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Preserving Season Has Begun Again

We love Creasy Green which others may call Field Cress or Dryland Cress.  We haven’t had any on this farm though we’ve tried several times.  We’ve concluded that the ground is too rich and creasy greens like poor ground.

These are the earliest of spring greens and they love the cooler weather. They’re not strong or bitter.

We have a market fairly close to home that brings in fresh produce weekly and we asked the owner of SuperValu on Rt. 460 if he could get some in and call us when they come in.  He called on Sunday afternoon and we went to pick them up.

The box they came in is about the size of banker’s box and held about 15 pounds of greens. The cost was $1.49 per pound or a whole box for $25.00 and we got the entire case.

Monday and Tuesday afternoon I washed them, washed them a second time (sand seems to hold fast to them) and then blanched them in a very large pot.

This is the largest stainless steel pot I own and I filled it to the top and put about an inch of water in the bottom of the pot.

I boiled it hard to blanch the greens and they cooked down to about a quarter of the bottom of the pot.  No salt or seasoning because I wanted to freeze them in quart bags.  I got six quarts out of the first cooking and four out of the second batch.  We had a large bowl of them for dinner last night and they were so good.

I can keep them in the freezer for about six months but they won’t last that long.  I froze just enough in each bag for a meal for the two of us.

We love them with pinto beans, fried potatoes, and cornbread!!  Great meal!

SUGAR TIME

Maple sugar time is upon us and because of the freaky weather we may not get to make any this year.  It’s either raining or icing our world and we’re sure the sap has come up but we’re expecting 20 degree weather over the weekend and next week.

This is a tree tapping we did last year.

Pints and quarts of heavenly fresh maple syrup in 2018

We’re still waiting on the heifers to drop their babes but have only had one of fourteen to calve so far.

The one little calf needs/wants a playmate so much.  Today he was running laps around his mom for fun!

Goodbye February!  We’re anticipating the March winds, have had enough showers so April can be semi-wet and bring in some of those beautiful May flowers!!!

What A Difference A Day Makes

Yesterday and Saturday the rains were pouring down and the fields were saturated and overflowing.

Today it’s almost back to normal.

Thursday morning the timber was frozen and the ground was covered with ice.

The next day it’s totally different!

We are having a whirlwind spring or end of winter and we don’t know from one day to the next what the temperature will be.  Last night we were experiencing 35-60 mile per hour wind gusts.  Thankfully there was no damage to anything that we have found.  We deal with this while waiting on baby calves to be born!!  Farming is a challenge, especially beginning this year.

This heifer delivered her new babe on one of the worst days of the rain and cold winds.

This little black-white faced bull is a survivor!!

Sadie Is Growing

On February 20th Sadie turned four months old and the things she has learned in the short time we’ve had her is amazing.  She goes to the door and looks back at us when she wants/needs to go out. The potty training is going amazingly!  She has figured out how to get out of the yard gate to go visit with Mischief, our coon hound.  When the ATV starts up she knows Dad is going to the woods or to feed the bulls.  She knows when I go to the kitchen it’s mealtime.  She’s learned the sounds of our vehicles and waits at the door for visitors barking her head off.  She has learned how to wake Mom up to go outside (barking by my bed) or when she thinks it’s time for everyone to get up. She has learned that “down” means to stay down and not jump up on us.  She has learned that there are moles in our front yard and she’s determined to get them for me no matter how many holes she has to dig.  Yard gardening is going to be a challenge this spring!!! 🙂

She is growing like a weed! When we got her on the 11th she weighed about 8 pounds and now she’s up to 10 pounds.

Because we’ve had so much rain and she loves being outside I have to put down heavy paper in the path she uses from the front door to through the kitchen.

The look we get when she wants out.

She does not like to ride in the vehicles.  We took a ride yesterday afternoon on our road to check out the flood damage and she got sick before we could get back home.  Poor thing was as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chair!!!

She looks big in these photos but she’s only about 20 inches long and almost 12 inches tall.  She’ll be full-grown before we know it.

