Another way to look at weeds

If you have ever gardened, it’s a known fact that if you don’t cover the soil with something (like mulch), God will cover it for you. Normally, this will be done with weeds.

But what is a weed, anyway? It is simply a plant in a place where you don’t want it. They are certainly not all bad, and in fact, many are very nutritious for us. We can look at them with utter hatred, or we can choose to make something positive of the situation. In my case, I see them as free chicken food from Mother Earth. Or, as I call them collectively, “chicken salad”. Every day, I have been going out to get my sunshine dosage (more on that later…I get seasonal affective disorder, I am pretty sure), and as I’m basking in that wonderful warmth, I silently thank God for each weed. Each one helps my little flock to stay healthy through the winter, and in turn, they produce healthier eggs for my family. This makes us healthier, too.
I think far too much when I’m weeding.

I think how weeds, just like the obstacles and trials in our own lives, can either be met with contempt, or they can be used to better us; to strengthen us. We may not be able to choose whether or not we get a yard full of weeds, but we can choose the attitude in which we greet them. As it is with life, our attitude towards the negative things we encounter is our choice

Now go out there, put on a big smile, and pull up some chicken salad. Happy Thanksgiving, friends. 

It’s sew nice to craft again! Or, “The Doll Chronicles”

Over the weekend, for the first time in about two years, I was able to sew to my heart’s content. Jason was out with a friend on Thursday, so it gave me the opportunity to crank up some Steely Dan on Amazon Music and get to work. 

May it be said that as a young child, I wasn’t doll-crazy. I had dolls, but it was stuffed animals that I was obsessed with. Do you remember Kaybee Toys in a mall near you? If you lived close to Tyler, TX, we had one. Remember the giant stuffed snakes that were suspended on the ceiling? If you ever wondered what weird kid would actually want a giant stuffed snake, now you know one. His name was Jake The Snake, and I used to curl him up into a giant “O” and sleep in the middle. But back to my point.

I wasn’t a girly girl and so I didn’t have very much to do with dolls. However, God sent me a doll-obsessed child. And this child wanted an American Girl doll more than anything. Now, AG dolls ain’t cheap, and this Mama is frugal. So, her first 18 inch doll was of the Target (Tahr-zhay) variety. As far as I could tell, she was quite similar to an AG doll and there are tons of little cute accessories you can choose. But after some time, her hair became crazy. Like, rat’s-nest crazy. I managed to straighten it some with Internet tips, but it wasn’t ever the same as straight out of the box. Still, I reasoned, a doll is a doll, and this one cost about $80 less than a bona fide AG doll. 

Then, after a year or two of begging, we all visited the AG doll store in Dallas. Look, people. I am trying my best not to be materialistic, and then I walk into  THIS PLACE. The Mecca of Materialism. Not only are the dolls fantastic, but they have the most incredible accessories ever! A crock pot? Got it. An entire 1930’s era canning set, complete with water canner? It’s there. A 1960’s Volkswagen Beetle with real rubber tires and plays songs? Yours for only 350 smackers. Does your doll have potentially life-threatening food/insect allergies? Don’t worry, she’s safe with the optional epinephrine kit. I’m not kidding. 

It was, in a single word, amazing. Oh, and the AG dolls’ hair? It’s fabulous. Like human hair fabulous. They even have a doll styling studio and a café in-house. You can have a birthday there. Ah yes, and there are doll holders in the bathroom stalls… yes. Annnd, the tiles in the bathroom and the party area are awesomely glittery. 

So anyway, that Christmas we splurged on Kit, the doll whose era is the 1930s. You can only imagine the excitement that day! That has been about three years ago and Kit is still played with, and I will add that her hair still looks like she was just released from her box. 

Being a frugal mom, I can only do “splurge-y” gifts like that every few years, though. Otherwise, it really sucks the fun out of the season for me. This year, I decided to give Kit some new duds. Rather, I decided to MAKE Kit some new ones. So, here are the results of a kid-free weekend! Hope you enjoy. Oh yes, and Kit has a buddy now: Zoe the doll. You did know that dolls need friends, right? Just like you shouldn’t keep a single horse or goat, you probably need a doll friend. Or so I was told. No, I didn’t buy Zoe, if you were wondering!

Zoe modeling a vintage-styled dress, trimmed in ric-rack:

Market bag, because all girls need a good bag!

Market bag and wallet detail. Bag is also reversible. I will add a snap to the wallet.

