Welcome to our 1864 farmhouse…life is good!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I'm in a pickle!

After my last trip to our local grocery, I found a recipe for refrigerator pickles tucked inside my basket. I'd heard how simple these pickles are to make and how tasty they are, too. 

However, I almost tossed the recipe because the directions weren't specific enough. 
"Slice a few cucumbers and some onions." Add pickling spices" But how much?  "Pack in brine." 
What are the proportions of water & vinegar?

Hmmm, 14 years as a cookbook editor had trained me to write very precise, step-by-step recipe instructions, and yet, I threw caution to the wind and tried this imprecise recipe. 

I'm so glad I did...they are goof-proof!

So here's my version of the original recipe for refrigerator pickles...and you can certainly change up the ingredients however you like. Add some veggies such as carrot slices or green beans, use less sugar if you like a pickle that's a bit more sour, or toss in a dash less (or more) of the pickling spices. 

It's all up to you...because sometimes recipes that are less precise, are absolutely perfect!

Summertime Refrigerator Pickles


1-2 t. pickling spices
1 t. salt
1/4-1/2 c. sugar
1 c. white vinegar
1 c. water
pint-size canning jar

Slice enough cucumbers and onions to tightly fill a pint-size canning jar. Add pickling spices, salt, and sugar. Combine vinegar and water; stir well to blend. Pour over cucumber mixture filling jar. Tighten down lid; shake well to blend. Chill 24 to 36 hours, shaking periodically.
Makes one pint of pickles that will keep refrigerated several weeks.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

a foggy morning on the farm...

As the sun began to lighten the early-morning haze, it played with the shadows on my favorite view from our kitchen...the kids' tire swings.

I couldn't resist and took a few steps outside to enjoy the morning...everything was so peaceful and quiet. 

After a look around, I soon discovered that the spiders on our farm had been quite busy during the night. It was as if they dressed-up each tree, flower, leaf, and even our old pump with a string of pearls.


just maybe, 
there was a Fairy Ball last night...don't you agree?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

snapshots of summer...

It was 49 degrees yesterday morning...summer is fading. And while we may resist this notion, something inside tells us it's time to move on. There are gentle reminders...cooler mornings, the slant of evening shadows, shorter days, the first day of school.

Yes, we're teetering somewhere between summer and autumn...it's a bittersweet time.

And so, before it disappears completely, here are a few photos of our summer. Some taken here on the farm, some on vacation, but all filled with sweet memories.

a busy bee from our new hive...
an adorable llama...look at those ears!
flamingos at the National Zoo...
a roadside stop on our travels...
columns in the Jefferson Memorial...
a cool sip of water for butterflies & bees...
a painted barn on a country road...

Soon our kitchen will be filled with the sweet aroma of grape jam, followed by simmering pots of savory tomato sauce. We'll dig potatoes, plant fall lettuce (mostly for the chickens to enjoy!), and stack a wood pile close to the door.

The kids will look for woolly worms to see if they predict a cold winter, and the last county fair coming up is our very favorite.

Yes, it's a time of change...but as the we've heard before, to every ending, there is a beginning. Let's savor it all...gathering, putting by, cool mornings, and lovely evenings with a coppery glow. Yes...life is good.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

practical preparedness...

Only a few weeks ago, these were the weather warnings appearing for our area of the Midwest...

"Destructive thunderstorms carrying a punch with gusts of 80-mph
will pepper residents with significant power outages left in their wake.

"Potentially destructive thunderstorms will be the center of weather chatter.

Dangerous, even record-setting, heat will remain a daily battle
for the Eastern U.S. for the next few days.

If you read here you'll find the tale of our vacation and the storms that caused so much damage. It's still hard to imagine 3 million people were without power.

After that incredible storm, we decided it was time to double-check our food & water storage, and rethink our emergency preparedness supplies. I also decided it would be a good idea to have a frequent post and share some ideas...things we've learned along the way, what works (and hasn't worked) for us, and ask you to share your ideas as well.

So today is the first post for Practical Preparedness...

Emergency Water Purification

One of the biggest needs when an emergency hits is the need for safe drinking water; however, making water safe for your family is truly quick & easy.

Boiling is the best way to purify water. Bring it to a rolling boil and keep it boiling hard for one minute. Add one minute of boiling time for each 1,000 feet above sea level.

Unscented liquid bleach will kill bacteria and also provide you with pure drinking water in
5 simple steps.

     1- pour water in a clean container, allowing particles to settle to the bottom
     2- pour clear water into a clean container; use an eyedropper to add
         liquid bleach, following these guidelines...

