Honey Harvest and a Dream

I mentioned in my last blog post about our decision to remove the honey super from the hive in order to reduce the size of the hive to make it more manageable for the bees to maintain and to help keep them warm during the winter months.  Yesterday, I had a few hours before I had to go in to work so we decided to try to harvest the honey.

We only had four partially capped frames so we didn’t think it was worth using the extractor and then having to clean it up.  Well, after uncapping one side of the frame and letting it drain for an hour or so we decided that method wasn’t going to cut it.

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Not much honey, huh?  It would take a month of Sundays to extract our four partially capped frames!  So, we broke down and got out the extractor.

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It can hold two frames at a time so we uncapped both sides of two frames and put them in the extractor.

CountryBoy set himself up in front of the TV and started cranking.

For this extractor, each set of frames needs to be cranked for ten to fifteen minutes per side then you flip the frames over and do the same for the other side.

We didn’t think we would get much honey since none of the four frames were completely capped and filled with honey but what a pleasant surprise when our first pint jar filled up and there was still some honey left in the extractor.  I grabbed a quart size jar and, lo and behold, THAT jar filled up!

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To say we were pleasantly surprised and ecstatic is an understatement!

It was totally worth breaking out the extractor because it did a mighty fine job of getting the honey out of the comb in a timely manner.

Now, while all this is going on, I was also putting up the pinto beans we harvested during the summer months and had stored in the freezer.

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I wanted to have beans that were ready to use at a moments notice so keeping them in their frozen state would not suffice.  (I was also tired of seeing the shelled beans we harvested right before the first frost and put in the fridge staring at me every time I opened the fridge door!)  So, since I had a few hours that morning why not put all of ’em up!

I now have eight pint jars of pinto beans canned and ready for use.  Yay!

These eight jars were the results of a couple dozen plants.  We’ll see how long these jars last us but, next year, I’d like to double that.  Not having to buy canned beans during the winter would be a good thing!

On my way in to work later that morning, I had this overwhelming feeling of excitement and accomplishment.  It’s difficult to explain the feeling but those four hours we spent harvesting honey from our bees and putting up our homegrown pinto beans is precisely why we bought this farm – to become more self-sufficient, to know where our food comes from, to be less-reliant on outside food sources, to meet like-minded people, etc.  And, as I look at my jars of honey being proudly displayed on my coffee bar, they remind me of the dream we had before buying this farm and that we are now living that dream.  Now, I’m not saying living the dream is all peaches and cream because life is just not that way.  There are ups and downs as in anything so, be a dreamer and make strides towards accomplishing that dream but be realistic as well because it’s worth it.

I am reminded of a retirement meeting that CountryBoy and I attended while we were working in EMS (Emergency Medical Services) in Florida.  The speaker asked everyone to state what they wanted to do when they retired.  Many mentioned wanting to retire to a condo on the beach or have a cabin in the mountains.  Then, it came our turn… we both stated we wanted a farm!  The response from the instructor… “a farm?!  Don’t you know that’s a lot of work?”  Hahaha!  Yes, we know it’s a lot of work but, let me tell ya’, it’s fulfilling and rewarding work and we wouldn’t change a thing!

 

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Corn, Corn, Corn

Have y’all ever watched the movie ‘Secondhand Lions’?  If not, you should!  It’s one of the few movies that I could watch over and over again.  There’s a scene in there where the phrase “corn, corn, corn” is said.  Well, that’s what we have going on this week at the farm…

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Lots of pickin’ and shuckin’!  CountryBoy was able to harvest the corn before the wildlife got too many cobs.  This is our best crop to date!

As I write this blog post he is getting ready to blanch the nicest cobs then freeze them.  The other cobs will be de-cobbed and canned.

He put up five quarts the other day while I was at work.

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This was his first time using the pressure canner by himself.  After reading the instructions in the Ball Canning Book and several phone calls to me, he successfully conquered the pressure canner!

He saved the cobs for me so I could try something…

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Corn Cob Jelly!  Yep, you read that right, ha!

