Monday, June 9, 2014

Enjoy the Journey

A friend reminded me the other day to enjoy the journey, because most of the time that is as important than actually arriving at the destination. It doesn't hurt to slow down a bit and appreciate the present moment while we're working toward a goal.

Sometimes it's good to be reminded...

It is better to travel well than to arrive.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Recipe: My Go-to Pound Cake

Lemon Pound Cake, recipe by Mrs. Lib Plyler, baked in my favorite pound cake pan given to me by Mrs. Mary Lee Rowell. Both ladies were elderly and close neighbors when we moved to our little farm in 1985. Whenever I bake this cake I think of them both.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Was that a Fairy?

It looks like our pond is covered with lily pads until you look more closely.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Recipe: Just a Little Something Sweet

I got this recipe from Grandma (the one with the peonies) when I was a little girl, and she made it with the sour cherries from her tree. It was called "Cherry Pudding" when I copied it down, but it's really not a pudding and I don't have a clue why it was called that. It's somewhere between a pound cake and quick bread, dense and very moist and not-too-sweet. Whatever it is, it's really yummy with a cup of coffee or tea and just the perfect size to take to a friend, or to keep in the freezer for unexpected occasions that require just a little something sweet.

This is the blueberry version.

Cherry Pudding/Pound Cake/Quick Bread
(Makes one loaf)

1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 c. granulated sugar
1 T. butter, melted
3/4 c. milk
2 tsp. baking powder
2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. seeded sour cherries (or blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, peaches, etc.)

  1. Combine the egg, sugar, butter, and milk, then stir in the baking powder and four, which have been combined. (You don't need an electric mixer for this, just a good old fashioned wooden spoon will do!)
  2. Fold in the fruit and spoon into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 325* for about an hour, or until it tests done. (Run a wooden skewer into the middle clear to the bottom. If there's gooey batter stuck to it when you take it out, bake another 5 minutes and test again till the skewer is dry when it comes out.)
  3. Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a rack until completely cool. 
To Serve: Depends on the time of the day. For breakfast you can toast and butter a slice. For tea, just slice into rectangles that balance on the edge of your saucer. For dessert, warm a slice and plop a big dollop of homemade whipped cream right on top. 

To Freeze: Wrap cooled cake in plastic wrap and then in foil or slip into a ziploc bag.
Note: If you are using frozen fruit, completely thaw and drain before adding it to the batter.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Quilting: Perfect Fabric Disk

One great thing about quilters is that all you have to do is ask for help and lots of talented and generous folks come to your aid. I needed help with making a fabric disk for the center of my Dresden plates. I wanted perfectly crisp edges and a perfect circle, and no matter how I tried, I just could not get it PERFECT. Although many shared their favorite methods with me, this is the one that I finally settled upon that worked perfectly for me. (Thank you Sue Dague!) You may have found another way that works just right for you; there are many ways to do most things and you just have to find one you like best. Here's the method I like best for the project I'm working on right now.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Meet Libby!

Here's our newest "bottle baby," Libby. We can't figure out who her mother is. We think she was born a twin and her mom abandoned her for some reason. Bob found her one morning, cold and wet and very weak. She slept on a heating pad for a week and I fed her every two hours. She's getting stronger every day!

Libby, still a bit wobbly, but ready
to discover the great outdoors!

Peeking around a bird bath
Louie meets Libby

Now they are inseparable!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Our Newest Baby!

Here's our newest baby. When I moved the sheep out of the tall grass to their secure pasture for the night, this momma refused to go. She was showing signs of early labor, so I just left her alone. Hobart, our Anatolian livestock guardian dog, stayed with her. Just before dark, I checked on her and could just see a little bobble headed lamb under her, but the grass was too thick for me to get a good look. This morning I was delighted to see that we have another healthy ewe lamb!

Fancy little girl!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Quilting: I love this iron...

All you quilters will understand the infatuation I have with my mini Rowenta steam iron.

I made 240 of these little wedges for my new quilt project. My big Rowenta iron would have been total overkill. This little baby has the same tapered tip as its big sister, and the size and weight are much better for pressing small pieces.

Oh, by the way, the handle folds down neatly against the body of the iron, and the whole thing fits into its own little zippered bag for taking to quilt retreats, which is why I bought it originally. Now I'm using it at home, too!

You can click HERE to find this iron on Amazon, and it's a great price, too. (I'm such an enabler, aren't I?)

