickens and we have peeps all over the place. Mike and I are both very, very sick of this arrangement so we finally decided to do something about it. It was decided that the playhouse of my childhood would become the brooder of my adulthood.

We cleaned it out and salvaged materials from around the farm. We lined the floor with heavy duty plastic and Mike put up a frame to support a small door and a wall of chicken wire.

003_blog pic

We found an old screen (maybe for the house but no longer in any condition to use for that now) and it worked perfectly as a door.

Mike did a little electrical work and then we laid down wood chips, hung a feeder, waterer, and heat lamp and then added our 4 peeps.


Here’s a close up of the peeps through the chicken wire.

006_finished02Ellie’s grandpa ordered her a dozen turkey poults and those will be arriving mid-June. This will be the perfect spot for them, along with anything else that hatches in the meantime.

While working on the brooder I also managed to wash our sheets and blankets and hang them on the line, the first line dried items of the season. Oh man. Line dried sheets are one of my very favorite things.


After we finished up we did a few other small projects around the yard and house and then called it quits to enjoy some roasted brussel sprouts, baked sweet potatoes, and meatloaf.

And now it’s Sunday night again. Sheesh. Sometimes it feels like it is always Sunday night.

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Sunday Funday

After a hearty breakfast of egg tacos and maple sausage links we set out to build at least three new raised beds. The plan is to get some “cold weather crops” going – lettuces, various greens, onions, radishes. We’ll do root veggies – namely turnips and beets – in one of the beds and maybe rhubarb in another.

So, the plan was three raised beds. How did we do?

One bed totally finished and complete with soil. One bed constructed but not filled. And the wood for the third bed at least made it to the location though no construction took place.  Pre-baby we would’ve had all three built and filled before lunch. That was a past life. Since the Ellie Bean showed up on the scene Sunday Fundays are about 10x more fun and 10x less productive.

C’est la vie.

We used “reclaimed” wood – stuff we have found around the farm and salvaged from random demolition projects. Mike measured and cut and I held the pieces together while he hammered.

We’re lucky to have some KILLER dirt. We have a few compost piles. I keep a small bin close to the house for kitchen scraps and we have one in the back that is strictly animal bedding. The third pile is a massive heap of dirt and organic matter Mike hauls out of job sites. He turns it once a year and it’s good stuff.

playing in dirt

Ellie enjoyed playing in the dirt until she decided to eat a big handful. But, like the true farm girl she is she just washed her mouth out with a few hearty gulps of water and got right back to it. She makes me so proud.

ellie drinking waterWe filled the bed up with that black gold and then took a lunch break – ham and cheese sandwiches, hummus and chips, some fruit and pink lemonade.

filling bed with dirtLook at this beauty! Maybe on our next Sunday Funday we can actually plant some stuff!!

raised bed_done

After lunch we investigated the asparagus bed and were super excited to see some growth. Woohoo! And the hyacinths are just gorgeous and smell so nice. Spring! Yahoo!

bllog picWe watched the turkeys strut their stuff – strutting is about all the two Toms are doing these days. Fingers crossed for some turkey poults!!

turkeysAnd by then we were winding down. We gave Ellie a “hillbilly wagon ride” around the yard and then called it quits.

hillbilly wagon ride

Later, she fell asleep in her high chair just 1/3 of the way through her dinner. Mike and I weren’t far behind!

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Slow and steady wins the race

Slow and steady wins the race. Nothing moves fast at the Barton house.

Take the nursery for example. Our daughter is 10 months old. The nursery is almost done.

Hear me out. The nursery was/is a MAJOR overhaul and last year saw the major overhaul of our bathroom. And let’s be honest, it is totally acceptable to sacrifice a nursery for a gorgeous tile shower and kick ass bathroom. Our daughter doesn’t know the difference and we can finally shower in luxury!

So, here’s the nursery about a month ago. In typical Mike fashion he failed to take a true before picture. Rats!

bedroom beforeLet me tell you what it looked like before. It had at least three layers of wallpaper over plaster and lath walls and bright blue (think BFI blue) carpet. Mike ripped up the carpet to discover two layers of linoleum on top of the original hardwood floors.

