Monday, July 30, 2007

God's Promises

I just took this picture the other evening from our back deck. The rainbow was a complete rainbow, and it was breathtaking. God is so good. When I see a rainbow, I instantly think of the Lord and His promises as well as His love.I posted my Sunday Scripture verse yesterday. I felt led to use that verse, but I kept thinking I don't have any pictures of Lillies that would go with the Bible verse. However, I went ahead and posted the verse with the picture I had available. As I was heading to bed last night, the phone rang. It was business for my husband. Something had happened that was not good for our contract with a particular company. I went to bed with such a heavy heart. Instantly, the Lord reminded me of the scripture verses I had just posted. I understood...those verses were for me all long. I was so encouraged by the fact that God had ordered my steps to ponder those particular verses BEFORE I even needed them. He knew the phone call would be coming, and that I would be unsettled. He prepared a way for me to build my faith BEFORE I even knew there would be a situation. This brought so much encouragement to me. As I was taking my shower this morning, I took extra time to pray. The Lord answered my prayer, and I am so thankful. Each and every time a situation or trial comes my way, I see it as an opportunity to grow in faith. I don't always react that way at first, but I know in my heart of hearts that through the trial I will grow in the Lord. It doesn't always feel that way during the trial, but after all, God tells us to walk by faith and not by sight.
grace and peace,

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sunday Scripture

..."Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, o you of little faith? Therefore do not worry saying 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Matthew 6:28-33

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Saturday Happenings

Saturday is here once again. It seems like the week has gone very quickly. I am spending my day today preparing for my brother and his family to come and stay at our home. I haven't seen him since Thanksgiving so I am looking forward to spending several days with him. I am not for sure all the things that we will be doing over the next several days, but I did hear my husband on the phone with my brother reminding him to bring golf clubs. While they are off doing that, I will sneak away to the garden and enjoy the beauty and quietness.
As you can see from the first picture that we are still collecting and using newspaper mulch for weed control. Our peppers got planted a bit later than I would have liked. They were very pretty plants, but they just weren't growing the way I expected them to. Michael and I pulled weeds last weekend, and covered them with every bit of newspaper we could get our hands on. He also added some phosphorus to them a few weeks ago. They are doing great. They have grown so much in just the last few days. (Could also have something to do with the rain that we have been getting)! While we were spreading the newspaper on the bed, I saw the most amazing thing. There was a picture in our local paper of a submarine with a Navy Seal Delivery "thing" attached. Michael was in the Navy for almost 12 years, and he served on a fast attack sub. He pointed the Seal Team Delivery portion out to me right there in the pepper bed. In times past, these types of pictures were considered classified so that is why I had never seen one. Now I never know just exactly what I will find in the garden!!!
I also included the 2 flower arrangements that I made earlier this week. The one on the kitchen table is just an old blue Ball canning jar that I had found in my grandmother's barn when I was a young child. I placed it in a wire egg basket with straw in the bottom. I put a bunch of zinnias in the jar, and the zinnias will last for about a week. The other arrangement was the gomphrena plants along with cosmos. I stayed with a soft pink and purple background, and then I added some bright yellow zinnias to make the arrangement pop. This arrangement was my favorite, but it isn't holding up as well as I thought it should have. The gomphrena flowers are still lovely, but their leaves have wilted quickly. I used the leaves as the foliage to build the arrangement around. I will have to experiment with this a bit more. I have never grown the gomphrena before, but I do think they are a darling flower.
I have so many things ahead of me today to get ready for my company. I must get off this computer and start checking that list off! We will be grilling for all of our supper meals so that makes dinner preparation and clean up much easier. I am going to make a few desserts today that can last throughout the visit. I will also be making some homemade banana ice-cream. That is my brother's favorite. It is also my favorite, but my husband and children don't really care for it. I will also be serving banana pudding and coconut pie more of my brother's favorites. All of these desserts were things that my grandmother and mother use to make often. My brother only gets them when he goes to visit my mom or me so I always try to spoil him whenever he comes our way. If time permits, I will also make a pot of homemade Tapioca. Every Sunday my grandmother had a huge pot of Tapioca on her stove as one of her desserts. It brings back wonderful memories.
grace and peace,

Friday, July 27, 2007

From Garden to Kitchen

We spent a little bit of time in the garden yesterday. I so enjoyed the time there. I took some time to pick tomatoes, cucumbers, and mess in my flowers. I also took the time to "dead head" the zinnias. This keeps them looking nice plus it encourages more blooms. I cut more lettuce and picked radishes and onions. Jacob and Seth gathered eggs for the day, and then they played until I was finished in the garden.
I brought everything in the house and began to work. The last picture shows the fruits of my labor. We ended up with two flower arrangements, pickles, canned tomatoes, and eggs. I added the loaf of sourdough bread that I had made earlier in the week. I enjoyed my day thoroughly, and my whole family will enjoy the bounty all through out the winter.
grace and peace,

