2010 in review

To my readers:  Thank YOU for making 2010 my most popular year to date!  I have many blogs already churning in my head for 2011, so I hope you’ll stop back by to see what’s going on.  Here is some statistics that WordPress emailed me.  My favorite search that pulled up my blog?  “Cat boogers”. That just says it all, doesn’t it?:

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 3,900 times in 2010. That’s about 9 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 45 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 88 posts. There were 134 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 86mb. That’s about 3 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was June 22nd with 83 views. The most popular post that day was About Me.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were maryjanesfarm.org, google.com, facebook.com, backyardchickens.com, and mail.yahoo.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for my little country, fertile chicken egg, cat boogers, peaches, and animal eggs.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

About Me December 2008
6 comments

2

I LOVE EGGS (and chickens, too)! April 2010
11 comments

3

Where’s Wayward? May 2010
1 comment

4

The Country Pantry February 2010
1 comment

5

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished June 2010
1 comment

Let it snow…

…on my blog.  Well, it’s a pretty cute little ‘extra’ that WordPress offers.  Hope you like it, too.  If not, you only have to deal with it until January 4th, when it turns off automatically.

Well, so today I picked about 3 pounds of jalapenos.  Not bad for only 2 plants in early December, huh?  I found a recipe in Better Homes & Garden’s “You CAN Can” book for Sweet Jalapeno rings.  I’m hoping they will turn out crunchy and sweet-hot.  If so, I will share the recipe. Also going to make some Jalapeno jelly with the leftover peppers.  Anyhoo, tonight it’s going to get down to about 27, so hopefully I’ll have peppers left in the morning. However, we have had several freezes without too much damage.

I am still using the winter gardening methods as described by Eliot Coleman in his “Four Season Harvest” book.  If you don’t own it, BUY IT.  Fortunately here in TX, we can get away (mostly) with covering the plants with a ‘low tunnel’ AKA mini-greenhouse.  Tonight, I also threw some old comforters on top of the potato and pepper tunnels.  So far, it has worked like a charm.  I just pray that my taters don’t freeze before I can harvest them.  What a shame that would be.

Well, until next time!

Busier than a one legged cat

Well, as we all know, fall is an insane time of year.  After Halloween, my days turn into minutes and before I know it, it’s the New Year.  I have spent the last few weeks baking and preserving and doing all THAT.  I decided a few weeks ago to finally clean out our deep freeze and actually do something with the many bags of juice and tomatoes that I had.  So, with the blackberry juice and the blueberry juice, I made some jelly.  This time around, I used a new type of pectin:

I think that maybe I just bought it because I loved the box.  Seriously, I wanted a low-sugar pectin and had read about this type (low-methoxyl).  It’s very easy to use and causes your jelly to set up rather quickly.  In fact, it gels so well that I should have reduced the amount of pectin called for, since it made my jelly have a ‘jelled cranberry sauce’ consistency.  Anyway, the results were delicious, so who cares?

Here’s the jelly coming to a boil.  I love that color.  Sigh.

Then, a few weeks before that, we had our first ‘freeze’.  Hahaha.  Joke’s on me.  It didn’t really freeze, but since I thought it was going to, I harvested all of my peppers:

As you can see, it was quite a bit.  We were in a hurry, so we threw it all on a tablecloth in my kitchen.  Next came a few hours of chopping and freezing.  Anyway, I’m gonna brag about my peppers here since I have never really grown any great bell peppers.  This year was different.  I got my best peppers in September and October (they were planted in April). Best variety this year?  “Jupiter”, hands down.  I plan on planting lots of those next year!

My biggest bell, a Jupiter:

Trust me, it was a biiig pepper,  even if it was only 4 inches.  Oh well.  I won’t make any lewd jokes here.  So, what are the secrets of growing good bells?  Picking a good variety, fertile soil, and keeping them well-watered.  Not WET, mind you, but in high summer when the leaves droop a bit, your butt had better be out there giving them some water.  Otherwise, the walls of your peppers will be paper thin and pathetic.  You know, like mine were last year.  Moving on…

Mmmmmmm.  Cinnamon rolls.  Who doesn’t love fresh rolls?  I made so many a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t want to look at another roll, or even eat one.  For a great recipe, you can go to Allrecipes, and search for ‘Clone of a Cinnabon‘.  I used the icing from that recipe, but for the actual bread, I used their ‘Sweet Dinner Roll‘ recipe.  Why?  Well, I found that the Sweet Dinner Roll recipe is extremely easy to do and also extremely versatile.  Plus, I memorized it.  And maybe to a lesser degree, I was offended that the ‘Clone’ recipe calls for MARGARINE.  That’s like a slap in the face. Sure, sure, I know I could substitute butter, but….

