Welcome to our 1864 farmhouse…life is good!

Thursday, April 28

go wild over seed balls!

This Easter I shared wildflower seed balls with my friends.
They were so easy to make, I thought you might enjoy making them too. (Mothers' Day is coming...they'd be a terrific gift!)

My inspiration...an article in Good Housekeeping, April, 2010

Mixing up the "recipe" can be a bit messy, so have a big bowl on hand and lots of empty egg cartons to store your seed balls in as they dry. You can even get the kids involved in this...ours always like something "messy" to get their hands into!

You'll need:
16-oz. cup (one cup equals one part)
5 parts powdered clay (available at craft stores)
3 parts good soil
1 part seed of your choice
1 to 2 parts water

Mix together the clay and soil; toss in seeds to distribute evenly. Add only enough water to the mix so that it holds together,
but isn't crumbly. Roll the mixture into marble-size balls
(about one inch in diameter.) Store seed balls in egg cartons
for at least 2 days, or until thoroughly dry.

When you're ready to plant, simply scatter them in your garden, water, and wait for them to grow! When I made mine, I cut the "recipe" in half, as the original said it would make "hundreds of seed balls" and I didn't need quite that many! I ended up with approximately 75, but I did make them a bit larger than a marble.

Have fun...and let me know if you try making them!

By the way,
take time to visit some terrific farms...I'm linking up to:

Verde Farm at www.verdefarm.com
along with...

Dandelion House at www.deborahjeansdandelionhouse.com/

Tuesday, April 26

spring is, well, springing!

In our part of the Midwest, we've received 6 inches of rain so far in April...this has broken an old record from 1893! Needless to say, it's been soggy. And while the flowers are popping up, the trees are filled with fragrant blossoms, and the grass is growing, it's been so wet, any outdoor planting or tidying up has been almost impossible. I'm anxious to get fruit trees, berry bushes, and our garden in!

Of course there are always things indoors to do...I'm still sorting out and cleaning up, and then there's that whimsical chicken apron I began, but other matters kept me from sitting down to stitch  it together. Hmmm, that just might be a fun
"must-do" for the week since our forecast is for continued storms right through the weekend (and I do want to have it ready when the girls' new coop is completed!)

With all the rain, an Easter egg hunt was out of the question Sunday, so before church, we had an indoor scavenger hunt for baskets. The clues weren't too hard, and before I knew it the kids were giggling and digging into their goodies. As I wondered aloud, "What kind of mother gives her kids chocolate for breakfast?"
A quick reply came from Sweet Girl..."An awesome one!"
Oh well, it's only one day each year!

This morning, we had a small window of time where the sunshine peeked through the clouds just long enough for me to snap some photos. Here's our part of the Midwest, showing off it's spring colors.

magnolia blossoms

redbud blossoms

bleeding hearts
Wherever you are, I hope you're seeing the signs of spring as well!

Sunday, April 17

plant swap...part two

After deciding on a date, I made quick & easy invitations.
Each invitation listed the day and time for the plant swap and asked that friends bring along an apron and gloves.

For the plant swap to work, friends would also need to bring one plant for each of the 8 ladies invited. Since this was my first plant swap, I kept it small, inviting those I knew had spring fever as badly as I did! I then made a list of extras to have on hand...
spare gardening tools, gloves, potting soil, and plant markers.
I'd need some containers for repotting plants, and a quick trip to a local flea market found me coming home with lots of whimsical, yet inexpensive, vintage teacups, berry buckets, enamelware mugs, and galvanized pails.

Next I began jotting down some recipe names and soon settled on the tried & true ones my friends had shared with me over the years. Favorites that came to mind were Hot Chicken Salad, Broccoli Salad, fruit with Chocolate Fondue, Flowerpot Herb Bread, and Texas Sheet Cake.  I'd also set out pitchers of ice water as well as bottles of frosty soda.

When the day for our plant swap arrived, it was a joy to wake up and find a spring morning with a clear blue sky. Early spring can be finicky, but the day was sunny and plenty warm enough to be outdoors. As friends arrived, we spent time chatting, catching up, sharing updates on our families, and our plans for summer.

After lunch we were all eager to swap plants...it was such fun!
As girlfriends do, we talked on and on while choosing and repotting plants. We shared garden hints, how-to's, and laughed about last year's prolific cucumber patch!

All too soon it was over...we were talked out, having enjoyed the beauty of the day. As each friend headed home, I knew they were taking a bit of one another with them. The plants each of us lovingly tucked into our new Friendship Gardens will always be a sweet reminder of our day spent together.

Call your friends & family and host a plant swap of your own...
it's a terrific way to celebrate spring!

Thursday, April 14

plant swap...part one

Spring is sprouting! We step outside to welcome the gentle breeze, happy daffodils, and sapphire blue sky. The puddles are drying and all around us we see the soothing green of spring. Like a
wide-eyed kid in a candy store, I've been re-reading favorite gardening books and poring over seed catalogs. There's no denying it...I have spring fever!