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Trip to North Carolina

Last Saturday I had mentioned that I went to breakfast with a friend. She lives in North Carolina just a short distance from our home. We had a wonderful breakfast, and she asked if I minded going to the local organic grocery store with her. I was more than willing. It was my first time ever being in one of those types of grocery stores. The first thing I saw was beautiful arrangements of fresh organic flowers. The ones that caught my eye were the bunches of Sunflowers. I looked at the price and I about choked. Now, I like Sunflowers, but NOT that much. We quickly moved on to the produce. The prices were enormous. I was truly shocked. There were many people in this store, and I was amazed at how many young families were shopping there. Generally they were not toting 5 or 6 kids with them, but several did have 2 youngings with them. At the meat counter, I asked about the meat being organic. I wanted to know exactly what that meant. Come to find out the meat wasn't exactly organic but it was all natural. That meant that it didn't contain hormones, steroids, antibiotics etc. I wondered if the people shopping there knew that piece of information. The meat was VERY expensive. Our family would have to be vegetarians if it meant spending that amount of money per pound of meat. ( I am not joking).

I left there in shock and awe. First, I felt my eyes were opened to a whole new population of people. I was impressed that money wasn't the first thing on their mind when it came to their convictions of healthy living. Secondly, I was so thankful to God because our farm provides the exact same products and more for a whole lot less. I think the payment on our farm would be cheaper than paying that much money for groceries. (Again, I am not joking). I also realized there were a lot of people out there that want what many of us provide for our own families. They are willing to pay B-I-G money to get it. This one trip totally renewed my thoughts about a CSA. Truth be told, Michael and I are not at a place in our life to build a farm that produces enough food to sell. Our goal for now is to produce enough food for our own family. For every dollar that I don't have to spend at the grocery store, it is just like we earned that dollar. If we can produce it here, that truly does help our checkbook. Plus our kids get the life lessons that come with raising their own food even when they don't want the lesson! I know without a shadow of a doubt they will be thankful for the experience later in their life. I also KNOW exactly who has touched our food and how it has been handled. Recently I bought two packs of ribs at the grocery store. Both packs were the same type with the same expiration date. The first pack was normal. The second pack had an odd smell, but nothing major. I was in a hurry and I cooked them anyway. (I WILL NEVER MAKE THAT MISTAKE AGAIN)! I ended up with food poisoning. I will spare you all the gruesome details, but lets just say I was very sick. Now both packs had come from the same store. Who am I to blame for this? First, I blamed myself because I knew better. But who can I hold responsible. I have no idea. I went back to the store I purchased the meat at. I realized they would listen to my tale of woes, but they really could care less. I have no way of controlling the way they handle the meat. Perhaps they let it set out too long. Perhaps the butcher let it set out too long. Perhaps the truck driver let it set out too long....and it goes on and on. Here on our farm...I know how long the eggs have been in the chicken coop. I know that I can eat them raw if I want to without worrying about salmonella. We are in control of how these animals are taken care of, and we know exactly what has been put on our plants. I really like that peace of mind.

I write this to encourage you as fellow homesteaders or homesteaders wanta be's. There is a market out there for what we have. People want it. and many times they are willing to pay for it. I am sad about the Farm Laws here in Tennessee. I wish they were different. Lets just say they aren't very farm friendly. If I wanted to purchase meat from my neighbor that he had slaughtered that is against the law. If I want his meat, he can sell me half a cow and I can go to the butcher to pay him for my portion, but it isn't as simple as making a deal with your neighbor. If I want to purchase eggs from my neighbor, I can't. If I want to purchase raw milk from my neighbor, I can't. I would have to purchase the milk with the understanding that it is for pet consumption only. (Do children qualify as pets??) (Now, I am joking)! However, if I had purchased those ribs from my neighbor and I had gotten food poison I would know exactly who to have a talk with....IT would be my neighbor. I would expect my money to be refunded, and I would give him or her GRUESOME details of what his meat did to my body. Then I would have the decision to shop somewhere else if I didn't like his response to my tale of woes. More than likely my neighbor would have a small enough clientele that it would make a difference to his pocketbook if I took my business elsewhere. (Unlike the large grocery stores who really don't care one way or the other about my "pauper" amount of grocery money spent in their store). However, Tn. does not allow me the freedom to live that scenario so I just get to purchase my food from China....oh that makes me feel all better!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