Mmmmm.

Well, so that’s what I have been up to.  That and the winter garden.  But I don’t have any pics for you of that, so it will have to wait.

Now, I will leave you with a picture of my faaaaavorite cornbread…my Mamaw’s recipe. I’ll have to add it to my blog so you can experience it, too.  I love ‘cakey’ cornbread with a little bit of sweet.  I don’t like cornbread that you have to swallow an entire glass of tea with because it’s so dry.

The Amazing Race

Every day, at our house, a most amazing race takes place.  It is not only a battle of speed, but that of stealth and wits.  It is a competition of the minds. We call it……..DUM DUM DUM!

Bathroom: Man Vs. Cat

Some animals sense foreboding danger, such as tornadoes or earthquakes.  Our cat senses your need to ‘go potty’ (more specifically, #2), and his response is to beat you to his litter box so that he may do his ‘thing’ first, while you must suffer the imminent cat poo fumes he produces.

Let me elaborate on the situation.  The cat box is in our bathroom, approximately 2 feet from our potty.  Therefore, should he beat you to the punch, you are forced to suffer by inhaling cat fumes, if you will.

At first, we thought it was a fluke.  Then, we thought his ‘gift’ was sort of funny.  Now, it is nothing short of irritating when you have to try and sneak into the bathroom to do your ‘business’ in peace (and cat fume-free air).  I’d like to say that we outsmart the cat, but I’d be lying to you.  Oh, sure, we TRY to slip into the ‘loo on the sly, but I kid you not, by the time you nonchalantly place a foot outside of the bathroom door, there is a big, furry blur of orange dashing between your feet, and he takes a four foot flying leap into the litter box.  Before you can say, “Crap!”, he has already assumed the position, and is doing just that.  What makes this even more interesting is that Jason has the most sensitive sense of smell out of everyone that I know.   So, there is no way that he and Garfield can possibly occupy the same bathroom while performing the same action, without Jason gagging and possibly losing consciousness.  Now you can see why the bid to get to the bathroom first is so desperate.  And THEN, as if to rub it in, the cat spends the next ten minutes covering his little treasure.  Oh sure, he could cover it in three swipes, but he loves to torture people who have a desperate need to use the facilities.  Never mind that if we happen to not be present during his bathroom break he rarely covers it at all.

So, the other day I was washing dishes when Jason announced “he’d be out in a minute”.  Big mistake.  Before he could shut the bathroom door, Jason grabbed my arm and said, “Just look at this!”.  I peered into the bathroom, and there was Garfield in PC (pooping cat) position, with his eyes half shut.  He looked up at me as if to say, “What?”.  No one can perform that task as non-chalantly as a cat.  In fact, he looked as though he needed some reading glasses and a newspaper.

Anyway, until next time, we’ll be working on beating the cat.  So far: Cat: 421, Man: 2

Two Year Reflection

As of tomorrow, it will be two years since we packed up and moved to the country to begin our semi-self-sufficient life.  I have been thinking about lessons learned and goals I’d like to meet for the future.   It hasn’t always been terribly easy, but it’s never been terribly difficult.  I will be the first to admit that I have been pretty lazy this year with the canning, the gardening, etc.  I think that I pushed so hard that first year, I burned myself out a bit.  So, here are some things I have learned:

1.  It’s very easy to try and do too much, too quickly.  As I learned the hard way with getting in over my head with 12 goats, countless batches of baby chicks, and a mile-long list of projects.  It’s very easy to romanticize country living and get swept up in a farm fantasy life.  Truth is, it’s a lot of hard work and money and a lot of what I did was NOT worth the effort we put into it.   Animals (and plants) need a proper place to go before you bring them home.  And when you do, the work and expense of upkeep has just begun.

2. It’s more difficult than you’d think to live simply.  Initially, it was difficult giving up some of the things I had, but with time I have even sold my own car and have given up television.  I’m now going through a LOT of our ‘stuff’ and either selling or donating it.  Sure makes cleaning up around here easier, too!

3. No matter how much you plan, you’re going to have setbacks.  The goats are going to rip down your fence, the chickens are going to walk right through the 500 dollar fence you just put up to keep them in, or the roof is going to spring 5 new leaks in a downpour.  While it can dampen your spirit, you have to learn to laugh it off.  After Jason spent a week putting up a beautiful new fence to keep our chickens in the orchard, he shut the gate….and the chickens walked right through the wire.  Oops.  I was trying not to laugh (not at his expense, but it just figures!), and he had to stomp off and scream some obscenities at the chickens, but eventually we could both laugh it off.  Besides, they’ve now figured out if they stay in the fence, they’ll get fed, so they try not to stray far.  On a more frightening note, our house almost caught on fire this past February due to old wiring.  Fortunately, it didn’t, but it sure had us put out for several days, both literally and in spirit.  Always expect the unexpected.