I had read that this jelly tastes like honey and since I LOVE honey I had to try it.  Of course the whole ‘waste not, want not’ ideal was very appealing to me as well, so yesterday, I made eleven half-pints of corn cob jelly.

I just ate some on a piece of toast and I have to say, it’s pretty yummy and it does taste a lot like honey but with the texture of jelly.  On another piece of toast I added some crunchy peanut butter with the jelly.  That’s pretty good, too!

After I was finished with the cobs for the jelly the chickens got to enjoy them!

I must say, getting multiple uses from one source is very exciting to me!  Canned corn, corn cob jelly and corn cob treats for the chickens – what’s not to love?!  Truly a waste not, want not ideal!

We’re planning on canning the majority of the corn this year so we’ll be making a lot more of this jelly.  These will make great gifts as well as selling some at our Farmers Market and possibly some in the gift shop at the B&B where I work.

Speaking of selling jellies, we finally got our Home Based Processors license.  Woohoo! We can officially sell jams & jellies and low-acidic canned goods at our local Farmer’s Market as long as the majority of ingredients are locally grown.  I’d have to say that our Corn Cob Jelly would qualify!

Another exciting find this week…

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Our first green egg!!!

One of the ‘babies’ laid an egg AND she even laid it in a nest box!  Proud Mama moment, heehee!

They are only four months old so this is about a month early.  Needless to say, we were very surprised.  Oh, and it was very tasty even though it was so small!

What’s happening at YOUR place?

A Good Problem

A few years back when we were planning and building out the current pantry space we thought it would certainly be plenty big enough to store all our home-canned goods.  Especially when compared to the original pantry space that was there when we moved in!

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Yikes!  This view is looking from the bathroom into the pantry space.  The door into the pantry/laundry nook/bathroom is to the left, behind the wall beside the dryer.

Many of you have already seen the before and after but for those of you just joining us, here’s a recap… there was a corner closet with some shelves and then the tall green cabinet was there as well.  We tore the corner closet out and replaced the subfloor with thicker plywood.  (The tall green cabinet was repurposed as nest boxes for the chickens!)

We salvaged some old fence boards from the neighbors burn pile and we began putting the pantry back in order.  We chose to do an L-shaped shelving system leaving plenty of space under the first shelf to store stock pots and food-grade buckets and what have-ya’s and what-for’s!

Here’s the space today…

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This view is from the doorway.  (The corner closet would be straight ahead towards the left.)  It’s jam-packed and we’re out of room.  This is definitely a good problem because that means that we’ve had a productive garden and we have the equipment we need to put it all up for winter!

What IS all that stuff you ask?  Stock pots, pressure cooker, water bath canner, a crock full of fermenting pickles, a honey extractor, laundry basket full of potatoes, empty egg cartons, pots & pans hanging, food-grade buckets for flours and sugar, a chest freezer beside the laundry basket and, of course, the canned goods.  There are also shelves beside the egg cartons not pictured.  Those are full of dry goods such as pasta, beans and baking goods.  Below those shelves are crock-pots, a food processor and an old-fashioned ice cream maker.  It’s a mess!  And, for someone like me, that likes everything to have a place and to be in its place you know it’s driving me nuts!  Yea, yea, short-drive, I know, ha!

Here’s the real problem…

I still have lots of stuff to put up for winter… apples, tomatoes, beets, corn, lima beans and pinto beans and I’m almost out of room on my shelves!

Thankfully, the onions don’t need to go in the pantry!

We actually got a decent crop of onions this year…

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The onions in the basket will be used fresh as needed.  The onions in the bowl are in the process of being chopped, put into quart size freezer bags and froze for use in cooking.

This has been an awesome year for the garden.  Just the right amount of rain and sunshine nourishing the veggies yet still allowing us to maintain the weeds.  Well, for the most part!

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We are in the process of planning to extend the pantry to the adjacent outdoor cistern ‘room’.  This means enclosing the space from the outdoors, moving plumbing to put in a door and deciding what to do with the existing cisterns that fill with water every time it rains and the concrete floor.  We’ve got ideas and are tossing them around but, it will take us a while to decide exactly what we want and how we want the space to work.  Then, there’s the funds and supplies needed to get it done.  Maybe by this time next year we’ll have a space large enough to store all our modern-day homesteading goodies.  A good problem indeed!

