Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas

Today was rainy and the little snow we have is dwindling quickly. If it gets cold enough tonight I expect the roads will be very icy tomorrow. I have mixed feelings about the weather. It is nice not to be out shoveling deep snow, but it certainly feels weird not to have -0°F temperatures. None of the snowmobile trails are open and I'm sure the local businesses are hurting. We've hardly needed the wood stove except to take the damp out of the air in the evening. I am thankful that the chickens are handling the seesawing temps all right. They are still laying, too. Yesterday I gathered four eggs! (Which was good because yesterday I dropped the bucket of eggs I was going to wash and I broke every last one of them. Ugh.)

I have been knitting and reading. I made several hats and pairs of mittens, and with some of the wool from the yarn I received from the fleece I shared with my friend, Sally, (did I mention in my previous post that her husband's father was a Navajo code talker during World War II?) I have started knitting myself another cardigan sweater, this time incorporating simple 5-stitch cables and seed stitch.

I am looking for an old crock pot that is big enough to make some hot batch soap in and I stopped at the thrift store in Phillips to see if they had any. They did not, but a large red and gold scarf dangling on the scarf rack caught my eye. I could tell immediately that it had been woven because of the twist in the fringe and I wanted to take a closer look at it. The gorgeous feather pattern was reversible and the scarf was large enough to wear as a shawl. The price was right. It was marked $1.50 and I bought it. Later I discovered a label on it that said 100% Pashmina. Well, I had no idea what that was so I looked it up on the Internet. It turns out that Pashmina is the finest kind of cashmere wool. However, according to the Wiki article, the label should not read 100% Pashmina because that is not a label recognized in the United States by the Federal Trade Commission. Shawls this size sell for around $200 and I have not come across any on the Internet that have this lovely a pattern. The fabric drapes heavenly and it is light and very warm. I just love it. I'm sure it is an authentic Pashmina shawl despite the illegal label. As most of the items at the thrift store come from decedent estates, I look at the shawl as a gift sent to me from some deceased little old lady's ghost that knew I would appreciate so fine a weaving. I have no idea how old the shawl is, but I expect to love it for the rest of my life.

I also went to the Christian Mission Thrift Store in Park Falls still looking for a large crock pot, again to no avail, but there I did find a smashed up DVD of the movie Jurassic Park for $2.00. The cover was shot, but the DVD looked OK so I bought that for Ed. Then, I almost stepped on a professionally framed double matted Norman Rockwell print that was just laying on the floor. Anyone who knows me knows I love anything Norman Rockwell. It was a print of "The Runaway". I got a strong impression when I picked up the picture that it had once belonged to a policeman. Well, I had to have that, too, for $7.00. "The Runaway" is now hanging in our center hallway next to my print of "Sunset" where it will be joined after Christmas by my Christmas gift to myself of "Refugee Thanksgiving".  And when I got home I ran the Jurassic Park DVD through Lara's SkipDr, popped it into the DVD player for Ed and the disk played like new.

Christmas here will be quiet. Tomorrow I'll visit Dad and take him his annual supply of pipe tobacco. Dad has not decided whether or not he will join us on Christmas Day for dinner.  (I expect he will eat a big dinner tomorrow with my sister, Mary and her family, and will not feel like eating a second big dinner on Christmas Day.) We will be having pork roast, sauerkraut, and dumplings with a Raspberry Bavarian for dessert. I baked cinnamon rolls and some Christmas cookies to munch on throughout the day.

I wish you all a Blessed and Happy Christmas!

Thursday, November 26, 2015


 This is about as good a picture of our Thanksgiving turkey I could get this year because a certain unnamed party had already started snitching pieces off of the side you cannot see.  (Sigh.) If you've ever seen the movie A Christmas Story you'll know what I mean when I say that the ghost of Ralphie's dad must have been hanging around my kitchen. My Dad came over to eat with us and he is looking good. My sister and some of her children were going to stop by for a short visit, but the weather quickly changed from freezing drizzle to snow, so she called to say they were going to stay home. I don't blame her. It was a nice day and we'll eat for a couple of days on the leftovers.
 Here is a picture of the railroad knitting blanket I made. The blocks are a log cabin pattern with each block segment highlighted in outline stitch, and the blocks are connected in rows of single crochet.  The blanket is much heavier than I expected and it is very warm. I used up quite a few of the little balls of yarn scraps in my yarn bin, but I still have some more I can use up. I am thinking about making some Christmas ornaments, small animal toys, or working them into some knitted Christmas stockings. We'll see.