With the help of his cousin he totally gutted the room. Then he redid all the electric, insulated, and put up drywall. He installed two new windows (They actually keep out wind!) and added gorgeous oak trim and window ledges. He put up a new oak door and stained the door, the trim, and all the window trim. He removed that blasted white paint from the chimney cupboard and then sanded it and stained it. And he redid the brick face.

He primed all the walls and ripped up the linoleum. Early on he discovered a hole cut out of the original floor and we were really scared we’d find more. We always think the worst. So far we’ve usually been right to do that. Not this time! Thankfully it’s just that one hole and while it’s certainly a pain in the butt it’s not as big of a pain in the butt as we originally assumed.

Here’s the room now. Woohoo!

ellies roomWe need to pick out paint but I’m 90% sure we’ll stick to our intended “Life Aquatic” theme and go with a light blue with the possibility of a darker blue (or maybe yellow) stripe.

Once we paint (We. like I’m doing any of this work. Ha!) then it’s time to patch that hole in the floor and sand and stain.

By the time baby girl is 1 she will have her own, totally kick ass room built from nearly the ground up by the man who loves her more than life itself. She is a lucky girl (just like me).

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What’s white and white and white all over?

If you guessed over half the woodwork in our house you’re correct!

Painting beautiful, quality woodwork is something that I will never understand. Especially chestnut and wild cherry doors, trim, cabinetry, and wainscoting that were made from wood harvested on the farm!

BUT, those decisions were made in a different time and place and while they probably wouldn’t have been my decisions I certainly hold no ill will.

I’m sure it was popular at one point and I will say it makes me really think about whether some things I like are just trendy or if they will stand the test of time. Staring at all this white paint helps us think a bit more deeply about the decisions we make going forward.

Our house still has the original doors and ceramic knobs (the knobs are gorgeous!) but most of the doors and trim have been painted white; layers and layers of white upon white. So far (for the bathroom remodel and the nursery remodel) the trim hasn’t been salvageable.

The sheer volume of stripping solvents and time it will take to get these beauties back to their original glory is very daunting. So daunting in fact that Mike just got a new door for the room he’s currently renovating. Stripping that original door is going to happen eventually but as for now, “ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Daunting is also the word my grandmother used when we were talking about the woodwork. Seems it was great grandma Verna Belle who was enamored with white paint. My grandmother stripped and refinished two of the rooms downstairs and thank god she did. Both rooms have gorgeous wainscoting, chair rails and built-ins. I can’t imagine the time and effort she put in! Bless you Peg!

But, it’s not all doom and gloom. Check this out!


This adorable old “chimney cupboard” will be the perfect spot for our little girl to house her treasures. Once every lick of paint is gone and it’s cleaned up it will be stunning. Mike is also going to fix up the brick work at the top. I’m so pleased with how it’s looking. The original wood is so beautiful!

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Enjoying what we ‘put up’ over the summer

Man, my home canning took a serious hit this summer.

The newborn took some getting used to and most of my time and energy went to her and not my garden or my larder shelves. I did manage to ‘put up‘ a few things though, including a serious essential: tomato sauce.

I blogged about making my neck bone sauce back in 2013 and I continue to adapt and evolve my recipe. I think I’ve really mastered it now. My pal Kristen at Black Dog Acres even shared my recipe over on her blog.

Thanks (once again this year) to my pal Marcella and her green thumb for tomatoes. Hopefully one day I’ll figure out how to successfully grow my own!

Last night I heated up a quart of neck bone sauce and we enjoyed it with some pasta.

Ellie, no longer a newborn but now a solid food enjoying 8-month-old, seemed to love it. Score.


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Christmas Tree!

I love, love, love cutting down a Christmas tree. We always bought them at tree lots when I was a kid and when I got into my teen years we stopped getting a tree altogether. Many moons ago when I was living in Highland Square in the swingin’ bachelorette pad I decided I’d like to cut down a tree.

