welcome to our farmhouse…life is good

Thursday, August 18

Friday, August 5

farmgirl photos...

As summer winds down (school begins in 2 weeks!) there's lots happening here on the farm. Just like everyone else, there's always much to do...for us, we're reworking the mudroom and half-bath, gardening, beekeeping, and catching up on odds & ends. Summer heat and humidity are relentless, with temperatures in the 90's each day. Unfortunately, there's no chance in sight of much-needed rain.

What cool can be found in the early morning, is spent watering the garden and flowers, and topping off buckets of water for the goats, chickens, barn cats, faithful guard dog, and even the honey bees. Throughout the day we make quick trips outside to be sure animals have fresh water and are doing well. And as for us, homemade ice cream is on the menu for this weekend!

And so it goes...it IS summer, and soon fall...my favorite time of year, will be here to enjoy. 
In the meantime, here's a peek at what we see each day...a little walk around the farm.

Happy Friday to all!

A sweet, elderly lady at the nursery suggested this heirloom variety, San Marzano.
Can't wait to try it in our favorite tomato sauce recipe.

Who doesn't love a volunteer sunflower?!

Plump blackberries are ready for picking - hint: plant the thornless variety! 

I can taste the peach cobbler now...yum! 

Limelight hydrangea add a pop of color to a shady spot.

It's hard to find a flower that can take the heat of full sun, all day long...but these zinnias have been fantastic.
I'll be saving the seeds for next year!


Monday, July 18

life is too short to be unhappy...

That's what my mother-in-law always says, and she's right...too short to spend time on things we don't enjoy, too short to rush through the days, too short waiting on "someday." 

Before we know it, the days turn into weeks, the weeks into months, and the months into years. Soon, a lifetime has passed by.

I recently read: "Someone else is praying for what you already have."
It made me stop...

healthy children - check
a home of our own - check
food in the pantry and veggies growing in the garden - check

There are also some extras we are blessed with...fireflies at dusk, favorite old movies, fresh eggs & honey, room to roam, critters to care for, and laughter.

Yes, some days are better than others, and we certainly have things on our wish list,
but all-in-all, isn't it really all about how we face each day?

How about this first day of the new week we take just a minute to look around...
what do we enjoy that someone else is praying for? Then, with gratitude in our hearts,
let's whisper a prayer of thanksgiving for those blessings.

Monday, June 27

upcycle, recycle, in no time flat!

I'm always drawn to old things...things that look like they just need a little love. Weathered signs, window frames, and vintage watering cans have all found their way home with me, but this time, a silver teapot - ahhh, yes, it looked like it had potential.

Not as teapot, for it had two broken legs, but as a windchime! Hmmm, out came the drill and filament line.

A hole here and there...
A hammer to flatten some old silverware, then a hole in each handle...



And before I knew it, done!

Now, it's not everyone's cup of tea...but when the wind blows and the silverware begins to "sing" in the breeze, I love it.

Yep...use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without...our grandmothers were right!

Thursday, June 2

May...merry & madcap!

For anyone with kids, you know that May is, yes, both merry and madcap! From band & orchestra concerts to award ceremonies & celebrations, it's full from beginning to end. That's not a bad thing, just a somewhat frenzied thing!

And so, in the middle of a fast-paced month, this arrives in my mailbox...

Yay! Perfect timing...our girls at church are prepping for Girls' Camp and the outdoor cooking certification will be here on the farm. This issue's packed with recipes from those early-morning breakfasts, to lunch, dinner & yummy desserts.

So, how to make this madcap month even better? Turn to page 82...

and I'm tickled to find my article on cast-iron! I'm always happy to be invited to write for GRIT magazine...they have some of the best how-to articles out there for homesteaders, farmgirls, and wannabe farmgirls. (And lucky for us, girl campers, too!)

Thanks to the good people at GRIT for this issue...we'll definitely use it for camp, but check back with us in July when we celebrate Pioneer Day, it'll be perfect!

(PS...someone asked me about the term "Kitchen Orchard" from my last post. It's an old homesteading term...generally it meant 5 trees close to the house for the homesteaders' use, not a full-size orchard meant for taking fruit to market.)

Monday, May 9

farm photos...our kitchen orchard

I thought you might like a peek at the first blooms of our Kitchen Orchard...this time of year is the prettiest time, with all the rose-like buds and soft colors.

Yellow Transparent Apple...just perfect for applesauce!

Fuji Apple...our favorite sweet/tart apple for eating.

Contender Peach...makes such tasty jam. And since I'm the only one who likes peaches,
they're all for me!

Next is the D'anjou pear tree...sweet and juicy.

Last, and oh-so cute, is the tiny Seckel Pear. Thought to be the only truly American pear, they're sometimes called a sugar pear or a candy pear because of their sweet taste.

Now as pretty as these blooms are, they are also tender. Should the temperatures dip, as they often do once the blooms come on, we'll be out there with our hoses spraying them with water.