Well, there are many projects on my to-do list and I'll keep you posted as I get to them. Right now I'd like to thank all of you for reading my blog. I am grateful for your company. I hope that some of the things I do give you both inspiration and encouragement as you carve out your own homestead. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. We all have much to be thankful for.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 -- Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Saturday, October 31, 2015


It's cold, wet, and bone aching miserable outside so I put on my nice grey sweater that I finished last year

and am spending my time making a blanket in railroad knitting (a/k/a Tunisian crochet) with all of my yarn scraps. It is taking me longer to finish because I decided to embroider each section on each block in black outline stitch. It was a good decision because the colors are nicely highlighted by the outlining and the blocks are reminiscent of stained glass windows. I'll take a picture of it for you when it is finished.

Yesterday (speaking of yarn) I picked up my share of wool yarn from splitting the costs of a fleece with a woman I know in Phillips who used to go to the Phillips Farmers Market. She had the fleece spun at Blue Hills Fiber Mill and it is gorgeous. The wool is grey and the natural color of the fiber. I received different fiber thicknesses so I will make me a nice warm shawl (I have a thing for shawls), Ed gets a good warm hat with ear flaps, and Lara will get some nice warm socks.

The reading bug has hit me again, too. I am nearly finished with the totally awesome Gulag Archipelago and have finished The Forever WarI'm half way through A Canticle for Leibowitz. This book is excellently written. It is a shame, but I think only someone raised as a Roman Catholic in the pre-Vatican II, Latin Mass era, can fully appreciate how that type of upbringing strengthens the cultural nuances of the story's core and makes for such an enjoyable read. ("Eat! Eat!" You have to read the book to understand why I was bug-eyed when I reached that part. . . .)

I have received the fabric to start Ed's Hobo quilt, so I expect to at least get that project started before the end of the year.

Elsewhere I have six chickens butchered and another six to go. My sister Mary had one chicken that "got away" when she butchered her flock so she said I could have the hen.  I retrieved the hapless one when she was asleep and back in the hen house that night and put her in with my flock. Since she is a hen I'll keep her for her eggs. She has adjusted well. I knew she would because she is bigger than my chickens who were extremely put out because of the stranger in their midst. It only took about three days before calm descended in the coop once more. I have scrubbed, scraped, swept out cob webs, and otherwise cleaned out the coop and "winterized" it with about six inches of fresh wood chip bedding. I had to take a scraper to the window because it had not been washed for a couple of years, but it looks great now, and the chickens can sit on their perches this winter and watch the snow fly.

I still have some fence work to do and the cutting back of weeds. Tom and I are waiting for good weather to go up on the roof and clean out the gutters now that most of the leaves are off the trees.

Twice already we've had snow fall but so far nothing has stayed on the ground.  The birds are busy at all the feeders though so I expect we will freeze up pretty soon now.

Since it is Halloween, I thought I'd leave you with a fun link to the complete broadcast of Orson Welles' famous radio program from 1938. Be safe Everybody!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Summer's End

The Autumn leaves were beautiful this year and stayed a long time on the trees, but today the wind and rain came and blew most of them away. I fear Little Luke's Summer, that last sweet spell of summery weather that occurs around the Feast of St. Luke (October 18), is over. I need to finish up the last of the yard work soon as snow will not be long in coming now.

It's been quite busy here. Look at these lovely Fuji apples I bought at the Feed Store. Do you believe they were selling these as deer apples for hunters? I bought two boxes of them for $12 a box and promptly put most of them in the dehydrator. I can hardly believe that this is the first time in 10 years that I've not gone to Bayfield for apples.

The cabbages were wonderful this year and I had lots of them, both red and green. I put all of the red cabbages in the freezer and made sauerkraut with most of the green. I also used a 6.5 gallon plastic fermenter I bought from a brewery supply for the first time and it worked out great. It was much easier to handle and clean than my heavy pottery crocks. I canned 42 quarts; good thing we like sauerkraut!