We were supposed to keep our son’s black lab this weekend but I asked him to hold off a couple more months because Sadie is so little and Bucky is a full-grown pup that loves to wrestle and I’m afraid he may hurt it for now.  We’ll let them visit before too long though and she’ll have another playmate.

I’m praising her a lot but she still has an issue with my chickens and wants to chase anything that runs so we’ll be doing some heavy training in that regard.  Bucky likes to chase the chickens too and their togetherness might just get a little out of hand.  More updates on her growth and training to come.

 

Spring Flower Garden Planning

This photo was taken end of summer 2018 and I’m planning big changes in this area for 2019.

Image result for coneflower

Coneflower

I’ve been working on my gardening journal the last couple nights and have almost got a layout and what flowers will go where when spring arrives.  I’m planning on having Cleome (Spider Plant), Coneflower and Hollyhock in the back corner.  First I will dig up all of the sedum and daylilies and move them to new places in the yard or outside the yard fence.

Image result for hollyhock

Hollyhock

Cleome, Queen Mixed Colors, , large

Cleome

 

Poppy Flower

Poppies

Blue Columbine Songbird Bluebird, Aquilegia

Columbine

Image result for lupine

Lupine

I’ll plant 18 x 18 inch clusters of each of these three.  As I move to the front of the triangle I’ll plant 12-18 inch tall plants such as Columbine, Lupine and Poppies.

 

The columbine is already in the ground and one of my favorite perennials.  I also have primrose in the bed and they’re usually the first to bloom but the bloom doesn’t last too long so now I’m trying to find something to plant between each primrose plant to keep the garden blooming all year.

Can you tell I”m anxious for spring to get here and to dig in the dirt???

Things Are Slow At the Moment

We’re not especially covered up with farm work at the moment due to the very wet weather and cold winds.  As most farms are this time of year, we normally would be working on fences, cutting next years firewood, trimming damaged trees and pruning fruit trees.    All of that work is not being completed now because we can’t get anywhere on the farm for the mud.  It’s so easy to get hung up even feeding the cattle.  When I go to the henhouse in the afternoon I wear my knee top rubber boots and the mud is so slimy and thick that it tries to suck my boots off.  The ducks have issues getting to and from their water sources and the chickens stay close to the henhouse because their feet get caked with mud!  We’ve had record rainfall and this week is loaded with more rain, ice and snow.  We’re very anxious about this due to 14 heifers (cow that hasn’t had a calf) due to deliver beginning today. 

A NEW GIRL ON THE FARM

Farms always have a lot of varmints and I guess, towns do too but we seem to be overrun with them.  After Sassy died two years ago the varmints have become very brazen and are in the yard as much as out of it!  We’ve wanted another dog on the farm mainly to keep such critters at bay yet we wanted one we would train and not someone else’s with attributes that are not particularly farm and socially attractive!!  I’m not ready for another Sassy (cocker spaniel) yet.

Sassy at three months.

We’ve had several dogs and cats in our 47 years and have always been partial to Cockers and Norwegian Elkhounds which we have had at least five in those 47 years.  We’ve had different people checking in their areas for the Elkhounds and over the weekend we found our new girl!

This is our new girl on the farm, Sadie. She is a Norwegian Elkhound and fours months old next week.

She is so very smart and is learning a lot in the four days she has been with us.