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Birds & the Bees

Mr. Peacock loves to hang out in the corner of the yard where the bee hives are. That's been his favorite spot since long before we got the bees, and they seem to be getting along just fine. Today I had to shoo Mr. Peacock out of the way because I had work to do in my bee hive.

Not long ago I would have run fast and far from this many bees all in one place but, through aversion therapy (I took a local beekeeping course),

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Grandma's Peonies

I'm so glad that I have some of Grandma's peonies. Years ago, I raced to Pennsylvania when she had a heart "episode" that was serious enough to put her in the hospital. None of us thought she would recover. My heart was full of sorrow. I stayed at her house all by myself and I really and truly looked at everything as if I'd never see any of Grandma's things in the same way ever again.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Luau Pork Burger with Grilled Pineapple, Vidalia Onion, & From Scratch Luau Sauce

This has everything a burger have. Each bite is a big mouthful of layered flavors with juice and sauce that end up running down your hand to drip off your elbow. You've got to start with ground pork that is unseasoned... pork sausage won't do for this burger! Buy the best pastured pork you can find, like Thames Farm (they ship!) ground pork, that is tender and lean and flavorful, then add some special seasonings, grill up a slice of pineapple and vidalia onion, then layer all in a sturdy bun. Then comes the sauce. Oh, the sauce!. Here are the recipes....

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Slow-Cooker Beef Short Ribs

Slow-Cooker Beef Short Ribs with Bow Tie Pasta (Farfalle)

Wisdom and Ice Cream Cone

Great news! I went to an oral surgeon for a consultation to have all four wisdom teeth extracted, and he told me instead that he wanted to remove only one. Wow! He could easily have just taken all four and I'd have never known that there was no reason to extract those other three healthy teeth. I appreciate that he based his decision on what was best for me.

Friday, May 16, 2014

DIY: Thread Catchers

Thread catchers, or paper clip holders, or wedding favors filled with rice or birdseed for throwing, or cups for nuts or candies....I can see lots of good uses for these, depending on the fabric and the buttons! Members of my quilt guild are making these for a fall retreat, and I just finished my 10 this morning and thought I'd share the instructions. (I'm not a tutorial-blogging gal, so no pictures of each little step; just a list of instructions. If you have any questions, I'll be happy to help.)

I used scraps of fabric that I have left over from other projects. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sunday, May 11, 2014

To Rob on Mother's Day

Every day is Mother's Day when you have a son like Rob!
Rob gave me this in 2005, just as he was beginning his culinary journey.

Still working hard and making your mother proud of your accomplishments!

Happy Mother's Day!

I am so fortunate to have had such a wonderful grandmother in my life, who influenced me in so many positive and creative ways. I miss you every day, Mary Catherine Kimmel Heller. Happy Mother's Day to all the moms who, even unknowingly, inspire their children's and grandchildren's creativity.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Spring Roses on the Farm

The roses are in full bloom at our farm, and boy, do they ever smell as good as they look! The first thing you do with a beautiful rose is stick your nose in it, right? What a disappointment florist roses are because they seldom have an aroma, no matter how otherwise "perfect" they are. All our roses have been chosen for their beauty AND their aroma. Hyperventilation is a very real danger in our back yard!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Cast of Characters: Easy Laugh Woman

Just a couple miles away from our farm lives a couple who have become new friends. We actually got to know them after we made a farm visit to meet their Anatolian shepherd because we were thinking of getting one to be a livestock guardian to our sheep. We've really grown to appreciate them for all their farming knowledge, their easy friendship, and great senses of individuality and humor. My new friend, Dede cracks me up with the most unexpected and funny comments about the most mundane things, and she laughs so easily; I just really enjoy her company.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

And the Baby Lamb's Name Is.......


Bob named him and I think it fits just perfectly, and has a lyrical lilt, "Louie Lamb." Now I find myself singing "Louie Louie" to him and, of course, making up all the words I don't know. 

Here he is as a week old baby, right after our friend and vet, Kent Thames and his wife Amy, showed us how to make a splint for his leg. Louie stayed most of that first week in the bottom of a Rubbermaid tub (when he wasn't cuddled in my arms).

