Corn, Corn, Corn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another exciting find this week…

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Our first green egg!!!

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

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

What’s happening at YOUR place?

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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!

 

Catching Up

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

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

I spent the following day relaxing.

I did a little bit of sewing…

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

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

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

I also did some baking…

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

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

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Our gardens were very happy!

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

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

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

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

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Another thing we’re extremely happy about…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till next time!

 

 

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 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!

Farm Realities & Ramblings

Hey everyone!  I trust y’all had a nice Memorial Day weekend and took some time to remember the men and women that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

We enjoyed a quiet Memorial Day and even managed to get a few tasks done.

But, first, let me talk about some farm realities…

First up, this thing…

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sigh.

Every.time.we.mow. now SOMETHING happens to the riding mower.

One time when CountryBoy was mowing the chicken’s paddock I witnessed both front wheels turning in the OPPOSITE direction!  Another time (several actually) it was the belt.  This time it’s something with one of the blades.  I’m done nickling and diming this thing so we took advantage of a sale and 18 month zero financing at Lowe’s and bought another one (ouch!).  We bought a slightly larger Husqvarna and we plan on using our current one for parts.  At least whatever parts are salvageable, ha!

We took advantage of their free delivery offer which, it seems, so did everyone else!  Thank goodness, it is scheduled for delivery tomorrow.  Meanwhile, we’ve had LOTS of rain last week and no mower for almost two weeks so you can imagine what the grounds look like right about now.

Speaking of the grounds, CountryBoy is still not able to work the tractor due to his knee surgery so the upper and lower 40 and around the barn and garden are a bit high.  Almost waist high.

Thankfully, his brother bush-hogged all but the upper 40 when he was here mid-April otherwise it would be ridiculously high.  I’ve offered to jump on the tractor but CountryBoy is concerned about all the natural obstacles I might run into.  He’s also afraid I’ll end up, tractor and all, in the creek!  Fine.  Whatever.  I offered.  Ha!

So, needless to say, the farm is looking pretty shabby right now.  And, not the kind of shabby that’s in style these days (wink!).  What’re ya gonna do?!  This, too, shall pass and we’ll be back on top of things soon enough.

Another unfortunate reality is the closing of my recently re-opened Etsy shop.  sigh.

Do y’all remember a recent post about me FINALLY reopening the shop?  I spent a weekend taking photos, writing up descriptions, determining pricing and paying the fee to list my items for sale.  A week or so later I get an email from Etsy stating that I HAVE to sign up for Etsy Payments in order to keep my shop open and if I don’t?  Well, my shop will be suspended and I can no longer sell items.  sigh.

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most recent crib size quilt top waiting to be quilted

What’s the big deal about signing up for Etsy Payments you ask?  Well, in order to do so, I would have to link a bank account to their system and I’m just not comfortable doing that.  I briefly thought about opening another account just for the Etsy business but a) I don’t have enough business to warrant any fees that may be involved and b) adding another account goes against my efforts of simplifying our life and c) there are just too many hackers that have nothing better to do and I’m not willing, nor can I afford, to open ourselves up to the possibility of a financial wipe out.

But, what eats me up is I had no idea prior to re-opening the shop that I would be forced into doing something against my will and better judgement just to keep my shop open.  If I had known, I wouldn’t have wasted my time and money on re-opening the shop in the first place.  I may be a little extreme in my thought-process of linking a bank account but in these days… I’d rather just be safe than sorry.

So, at the end of this month, my shop will be suspended  and I will be looking for another platform to sell my handmade items.  sigh.

Enough about the realities and on to some ramblings!

Last Friday we had a break in the rain and  I decided it was time to get into the hive for an inspection.

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These bees are amazing little creatures!  I get mesmerized just watching them.

But, I had a job to do so I made myself focus on the task at hand.

First up was psyching myself up to open the hive.  I had no idea what to expect once it was open and I think the unknown was what made me a little nervous.  Once I got into the mindset of ‘just do it’ and I had my mental checklist in order it really was no big deal.

CountryBoy was in charge of the smoker.  He did a fine job.  Even smoking me out a time or two, ha!

Once the bees had been smoked, I removed the two honey supers.  There were a few frames in the lower super where the comb was under construction and there was even a small spot that had some honey in it.  When I pulled the two frames apart to check them it opened up the caps and some honey dripped out.  Wow, was it tasty!