A jumper made with some $1.99/yd. fabric that I just got and some vintage ric-rack that I picked up at a yard sale like four years ago!

Lastly, a patchwork skirt made from a Moda mini charm pack that was languishing in a sack in my craft room:

Keep this on the down-low, though! I had to hide all of my evidence to keep it secret until Christmas morning! 

Back soon with another post. Until then…

Attack of the Purple Carrot

So the other day, my kids begged me for some homemade chicken and dumplings. I LOVE chicken and dumplings (or, as we can them: C&Ds), but sadly, Jason and I are on a low carb diet at the moment and we can’t really partake in one of our favorites. Still, it’s an easy enough recipe and my kids begged me enough that I gave in. I decided that now was a good time to teach them how to boil a chicken, since so many recipes begin with a simple boiled chicken and veggies.

Now, we happen to be involved in a food co-op that comes once a month. They offer a mixed vegetable and fruit box that we really enjoy. It introduces us to some things that we might have otherwise not tried on our own. For example, I found that I love kohlrabi and I hate radicchio. (Tip: Do not mistake radicchio for a red cabbage and make coleslaw out of it… In fact, don’t eat that crap at all because it’s horrid, bitter, and will only come in handy if you were starving and it was the only thing left on planet Earth to eat. Same with arugula, but anyway.) Well, this month’s box contained a very dark purple carrot. And when I boil my chicken I add carrots to the mix. So, the kids and I chopped up said purple carrot and I was pleased that it was very sweet. We added onion, celery, a few more carrots, and a sack of leg quarters to the pot and let it come to a boil. Then I turned it to a simmer for about an hour.

 When I opened the lid, I was shocked at what I saw:

My delicious homemade chicken broth was purple. Freaking Grimace/Barney/Dino/Grape Ape purple. Chicken broth is NOT SUPPOSED TO BE PURPLE. The Mom Fail alarms were going off in my head. Would my kids eat this? This eight pounds of oddly lilac chicken legs?

 When I took the legs from the pot, the skin was also, indeed, a scary shade of lavender and frankly it made my stomach turn. I forced myself to eat a bite to reassure my little pea brain that color really wasn’t an issue. It was very tasty. I continued to make the dumplings and added them to the grape juice-ish broth. When they were done, it looked like this:

It was a great recipe gone terribly wrong. Fortunately, my kids called it “Halloween dumplings” and wolfed it down, praise baby Jesus. And I learned my lesson: Never add a purple carrot to a soup unless you enjoy a Crayola-colored broth that makes you a little nauseated to look at it. 

But the story doesn’t end there… Oh no, because God has a great sense of humor. As if it weren’t enough that my stew looked the way it did, I was getting something out of the fridge the next night and moved the tub of C&Ds to get some milk. Suddenly, the tub flew out of the refrigerator one way and the lid went sailing the other. Ice-cold purple dumpling and chicken bits were now running down the freezer handle, under the fridge, on my clothes, and most disgusting of all, in-between my toes. 

What else could I do but burst out laughing? My kids thought I had lost it. Maybe I had. This stew had been damned from its creation, so it was only proper that it ended up covering me and half of my kitchen floor. 

Beware the purple carrots, friends. You have been warned. 

Ch-ch-ch-changes! Or: How to keep your sanity

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Woman A vs. Woman B:

Woman A is always feeling rushed. Her day starts later than she’d like and she is up well past midnight most nights. She has many obligations to others and hates to let people down. Consequently, she has less time for her own household. Her garden is….wait. There is no garden this year because she missed all the planting times and besides, who has time for pulling weeds? Crafts sit in lonely baskets unfinished. Sewing…are you kidding? When can one find the time for THAT? Several months of magazines and books patiently wait to be read. Who has time for reading? Dust and clutter silently build up in forgotten corners. The house itself needs minor maintenance, but when will the free time come to do repairs or a good spring cleaning? After all, currently there is no wiggle room in Woman A’s schedule for any more activities. She is a day late, a dollar short, and several pounds heavier than she would like. At night, she collapses on the couch, exhausted, and spends several hours online on social media, reading, and basically escaping her busy world.