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Easy Ribbed Cable Hat

Since it rained (torrents) all day yesterday and we couldn't work outside on the fencing, not one of us was tired last evening. We sat together and watched silly television all evening. Of course, Jaime and Bob were also on their phones...not sure what Jaime was looking at but Bob was perusing chicken house plans. I worked on another knitted hat, and I got it finished before I went to bed. It was cute, and here is a selfie wearing the new hat:

Easy Ribbed Cable Hat

If you make this hat, decrease the cast on stitches for the single rib brim, and then increase by that much for the pattern to 72 sts. The brim is a bit too loose, but it's cute nonetheless, and easy. The pattern calls for a circular needle, but the pattern divides perfectly between 4 DPNs. You can find the free pattern HERE.

Easy Ribbed Cable Hat

One of my FB knitting friends just finished knitting a blanket. I so admire that, but quick knits such as hats, mittens, dishcloths, and those kinds of projects are more my speed these days. I guess that I just don't want to get into a committed relationship with any other projects right now since I've got this big sheep project underway.

Time to go clean kennels!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Puppy Training and Chocolate Pound Cake

It rained like mad least three inches, so no fencing, but I did work with the puppies a bit. I collared them for the first time and chained them to the corral fence with their food dishes. That was hilarious! If it hadn't been raining so hard, I'd have taken some pictures to share! They did flips and carried on, till all of a sudden they "noticed" their food, and then they gobbled that up and forgot about their collars and chains. Brian Cash, the breeder of the adult Anatolian we are getting, told me to do this every day to get them accustomed to being handled and chained. Best to do that now rather than wait till they're 80+ pounds!

I fixed the guys sausage gravy and biscuits for breakfast, then I worked on applications and cover letters for our master gardener association's education scholarship for high school students. Some nice person on the guardian dog Facebook page I belong to emailed me a manual from Australia about raising and training livestock guardian dogs, so I read that (and got some very good tips).

Then I baked a cake. Oh my! It is a chocolate pound cake with chocolate ganache drizzled over the top. I called Jaime out to the kitchen to lick the frosting bowl, and he happily complied! It turned out great so I thought I'd share the recipe. You can find it HERE, and here is a photo of our cake. :-)

Mama Peggy's Chocolate Pound Cake

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Five Posts In Yesterday! Gumbo Hint.

We waited for it to warm up a bit, and Bob had a lot of work to do in his office, but we still managed to get 5 posts in the ground yesterday!

Jaime got a lesson in operating the tractor. He's so much help to us and is learning new skills quickly!

Jaime Learning How to Operate the Tractor
Jaime requested gumbo for supper last night, and I tried the "oven" method of making the dark roux. It was a success and so easy that I recommend this method over the stove top-stir constantly method.

Oven Method for Making Roux

Heat oven to 350*
In a heavy bottom pot, such as a Le Creuset enameled cast iron Dutch oven, combine 1 cup Canola oil (or bacon drippings or other oil of your choice) and 3/4 cup of all purpose flour.
Place pot in oven, uncovered.
Do not stir.
Just wait and watch.
In about two hours, the roux will be dark and ready for you to continue your recipe for gumbo, etouffee, or any other dish that requires a dark roux.
Note: Roast in oven till the degree of darkness you need. A light roux will be achieved much more quickly and will smell like popcorn. Yes! I said popcorn.

Dark roux after 2 hours of roasting

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Popular Muffin Recipe

We hit more bull tallow! If you look closely at this picture, you can see the "smoke" coming out of the hole. Bob has new bits on the auger and they're holding up well, but it sure was slow going. We're so grateful Bob's cousin's son, Jaime, is here to help this week.

I made an easy crockpot meal for supper. Put cube steak straight into the crockpot and top with 2 pints of my homemade salsa. That's all. When I came in from the cold at 3:00 to check on things, the whole house was filled with the aroma of our dinner and I didn't want to go back outside! When it was time for supper, I made rice while the guys showered. When they came to the table, I was just pulling the muffins out of the oven. (Recipe follows)

Bob, Jaime, and Brody
Popular Muffin Recipe
Adapted from Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, c. 1950, reprinted 1998

2 c. all purpose flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. Crisco shortening
1 large egg
1 c. milk

Cream shortening and sugar. Add dry ingredients and work together with a fork till crumbly.
Beat egg and milk together and stir into dry ingredients, just until moistened.
Spoon batter into greased muffin pans.
Bake at 400* 20-25 minutes. Brush soft butter on the tops after removing from oven, and serve warm.
Makes 12 not-too-sweet muffins that are perfect for serving with dinner.

