A Much Anticipated Time of Year

After a long, cold, wet winter we are finally enjoying some beautiful warm Spring weather during the days and cool, crisp nights here in Kentucky.  Nights without frost so you know what that means?  It’s time to get the garden tilled and planted!

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CountryBoy borrowed a friends tractor and tiller which made short work of getting the ground ready.  (He also fixed our washed-out road while he had the tractor making good use of the bucket on the front.)

Once that was done he staked out the rows…

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and we spent a couple of days planting seeds and several of the plants we started in the greenhouse.

Planted so far are corn, potatoes, okra, cucumbers, several types of tomatoes, lima beans, pinto beans, green beans, brussels sprouts, squash, onions, and sunflowers.

Still to plant are green peppers, cayenne peppers, sweet banana peppers, beets, more squash and brussels sprouts, and more tomatoes once they are big enough to transplant. We will direct sow watermelon in the next couple of days.

I am thankful for my greenhouse that we recently added on the side porch.  It is accessible from the mudroom and does a great job of creating a hothouse effect.  A few more small projects and it will be completely finished.

A few days after we finished planting we had a nourishing rain that gave the seeds and plants a good start.  When the rain quit I meandered around the farm with my camera looking for spring flowers.  Here’s what I found…

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The passionflower vines are coming back and are climbing their way up the arbor leading onto our front porch.

The purple irises are beginning to open up…

such beauty…

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After reveling in their beauty I meandered over to the sour cherry trees…

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We may just get some sour cherries this year which we’ll make into jam (or maybe I’ll crush up a few and put into some Kombucha!).

From there I wandered over to the asparagus bed…

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YIKES!  Here is where I had a squirrel moment… I thought after the good rain we had that the weeds would pull up rather easy so I set my camera down and started pulling.  These weeds were not going anywhere without a fight.  Well no weed is going to get the better of me so I trotted off to the greenhouse to get some backup.  My hand shovel could barely break through the thick weeds but I did find some asparagus…

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YUM!  This is our third year since it has been planted so we are free to harvest it this year.  CountryBoy has picked several already and, boy, are they yummy sautéed in some butter, balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with some salt and pepper.  Good stuff!

As I was pulling the weeds I came across some poison ivy.  Oi!  Since CountryBoy can almost just look at it and break out in a rash I started yanking and pulling on it trying to remove it from the root so that it wouldn’t come back.  I got all of it except for a thick root which we’ll pour either some white vinegar or the salt water from homemade ice cream on it or both.  (Good excuse to churn some ice cream!)

When I came in I scrubbed and showered and thought I was good-to-go but the following day I woke up in the middle of the night with a burning, itchy arm.  I now have a rash on my face, both arms, chest and stomach.  sigh.  Apparently, I too, am now allergic to poison ivy.  This too, shall pass.  I’m just thankful for warm weather and for being able to help get the garden planted.

Have you got anything planted in a garden or containers?

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The Warmth of Plants

I don’t think Spring has looked at the calendar nor did it get the memo that it is supposed to be here!

Yesterday it was snowing.

This morning there was frost on the ground.

Each week it seems we may have one or two warmish days and then, BAM, it’s cold again!

We’re trying to figure out when to start sowing some seeds in the garden but no sooner do we get a couple nice days in a row then the forecast is calling for either more rain (it’s been a very wet and cold winter) or frosty temps.

Meanwhile, as we wait for the frosty nights to come to an end CountryBoy has several starts growing in the greenhouse such as tomatoes, brussel sprouts, green peppers and squash in hopes that we won’t be too far behind in the growing season.

Speaking of greenhouse, we recently had to repair a rather large section of the roof in between all the rain…

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For once, duct tape did not fix the problem.  What was the problem you ask?  Multiple cracks in the panels due to being walked on.  CountryBoy was removing a storm gutter and the easiest point of access was in front of the greenhouse.  These panels have been through the summer’s sun and were on the brittle side so when he stepped on them they cracked and the greenhouse has leaked ever since.  We ordered enough panels to replace them and on a rare warm day after I got home from work we jumped up there and replaced them before the rains came that evening…

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It’s so nice not to have a leaky greenhouse now!

Our local farmer’s market is starting earlier this year and I’m afraid all we’ll have to offer for the first few weeks will be our country eggs.  Lots and lots of country eggs!  In fact, we have SO many eggs right now that we sent 9 dozen to New York with my brother and sister-in-law who stopped by for a visit on their way up from Florida and yet we STILL have oodles of eggs!