Working on Dad's wood pile was a family affair. Gosh, what a job! Tom and John cut the logs; John, Mary, and I split it; and Tom, Ed, and I stacked most of it. There is only one small pile left to stack, and after that, all that is left to do is to rake up the bits and pieces to add to Dad's stove wood that is already stacked on the porch.

The pile of wood in the foreground is what is left to be stacked.

Tom and Ed
 Greens and cabbages grew best in this year's garden. The tomatoes were pretty prolific, too. I planted Chadwick Cherry, Aunt Lucy's Paste Tomato, original Abe Lincoln, Vintage Wine, and a very old commercial variety called 1884. All did well though they seemed to come on late in the season. I attribute that to the odd weather we had. I would say I was most impressed with 1884. For going into the ground late (July!) it grew like gangbusters and produced some real nice large sized fruits. None of the tomato varieties were bothered with insects, but I did have problems with blossom end rot, and again I attribute that to our cold nights. Vintage Wine was a second year trial. When I first planted it, it did not do well at all and I only saved a few seeds, but when I planted it this year, boy, did it grow. And for a tomato it is a pretty plant; I like its leaves, and the fruits are pink with yellowish striping. The name is justified. Aunt Lucy's Paste Tomato produces mountains of smallish red fruits. It is a real work horse of a tomato. It did extremely well when I first planted it in a dry year, and it did just as well in this year's hot/cold/wet weather. I also liked original Abe Lincoln. A very pretty red slicer with great taste. Perhaps the most finicky for me to grow is Chadwick Cherry, but I like to freeze the fruits whole (like berries) and add them as I want to soups and stews.

 While the garden's bounty was limited, I was able to gather a lot of seed due to the long season. No garden year is ever the same, and the learning experiences always differ. I love this life!

Now, for the chickens . . . .

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Wind and Rain and Time Warp

Everyone I talk to is having the same sort of year. Not enough time and no matter how many chores you finish it seems as if you are always behind. Time somehow feels warped.

For sure I have been busy. I added mint jelly and blackberry jam to my list of jams to sell at the market. A gallon bag of Green Arrow shell peas is in the freezer. The onions and garlic have both been pulled and cured. The seed garlic is in the frig waiting to be planted, and the onions are in a bushel basket in the kitchen ready to use. (No onions for the market this year. We eat too many to spare!) I have fermentation vessels everywhere. Yogurt and kombucha are bubbling in the kitchen. Cucumbers are fermenting in brine in the living room, and about 12 gallons of cabbage are fermenting into sauerkraut in my crocks in the laundry room. (Even Tom is getting in the act by brewing beer in the basement. Can't wait to try some of that!) I said bye-bye to a couple of roosters and added them and some good broth to the pantry. Put up 15 pounds of beets I bought at the farmers market. And yesterday I worked all day cleaning up and amending three garden boxes. Since the moon was in Scorpio I figured that if I wanted to put in a Fall garden I had better do it now, so I set aside one box to put the garlic in and planted the other two -- one with Purple Vienna Kolrabi, Scarlet Nantes carrots, Summertime and Paris Cos lettuce, and Detroit Supreme beets; and the other with Egyptian Walking Onions, Newburg onion seeds, Lisbon Bunching Onions, Forellenschluss lettuce and leftover unnamed onion sets from those I planted this Spring that I bought at the feed store. With row cover and plastic I'll see how long I can keep the garden going. I need to pick more beans and check the tomatoes. Tom's Swiss Chard and collards need picking again, too.

The farmers market last Wednesday was our best day yet. My jams are selling well and I had someone tell me they would like to see my knitted dishcloths in more colors. And everybody loved my Copenhagen Market Cabbages! I should have taken a picture of them. They were truly beautiful little cabbages. I sold all my Tuscan Blue Kale and some of the Portugese Kale, all the Italian Parsley I brought, and most of the cabbages.  My special customer received her bushel of Provider green beans. I will have to start bringing cold weather outerwear for Lara and me to wear because the wind is beginning to switch around and come out of the North. Lara said she was ok, but I actually got cold.

