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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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!

 

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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.

Speaking of support, I mentioned earlier that I am a Young Living Distributor.  I wanted you to know that if you sign up and become a member using the above link in this post you will not only be getting some amazing products (the Premium Starter Kit is the best deal to get started and you can add the Slique products) that are truly wholesome and work  but you’ll be directly helping support me and my family and my efforts to educate people on health and wellness and the journey towards a toxic free lifestyle and not some CEO of a large corporation.  Me.  Yours truly.  Your average homesteading housewife! It’s people striving for a better life and in the process, helping someone they know and trust.  It’s a wonderful concept and I’d be truly honored to help you get started and to coach you in your journey to wellness and a toxic free lifestyle!

 

 

 

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!

Rainy Day Ramblings

It’s Monday.  It’s raining.  And, both are just fine with me.

The rain is nourishing the gardens. The onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and potatoes are coming along nicely and the recently planted watermelon, okra, turnips, beets and corn will all love this rain!

Also coming up much quicker than the crops are weeds.  Lots and lots of weeds!  One could hoe 24/7 and still not keep up with the weeds.  We are doing our best, though, to not get overrun with them this year.  We’ll see how that goes!

My flowers are also loving this rain…

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It’s been a nice, gentle rain which is perfect for newly planted seeds.

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It’s also good for all my potted plants.

Prior to this rainy Monday, I spent several hours over the weekend re-locating my ‘office’.  Again!  Originally, it was in my sewing and craft room but there are no windows in there and I found myself lacking any desire to get in there to do any blog writing or computer work in general.  So, I moved my ‘office’ (which consists of a laptop, printer, computer software, paper & card stuffs, and files and stuff for Young Living) into one of the guest rooms.  Ah, windows!  I suddenly found myself a bit more motivated!  But, it still wasn’t the perfect location.  When we do have guests, I am hesitant to do any blogging or computer work as I feel like I am intruding on our guests space.  And, I felt ostracized from the goings-on downstairs.  I don’t know if that makes sense or not but it was just how I felt.

So, I decided to move my ‘office’ downstairs.

The only somewhat suitable spot was in the dining room.

My overly-large roll-top desk was already in there so I decided that was where my ‘office’ would be. But first, I had to tackle the mounds of paperwork that covered the top of the desk so that I could put my laptop on it and yesterday morning was the day I felt as if I could conquer it.  Ha!  Please tell me I’m not the only one that lets paperwork get out of control!!!  I love to be organized but if anything is going to whip me in the organizing department it will be paperwork.  sigh.

Anyway, after moving the desk to anther wall so that I could look out the window while I worked I set about sorting, filing and tossing and eventually I saw the top of my desk.  Yay!  So, I started bringing stuff down from upstairs and getting it set up.

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It still needs a little bit of tweaking here and there.  I will finalize the space as I figure out what works and what doesn’t.  But, for now, I’m happy to be downstairs writing this here blog post, happy to be out of the guest room and happy to be able to see outside.  Happy, happy, happy!

I also spent a few hours over the weekend working on an old window that was left behind when we moved in…

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I knew I wanted to do something with this window but I didn’t know what so it’s been moved around from one storage shed to another waiting for me to be inspired.

As I was looking for a wooden box that I wanted to use in my new ‘office’ space (later to remember that I was already using it in another guest room to store bedding) I came across the window and a lightbulb went off!  I was going to clean it up and hang it on wall in the ‘office’/dining room.

It required lots and lots of elbow grease to get the paint off the windows…

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and while I was at it, I cleaned up the backside and ran a bead of clear silicone around each pane to help secure them…

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There was a pane missing so I tried to cut a piece of glass I had leftover from a water-damaged picture frame but I didn’t have the right tools.   So, to avoid a potential disaster I let it be.

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For the window frame itself, I simply scraped off any loose paint which exposed the original white paint and, in some spots, the wood itself.  I love the character that is left behind!

This wall, which is the only wall in there with drywall, is in need of a coat of paint.  I’m hoping that the window will be the focus and not the badly needed-paint job.

Also on this wall is a built-in shelf.  This shelf was originally a window but when, what is now the mudroom was enclosed the window was removed and, I’m assuming, this shelf was built…

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I’ve not known what to do with this built-in. At one time, I was thinking about removing it to have a solid wall and not have to try and ‘decorate’ around it.  But, since this shelf is near my ‘office’ I’ve decided to store some extra Young Living goodies on it…

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as well as a few things that remind me of the farm…

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I pulled that honey comb off the bottom of one of the medium supers I temporarily had in the large brood box.  It’s so cool and the handy work of the bees just amaze me!  It’s also a reminder of my ‘why’ for growing my Young Living business as well as my handmade/homemade farm goods business.

Speaking of handmade goods, I was asked by a friend of mine to make a quilted wall-hanging for her dining room.  She and I both like traditional quilts so I spent some time searching for just the right pattern.  After finding the pattern the next challenge was finding the perfect fabric.  I finally found some and, as you saw in my last post, I started cutting it.  I finished the quilt-top last Friday.  I love it!

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Simple nine patches around a double star.  Here’s a closer look at the gorgeous colors…

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Now to decide how I want to quilt it.  I find piecing the top is the easy part – quilting it, not so much.   I’m starting to come up with a plan.  I’m wanting to keep the quilting fairly traditional and I want it to add to, not take away, from the quilt top.

I did a second one with completely different fabrics which gave the quilt a completely different look…

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The sun was shining bright when I took this photo so it’s hard to see the colors but here’s a closeup…

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This pattern was so much fun!.  I will definitely be making more of them.

I also had some fun with the embroidery machine…

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I decided to make a pillow with this one.  I want to do another one but will use different colors.  SEW fun!

Earlier in the week, we decided it was time to let the chicks out of the grow-out cage during the day…

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CountryBoy cut two openings in the cage just large enough so that the littles could go in and out but the big girls couldn’t get in to eat all the food.  Cuz, you know, the chicks are getting better food than they get.  smirk!  We close the openings each night once they are all in safe and sound.

Occasionally, the big girls throw their weight around trying to tell the littles who’s boss but, for the most part, all is well.  Fuzzy Foot is really the boss but he just keeps thinking about the fact that he’s got even MORE girls to watch out for!  Poor Fuzzy Foot!

The rain has stopped for now so I will end my ramblings.

Thanks to all of you who faithfully read my ramblings and for the sweet comments letting me know that you actually enjoy reading my ramblings.  Y’all are too kind!