She was NOT potty trained but in four days has learned that all she has to do is going to the front door and whine to go out.  I’m doing a lot of “pooper scooping: in the yard at the moment because we don’t want her to be free to go just anywhere without us.  At six months we are hoping we’ll be able to leave the front yard gate open at night so she can ward off varmints or alert us that they are encroaching on her territory!!  Yesterday she met Arby and Samson, two of our huge black Angus bulls and she barked her little self crazy until they took a step near her and then she was between my feet. The bulls didn’t pay much attention to her.   Later in the morning while we were doing some fence repairs in the heifer lot she decided to let the heifers know that she was the new boss in town.  These heifers weigh around 750-850 pounds each and are due any day to have their first calves and they don’t like dogs!  Anyway, Sadie decided to walk out into the middle of the herd and give them the devil but not even five minutes later you would have thought the devil was on her heels.  She came screaming back toward us and ran into a woven wire fence which she could not get through and headed around the corner of the orchard fence and straight into our arms, peeing and pooping all the way.  She was literally petrified and we were laughing ourselves to death.  She did learn to stay away from those girls because today I took her for a walk with me to put mail out for the postman and instead of staying close to me as we walked the driveway along the heifer lot Sadie made a broad path about twenty feet on the opposite side of the driveway and growling all the way to the mailbox and back!!!

She is a beautiful dog and we hope to have many good years with her.

Our next learning lesson will be to not jump up on us or visitors and to teach her not to chase the chickens or ducks. I have lots of faith that she will learn quickly!!

We are also trying to get her used to riding in the farm trucks with us.  She is scared of riding and of vehicles.  The day we bought her home we had to put her in a dog crate on the back of the truck and I’m so glad we had it because she was very ill riding in the back of the truck.  We will start with short trips on the farm and on our road until she feels more comfortable.  Yesterday during our second trip riding out the 1/8 mile driveway she tried to jump out of my arms and out the truck window.  I also learned a very valuable lesson on this trip, leave the windows up until she is more comfortable riding in the truck!!!

So for now, I will be kept very busy during our very wet season, mopping the floors and keeping the yard as clean as I can.  We’re expecting the kids to come visit her for the first time this weekend.  I think she’ll love them as much as she loves us!!

Forty-seven Years and Counting

I just love my husband to death and he never fails to surprise me throughout the year with his hand-made gifts for me.  We celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary on Monday the 4th (1972) and have done a lot of reminiscing this entire week.  Forty-seven years is a long time but it just doesn’t seem like it’s been that long.  This year he surprised me with a handmade piece of furniture for my kitchen.

This is my new appliance/baking center in the kitchen.  

The top of the unit holds my most used small appliances.
The bottom shelf holds a couple more pieces, bread bowls, measuring cups, chopping equipment, blender and my new crock pot from my daughter.

I had an old dresser there and about a month ago I described to hubby my image of the perfect work station in front of that window.

I previously had my mixer, air fryer and food chopper on our kitchen wood stove. Moving those off the stove freed up a 28 x 40 inch area for preparing anything I want to cook.

The space enables me to put together on one surface and move straight to the appliance needed unless its baking in my range.

The work area on the stove holds my smaller measuring cups, cutting boards, etc. The warming ovens in the top of the stove keeps my spices, baking powders, etc. Spices need to be kept in a cool dark spot and this is perfect because I close the doors to those ovens when I’m not working there.

Thank you my love for all your ingenuity, patience and time in building me such a fine piece of furniture for our home.  I will use with love and thoughts of you forever!!

BEST FIREWOOD FOR A NIGHT LIKE TONIGHT

The temps are dropping fast this afternoon and the wind is gusting from 20 – 30 mph at the moment. Tonight is supposed to be much worse. We’ll have the stove cranked up and the teakettle full!

We keep a kettle on the stove to put some moisture in the house.

We’ll be burning some seasoned wild cherry

with some green oak and dried walnut before we go to bed.

Right before we head to bed Eddie will fill the stove with some truly dried locust. This is wood has been drying for years out in the fields as fencing.

The past few years we’ve been and will probably continue to in the coming years be replacing all of the fencing on the farm.  The wire has rotted and posted broke off at the top of the ground.  We saved all of the locust post just for nights like tonight when the temps will be below zero when the wind is factored in.  The locust burns hot but slow which makes it hold overnight (almost) and we don’t have to get up every two hours to load the stove when the fire has burnt down.

Everyone stay warm tonight and don’t forget to bed all the farm animals down with extra food and hay to stay warm!!  Bring those pets indoors if you really love them!!