My friend Ben and I trekked out to a local tree farm and I was pleased to saw down my first tiny tree. I was a bit less pleased when it came time to pay for the tree. Yowza!

According to Ben you can’t buy trees at farms that cater to city slickers. You have to get your tree out in the country if you want a reasonable price. I made a note of that.

Later, when I moved in with Mike we kept the fresh cut tree tradition going. We went to Dittmer’s Treet Depot for several years and loved the hot cocoa and popcorn and the wagon ride and the beautiful and reasonably priced trees.

When Dittmer’s closed a few years ago we were at a loss. But good ol’ friend Ben said, “Go to the Happinest. That’s where we went as kids. It’s no frills and it’s the best.”

So now we go see the Millers at the Happinest Farm.

At first I was sad. Unlike Dittmer’s, the Happinest does not have hot cocoa or popcorn or wagon rides. But the trees are gorgeous! And once I realized I could take my own hot cocoa I was sold.

Sunday afternoon we all put on our carhart overalls and headed to the Happinest.

First things first, hot coca to prepare for the hunt.

cocaWe picked up our saw and headed out into the field. The Millers offer a couple different variety of trees but we like the Canaan Fir best. I love that they are tall and skinny with short needles. They make the most perfect Christmas trees!

tree farmEven if you spot a tree you like right away you really must walk all around the farm just in case there is a better one. We examined trees for about 35 minutes or so before deciding on the PERFECT tree.

cutting and carryingWhat a beauty!! We took it up to the barn and they shook it for us and then Mike loaded it into the back of his truck. And in keeping with tradition, we plunked down the tailgate and enjoyed a little celebratory hot cocoa.

hot coca 2

All dressed up!


Choosing, cutting, and decorating the perfect Christmas tree is hard work. And you can really work up an appetite.

Homemade chicken pot pie – the perfect meal to end a perfect day

pot pies

The baby-sized pot pie was a huge hit. She loved it! And what a big day for baby girl – her first carhart overalls, her first trip to the tree farm, her first sip of hot cocoa, and her first chicken pot pie. It really was a perfect day!

If you haven’t gotten a tree yet I really encourage you to go cut down a fresh one. Fake trees are convenient but they’re fake. They don’t smell good, there’s no adventure. Yea, yea some needles will fall off. Big whoop. It’s once a year and if you keep the tree well hydrated you won’t even loose that many needles. Do it!

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Three cheers for Tom 1

If you’ve followed the blog then you have likely followed the soap opera that is our turkey raising. We scored a tom (Turk) and a hen (JD) in the spring of 2013 from our pal Janee of High Mill Park Farm.

Sadly Turk passed away last fall so we traveled down to Athens in the spring of 2014 to find a companion for JD. We came home with Buford T. Justice and they became fast friends. Janee later gave me two more Blue Slate hens just for fun so with three hens and a tom we were able to hatch some poults.

We hatched 13 poults throughout April and May but unfortunately a sickness ran rampant through our little flock of turkey poults and only 4 survived – two hens and two toms. We spent all summer and fall moving our homemade, tarped PVC turkey tractor around the yard.

It paid off. In spades.

We spend Thanksgiving with Mike’s family and his aunt was already planning on a traditional roast turkey so I wanted to do something different. I did a lot of research and finally settled on Mark Bittman’s Basic Braised Turkey recipe.

First things first, turkey stock. Good stock takes time so I wanted this done well in advance. I snagged two turkey drumsticks and two wings from Difeo’s and made my stock in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

002_stockMike butchered Tom 1 Wednesday morning. Tom 1 led a good life and in death he gave us a culinary treasure the likes of which I have never experienced before. Thank you Tom 1. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday night I prepped all my veggies. I diced two onions, three large leeks, and 2lbs of carrots (thank you Birdsong Farm) along with 2lbs of parsnips (thank you Breezy Hill Farm), and a bunch of celery.

Thursday morning (Thanksgiving) we put the coffee on and got started early.

Mike broke down Tom 1 while I reheated my stock and got started with the pork and veggies.

001_turkeybutcherI sauteed some chopped prosciutto and a pound of Breakneck Acres‘ country sausage.