Speaking of the market, we are more involved this year and it’s been a lot of fun being a part of the planning for this years market and getting to know the other vendors a little better.  Since the beginning of the year we’ve had a meeting each month to discuss and make plans for the market.  During several of the meetings we have been trained on how to create an enticing display at our booth as well as training on accepting senior vouchers (offered to local senior citizens) and WIC.  I spent some time creating several drafts of possible logos for our market and, as a group, we made suggestions and tweaked them until we came up with one that we’re all happy with.  That was a fun process and threw me back to my days as a Graphic Designer.  CountryBoy and I have also applied to be ‘Kentucky Proud’ vendors and are waiting to hear if we’ve been accepted.  What is ‘Kentucky Proud’?  It’s the official state marketing program for agricultural products.  I am especially excited about this certification!  I may have only lived in Kentucky for three years but I am happy to be here and proud to be a part of the agricultural community.  My hope in the years ahead is to be able to offer more Kentucky Proud products grown and/or made right here on the farm.  That’s what it’s all about!

Now that I’ve been getting a handle on where to place our furniture (it’s a trial-and-error process!) and finding creative ways to decorate with dual-purpose or well-loved items I have slowly been adding some greenery indoors.  I think indoor plants help warm and soften the space and can help ease the long winter months.

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My favorite plants?  Free ones!  I’ve been splitting and repotting plants that have outgrown their container such as the one above and have propagated several others such as the one below…

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that came from this one…

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If you follow our Dream Valley Farmstead Facebook page then you’ve already seen the previous photo with the jute plant hanger.  But for those that aren’t on Facebook that was a fun, easy DIY project using stuff I already had on hand.  I really like the way it turned out and I’ll definitely be making a few more using some of the glass bottles I’ve saved.  If there’s one thing I have a weakness for hoarding it’s glass bottles and containers.  Colored ones, old ones, unique ones, big or small ones, etc.  This bottle was a soap dispenser we had while traveling and the metal dispenser broke and quit working.  I saved the bottle because I liked the color and the shape (and because I have a thing for bottles as you now know, ha!)

Spring is trying its hardest to push Winter out of the way as is evident by the new growth that is bursting out of the ground…

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Peonies (and who knows what else) given to me from a friend.  More free plants, yay!  I can’t wait for these to be chock full of beautiful Peonies!

Seeing the trees begin to produce tiny leaves or buds and plants emerging from a long winters rest brings warmth to my soul and puts a smile on my face!

Till next time my friends!

 

It’s Been Quite the Year

Oh, two thousand eighteen, what a year you have been already.

You have not been very kind to me.

In January, I was diagnosed with Bronchitis.  It lingered and seemed to dive deeper into my chest.  I continued to go to work but did very little when I got home.

In February, I was still coughing uncontrollably and had such terrible pain in my right rib cage.  It was so unbearable at times that I couldn’t breath.   I  went back to the doctor and was diagnosed with Pneumonia.  When I agree to go to the doctor CountryBoy knows I am not doing well.

I had zero energy.  I would cough so hard it made me gag and whatever I had recently eaten came right back up.  (Sorry, but it’s true.)  I did not go to work for two weeks.  (Thankfully, I have a very understanding boss who truly cares about the people that work for her and all she wanted was for me to get well.  Gotta love a boss like that!)

I lost weight.  That part was good!  It’s not the weight loss plan I would recommend to anyone but I’m not going to complain and am grateful to be twelve pounds lighter.

By the end of February I decided enough was enough so I stepped up my natural remedies since the conventional western medicines were not working for me.

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Lots of hot tea.  Sometimes with dried herbs, other times with essential oils (don’t worry, they were food grade essential oils!) and always with raw honey.  And water.  I could not drink enough plain ‘ol water to satisfy my thirst.

Also, on my list of natural remedies were essential oils known for respiratory and immune support.  I diffused them constantly and applied them topically throughout the day and before bed time.  I also took immune boosting natural supplements infused with essential oils.  And, after researching colloidal silver, I added that to my daily regimen as well.

By now, I was no longer on any prescription medication but I started feeling better and began seeing signs that my symptoms were easing up and disappearing altogether.  I’m continuing my daily ‘natural’ regimen and I’m doing well.  Whew!

You may be shaking your head at my non-traditional/natural ways and that’s OK.  I’ve bucked mainstream ideals for many years so I’m used to the head-shakes, ha!