PRUNING SEASON

We only have about two 1/2 months left to prune all of the fruit trees and vines.  We’ve lost four of our heritage apples that have been on the farm for years due the wind and ice blasts.  We have a lot of broken limbs in the maple trees which may hinder the amount of sap we will be able to collect in February and March.  About a month ago we had a day that the wind had laid so I started chopping away at the front grape arbor.

In 2018 I covered the base of each vine with litter from the chickens and rabbits and I can’t begin to describe the growth they had but now I know they have superb root systems.

 

A tangled mess but their second season of growth.

 

There wasn’t a lot of fruit the second year but there were a few on each vine.  I’m hoping for a better, bigger crop in 2019.  We need to add more support to the arbor and have the posts ready to go in the ground and the braces to hold everything up.  We’re thinking about buying to cattle fence panels to go on top of the arbor before the leafing begins and I’ll watch them early to place and tie up the runners so they cover the entire top of the arbor.  This will make it easier to cover the fruit before the birds get the ripe fruit. Of course, the bluebird houses will have to be moved to new locations soon.

Last year the Purple Martens got the houses before the Bluebirds did.

I think they look a lot better now that they are pruned.

 

I see lots of grape juice and jellies in the future.

While pruning the grape vines I also decided to prune our new Green Gage Plum trees.  Our daughter bought these for me two years ago and they had a couple blooms in 2018 so I’m hoping there will be a lot in 2019 and that the frost doesn’t get them.  I’ll add a few more strawberries and blueberries this year and hopefully we’ll add some new apple grafts too when I get some root-stock in a good spot where the rabbits and deer can’t destroy them.

Can you tell I’m looking forward to spring??

HEATING OUR BATHROOM

We’ve been making some changes in the house, minor, but needed.  Our bathroom is a small room behind the kitchen and the only heat we had in there was from water running through the back of our cook stove and into a large tank in the bathroom.

This is an old picture but still looks the same now. The blue tank in the back corner is a water tank. The white tank is our electric water heater.

Eddie decided the chimney that runs between the bathroom and kitchen needs to be re-lined so until that is completed we needed another source of heat in the bathroom this winter due to the temperatures dropping into the teens and the windchill making it worse.  We have a guest room downstairs off the kitchen which had a small propane heater that was perfect for that bedroom and would be the perfect fit for the bathroom.  My handyman husband did the switch and now we step out of the shower to a nice warm area.

The heater fit perfectly under the window and in front of the shower.

This is the bracket that the heater attached to and it fits snuggly to the wall and doesn’t take up much space.

In the summer we’ll turn the propane off and for this winter we don’t worry about frozen water pipes.

 

Starting New from Old

Summer 2018 saw my front porch filled with flowers along with the yard and my favorite were the Angel Begonias.

Angel Wing Begonia

They have a beautiful, delicate pink cluster bloom.

I want to make sure I have more of these come spring so I’ve plucked stems from the plant which I’m storing upstairs in our guest room.

The leaves of this plant are shaped like angel wings and gives it the name of Angel-Winged Begonia.

I bring all of my house plants in the house in mid-September and take them back outdoors in early June.  To start the plants I pinch stems close to the center of the plant and any that are growing really fast and getting leggy.  I’ve done this to my Prayer Plant and Goosefoot Fern.

Pothos stems starting in the kitchen window.

Prayer Plant starts in the kitchen window.

 

I don’t add anything to the stems to get them to start and usually in 10-14 days new roots are showing at each notch of the stem.  In the spring I’ll plant all of the stems of each plant in large individual pots.  The pots will have a good quality potting soil and two tablespoons of epsom salt and they take off.  By August the Angel-winged begonia will be full of bloom if not before and the prayer plant will have delicate white blooms.  I love growing plants.

House plants in the guest room.

House plants and different cacti in the upstairs foyer.

RHUBARB SEASON IN THREE MONTHS

I’m thinking ahead to spring when it gets so frigid that you want to bring the cows in!!  One of the first crops we see here in mid to late May is rhubarb.  A lot of folks don’t like rhubarb because its so tart but I have a remedy for that.  Before I give you that little tidbit let me tell you what I did last summer before the first leaves of rhubarb showed itself.

