Alaskan Salmon For Our New Year’s Eve Dinner

My goal for our NYE dinner celebration is real food, cooked simply, that tastes great!

I had planned on driving to Detroit over NYE to see some extended family, but an unexpected death in that part of the state changed our plans.

Full plate USE

My plate just as I was sitting down to eat.

We talked about going to Mothers Trust in Ganges for a NYE spiritually based program but when a call from my cousin’s came though telling me about a once-a year-early New Year morning breakfast I knew that was where I wanted to be. At age 64, there are so few of us left that anything involving family becomes a priority for me.

Rolls closer partial cookie sheet

Rye rolls, yummy!

So my thoughts turned instead to cooking a special NYE dinner for Gene and I. We considered buying a lobster, fresh shrimp or wild caught salmon. The salmon won the vote. There is only one place to buy wild caught salmon in our area and we shopped there yesterday and bought one pound of Alaskan grown salmon for $11.99 a pound. We bought just one pound – this is a rare treat for us.

Our menu includes the salmon baked under a mustard/peach glaze that I like so well, rye rolls and a vegetable (maybe broccoli but as yet to be determined.) YUM!

Last year we ate out and were very disappointed by the lack of quality of the food so we are eating in this year!

My Simple Mustard/Peach Glazed Salmon

Mix ½ Gray Poupon Mustard with peach jam or preserves (the amount of each depends on how much fish you are cooking) For one pound of fish I mixed up about ¼ cup of each.Salmon diaganol

 Our salmon baked and ready to plate.

Using a glass baking dish, I put in the salmon meat side up/skin side down and spread on the mixed glaze. Bake at 325 for about 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the salmon. Serve hot.

Dessert is a fresh pineapple!

Happy new year from the homestead!

Small House homesteader, Donna


Walk the Plank!

At long last our chicken coop “gang plank” ladder is now chickie baby friendly!

Chicken door all faces USEjpeg

Gathering their courage our 5-month-old Cochins come out the chicken door and down the ladder.

I have been wanting to get some kind of material down on the chicken ladder (aka gang plank) to help the chickens get in and out the chicken door without slipping and sliding on the slick painted surface. The holiday, our normal workloads and serious construction on the enclosed run area always seemed to take priority.

Plank and coop


Today with our weekly run into town for yoga and groceries we stopped at Tractor Supply to see if they had the horse stall liner material we were considering. I’d asked the members of the on-line Chicken Community what they might suggest and heard a number of great ideas; everything from cutting up an old doormat pieces to trim-able stable liner matt.

Tread on stair after use jpeg


The liner turned out to be way too big of a piece and way too thick to cut down so while we were there the salesperson suggested we try skid guard treads for the stairs. It’s a kind of thick paper with a sand paper like surface that help feet grip. We gave that a try. Gene cut and adhered the tread material and I closed the double door and opened the chicken door and waited.

Skid Grauyrd closs up jpeg

In less than a minute Momma Clover saw that the door was open and out she went! Next came the babies one by one, stumbling, slipping and sliding and pretty much flying out. Well one way –out- was successful Tomorrow we work on teaching them how to go up the ladder and get back in the coop! Every day with chickens is an adventure!

Small House Homesteader and Chicken Keeper, Donna

Whole Lotta Cooking Going on!

While Gene was outside this weekend building the covered chicken enclosure this weekend, I was doing a lot of cooking.

Baked sweet potatoe

I roasted an organic Amish chicken in a galvanized roasting pan filled with onions, garden tomatoes and organic carrots. The sides for that meal were Fruit stuffed sweet potatoes. YUM! And, did you know that sweet potatoes are a super food?

Chicken in granite pan

Shssss. don’t tell anyone but I think I am having an affair with sweet potatoes right now…

Baked sweet potatoe

Then I took the chicken bones and boiled them up and made my famous kale, sweet potato, sausage and fennel soup. This soup has a couple of culinary surprises too and they are a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg. On a cold winter day this soup is to die for. This recipe is one I adapted from

Fruit Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

(Adapted from by Donna Allgaier-Lamberti

This is Gene absolute favorite!!