I have been making extra effort with respect to my seed saving skill and the effort is paying off. I'll have lots of herb seeds, peas, spinach, mustard greens, bush and pole beans, summer and winter squash seeds, cucumber, and tomato seeds. Hopefully I'll do better at overwintering the biennials than in the past and will get seed from them next year. Among them I hope to get cabbage, collard, kale, beet, and parsnip seed.


Today is windy, cold, and rainy; a good day to stay inside and rest. It is a day that heralds the coming of Autumn. I expect I'll start seeing the leaves turn color any time now.  Soon I'll be able to get back to my fire zone upkeep, and we will go over to Dad's and finish splitting and stacking his wood pile.

Sandy's Favorite Place

Till next time, Be Safe and Be Well!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hot and Humid

I have to admit I'm a wuss about hot and humid weather.  When the day temps start reaching into the 80's I go in the house and whimper. Cold drinks, a wet kerchief around my neck; I turn into a crab and hide in my shell.  I feel ill in hot weather and have a hard time breathing, so I elect not to unduly exert myself. I am grateful that I do not have to be out in such weather.

Late last evening I battled mosquitoes and waded through the forest garden to check on the melons, pie pumpkins, and winter squash. The sad truth is that of the three only the winter squash -- Blue Hubbard -- is even growing. The melons and pie pumpkins look like they were planted just yesterday. I can't understand it, but at least the big squash is happy. I think it is because I planted it in my hugelkulture bed.

I picked the last of the black and red currants to put in the freezer, and the handful of raspberries I gathered I added to a cup of nice homemade yogurt. It was a good snack. I will watch the raspberries closely as I have a feeling they will ripen pretty much all at once this year and I want to be sure I pick at least a gallon of them. The flavor of wild raspberries is hard to beat.

I pulled out one of my new books to read. I heartily recommend it if you are interested in saving your own seed. The Organic Seed Grower by John Navazio is the best book about growing for seed I've read since Suzanne Ashworth's Seed to Seed. This really is a must have book for your library shelf. This year I am going to try to overwinter beet, carrot, and rutabega roots, kale, Swiss chard, cabbages and collards to plant for seed next year, and I'll try to gather seed this year from just about everything else I can. If we are lucky and have a long Autumn, I may be able to harvest a lot of seed.

Lara and I did well at the farmers market again. We sold enough of the jam I made that I think it is worth the effort to make more to sell. I am going to make some different jams to add a bit more variety to the selection. We sold all but one of the spring cabbages we brought, too, so that was good.

Hope you all are staying cool!

Wild Tobacco

Friday, July 17, 2015


Whew! I have to take some time to fill you in on what has been happening here at the farm.

First off, I forgot to tell you that Tom and I had our 40th wedding anniversary back in May.  We decided to celebrate by taking the kids with us to go see the new (totally awesome!) Mad Max movie. So like us. I was always a cheap date -- take me to an action movie, buy me popcorn, and I was a happy camper. Some things never change.

My sister and I went to a pasture walk down in Milladore one evening to see an organic farm. It was pretty cool. The family had been traditional row cropper farmers but a serious accident caused the family to rethink how they farmed. Over the course of a few years, with minimal equipment, the family transitioned to being a diverse, certified organic farm. They raise grass pastured beef, chickens, ducks, and turkeys. Everything they raise is bought by an organic marketer, and financially they are doing better now than when they were row croppers. The walk was well attended despite being held in the evening. The family was very down to earth and had an amusing cadre of farm dogs, too! One of the funniest things that happened was when we walked by the duck pen and the 136 ducks saw the woman farmer. There was this huge cacophony of duck quacks and a mad press toward the fence. The woman told us, "Aw, they see me and think they are going to get fed." I guess ducks are like any other critter. :)

Back at our farm, while the weather has been steamy during the day with patchy heavy rain and too cool at night (we've have two nights down in the 30's) the garden is actually doing fairly well.  I have had no luck whatsoever with lettuce, radishes, and melons, but the parsley, red and green cabbages, collards, mustard greens, beets, and kale are doing great. The green bush and pole beans are finally starting to come on, and the cucumbers and summer squash are getting flowers now. My Green Arrow peas are just now producing when normally peas would be finishing up at this time. The green peppers and basil look pitiful, but the garlic grew gangbusters and the onions are filling out great. I have tomatoes planted all over the place and while there are no tomatoes yet, the plants are growing well despite the cool nights.  This year I planted Chadwick Cherry, Vintage Wine, original Abe Lincoln, and a very early variety simply named "1884".  I have been blessed with no insect or disease problems this year despite the weather. 