For two years I had not cut as much rhubarb as I thought there should have been.  I used a huge tractor tire for the rhubarb bed because moles kept eating the tubers when I planted them directly in the ground.  I placed the tire on the edge of the garden where it would get lots of son and on top of some heavy black garden fabric that I folded to fit several times to keep the moles out.  It worked!

The tire was filled with good soil and chicken litter and four rhubarb tubers.  The tubers produced but the stems were thin and spindly.  In the spring of 2018 I decided to thin the tubers and see if that helped and I was also concerned that maybe I had amended the soil with too much litter.  I cleaned up two more areas on both sides of the tire of weeds and only amended that soil with some rabbit litter but not much!

This area was filled with two tubers of rhubarb taken from the first tire.

This area was filled with tubers from some old plants from our Ruble farm and some from the mansion garden.

 

Neither of these areas produced anything but I kept them moist and sprinkled with epsom salt in hopes of new rhubarb patches in spring 2019.

The original tire went crazy!!  I took off three batches of rhubarb and we have plenty in the freezer for the coming year and the year after that.

Early batches of the thinned patch proved to be the best move I could have made!

Three fresh baskets of rhubarb and homemade rhubarb freezer jam!!

Now for my recipe for the freezer rhubarb jam:

5-6 c. of fresh rhubarb, cut in 1″ cubes

Water, just enough to keep the rhubarb from sticking in sauce pan

2 c. sugar

1  3 oz. pkg. of strawberry jello, cherry, raspberry, or even blackberry

Cook the rhubarb in the water until soft.  Add sugar and take off the stove; stir to combine and sugar is completely melted.  Add the jello, stir and cool completely.  I then pour into small containers and freeze.  It’s wonderful on biscuits, bagels, toast and fresh sliced bread.

Somedays You Bake. . .

. . .and some days you don’t.  Yesterday was a bummer baking day!!  I started with what I thought was my Mom’s Bread Pudding,  NOT!  The recipe will be deleted from the Recipe page.  It didn’t seem right when I was putting it together but it’s been about three years since I last made it.  I greased the casserole dish, followed the recipe, put it in the oven and in 25 minutes the kitchen was full of smoke.  The pudding was raising but so was the butter in the dish that was running over along with some of the batter, what a mess!!!

Mama’s bread pudding looked like this but what I baked definitely looks very different!!  The chickens will love it!

While the bread pudding was baking I started my loaf bread which I make just about every week.  Never fails!!  NOT!!!!  We think because we opened up windows in the kitchen and living room to let the smoke clear out must have killed the yeast.  It never rose in the big bowl.  I took it out of the bowl last night, made it into loaves thinking if I was real lucky it would raise during the night,  NOT!  I put it in the oven this morning to let it bake along with the morning breakfast biscuits and it never rose during the night or in the oven!  😦

Four loaves of bread that the chickens will enjoy for a week. I’ll put out one load a day for them. The frigid weather we’re having will make the chickens eat anything in sight to keep warm.

So this morning I started over and got a beautiful bowl full of raised dough and now have four loaves of white bread raising beside the wood stove!  While that was raising I made a beautiful pineapple-lemon pound cake and the house smells heavenly!!

Four loaves of bread to last the week and one loaf to go each of the kids.

My favorite pound cake with lemon and pineapple flavoring. This won’t last long either.

My Copy Editor

My very special friend that lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland is also my copy editor for the blog and she very graciously reminded me that I had not added my bread pudding recipe to my recipe page.  How dare I!!!  Well, its on there now and hope you all will try the recipe and let me know how you liked it.

Thank you Margaret!!

Margaret, excellent copy editor!!

