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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Little Cabin in the Big Woods

When my parents bought property from us several years ago, I envisioned us sitting on the porch in rocking chairs, and chatting while the sun went down. I should have known better! We are not very good at sitting still.:-) No. Our form of bonding is coming about in a different way, with hammers and nails. My Dad started building a picnic shelter and cabin two years ago, on the top of our hill. He has had a few set backs along the way because of his health, but has not given up on his dream of building a cabin for he and my mom. He needs more help now though...and that is where I step in. I know I am not the best carpenter, but he is teaching me. I can drive a nail pretty fast now. ;-) My Dad is a quiet man, but loves to tell stories of his past. I treasure those stories and have been eating them up as fast as he can tell them. I am learning so much about him that I never knew. The other day he started telling of a time he was swimming in the river..."Wait, You used to swim?" I didn't know that about him. See what I would have missed out on knowing, If I wasn't up in the woods sweating profusely with him. He is a good listener too. Sweet Man and I were talking about a documentary show on sugar that we watched. I mentioned that it showed Twinkies and how I had been craving Twinkies ever since. The next day when I showed up for "work" he had brought me Twinkies. :-) I know they are terrible for you, but at that moment, they felt so right.
My Dad cut and sawed all the lumber himself....and it is a BUNCH! Especially when you have to carry it in 98 degree weather. :-o
Princess #1 has been keeping a fire burning for us. No, not because we are cold. It keeps the bugs away. Whew...if that's true, I would hate to see how many bugs would be up there without a fire! 
The ever tidy Princess #2, has been sweeping up and trying to help out in anyway that she can.
Princess #3? Well, she pretty much does this. She hangs out and colors, or stacks up leftover pieces of wood.  Actually this whole process has been really good for the kids. Think, nothing but wilderness for about 6 hours a day. No TV or Wii, just dirt and nature. They have had a nut cracking contest, nature walks, tree identifying, clubhouses made out of ferns etc. This is the imagination stuff that I have been trying to encourage at home. It's just too hard when they have so many options. Out here...they have to make stuff up and pretend, and I love that!
The cabin is going to have a loft, which will be the bedroom. Dad and I built the trusses on the ground, and were then stuck with the problem of how to get them up on the second story by our self?? We tried really hard, but after we both just about took a nose dive over the rail, we called for back up. Sweet Man was at a testing facility taking an exam for college, so my brother-in-law graciously came to help us, until Sweet Man could come.
We ended up getting seven up that evening, and it really feels like it is coming together.
The picnic shelter is the one wrapped in plastic, and the chimney and fireplace divide the cabin from it. I am hoping we can have thanksgiving dinner up here this year. Wouldn't that be awesome?! A big fire roaring, heating up some of our dishes of home made food. And perhaps there will even be a few rocking chairs on that porch. Yes, that sounds nice. We might finally be able to sit and chat till the sun goes down about how thankful we are for all the Lord has done for this family.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What the pictures don't tell you

There are so many neat magazines and blogs out there, depicting farm life. The pictures are beautiful, and show scenes of weed free gardens, and groomed well behaved animals. Lately there seems to be a huge interest in people wanting to take their families out of populated areas, and move farther out and enjoy farm life. I often wonder if it is because of those awesome pictures?

But pictures never tell the whole story. They don't tell of families investing every last dime, to dig a well. They don't tell of that well, being described as a dry hole and not even worth trying to use. "Four gallons an hour isn't supposed to produce enough water for three people"... the well driller said. Sweet Man and I looked at each other and said, " will have to!" Eight years later, and this dry well does not produce as much as we would like, but it has done well to provide enough for not only three people, but five.

Pictures don't tell all of the lovely adventures of septic systems, or the fearsome Health Department. Once you get on their radar, they just don't like to leave you alone. They love to pop in at the most inconvenient time, and ask you to turn your faucets on full blast, to see if you have a leak in your line. Remember the above paragraph? You can bank on not having water for a couple of days after that! Or what about the time you have a friend over for the first time, and you decide it is perfect weather for porch sitting? This is when the Septic company, that you had to reinstate a contract with thanks to that Health Department, will show up to "stir" your "stuff" in your tank. And since that tank is super close to your porch,  let me just say, that is not appropriate for porch sitting!

