Friday, May 31, 2013

    Have a safe and wonderful weekend, everyone. Today I am spending my day working on the greenhouse in preparation for new things to come.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

You Don't See That Every Day

    It isn't every day you walk into the barn and find little chicks hitching a ride on the herd..or do you? Lately my end of feed stroll through the stalls has revealed a quirky little secret. It seems the buddy system has taken root in a few of our little hens..they hop on the back of one goat until said goat is close enough to another goat for them to hop across and hitch a ride with someone else.
    Oddly enough they seem rather drawn to our yearling buck, Mattie. He totes them about during the dusky hour before roosting..for no apparent reason.
      They are so quick to hop from host to host I only managed a picture with their favorite. Who knew the evening barnyard had such secret antics? Maybe I should slip out there at midnight and see what conundrums they are getting into.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

This Week in the Victory Garden

    Warm weather brings us to a new phase of gardening. Spring crops have found their way to the pantry as summer crops start making their appearance. Pretty marigolds line the pathways in our victory garden. Their bright colors draw in the fluttering butterflies and busy bees.
    Tender spring lettuces have gone to seed and made their way to the grazing yard; the flock and herd have long transformed them into eggs and milk. In their place hearty kale stays strong in the soil offering hearty flavor and bold nutrients.
    As spinach struggles with the climbing temperatures, beautiful rainbow chard starts to thrive. The bright stems and colorful leaves grace our table in tasty sautes and crunchy salads.
    Tucked beneath a canopy of large leaves yellow squash and green zucchini grow and curl. The struggle is to get them before the rabbits do..I have a pesky little brown rabbit sneaking through the fence these days and he is rather greedy.
    Green tomatoes hand heavy on the vines; the tiniest hint of blush has fallen across the Indigo rose tomatoes while little harvests of Sungold and Juliette have just started.
       The green beans had taken off and just started to be hearty when a pesky thunderstorm come through laying them over and breaking a few stalks. Strenuous efforts have been made to upright the healthy ones and encourage them along with some nourishment and care.
    Sunflowers are already full of seed and starting to droop. Beautiful round heads of seed are just showing signs of seed maturity turning from pale yellow to rich dark black. The hens pace the fence in anticipation of tasty sunflower treats.
       While most of the spring crop rows are covered with mulch and left to rest in the summer heat, a few gourd and southern bean seeds are peaking through here and there to add nitrogen to the soil and keep the soil in tact.

        Daily walks through the garden reveal the bounties of summer, but the trials also. Army worms and stink bugs plague the vines while grasshoppers and katydids hop from leaf to leaf. The constant battle between nature and man continues. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Start of Something New

    This week we step into the sewing room for a look at our up and coming project.

Monday, May 27, 2013

At the Grill

    As southern temperatures start to climb we find ourselves more and more at the grill. For several years now the majority of our warm weather cooking has been done outdoors on the grill or the side burner..leading us to explore the fine art of 'cooking out'. The farm boy has developed quite a knack for grilling and regularly volunteers to light it up.

A Few of Farm Boy's Grilling Tips

* Marinate: long and strong. The best way to work up a good flavor and a tender bite is plenty of acid, oil, and season.
* Fire it up: keep it high. A good 500 degree heat is perfect for sealing in those juices while cooking through it.
* Leave it alone: seriously...walk away. Smashing and constant flipping are a sin. This leaches out the natural juice and flavor leaving your grilling dry and flat. Let the grill mark it and work it..sip tea or something.
* Anything can go in the grill: anything. There are no limits to fire cooked foods. We have made pizzas, veggies, loaf/flat breads and even a few cobblers on the grill. Once you try it, you'll be hooked.

   This weekend found our farm boy hard at work with some tasty marinated burgers with whole grain buns and fresh watermelon. Let me just say..the boy can cook...but, how does Daddy feel about this grill takeover? Let's just say, he couldn't answer because he had a mouthful of juicy hamburger.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day....

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping" by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead" (Source: Duke University's Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920). While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

General John A. Logan
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [LC-B8172- 6403 DLC (b&w film neg.)]