½ half cup half and half (I do not use this)

2 sticks of butter (I do not use butter but sub. maple syrup)

12 Sweet Potatoes (I use 6 for the two of us)

3 Granny Smith Apples finely chopped (I use 2 apples of whatever type I have on hand)

½ cup Macadamia Nuts finely chopped (I use one small bag of Pecan nuts finely chopped)

½ cup finely chopped dried apricots

2 handfuls of craisin’s

½ cup (or more) of maple syrup


  1. On day one (the day before I am serving) I bake the potatoes in a glass casserole dish at 350 for one hour. Refrigerate.
  2. Slit potatoes length wise and then crosswise to make it easier to scoop out a section of potato to later stuff.
  3. Take sweet potatoes pieces remove skinned and chop up small to add to fruit mixture.
  4. Cut apples in half, core, skin and dice.
  5. Chop up rest of the fruit and mix fruit and removed potatoes in a bowl.
  6. Spoon the fruit mixture back into the opening in the potatoes.
  7. Heat oven to 325.
  8. Pour the maple syrup over the top of the potatoes and fruit mix.
  9. Sprinkle nuts over the potatoes and mixture.
  10. Cook for one hour or slightly more.

I’m sorry I don’t have a photograph of the soup to share. My camera card is full to the brim and I have to go to town to buy another card, but not today.

We ate like kings and queens this weekend. I hope your holidays were full of healthy and delicious culinary surprises as well!

Small House Homesteader, Donna

Enclosure Progress and a Christmas Miracle

Frckels close in leavesWho would have thought that in Michigan we would be outside working on our chicken run the day after Christmas? The weather here in SW Michigan is normally bitter cold in December and we are typically already under several feet of snow by now.

Close Gene measuring USE

The frame is the initial step to building the enclosed run. 

But not this year.  Today was a balmy 48-50 degrees outside and wonderfully sunny. The chickens adore his kind of weather and so do I.

I was able to sit on the ground in their pen, feed them some dried mealworms, play with them and snap some photographs of me feeding them by hand. It was so sunny and warm I was tempted to lie down to take a cat nap but of course I didn’t want to miss anything.

Gene worked more today on building the run enclosure frame. The covered run is connected to the side of our chicken coop and will end up as a simple, wood frame section covered in contractor grade plastic.  It will have a 8 ft. tall corrugated roof to help keep the rain and snow off of it, a 36″ human door and a pop up chicken door.

From north v

The 8 ft. height of the covered run will allow us to walk inside to clean it, shovel in and shovel out.

This fowl-weather run (pun intended!) will give the chickens a bit of shelter from the snow, winds and rain while allowing them to be outside of the coop ranging around and dusting in their own small dust bath box.

From south end of garden

The long view of the chicken coop and run at the southern end of our large fenced-in vegetable garden.

It is a practical addition as opposed to a beautiful one. I will feel more trusting too to let them range alone and not worry about predators or the babies flying up and over the fencing or straw bales as they have a tendency to do.

Cloverground chiks onstump jpeg

The chicklets eating treats from the stump, Momma Cover in front. 

We also were able to hang my two, new, metal chicken signs I received from Gene for Christmas. They came from Bainbridge Farm Goods, Bainbridge Island. They are all I asked for this year and I love them! All of their signs are fully waterproof, UV resistant and mounted on heavy aluminum-think street sign durability and are made in the USA. I received nothing for this mention  – I am just a happy consumer. To see more of their sign art go to

Two chicken signs

 Two new metal signs for my chicken coop.

Another piece of good news to share today. If you follow my blog you may recall that Freckles, one of the Phoenix chicks had injured his wing in the Great Chicken Escape. I was quite worried about him at first. However as the weeks progressed he has perked up, the sparkle has come back into his eyes and today he dusted for the first time since the accident. That is certainly progress! I suspect he was hurting those first few weeks as his tail drooped, he ate but he turned his back to the group and did not participate in their social times like bathing. Today that changed.

Freckles eyes open

Freckles during his rehab period dozing in the sun.

His wing still sits a bit lower and is a tad bit crooked when he is flying in and out of the coop but he can now make it on his own without my help. So this new step of dusting with his family tells me his wing is not hurting him anymore.

Frckels close in leaves

Freckles this week, much perkier and almost back to normal.

I am grateful that Freckles is getting stronger again and feeling more like his old self as evidenced by his participating in this important social activity with his brood.

I am relieved too by this sweet evidence of our small Christmas miracle!