Till next time you’ll see me knee-deep in apples-n-such!

 

14 Pints & A Post

I have 35 minutes from the time I popped the SD card into my computer to download and edit photos to the time I need to leave for work.  So, this is going to be a short post believe it or not!

Yesterday was market day.  We took our usual – fresh eggs and tomatoes.  We only sold a couple dozen eggs this week but we sold quite a few tomatoes.  Even so, we came home with LOTS of ripe ones that needed something done with them.

I decided to put up diced tomatoes this time.  As with canning any tomato product it’s time consuming but these were super simple – wash, dice, can.  No cooking which cut the time in half!

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I was able to get 14 pints and had a few of the ripe tomatoes left over.  We won’t discuss the ones that aren’t quite ripe yet as I watch CountryBoy carry another pail of tomatoes in from the garden!

The other night we started digging up potatoes.

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This is only a partial row.  Today, I wiped the dirt off and put them in an extra laundry basket to store.  We’re still trying to find the best way and place to keep our potatoes over winter.  For now, they’ll go in the pantry.  Some day, we’d love to build a root cellar.

CountryBoy has also pulled most of the onions.  Some are hanging in the pantry and the latest ones ended up here…

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I will chop and freeze the majority of the onions to use in cooking and the ones that dry nicely will be saved for fresh onions.

Also pictured are some cabbage we just bought the other day and some mint a fellow market vendor gave us.  We will be planting the cabbage soon and the mint – well, I need to figure out where I want them.  They will spread so I want to give them the space to do so.  I do know I want them in the small garden; it’s exactly WHERE in the small garden that I haven’t decided!

And now for some lovelies…

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I have no idea what plant this is.  It looks like a giant weed but the butterflies sure do love it!

Here’s a closeup…

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Any ideas?

Well, as soon as I hit Publish I am off to work.  Here’s hoping y’all have a lovely weekend!

Catching Up

Here it is, another Monday.  Since I don’t have a 9 to 5 job I don’t mind Mondays.  It’s just another day.

Speaking of job, it’s going very well and I really enjoy it.  Our two days of 40+ people for lunch last week went fairly smooth.  Not bad for just a handful of girls prepping, cooking, plating, serving, waiting and cleaning up.  We had a couple hiccups the first day but we got through them and everything worked out.  The second day – smooth as buttah!  And, with fewer staff and a few more guests.  LOVE working with people who have an amazing work ethic!

I spent the following day relaxing.

I did a little bit of sewing…

These Soup Bowl Cozy’s took some time to accumulate all the necessary stuff to start making them.  You can set a microwaveable bowl in them filled with whatever you want to heat up and pop them in the microwave.  In order to do that, though, these cozy’s need to be made with 100% cotton everything.  Cotton fabric, cotton thread and cotton batting.  Do you know how hard it is to find cotton thread these days?  And what is labeled as cotton batting is more than likely an 80/20 blend of cotton and polyester.  That’s what I had on hand and thought was all cotton.  Nope!  Thank goodness the little fabric shop down the road had the batting I needed.  Unfortunately, they were out of 100% cotton thread but I found some at Hobby Lobby the next day.  Whew!

Even though we do not have a microwave I wanted to make them as if they would end up in a microwave cuz, ya just never know!  What if they’re handed down and someone assumes they can be put in the microwave?  Yea, better to be safe than sorry!

Anyway, I made three different sizes.  The original pattern ended up being too large for my bowls.  The second size was a tad too small and finally, the third one was just right.  Kinda sounds like a nursery rhyme!

I also did some baking…

It’s a Texas Sheet Cake only it’s made in a skillet.  Anything with chocolate AND made in a skillet HAS to be good, right?!  And, it was!  This was a Pinterest win!

I also enjoyed the rain we got that day.  Some very much needed rain indeed!

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Our gardens were very happy!

Before the rain started I decided to remove the reducer from the entrance to the beehive.

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The colony is well established now so our thought was to remove the reducer to help with air flow during the hot summer months.  It seems to be working.