2 drops for one quart of water
8 drops for one gallon of water
1/2 teaspoon for 5 gallons of water

     3- mix well
     4- wait 30 minutes...water should have a slight bleach odor
     5- if there is no bleach odor, repeat dose, wait 15 minutes

Keep an eyedropper taped to your bottle of bleach, along with the guidelines above, and it will always be at your fingertips should you need it. Bottles should be replaced every 3 months to ensure the bleach is at full strength. For some terrific information from the EPA, click here.

I hope this information is helpful...and if you have any hints or how-to's to share, please feel free to leave a comment. We can all learn from one another!


Friday, August 17, 2012

fabulous French bread!

This bread is so good and so easy to make, I had to share the recipe!

Farmhouse French Bread

2 c. warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
2 T. sugar
2 T. dry yeast
1 T. salt
2 T. oil
6 c. flour, divided
1 egg, beaten

Combine water, sugar, and yeast in a bowl; set aside 5 minutes, or until foamy. Pour mixture into the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with a dough hook. With mixer on lowest setting, add salt, oil, and 3 cups of flour; mix thoroughly. Add remaining flour; mix well. Let dough stand 10 minutes; mix again. Repeat this process, letting the dough stand 10 minutes, then mixing, 5 times.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface. Add only enough flour so that dough is easily handled; divide in half. Roll one half of dough into a 9"x12" rectangle. Beginning with the long side, roll up jelly roll-style. Moisten seam with a little water and pinch to seal. Repeat with remaining dough. Place loaves, seam-side down, on a well-oiled baking sheet; cover with a tea towel for
45 minutes.

Glaze loaves with beaten egg, then use a sharp knife to make 3 slashes across the top of each loaf. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Makes 2 loaves.

Not only are slices terrific topped with butter, we've been enjoying them like this...

toasted under the broiler until golden, adding a spoonful of homemade ricotta, then a mixture of chopped tomatoes, basil, and olive oil. Wonderful!

Give it a try...truly, this recipe is a keeper!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

smitten with bees...

After one month, our bees are buzzing away happily in their new home, and our family is excited at the idea of having our own honey.

One of the most important lessons I've learned is that keeping the smoker going is a must...and that can be quite a challenge!

Now, maybe everyone knew this little secret but me, but just in case you haven't heard, adding wood pellets (the kind used in heating stoves) will keep the smoker going long enough for you to complete your hive inspection with no worries.

Here's what I did...I added crumpled newspaper, about the size of a tennis ball, to the bottom of the smoker and topped it with kindling. Then I lit the paper and waited for the kindling to begin to crackle. Once that happened, I added a couple of handfuls of wood pellets. What I got was a cool smoke that burned for nearly two hours!

And so, with all the excitement of beekeeping, and even more to learn, who can resist linking up to a bee party? Join me, and meet some fascinating beekeepers here, at...

Sunday, August 05, 2012

late summer...

Since August has arrived in the Midwest, it seems happy to continue July’s sweltering, humid, rainless days. This summer has seen record-breaking high temperatures and a drought that has parched fields, yellowed gardens, and turned once green backyards to dust.  As these summer days continue to unfold, no matter how hard I try, it seems I’m continually moving in slow motion.

However; last night brought the rumble of thunder and distant flashes of lightning…perhaps the promise of rain was coming. Too many times we’ve watched darkening clouds filled with rain pass just to our north, leaving us without a drop. This time it was different…soon we were filled with grateful hearts as we watched the rain begin to fall. It fell steadily most of the night, continuing well into the morning.  At last, a break from the sweltering days…a blessing of 3 inches of rain had come bringing with it a cooling breeze and beautiful sunset of robins’ egg blue and shades of orange.

Even during these dog days of August, there are simple pleasures all around the farm. Our garden is overflowing and just-picked tomatoes are one of my husband’s favorite summertime delights.  The kids each have their own little gardens to tend, and they’re filled with juicy watermelon and cantaloupe, sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, and marigolds.  The new beehive is buzzing with activity and our little flock of hens cluck with delight over treats of cucumber, lettuce, or zucchini. Yes…life is good.

And while it’s been a summer filled with family fun and sweet memories, I’m sensing these summer days are numbered. Maybe it’s because the cicadas are humming throughout the heat of the day, while at day’s end I notice the sky darkening just a bit earlier. Maybe it’s the back-to-school advertisements in every paper, or maybe it’s because, even though the heat is intense, I really don’t want summer to end. 

So while there's still time before school begins, we’ll keep having as much unplugged play as we possibly can. We’ll can tomatoes and grape jam, splash at the local pool, catch fireflies, stay up late, and make as many memories as possible.  These days only come once…just a few special years, and I don’t want to miss a single minute.

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