Woman B rises in the morning well-rested. She gets dressed in an outfit she chose the night before, then she makes the bed. Because she is up earlier than her household, she has time to enjoy her coffee and think about the day. She feeds the dogs and plans today’s breakfast. Each day has an assigned task: Mondays are light housekeeping days (one hour), Tuesdays mean it’s time to clean the refrigerator, use up leftovers, and plan the next week’s meals. It is also a day to work on her budget and balance the checkbook. Wednesdays are her ‘free time days’, so she can spend her extra time as she wishes (usually by reading or gardening). Thursdays are errand days, so this is a day for any appointments, post office trips, grocery trips, etc. She is sure to schedule any of the family’s appointments for Thursdays to keep car trips to a minimum. Fridays are another light housekeeping day (one hour), and a day to clean out her purse and car. All of these things are done in the morning and she is done by lunch. Saturdays are family days, and Sundays are days used for self-reflection and enjoyable tasks. Woman B can easily say “No” to invitations and activities that leave her feeling stressed or too “stretched out”.

For many years, I was Woman A. Though I am not yet fully Woman B, I am getting there as fast as I can. Before, I was always tired and I felt run-down. I had obligations to others outside my family that simply took a lot of time from the people who mean the most to me. These were self-imposed, of course. I hadn’t read a book in months or maintained a nice garden for a few years, and those are two of my favorite activities. My crafts were shoved into long-forgotten dusty baskets. Where was the farm girl who used to sew, crochet, and knit? The one who canned tomatoes and jam like clockwork every year? She was buried under her own choices; choices that ultimately took away her time and energy from the things that she truly loved.

I think that so many of us women are like the proverbial chicken running around without its head. We say yes to a lot of things, and many, mind you, are GOOD things, if not even GREAT things, but if it means ending up with us burning the candle at both ends, is it really worth it? In one word: NO. We end up stressed out, gulping down wine and chocolate (in my case, endless chips and dip), and feeling like we are stuck in a huge rut with no time for things that we truly enjoy.

The most powerful word in the universe is “NO”. I encourage anyone who is seriously stressing out to practice using it! It is not always easy, because the requests may be for a great cause. However, we can very quickly “yes” ourselves right into a nervous breakdown/major burnout if we allow it. Granted, there are seasons in our lives where things may be naturally more hectic. There are times when things will be crazy by no fault of our own. That’s life, after all. But I am concentrating on those times when we have a choice…when we could have said no and avoided the insanity that ensues.

It’s difficult to decline invitations and offers, but before I answer, I think of my family. The two little people that I helped to create, and the older one that I chose to spend my days with. If my ‘yes’ means it will ultimately take away from the relationships with those three, then I am going to answer no. It hasn’t been easy to do, because I feel that I have let some people down, but I also know that I did what is best for myself and my little people.

Have you ever felt like you have taken on too much? And if so, what have you done to correct that? I really want to know.

If you enjoy reading, the book “The Best Yes” by Lysa Terkeurst is a very nice read about this very subject. She is a Christian author, however the book is not what you would call ‘preachy’. Rather, it is full of good examples from her own life and Biblical quotes.

Last of all, Woman A likely would not have noticed this lovely constrast of her Le Marne roses and Chinese pistache as she would have been rushing out the back door.

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He promised me a rose garden…

When Jason and I got married, I told him to not send me cut flowers. More specifically, no cut roses. Give me a rosebush instead. After all, a rosebush will last for years, and cut flowers just a few days! I finally created a rose garden I like. I had a nice one when we lived in town, but not one since we have lived on the farm. I’ll give you a quick tour!

 Let’s start with the least impressive picture, lol. This is the first of two new rose gardens I have. They have only been in this place for about 2-3 months, so the plants haven’t had much time to fill in. 

Now for the individual plants! First, let’s start with one of my new favorites, Mutabilis. This is an old variety that gets quite large. The flowers start off almost white like this:

And then finish off dark pink like this:

And did you notice the Buckeye butterfly that was kind enough to let me take its picture? Well, here’s another. Usually, I have the hardest time getting quality butterfly photos, but I think this little guy was drying its wings.

Another lovely rose is a hybrid tea called “Electron”. This is what I call Jason’s “birthday rose”. I got everyone a rose that was either introduced or won an award the year they were born. Electron was an AARS winner the year he was born. Here it is:

Now we come to my birthday rose: Trumpeter. It is a floribunda type and was released the year I was born. It is a short little thing, but has the most magnificent neon red blooms:

Probably nine or ten years ago, I did some plant swapping with a woman through some internet group. I don’t remember her name, but she gave me this rose and told me she had gotten it from someone in Mississippi. So, I call it the Mississippi rose. It’s a prolific bloomer, and even though it has very little fragrance, I love the cute little blooms!