So here we are… the first day of Spring!  We’ve had some other minor issues with our 100+ year old farmhouse this year but I am hoping that we can now get on with our regularly scheduled plans for 2018!

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We had some unusually warm days earlier in the month and the daffodils began to show their lovely faces a little before the official Spring date.  Thankfully, they have survived some frosty nights and even a terrible snow storm that knocked the power and phone lines out in our area for several days.

My newly planted tulips I bought last year on clearance have started peeking through the mulch…

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I love tulips and can’t wait to see my very own open up.  I have no idea what colors they are so I am not-so-anxiously awaiting their blooms!

While I was under the weather this beautiful amaryllis (given to me by my boss several months ago) opened up…

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It is still in the original pot so when the night time temps plummeted below freezing even in the greenhouse I put it in our bedroom.  It started to grow and eventually four beautiful flowers emerged.  It was a lovely reminder that ‘this too shall pass’.  I will be planting it in a new garden spot once Spring is officially here – the warm weather days of Spring, not the calendar days of Spring!

With Spring comes garden planting.  CountryBoy has started several seeds… tomatoes, green peppers, sweet banana peppers, cayenne peppers, jalapeños, okra, nasturtiums, marigolds, and who knows what else!  He is anxiously anticipating getting the garden going.

Shortly after the gardens get going it will be market time.  I have been working on an up-cycled project using the chickens’ feed bags and turning them into market tote bags…

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I found the tutorial on the Fresh Eggs Daily blog and will be cranking these out as the feed bags are emptied and will have them for sale at our local farmers market for dirt cheap.  I think they turned out great and are super cute!

Speaking of cute and chicken feed, here are a few of our newest girls hanging out in the mud…

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The lighter color girls (Ameracaunas) lay pretty green eggs and Cotton Top, our little Polish Crested bantam, lays small white eggs.  (My brother will be happy about the white eggs!)  It will be fun to offer green eggs at the market!

While waiting for the warmer months, I decided to tackle a bucket list item… to officially learn how to knit.  I’ve tried it here and there but it never really clicked.  I asked my niece to show me how with this simple little dishcloth…

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It’s called Grandmother’s Favorite Dishcloth and the pattern can be found online.  I was given several dishcloths of this pattern a long time ago and I’ve used them quite a bit.  To the point of no return really so it was definitely time to replace them.  It really helped having someone show me what to do and especially how to fix a mistake.  I enjoyed making this dishcloth and have whipped up several more since then.  Maybe some day I’ll tackle a larger knitting project!

We’ve had quite a bit of rain this winter.  In fact, it’s raining as I type this.    The Farmers Almanac predicted we would have a cold and wet winter and they were right.  Thankfully, we occasionally receive reminders that there will never be as much rain as in Noah’s day…

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Here’s hoping for a good, healthy rest of the year.  How is your year going?

Till next time…

 

 

 

 

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!

 

Garden Remnants

While much of the garden has already been harvested or is slowly petering out there are a few things that remain.

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Gone are the corn and corn stalks, potatoes, cucumbers and the pinto beans we planted.

What’s petering out are the tomatoes we planted and the okra is slowing down as well.

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And, although the okra is slowing down it will still produce until we get a good frost and that’s OK with us!

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We had some volunteer tomatoes show up that we’ve done nothing for them except let them be…

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We have no idea what kind of tomatoes they are but the plants are low to the ground and the tomatoes are small, grow in clusters and are extremely delicious!

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Here’s to hoping our first frost holds off so they can ripen!

Other garden volunteers have been a few pinto bean plants that showed up after the others were harvested…

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These are filling out nicely and will soon be ready to harvest.

The beets are bursting out of the ground and are just waiting for me to have some time to harvest and put them up….

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I see some pickled beets in the near future.  Yum!

The turnips?  We have no idea what’s going on with them.  The greens are looking good but there are little to no turnips.  Maybe we’ll just harvest some greens this year.  Who knows!

The lima beans are taking their time in filling out but it won’t be long until they are ready to be harvested as well…

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A recent planting in late summer were some cabbages…

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They are HUGE!  Some of these will be eaten fresh and the others will be made into sauerkraut.  That is, if I can find a fail-safe recipe.  The last batch I made was WAAAYYY too salty (thanks to guessing at the weight of cabbage vs. amount of salt needed per pound.  I now have a kitchen scale so maybe my recipe will work)

Although our garden was smaller this year than previous years we managed to get a nice yield from it.  We were able to put up enough for eating during the winter months as well as even sell some at our local Farmer’s Market.  Overall, it was another good year.