003_meatsOnce my pork was nice and brown I dumped it into the roasting pan and got started with the veg. I had to brown my veggies in batches since there was so much veg and so little stove top. On the last batch of veg I threw in a pound of chanterelles Mike foraged this summer. (We dry sauteed them and froze several pounds for later use).

And I simultaneously seared off my turkey cuts in olive oil.

004_fullboarAll of the veggies and pork went into my giant roasting pan and i nestled the thighs, drumsticks, and wings down into that goodness. I ladled in turkey stock until it came about halfway up the thighs.

004_intotheovenThis went into a 300 degree oven for about an hour and 45 minutes. The breasts just hung out on the counter while the dark meat braised.

Once the dark meat was tender I laid the seared breasts on top of everything and roasted them until they hit 155F – about 45 minutes.

Look at this. Just look at it! This was a culinary achievement. I choked back tears of pride when I pulled this pan from the oven. And Mike said, “Holy shit that looks good.”

005_alldoneI let the breasts rest on a plate and I chopped and pulled all the meat from the thighs and drumsticks. I spooned a lot of veg & juice into a serving dish and mixed the dark meat right in. I spooned more veg into another serving dish and placed the sliced breast on top.

006_breast(Note, this is only one breast. I saved the other for us to enjoy post holiday.)

I don’t mean to toot my own horn here but I can honestly say that this was the best turkey I have ever eaten. Hands down. No question. It was so freakin’ delicious.

I think that Mike’s family agreed and we didn’t take too much home with us – mostly just veggies. Friday I took the leftover veggies and juice and mixed them with cubed white bread that I left on the counter overnight to make stuffing. It was awesome. I also did mashed potatoes and gravy, roasted turnips, and turkey sandwiches.

Oh my goodness. The sandwiches! Mike said, “This is like lunch meat but like a thousand times better!”

Another source of pride, this was almost an entirely local turkey dinner. Aside from the wings and drumsticks I used for stock, the prosciutto, and the celery everything else was local. We raised our turkey and Mike foraged the chanterelle mushrooms. The carrots, onions, leeks, and potatoes were grown by my friend Matt of Birdsong Farm. The turnips and parsnips were grown by my friend Phil of Breezy Hill Farm. And that delicious country sausage was from pigs raised by my pal Ami at Breakneck Acres.

I am thankful for my farmer friends. I am thankful that I was able to share this turkey with the ones I love. I am thankful for Mike and Ellie. I am thankful to be alive.

Happy Thanksgiving (a little late).

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Chicken Party!

I already told you all about sending our birds to the slaughterhouse. Mike and I can both say, without hesitation, that it was the best $70 we’ve probably ever spent! A million times better than spending a weekend butchering at home. To celebrate we ate chicken this weekend.

First up, stock. I cracked the last quart of my homemade stock a week or so ago so it’s time to re-up. Three small bantam birds when into my stock pot with carrots, celery, onions (skins on), fresh thyme,  some bay leaves, and whole peppercorns. I topped it with cold water, brought it to a simmer, and then lowered the heat and let it gently bubble away all afternoon.

Later I tossed the used up veg and poured the stock through cheesecloth. It went into the fridge and in a day or two I’ll skim the fat, reheat, and pressure can. Homemade stock is a pantry essential. And it’s super easy. Go make some.

Next up, chicken for baby. I put a bantam hen in the crock pot with carrots and celery and fresh thyme. When it was done I pulled the meat from the carcass and chopped it up.

chickensparty002Dark and white meat all mixed together – the way it should be. I pulsed the meat in my food processor with some of the cooking liquid and made baby friendly chicken. It tasted really good and she loved it. She ate it alongside some carrots we scored from Birdsong Farm at the Haymaker Farmers’ Market.

Birdsong’s carrots are so good they don’t need anything so I just steamed ’em a little and smushed ’em up. On a side note, Ellie (so far) is a pretty good eater. Bananas, avocados, pears, nectarines, apples, peas, green beans, egg yolks, carrots, and now chicken. I’m so proud. Especially about the egg yolks.