And that is certainly not all my roses, but those are the most decent ones for now. I also have Duchesse de Brabant, The Fairy, Tropicana, Le Marne, Don Juan, Hot Cocoa, Rainbow’s End, and many more that I can’t remember the names of right now. All of my roses have to be easy to keep. I don’t spray for anything, so they are on their own! 

Thanks for stopping by!

Front Yard Do-Over (Again)

August 2008: This is the front yard the day we bought the farmhouse. To the left there is a holly tree, which we immediately removed since: A. I don’t like giant holly trees and B. It had a huge hole in the trunk and would be weak anyway. On the right was an odd little tree that resembled a ginkgo. It was not a ginkgo, but we did end up removing it for some reason or other. Normally, we don’t take down trees at all, but…

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March 2009: Where the front garden all began. You can see that we fenced it in and were in the process of doing raised beds. There are lettuces, broccoli, onions, and cabbages planted here. What you may also see is that we did not remove the grass, which turned out to be a VERY BAD decision. I assure you, you will NOT WIN when battling Bermuda grass. Do yourself a favor, save your sanity and START WITH A BLANK SLATE.

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May 2009: You can see that the lettuces and broccoli are done. The cabbages, as you might notice, are completely eaten up by cabbageworms. Hurrah. Not. Also note that we had a nice watering system that misted all of the beds. Also note that the grass is growing at a rapid pace.

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January 2011: If you read my yearly reflections, you will know that I am always saying to live simply and not take on more than you can handle. Well, here I am, not following my own advice. Even though my front garden was crazy with grass and not well kept, I decided to plow up and landscape even MORE yard! Go me!

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August 2012: Three years of battling Bermuda grass has driven us to the breaking point. It has invaded my beds and even grown into some of the wood. We have the tractor in place to remove the raised beds and we ended up burning them. It was a happy/sad day!

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Here is the front space that we created back in 2011. I seeded it with a wildflower mix and a poppy mix. See the lovely grapevine on the fence? Something ate its roots not long after this photo was taken and the entire plant collapsed in two days. I still weep for that grapevine. This is early summer, 2013.

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These beds were also seeded with wildflowers. You can see my onion patch here, too.

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June, 2013: You can see that the grasses have been trying to grow back. Also, note the blackberry bush in the lower left corner. It honestly made the nastiest blackberries I have ever had the displeasure of eating. They had to be dead ripe to get any sugary taste, and even then, it left your mouth with a bitter taste. Gag. It was labeled as Rosborough. Nope, never again. I finally tore it out in 2016.

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Shpring has shprung! This is April 2014. I love the wildflowers, but they are just hiding the fact that I don’t really want to deal with the yard at this point. Trust me, there are a ton of grasses in there that are already seeding…

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April 2015, from our bedroom window. Love love love me some irises!

 

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A favorite orange variety, given to me by an old schoolmate! I adore this iris and it is very hardy. I divided it this year (2016), so I hope for a LOT more!  In the background, you can see oregano, then Lamb’s Ears, and….more irises!

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Spring 2015:

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Looking awfully grassy out there….No garden beds 😦

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June 2016: The Brown-eyed Susans and Indian blanketflowers were absolutely insane this year. True, I had no real gardening beds (other than those right by the house), but I couldn’t tear these out…yet.

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September 2016: The breaking point that has built up for eight long years! It’s time to do this dadgum yard RIGHT! One of the major issues was that it was never properly leveled, so you were always walking up or down a slope. After a few hours’ deliberation and some quick sketches, Jason and I decided to do this right so we NEVER HAVE TO RE-DO THIS AGAIN. Time for the “reno”!

First, you take a backhoe:

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And you start to work on the leveling. It is really impossible to tell here, but that little scrape-out is about 3 foot tall or so! And then…

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You raze that sucker and get it as flat as a pancake! Notice, almost no weeds…Praise the Lord!

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We left this cornerpost because it supports a big climbing rose I have. The apple tree is actually going to be removed as sadly, it is too blighted to keep. Darn it.

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And, welcome to our desert garden!

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Now, for this shot, I had to get in the bucket of the backhoe and Jason lifted me up. Did I mention that I HATE heights! Whew. The asparagus bed to the far right was removed and we put it along the newly created arch next to the driveway. I call this garden the “Salad Bowl” because of its shape!