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis' birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee. In 1915, inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields," Moina Michael replied with her own poem:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

She then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms.Michael and when she returned to France, made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries. In 1921, the Franco-American Children's League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their "Buddy" Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans. In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3 cent postage stamp with her likeness on it. Traditional observance of Memorial day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.
There are a few notable exceptions. Since the late 50's on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day. More recently, beginning in 1998, on the Saturday before the observed day for Memorial Day, the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park on Marye's Heights (the Luminaria Program). And in 2004, Washington D.C. held its first Memorial Day parade in over 60 years.
To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the "National Moment of Remembrance" resolution was passed on Dec 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans "To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to 'Taps."
The Moment of Remembrance is a step in the right direction to returning the meaning back to the day. What is needed is a full return to the original day of observance. Set aside one day out of the year for the nation to get together to remember, reflect and honor those who have given their all in service to their country.
But what may be needed to return the solemn, and even sacred, spirit back to Memorial Day is for a return to its traditional day of observance. Many feel that when Congress made the day into a three-day weekend in with the National Holiday Act of 1971, it made it all the easier for people to be distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day. As the VFW stated in its 2002 Memorial Day address: "Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day."
On January 19, 1999 Senator Inouye introduced bill S 189 to the Senate which proposes to restore the traditional day of observance of Memorial Day back to May 30th instead of "the last Monday in May". On April 19, 1999 Representative Gibbons introduced the bill to the House (H.R. 1474). The bills were referred the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Government Reform.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


  Jeremiah 1
King James Version (KJV)
The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin:
To whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.
It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month.
Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.
But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.
Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.
Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.
10 See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.
11 Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.
12 Then said the Lord unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.
13 And the word of the Lord came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north.
14 Then the Lord said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.
15 For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the Lord; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah.
16 And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands.
17 Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.
18 For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land.
19 And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee.

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Weekend Gardening: Planning for Pests

    As May ends each day finds us warmer and more humid; perfect weather for pests. Just this week a heavy thunderstorm drenched our gardens followed by warm sunny heat. As you can imagine the garden became a welcome home for some newly hatched creepy crawlies.
   Today's garden walk revealed holes in the leafy greens and the dark detriments of a few caterpillars; time for action. My first step is always find the culprit and remove him. Coffee can in hand, I pick and pluck nasty bugs from the plants and feed them to my chickens: caterpillar, stink bugs, grasshoppers..anything I can catch. If eggs are spotted I remove them as well. If the pests are just starting then this may be all I need.
   When the problem becomes bigger than this I reach for my diomaceous earth (DE). Gently dusted or added to water and sprayed, this natural element often thwarts the enemy with a few applications. Tough pest problems, such as a mass invasion of stink bugs, get Neem oil treatments.
    You may be asking..what do you recommend? Have a plan..and a back up plan. When you prepare your garden and start planting that is the time to determine your pest plan (not when the pests arrive). Take the time to know beneficial insects from the pests; plenty of resources are available for quick reference. Decide if you are keeping with organic practices or if you are willing to use some measures to ensure a harvest. Purchase a few 'on hand' items to keep on hand for that first problem.
   As for me. My motto is 'less is best' At the first sign of chewed leaves or spotted fruits, my first attempt is remove it by hand. Second step is basic and natural, and from there my last ditch is to send in the chickens. Organic gardeners, I recommend a bag of DE, some Bacillus Thergenus (BT), and some Neem oil. Non-organic gardeners, grab some Round up and blast it (as some of my fellow Master Gardeners love to say).
   Above all, enjoy your garden. It takes work, patience, persistence and a whole lot of faith to grow those wonderful plants.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

In The Works

    Tonight I sit with pen in hand scribbling notes and notions; my mind bouncing from one thing to another. This week several things are 'in the works' so to speak..and all of them are rolling around my head.
     The farm boy and I have decided to work on flex-recipes that coincide with current harvest foods. Right now we have some flex variations on sauerkraut; one has quite a kick! In regards to flex recipes, the farm boy and I are also considering a recipe ebook. We have been playing with the idea for a year seems publishing one is trickier than it seems.
     I am putting together both a cheese making class as well as a soap making class for this summer..choosing just one to demo and work through is quite a challenge! For now I am making outlines and testing some ideas regarding molding. We'll see how it works out. I would love to teach things like this regularly, but the demand just doesn't seem to be here in my area.
    With the hand quilting motif sampler pretty much complete, it's time for a new project in the sewing room. Right now I am working on setting an online class series using a traditional split rail design. This is simple and so pretty..hoping to spark interest in new quilters with an easy and fun start pattern. A basic jelly roll will give a nice picnic size quilt for a great beginner project.
    Finally, in an effort to spark interest in my poor little Etsy shop I am creating a pattern and working on some baby items based on this cute little dress. Hidden among old polyester items in an antique shop, this little dress caught my eye and grabbed my heart. Maybe this will take off..maybe.

