Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Random Tidbits

I have some random things and pictures I need to unload out of my head. You know the feeling, stuff that clutters up your brain and rattles around in there until you decide what to do with it. Well, I've decided to put it all in one post, tidbits and stuff that's happened this month, sort of a way to sweep out the old and welcome in October! Dang! October already? Really?
The garden is still giving us tomatoes. The temps are going anywhere from the 60s to the 80s during the day and drop to the 50s and sometimes lower at night. It was pretty chilly today, most of the windows stayed shut, so I may have to pick all the green ones and make that green tomato salsa I've heard about. We haven't been overwhelmed with tomatoes but I did manage to can 10 pints of chopped tomatoes and it looks like I may be able to can a few more tomorrow.

One day, when the husband had a day off from work, I made up some pie crusts and chopped up some apples for making and freezing mini apple pies. Hubby picked up a mini pie maker at a yard sale somewhere so we tried it out and it's a nifty little thing. One side cuts out the crust, other side folds and seals the edges.

Pretty soon, the girls took over and edged me and the husband out of the pie-making operation. We ended up with about 50 mini pies to go in the freezer and the ones with ripped crusts got baked and eaten. They were tasty! I also made and froze 2 regular size pies. I planned to make 4, but my pie crust was not cooperating with me that day and kept crumbling. I gave up and pressed the crust into a rectangular cake pan and made a deep dish apple pie with crumb topping. We are still eating that, it was so good, but it's a lot of pie! I would make it again if there was going to be a crowd coming over to eat.
I finally used up the last of the apples from the 6 bushels we bought. I canned another 6 quarts of applesauce tonight for a grand total of 70 quarts! I originally planned to can 100 quarts, since the 52 quarts I canned last year didn't make it to the next apple season, but I got to thinking-- Baby is not eating applesauce daily like he did before, so 70 ought to do it. Plus, I'm tired of apples. I'm tired of peeling them, coring them, chopping them, stirring them, eating them. And being chased by bees when I take the apple leftovers to the compost...


My coupon-cutting is time-consuming, but effective in saving us money. I have to do my "homework" to search out different websites for coupons and deals and then sit down to match up coupons with prices for cheap deals. I am not complaining, we are eating well. My local food store had a bargain sale on store-brand mac 'n cheese for 10 cents a box and spaghetti for 59 cents. The husband loves spaghetti, it's his #1 favorite meal, so we eat a lot of that, at least once a week. And I love mac 'n cheese-- who doesn't? With trying to save money, I have been making it from scratch, but with a deal like this, I'll happily buy some. The photo above is what happens when you let your 3 year old put away pantry items: boxes of spaghetti and mac 'n cheese stacked anywhere she could put them. We ended up buying 60 boxes of mac 'n cheese (do the math, that equals $6!) and 60 boxes of spaghetti.


I made a meal tonight that cost less than $2.00 to feed the 6 of us:

1 box of mac 'n cheese- .10

1/2 lb ground beef- .75

2 tomatoes- free (garden)

1 carrot- .20

1 tube biscuits- .75

Total: $1.80 for a yummy tomato/mac 'n cheese/beef (with grated carrot hidden in the sauce) dinner


The bright side of saving all this money is that we have a little extra money for other things-- like fixing my van. We have been having trouble with it lately. The tires needed to be replaced- they were bald in front and leaky in the back; we had to pump air into the back tire before we went somewhere. Bought 4 new tires and now something else is happening to the engine. It sputters and lurches and then shuts down. Our neighbor mechanic is working with us, replaced this and that, still no go. Hopefully we will pinpoint the trouble soon and it won't cost too much.

I have been "trapped" at home lately, because the one vehicle that works is the husband's truck, which is a stick-shift and 6 of us don't all fit. I am counting my blessings, we have a truck that works and if that means I have to stay home and give him the grocery list to shop for me, then so be it.


I think my head is not rattling anymore. Thanks for listening. :o)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Surprise Visitor!