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Here you can see that bowl-shape I was talking about. And here we have laid out our beds to run east to west. I can see everything from my front porch! Woohoo!

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All my cute little beds…

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To keep me from losing my mind, we gathered all the pine straw we could to cover up the sand. I wish you could have seen how much came in through my front door in that first week…yuck. I hate a sandy floor! And you can also see the four ornamental beds I have created in the very front of my house. We used logs from our woods to make the edging. It’s still a work in progress, but I did relocate almost all of my roses to the beds on the left, and then a lot of irises to the bed on the right. The crepe myrtle coming up in the bed was a volunteer. We have more baby crepe myrtles than anyone I’ve ever seen. We have relocated many to the chicken coop and some more to the front yard. This particular one is a nice pink color. I have no clue where it came from!

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Sanity has been restored! Here we are in October 2016! It’s pretty amazing because so much has already grown up in the two weeks since I took this picture.The roses have really started filling out, and I planted tons of bulbs and some daylilies.

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I hope you enjoyed the tour through time! If you take away anything, just remember that Bermuda grass is the devil and you’d better rip all that hot mess out before you get to planting! And yes, it goes deep underground. Had we done that to begin with, I’d have a really lovely eight year old garden now. Oh well! Live and learn!!!

Until next time!

Buffy

Good morning, dah-links!  Just out of curiosity, how old is your oldest chicken?

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This is Buffy, the Buff Orpington. Very original name, I know. We bought her with a group of 25 other Buffies in 2009 when we raised them for a friend. So, she is now 7.5 years old. Now I know many people butcher old hens, but you have to realize that Buffy isn’t a hen. At least, SHE doesn’t think so. As a young pullet, she hated to be with the flock. Wherever the flock was, Buffy was not. She stayed as far away from everyone as she possibly could.

One morning, before we had good chicken fences, I heard a knock at the front door. I peered out of the door window. No one was there. Another tiny knock. Again, no one could be seen. Suddenly, at the window, there appeared a little golden chicken head and she knocked on the glass. Of course, we had to let her in at that point. Here was a hen who knew what she wanted in life.

Several times at dusk, when I went to close up the coop, Buffy was missing. I always dreaded the thought of finding handfuls of golden feathers and Buffy bits scattered on the lawn. But no, there she was, roosting in a woodpile. Or on a truck. Or in our shop. Buffy is not one for conventionality.

In March of 2015, she decided she wanted to become a mother. Never before had she wanted to set eggs or even become broody. Mind you, this was at 6 years of age, which is ancient for a chicken. I agreed to let her hatch a single egg to help her achieve her motherhood goal. And a single egg she did hatch! Of course, it turned out to be a rooster (it always is a rooster…), but he did turn out to be gorgeous and she loved mothering him very much. After that, she has yet to become broody again. I guess a single child was all Buffy ever wanted.

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Year 8 revisited

October 18, 2016 marks our eighth year of living on the farm. I can hardly believe it. I can hardly believe that I’ve been writing this blog for seven years now. I often wonder if anyone reads it anymore; of course I don’t do it for fame or fortune, but I do hope it gets a little bit of foot traffic!

So, every year, I try to write about things that we’ve learned over the previous twelve months. Usually, I find that it’s the same thing: Keep good fences. Plant what you eat. Live simply. Learn to laugh at your mistakes. 2016 wasn’t much different, and I’m not sure what I will have to add other than telling you that we are seriously cutting down on debt this year. I know I’ve said it in the past, but we really have gotten much more focused in becoming debt-free. One thing that I have fallen in love with is the so-called “No Spend” months. These are months that I choose (almost always a five week month for us since we are paid weekly) and they consist of no-frill spending and only about $100 on groceries. It takes pre-planning and dedication, but at the end of these months, we have found that we are saving an entire paycheck plus some. This extra goes to our debts. Maybe one day I’ll write more about it, but in the meantime, you can get some ideas here. It truly is quite simple, but again, especially in the food department, it does require pre-planning, and meal planning is a lifesaver here.

So, let’s recap the last twelve months with some pictures! Every year, we try to make it to Arkansas. If you have never been, there is a reason it’s known as the Natural State. It is absolutely gorgeous. Miles and miles of countryside to see. Caves, hot springs, mountains, rivers, lakes…Arkansas has it all. We usually go in spring or fall for the best weather, but be forewarned, these seasons also can be very volatile. Tornadoes and flash flooding are not rare occurrences here, so if you do go, be sure to check the weather forecast!

