Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Snack Time with LuLu and Miss K

A few months back someone new joined our little homestead; a beautiful white goose. Her name is Lucy, lovingly dubbed "LuLu' by little Miss K. My mother's idea, Lucy lives on the 'baby pasture' opposite the laying hens and milk goat area in order to keep her out of their water troughs. Though unsure of her at first, her loud honking sound has become a welcome to us- for she and Doc (the donkey) are quite eager to alert us at any moment. Her call brings a loving smile across little K's face- for that means it must be snack time.

One thing Miss K learned very quickly is that Lucy loves to be hand fed. Whether a piece of bread, a palm full of grain, or a cracker, Lucy eagerly waddles to you and enjoys your offering. She even stands by ready to muddle the ponds when you clean our her pools. Miss K loves to spend time in the pasture with her LuLu.

Any given afternoon, Miss K loves to take crackers out to dear LuLu. Sitting there on a fallen log, K offers out a cracker, which LuLu eagerly snips a bite from.. then K takes a bite; then LuLu takes a bite; then K. This will go on until they run out of crackers.

One day, Miss K's Uncle Rams decided to take her out for snack time with Lucy. In an effort to join the fun, Rams took a bite from the cracker in K's hand, which is apparently a no-no. It seems the two jabbered and honked and scolded him good! After all, you have to be invited to Miss K and LuLu's snack time- you can't just invite yourself.


Monday, January 12, 2015

A Little Stitch Therapy (or The Day I Murdered My Machine)

The cold has finally won, driving me into the house in search of some color and life. Quilting seemed like a great way to get a little spring of life in my day. Everything was quite zen until everything fell apart and died.

Let me just say, if you hear a weird sound when you are stitching- if you feel resistance from the thread- STOP everything... and call someone not emotionally involved in the situation (i.e. a man). I did not stop. I attempted to repair the situation by starting over a hundred times before the poor machine just stopped responding to me.

From there, I still couldn't leave things alone. Instead I linked on to the troubleshooter web page and went into a full on panic at their advice to take the bobbin area apart for a good cleaning. After a few cups of coffee and a brisk walk- you guessed it- I braced myself and dismembered the poor machine one screw at a time.

It seems a small lamb had taken up residence there in the bobbin chamber and died a sad, lonely death leaving behind his fleece. The trouble shooter web guy assured me this would solve my problems. Doubtful, but in desperate need of finishing what I started, I proceeded to do what the back of my mind told me not to do. You guessed it. I murdered my machine.

No one was home to see the look of horror that surely crossed my face when the bobbin cover leaped out from under the fabric, followed by the bobbin case jumping halfway out- setting somewhat askew under the fabric where the needed was jammed down in the machine resulting in a giant hole in the fabric. There are no words people. No words.

A few deep breaths and a web cam pic later the trouble shooter guy completely gave up on me advising I stop touching the poor thing and let a professional handle it. This put me in "how to tell the husband" mode. You know the one. "Hey, honey, I know the car is broke down but, guess what- I murdered the million dollar sewing machine today and need to take it in." I know my man- this will not bode well.

Defeated and lying on the floor in tears, my phone interrupted the melt down. My mom with a little
'what's up?' text. Thumbs flew as I confessed my sins. Over pops Dad; long time sewing machine savior, confident he could resurrect my poor thing.

After quite a time of painful machine surgery and a little scolding about making sure I am not sewing with a bent needle (which, of course, I argued I was not doing- sigh)... he assured me the machine was up, running, and in perfectly good help. No further medical attention necessary. I was doubtful, arguing that the second problem was fixed, but there was a first problem that he hadn't dealt with. Not deterred by my fit, he left me- confident in his work.

Shamefully I confess there was a time of sipping coffee and pouting- putting off the inevitable 'test run'. Here.. for the whole world to see.. he was right. Clean bobbin case, new needle, and the thing works like nothing ever happened. I paid him in cake- home made, from scratch, pound of butter in the batter cake (and a hearty confession that he was right). I will never live this down.