grace and peace,

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Kitchen Happenings

Yesterday was a busy day in the kitchen for me. I ended up canning 7 quarts of tomatoes. I love canned tomatoes. They make such a difference in taste in my recipes compared to store bought tomatoes. I also started my first batch of Lime Pickles. They are setting on the kitchen table in a large cooler as we speak. Making Lime Pickles is a several day process. They are my least favorite thing to can because it takes several days from beginning to end. However, I love the taste of these sweet pickles in potato salad or tuna salad so it is worth the effort. I use The Ball Blue Book for my canning instructions. I follow canning procedures meticulously even though I have watched the generation before me be very haphazard with canning instructions. Several older women I know, my mom included, never pressured canned their green beans. They had an older method and that was the way it was done. I am sure over the course of my lifetime I have eaten many quarts of these type of canned green beans, and I am still alive to tell about it. However, I still want to know that I have followed the "letter of the law" when it comes to canning. Here is the question that I hope somebody out there can answer for me. My mom always canned her tomatoes except she did not put them in a water bath. The tomatoes were always beautiful in the jar. I have seen these same types of canned tomatoes at our local fair. The jar is full of red ripe tomatoes. I always put my tomatoes in a water bath as the Blue Book instructs. My jars of tomatoes are always separated. The bottom quarter of the jar is the liquid, and the tomatoes seem to float to the top. I know they are safe to eat, but the jar themselves are not pretty. Lets just say they wouldn't win a ribbon at the county fair! I know that the water bath is what causes this to happen because when I can tomatoes like my mom, they are beautiful. Does anybody know why this happens, and better yet does anybody know how to remedy the problem and still follow proper canning methods?

This summer I have gotten lazy when it comes to bread baking. I ran out of wheat berries and it took me over a month before I knew it. I did get more wheat to grind, but the bag is still sitting in my kitchen waiting for me to divide and store. I don't particularly like this job because it can tend to be messy. My family loves the whole wheat bread that I make using the wheat grinder. When I keep this bread made, I am amazed at how much it cuts down on our grocery bill. The whole wheat bread really fills the bellies up, and they stay full much longer. It is usually a staple at breakfast around our house. Our family likes it toasted with honey or jam. Michael really likes it toasted with peanut butter. Back to my original point...I have become lazy with bread baking this summer. There are a multitude of excuses I could come up with, but none are worthy of any merit. Yesterday, I was in the mood to make bread, but I still didn't want to deal with the large bag of wheat sitting in my kitchen. I did the next best thing...I pulled out my sourdough starter from the refrigerator. I did whip up a batch of sourdough bread yesterday evening. (My family also loves sourdough bread, and it is a great change of pace from the wheat bread that I generally make). I love to make sourdough bread because I make the dough the night before. I then let it sit over night to do its thing. The next morning, I shape 3 loaves of bread...let it rise in the loaf pans for about 3 hours...and then bake it. In the past, I always hated to make sourdough bread because the recipe I used was very unpredictable. Sometimes I had great bread, but other times I had no bread at all. Much of the bread success depended on the temperature of the house. We lived in Florida at the time, and my husband kept the air conditioner very cool. My bread never did well. Several years ago, I was reading our local paper. The food editor wrote a story on our county fair and the different people who had won blue ribbons for different recipes at the fair. She even included many of the recipes in the story. The sourdough recipe was one of them. This recipe is a true jewel to me. It has solved all of my Sourdough Bread problems. Yeast is added to the recipe which ensures success in rising no matter what the temperature of the home is. This is not your "traditional" sourdough recipe, but it does have great flavor...and it works. Hope you enjoy.
grace and peace,

Sourdough Bread
Starter: 3 Tablespoons Potato Flakes, 1 cup warm water, 3/4 cup sugar. Mix this all together. Store in a container that can breath. I use a plastic container with small holes punched in the lid to let air through. Let this sit on your counter for 2 to 3 days. After that, store in refrigerator.

To make the bread combine the following:
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup starter (that is at room temperature)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 package yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
6 cups bread flour

Procedure: On the day you want to make bread, take the starter out of the refrigerator. Let it sit on the counter for at least 4 hours. I usually let mine set out all day. In the evening, assemble the bread dough using the above recipe. I have a large plastic container that I grease and mix the bread in. I use my hands to knead the ingredients together until a nice ball of dough is formed. This doesn't take very long. Cover with a dish towel. Set the container somewhere free from drafts overnight (about 12 hours). The next morning the dough should have risen quite a bit. Punch dough down and shape into 3 loaves. Place each loaf into a greased bread pan. Let the loaves rise again for 3-4 hours. Keep an eye on them because if they rise too much, they will fall when you bake them. They should be over the top of the pans in a nice loaf shape. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Take the bread out of the pans to cool on a wire rack. I usually butter the tops when I take them out of the oven.