Note: I used the whole wheat blend flour that my CITR friend, Joann Powell, brought me from a mill in KY, and baked the muffins in one of my popover pans (which I love to use for muffins). When you use this pan, the recipe makes 6 tall muffins. That was just enough for the guys with one left for me.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Build a Grow Light

What better time to try out a new project than when most of us are in the deep freeze? I'm looking at seed catalogs and dreaming of spring.

I got the instructions for this plant stand off the Internet but didn't make note of where, so I can't give credit. I will say that it was inexpensive and easy to make and, after two years of using it, I can vouch that it works great. The only thing I did wrong is that I only made one!

Grow Light Stand
The list of things you'll need:
• 48" Fluorescent twin-bulb shoplight fixture with recommended bulbs (1). 
(BTW, I chose one with a metal surface that would reflect more light (and because it looked cool!)
• 10-foot length of 1 1/4" (1.25) PVC tubing (2)
• Two 2-foot (24") pieces of 1" PVC tubing (3)
• Two 1 1/4" (1.25) "Tee" PVC connectors (4)
• Two 1 1/4" (1.25) 90-degree "elbow" PVC connectors (5)
• Four 1 1/4" (1.25) PVC end caps (6)
• Two lag bolts or equivalent, and their accompanying nuts. I would recommend 1/4" diameter by 3" bolts
• Pack of two 1/4" x 4" "eye hooks" and their accompanying nuts.
• Pack of two 1" "S-hooks"
• Drill and assortment of drill bits
• Hacksaw or PVC cutting tool
• Tape measure
• PVC cement
• Pen or permanent marker
• Timer

Skill Level:
Easy to intermediate, depending on your craft and cutting skills.

1. Gather all of the needed parts and tools (Photo A).
2. Cut a length of the 1 1/4" PVC tubing long enough to go beyond the length of your fluorescent light fixture. For the 4-foot fixture, I cut a piece about 55". Then glue one of the elbow connectors to each end. You now have the "top support bar" completed (Photo B).
3. Cut 4 equal lengths of the 1 1/4" PVC tubing to serve as support "legs". These can be whatever length you wish, but I wouldn't go any shorter than 8". I cut mine to 10" (Photo C).
4. Take two of those 4 equal length pieces and glue them to the Tee connector. Then glue two of the 4 end caps to that. You have now finished one of the "leg stands". Repeat this step for the second leg stand (Photo D).
5. Cut 2 more equal lengths of the 1 1/4" PVC tubing, and glue into the ends of the "top support bar" you finished in STEP #2. I made mine about 2 1/2" (2.5), but that length can be between 2-6" (Photo E).
6. Cut 2 more equal lengths (again) of the 1 1/4" PVC tubing to serve as the "risers" coming up from the leg stands. These can again be whatever length you wish. I made mine about 6". These pieces are one of the two pieces that will raise and lower the light fixture(Photo F).
Yep, that's right! This baby is adjustable. Not the fancy mechanism that the more expensive commercial ones have, but it will do the job. Here's how it happens:
7. Insert one of the 1" PVC tubing pieces into the "leg stands" you finished in STEP 4. This is the other piece that will determine how tall your light fixture is raised. Drill a hole into BOTH the outer 1 1/4" AND the inner 1" pieces of PVC tubing. The hole diameter should be wide enough to allow the adjustment bolts to go in and out of the hole easily. Repeat this for the other side (Photo G). 

This is the
 lowest point that the light fixture will be, so keep that in mind. Remember to compensate for the height of your seed trays. Yes, you can also adjust the chains on the light fixture, but this way is easier.
8. Take both of the 1" PVC pieces out, and mark 4-5 points, in 1" increments, to the LEFT of the hole that you previously drilled. These will be the different positions you can raise the light fixture with (Photo H).
9. Using the pen marks as a guide, drill the other holes. If you put the piece with the holes back into the base, you can now see how the fixture will be raised and lowered (Photo I).
10. Put the top support bar onto the two leg pieces and you're almost finished (Photo J).
11. Drill two holes, at equal distance from each side, on the top of the support bar. Put in the eye hooks, "hole" in bottom. These will connect to the chains provided by the light fixture(Photo K).
12. Unpackage your light fixture and attach the support chains to the eye hooks on the PVC support. 

Note: I had to cut one of the included chains and use each half because they were too long. So you might have to adjust yours as well. If all the adjustments are good, install the bulbs in the fixture (Photo L).
At this point my friends, you're pretty much done. Plug it in, attach an optional (but highly recommended) timer to it, and you're ready to go.