So, Lara and I take lots of greens to the farmers market. Customers even call us "the greens people". We have been to the market twice so far.

This week we didn't go to market however because the chores in the house and the garden were starting to pile up and I needed to make some time to take care of the work. I pulled the garlic and have it curing out in the garage. I amended the garden box the garlic was in and replanted it with rutabegas, lettuce (another try!), radishes, carrots, and beets. I picked the currants out in the forest garden and started cutting open some walk paths. Today I was in the kitchen making currant and strawberry jam to sell at the market. We may have some spring greens yet and some of the cabbages and peas should be ready to harvest for next week.

I wound up with 12 chicks that aren't so little any more. They are starting to hop out of their brooder box in the greenhouse so it won't be long before I'm able to put them in with the other chickens. Of course, before I do that I will need to whittle down the roosters and lazy hens in the main flock. Work never ends, does it! Well, busy hands make a happy heart, or so the saying goes. I think I'd rather take the time to  look for the bluebird of happiness.

Talk to you soon. Be safe and Be well, Everybody!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Solstice Day

Happy Fathers Day to all dads old and young, here or gone! We had my dad over for bar-b-que and the weather was lovely. It was a nice day. Lara and Ed bought Tom a Chicago Bears tool box, and I gave my Dad a couple of cans of pipe tobacco. He's set with tobacco now till Christmas so he's happy.

Holy cow, it's really the longest day of the year! This year is simply flying and I still have a flat of leeks and one of tomatoes to plant. The weather has been rain and more rain with brief respite in between storm systems. We may get some severe storms tomorrow. Darn it. It frustrates me how long it takes for me to get work done. There's not much you can do when the grass is too wet to cut.

I finally have some pictures for you. It's unbelievable that barely one month ago we had our last snow fall. This pic shows my greens box (beets, kale, spinach, mustard, and Italian parsley), my garlic box, and beyond it is my box that is planted with peas.

This pic shows about 100 trees and shrubs that I still need to get in the ground. I have already planted 40 butternut trees and about 40 each red oak and white pine out in the field. I want to plant the remaining trees and shrubs there, too.

 This is my collards, spring cabbages and red cabbage box. Next to it is the box planted with bush cherries. I have planted bush beans in there, too, though none have come up yet.

This is a little pallet garden I planted up with herbs. There are two little bay trees I bought from Nichols Garden Nursery planted in the black grow bags. Lara's fig tree (in the big pot) that I feared had given up the ghost is actually hanging on and sprouting new leaves.

These are the nine garden boxes Tom and I built last Fall. The two boxes on the far right are mine and hold my sweet peppers, yellow onions, and tomatoes. The other boxes are Tom's. The temps got down to 36°F the other night -- not good for any kind of fruit set.

My ankle couldn't hold up with manhandling the BCS tractor out in the field so I was not able to plant my potatoes or corn out there. I was able to plant the potatoes in wire bins, but I couldn't find a spot for the corn. What a disappointment! I shall try to plant the corn next year. I have planted the sunflowers and winter squash on my hugelkulture bed in the forest garden, and I've planted Moon and Stars melons and New England pie pumpkins throughout the forest garden, too. It will be interesting to see how everything grows there.  I also planted some white currants, goji berries, honeyberries, and more hazelnut shrubs. I actually had blossoms on one of the Chestnut crab apple trees this year so maybe I'll be able to make some crabapple jelly this Fall.

 Here are the first of the new chicks that are still hatching in my incubator. They are so cute when they first hatch. I have 13 so far and more coming.

My really good news is that I went down to Wisconsin Rapids on June 13th to take the Amateur Extra ham radio exam. I PASSED!!! I feel so great about it. I can't wait to be able to gather the equipment I need and set up my very own radio shack.