To feed the starter: When you assemble the bread dough, you must "feed" your starter. After you take 1 cup of starter out for your bread, add 3 tablespoons potato flakes, 1 cup warm water, 3/4 sugar. Stir with a nonmetallic spoon. A wooden or plastic spoon works well. Leave the starter on the counter overnight. This is what gives the bread the sourdough flavor. Store the starter in the refrigerator. You can use this starter several times a week, but the more you use it the less the sourdough flavor is there. I have gone a month or two before using my starter. I just keep it in the frig. I have never had any problems doing it this way. Some people take a cup of starter out once a week. If they don't want to make bread, they just throw the cup of starter away. Then they feed the starter. I wouldn't do this unless it had been more than 2 months since I made bread. The longer the starter sets, the stronger the sourdough flavor will be.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Garden and Weekend Update

We had a great weekend. We enjoyed a little fun mixed in with a lot of work. We have spent much of the weekend working on clearing our back pasture. We have worked on this project on and off for a month now. The mountain view is incredible as you can see from the picture. Michael wants to build a house there. My dreams are a bit more realistic. I would like to someday build a pole barn and have a place for gatherings and playtime. Campfires and guitar music comes to my mind when we are out there. The only real issue is that there is no bathroom within walking distance. My family of boys has no problem with this fact, but friends may. I am wanting to look into some new designs for outhouses. But all of those thoughts are just dreams for now and can wait until another day. For now, the pasture will provide extra grass for our animals, as well as a great play place for us.
Our garden is growing by leaps and bounds. We spent much of last night weeding the garden. (We ran out of newspaper to use as mulch and weed control). Michael and I got the eggplant and peppers all weeded. Our tomatoes are doing fantastic this year. We have tomatoes in all different stages. One bed is producing glorious red juicy tomatoes. We picked about 3/4 of a bushel Saturday and Sunday. We are eating tomatoes as well as canning them. I will be canning sometime today again. One bed of tomatoes is just starting to look like they are starting to ripe. I will be working that bed of Rutger Tomatoes sometime in the next 2 weeks. We also have a bed of Romas that are just now starting to produce small tomatoes. These are no where near ripening, but by the time they are ripe I will be ready for them. Our cucumbers are growing nicely. Lime pickles are still on my list of canning projects. We picked some new lettuce last night. Here lately the lettuce has been bitter due to the heat. If this new lettuce is bitter too, I will be pulling up the remaining lettuce and feeding it to the chickens. I will plant more toward the end of August. Our watermelon and cantaloupe are beautiful. I have never been able to grow watermelon before. I know the difference this year is planting them in a raised bed. I just wish I had gotten them out earlier this year. We will have watermelon and cantaloupe coming out of our ears in late August. Next year I want to make sure I succession plant both of these.
This week Michael and sons will be constructing the hog pen. I will keep you informed of the progress complete with pictures if I can remember to charge the batteries for the camera!
grace and peace,

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sunday Scripture

"This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it". Psalm 118:24

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Little of this and That

Joshua and his Dad have spent some fun filled Saturday mornings fishing this summer. Here is a nice Bass that Josh caught last week. I am thankful that all of our boys enjoy fishing and hunting. Michael's boat is small so he has to take one child at a time to the lake. This is a great opportunity for that child to enjoy some one on one time with Michael. Fishing is good, but building a strong relationship is great.
I spent yesterday cleaning and canning. Jacob and I canned 14 pints of peach jam. I also had some tomatoes that needed to be canned or I was going to have to throw them away. I ended up with only 2 quarts of tomatoes, but that will change soon when our Rutgers and Roma tomatoes get ripe. I just saw a great looking recipe for zucchini bread that uses honey, and I may make several loaves of that for the freezer. We only have a few zucchini left in the refrigerator. This maybe the perfect use for them. If I really like the recipe, I will post it later. My next canning project will be Lime Pickles. I should be starting that this week depending on the cucumber production. I went to make Dill pickles and all of our Dill had gone to seed. It is a bit hard to make Dill Pickles without any dill!
This morning I am heading out to breakfast with a friend. Upon my return, I will be heading into the garden to see what needs to be accomplished there. I haven't been there much at all this week so I am sure that I have a lot of work facing me there.
grace and peace,