On days like this, it's hard not to set out for the nearest greenhouse. I've been dreaming of planting berry bushes and a few fruit trees; however, the practical side of me knows it's still too early. These initial spring days are best left to pondering rather than planting. Although we're winter weary, the temperature is bound to drop again and the north winds will
roar back.

Like almost everyone else I know, gardening fever has me firmly in its grip...what's a girl to do?

I decided to slip on my boots and go outside to take a closer look. If the perennials are peeking up through the ground, now would be a terrific time to have a plant swap with friends!

Early spring is the ideal for dividing old-fashioned favorites such as asters, yarrow, bee balm, purple coneflower, lily-of-the-valley, phlox, and blanket flowers. Dividing them makes each perfect for sharing...a great way to begin a Friendship Garden.

Once outside, several barn cats kept me company, and I found it amusing that they were careful to dodge the puddles our dog enjoyed splashing right through. Once at the flowerbeds, it took only a quick glance to see that there were lots of perennials above ground ready to welcome a new season! If you have spring fever too, why not make plans for a plant swap and start your own Friendship Garden? It's oh-so easy! I'll share with you what I did, then you can add ideas to make it your own.

To keep this from being too long & boring (I know you're all busy!) I'll break this into 2 posts...Part 2 coming soon!

Monday, April 11

the girls are growing!

It's week 3 of having 6 delightful, chatty, curious chicks as part of our family...they're growing so quickly!

Just take a look....still warm & cozy under their red brooder lamp, you'll see they've sprouted tail feathers, grown taller, and now they peck and chatter non-stop.

Final coop designs are in the works, and I couldn't resist this "must-have" to hang on their door.

It'll be exciting to introduce them to their new home in a few weeks...can't wait!

Happy Monday to all!

Tuesday, April 5

simple joys for April...

...visit the feed store and fall in love with the baby chicks and ducks.  You might just find yourself bringing a few home!

...while you're at the feed store, wander over to the shoe section. They have terrific rubber boots with farmgirl fresh designs such as horses, chickens, polka-dots, and flowers. They're sure to make gardening more fun in the muddy spring!

...this year, try natural dyes for Easter eggs...they're so easy! Make one batch of color at a time by simply adding one quart of water and 2 tablespoons white vinegar to a stainless-steel stock pot. Add one cup of your choice of the items below and bring to a boil; simmer 25 minutes. Add raw eggs to the water mixture and bring to a gentle boil for 30 minutes.

Check the eggs for color...natural dyes take a bit longer to dye eggs than commercial powders. When eggs are the shade you like, remove them, gently dry with a paper towel, and set aside
until cool.

red cabbage = dark pink
beets = pale pink
blueberries = blue/purple
raspberries = lavender
cranberries = light purple
yellow onion skins = orange
tumeric powder = yellow (1 t. for every 3 cups of water)

...bake a batch of hot cross buns...just because!

...buy yourself an Easter bonnet...okay, maybe not a bonnet, but how about a gardening hat? I have some favorites I just love and couldn't do without when the sun shines...how about you?

...remember, "April showers bring May flowers." And rainy days are wonderful for curling up with a book or movie. There will be plenty of time for work once the gardens begin blooming!

Friday, April 1

what I did on my spring break...

The kids are wrapping up spring break this week, and I have a feeling it will be one of the most memorable times of their lives.

Not because we jetted off to a warm, breezy, sun-soaked getaway,
but because of this...

and this...

and these...

but mostly, these...

Now, lest you think this was an impulse decision,
we've done our homework...
read all there was to read,
(Ashley English's, Keeping Chickens has been the latest)
looked at coops,
planned runs,
and scouted out locations.
The neighbors are willing to swap "chicken sitting" duties if we're out of town, so it was really a matter of just sealing the deal.

Wednesday, when we found ourselves with a couple of hours to pass, we ended up at our local feed store.
When Sweet Girl named a chick, it was all over...
I knew they were coming home with us.

The excitement of choosing was next, and then the chicks,
their box wrapped warmly in a blanket (after all, it's snowing here!) were lovingly held close for the ride home. Little Man asked if he could faint, and Sweet Girl hasn't stopped smiling.

And so it begins, life with the girls...
Henrietta, Cinnamon, Hermione,
Spottie, Hershey, and Alex.

And yes, if you know me at all, this will become a chicken retirement home. After all, every animal that comes here,
finds a spot to rest their head and stay as long as they'd like.

I'm so excited I can hardly stand it...
wait, I mean the kids are so excited!
Oh, there's no use denying it...
I've wanted chickens for a long time, I am excited,
and looking forward to learning the secrets to becoming the next Chicken Whisperer!

By the way, it's Friday...take a peek at who's visiting here,

and here...

and then on
Monday, you'll want to stop by

to discover some terrific farms!

By the way, thanks to all the ladies above
for hosting these farm visits...
it's great fun to see what others are doing
and to be inspired by them!
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