Until next time, Be Safe and Be Blessed!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Loving Spring

Woke up this morning to snow on the ground. Brrr! This is the latest snowfall I've noted since we moved here. Still, it is Spring.

I love Spring. You know, that time of year when buds break on the hardwood trees in colors of new greens and reds, and the conifers sport bright new growth on branch tips. I liken the feathery silver sage on the tamaracks to slender ladies wearing gossamer gowns. Spring is that short time when the cricket frogs chirp in the marshes and the grouse drum on a just right fallen log out in the woods. The humming birds return to fight over red nectar filled feeders, and I listen for new bird songs at the forest edge. The fecund earth is soft from the frost coming out of it, and the wild cherries, hop hornbeam, and elderberry bushes are first to burst into flowery bloom.  I suck Spring into my lungs and want to shout for joy! Earth is new again.

I move slower now because of that dratted ankle I broke last year. I had to buy some different work shoes to accommodate my swollen foot and I am very happy with them. They are not heavy to wear and are very comfortable. The ankle has better support with them and walking around on uneven ground is much easier. Because I am slower, it takes me longer to get work done. I hate that, but I am not young any more and I understand that my reflexes are not as nimble as my mind. It's one reason I haven't had much time for blogging.

I have accomplished a lot though since my last post.  I finally finished boiling down maple sap and got just over a gallon of syrup from six trees. Not a lot, but enough for us and maybe a gift or two. (Dad already has his jar.)

I also made great progress continuing my quest to cut away brush in the fire zone around the house. But my biggest achievement so far is getting the hand pump installed on the house well.

A walk through the forest garden was full of surprises. The gooseberries and the hazelnut bushes look healthy and strong. The red and black currants look great and are loaded with flowers already, and I finally have flowers on one of the Chestnut Crabapple trees. Yeah! The bad news is that my best Haralson apple tree is dead from being completely girdled by mice, and another Smokehouse apple tree died, so I need to find two more apple trees to replace them.  Overall though, the plantings are really starting to take shape and I like the way the garden looks. I finally finished the trellis fence around the forest garden to my satisfaction. When the moon goes into the sign of Cancer I'll plant some hops to climb the new sections. There are grape vines, blackberries, and when the weather is warmer, Old Homestead pole beans, Scarlet Runner beans, and Grandpa Ott's morning glories to keep them company. The fence should look very nice this summer.

I built a herb garden from an old pallet and am transplanting herbs from my herb garden box into it. The soil in the garden box has settled down considerably and needs amending so it is nice to have a new place to put the herbs. The greenhouse is filled with veggies waiting to go in the ground, and this morning I started more seeds in the basement: melons, pole beans, cucumbers, pie pumpkins, sunflowers, and summer and winter squashes. The rest of the veggies will be direct planted outside. Now I need to get out to the field and till the ground for them. Can you tell gardening is on my mind?

How are things going for you in your neck of the woods?

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Winter Time

I have been working like crazy completing unfinished projects that were screaming at me so loudly that I couldn't walk through the house without feeling guilty. So, I sewed a rain poncho with a pattern I bought from Nancy's Notions and a navy blue knit jumper and skirt for Lara; did all the mending; and, I finished my first "real" quilt. Every stitch in that quilt is hand sewn. It is certainly not perfect, but I'm proud of it.

I also straightened out the basement so you can at least walk through it. The next big project (for next winter) is to cut up all the old clothes into strips or fabric squares for future quilts or whatever I think we need. I am definitely going to make Ed a hobo quilt.

The weather has been weird to say the least. This winter has not been as brutal as last year's winter, but it certainly has been cold in a brutal way. That is to say, there has not been much snow, but the cold in the wind has been simply bone chilling. I certainly find the wind hard to tolerate and that is why I've spent so much time indoors this winter.

I'm getting pretty good at making kombucha. Some people say I'm actually making something called "jun" tea because I use green tea and chamomile tea, but I call it kombucha because I use kombucha culture.

My neighbor, Beth, gave me some great crabapple puree and I made a batch of apple fritters with one quart (no picture because they were inhaled as they came out of the frying pan), and I made crabapple brandy with the other quart. It's pretty good!