In the end, stitch therapy did happen... along with a hearty dose of humility.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Peeling Back the Layers

Many of us in blog land tend to present a beautiful "all-together" life. Snaps of beauty float across our pages in the form of smiling children, cute critters, and the well manicured garden plant. Today, not for my own soul, but for others I peel back the layers and reveal a little reality in my life.

I live on a homestead. One that has trailers of various sized parked near the pasture, project supplies stacked by the shed for those projects we haven't thought of yet, and a fences that need attention. Animals do what animals do, leaving a never ending chore list and quite a nice compost pile. There are leaves, limbs and a few fallen trees which normal people would probably have picked up by now (I am enjoying the character in them).

My house is old. It is lived in and visited by real people; mess making people. Generally, I am okay with this (though occasionally I lose that contentment and fret over the chaos). Since creativity is encouraged, any number of tools, supplies, and projects may be on any flat surface at any given time. We are painters, builders, fiber artists and all out recipe testing herbalist mess makers. Over all, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I am horribly flawed and somewhat unsettled over many things beyond my control right now. Loved ones facing suffering, young adult children making painful decisions, the possible end to my job and my husband's. There are ideals in my head I want to make happen, but just seem to be unable to fulfill. Some issues have driven me to the point I can no longer pray, but simply sit silent before God and feel helpless. I am human- and far from all together.

This is not a post for me- or a plea for pity and compassion. It is a time to remind you, I am real... most of us in blog land are real. Our posts often reflect the little things we focus on to ease the pain of reality and shine light on each of our dark places.

Today, what every our circumstance.. whatever your reality.. please don't feel frustrated or less than valuable because your life/home/farm isn't what you are seeing here (or on any web sight for that matter). Behind every beautiful picture, there is a mess waiting to be dealt with.

So be encouraged, not discouraged. There is no perfect here.. just life.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Five things I am Doing Today

1. Sipping any hot beverage I can get my hands on: coffee, mint tea, and chai.

2. Wearing the front of a heat source...wishing the sun would come out.

3. Reading about natural pain therapy and spinal/disk health (not for myself).

4. Trying to break a creativity block- I hate when it hits me!

5. Attempting to draw up garden design plans for the many gardens I am so blessed to be part of (thus creativity block).

I hope all of you are in a warm place, surrounded by warm people, enjoying warm nourishment, and dreaming of sunshine and something creative!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Feeding the Frozen Soul

Baby it's cold outside! It seems an arctic freeze found it's way south- all the way down to my homestead. Not only did it freeze, but it seems we also have freezing rain- blah. Weather like this tends to lead many normal human beings to a place of desolation and emotional despair. I am one of them. This girl was born for sun light and green growing things- not grey freezing rain.

Days like this are the reason I am have been redesigning the greenhouse. In order to keep my soul fed during the dreary winter months (or, in my neck of the woods- dreary winter days) the greenhouse is under renovation in order to provide a warm, thriving environment for life and soul lifting color.

Last summer my guys and I built raised beds and a stone path in the existing solar greenhouse. Each bed has irrigation hosing burried in the soil of the bed for 'at the root' irrigation. With the beds in place, it was time for some plants. This year I completed my herbalist certification, so herbs seemed like the perfect focus for the year round greenhouse.

Today, the thriving plants offered a welcome and stimulating sight. Thi basil's purple bloom stands stately beside a new rosemary bush and my colorful cuban oregano. There is thyme, parsley, stevia and even some patchouli. These dots of life are braving the new territory as I test the plans!

So what's next? My coffee cup and I sat between the rows sketching ideas and jotting notes: ventilation fans added in summer, shade cloth for the top, many more herbs- of course!

Winter weather makes me weary, and the only way for me to keep myself sane is to focus my mind and energy in a project- preferably one that involves plants!