On my way to the hive I noticed that many of the grape clusters were ready…

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Although we didn’t get a whole lot this year it’s a LOT more than we got last year.  For a young grapevine I’m pretty happy with the results…

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Another thing we’re extremely happy about…

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is a completely FULL wood shed this year!!!  Yay!

There is still a lot of wood to be had where that came from.  We just need to decide where to store it.

Before I went to work Saturday evening our neighbor called to tell CountryBoy about a yard sale just around the corner or on the other side of the mountain across from us, if you will.  He spotted a sickle mower and knew that we were looking for one.  The price was reasonable so CountryBoy went over there and paid for it before I had to leave.

He then drove the tractor over there to pick it up.

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It’s old and hasn’t been used in a while but it’s supposed to work.  We just need to figure out the best way to maneuver it while on the tractor since it’s not hydraulic and we need to get a part for it.

On a sad note, one of the front tractor tires was found flat today…

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sigh.  Now we have to have it fixed.  I have no idea the cost of repairing or replacing a tractor tire.  Happy about the sickle mower and bummed about the tire.  It’s ALWAYS something.

We’ve been selling some extra tomatoes at the market but these tomatoes were ripe yesterday…

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And when they’re ripe, they’re ripe!  They won’t wait until market day, ha!  So, although I like to spend Sunday’s relaxing with minimal farm chores I spent the afternoon putting up these beauties!

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I ended up with four quart jars and three pint jars of crushed tomatoes.  It will be nice to add them to some soup or stew this winter!

I’m off to do some more relaxing and doing some cross-stitching this afternoon.  I am really close to finishing up a piece I’ve been working on for over a year.  It’s time to GET IT DONE!

Till next time!

 

 

Summer’s Freshness

Summer’s are a busy time of the year for us but it’s also the most rewarding.

When the grounds have been freshly mowed and bush-hogged the farm is beautiful.

When the garden has been freshly tilled and we’re able to keep up with the weeds seeing it will put a smile on your face anticipating the goodness that is about to come.

The hot days of summer we can do without especially when living in an old farmhouse with no air conditioning.  But, we schedule our days according to the weather and we survive.

What does that mean?  We do the animal chores in the morning before the sun comes up over the mountain or in the evening when it sets behind the other mountain dropping the temperature quite a bit.  We weed and check the crops during those times as well.  During the hottest part of the day we stay indoors underneath the ceiling fans.  To keep the house cool we have fans in a couple of the windows during the night time and then we close the windows during the day.  So far, it has been tolerable.  Worse case scenario, we have a couple of portable AC units we can hook up if it gets unbearable.  I just don’t know how our ancestors survived before all these modern conveniences like ceiling fans and air conditioning!  My guess it’s because they didn’t know any differently and they didn’t really have a choice.

Enough about our summer survival methods and on with some good stuff!

The beauty about summertime, besides the green grass and trees and everything in bloom, is the harvest from the garden.  Summertime has us eating lots of garden goodies and freshness!

One of our favorites is a marinated cucumber salad…

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Our onions aren’t ready yet but the cucumbers and tomatoes are straight from the garden.

Another summer dish we really love is a Greek Orzo Salad…

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We can (and do!) eat a huge Pyrex bowl of this stuff in a couple of days!  Fresh basil and parsley from the garden as well as the cucumbers and tomatoes thrown in with some cooked Orzo pasta, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, red onions and a dressing of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and YUM!!!  Simple but tasty.  I had to modify the last batch I made because I didn’t have any feta cheese or red onions on hand and living 30 minutes from Anywhere, USA I used what I had!  So, that meant cubing up some mozzarella and using a white onion instead.  It gave it more of an Italian flare but was just as good!  And it’s already gone, sniff.

On a really hot day we’ll have a smoothie for lunch…

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These are so yummy and so simple to make.  I add one packet to a cup of milk, throw in some frozen berries and a few ice cubes and mix it all up in my Ninja blender.  Super.Simple.  And right up my alley on a hot day!   I mean, who wants to be in a hot kitchen on a hot day?  Not me, especially with no air conditioning!!!