Pictures don't tell of neighbor dogs who consistently visit, to snack on your livestock. Dogs that take off with a pair of shoes that you had saved up for, to buy your Sweet Man. Neighbors that apparently don't care that their animals are a nuisance. Or even your own dog, who decides to try and eat your dairy goat. Or a beagle who just couldn't help herself, and ended up eating a whole flock of baby chicks, the first night they were put outside in their "dog proof" house. This was especially hard since the girls raised them for 2 months in our laundry room.

Pictures don't tell of animals dying and being buried various places around the farm. We have several little mounds of dirt, that used to be thought of as family members.

Pictures don't tell of all the wild critters that are constantly testing you, and seeing just what you will let them get away with. We have had coyotes take out whole flocks of chickens/ducks, cats, and even tried eating that chicken loving beagle of ours. I think I scared the coyote to death though, running out on the porch in my underwear, armed with a flashlight, screaming and throwing things at it. It had that sweet little dog of ours, in its mouth! We joke about how useless that dog is, but I will not let it succumb to being dinner for something!

You won't see many pictures of my gardens in the summer. The main reason? I have a hard time finding it among the weeds. I am not much on weeding regularly. Between the animal care and preserving, I just can't find the time. I don't know how others keep theirs looking so nice, but at least I can find the food when it ripens!

Pictures don't tell of just how hard it is to prepare for winter. You spend tons of time getting your log pile ready, only to run out of wood and pretty much freeze for a couple months out of the year. I call this bonding time! You scoot a little closer on the couch and share a big ole' blanket, while reading good books. And you hope this year will be the one when you have cut enough wood!

Pictures don't tell of angry neighbors, who aren't really pleased that you are trying to have a homestead. They aren't so keen on the fact that you have animals that make noise, before their alarm clocks go off. They don't understand the fact of wanting to know where your food comes from, or how important it is to you to teach your children the "old ways" of doing things. "Why would you want to grow that, when you can get it at the store"...they ask. You use to try to explain it, but now you don't even try. 

Pictures don't tell of how much skill there really is to gardening, and it is hard to figure it all out. You pour through library books. You seek wiser farmers/gardeners that are willing to give advice, and hopefully you will have a better crop next year....for the deer to eat!

Pictures don't tell of just how often you think about giving up on this dream of yours. Of just trying to be normal and not worry about your food. Not think about all the JUNK that is put into it, or taken out of it. To not do the extra steps of homemade, home grown, or farm raised. You often wonder what it would be like to not spend several days a week cutting grass, and not really be able to tell. But you remember, you aren't normal, and you don't want to be normal just because it is easier. No, you have a vision and it burns inside you to try harder. To not give up!

There is good reason you won't find pictures about all that negative stuff. Because it is just a small part, and the good out ways the bad. I feel absolutely blessed every time I turn that faucet on...and water comes out! I am thankful for the fact that even though I don't know what I am doing half the time, I still have had a pretty good crop of food this year. There is something so great about knowing that you are warm or fed, because the Lord blessed you with so much earlier on in the year. I wouldn't trade this farm life for anything.
Pictures also don't tell of just how grand this lifestyle is! How rewarding and enjoyable it can be. They don't tell how much better and softer you bed will feel at the end of a full productive day! They don't tell of how you can really feel closer to God, as you hike through the woods, looking for escaped horses/goats/chickens. :-)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The teenage the chicken yard!