What do you do to feed your frozen soul during dark winter days?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Little Miss K's First Canning Endeavor- Reipe Included

It seems this as the year of the kumquat. Our little tree produced way more than Miss K and I could eat. The first hearty harvest lent itself to a canning adventure- her first! Knowing that our little grand has quite a sweet yet spicy nature, she and I opted for sweet preserves with a hit of spice and pizzaz. We used my basic marmalade recipe, replacing the orange with kumquats, and adding some star anice, because it is not only tasty, but just so cute. Cinnamon complelements citrus so well it had to join us.

You may be wondering how on earth I managed canning with a tot- simple. She loves to be on a chair at our side in the kitchen, washing produce and stiring ingredients. This girl will no doubt be quite a reicpe developer, as she insists on tasting as we go and expressing her opinion strongly while we add this and omit that.

So here we have it- the result of our garden adventures and our first little canning endeavor:


Miss K's Kumquat Preserves

1 lb fresh picked kumquats
1 lb granulated sugar
1 pint of water
3-4 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
Wash the kumquats and prick them in a few places. Bring a pot of water to boil; add the kumquats and bring to a simmer for 15 minutes. Drain, allowing to cool for handling.
If you are canning, start preparing your jars by sterilizing either in the dishwasher or boiling water and set your canner up.
Pierce the top of each kumquat with a sharp knife and squeeze the pit/seed out (or cut them in half and remove seed). From here you can leave them in halves if you want chunky preserves or, Miss K and I chopped them roughly for a bit smaller bites.
Dissolve the sugar in the quart of water *we used a heavy bottom pot. Add in the chopped fruit, star anise, cinnamon and bring to boil. *You can place the spices in a cheese cloth bundle if you like- we did, and added the seeds in order to extract the natural pectin and flavors. Simmer 45 minutes (lid off). Once the sauce starts to thicken and somewhat carmelize, you know you are ready. Remove the star anise and the cinnamon stick or the spice bundle.
Pour into prepared jars for small batch canning, or, like Miss K and I, pour into recycled baby food jars for sharing. *We did not can the baby food jars, but stored them in the fridge ready to use.  If canning, small jars are processed in a water bath for 7 minutes. Let cool undisturbed for 24 hours to set.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened in the Garden

A love and natural curiosity for the garden seems to come quite natural to little Miss K. From her first strolls through the rows (in my arms) to her current independent explorations she has shown a tenderness for plants and a deep love for dirt under her nails. Of course, I am proud... very proud.

As winter approached the kumquats ripened to a beautiful color, releasing fragrant citrus any time you touched them. Miss K, of course, was fascinated by them and quickly learned to pluck them from the tree and eat them- juice dripping down her chin and wrist- right there in the garden. Being the naturalist I am, I could be found plopped right down beside her doing the exact same thing. Ben, the puppy, waited nearby to give us a good bath.

During one of Miss K and I's garden snack adventures a funny thing happened. A realization hit me. I had taught Miss K to pick little round fruits off a tree. It was coming time to put up our Christmas tree. Decorations on that tree would be little round balls. Miss K was going to be harvesting ornaments from the tree in the house! Horror became shock which led to laughter and finally a bit of hysteria that poor Miss K, though perplexed, ignored. She simply was eating her kimquats.

Needless to say, this funny realizaton did have an effect on our decoratons. No round objects were found on the tree. Instead pinecones and lights were surrounded by little wooden farm animals which Miss K found little interest in- after all, she has real farm animals to interact with.

The kumquats tree is bare. It's fruit picked and enjoyed (some of which became marmalade). Cold weather has driven Miss K and I out of that particular garden. These days we can be found plodding around the greenhouse where fresh herbs await warmer days and baby seedlings struggle to stay warm enough. Who knows what hilarity we may find there!