Next up was checking the brood box.  I had a time pulling the frames out due to the sticky propolis but I managed.  I pulled each frame, one at a time, and checked for eggs, larvae and pupa.  I never spotted any eggs but I saw larvae and even witnessed the ‘birth’ of several bees.  Also, several frames in the center were almost completely capped. These are all good signs of a functional queen.

Speaking of queen, we actually SAW the queen on the next to the last frame I inspected.  Yay!

We also have a LOT more bees than we came home with so the colony is growing.  We just might get to harvest a small amount of honey this year.

On the gardening front we have a few things planted and coming up nicely…

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One row of onions, two rows of potatoes and a row comprised of tomatoes, pickling cucumbers and pinto beans.

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Hopefully, this evening, we can till up some more ground and get some corn, okra, turnips, beets and maybe even some watermelon seeds planted.

During the break in the rain, we also managed to set up a grapevine trellis and get a couple of Muscadines planted.

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Hopefully you can see the muscadines amongst our unruly grass!

Yesterday was a beautiful Memorial Day here.

After spending the morning clearing the fridge of science projects (yuck) and giving it a good cleaning both inside and out I went outside and hoed and weeded the garden.  CountryBoy came out and took over while I went inside to put cooler clothes on.  We rested a few minutes on the front porch then tackled a much-dreaded project… moving rocks that were tossed IN the yard from an old flower bed in front of the old porch OUT of the yard so that we could mow when the new mower arrives.

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These are some heavy rocks!  They will reside here until we find another use or place for them but at least they are out of the way.

After all that, I decided it was time to relax and do something I enjoy like taking pictures!

I sat for a few minutes in my rocking chair on the front porch and captured these beauties…

a female hummingbird on the feeder and a male buzzing around it…

realities n ramblings 04here’s another female…

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These girls are tough and stand their ground on the feeder while the males fight each other and try to run everyone off the feeder.  You go girls!

I also snapped a shot of some pretty impatiens that I got from our Pastors wife…

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They hang from a shepherd’s hook in front of the porch.

Speaking of porch… it’s coming along.  There is still a lot to do which is why I haven’t done a ‘reveal’ but you’ll see a bit of it in this next photo…

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The arbor is up, yay!  But, that’s another post!

Back to relaxing yesterday afternoon… I decided to cut some fabric for an upcoming quilt project.

Since I’m not a big fan of cutting fabric (it’s SEW expensive one definitely has to measure twice and cut once.  Oh, and TRIPLE read the instructions!) I decided to do it outdoors where I love being on such beautiful days.

That was a good move on my part because I actually got fabric cut for two different quilt projects…

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All ready for the fun part of sewing the quilt top!

Last, but not least, I have to show you yesterday’s egg haul…

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That’s a typical daily haul except for the one egg on the bottom.  Can you see it?

Here it is next to some other eggs…

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Mercy that had to have hurt!  I bet she was glad when it finally came out!  Poor girl!

That’s about all the realities and ramblings I have for now.  Give it a day or two and I’m sure I’ll have more, haha!

Farm Life Musings

What I love about life on a fixer-upper farm is that no two days are alike.

I have always loved variety.  From whatever job I had outside the home to crafts the more variety involved the more I enjoyed it.

We are only half-way through the day and here are just a few things that have taken place…

CountryBoy and I worked on underpinning the front porch this morning.

We used some old, original metal roofing from the farmhouse that we found in the barn and began custom-cutting each piece to fit the uneven ground.

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We had to use the backside of the metal because there was black tar on the other side.

I love it!  It’s kinda rough looking right now but with the addition of some plants and the finishing touches on the porch it’s going to look awesome!

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The BEST part about the under-pinning?  It will keep the cats from using that area as a toilet.  Peeeeuuuu!

We’ve also come up with a solution for this wall.

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Say Hi to Creamsicle posing on the concrete step!

It’s going to take some work but at least we have a plan now.  I know.  What a mess!  But, we are going to add some structural support which means we can also add some insulation.

Tonight is our monthly business meeting and potluck at church.  I had no idea what to bring so I am making a favorite of many that attend – soup beans.  I had never heard of soup beans before moving here.  Of course, I’ve heard of bean soup, you know, with navy beans and ham or a 9 or 15 bean soup but not soup beans which is really nothing but pinto beans ’round here.  I found a recipe online from an Eastern Kentucky gal so it oughta be pretty close to the way the locals make it.  At least I hope it is!  (Trying to get an actual recipe from anyone, phhhttt!  It’s a pinch of this or some of that but an actual recipe?  Fah-getta ’bout it!)