With the cooler weather quickly blowing in, the leaves falling and piling up around us, that also means animals are looking for warm places to settle down for the long winter ahead. Squirrels are scampering around for nuts and berries, deer are foraging for food (we had a low crop season here for nuts and fruits, so deer will be traveling out of their comfort zone looking for food-- good for hunters, bad for deer) and snakes are also looking for that warm shelter.

The husband found this snake in one of our garbage cans by the chicken coop. It wasn't huge, but it was taking a defensive position and striking out often and rattling it's tail. That made us think it was a rattler.

We studied it for a little bit, called the girls over to come see and we stressed again (and again!) why we don't want them walking in the woods without mama and daddy. Leaves are great cover for snakes and now is the time for them to be out looking for food and shelter.
After much debate on what to do, we killed it. We didn't want to set it free only to have it come back or make more baby snakes, eat our chickens or eggs, and/or hurt our children or animals. We don't kill animals without a reason and we do feel bad about it, but our family comes first.
I looked up on the internet for identifying the snake and turns out it is not a rattler after all, but a juvenile Black Ratsnake. It usually shakes his tail like a rattler when it feels threatened, which makes many people think it is a rattler (like we thought it was). It's not poisonous, but it does bite and does not slither away when people come upon it. Black Ratsnakes are usually the ones you see killed on the roadways, because they freeze and strike when they are scared-- which creates snake pancakes. Then I read further on about their eating habits and their nickname? Chicken snakes. Well, that made me feel better about our decision to kill it. They like to eat chicken eggs and chickens and are often found around chicken coops.
We will be making sure to rake often around the chicken coop now, to prevent any sneaky snakes from moving into the coop and I will be just a bit more cautious when I reach my hand into the nest boxes for an egg.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Something New

Not being able to hear doesn't bother me as much as you'd think. Granted, there are times I wish I could hear my children's conversations to each other while they whisper in their rooms, or hear the birds sing their morning tunes, or even when a song comes on the radio and I want to hear more than just the bass or drum beat. There is so much more to me than not being able to hear-- I can see, I can touch, I can feel, I can smell...

That said, there is one other part of not being able to hear that puts me at a disadvantage: hearing people say different words or sayings. There are some words that I have never heard of before, even as a voracious reader.

The other night, my husband and I were joking around and he said the word 'smegma'. That stopped me in my tracks.

"Smegma? What's that?" I asked.

"You never heard of the word 'smegma' before?" my husband asked me.

"No. What does it mean?"

This resulted in lots of laughter on his part and me not believing him. So I run to the computer and google 'smegma'. Huh. How 'bout that, he was right. Go ahead, read the definition of it here. I'll wait. Learn something new every day, eh?

Don't ask how the conversation led to that word!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fall Color Week:: Saturday

I'm sorry to see Fall Color Week come to an end. It's been nice to post simply and I steal away a bit of time at night to post these photos before I go to sleep. I may look for an excuse to do another color week, maybe one of my own choosing. Hm.

Here's my extra credit color for this week-- Cornflower Blue:

I take those color interpretations pretty literally, don't I?
For as long as I can remember, my favorite all time crayon color was Cornflower Blue. Not quite purple, not quite blue; hard to imitate by blending other colors.
Sigh... such a pretty color.
In the summer, the roads here are lined with cornflowers and I always meant to stop and take a photo, but there was always a reason not to-- traffic, whiny kids, in a hurry...
Next summer, I shall make an extra special effort to stop and smell the cornflowers!
Or at least, take a photo of them.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fall Color Week:: Friday

My entries for Friday's color-- Plum:

Well, how 'bout that?
Actual plums!
They make a very tasty jam, by the way.

And these things...whatever they are.
The birds don't seem to eat them, I tasted one and ptooey! Tasted like yuck!
But they are interesting looking.
Love that dark plum with the bright pink stems and chartreuse leaves.
We have these all over the property.
Don't forget, tomorrow is an extra credit color day--
Cornflower Blue!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fall Color Week:: Thursday

This color week is going by too fast! I'm rather enjoying this, posting simply and with a few pictures that speak for me. Anyway, my entry for today's color-- Chestnut Brown::

This chest(nut) of drawers.

I bought this at a yard sale the first year we lived here, 4 years ago.