Once place we went last October was Blanchard Springs. The springs themselves are beautiful, but it is also home to the Blanchard Springs caves. I had never been to a cave before. The beauty of it literally brought tears to our eyes!

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The river that runs through it all…absolutely breathtaking:

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But meanwhile, back on the farm: We caught a hawk! Okay, not true, he caught HIMSELF in our fence while trying to get a chicken. I found him wedged between the chicken wire and the 4 x 4 fencing. Honestly, I thought he was dead. After some very careful manipulation with gloves and a towel, we extracted the little jerk from the fence (he is responsible for all hawk-related chicken deaths over the past year) and we found that he had injured a wing. So, off to the rehabber he went. Although not much larger than a pigeon, this Sharp-shinned hawk ate up about 15 of our birds. They overwinter here. In fact, we’ve already had a hawk attack by one again this fall, so I’m assuming his mate or offspring made it back.

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In November, we had the most adorable baby chicks born. Like, EVER. The especially ‘poofy’ one is “Yin”. And yes, we also had a “Yang”. We still have both, although sadly, their beautiful brother died the following spring.

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Every year, we go to the Homestead Heritage Fair in Waco. This is an absolute MUST if you haven’t been. I really can’t say enough good things about it! Due to torrential rain, they opened it for another weekend. Typically, it’s the weekend immediately following Thanksgiving. We brought home these baby Ameraucana chicks to add to our flock. I am happy to say that we have all but one a year later. They lay beautiful blue eggs.

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February 2016: Because every chicken needs a bonnet:

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And Fran needs a bonnet, too:

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March: It was a banner year for frogs and toads. We had so many pollywogs at the pond, it was black along the edges. Unfortunately, we also had an equal number of bullfrogs born here. I have no clue what will happen to the other frogs now that we have about 900 million huge bullfrogs.

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March also means baby bunnies. Here comes Peter Cottontail!

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The lazy flock of Silkies:

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I told you the bullfrogs are huge!

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Spring also brings out the snakes. This is a copperhead that we relocated. Yes, they are venomous.

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This summer brought the most insane number of Indian Blanket flowers I’ve ever seen. These all came up on their own without being reseeded:

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And naturally, flowers bring butterflies. We have SO MANY this year!

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Summer also brings mulberries! Delicious!

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Summer also brings us…TOMATOES!

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Because we had two ‘rainy’ years, the crepe myrtles and all things that flower were absolutely stunning this year! I have never seen them bloom like this before.

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The front yard in June:

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To catch a snake:

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And toads. Toads everywhere!!!

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Beautiful summer skies of July. We had some very dry months (including this October…ugh), and then some crazy wet ones! That’s East Texas for ya.

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Creating a ‘classics’ shelf in my mini-library, complete with a Brussels Griffon look-a-like a la Hobby Lobby:

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Ribbon snakes on the farm!

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Life is good for this eleven year old Mastiff:

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And this eight year old Brussels Griffon:

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Well folks, that about wraps up the last year! I’ll post again about the major yard renovation, but it’s time for me to refresh my (very cold) coffee. I hope you enjoyed the farm visit with us!

Stay golden…

You say,’tomato’, I say ‘Let’s can-o’

A few weeks ago, I called my friend Big Rig and I told her that if  I didn’t get a box of tomatoes soon, they’d all be gone. And this would be the third year in a row that I haven’t canned a thing other than pickles. Cause I GOTS to have my homemade pickles. Nothing else even comes close.

But then again, nothing else comes close to home-canned ‘maters, either. Even remotely. And especially my favorite: Stewed tomatoes with celery, onion, and bell peppers. Pop the lid and it’s Heaven in a jar. Use it to make stewed okra and ‘maters, soups, chili….you name it, stewed ‘maters are the bomb.

I said, “Well heck, let’s just can together. It goes by faster anyway.” So, we set a plan in motion. BR went and bought four boxes of (mostly) ripe tomatoes and we decided on a date. I showed up late, as always, but in enough time to help her blanch, peel, and puree the last two boxes. (Big Rig is the early bird, and I’m a night owl…thus, by 7am she has a full day’s work done and I’m still drooling on my bedspread.)