Bread Pudding

I have two friends that asked for my bread pudding recipe a couple years ago and I’ve procrastinated long enough.  The recipe is on my recipes page above!  One of these ladies may come to visit on Friday and if so, I’ll have a new batch ready for her visit.  Sorry no photos to share with it but it looks something like this when it comes out of the oven.  Image result for picture of bread pudding

Imagine it with vanilla ice cream, whipped topping or even caramel sauce!!  This is one of the easiest desserts in my kitchen!!  My mom and both grandmothers made this when we were small and we thought it was the best and only dessert in the world.  I love it for breakfast now with some warm milk poured over it.

SNOW DAY COOKING

I promised a pictorial today of the what kept me busy during our snow event yesterday and here it is.

One of my snow event creations was chicken salad. My canned pickle relish gives it the kick it needs.

I love cobblers and this one is raspberry-blueberry. I love to warm in my microwave and then pour whole milk over it!!

We used a little more than half of a crate full of firewood last night.

Divine smoked pork loin created by Eddie in our smoker. He cooked it in the garage yesterday during the snow event.

Eddie’s other night-time snack is jello with fruit. This is raspberry.

Four loaves of bread made with honey from our honeybees.

Covered in wrap makes it hard to see but this is a carrot cake with caramel pecan frosting. Hubby is in heaven!!

The rest of the day was keeping the stove filled and the wood rack filled as well.

The wood rack beside the stove is full and holds enough wood for two days if the wind isn’t bad.

We used a little more than half of a crate full of firewood last night.

 

The snow event (notice I didn’t call it a storm) left us with one inch of snow and it got packed down during the night with sleet and rain making for a crusty top.  The chickens wanted nothing to do with it so we left them in the coop and the ducks could have left their coop but decided to stick close to a spot with no snow in it!  Recipes for the chicken salad, cake, bread, cobbler and pork loin marinade will be posted on my cooking page soon.

Preparation

Today we are preparing for another snow event in our area of 4-8 inches of snow depending on what part of the county you live in.  We like to prepare for the worst and hope for the least.  Eddie hauling some hay just outside of different fields the cattle are in.  We just hauled firewood to the front porch.  The cattle were fed normally but tomorrow morning they’ll get hay and some grain but fed near the woods for protection from the snow.  Today I made sure the ducks and chickens have extra feed, watering pan full and I put some treats in the hen house for them.  The snow is not supposed to get heavy until tomorrow afternoon but you never know with Mother Nature.

We brought three tractor loads of firewood to the front porch and have covered it with tarps to keep as dry as possible.

Our woodhouse is only half full now but we want to use everything in it this year so it can be thoroughly cleaned out in the spring/early summer and treated for termites and wood borers.

I filled two bins with kindling for fire starting.

The wood rack beside the stove is full and holds enough wood for two days if the wind isn’t bad.

The end of the porch is filled with really dry wood and the stack to the front is semi-dry and used to hold the fire during the night. We do oversleep at times and the filled stove will hold fire about six hours. We both tend to get up during the night.

I keep this large teapot full of water day and night to help with the dryness of the air using wood heat.

We’ll be warm!!  I also brought in some canned goods and potatoes from the cellar, a big pot of vegetable/meat soup sounds good!  I filled two five-gallon buckets, and one three gallon bucket with water for flushing the camode if the power goes off.  I filled 10 gallon jugs and some gallon pitchers for drinking and cooking water,  We are ready for the second snow event of 2019.

 

End of Deer Season

The final week of deer season ended yesterday and our freezers are full.  This year no trophies were taken because we felt we needed to thin the herds (5) due to the small does and too many of them.  We talked about this during the summer and decided the bucks were too small and does were very small and believe this is due to inbreeding.  They’ve had plenty to eat from the grasses and gardens in the summer and the nut crops in the fall.  Only the family participated in the hunts because most of the hunters were looking to kill trophies which there were very few so they hunted elsewhere.  My new crockpot and Instant pot have been keeping our bellies full!