I meant to sand it down and re-finish it and bring it back to it's former glory,

but then baby #3 came along, and paint fumes don't mix with pregnancy.

Just when I started thinking about it again, baby #4 made his appearance.

Baby needs his own chest of drawers, as his clothes are in a pile on a shelf in my room.

So I dragged the poor, neglected drawers out of the basement,

and I am preparing to start work on it.

Before it gets too cold.
I mean it!
Honest, I do!

Love this dark brown color on the Speckled Sussex hen.

Of the six I started with, I only have 2 left.

I think the girls named this one Freckles.

Henry, my beloved Speckled Sussex rooster, the day before he disappeared.

Since he's been gone, I've learnt not to get too attached to my chickens.


Tomorrow- Plum

And for extra credit, I'm going to post an extra color on Saturday:: Cornflower Blue

Who's with me?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fall Color Week:: Wednesday

My entries for today's color-- Goldenrod:

Lucy the cat trying to sneak by the dog undetected, but I see you!

Can't miss that yellow shopping cart!

Look! Actual Goldenrod!
Is that cheating?

If using a photo of an actual goldenrod is cheating, then here's another option:

My tomato plants getting ready to peter out.
It's a pretty yellow, but not on my tomato plants!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall Color Week:: Tuesday

Here's my entries for Burnt Sienna:

The Handsome Rocky the Rhode Island Red Rooster.
(There had to be a chicken involved with this photo series!)

The rusty tin roof of the pole barn,
of which I had to climb a rickety ladder to get a photo of!
Check out Elsie Marley for a list of participants!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fall Color Week:: Monday

Sorry for not posting regularly these days. It's been busy around here and I haven't been able to squeeze in blogging time. I do, however, read your blogs, though I might not leave a comment. Over at Elsie Marley, she is doing a crayola fall colors picture week that I thought might be fun to participate in.

Here's my Monday entry for Brick Red:

With yet another trip to the local orchard on Friday for more apples (3 more bushels! that makes 6 so far!), I've always been fascinated with old barns and this one is no exception. I love how it seems like they've given up on painting, maybe they ran out of steam or perhaps the paint. Or maybe they've meant to finish but something else keeps popping up that takes priority. (I know how that feels) They have an orchard to run, so I imagine keeping hundreds, possibly thousands, of trees in good condition is a lot of work. Between pruning and fertilizing and picking and packing and hawking their wares at the farmer's markets and dealing with customers who stop by for pick-your-own, I'm sure they have plenty to do and very little down time.

Feel free to play along... Pop on over to Elsie Marley and leave a comment saying you want to join in.

Monday: Brick Red
Tuesday: Burnt Sienna (reddy orange)
Wednesday: Goldenrod (deep yellow)
Thursday: Chestnut (warm dark brown)
Friday: Plum

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I've been lost in my little world,
drowning in a sea of apple peels,
and surrounded by little (not so green) men.

Since I last posted, I have made and canned 25 pints of various jams
and made 27 quarts of applesauce.

I also just turned thirty-six.

Mom was here for a few days, she called in sick to play hooky with us.
She puzzled over puzzles with the kids, while I busily worked in the kitchen.
We took her to the halfway point to meet Uncle who then took her back to their house.
We hit the thrift shops and came home,
only to discover that she forgot her car keys and my dear, sweet Husband
drove 2 1/2 hours, one way, at 8 o'clock at night, to drop her keys off at her work
and did not come back home until after 1 am.
Thanks Honey!

My son, my Baby, is making up for being the bestest, sweetest baby ever!
He is getting into EVERYTHING!
Nothing is safe.
He has broken several dishes and glasses;
ripped countless pages of magazines, books and newspapers;
dumped the dogs' water bowl too many times to count;
climbs furniture only to get himself stuck at the top;
wreaks havoc in my pantry if I happen to leave the door open;
and loves splashing in the toilet water.
His redeeming feature?
He's so dang cute while doing it!

It's a good life here, in my little world.
I don't mind getting lost,
as long as I am surrounded by the ones I love.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Coming Soon...

Remember these??