4.  Take notes.  Lots of notes.  I have a garden journal that is indispensable.  I have recorded which vegetables and fruits do best, when they were planted and when they produced, and the location of each.  This will provide me with invaluable information for each growing season.  Every time I have neglected to write something down, it’s bit me in the butt.

5.  Read, read, read, and then read some more.  Our local library is such a great place for information.  If I find a book that I really need to keep on my shelf, I buy it used from Amazon.  The internet has a huge amount of great information.  If you haven’t done something, chances are, someone else has, so learn from them!

6.  Plan ahead without getting ahead of yourself.  There are so many things that I WANT to do.  I’d love to get into aquaponics, breed Cayuga ducks and heritage chickens, and do some terrace gardening on the back side of our house.  However, the reality is this: I’m busy as it is raising 2 kids and taking care of what we have now.  So, the current plan is to become debt free, then repair this house (by paying cash).  After that, who knows?  But for now, that’s the plan and I’m trying to do my best to stick with it.

Well, those are just a few things that I’ve learned out here on the farm, but I think they’re among the most important.  The last thing I would tell you is to laugh a LOT.  Laugh at yourself and at your own mistakes.

Junk in my Trunk

Once again, I made my semi-annual pilgrimage to Canton Trade Days, which is a HUGE flea market.  Without a doubt, it would literally take days to fully shop Canton, and it gets bigger every year.  As we did last year, we went again this past Friday as an early birthday present for myself.

This year, I have decided to spare Jason from Dog Alley (the only part of Canton where animal sales are allowed), since he absolutely would rather eat his toenails than walk through it.  Anyway, we headed on back to the unreserved section, which is, by far, my absolute favorite.

Need an antique wagon wheel?  We got it.  Need a Picayune Creole’s cookbook from 1945? Got it.  Need an orange payphone from the 70s? A Howdy Doody doll, or an entire coyote skin?  Check, check, ANNNNNND check. I’m telling you, if you want it, they HAVE IT.  Somewhere, someone at Canton will have what you’re looking for.  And, a cardinal rule is, if you see what you are looking for and think the price is a little high, KEEP ON WALKING.  Because, inevitably, unless the item is extremely rare, someone on the next row will have it for a lot less.

Take into consideration a vintage coffee grinder.  Ever since seeing one being used to grind spices in my favorite magazine, I knew I had to have one.  I am seriously insane about vintage kitchen utensils.  I mean, just loopy.  I have to force myself not to buy any that I know I won’t really use.  You know, like the vintage ice grinders I found.  (I mean, what would I use them for?  To crush ice for Jason’s martinis when he gets in from work?  With me standing there in my pearls and heels?)  So, I was on the hunt for this coffee grinder.  Well, I found three at one booth.  What a deal!  They had the cast iron grinding mechanism, and looked to be in good shape.  BUT, they were about 30 dollars each.  Now, that isn’t expensive at all considering they have made it this long in good condition, but I was sure I could find them somewhere else for less.  I walked on for about another hour and a half.  No more grinders. It was time to go, and Jason asked me if I wanted to turn around and go ask the vendor if he would accept less, when suddenly, I turned around, and there it was.  A beam of light pierced the clouds and shone upon MY vintage coffee grinder.  Better yet, it highlighted the prominently displayed price tag, which was for a mere $8.50!  I snatched up the grinder and held it above my head.  Eureka!  My search was over!  The Junk Hunter’s dream!  Granted, it wasn’t the nice cast iron like the others, but it was good enough for me.

I also ended up getting a clamp-style mini grinder for soapmaking as well as an old-fashioned meat grinder.  I’m not sure what it was about grinders last Friday, but I am now the proud owner of three more!  Who knows.

Canton is full of its own characters, as well.  Usually, the buyers are the most interesting to watch, and yet, you still have some reeeeeally interesting vendors, too.  Now, there are your more ‘normal’ vendors, like Doorknob Bob, who has an unending supply of doorknobs and vintage glass pulls, but then you also have folks like Superman.

Now, we’re not talking about Clark Kent here (in fact, I think that Canton Superman’s alter-ego is called “Alan”).  No, no, this is far more interesting and entertaining.  I met Superman earlier this year when I went junking in the spring.  Superman takes every opportunity to engage any person passing his booth (whether on foot, or even in vehicle) in conversation.  And, to boot, Superman is always wearing something interesting.  This time, it looked like an old band uniform hat.  What is even more interesting is that Canton Superman looks like someone you would be pretty wary of.  I mean, he could use a good shave and a really good haircut.  Judging by looks alone, he looks like he would be a frequent flier at the trashiest bar imaginable, BUT, now, that’s just going by looks, and we shouldn’t do that, right?  Well, at least not most of the time.  Anyway, I’m pretty sure that his parents must have been either carnies or perhaps snake oil salesmen.