Small House Homesteader, Donna

It’s Been One of Those Weeks

When it rains it pours….

A stone hit the windshield of my Subaru last week Wednesday and it cracked. I drove the 45 miles to Holland on Friday to get it replaced. That was a day gone out of my week the week before Christmas but at least I had insurance that covered its replacement, right?

Sometime last week we had a computer glich that took away the photo header at the upper left hand side of this blog page. I had to recreate it and reposition it, so that was an unexpected project also.

On Sunday while printing off Christmas letters the HP Office Jet Pro quit after two letters. So now I drive again to Holland tomorrow to buy a new one. Normally I would wait until my normal monthly errand day but I really would like to get my personal holiday letters out before the new year.

I also need to pack up the old one to send it back to HP to receive credit on the warranty we bought. But how do you print out a mailing label when you can’t print? Duh!

I have a real thing about mechanical and electrical items that have been manufactured to break and be replaced. If I was in charge this is NOT how things would be made.

Panel green USE

Gene unloading repurposed roofing panels

On a positive note, we did make progress on the covered chicken run. The frame is partially built and we picked up the bartered roofing panels. We bartered “sweat equity” for the panels and some wood.

White Roof pieces on ground and wood

Corrugated roofing panels weighted down by wood and waiting to be washed.

Two more days until Christmas…hopefully I can get those letters printed off and in the mail soon.

Small House Homestead, Donna


A Time for Gratefulness on our Homestead

When I think of what was here and how far we have come since we move to the Small House property in 2000 I shake my head in wonderment and say a prayer of thanks at all we have accomplished in the past 14 years.

2013 Xmas Card WITH  text

I remember no driveways, no sidewalks, no fenced-in vegetable garden, no clothesline, no landscaping of any kind just grass and trees and lean, sandy and non-fertile oak savannah soil. The house trim was chipped and needed painting, this house had no eves troughs and an old roof.

There was no electricity to the pole barn and we added the blacksmith forge to the north end of the pole barn. And the inside of the house…oh my, it was definitely depressing. The inside of this Ranch home looked like the 1960’s with old crummy dark brown dog-hair-filled carpeting, harvest gold painted walls AND ceilings and old wallpaper everywhere. I didn’t have a digital camera then so I have few photographs of the homestead in those days.

Our home had previously been owned by a 70+-year-old couple in ill health and rooms were half done. Our laundry room had an ancient square water heater in it, harvest gold “place and press” tiles on the floor and wall-to-wall gray steel shelving filled with old cans of paint and household cleaners. This open is what I saw when I walked through our kitchen. UG!



Then when the couple passed away, the property was left to their five children and sat empty for way to long. I always said we bought this place for the land knowing with time and energy I could make the house into about whatever I wanted and could afford.

Fourteen years later I am grateful to have a snug one-story house that I now love. It won’t make headlines with its 1970’s-1980’s decorating style and feel but its practical and pretty and I can live in it.


Our snug little homestead home early on.


As our garden beds mature.

Above all I am grateful to have the body and the health to make these many improvements and make our dream come true.


Our back yard sidewalk and garden in the pre-flood years.

Then when I remember the high ground water year flooding it’s a miracle that we did not bail and sellout. Four consecutive springs of rain, rain and more rain and living in a marsh complete with mosquitoes and mud. Losing all of our garden soil we had worked hard to build up, losing many thousands of dollars of shrubs and trees and everything on the pole barn floor to the water and basically having to start all over yet again.


The beauty and bounty of the garden as ecosystem for bugs and butterfly’s.

And the tole on my health…sigh. As a result of the longstanding water and mildew I had more than three years of upper repertory distress, necessitating my using inhalers and medicine for asthma and on major skin infection… one right after the other…It was a very rough few years.


The bad years on our homestead. Flooded from 2008-2012.

What I am focusing on now it that its 2014 we have our new roof and it’s paid for in full. The driveway is newly resealed and the flowers gardens are on their way back. The vegetable gardens have newly built raise beds and the soil is fertile again thanks to the gifts of well-composted horse manure and bark chips shared with us by friends.


The meadow garden in the fall when the ornamental grasses are in flower.