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Now on to more goodness…

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I’ve got cucumbers coming out the wazoo!  I’ve already made a batch of Bread & Butter pickles.  Now I’m trying Sweet Icicle Cucumbers.  These babies take a while to make.  First, they sat in a brine for a week.  Now I’m in the pickling process.  Every day I strain the pickling juice into a saucepan with the bag of pickling spices, bring them to a boil then ladle it back into the crock.  I have two more days to go and then I can finally process them in the canner.

I didn’t read the directions thoroughly enough before starting so my processing timeline is off and I’ll end up canning these on Sunday after church.  I typically rest and relax on Sunday’s but after all the work involved with this batch of pickles I don’t want to take a chance on messing them up by waiting or adding another day to the process.  I also hope that they’re good after all this work.  Fingers crossed!

My next batch of pickles I want to try some Garlic Dill pickles.  I’m hoping to discover a recipe that tastes like the pickles I used to get at Ronnie’s Restaurant in Orlando when I was a kid.  I remember the place well.  It was on the corner of a huge L-shaped outdoor mall or strip mall, if you will, and it was always a treat to go there.  It was a big restaurant with delicious food and desserts and on every table was a gallon jar of whole pickles where you could help yourself while you waited for your meal.  They were SO good and I haven’t found a pickle like them since.  Sadly, the restaurant has been long gone but I’m still holding onto hope that I’ll find a recipe or some pickles that taste just like them.  Wouldn’t that be awesome!

Summer means early mornings or evenings on the front porch when it’s cool…

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Aren’t they cool?!  LizzieBelle and her buddy Creamsicle – so cute!

I mentioned earlier about summer blooms…

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This plant completely disappears after winter.  I mean, it’s dead and gone and every year I think it’s not coming back.  Then all of a sudden, it reappears again and puts out these huge flowers.  I mean HUGE!  These flowers are the size of my hand.

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Do any of y’all know what they are?  They remind me of a Hibiscus but bigger.

Another summer bloom are the Rose of Sharon’s…

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We have a LOT of these trees on the farm and they are literally humming with bumblebees and honey bees!  I wish y’all could hear it.  It makes me wonder what our honey is going to taste like.  I snagged a sample of it while I was in the hive a while ago and it was really good.

Speaking of honey, I will be getting into the hive on the first somewhat cool day we have.  I’m hoping to pull a honey frame or two out that is ready to be harvested.  That’s going to be an exciting day!

And, speaking of honey, at last week’s farmers market I had a couple people ask me if we were the ones selling honey.  I told them, not yet.  Maybe next year we’ll have some to sell at the market but it depends on how much we can sustainably harvest and still leave the bees with enough to get them through the winter.  I go through a LOT of honey so any honey we sell would have to be extra honey.  Although, if my bees continue to multiply like they have been I am going to need another hive or two and then I might have some extra.  Yea, I go through THAT much honey!

And, speaking of the farmers market, it’s going well…

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CountryBoy manning our table

We have several regular customers now and have sold out of eggs the last two markets.  This past market we took some of our cucumbers and sold out of them as well and even did some bartering with them.

Here’s what we bartered for…

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Yummy homemade herb & cheese bread and golden oyster mushrooms which I promptly sautéed that night and put on top of my burger with some pepper jack cheese.  With the burgers we grilled fresh corn on the cob that we also picked up at the market –   Mmm!

Our market is small but it’s slowly growing with vendors…

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That’s only half of our regular vendors but check out the view of Appalachian Mountains in our town!

I’d encourage you to find a local farmers market if you haven’t done so already.  You will not only be getting the freshest of the fresh but you will be helping support your local farming families where every purchase is greatly appreciated.

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Summer Happenings

Summer and Fall are busy times ’round here.

It seems there is something that needs to be done every day just to keep up, or else…

First, there’s trying to keep up with the garden.

We’ve had lots of glorious rain this year which is wonderfully nourishing for the plants but is equally nourishing for the weeds.  And, when you garden organically, that means trying to keep up with the weeds just so you can see your crop!

Then, there’s the harvesting of said crop.

Currently we’re only harvesting cucumbers (lots and lots of cucumbers!) and a few tomatoes here and there.