So go forth and let your seedlings "see the light"

Granny's Dinner

Granny's Dinner

This is Bob's (my husband) favorite comfort food dinner. His granny lived with the family in her later years and made this exact meal. It's salmon patties, spaghetti, and baby butter beans. Of course I had to have my mother-in-law (best in the world, by the way) show me how to make this just the way Granny did, because the spaghetti, especially, is uniquely mild yet flavorful. I'll share the recipe with you here in case you want to give it a try. I call it "Granny's Spaghetti."

Granny's Spaghetti

2 tablespoons butter (don't skimp on the butter)
1 medium onion, sliced
Small handful of spaghetti (I just grab a bundle from the box, about an inch in diameter)
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can stewed tomatoes
Salt & pepper

Saute onion in butter in shallow nonstick frying pan. When the onions begin to soften, add the tomatoes and simmer, uncovered, while the spaghetti cooks. 
Cook noodles till shortest time so they are al dente. You will finish the cooking in the sauce. 
Drain noodles and add to tomato mixture. Bring to simmer and cook slowly, uncovered, till noodles are soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir from time to time.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve! :-)
Leftovers freeze well. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Our Guardian Dog Puppies

Bob and I went our separate ways today and brought our little girl guardian dog puppies home!

Girl 1 & Girl 2
Bob went to the low country of SC to get our little Anatolian/Great Pyrenees girl, the one that is sitting, and I went north to Independence, VA, to get our Maremma/Great Pyranees girl, the one who is standing. Their expressions are priceless! They don't know where they are or why they are here!

The little girls are growling and blustering and trying to establish a pecking order, but I do think that the cold temps that we are expecting Tuesday will make them become best buddies and cuddle together in that little dog house.  (The all white girl has won the dominance show today, btw.) Once the sheep are here, they will be living full time with them.

Names will come later. I am open to suggestions!

An Unoriginal Hat

An Unoriginal Hat (that's the name!)

This was a fun hat to make. I found this great yarn while I was in Asheville, NC, a few weeks ago. It's called Lanaloft and is American grown and spun from wool sheep. It's truly a soft yarn and the first I've ever found that doesn't make my skin itchy. This yarn is from The Brown Sheep Company, which is in Mitchell, NE, and is family owned. I think it's great to support American businesses and, by purchasing this yarn, I'm also supporting American shepherds. 

If you're a knitter and want to give this pattern a try, here's the link. This hat fits close to the head and would make a great chemo hat. It's cute as can be and will give your cable needles (and brain) a good workout. Knitters don't need Lumosity to stay sharp!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Bull Tallow is BS!

We got two doubles finished today, but only one new post in the ground. It was freezing cold and the ridge was nothing but what the locals call "bull tallow," which is one step away from solid rock.

Bob had to lean on this to get it moving.

The soil particles were so fine that they formed little balls with the movement of the auger, then they disintegrated back to their original powder consistency the minute the movement was stopped.  I'm sure there is a good use for them, but I just cannot imagine what.that might be!

Simply Sore, Simply Tired, and Simply Hungry!

Our First Flock
This year we decided to make good use of the richness of our land and become shepherds. This is our little flock of 10 ewes, and they are waiting for us to bring them to their new home. Of course they have no idea what's in store for them. They will be spoiled and pampered and hopefully will flawlessly give birth to a multitude of lambs in April.

You may recognize the dog in the photo. It's an Anatolian Shepherd and is the guardian of our flock while at their home farm. We'll have guardians for our flock at our farm, too. Here is a picture of Hobart (named after a commercial meat grinder, of all things), and he was raised and trained in Gay, GA, by Brian Cash of Ewe-niversally Green. He's also patiently waiting with his flock at Brian's farm. We think he'll like our girls, and will also help us raise two little guardian puppies that we're getting. I'll have pictures of the puppies soon because we're going to pick them up on Sunday.

As for now, we have been clearing the wood lines and are getting our perimeter fencing underway. Thanks to our nephew and his girlfriend, we made quick work of several large trees last weekend. The son of one of Bob's cousins is coming tomorrow to stay for a week or two to help with the fencing. 

We'll all be in great physical shape once this fencing is done. Simple living on our farm right now means simply sore, simply tired, and simply hungry!

Bob and Mike ready to dig

They really look like farmers!

Mike and Heather, we really appreciated their help!