And, always ready to assist in whatever’s going on is Greyfus…

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OK, so it’s more like getting under foot in whatever’s going on but, nonetheless, he is our trusty helper and a sweet boy!

 

 

 

 

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!

Chicken Littles

August 1st already.  I honestly can’t believe it and am sitting here trying to figure out where this year has gone.  I mean, really!  At this rate we’ll be stoking the fire next week.  Or, so it will seem!

But, like it or not, August is here.  Which also means that our chicken littles are three and half months old and are growing up.

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They are finally venturing deeper into the paddock in search of delicious bugs.

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And, the big girls are tolerating their presence a little better.

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After removing their grow-out cage from the coop they began roosting in and on the nest boxes for the night.  Since chickens are little poop-machines, even while roosting, the nest boxes quickly became gross and limited where the big girls could lay.

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Eeeewww!!

So, this morning CountryBoy removed two of the three nest boxes out of the coop and into the stall where the other nest boxes were.  He then added a roost just for the littles. We’ll see what kind of mayhem these changes make come this evening as the littles look for their familiar sleeping quarters that are no longer there!

The big girls already seemed quite pleased to have a few more clean places to lay now.  We’re hoping this will encourage all, or at least most, of them to lay since we keep running out of eggs at the market.  We are averaging a dozen a day which sounds like a decent amount but it’s not enough to keep up with the demands of the market.  And that’s a good thing because it means the customers are enjoying our girls’ eggs.

It does my heart good to see all the girls running around the paddock soaking up some Vitamin D and searching for bugs.  Happy chickens lay delicious eggs with that nice orange yolk!

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Hopefully, we’ll start getting some small green eggs in the next month or two from the littles.  They will be too small to sell but we will enjoy them and will use them at our Sunday morning breakfasts at the church.

Speaking of small, the okra have finally begun to make an appearance…

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We got a late start on the garden this year but if the first frost holds off we may get a decent harvest.  Fingers crossed.  I’ve got a few people who are counting on okra for pickling and frying!

Till next time my friends!

Monday Morning Chit-Chat

I reeaally need to write blog posts more often.

There’s usually something going on ’round here all the time and by the time I get around to blogging I end up cramming a bunch of topics into one post thus, the title of this post.  Ha!

I really enjoy the whole blogging process… from coming up with the topic, to the taking and editing of the photos, to the writing… it’s a creative outlet for me.  Unfortunately, it’s only ONE of MANY creative outlets for me and, as of late, it has become a more distant outlet and pastime, if you will.

I think because the whole blogging process takes me a while I tend to put it off until I have a good chunk of time.  But, since I really do enjoy blogging I am going to make a concerted effort to start incorporating it into my days more often than not!

Speaking of days, about a week ago I started working outside the home again.  WHAT?!  I know!  It’s quite an unbelievable story but let me tell you how it all came about…

As any homesteader knows, creating a self-sufficient homestead can be quite costly these days.  There’s farm equipment such as a hay rake and baler to purchase so that we can harvest our own hay from the lower field for use in the chicken coop or any other farm animals we have in the future; there’s maintenance and fuel for tractors and mowers; there’s plows and tillers to be purchased to make gardening a bit easier as we creep on up in years; a sickle mower is on our wish list so we can keep the creek banks cleared; then there’s a 100 year old farm house that is in need of external repair and siding as well as adding a half bath upstairs for the sake of convenience and renovating the downstairs bath; feed for the chickens; bee equipment; just to name a few things.

With a limited income we were starting to feel the squeeze.  We don’t enjoy being squeezed so tightly so I started praying for a part time job to work alongside my essential oil business.  I spread the word among church members and asked them to keep their ears open for any job openings preferably in a mom-n-pop type business but, in the back of mind, I really wanted to work at a local B&B that holds a special place in our hearts.

See, when we drove from Texas (where we were working at the time) to look at the farm the realtor took us and the seller to lunch at this beautiful B&B six miles down the road (probably two as the crow flies!) and it was there, standing in the parking lot, where our offer was accepted and we shook hands with the seller.  It was totally awesome!