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Homemade Pizza

Today was a cooking day and I made two cocoanut creme pies and a 14 inch pizza for dinner.  The pies were made this morning and I just had a slice and have to watch myself or I’ll eat the WHOLE thing!!  I love cocoanut everything!!!  To make the pies I had to ready-made pie crusts in the fridge, used a Rawleigh pie filling and some eggs and milk.  I love these pie fillings because the filling turns out so thick and creamy and the only place I’ve been able to find them is at The Cheese Store.  These are country type stores usually run by Amish or Mennonite families and when I go to their stores I am in heaven but spend so much more money than I planned.  The pie fillings will make nine 9″ pies and use two eggs and a three cups of milk for each pie.  I also bought some meringue powder there and it makes beautiful tall meringues!

Cocoanut Pies

For dinner I made a basic pizza using the pizza crust mix that I bought at the same store, one bag will make two crusts and all you add is water.  I made my crust, covered it with my homemade pizza sauce which I’m almost out of, and then used what I had in the fridge for toppings.  That consisted of thinly sliced onions, green pepper, pepperoni, smoked sausage, and mozzarella cheese.  It was divine, even if I did make it myself.

Only two slices left which we may have for breakfast!!

Yesterday I tried a new experiment with my Air Fryer and a small bear roast.  First, I always boil my roast for about thirty minutes in plain water to roll out any excess fat on the roast.  The fat is what can ruin a bear roast!!  I drained the roast with was only about one pound, rubbed it with two new seasonings that I found at The Cheese Store, and placed it in the Air Fryer following the instructions for a large beef steak but cut the time in half.  It was to die for!!!  Not kidding!!!  When I took it out I sliced the roast into quarter inch slices that will fit perfectly on a biscuit and we had it for lunch yesterday  and then for dinner I poured a brown gravy over it and served with mashed potatoes, green beans and macaroni salad!  Did I say I’m trying to lose weight???

        Hickory Smoke Salt

Barbecue Spice

       New recipe bear roast

A Quiet Day at the Farm

The only thing busy today are the birds at the feeding station and not very many of them!

It has been a quiet day at the farm with lots of fog, very little rain (thank goodness) and enough clouds to make it look like late afternoon, early evening.  Except for letting my hens and ducks out this morning and bringing enough wood to fill up the wood rack, I’ve spent the entire day inside writing letters.  I hope this is not a lost art because I love writing and receiving letters from friends and family that aren’t living close by.  This will be a short post today but I’m sticking to the challenge/resolution to fill my blog with things from the farm daily!  Have a blessed evening and we’ll catch up tomorrow.

Those Honery Creatures

During most of the summer of 2018 (when I wasn’t blogging much) I was working hard to make a rose garden in one corner of our front yard that gets sun most of the day.  It was hard work and a challenge to position all of them into one corner.

I’m thrilled with how the rose garden is blooming over and over this year.

There are over twenty different types and colors of roses in the bed and it looks a little different from the picture above because all of the non-roses were also dug up and moved to different areas of the yard inside and out.  Several of them survived the winter of 2017-18 due to the ice and creatures called wild rabbits!  They chewed the bark off of every rose in the yard!!

Bark eaten off of nearly every rose.

I meant to put up a barrier fence in the new rose bed during our first frost but never seemed to get around to it.  My procrastination proved to be maddening, the rabbits got to them before I did.  Immediately Eddie and I started putting up the barrier fence around the rose garden.

This is the same plastic fence we use around our garden to keep the deer and chickens out during growing season and take it down at the end of the growing season.

We have chain-linked fence around the yard so we only had to stake the fence around the roses from the inside of the yard.  I’m glad we found the damage before it was to far gone to save the roses.  We will be having Brunswick Stew if I catch the creatures getting through this!

Fencing barrier around the roses.

I think these are worth saving!!!

I absolutely love this color!Peach, orange and yellow, great idea for a quilt.

New rose in a beautiful deep pink/scarlett.

The wild rabbits killed most of my roses during the winter so my wonderful children gave me 10 new roses for Mother’s Day. This beauty is one of them.

Last years yellow rose is such a beauty and has just began blooming. It will be moved into my rose garden early fall.