Friday, July 20, 2007

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Our calf is coming home from our neighbor's herd more often now. We are hoping that she will slip back through our fence to nurse, and then just stay home. We are working on getting Lizzie to come to us to eat grain. After all, we should have already started milking her. We are still not for sure how to go about that since we don't have a milking area. As you can see from the last picture, our horses have to butt their noses into EVERYTHING!! They can't stand the thought of Lizzie getting a bucket of grain. Our farm is set up in such a manner that the entire 17 acres is fenced around the perimeter. The only division that we have is this fence that you see in the bottom picture. It divides our backyard from the rest of the farm fields. We are trying to figure out how to separate the milk cow from the rest of the group. We are wanting to do this project with the least amount of money possible as well as the least amount of time and effort possible. This isn't because we are lazy, but we have so many other things pressing us at the moment that we can't get involved in a large project. However, as I was standing in the milk aisle at our cheapest grocery store, I was having a fit. In just one week, our milk went from being around $3.79 a gallon to $4.79. My numbers may be off by a few cents, but the point is that it went up over a dollar in one week. That same morning I bought gas at $2.74. By that night, the gas was back up to $2.89. I was fussing and fuming about the prices going up up up. My 13 year old son in his laid back way said,"Well, Mom. I would suggest you get out there and milk that cow that you bought if you don't like the milk prices here". I looked at him, and he had a huge grin on his face. He had gotten me good. But I will have the last will be HIM out there milking that cow with his Dad of course!!!!
grace and peace,

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Family of the Corn

We have had a very busy day. Michael and I left at 6:30a.m. to pick up corn from a local farmer. We purchased approximately 500 ears of corn. (We did not get to grow corn this year due to time and fence issues). We met the farmer in the field, and loaded our truck up with the fresh picked produce. We arrived back home by 7:30, and that is when the fun began.
Corn day at our house is a family affair. Some of our children like it more than others, but I know we have made memories over the years! We set up our corn "stations" outside on the carport. We use our truck as a shucking spot, and then I have one child inside washing the corn. (Everybody gets a turn at this job. Hope is our best corn silker/washer. She is the most efficient in the least amount of time. Joshua cleans the corn best of all, but we would have to wait on him a week just to have the corn clean. Matthew is horrible at silking corn. We all teased him that his corn would come complete with dental floss installed)! The washed corn is brought back outside for me to cut it off the cob. This is a very messy job, and it makes for a much nicer clean up time if this part takes place outside. Then the corn is taken back into the kitchen to cook. We bag it outside due to the mess that this can create. This process went on from 8:00a.m. until well after 2:30 p.m. I am happy to say that all the corn has been put away, and most of the mess has been cleaned up. We still have some work to do on the carport, but at least our kitchen isn't messy!
500 Ears of Corn Yielded:
4 dozen ears for fresh eating
48 Quart Bags of cut corn for the freezer
6 dozen ears frozen on the cob
grace and peace,

Monday, July 16, 2007

Are you Our Mamma?!!!

Our English Mastiff dog found the 6 puppies that we have been keeping. I was terrified that she would hurt them, but much to our surprise she has doted on them as if they were her own. We have caught them trying to nurse, but of course she is way too tall. She wanted to get in their bed/pool to curl up with them, but of course she is way too large. She wanted to chase them down the hill, but of course she is way too fast.
grace an peace,

6 Puppies and More

We have been puppy sitting for the last week. Only one week left to go until the puppies' family return from vacation. Our kids have enjoyed the experience. I think this is the best way to experience keeping puppies. Keep them two weeks, and send them back home. The first several days the puppies were here, the kids begged to keep one of them. This time I stood firmly on the word "NO". After one week, every child is getting a bit weary in well doing. They still like the puppies, but they aren't so ready to take on a full time responsibility for them. They have now experienced caring for them. Come to think of it, in the last few days nobody has asked if they could keep a puppy. Either they are being wonderfully obedient children, or they have decided that puppies are lots of trouble. (I bet it is the latter)!
Michael and I spent some time this weekend making some farm plans. We walked an area to see if it was suitable for keeping pigs. We....He decided that it was. We had already purchased hog panels last summer so now all that is left to do is install them to make a pig fence. While we were walking on our property, we found a metal box on plywood skids that will make a great pig shelter for quite awhile. The previous owner of our property kept hunting dogs so every now and then we find dog paraphernalia. I was happy because this will give us the pig shelter that we were lacking. I called the local pig farmer. He has pigs for sale at $35 a piece. We will purchase 2 pigs for our pork consumption. We have raised pigs in the past, and we were delighted with the meat. The meat was wonderful, and I was amazed at how much it cut down on our grocery budget.
As soon as the pig project is completed, we will be on the look out to buy a black Angus calf. You better believe I want the calf to be big enough that it can't slip through our neighbor's fence like our Jersey calf does. We spend way too much money at the grocery store these days. I know that having a cow and 2 hogs in the freezer would cut down on that expense greatly.
I was disappointed when I called the local Blueberry farm and discovered that there would be no blueberries this year. I had a suspicion of this, but it was confirmed yesterday. Between the late freeze we had this spring and the drought, the blueberries have not produced this year. I know we lost all of our apples off our June apple tree, and that has been sad as well. However, we trust God no matter the situation, and thank Him for all the things that we have had this year. (I am still going to miss the blueberries, and the homemade blueberry syrup for pancakes, and eating fresh blueberries from the bowl, and homemade blueberry pie, and well you get the picture!
grace and peace,