We’ve added the water totes that capture and contain water from the pole barn roof, we’ve redesigned and rebuilt the chicken coop and are now working on building the covered chicken run. More egg layers to arrive in the spring.

gate slightly open interesting jpeg

The newly built chicken coop and dusting bed in the chicken run.

We have two freezers that are full of the bounty of our garden. Our home is now mold and mildew free and warm, the ditch system has been built to take the flow of water away from our property should the high water ever happen again. I certainly do not take the basics of life for granted here.



Two views of our remodeled laundry room. My now gone Labrador, “Spirit” checks in with me. I miss her everyday!

We’ve had a few health blips that have challenged us but we are mostly in good health for our age. We still have a ways to go on the homestead to get it to where we want because a homestead, like a garden, is always a work in process. We need to plant more Heritage fruit trees but we have made some real headway on our property here. Rome was not built in a day and neither is an American homestead!

Gene Donna at Grill house 12113

Hubby and I at a special anniversary dinner a few years ago.

Happy Holidays everyone. Sieze the moment!

Small House homesteader, Donna

Raising and Taming Late Fall Baby Chicks

At times chickens can present many challenges. Like most animals we can’t ask them what wrong we can only intuit based on our previous experiences.

I find that sick and injured chickens are probably the most challenging of situations followed by rescuing late season baby chicks, with their momma.

Two balck chiks pecking

Two of the Cochin/Phoenix rooster babies pecking at a snack on the log.

I fell into raising five, 2-week-old rescued Cochin/Phoenix chicks with the momma when my husband’s co-worker needed to find a home for them. We had just finished building our new coop and run and thought when we were invited to come and pick up some chicks, we thought were getting 8 to 9 month old spring born chicks. But that turned out to not be the case. When we got to his friend’s house he had a Cochin momma hen and her five, two week old Cochin/Phoenix chicks already in a box ready to go home with us. Opps!

I have raised day old chicks in a brooder previously so I initially though, just how much harder could raising these chicks be?

Come on guys free food here!

Momma Clover and all five of her babies play around my legs.

I found out it was a bit more taxing than I had bargained for. In my Internet search I had some trouble finding information on raising late season chicks. There seems to be a lot of information about picking out a brooder, what temperature to keep babies at, what to feed them and so on but I found nothing about raising fall born chicks with their mother. And LATE fall chicks to boot. I soon realized that I was going to need some help.

Two dark birds from rear cute

Two babies having a conversation in the sunshine.

STEP 01: How to Help Acclimate Chicks to Their New Home:

We picked our chickens up late in the day so we could put them into the coop almost at dusk. We slid them into the coop in the same box we picked them up in and left the top open and cut a good size opening so they could get out if necessary.  I checked them at first light the next morning to make sure everyone was okay. I quietly put out their food and water left them alone to get us to the new pen. So far so good.

STEP 02: Don’t Expect Too Much From Chicks for a Few Weeks:

While I watched them carefully, and I fed them well, I pretty much left them alone socially at first. I knew that it can be stressful to move chickens and I wanted them to have an opportunity to learn about their new home, and me, with the least amount of stress possible. I kept our dog, Sassy, inside when I was outside with the chickens for the first three weeks and then introduced them very slowly.

Sassy watching chickens

Sassy meeting the chickens for the first time.

STEP 03: Expect to Teach Them More Than You Might Imagine:

While these chicks followed their mother everywhere and did whatever she did, I did not expect to have to teach these chicks how to eat from a chicken feeder or drink from a waterer, but I did. It turned out that in their former home this brood had lived in a structure that sat right on the ground, spent their days free ranging and eating only cracked corn thrown onto the ground or whatever they could scrounge at the ground level.  I bought a galvanized chicken feeder and starter food for growing chicks and converted them to it a step at a time. As a result they began to grow quickly and they began to feather out as like they should be. Momma hen was a different story though. She was not quite flexible enough to try new foods like kitchen scraps, sunflowers seeds, scratch bird feed, and cut up apples or most anything I tried throwing onto the ground. I wanted both to give them some variety and to be assured that the babies would be more adventuresome in their eating patterns. To this day Momma Clover really only wants cracked corn and meal worms! Boring!

After a few weeks, I felt that the babies has adapted to their new location, coop and us. They were eating out of the feeder and drinking out of the waterer and now it was time to begin to teach them how to get in and out of the coop. I also learned that if I wanted to introduce a new form of food, Mung Bean sprouts for example, it was best to do that early in the morning when they were the hungriest.