With so many cucumbers ready every few days I am trying new-to-me recipes to preserve them.

In the last blog post I talked about making Bread & Butter pickles.  I can’t wait to try them in a few weeks!

Today, I started the process of making Sweet Icicle Pickles found in the Complete Blue Ball Canning book.

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Four pounds of cucumbers in a stainless steel stock pot and covered with pickling salted water.

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I placed an inverted plate over them and sat some canning jars full of water on the plate.

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(It’s a green glass plate which is why it’s so green!)

These will sit in the cool pantry with a thick towel over them for a week before the next step.  There are six steps total so this process is going to take a while.  After all that I hope they turn out!

Once the rest of the veggies we’ve planted are ready to be harvested our days will be non-stop and there will be veggies all over the mudroom and the kitchen waiting to be preserved.  Yea, it’s a lot of work but when you see your pantry fill up with all the food you started from seed and tended to and harvested there is nothing more rewarding!  And, we’re able to eat that reward all throughout the year, woot!

Of course, with all the wonderful rain we’ve had it also means the grass is growing as well.  So, there’s mowing to be done every week and bush-hogging the upper and lower forty every other month.

We really need to get a hay rake and a small square hay baler so that we can bale the grass from those fields to use in the chicken coop throughout the year.  Some day.

Speaking of chickens, this guy has got his hands, er, feet FULL!

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The gorgeous Fuzzy Foot always has a lot to say!  I guess that’s the only way to keep up with seventeen laying hens and sixteen ‘babies’.  Either that or he’s awfully proud of his brood and wants everyone to know!

And, speaking of babies, the chicks are no longer chicks and are growing like our weeds!  They are eleven weeks old and getting so big.  I will have to take some photos for y’all to see.

I’ve enjoyed taking a few minutes here and there and walking around the farm with my camera.  Well, let’s just say for the sake of keeping it real, I’ve mostly enjoyed it.  I’ve had issues with my camera for a while.  It seems it likes only one lens now and half the time the automatic focus doesn’t work meaning I miss out on a lot of shots.  I know that’s neither here nor there for y’all but that’s my world.  ha!

I did manage to capture a butterfly or two when they were hitting the daylilies…

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I love watching the butterflies flit from one flower to another!

A friend of ours gave us this plant last year and it bloomed this year…

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I have no idea what kind of plant it is but the flower is larger than my hand.  Anyone know?  These are bulbs and will spread.  I already have two large stalks and two smaller stalks.  Yay!

There was a full moon last Saturday and when I went out to lock the chickens up the moon was just over the barn.  I had to walk back in and grab my camera…

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Along with summer comes the heat.

So far, we’ve had a decent summer.  With no air conditioning in the ‘ol farmhouse we appreciate a decent summer.  We open the windows at night and close them when the sun comes up and the house usually stays fairly cool.

My bees, on the other hand, have taken to bearding in the evenings to stay cool…

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Bearding typically takes place during the warmer months.  With all the buzzing and humming and work going on inside the hive it tends to get warm in there.  In order to stay cool, the bees will congregate outside the hive in the evenings creating a beard-like effect.

Another reason they may do this is when they are getting ready to swarm.  If they are out of room in the brood box they will swarm, congregate outside the hive getting organized waiting for the scouts to return then leave the hive and go to their new home.  I checked the hive and, thankfully, there was plenty of room for them.  I even added another brood box just in case so I know they are just bearding to cool off.

Another summer time happening is the process of gathering wood for the winter.  This will be our third winter here and maybe the first winter that we will be completely prepared for it.

The first year, we had no heat source, bitter cold temps, lots of snow, and no snow shovels.  We moved from Florida where one doesn’t need snow shovels!

The next year, we had some heat sources (wood burning insert and propane) and we had gathered quite a bit of wood but we still needed to be frugal with burning it and even then, the wood shed was empty by the last cold spell.  Thankfully, it wasn’t a bad winter.

This coming winter, we hope to have the wood shed completely full and get a jump start on wood for next winter as well.

I mentioned earlier about all the rain we’ve had but we’ve also had some terrible wind associated with several of those storms.