The baby chicks are fully feathered now, and ready for the big coop. Yesterday the girls  introduced them to the big chickens on campus, and it went pretty well. Everyone seemed to settle in quite nicely...until dinner scraps were thrown out.  They are brave for their little size...or maybe just stupid! I already saw one chase down one of the big hens, for a crust of bread. Very funny sight indeed. Little guy did not get the crust, but a swift peck to the face instead!
 Mama hen was pretty quick on showing her little crew of three, how to escape the fence. Apparently she forgot beagles love little chickens. Not in the cute and cuddly way either.:-o
Lucky for those babies, that this farm has three little girls, who love their chickens. They were quick to their rescue.
This princess is sure that chickens say thank you, by roosting on your finger. Do you know what chickens do when they roost? They poo....Wonder if she still thinks that? 
No playing in your food!!!
 "Gertrude, did you smell that dog? Oh my Word she smelled horrible, and they say chickens stink!"
 Bad hair feather day. ( I think this chicken kind of looks like Wolverine)
 All three teenagers back together again in the dust bowl. Pretty sure one of these little a rooster. Anyone want a rooster???????
 Thinking this might be the best kind of rooster to have. ;-)
 This picture has nothing to do with this post at all. But isn't it pretty?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cluttering up the kitchen :-)

I can still remember that exciting feeling I always got as a kid, the night before a much anticipated vacation. Sleeping was not going to happen, as I dreamed about all of the possible adventures I might have on the trip. I am a bit older now, but that feeling still comes at the weirdest times. But over kitchen appliances? Ha...yes!

For quite some time I have had a list of appliances that I wanted to save for, that would help farm life just a bit. The list kept getting longer, and the funds kept disappearing. Two things on the list: an Excalibur food dehydrator and a Soybella nut milk maker. Every time I almost had enough saved up, something would need fixing around here. Things like dishwashers, washing machines, septic tanks, or even little girls teeth. Just when I had given up hope for these much treasured things, the Lord brought them to me in a most economical way. My niece owned a Soybella and was wanting to sell it for half the price of a new one, and I had enough to buy it!! My Mom owns an Excalibur and hasn't had time to use it. She offered for me to keep hers here at my house, and just dehydrate some things for her as needed. To say that I was excited would be a huge understatement. I stayed up most of the night pouring through cook books and owners manuals trying to figure out these modern conveniences. Yes, it almost felt like I was going on vacation the next morning.
Dried yellow tomatoes. :-)

The next morning came...and it was a full one. Between making almond milk (several times), dehydrating everything that I could find growing around here, and then squeezing in canning some more peaches and jam, I never left the kitchen. Funny...I don't remember the vacations going quite like this. ;-) It is amazing how much more food I am able to store for winter with the dehydrator. The girls are loving the fruit roll ups and all the many fruit chips I have been experimenting with. The almond milk was a total flop...until I figured out the right way to use it. It has been turning out so well, that I am having a hard time keeping up with the constant demand for it.

So thankful the girls are excited about this whole process too! We found great deals on strawberries and bananas this week, so when exhaustion set in, I finally let the girls practice their kitchen knife skills. I could use the help. But I warned them,  I was not dressed for a trip to the Emergency room, so if they got injured, they would have to wait for me to make myself a little more presentable. :-o They surprised me at just how good they were at their task.

With all of this food preserving going on, it is not only me that isn't looking presentable. Oh No. The kitchen just about looks like a bomb went off in it every day, and if it wasn't such a tiny kitchen, I am not sure I would have been able to find the sink.
Well, I did find the sink, and it's a good thing, for I remembered I had carrots that needed to be canned.
Who would have thought that cluttered kitchen counters could be so exciting?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Around the farm

 Blackberries preserved for fall and winter baking.
 The log pile is getting bigger.
 We were so excited to harvest grapes this year. I know you can buy them at the store, but there is something so exciting about picking them right out of your back yard. We have seven vines, and they started producing for us this year. :-)
We have had several lazy porch days!
 Of course there are always eggs,
and this sweet little lady that offers to gather and wash them for me.
This momma deer, along with her two little sweeties,
 have been enjoying the bounty of our farm this year.
 All because this little sweetie has decided to take up "deer watching" instead of  "deer chasing".
That's okay...I like to watch them too Clover.
Just wish we didn't have to watch them eat all our yummy stuff!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Adventures in mint

I have always enjoyed growing mint, probably because it is almost fool proof! I love brushing up against a patch of pineapple mint on the way to feed my bunnies. Or filling a vase full of all the different "flavors" that I have growing, and decorating the kitchen table with it. This year the girls have "discovered" how lovely it can make their room smell, and have been clipping it and keeping it in bowls beside their beds. Even with all of those ways of enjoying the mint, I have still been left wondering what else we could do with it. I have just about every mint available for growing around here. I have chocolate, spearmint, peppermint, pineapple, apple, and lemon. Anyone who has ever tried to grow mint before knows just how well it takes off over. I have some patches that are so large I actually mow them with the rider mower, to keep them from engulfing my whole yard. :-) So, I have been reading up on ways to use it.