And finally, dinner for mom and dad. Way back at Easter my aunt and uncle gave us 4 chicks. Two were laying hens and the other two turned out to be broilers. Broilers, aka Cornish Rock Cross, are ready to butcher in just 8-10 weeks. But 8-10 weeks after Easter we had a baby so it wasn’t a high priority.

We lost one of them to a predator but the other has been hanging out ever since. She was a sweet bird and even though she was technically past her prime she still managed to get out on the grass and peck around a bit. But she was big. So big that the woman at the slaughterhouse made a comment to my father-in-law about her size.

I weighed her – 8.5lbs all dressed out. Good lord.  A small turkey. I decided I’d roast her.

I seasoned the cavity with salt and pepper and then stuffed it with a chopped onion, some lemon slices, and some fresh thyme. I rubbed the whole bird with olive oil, seasoned very liberally with salt and pepper, and then roasted it along with some homegrown potatoes (thanks in-laws!), Birdsong turnips, and Breezy Hill onions.


Oh my goodness. It was easily one of the best roast chickens I’ve ever done. Mike was busy installing our new pellet stove so we didn’t sit down to eat together. Instead, I pretended to listen to him talk about pellets and fans and fuel savings while standing over the carcass cutting off slivers of meat and dunking them into the pan juice.

When I was about to clean up he asked if I’d taken any pictures. Nope.

Here’s the aftermath. (My shoddy carving is the left hand side). Boy oh boy was this good. Tender and juicy with perfectly crisp, salty skin. There is really nothing better than a Sunday roast chicken, especially when it’s one of your own.


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Bye, bye birdie….

Somehow we ended up with way too many birds – roos, spent layers, a broiler that we should’ve butchered a couple of months ago. Selling eggs at the market is an expensive hassle, feed isn’t cheap (especially for roosters who aren’t earning their keep by producing eggs), I’m sick of all those cocks picking on our young hens, and I’m even more sick of the chorus line of morning crowing.

It was time to say goodbye to some birds.

We have always butchered our birds ourselves but this time there were just too many. So, at the suggestion of a friend we contacted Lehman’s in Leetonia and trucked ’em down there earlier this week to meet their maker.

27 birds total.

That total included a number of roosters we hatched earlier this year along with plenty of old laying hens. Not even the bantams were spared. We thinned the flock by over half.

Bantam Birdie


I owed two stewing hens to my pal Marcella who graciously bartered with me on IOU earlier this summer for a peck of tomatoes. I sold two to a co-worker. And my in-laws took two since my father-in-law very kindly delivered and retrieved the birds. 5 birds are in the fridge and I’ll deal with them this weekend. My plan is to make some stock to can and a big Sunday dinner of chicken and biscuits. Mmm….gravy…..

The rest?

cull002The rest we sealed up via our vacuum sealer and after much shifting and squishing we managed to get them all into the deep freeze. It’s going to be a very chicken-y winter.

Not roasted or fried. No, these birds will not work for those dishes. But soups, stews, coq au vin, and chicken and biscuits – that’s where these babies will shine. And that’s perfect winter food anyways.

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Dried Herbs

I love to use fresh herbs when I’m cooking. Our little herb bed did pretty good this year and I used my fair share of thyme, rosemary, parsley, oregano, chives, and cilantro.

But there are also times when I prefer dried herbs. Specifically I like dried thyme (in popcorn) and dried oregano (in sauces).

I clipped what was left and prepared it for drying. I rinsed and spun dry the herbs and then I tied small bundles together using some butcher’s string.

herbs1I hung them in the kitchen and they’ll stay there until they are nice and dry. Then I’ll pluck the little leaves from the stems and store them in small jelly jars above the stove.

herbs2Have you ever classed up your popcorn with a little dried thyme? If not, you really should. It’s delicious. You should also make your popcorn on the stove. That microwave stuff is ok in a pinch but it pales in comparison to real popcorn. Pop your corn and then add a little melted butter, a liberal sprinkle of salt, and a little dried thyme, crushed a bit between your fingertips. Delicious!

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