    There you have it..the musings and musterings of my simple mind. These are the things that cause me to lug a spiral notebook every where I go jotting and sketching at will. Even my poor farm boy's practice driving sessions become frantic idea frenzies (keeps my mind off the fact my little teen is behind the wheel!).

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


    Thunder rumbled and lightening cracked waking us in the middle of the night. Rushing winds and heavy rain shook the trees causing the screen doors to beat against the house. It was a long night filled with prayer and restless pacing as we waited out a sudden storm.
    Morning came all too soon reminding us that milking doesn't wait..even for sleepy farm boys. Stepping out revealed the blessings of the night; all was well..nothing serious had happened. Branches lay strewn about the pastures leaving nibblings for curious little goats. Doc was none too pleased with all the ruckus displaying a sour disposition throughout the day. Chickens tip toed through muddy grasses searching for stray bugs and seeds. Even our tiniest hatchlings weathered the night just fine.
     The gardens were a bit beaten yet intact and burdened with harvests. We tied tomatoes back in place and stood the peppers back up right..mulches and stakes had shifted with the flow of heavy rainwater. Corn stalks needed hilled and straightened; strong wind had toppled them to their sides. Green beans were the most beaten and burdened. After picking their wet pods, we tried to stand the stalks and bank them up a bit..might have to run a string line for extra support.

         In the end, the sun still was still done...daily doings continued without break. Yet in the realization of our grace our hearts turned to others who's storm left them in dire desperation. As we tied the plants and picked up the branches our hearts uttered compassionate prayers for those suffering and recovering from recent storms. Today, we clean and continue..and pray for those who cannot.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

You Don't See That Every Day

    You don't see a wasp dragging a spider every day..or do you? More and more my attention seems drawn to the unique and unusual things in the garden..a wasp eating a cabbage looper, stink bugs laying eggs on the squash leaves, lady bugs feasting on aphids. I have always been fascinated with bugs, but for some reason this garden season seems to really get my attention.
    Tonight the farm boy and I were gathering in onions when an odd sight caught his eye. Passing by the greenhouse, he noticed a large wolf spider (the size of your palm). A red wasp swooped down, stung the spider, and proceeded to drag it across the greenhouse's stone path. It took a good seven minutes for the determined little wasp to haul his load to the far corner of our greenhouse where terra cotta pots are stacked. There he disappeared from sight.
     As my days find me on my knees between the rows more and more interesting creature habit is sure to cross my path. So while it may be something you don't see every day, maybe you will..if you take the time to look.
     Any interesting activity crossing your path these days?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Hum and Hiss and Pop

    It's that time of year already. Time for long days in the garden and long nights at the canner. Today found us harvesting the last of our cole crops..the broccoli, cabbage and lettuce are all done. Carrots were unearthed with the final row of onions. We say goodbye to the spring things and welcome the coming of summer beans and squash are in the kitchen tonight with our first eggplant and three tiny tomatoes.
    Along with plenty of harvest, there is always maintenance to do. This week we are laying drip lines and scattering mulch in preparation for long summer days. Tomato plants were pruned a bit letting in much needed sunlight. Extra care is being taken to remove early pests..katydids and squash bugs are sneaking in along with a few cabbage loopers and army worms..even tiny pest eggs are scraped into a coffee can and taken off for the chickens to enjoy.
     Tonight I sit sipping iced tea listening to the hum of a kettle, the hiss of a pressure valve, and the pop of canning lids. Green beans have been snapped, packed and processed while carrots get scrubbed and ready. Squash and cabbage sit in bins ready for our attention as the chili peppers bubble and brew in a salt/vinegar solution. Yes, it's that time again..time to sit and savor the sounds of a warm and plentiful harvest kitchen.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sewing in the Border

   A quilt is a beautiful work of art pieced in love and worked in fiber. The borders of a quilt offer a dose of stability as well as a finishing framework showcasing our creativity and hard work. Once a quilt top is complete, choosing a design leads us to the question..what about the borders?