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How Hard Can It Be

Really??? Two days into the year and my one and only resolution is down the drain!  Why?  I can’t blog if the internet connection is non-existent.  I kept going to my computer yesterday to post a note but my computer kept saying “no internet connection”.  Oh well, today is another day and I’ll remedy the situation with two posts and hope you can stand two in one day!  🙂

I had a note from a cousin New Year’s Day wanting my Crockpot Apple Butter recipe and I sent it to her.  I’ll share it with you as well and if you have any questions just comment at the bottom of the post.  I’ve wanted for the last several years to make a copper kettle full of apple butter but we’ve not had enough apples to fill the kettle.  I have had enough apples of different varieties to freeze lots of applesauce which we love but it’s been building up.  Our smallest freezer is half-full of containers of applesauce and I thought maybe if I use up about half of it Mother Nature may give us a good crop of apples in the coming fall.

I store/freeze the applesauce in the large 48 oz. margarine containers or Cool Whip containers.  They’re sturdy and very stackable in a chest freezer.  After I cook up the apples, I always add sugar to the pot and stir well to make sure the sugar dissolves before I freeze it.  When we need apples on the table (just about every day), all I have to do is thaw it.

Now for the recipe:

I have two six quart crockpots with two settings of low and high.  One has a lid that can be vented and the other has securing handles but the lid had a pencil size hole in the top of the lid for venting.  I fill the crockpot almost to the top of the pot with applesauce (fresh or frozen) and turn the heat setting to high and cover with the lid NOT vented.  I want it to get hot and can tell when it’s hot enough because it will have little bubbles forming around the edge of the pot or may even bubble up.

First step–notice the color.

A very important note to making apple butter in a copper kettle or a crockpot, you MUST stir it.  In a copper kettle it has to be stirred constantly but in a crockpot you only have to stir at least every thirty minutes.  Why? In the copper kettle over an open fire it will burn unless stirred constantly.  Not so in a crockpot but it will get thick on top and form almost a crust of very thick sauce and you will have to stir harder and longer to get it to smooth out and incorporate into the rest of the sauce.

Once your applesauce has heated up to the point of bubbles add THREE cups of sugar and stir well.  This is why you don’t fill it all the way to the top, you have to make room for the extra sugar.  When you first add this the sauce will thin some.  Remember, stir well every thirty minutes or so.  DO Not put the lid on tight this time.  The vapor of the water in the apples needs to get out and this helps the applesauce thicken.  Also be careful of bubbling sauce popping out on your skin.  Each time that you stir you will notice the sauce turning colors as you stir.  Try to pull the bottom sauce to the top.  I found out a couple years ago the blending and stirring is easier if you have a good whisk to work it.

Notice the change in color?

At this point, continue to leave the lid cracked, stir every thirty minutes, and continue this step until the sauce gets thickened to your taste.  I don’t like it real thick, it spreads better on buttered biscuits and toast if it’s a little thinner.  Last step, this is where you flavor the sauce and it becomes applebutter.

Oil of Cloves and Oil of Cinnamon

This is the step that can make or ruin your apple butter.  Some people only like cinnamon, we like cinnamon and cloves.  My recipe is 4-6 drops of cinnamon and 3-5 drops of cloves.  Be very careful when you add this to your batch and taste test after one or two drops of cinnamon.  Once you have flavored with the cinnamon, then do the same process with the cloves.  You can add more drops of each depending on your taste but taking baby steps in flavoring will make the process worthwhile.  After you have the flavoring in cook the applebutter about 20-30 minutes longer stirring more frequently.  You will notice the applebutter will be darker.

First canning of 2019–Nine pints of Apple butter.

During the last minutes of processing, prepare your jars.  I use regular mouth pint, half-pint and jelly jars for canning.  The half-pints and jelly jars make great gifts but the gifter may come calling for more because it’s sooooooo good!  I pour the hot applebutter into the jars, put on the lids really tight and set aside with a heavy towel over the top to retain the heat until the jars seal.  You’re done!!  Easy and so good!!