Hopeful jam entries for the County fair


When I make my jams and jellies, then share with family and friends, I always get lots of compliments between licking fingers and lips. I get told often that I should sell some, but how and where was the question. I approached several farm markets and stands to inquire about selling my jams, but they either already have jams for sale, or give me vague answers about getting a business license and getting my kitchen inspected by the 'powers-that-be'.

Then I checked Etsy and I realized I had the answer the entire time! Etsy allows me to sell my homemade jams! Eureka!! So I have been hard at work these past couple of days, making and canning fresh jams and jellies to put up for sale in my Etsy shop. I always have too many for us to eat up, but canning has become my addiction. I am always looking at a fruit and wondering, "Can I make a jam out of that?" We are a jam-loving family and we go through several jars a week, and that alone tells me how good my jams are.

So-- As soon as I get some pictures, I will be selling some of my hand-canned jams and jellies, including my Prize-Winning Blue Ribbon Rhuberry jam! (My second-place winner, Crazyberry will be for sale as well!)

Now I'm off to buy more jars!! :o)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Husband and Youngest helped me pick the last of the wild grapes today. I previously picked some, but I couldn't reach the higher-up ones without some help. The ground where the grapes are at slopes down and it makes for an awkward time with the ladder. Husband came up with the idea of backing the truck up to it and putting the ladder in the back of the truck bed. *!!!* What a good idea! I was then able to nearly get all of the high-up grapes and then used the truck itself for a platform for the other areas where I just needed a little bit of help.

The wild grapes were plentiful this year, I assume because of all the nice rain we had and the birds and animals had plenty of other food to munch on. I had been keeping my eye on the grapes, waiting and watching for them to ripen. I want to try making grape juice this year, since I still have plenty of grape jelly from last year's harvest.

Youngest and I set up grape headquarters outside on the bench and got to work plucking grapes off the stems. Youngest is always following me and helping me in whatever I do. She's my little helper.

Things were going well, until a bee flew by and landed on her shoulder. I was about to tell her not to move, when she jumped, and then the bee stung her. Poor girl, I know how she feels. She took it much better than I did when I got stung by a wasp back in July. After soothing her and giving her some meds, we moved the grape operations indoors.

After cooking the grapes and straining the juice from the pulp, I found that I don't quite have enough for the recipe I have for grape juice. I'll have to play with it for a little bit, halving the recipe and then tweaking and tasting until I have it right. I have plenty for making more jelly, but I really don't want to make more jelly at this point, I have enough kinds of jams and jelly in the basement to last for a long while. Wild grapes are very tart, and it would take a lot of sugar, so maybe I'll blend it with apple juice to stretch it out a bit and also to sweeten it naturally, using less sugar that way.

Next year, I would like to try growing conventional grapes for eating and juicing. It would be nice to expand on our little mini-orchard and grow even more of our own fruits.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Rhubarb and Peaches

In the 4 years since we moved here and since I transplanted my rhubarb from the old house, this is the most I have ever harvested. Even moving them from a spot in the garden to the side of the house in the Spring did not deter them from doing well. Baby chicks pecking their leaves didn't bother them. I'm convinced that moving them to the side of the house was the best thing for them. From now on, if we ever move again, the rhubarb will be transplanted by the side of the house.

Since there is now a chill in the air, it was time to harvest the rhubarb. I pulled 90 percent and made 2 rhubarb-strawberry pies, then chopped the rest and froze them. We reallllllllly need a freezer. sigh.. That's first on our list after we get new tires for the van.

I did the next step for the Peach wine this afternoon. Last week, I strained out the peach pulp, added the sugar and then stirred daily for a week. Today I poured it through cheesecloth and divided the liquid equally among 3 gallon jars. Now it gets moved to a cool, dark place (the basement) where it will ferment for the next 6 months to a year. This time, I'll be checking after 6 months to be sure it doesn't go past wine and turn into vinegar, like what happened with the Strawberry wine I made.

Isn't it a nice peachy-pink color? I'm looking forward to trying this when it's ready!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Work in Progress...

This is my latest project:

The coolest couch ever! We picked this up at the thrift shop last week, for a mere $40 WITH 2 matching side chairs. YES, a 3-piece set for only $40. How could I pass that up?