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday Scripture

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken." Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Gift Basket of Flowers

Here is a gift basket that I made as a "thank you" gift. Everything in the basket we grew on the farm. The only cost of this gift was the basket itself as well as a piece of fresh flower florist foam.
To assemble: I cut the foam to fit into the basket. I lined the basket with plastic. I soaked the foam until drenched. I then put the foam on top of the plastic liner. I started adding sunflowers until I got the shape that I wanted. Then I took farm vegetables and covered the entire bottom of the basket with them. These included different types of peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes. This basket took me less than 2o minutes to assemble not counting picking time.
grace and peace,

Here a few pictures of the different types of Zinnias in our flower garden. The last photo is a new flower that I grew for the first time this year. It is called Gomphrena. It is also a nice cut flower that can be used in fresh arrangements as filler flowers. The leaves are beautiful so they also help in being a base for an arrangement. Sometimes when I make an arrangement I just use all flowers and no greenery. This makes a showy display, but my favorite arrangements are the ones that have greenery in the background and then a few flowers added to it. This allows each individual flower to be showcased, and I think their beauty stands out so much more. I hope today to make some flower arrangements. I have been so busy with other things that the flowers have become last on my list. I am planning on changing that today!
grace and peace,

Friday, July 13, 2007

Old garden plants and veggies make happy chickens

I mentioned in my last post that our squash and zucchini plants are almost finished producing. I take the old plants and throw them in our chicken pen. I also do this with lettuce that has gone to seed or turned bitter due to the heat. The chickens are happy to get the excess. It is a quick and efficient way to "clean up" a mess. We are all happy in the end. The first picture was taken after I threw a bunch of lettuce plants into the pen. The next picture shows several hens fighting over a squash that had become too ripe. And the last picture is of our Bard Rock Hen. I think this type of chicken is the perfect mascot to represent the good life on a farm.
grace and peace,

Pictures from Saturday's Harvest

Here are a few pictures from our garden's harvest last Saturday. We have had enough squash and zucchini. Those plants are just about done producing, and I am not sad to see them go. I have enjoyed the bounty, but I am ready to eat other things for awhile now.
The one thing that I am not tired of is all of our lettuce. I love the fresh lettuce, and we eat it often. I remember the first time I made a salad with fresh garden lettuce. I did not have a salad spinner (pictured in the last picture) so I washed the lettuce quickly and dried it with paper towels. While I was eating my salad, I found a slug on my plate. I just about choked. I am smart enough to know NOT to say anything about bugs in the food in front of the kids. That is something I WOULD NEVER hear the end of. I prayed nobody else had bugs on their plate. After dinner, I told Michael that we needed to make a trip to the kitchen store to purchase a salad spinner. He asked me why...I quickly told him....he quickly agreed for a road trip. Now to wash my salad, I fill our kitchen sink up with cold water. I submerge all of the lettuce in the water. I let it set for a bit. I even slosh it around a bit. I then wash the lettuce under running water, and spin it several times in my salad spinner to dry. I have never again found a bug on my salad plate!
grace and peace,

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tired Farmers

It has been hot around here in East Tenn. Here are two of our farm hands weary from both the heat and work! I think the English Mastiff had a "cooler" idea than the 3 year old for a resting place, but Seth does look quite comfortable.

We had much needed rain yesterday so I am looking forward to getting down to the garden today and seeing what there is to pick. I am amazed at how much money we are saving this summer by eating the garden produce. I plan my meals by what is available from our garden. We have had many meals over the past few weeks that fried zucchini has substituted for meat. However I think I over did that one a bit. My 13 year old informed me the other day that just because I fry a veggie doesn't make it a meat product. All of my men are true carnivores!

grace and peace,

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Garden tip from Tnfarmgirl (THANKS, CHERI)!