“Hey there, little lady, now come on in!  I don’t charge for lookin’!”

“Well now, you dig you somethin’ outta that box there, I won’t charge ya’ an arm and a leg…I don’t want to take this junk home!  Oh, now you just get a handful and I’ll charge ya’ a dollar.”

“Hey, hey!  Well, now that you bought something, you are a reee-peat customer!  You come on back next time and see Superman, and I’ll give you the reee-peat Superman customer discount!”

(to people in a passing truck)  “Hey there, now!  I don’t charge no extra for people in cars!  Y’all come on in and find ya’ somethin!”

He also has poems and sings little ditties, unfortunately none of which I can remember.  I’m not sure what is more entertaining; watching Superman ham it up or the people’s reaction to him.  An older woman approached his tables and he shouted out, “Hey there, now!”

She looked up as if to say, “Who, me?”  Her face was completely bewildered at the sight of this slightly unstable looking individual in a funny hat coming towards her.  Her grip on her bag tightened.

“Oh, now!  Now come on in here and find ya’ somethin’!  Ol’ Superman always has somethin’ for everybody!”

She looked unconvinced and actually, a little terrified.

“Ok, let me see your license, maybe I can give you a Superman discount.”

She took a step back and stammered something, but he kept on going.  I was laughing too hard (internally) to watch anymore.  After all, I was standing right next to her and didn’t want to laugh right in her face.

I had to walk off to keep from bursting out laughing.  I looked down by my feet and there was the most pseudo-terrible painting ever.  I would call it a nude painting, but that’s not really it.  These people are clearly nekkid.  And blue.  And highlighted with day-glo yellow and orange.  Fortunately, their heads were not in the painting but unfortunately their naughty bits were.  I mean, the….artist was clearly showcasing a part/pair of the male anatomy which is typically not showcased.  And, for darn good reason.

See?  Canton really does have it all.

Makin’ Soap/Savin’ money

So, the other day I had the opportunity to watch my friend make soap from scratch using the cold-process method.  This means that she takes fats (i.e. coconut oil, palm oil, vegetable oil), combines them with lye/water mixture, and saponification (the process by which soap is made) occurs.  Fascinated by the process, but not brave enough to work with lye, I looked at different ways to make homemade soap.

One method, which I can’t wait to try, is called hand-milled soap.  You buy a plain white bar of soap (and it MUST say soap on the package, otherwise it’s actually detergent!), you grate it up, mix it with a little water, add your own ingredients such as essential oils, etc., and then pour it into molds.  It is ready to use pretty much as soon as it cools, unlike cold-process soap which takes several weeks to properly cure.  Plus, you don’t have to deal with lye.  I mean, after all, I am a person who frequently falls down stairs and trips over her own feet.  Handling a caustic chemical probably isn’t the best decision for me!

Anyway, the other method I looked into was how to make your own liquid soap.  Since I had everything I needed to make this (soap and water), I decided to go with that.  So, here’s what you do:

How to make Liquid Soap

Now, I did not want to funk up my blender with soap bits, so I put the soap/water mix into a big Pyrex bowl, which I had set in a larger pot 1/2 filled with water on the stove (homemade double boiler).  To mix it up, I used the drink mixer attachment on my hand mixer.  You don’t want to try and do this with a spoon because it will take FOREVER for the soap to dissolve.  The only downside to using the mixer is that the soap mixture does get pretty sudsy, though this resolves a bit after it cools and rests.  My only mistake was not using a spatula to clean the sides of the bowl while I was mixing, thus, little annoying unmelted soap bits remained, so I seriously doubt it would work well in a pump!  BUT, that’s operator error.  Another thing you can do is grate the soap, then mix it with a cup or two of water and let it sit overnight to soften the soap really well so it will blend better.

Here’s my pictorial for y’all:

First, gather thy ingredients and supplies.  The soap is in the little plastic bowl.  I used 5 drops of tea tree and about 8 drops of tangerine oil, added at the last stage of the process, when the soap is completely dissolved and all water has been added.

Get your double boiler readyI used low heat.

Here is the soap after I have blended it just a bit.  You can see that it is still not well-dissolved, so back to the mixer for me.

The end product.  It will have the consistency of yogurt/pudding.  You don’t want it so thick it won’t work in the pump though.  After I stuck my hand in it, I realized there was still more clumps.  Boo hoo!

So there you go, yet another way to save some money!

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