It took Momma Clover about three months to act as if she was comfortable with us.

Clover where did those worms come from

Feeding the chickens mealworms.

STEP 04: Getting the Lay of the Land:

While our coop was newly built and ready to go these chicks had no idea how to enter or exit a coop that stood off the ground. The strongest and biggest three that grew their feathers the earliest, learned how to fly in and out of the coop first. For several weeks I needed to pick up the two smallest one and assist them into getting in and out of the coop. I discovered too that the chicken ladder we had made was a bit too steep for babies and even though we had added wooden cross bars they were too far apart for babies to manage.

In our case both sides of the coop have double doors and both open up and lock. This large opening provided a “user friendly” way for the babies to fly in and out. It was a bit non-conventional but it worked!

VERT coop side doors open USE

The “Chicken Chalet” with double doors open before the sand litter was put in.

The babies came to us fairly wild and having not been handled at all. My desire was that the babies would do more than tolerate me and in fact eventually allow me to stroke them. I also hope they would will trust me as a kind provider and let me hold them at some point. I began to offer them small amounts of mealworms from my hand. It took a few days but after a while they were eating out of my hands, as the saying goes.

STEP 05: Continue the Gentling and Taming Process:

At about four months the babies were comfortable eating from my hand and jumping up on my legs to get their treats.  At this point I started stroking them while feeding them and using two fingers softly touching them on their breast front area just to get them use to the humans touch. This is a very slow and very gently process that took quite a bit of time but I kept it up. At this point they allowed me to pick them up. They didn’t like it, screeching loudly when I picked them up but they allowed it.

STEP 06: Getting Babies to Come When Called:

I used a two-part method to get the babies to respond to me and to come when called.  I gently talked to them as I approached the coop letting them know it was me and to associate me with the soft spoken voice they heard. Then I began calling “Chick Chick Chick” when I was bringing them food. That way they began to associate me with a food reward.  Then I began to draw them into the garden part of our run by opening the gate, tossing down some treats while calling them to come forward. Before long they were coming when called and I could move them from their run in and out of the garden at will. So when food in one area is limited I can call them into another area where the grass is fresher.

Taming takes time and effort but can be accomplished with patience and conditioning.

Good morning world!

Clover peeking out of the chicken coop.

STEP 06: Consider an Enclosed Run, if You Can Swing it:

Baby chicks like to fly and hop. Must be the raging hormones! Our Cochin babies liked to fly out of their fenced in pen so we added a covered area to one end of the chicken run. We selected the shadiest section and the portion where their chicken door exited. Not only did this contain the babies and give me more piece of mind, it provided them a place of safety, it gave them protection from the wind, the snow and the rain.

Like most work with animals the amount of time and energy we put into them shows up in their behaviors and attitudes. Its a lot of work, but the benefits are worth it, I think.

Small House Homesteader, Donna
























Field Trip to the Last Standing Beech Tree

I took a field trip this week to capture the fog and rain at Ely Lake Primitive Campground.

I walked the North Loop to the Beech Trail, a trail I have been walking now for fourteen years. I’ve walked that trail to visit and to document the last standing Beech tree.

Ely Lake white spacing jpeg w text

I call it The Grandfather Tree.

For me that tree is a metaphor for life and what we humans are doing to our environment…

I enjoy the quiet, the wildness and the peace I find there. Our Labrador Sassy loves to run and swim there. Ely Lake is magical place that I hope will be protected in the future from fracking.

Small House Homesteader, Donna

Sold a Photograph to Living the Country Life

It was a great mail day today!

I received word today that one of my photographs titled, “The Pool Shack” that I submitted to Living the Country Life magazine (a sister publication of Better Homes & Garden magazine) has been purchased and is going to be used in their magazine during 2015. It will be used in the “Country View” section of the magazine and website.

Pool shack decor in snow USE

This winter view of our homestead was purchased by Living the Country Life magazine.

When the paperwork arrived I realized that they selected it as the “Editors Pick” which means I’ll be paid $100.00 for it. I’m thrilled, not only because it will be published but because I have been saving up for a longer lens for my digital Cannon EOS Rebel T31 camera and this will help.