So, I thought if I have to work outside the home to earn a little extra money to put towards some of the things we need then it would be awesome if I could work at the local B&B that, not only holds a special place in our hearts, but is also a place that I have come to respect and, in some ways, can relate to.  How’s that, you ask?  Well, the owner had a dream.  A dream where people could come to their little piece of paradise nestled in the mountains, and rest, relax and rejuvenate.  This dream took a lot of work, perseverance, and some help from family and friends to become a reality.  This dream is now a bustling business and has earned the respect and appreciation of all who enter. Dreams can come true just like owning a farm, Dream Valley Farmstead, was a dream of ours!

Well, the weeks went by and still no job.  I did not want to settle for any job so I kept praying and waited.

I revisited our budget and tightened it up some more.

To bring in a few extra dollars we faithfully set up at our local farmer’s market and continued to sell out of eggs.  We even added some extra produce we had and some of my Jewelweed & Plantain Salve.

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It was at the farmer’s market where I chatted with a fellow vendor and beekeeper the entire three hours!  We talked bees, gardening, Laughlin, Nevada, old farmhouses and tons of other topics, ha!  Towards the end of the market she asked me if, by any chance, I was looking for a part-time job.  I said YES but had no idea what she was about to say.

Come to find out, she knew the owner of the aforementioned B&B and said they were looking for help.  Wait, WHAT?!  Needless to say, I called that evening when we got home and long story short, I started the next morning!

 

Snug Hollow collage

Image snagged from Snug Hollow Farm Facebook page

 

I’ve worked several days doing all sorts of tasks… from cleaning the cabins, to food prep, to plating food, to serving food, to kitchen clean-up, to ironing linens and sheets and it has been a blast!  It is non-stop work and my feet and back are not happy with me by the end of the day but my co-workers are amazing and so very patient with me as I have a lot to learn about the hospitality industry.  I guess that’s another one I can add to my varied list of jobs but talking to the guests and seeing them enjoy their experience at the B&B is so rewarding.  I feel honored and privileged for the opportunity to help keep the owners dream alive and to try and maintain the high standard of service that has been set.  They keep calling me to come in so I guess I’m doing OK!

Back at the farm, CountryBoy has harvested quite a few pinto beans…

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Aren’t they gorgeous?  I just think they are some of the prettiest beans.  I will be canning these in pint jars which can, then, be easily added to soups or chili.  For now, they simply get washed and then put in the freezer until all are harvested.

The grapes are finally turning…

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I can’t wait to have enough Concord grapes to make some jam.  Maybe next year!

The watermelons are making their appearance…

Y’all already know that we’ve been harvesting cucumbers like crazy!  So far, I’ve made and canned Bread & Butter pickles, Sweet Icicle Pickles, Cucumber Relish, and now I’ve got Deli Dills in the crock.  These will ferment for about three weeks.  We’ll see how it goes!  They already smell good – garlic, dill, pickling spices, mmmm!

If y’all are following us on Facebook then you know that I ‘saw a butterfly’ this morning (literally!) and got distracted doing other stuff (like scrubbing the porch table and grill, and hanging a whirli-gig!) all before doing what I had originally stepped outside to do.  One thing leads to another – story of my life!

Here’s that butterfly…

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sneaking a drink from the hummingbird feeder.  Speaking of hummingbirds, they were impatiently waiting for this ‘thing’ to get off their feeder, ha!

Also, before I made it to my photo destination this image caught my eye…

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It makes me want to pour some iced coffee and head outside to sit here and read a book and soak up the beautiful weather we’ve been fortunate to have.  You’ll probably find me there this afternoon!

Meanwhile, THIS is what I had originally stepped outside to get photos of, the greenhouse/porch wall…

More progress has been made!  CountryBoy used salvaged 2×4’s from an old pole shed for the studs; he stuffed insulation that was given to us in between the studs and then he covered it up with salvaged 1/4″ plywood from the old porch ceiling.  So far, I’m liking the cost of this project!

Can you believe those vertical boards were once the original interior walls?  It stills blows my mind!  If you want to read more about box-frame houses you can read about it HERE.

He was also able to straighten the wall up quite a bit both horizontally and vertically.  We feel much better about the structural integrity of that wall now and it will be nice to have another insulated wall in the house.  It should help keep the downstairs warmer during the winter which should also help us conserve the wood we burn in the fireplace.

There’s still the other half of that wall to do but now we’re dealing with the electrical panel and there may or may not be a door put in that goes into the mudroom.  The jury is still out on that but I think it’s an excellent idea making it easy to go snip a few herbs for the meal!

That’s about it for today’s chit-chat.  I don’t have to work today so I’m going to head upstairs and do some sewing – another creative outlet for me – and then look for me out on the porch!

 

 

 

 

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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