I know, I know...that sounds crazy, but this little trick we have up our sleeves will actually save the buds, and future fruit when a threatening freeze is in the forecast. We will coat the tree with water, which will freeze. And while that sounds like it would damage the blooms, in the end, that layer of ice will protect the fruit that's developing. Why? Well science tells us that when water freezes, it produces energy in the form of heat, which will protect the buds from the bitter cold. 

Yep...it certainly does sound counter-productive, but we figured if it works for the orange growers in Florida, it just might work for us, too.

So we do this...

to enjoy this!

It's hard to wait!

Monday, May 2

the gentle green of spring...and hive swarms

Today there is a lingering chill in the air. As the barn cats and I walk back from the mailbox, we step around the many puddles that remind me of our recent cold, blowing rain. This time of year cannot be trusted...we've had several warm tee-shirt weather days, then just as many frosty mornings that threaten snow.

However; this post is not about the mellow month of May...it is about beekeeping.

Sunday afternoon I quickly visited the coop to collect eggs. The girls were chattering, Bandito was crowing, and then pausing at the door, that's when I heard it...that sound. No, no, no...not again, the bees were swarming! I had 15 minutes before it was time to leave...no time to suit up, no time to prepare. I sadly watched them settle high in a tree.

And so there I was, watching the last of my three hives fly away. One hive was lost over the winter, a second this past autumn to robbing yellowjackets. While a strong colony can defend itself against a yellowjacket invasion, a small one is easily overtaken by them. Once in the hive, yellowjackets will kill the bees, eat the honey, and destroy whatever else they find. By the time I opened it, the hive was empty. 

Soon it was time to leave...a swarm will stay anywhere from a hour to a day, so with any luck they would be there when I returned. And to my surprise, several hours later, I found them still high in the tree!

I called my beekeeping neighbor, we suited up, hauled ladders, found saws and pruners, and into the tree we went. We plotted, we planned, and then carefully secured and sawed the branch holding my escaping friends. Gently we lowered the bees into their new home. We smile! We can't believe our luck! We congratulate each other! We plan to meet again at dark to move the hive to its permanent location.

Fast forward 3 hours...again, I find myself at the chicken coop to tuck the girls in for the night. I can't resist...I take a walk over to see the bees, but it's too quiet. I get closer, I peek inside. 

There are no bees...they have flown off yet again. I call my neighbor and we commiserate over the loss. And so it goes...

Beekeeping is an art...after 4 years I'm still learning. When I began I wanted to know all the rules so I would get it right. Yes, there are rules to follow, but every beekeeper does things differently. It's a gut feeling...an intuition...when to feed, when to add supers, when to take honey and when to leave it. We watch the weather, anticipate the first dandelions, try to forecast the last bloom of the goldenrod and asters.

Here's the thing...with 42% of colonies lost in 2015, might I ask that you plant a flowerpatch with seeds that will grow into flowers bees love? Lavender, rosemary, sage, coneflower, catnip, lamb's ears, verbena, aster, black-eyed Susan, oregano, and yarrow are a few.  You can even search online, "save the bees seeds" and lots of companies will send them to you for free!

Back outside today, I'm weeding flowerbeds, in the distance I hear the far-off sound of a single cardinal. Somewhere in the meadow I see the promise of spring and warm days to come.  For now, I'm looking forward to Friday...I have two new hives coming, and I'll start again.

Monday, April 18

thanks a bunch Capper's Farmer!

It's always such fun to find a surprise in the mailbox...especially when it's one from Capper's Farmer! Love those folks...their magazine is always filled with easy tips, practical advice, yummy recipes, and inspiration for the garden.

And lucky me, this spring I was invited to be a part of their newest issue!

I've shared my quick & easy how-to's for making your very own oil lamp, and it's ready in almost no time at all. Try using quart-size Mason jars for a table centerpiece or march several sweet little jelly jars across the mantel of your fireplace. These oil lamps add a little flickering light on a picnic table at sunset, and should the electricity go out, you'll find they're not only pretty, but practical, too!

My heartfelt thanks to the Capper's Farmer folks...

Monday, April 11

about that third snow...

Well, as previously posted, the saying goes "There will be 3 snows after the forsythia bloom." I'm here to tell you that old tale is true...and it happened in our part of the Midwest all in one week!

Now don't get me wrong...some folks are grumbling, but it's a fact.

I. Love. Snow.

Truly, I don't remember a time when I wasn't in love with snow. For me, there's nothing like the cozy feeling of just hunkering down with a favorite book or classic movie, hearing the sounds of a crackling fire in the fireplace, making s'mores over that fire, and enjoying the delicious aroma of a homemade soup simmering on the stove. It's a signal to slow down the usual break-neck speed of life and do nothing but ENJOY.

Another wise saying goes like this...

"Time flies...whether you're having fun or not."

And that, I can testify, is absolutely true.  So let's enjoy every minute...

Whether it's this...

or this...

"In all of living, have much fun
and laughter.

Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured."
-Gordon B. Hinckley

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