Beth also sent us a box of citrus from Arizona for Christmas. It was wonderful! I made more fermented lemons (the small jar) with the lemons. As you can see, my big jar from last year is half empty, but looking good still.  As a matter of interest, when I strained my apple brandy I thought it would be a shame to discard the puree, so I decided to make an applesauce cake with it. The recipe called for lemon extract, but instead, I omitted the salt the recipe called for and replaced the lemon extract with one slice of fermented lemon that I first rinsed and soaked for 15 minutes in a bowl of hot water to draw out more salt, then finely minced it before adding it to the batter. Talk about good! The chickens didn't get any of that cake.

My chickipoos started laying in January. That was a real surprise. I didn't expect them to start till February when the days noticeably start to lengthen. But we love eggs around here and eat them all the time. The chickens have handled the winter very well and the ladies like the new next boxes I made them.

 I have been experimenting with the dehydrator Tom bought me for Christmas last year. I bought a book called The Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook and I have to say that my interest in dehydrating is definitely piqued. The quart jar on the left hold FOUR big bunches of celery and it's only half full! The jar on the right was all the small onions I planted after I got off crutches last summer. I plan to use that dehydrator a lot this year.

Our Ed turned 28 and Tom's birthday is right around the corner. I just can't believe how fast the time flies. It's also a year now since I broke my ankle.

Oh, I have to tell you about the fireball I saw today! As I was locking up the chickens for the night (about 5:00 p.m.) I looked up at the sky and in the WSW I saw what looked like a big comet, tail and all. It was SO bright. Then I realized the object was actually falling to earth. I watched it for a minute or so before it dawned on me to run and get my camera to try to get a movie of it. I thought to send it to The Weather Channel. Of course, by the time I found my camera and got back outside, the object had disappeared behind clouds and I didn't see it again. It seemed pretty big although far away from our location, and I waited a while expecting to feel at least a gust of wind from its impact, but nothing came. I don't know what happened to the object. It was pretty exciting to watch and I wonder if any ham radio operators were able to catch some contacts on the scatter.

I have seedlings growing in the basement, and trees and seeds on order. I'll tap a few maple trees in a day or so and start boiling down sap soon. And I'm still studying for my Amateur Extra ham license. I sure hope to be able to take the exam this year.  All in all, I cannot say that I've been bored this winter.

May you all be safe and well!

Friday, January 02, 2015

Another Year

We had a quiet end to this difficult year, and I have to admit - again - that I am not sorry to see it end.  The old ones are starting to leave us; friends are failing in health; we are slowing down considerably, too; and illness -- sometimes serious --  seems to want to be adopted into the family. All the year's troubles made holiday memories more precious.  I will hate to take down the Christmas tree.

Reflection seems to be appropriate at this slower time of year, and I receive a great deal of personal strength from meditating while being out in Nature. For example, on several evenings this Fall while going to shut up the chickens for the night, I was thrilled to see little brown bats flitting above me in the dusk. They were starting their Fall migration. It was something I had never seen and the sight filled me with wonder. Their presence on the farm, even if they were only passing through, was like a blessing. Such a small happening, but it filled my soul with joy, and such events never fail to feed my thirst to understand God's Creation and express His Goodness in whatever I do. (If you're an atheist like my husband, just ignore that last sentence.)

In keeping with my reticence, I find myself doing a lot of reading these days. I am still studying for my Amateur Extra ham radio license, and am riveted by The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.  I bought some of Dr. Richard Alan Miller's books: The Modern Alchemist, ESP Induction Through Forms of Self-Hypnosis, Power Tools for the 21st Century and the accompanying Workbook. I bought a fascinating new cookbook by Hilary Boynton and Mary G. Brackett called The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet. And for Christmas I bought from Chelsea Green Publishers (they had a great sale) The Organic Seed Grower, The Sugarmaker's Companion, and Integrated Forest Gardening.

The tasks on my To-Do list are starting to scream at me. But I have to say I would much rather look up from reading a book to watch the finches, pine siskins, chickadees, and woodpeckers on my bird feeders than work in my basement.

I hope all of you made precious memories over the holiday season. Believe it or not, you are all part of mine! Keep safe, and Be Well!