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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Another Day Off

Two days off in a row with nothing pressing to do.  Wow!  For a second, I was overwhelmed, again, with deciding what I should accomplish today.  It literally only lasted for a second though!

While CountryBoy was whipping up some breakfast I decided to pay a few of the ever-growing pile of bills.

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That pile may not seem very large to some people but to me, it’s WAY more than I wanted when we moved here two and a half years ago.  Add in house insurance, vehicle insurance, health insurance and property taxes throughout the year and there you have my whole reason for going back to work outside the home.  The sum is just too much.

My ideal when we moved was to simplify our lifestyle and keep it simple but the reality of it all is very difficult to do in this modern age that we live.  Everything is expensive.  From food to fuel to fashion.  We have managed to conquer simplicity and savings in some areas of our life such as growing much of our food and, fashion?  we shop thrift stores, but fuel? it’s something we have no control over and it’s a necessity.  Not only is it needed to go to and from work but also fuel is necessary to keep the farm mowed, weed-whacked and bush-hogged.  And, short of going completely off-grid, there will always be bills to be paid.  I am, however, working on a plan towards a debt-free lifestyle within the next five years.  Vehicle, mortgage and all.  It’s definitely a goal and one that I am working hard to accomplish.

Enough about that.  It’s depressing.

Let’s talk about BEES!!!

One of my bosses has bees so at our party last night (which was so much fun!) I asked her what she was planning on doing or had already done to winterize her bees.

She said she will put the reducer on, treat for varroa mites, reduce the size of the hive and she’s pondering insulating three sides.

We were thinking along the same lines so while I had the whole day off today I thought it would be a good time to tackle the hive.

I added the reducer this morning then when the sun came out we pulled the cover off and removed the honey super.

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LOTS of bees just hanging out!

I suited up (what little suit I have) and started the process of closing it back up without squishing any bees.

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After a few minutes of sliding the inner cover on and over the bees and brushing the rest of them off the edge I managed to get it all put back together.  And, I might add, without getting stung this time.  Yay!

The smaller hive is now more manageable for the bees during the winter months and will help keep them warm.

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We had left the honey super sitting on a dolly near the hive for the rest of the day.  Eventually the bees left it and just before nightfall I brought it up to the house and put it in the greenhouse for the night.

Upon inspection of the supers I found some capped honey on a few of the frames!  Tomorrow, before heading in to work, I plan on uncapping it and extracting the honey.  This will be our first honey harvest and definitely another learning experience.  I’ll let ya know how it goes!

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

Corn, Corn, Corn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another exciting find this week…

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Our first green egg!!!

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

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

What’s happening at YOUR place?

A Good Problem

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

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

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

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

Here’s the space today…

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

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

Here’s the real problem…

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

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

We actually got a decent crop of onions this year…

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

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

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

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

 

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!