The image they selected shows the back of our homesteads pool shack that I decorated using a “roadside rescue” (meaning it was free and on the side of the roadway) vintage screen door I painted sage green and used as the centerpiece of my design. It was fun to play with this and even more fun to win the “Send us Your Outbuilding Photographs” contest.

To see the publication or to request a free subscription go to

 This is what I wrote for my submission:

“The back of our pool shack is a canvas that I have decided to use to add some color and visual interest to our garden. The round painted piece is part of a back of a chair and sits inside of a rusty barrel ring. The three brown items on the left hand side are rusty tools parts. The screen door was a “roadside rescue” that I found along the side of the roadway. I brought it home, painted it sage green and hung it on the cedar frame to add interest and color. I am always happy when I walk that way and see this 3D collage.”

This sale takes me back to my publishing roots when I use to take photographs and write human interest feature stories for newspapers.

That was a fun job that I always loved. Who would not love being paid to travel around our beautiful state, meet new people, get invited into their homes and lives and use words and pictures to tell their story. Kind of like keeping a blog, right? 

Thanks for reading and for following.

Small House Homesteader, Donna






Compassion for an Injured Chick

Some readers who follow us regularly may remember the Great Chicken Escape a couple of weeks ago.

This is the follow-up to when we walked out to check on the chicks only to discover that Clover and three chicks of her five chicks were outside of the fenced in chicken pen. Of course as Murphy’s Law would have it, our Labrador Sassy was on her way to being walked and she rushed the chicken (a natural hunting instinct) and one three chicks flew into the woods in a panic.

Freckles eyes open

Freckles, the 4 month old Phoenix rooster, basking in the sunshine.

I was able to find two of them hunkered down in the leaves and pick them up and put them back into the coop. But Freckles was missing for over an hour. We put Sassy into the truck (the safest and closest containment area in a pinch) and we searched and searched.

After more than an hour of waking through greenbrier and downed logs and calling “chick chick chick” until I was hoarse, we were at the point of nearly giving up. Then I heard a “peep” and saw a bobbing chick walking out from behind the forge overhang where Freckles had apparently hidden between some items store there. As I shoed the chick back into the pen he flew right up into the pole barn window. It was getting dark and the window was black too and I think he thought it was the dark coop opening.

It was Freckles, a rooster. While I had hoped it was just panic and shock that was causing his odd behaviors, I believe he either injured his head or his wing. He was not able to fly backup into the coop and I had to lift him. He squawks loudly and tries to get away but he allows it.

Looking out one a bit blurry

Freckles, on the right hand side of this photo, in his “before” injury days.

Even after a few recovery days he is just not the same. He can fly down and out of the coop but not back into it. He hesitates like he is afraid of crashing again. He eats but he holds back and separates himself from the rest of the brood and is the last to eat. He turns his back to the brood, stays a bit apart from the other and lags just a bit behind the others. His eyes a dull like he is not quite all there. I think we have a handicapped rooster now. Poor thing.

I’ve watched the pecking order of the brood shift too. Where once the two littlest chicks, Snowball and JoJo were the meekest and lowest in the pack, they have moved up notch. Freckles is now the low chicken on the block. He eats; he drinks and tags along to the communal bathing but does not join in.

This has definitely brought out my mothering instincts. So I am babying him just a bit. I make sure he gets his share of food and I left him in and out of the coop. I think he is physically “off” now and needs extra watching, extra care and help.  I imagine in a larger brood he would not make it but in his own small family and with my help, it seems everyone can adjust just a bit.

Who know that I would have such empathy and compassion for a chicken with “special needs?”

Sometimes things just fall into your lap that we don’t plan on. Sometimes there are signs and sometimes not. Freckles cannot speak, so I have to. This is in some ways like having a son that is far from perfect but is dearly love.

We are all less than perfect. We all have issues that make us different. Some of us limp, some of us can’t speak, spell or hear or even remember things the way we use to. But it doesn’t make us less worthy of love.

Freckles is just a chicken. On some farms a non-producing animal has to go. This time it is a chicken perhaps the next time a dog. The next time a young child who is the different one.

Sometimes things just fall in your lap. We each can choose to shriek in judgment or to respond in kindness and compassion.

Small House Homesteader and Chicken Keeper, Donna