Join me in the sewing room as we take a look at the borders of our quilt and the design elements for them.

Saturday, May 18, 2013


   For our graduate as she faces the future.

Jeremiah 29:11

King James Version (KJV)
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Weekend Gardening: Basil

    Tender stems with umbrellas of leaves..tiny blossoms all in a row. Basil is a versatile and simple herb perfect for adding flavor to a dish or attracting beneficial pollinators to your vegetable patch. On our little farmstead, basil grows alongside cucumbers or tomatoes and right alongside roses. I have never, in all my gardens, had a season without basil.
    Weeks before the last spring frost, tiny basil seeds are set in the greenhouse for a proper start. Those tiny shoots are given ample time for strengthening before heading out to warmer soils. Tucked in a sunny spot..not too direct for Texas heat, basil grows quickly and bountifully. Regular pinching encourages bushy development and vigorous leafing. Basil dries well and is quite nice frozen with a touch of oil.

    Once basil gets going in the garden it finds it's way into the kitchen quite quickly. A zesty bite tossed in a salad.. a flavorful addition to sauces, basil is excellent in pesto or layered with tomatoes and basil for a healthy treat.

Simply Pesto Flex-recipe

for every handful of fresh basil leaves you need:
3 cloves garlic
1 handful pine nuts (walnuts work well also)
1/3 cup fresh Parmesan
2 tablespoons fresh olive oil

In a food processor, pulse the basil and garlic to a rough chop before adding pine nuts half at a time. Toss in the Parmesan and process while drizzling olive oil until desired texture. I like mine rather dense, so a few tablespoons is enough..use more if you like a wet pesto. 
I store mine in the fridge and use on pasta, pizza, poultry or even a salad. 
Larger batches freeze well. Place in airtight containers.

    But what types do you grow?
Spicy globe
Purple ruffle
Thi Basil

What types do you grow?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Graduate

    Yes, it's true..another farm girl is talking the walk. Jen has been our bundle of fire and bubbles from day one. Determined and strong willed, she has diligently stood for hard work and deep compassion from the very beginning. Her heart for the Lord led her to missions and ministry from the elderly to the special treasures in this world.
    This weekend she passes from high school/duel credit to graduate in a major college. We will laugh, cry, and pull a few good ones with our wild and wonderful farm girl all in celebration of her amazing accomplishments. Congrats to the grad!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dealing in Mundane

    Fellow interns gathered around the ice machine for a cool drink of water. Flustered chatter revealed a general disdain for a specific repetitive task...weeding. I just laugh lightly to myself..after all, 90% of gardening is weeding...and since starting my garden rotation as an intern I have to say much of my 'in garden' time is spent..weeding. It doesn't bother me.
      My calm disposition toward such mundane busy work rattles the most reserved of our group. How on earth do you stand it? The answer is simple..perspective. I'd rather be weeding than sitting in a classroom... or standing in the corner watching others work. Weeding is better than being in a hospital or down with a migraine, but there are many ways I work through mundane tasks..after all, much of my day is spent squatting or kneeling at some dreary ordeal.

Dealing in Mundane

    1. Distraction. I look for the beauty amidst the madness..a ladybug, the venation of a leaf..clouds overhead, the song of a bird. Focusing on the beauty and wonder distracts me from the drudgery at hand. 
    2. Disassociation. Setting my mind on other things, such as a book I've been reading, a hymn I love..praying for people, making plans..ideas, recipes. When my mind wanders over other things, the mundane are less offensive.
    3. Discussion. If I'm not alone, striking up a conversation always makes the work a bit lighter. This is a great time to hear the heart of one of my teens, make plans together. At the Master Gardens, this is opportunity to swap recipes, tips..ideas..and get to know some one I am only acquainted with.


     Many daily tasks are mundane and dull..we face them everywhere, and often the way to deal with it is just get it done. I find it amazing, once my mind is set to the task, how quickly it goes. A row of weeds cleared, a stall cleaned...ironing all done. Oh do I hate ironing..but, that's for another day. Here is how I deal with mundane tasks..what about you?