We happened to be visiting my Mom in Virginia, with the van, so we had to hurry home so Husband could return with the truck. My original intention for going into the thrift shop was for another dehydrator-- but you know how it is: when you want something, you can't find it; when you don't need it, there it is!

It's solid wood (hickory?) and after bringing it home and looking it over, we discovered a date:: 1934! The original nails are square! It's in really good condition, only a little loose on one side, which I spent the afternoon tweaking and tightening and one of the arms was reallllly loose, the brace underneath was about ready to fall off, so I made a new brace which now makes the whole couch quite solid now.

The springs are SHOT! I have a re upholstery book that tells me how to fix this, but in both of the side chairs, someone removed the springs and put boards across. It works well, so in that same afternoon of tweaking the frame, I removed all the old springs and cut out boards to fit. I wouldn't have been able to fix the springs anyway, I discovered, because several of the braces underneath each row of springs were completely broken off.

The cushions, I'm not sure if they are original to the frame, but they are recovered and inside them are also spring cushions. I have plans to replace them as well, but they do alright for now. Much better, actually, since I put in the boards on the bottom. You can see the color of the cushions in the top photo on the bottom right corner. The cushions are heavy! wow! I may call up a reupholsters place and ask if they know the history of such cushions and see if I can figure out if they are worth saving or at least the date of them.

The set looks really good in the living room, and I can't wait to show the final project, after I get the cushions done. Now I have the fun of looking for fabric!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Here We Go Again!

It's that time of year again, to stockpile wood for the coming winter months. It has gotten chilly here already. It seems like as soon as September got here-- poof! Chilly days and nights! We had cut down trees here and there, then cut the logs and left them to age until they were dry. We spent yesterday and today gathering, splitting and stacking them.

Cutting logs down to size.

A growing pile of split wood. This is only a small percentage of how much wood we will need for the winter. Last year we used approximately 8 stacks this size. We still have a long way to go before we have enough for this winter.

When the power company came through last year, to install a new power line to the property adjacent to us, they had to cut down trees on our side for the new line. We asked them to leave the cut trees and they did. We were over on the far edges of our land today, gathering the logs. There are a lot of trees cut there, and I hope that there will be enough for the season.

Archie the cat, lounging in the shade, keeping an eye on our noisy work with the chainsaw and log splitter.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Chicken News

I cooked up one our chickens yesterday. When the girls saw me take the chicken out of the freezer, there were all kinds of comments from them:
"Is that Buster?"
"Are we going to cook him for dinner?"
"I'm not going to eat him!"
"Make chicken nuggets!"

Youngest didn't want to eat any chicken, so I didn't force her to try any.
Middle took a bite of the drumstick and then passed it to Oldest, who ate both drums.
Middle wanted ketchup with her breast meat.
It was good, I think I could have seasoned it a little bit more.
I took the bones and thighs that no one ate and made chicken broth.
The girls kept asking me what I was cooking because it was smelling so good!
I got 2 quarts of broth from this and already used part of it for dinner tonight.
Eggs!! (#4-10)
The Hens have been busy girls lately! So far we have collected 10 eggs, 3 alone this morning! The Buffs must be laying in the coop after all, since there are only 2 Speckled Sussex hens and from what I understand, they only lay one egg a day.

One of the Buff Orpington hens.
They really are pretty birds.

Speckled Sussex hen.
This breed is very friendly and the girls are always holding them and petting them.
I would get Speckled Sussex again, and the roosters are handsome fellows.

Rhode Island Red rooster.
Look at that impressive comb!

I think I should have named this one 'Mr. T.'

The boys have settled down, and they aren't so aggressive towards the hens anymore.
It was getting a little rough, and some of the hens would have bloody combs where the roosters grabbed them with their beaks to mount them.
Either the hens have accepted them, or the roosters have calmed down, or both, because now they stay together in a group, with only a few breaking off occasionally.
It's fun having the chickens around and watching their antics and listening to their clucking and crowing. I'm glad I can hear enough to hear them.

Chickens are really easy to care for, and if you can, I suggest you try to get some of your own backyard chickens.