Quite a few friends and neighbors have had several trees come down in those storms.

CountryBoy is currently helping a friend from church cut up a HUGE tree that fell recently.

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This is only half the tree and just the branches are shown.

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The wood shed is half full and they haven’t even gotten to the trunk yet!

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Another church member told us about a couple hundred trees that came down in his cousins field that we are welcome to.  YAY!  Y’all just don’t know what a blessing and relief it is to know that we will stay warm this winter.

While the guys were cutting up the tree I meandered over to take some photos of the original cabin on their property.

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The history of this homestead is that two elderly ladies occupied this little house up until the time our friends bought the property.

There is no electricity and no creature comforts that we are accustomed to.

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The ground is slowly taking this little cutie pie piece of history.

The current owners had taken up the wood floor before it started disintegrating and stored it in their barn although much of it was stored under a roof leak and had started to deteriorate.  They gave us quite a bit of that flooring that was in somewhat decent shape and, one day, I hope to salvage what I can of it and put it in the second guest room.  It will be nice to have a finished floor in that room and some local history in the farmhouse.

There’s never a dull moment during the summer but we do manage to get some down time, especially during the heat of the day, allowing us to do some fun things or just relax.  After all, it’s all about balance!

From Cucumbers to Bread & Butter Pickles

Last year we planted cucumbers in the small garden.  We managed to get a few cucumbers but, overall, they did not do very well.  I’m thinking it was a bit too shady in the small garden.

This year we planted them in the big garden.  I chose the small pickling cucumbers this time and planted twenty some seeds along a trellis I tied to some metal stakes.

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Thankfully, only eight seeds germinated!

This picture was taken last week and the plants have doubled in size since then.  I couldn’t imagine the massive amount of cucumber plants all over the trellis had even a dozen of the seeds germinated!

Here’s a picture from yesterday…

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They are reaching out to the onions and the potatoes and grabbing hold.  I keep trying to weave them through the trellis but I’m thinking it’s a lost cause.

There are blossoms all over the place…

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With cucumbers of all sizes…

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I had my eye on several of them so that I could pick them at the precise size good for making pickles.  Several rains later they were huge and there were LOTS of them, oops!

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So, yesterday, after picking up some Turmeric in town, I got started on my first-ever batch of pickles.

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I chose to make traditional Bread & Butter Pickles using the recipe out of the Complete Blue Ball Canning book.

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They sure smelled good!  Hopefully, they’ll taste as good as they smelled.

I got 5 pints out of this batch but forgot to get a photo.

I will research all the ways to use and preserve the cucumbers but if we keep harvesting a bunch of cucumbers every week we’ll probably take them to the local farmer’s market to sell along with our eggs.

Today, I made a quick salad with one of the larger cucumbers.  (We ate it before I thought to get a picture!)

  • 1 medium cucumber, ends removed and diced into small pieces
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • handful of cilantro, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar
  • ENJOY!

An Apron Wearing Day

After struggling with allergies all last week from the dreaded ragweed infestation we have on the farm I was feeling better today with a bit more energy so I decided it was time to tackle some of the apples we were given a couple weeks ago.  I mean, after all, they don’t know I’m not up to dealing with them and, therefore, will keep from rotting until I feel better (wink).

So, this morning, I donned my apron and got to work at washing the first bag of apples.  Thankfully, when CountryBoy finished up his project outside he came in and asked if I needed any help.  Well, yea!  He ended up peeling while I quartered and cored the apples.

Two bags later, we had 12 pounds of apples ready to be cooked and softened to be made into applesauce.

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Much like painting, the most tedious part of canning is the prep-work.

Once these softened I worked in small batches pureeing them in the food processor.  Once they were all pulverized and back in the pan I added sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon.   MMMmmm!  Then processed them for 20 minutes in a water bath.

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Yum!  With the sugar and cinnamon added it’s like dessert in a jar!

We peeled a few too many apples so CountryBoy chopped them up for me so I could make my Apple Crisp.

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I left them sit in some water with lemon juice until I could get to them.

Meanwhile, while I was waiting for the first batch of applesauce to process I started working on a bag of hot banana peppers that we were given last week.