Mint jelly was super yummy, especially when spread on crackers with cream cheese.

I was reading in my new soap making book about all the yummy smelling soap recipes that you can make with dried mint. I read in my homesteading book about different types of teas that are made with dried mint. I am not sure when, or what, I want to try to make with the mint next, but there was a common step that all of them had. Dry the mint. So we did. :-)
 We let it hang to dry for about two weeks.
 Then the girls went to town crushing it...
And then putting it in jars. 
This was such a fun little project that took very little time, and no money. That makes it a winner in my book for sure!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Snack time

Snack time is one of the "things" that I know will happen everyday. Not just once, but three times. The princesses' tummies are like clock work, and everyday at 10:00 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., you can bet you are going to hear, "I'm STARVING"...even though they could have just eaten thirty minutes before. I have learned that I can dread this ever persistent chore, which I usually do, or plan/ prepare for it. I have even made it an "activity" at times, that way I can knock out craft time too. ;-)

Apples are yummy, 
but so much yummier if you get to bob for them!
And who wouldn't think that a box/clubhouse would be the perfect spot to color the day away, all the while partaking of much needed nourishment. :-)
Or you could make a boat out of aluminum foil,
 And see how many goldfish you can pile into it before it sinks.
Or how about heading out to the garden
 and seeing what you can find to decorate a left over pancake? (can this be considered art for the day?)
Even though all of those "ideas" were received with applause and gratitude,
one of the most loved snack anything that can not be considered healthy. I got this one covered too! 

Printed from COOKS.COM

4 c. Corn Chex or Crispix
1 1/2 c. mini pretzels
1 c. walnuts or pecan halves
1/3 c. butter
1/4 c. honey
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl combine cereal, pretzels and nuts. In saucepan over low heat, melt butter; stir in honey. Pour over cereal mixture; toss to coat. Spread on 15"x10" jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until glazed, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly, spread on waxed paper. Cool completely. Makes 8 cups. Freezes well.

Since I am a cook who believes in using what you have instead of running to store for every little thing, I varied this just a bit. We had fruit loops, organic peanut butter cereal and of course mini marshmallows. I just waited till the mix was cooled just a bit before adding the marshmallows.

I know, I's not healthy. Hey, they had apples the other day. ;-)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Blackberry time

It's blackberry time!! Our property is chock full of the prickly blackberry and raspberry bushes, and they are finally ripe! Sweet Man drove the girls and I to our biggest patch, so we could harvest away. He had to focus on his college class. That is where a laptop comes in. ;-) Everyone should get to further their education in the shade of deep woods!
While he was busy studying, we set off to fill our buckets.
Everyone was so "in to it" for about the first half hour. After that the younger two lost interest pretty quick. I decided to tell them the story of the little Red Hen. You know, the one where she tries to get helpers to plant the grain, water it, harvest it, grind it and then finally bake it. No one would help and when it finally came time to eat it everyone jumped up to have a yummy bite. She then asks, "who helped me plant it, water it etc.?" Since none of them helped her with it, they were not given any to eat. I thought I did a marvelous job telling this story to my girls, all the while filling my bucket. I was quite pleased with myself, thinking I was teaching them a wonderful life lesson, when Princess #3 looks at me and says, " That's OK, I don't even like blackberries." Geez, what a tough crowd! :-o They ended up playing in the back of  the truck, while Princess #1 and I continued on with our "job."
I am trying to figure out just how much studying was being done back at the truck. ;-)

We had full buckets and scratched up arms and legs, so we called it a night. We got to take the beautiful drive back to the house.
I am going to can a majority of the berries to be able to use them throughout winter. But blackberry muffins just sounded so wonderful, for an early morning breakfast to be enjoyed on the porch, with my coffee and my dog.
 On second thought, I guess I'll share. ;-)