After bemoaning the fact that we were in such a hurry to assemble two of our beds this year that we didn't even till the grass before adding the dirt, Tnfarmgirl (Cheri) answered I know what you can do about that. (I immediately thought I don't have time to stand out there and pull out all the grass)! She told me to get old newspapers and fold them to be in a least 4 layers. Wet the newspapers, and place them over the grass in the bed. This was going to kill the grass while becoming a great addition to our bed when tilled into it later in the season. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical, but I quickly went to Michael's shop and gathered up enough newspaper to cover the problem bed. Cheri told me this about 3 weeks ago, and all of the grass under the newspaper has turned yellow and died away. My tomato plants are beautiful. Now I am keeping every piece of newspaper that comes my way. She also said to use the newspaper when we are building the beds to help control weeds, and it provides food for the worms!! (imagine that)! After tilling the ground, spread the newspaper over the tilled up ground. Then add the composted dirt and amenities to the bed. Our next beds will be prepared just that way.
grace and peace,

Monday, July 09, 2007

I just finished reading Deliberate Agrarian's new post. His link is at our sidebar. This post was about finding his mother's diary, and how much it touched his heart when he read a passage that she had written concerning him. I wanted to share what I have done for my children. I don't share this so you think I am a creative person. I share this because I know that God instructed me to do this over 16 years ago. It all started when our first baby was born. I received a beautiful baby book, and I was diligent to write in it often. However, there were many things that I wanted to share with this new little being that didn't fit on the pages of his baby book. I started writing notes to each of my children. I do not have any specific time line concerning this. I just wait until I have something special to share with them or a story about them. Over the years, I don't always have time to get a nice clean sheet of paper. I have even been know to scribble a funny moment on a napkin. I then place the napkin in their baby book. I just make sure that I date it, and just to make it easier on me later on I even jot down their age at the time. I have notes and letters of love to each of my children from babyhood to teenage years. My children do not know that I have kept these notes for them. This is something special that they will discover someday. God willing, I plan on turning these notes and letters into a special book and give it to each of their spouse's on their wedding day along with their baby book. This will be my special gift to them that no amount of money could have ever bought.

grace and peace,

Monday Clean Up

Today will be a day full of mundane chores. However, Jacob never views mowing as mundane. It is a task that he enjoys immensely. Matthew and Joshua on the other hand will be weed eating, and they aren't near as enthusiastic about that job. It takes a while to mow and care for a yard as large as ours. It seems as if every time I go out the door there is something that needs to be picked up or cleaned up outside. I am thankful to have a yard to keep up becuase in times past we have not had this pleasure.

While those children will be working outside today, Hope and I will be putting our home back together on the inside. I am still amazed at how quickly a clean home can turn into a messy place. We have a few children that haven't mastered the art of picking up after themselves ALL the time. Just a few of those backsliding moments can cause a house to fall into critical mass destruction if we aren't diligent. Well off to clean I go....hi, ho, hi, ho, hi, ho!

grace and peace,


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sunday Scripture

"He also brought streams out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers".
Psalm 78:16
"Then they remembered that God was their rock, and the Most High God their Redeemer."
Psalm 78:35

Friday, July 06, 2007

The grass is ALWAYS greener...even for cows

What is wrong with this picture?
At first glance you may think there is nothing wrong. However, there is something VERY wrong. First clue, where is the mother of this calf? She is on the other side of the fence which happens to be our farm. The calf learned early on that she can slip through the fence and join our neighbor's herd of cows. She loves the neighbor's grass as well as cows much more than ours because that is where she is staying for much of her time. She does come back home to drink milk from her Mom. I thought that having the calf next door would upset the Momma cow. I expected her to be bawling her head off. Nope...not our cow. She seems more than happy to let the cows next door watch her baby throughout the day. Everybody likes the situation except for me. I am aggravated to say the least that we have a calf ,who my children named Isabell, that lives on the next farm over!! We did go out last week to repair the part of the fence that she was using to escape. However, we discovered that the entire fence line would have to be repaired. The neighbor is fine with little Isabell joining his herd. I on the other hand am looking for a place to contain her. Our barn is in much need of repair. Our son suggested we just put her in the house. I didn't exactly like that idea, but I did consider putting her in Michael's shop with the black kitty. After all, he isn't doing much wood working right now anyway. Then I remembered that I had agreed to keep a friend's litter of 6 puppies in the shop for the next 2 weeks. I don't think I can store any other animals down there for now so I guess the arrangements that the 2 cows have worked out will have to do for the time being.
grace and peace,