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I decided to chop them and freeze them for later use.

I got the ends all cut off and cut in half and maybe about 1/4 of them de-seeded when CountryBoy came back from a quick trip to town.  Again, he asked if I needed any help.  Well, yea!  So, he finished de-seeding them and chopped them up.  (And, no, he didn’t wear gloves either!)  We ended up with almost 3 quart size freezer baggies full.

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I will add these to some of the Mexican-style dishes we love to eat and anything else I think they might go well in.

After the last batch of applesauce was in the canner I got started on the Apple Crisp.

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I added pecans this time, put the topping on and popped it in the oven.

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Mmm!

While the Apple Crisp was cooling I started on my last kitchen project of the day… DIY VapoRub.

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We’ve both been under the weather, CountryBoy with a cold and me with my allergies, so I thought some VapoRub would be nice for night time.

It’s pretty easy to make.  Melt your oils and beeswax, let it cool a bit then add your essential oils.

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I added Young Living’s Peppermint, Lemon, Eucalyptus Globulus and RC (Respiratory Comfort) blend essential oils.

It has a little softer consistency then I thought it would have but it turned out OK.  I did go back and add more drops of each essential oil because my coconut oil was overpowering everything.  The added drops helped tremendously.

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Ah, nice!  I love being able to make my own remedies at home.  It’s actually quite fun too!

I didn’t have to think about making anything for lunch/supper because we brought home some delicious leftovers from our church’s Homecoming celebration yesterday.  Is there such a thing as a lunch/supper combo?  You know, like brunch, only you eat mid-afternoon?  We do that a lot ’round here since we usually have brunch then we’re hungry again mid-afternoon.  Maybe we should come up with a name for it.  Any ideas?

Anyhoo, all the stuff that I was able to make today was only possible because my awesome Hubby offered to help.  Otherwise, I’d probably still be peeling apples!

So, after a day spent in my apron and in the kitchen this was our reward…

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A bowl of yummy Apple Crisp!

I Should Be In The Kitchen

We are still harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapenos and okra.

The lima beans seem to have halted their growth at the moment.

And, still in the ground are the other half of the gold potatoes and all the sweet potatoes.

We were gifted with a BUNCH more apples and a bag full of hot and sweet banana peppers.

Today, my intentions were to make and put up some salsa using up some of the tomatoes, the jalapenos and some of the hot banana peppers.  That is, until I discovered that I didn’t have enough garlic on hand to make the salsa.  And, probably not quite enough lemon juice either. sigh.

Then I thought, I oughta make and put up some applesauce or apple pie filling.  But, I just wasn’t in the mood to peel apples all morning.

I went outside to hang up a load of laundry and saw the trunk project I am working on.  Of course, I meandered over there to check it out and, well, the morning was history (wink!).

So far, a lot of time has been spent gently scraping the canvas off the outside of the trunk.  I even had to pull out the paint stripper to remove the black paint that was on three sides and the top of the trunk.

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It’s coming along slowly but I can already envision what this ‘ol trunk is going to look like when I’m finished!

I stopped working on it today when the sweat started running down my legs.  Here’s where I’m at on the top of the trunk…

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I still have a long way to go on the whole thing but I’m making progress.

When my hands needed a break from all the scraping I decided to pot my two $1 plants I got the other day from the clearance rack at Lowe’s.  They were already marked down to $3 then they were marked down to $1.  Score!

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There was no tag in the containers but I believe these are trailing Verbena.  Don’t quote me on that though!

I am slowly working on some curb appeal so I put these in my plastic, half barrel-looking pot and put them in front of the ‘ol wagon wheel leaning on the front (actually side) porch rail.

Can you add curb appeal even though you don’t have a curb?  Ha!

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This is the side of the porch that is seen when you come up the drive.  It is looking a little better and more inviting.

See all the chippy paint on the porch railing and the floor?  Our porch definitely needs some TLC.  In time.

Tomorrow, I will get in the kitchen.  That is, after a quick trip to town to get more jars, lemon juice and garlic.  Then, I will be psyched and ready to spend the day putting up food for winter!