Monday, January 5, 2015

January's Garden Notes

It may be the dead of winter, but here in the south the garden is still very much alive. Cool weather crops are spreading their leaves and bursting forth in all their vibrant glory; purple cabbage and red sails lettuce open their leaves wide next to deep green kale and stately onion tops. Our theme for January is observation- taking a closer look at the glory revealed beneath the cover of the frost cloth.
Garden Instruction:
As we teach others in the garden, or learn ourselves, this month is an excellent time to take our time and truly see what is in front of us. Notice the venation of the leaf; where the color deepens and where it fades softly. Consider the changes that have occurred during the weather fluctuations: growth, death, fruiting and frost. Take a moment and ponder the evidence of a pest or lack of it; nibble marks, tethered edges or perfectly round holes.
Monthly Maintenance:
January finds some much needed maintenance, especially when we have had some heavy rain and a seasonal freeze. It's time to grab our gloves and pull up the withered, weathered and 'melted' plants whose time has come and gone. If nature is the culprit, toss them in the compost bin (and add a few leaves/peelings while we are at it) giving the bin a good stir while we are there. Severe pest damaged plants can be fed to the chickens or tossed in the burn pile- no one wants those pests lurking in our future fertilizer. Give soil a good aeration; clawing, cultivating, or simply softening empty areas and beneath plants (careful not to damage roots). A dose of fertilizer is always helpful; side dress with compost if you have some or maybe use some spent coffee grounds.
January Harvest:
The harvest is possible despite the cold- we have all manner of greens and roots in our gardens: collards, cabbage, kale and lettuces, radish and carrot- even some herbs. Young multiplier onions are coming out of our soil; mild and tasty! Harvest lend us to some wonderful interaction with our children as they measure and weigh, considering the possible increase or decrease if conditions had been different. Don't forget that harvest lead us to the kitchen where tasty saut├ęs, salads and soups find our hard work displayed.
In the south we are always planting. This month brings us to plant the same things we are harvesting: lettuce, greens, cole crops, carrots, onions, and tender peas. Time to reflect on what we have grown and pursue greater success, being sure to amend our soil with healthy nutrients and rotate our plantings to different grounds.
Share your success!
Our gardens are hard work and we should be humbly proud of it. Take the time to share your experience and your success. What did you find, grow, learn, or taste this month? I had quite a surprise when I stepped into the garden this morning. I found a donkey there!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Year- New You... Or Not?

This year began in my recliner; hot tea in hand, essential oils on, heating pad full blast. Last year hit me in the face and landed me on my rear with two pulled muscles and a migraine. My less than glamorous beginning wasn't the result of amazing parties or extravagant eating, but the unexpected emergencies that often come with adult children and older adults.

Today I recline here- resting to relieve my body's frustrations- listening to the drone and moan of the masses promoting 'a new you for the new year'. Some promise better health; some, better wealth; others, better social status. All this is rather dizzying and somewhat nauseating. Can I really turn my life around this year? Be more organized, more slender, and more fiscally sound? Probably not considering it hasn't happened so far.

Instead of facing this new year with empty resolutions and lofty ideals, I face this new year with a bracing dose of reality. I am still me- horribly flawed and desperately wicked. My health with be what it will be- for I am active and strong, yet hopelessly in love with bread and secretly a lover of carbonated beverages. My finances will be what they will be- for I an a frugal gal with a horrible weakness for chickens, fabric, plants and anything to do with my grandbaby. My social status- let's not go there since I could pretty much care less.

I guess what I am trying to say is- I have arrived at an age where none of these things matter to me. My heart lies with people; with the precious children I am blessed to work with; with my family choose to love no matter what; with my messy homestead- mucky stalls and all.

This new year will be fine. God is in control and I am walking through it one step at a time. Children will be loved; work will be done; animals and plants will join the farm and family life will be as chaotic as ever. I'm pressing on and blogging my way day by day. The question is- will you be joining me?

What is your take on the new year?