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The secret ingredient?  Bacon grease!  And, thankfully, a farm kitchen always has a jar of bacon grease!

Later on I’ll make some cornbread to go with it and maybe even some sugar cookies.  I love having a well-stocked pantry for occasions like this especially since town is thirty minutes away.  (Just ask my brother about that, ha!)

I checked on my bees since I knew they would need some water.

There was lots of action in and out of the entrance.

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I tried to get a shot of the bees coming back with huge pollen sacks on their legs but they were too fast and my camera is having issues.  Seeing those bees so active and bringing the pollen back is a good sign of a healthy and productive hive.  Maybe I’ll get a bit of honey this year!

While I was checking on the bees I took in the beauty of the blooming irises.

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These are near one of the garden entrances by the grapevine arbor.

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The purple and yellow irises are so pretty together.

Speaking of grapes, I’m hoping for a few clusters this year.

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One of the grapevines shows a lot of promise with lots of teeny tiny grape clusters on it.  The second grapevine has a few but not near as many as this one.

I am purposefully walking to the mailbox each day for a bit of exercise.  (If you read my last post then you know how much I loathe exercise, ha!)  On my way back, I stopped at the barn to check on the girls’ egg-laying progress and FuzzyFoot posed for the camera so I obliged!

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Such a handsome and good rooster!  And, it looks like we’ll have a dozen or more eggs today.

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My days can quickly fill up with all things farm-related but I am conscientiously making time in the afternoons and/or evenings to work on business ventures such as my Etsy shop and oily care packages for my Young Living team members.

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Each day is a different scenario, a different set of tasks but all too soon the day is gone and it’s time to lock the chickens up for the night.

Life on the farm.  I love it!

The Birds and the Bees

OK, so technically it’s the CHICKENS and the bees.

And maybe that’s not even correct.  It’s more like the chicken’s EGGS and the bees.

Nonetheless, we’ve been wanting to open up an ‘egg-stand’ so to speak here at the farm but, we’ve never had enough extra eggs left over after our regular customers have gotten theirs to do so.  Since the girls have been steadily laying throughout the winter months we now have an excess of farm fresh eggs.  So, what better time to do a bit of advertising and get the ‘egg-stand’ open!

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CountryBoy made the post and sign out of salvaged material then I painted them.

The sign is double-sided…

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Hello Dream Valley Farmstead!

I love how it turned out!  Although, I’m thinking about adding a second sign underneath that lists the price per dozen.  We’ll see if we get anyone stopping in or not then go from there.  We would love for this to be the only advertising we need to do and the rest be word of mouth.

Another exciting happening is the arrival of our bees!  OK, so maybe I’M the one that’s the most excited, heehee!

Next weekend we will drive a couple of hours one way to pick up 3 lbs. of bees and a queen.  I.can’t.wait!

I’ve got the brooder box we purchased from a beekeeping friend painted and set up for their arrival.

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I will ‘pour’ the bees into this brooder box that already has the honeycomb and a little bit of honey on the ten frames and leave them be (get it? ha!) for two weeks.  It is going to be hard for me to NOT check on them but during that time they will be busy ‘cleaning and tidying up’ their new house and the queen will then start laying some eggs.  Having frames with the honeycomb already on them will allow the colony to grow quicker and I should have some honey this first year.  Otherwise, if the bees had to start from scratch honey production would be low.  I am SO grateful for our beekeeping friend who was willing to part with one of his boxes with honeycomb-filled frames so that we could have this jump start!

After the two weeks I will add two medium supers to the top of the brooder box and the bees can start building the honeycomb and making delicious honey.  A dream coming true for me!

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The hive is nestled under the sour cherry trees in the small fenced in garden which, I hope, is a great spot.

I’ve added a water source for the bees on top of the hive but may move it later on after observing the bees for a bit.

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I mentioned on Facebook the other day that I had laid a tarp over the top part of the garden.

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My plan is to plant a bunch of lavender in this area as I think the bees will really enjoy it when it’s in bloom.  Lavender infused honey?  Yes, please!

Here you can see the proximity of the intended lavender ‘field’ and the beehive…

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I will eventually turn the lower part of the garden into an herb garden for both cooking and medical purposes.  I need to think it through and plan it out, though, so this section will be a work in progress for several years to come.

But, for now, the upper section will be all about the BEES!