Favorite Cut Flowers

Here are a few of my favorite flowers that I use for cut flower arrangements. The variety of zinnias in the above picture is the California Giant. I enjoy using this variety because the blooms are large, and it takes few blooms to make a nice arrangement. The other picture is a picture of Cosmos. I planted a Sensation mixture which also includes a pretty deep purple color. I love to use Cosmos in flower arrangements because they make a soft arrangement with beautiful foliage. The flowers themselves do not last too long, but you can snip off the individual blossoms that have died. To help the flowers last longer in the water, you should strip off the leaves that will be below the water level. Leaves that are left under the water, tend to go bad very quickly. I have a harder time doing this with the Cosmos, but the Zinnias are easily stripped. I usually do this standing outside while cutting them.
Taking care of a garden bed of flowers doesn't require too much effort either. (Just in case you haven't figured out, I am a person that loves beauty that comes without a lot of effort on my part)! To keep the flowers producing blooms, you should snip off old dead blooms often. I give my daughter this task. After a while, Zinnia's leaves tend to become unattractive in the garden bed. It does mess up the view of the bed, but again just strip all the leaves when using them in an arrangement. To keep fresh flowers all summer, I succession plant all of my flowers. The first bed of Zinnias that I planted this Spring is getting to the end of their beauty. However, I have another bed that is just now coming into its peak season.
The worst enemy of a zinnia bed is Japanese Beetles. This is one bug that I detest. To be quite honest, I hate them. I pick the bugs off the flowers and squash them. However, I cannot keep up with the multitudes of Japanese Beetles so I do lose some flowers to their destructiveness. I sometimes think the flowers keeps the beetles off of my vegetables so I am thankful for that.
grace and peace,

Cucumbers and a Quick Recipe

Our cucumbers are finally coming in for harvest. We planted them later than usual so we have had to wait longer than I really like to enjoy the great taste of fresh cucumbers. In the next few weeks, I will be canning Lime Pickles as well as Dill Pickles. Dill pickles are the easiest thing in the world to can. I always add a garlic clove and a Cayenne pepper to each of my quart jars. The pepper gives the pickles a bit of a bite that our entire family enjoys. For those of us who really like spice, I will replace the Cayenne pepper with a habinero pepper. Those pickles don't bite back, they KICK back!
My mom and grandmother always had cucumbers and vinegar in the frig. during the summer months. This is something that Michael and I love, and it makes a great side dish to just about any meal.
Cucumbers and Vinegar
Slice up several cucumbers. Depending on the size, I use 5 or 6. If small, I use more. Slice approximately half an onion into the cucumbers. Vidallia onions are the best, but I also use green onions from our garden too. In separate bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3/4 cup vinegar, and 1/4 cup water. Stir that mixture up well. Sprinkle with salt and lots of fresh ground pepper. Pour the vinegar solution into the cucumbers. Stir. Let cucumbers set in frig. for several hours before serving. Stir again right before serving. The longer they set, the softer they become. I put this dish together in the morning if I want to serve it at supper time. We also like it the next day even though the cucumbers are softer they have a great flavor. As you eat the cucumbers and onions, just add more sliced cucumbers and onions to the vinegar solution you already have. Use that solution until the vinegar gets weak. I will use it for 2 to 3 times before I discard and make a new solution.
grace and peace,

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Pasture Clean-up and Blackberries Galore

We went to the back part of our farm today. We have a pasture there that we haven't taken care of over the past three years. I was amazed at how many trees can grow up in a pasture over what I consider a short period of time. Michael has started mowing and cutting down small trees every evening. He has made good progress over the last few nights. The above picture shows his handy work. While he is doing that, I am out picking blackberries. Our berries are becoming ripe at different stages. This is great for me because I think we will have berries over the next month. I found a great fruit crisp recipe yesterday in our local newspaper. I am including the recipe in this post. While I was picking blackberries, I set the bag down for a moment. Seth accidentally stepped on the bag crushing a portion of the berries. I brought them home, and immediately made this crisp. It was wonderful. I had been looking for a recipe like this to work with blackberries for quite a while.

Fruit Crisp

3 cups fresh fruit
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 1-quart shallow baking pan. Mix 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch together and toss with fruit. Place fruit in baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, salt, and cinnamon. Add butter and blend with pastry cutter until mixture is crumbly. Add oats and pecans and mix well. Spread evenly on top of fruit. Place pan in oven and bake 25 minutes until fruit is bubbly. I baked mine for about 30 minutes.

Serve warm or cold. I would love this recipe with some homemade vanilla ice cream. YUM

grace and peace,