At about 2pm, we were all done, and decided to stop at that point and refrigerate the pureed tomatoes in the biggest Tupperware bowls you’ve ever seen. BR’s sons were helping us carry the tomatoes out to the refrigerator in the shop and she told them, “If you drop any of those, we are going to lose it. So DON’T drop it!” I grabbed about a 15 pound bowl full of our day’s work, and headed out the front door. As I stepped off the front porch, Big Rig yelled, “THE WASP! THE WASP IS IN YOUR HAIR!”

Now look, there are a great many things that don’t bother me. Snakes, spiders, June bugs, centipedes…they just don’t bother me. But a wasp AKA “waspis” is a WHOLE ‘NUTHER THING. Especially red wasps. They have a bad attitude, love to terrorize people, and pack a serious punch. After all, they are the reason that I ended up ripping off half of my clothes in my front yard. And here was a giant red wasp all up in my messybun. I picked up the 15 pound bowl of tomatoes to chin-height and did a high-step 1980s aerobic style run all the way to the barn. Without spilling a drop, may I add. I welcome all applause. Thankfully, the waspis decided to fly off, although he later flew all up in Big Rig’s face when I left and he was promptly flattened with a hat.

The next morning, BR texted me and asked if I would mine skipping a day and canning the next. It was like a text from an angel….”YES!” I replied. “PLEASE!” Because frankly, I’m feeling old and even standing for a long time makes my knees and back ache. So the following day, I managed to get to her house before 9 a.m. WITH my children who were FED AND DRESSED, which truly is a miracle. We canned from 8:45am to 4pm, and by the time we were done, we were ready to pass out on the floor on our faces, coated in tomato seeds and skins, with our burned fingers and surrounded by almost 40 pints of stewed yumminess.

And it was worth it. SO worth it. Canning with a friend sure does make the time go by faster, not to mention we get to catch up on our farm woman chat. BR was smart enough to grab some photos of the process from start to finish. Hope you enjoy! I know we will.

 

 

I’ll take one. No, better make that 200.

“Cure for an obsession: Get another one.” ~Mason Cooley

I have a weirdness. It popped up in a conversation between Jason and I the other day. For a bit of a backstory, it began innocently enough, as it always does.

I was in the plant section, more specifically, the CLEARANCE (clear-ron-say, as I love to pronounce it) section of Lowe’s. Three sad and mostly dead African violets caught my eye. They were a whopping dollar each. And now let’s hit the backstory to my backstory: Ten years ago, I got an African violet. I don’t remember where I got it. It started innocently enough. A single plant, right? Then, as I started researched African violets, they have things called “suckers” which are little baby plants trying to come up from the base of the mother plant. This is not a good thing for your normal violet, because they will stop blooming. So, being the good plant stewardess that I was, I painstakingly removed each tiny embryonic baby from the mama with tweezers and a Xacto knife (sterilized, of course) and put them with gentle, loving care in a Jiffy greenhouse. You know, the giant ones with like 40 cells.

Then I discovered that there are things called “trailing” African violets, which, LONG AND VERY BORING STORY SHORT, suckers are NOT a bad thing and that’s just the ways trailers grow. Well, crud. So now I had approximately 41 trailing African violets. I will spare you the horror of the boring details, but I ended up doing hours and hours of research on how to BEST raise African violets, what they needed, what they hated, the Latin name, and heck, I may have joined the African Violet Society of America. I even gave a presentation (seriously) to our local garden club on African violet care.

Because you see, when I get fixated on something, I get FIXATED. I have to know all about it. I want you to ask me questions, because I am READY and PREPARED with an endless array of information and documentation and if I had been on Jeopardy and African violets were a subject, I would have stomped a mudhole in everyone else’s behind. Back to present-day Lowe’s:

I thought about my violet that I had ten years ago. I still miss “her”. (Yes, it was a ‘her’, and she had a name, though I can’t remember it) Here she was in her full glory. Be still my heart:

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And the worst part was that I have no idea what happened to her. I am sure that, in the course of us moving and my subsequent obsessions, she suffered a terrible, neglectful death. But anyway, I got the violets at Lowe’s. I have babied them (one did die), pampered them, fertilized them, and given them the quarter-turn each and every day in their sunny, south-facing window. They have rewarded my patience and persistence by thriving and blooming:

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But enter my weirdness. I don’t want just two African violets anymore. I want a hundred. I want a greenhouse full of African violets. I want so many that people can’t come into my house without falling over some Saintpaulia (if you don’t get it, don’t feel bad…it’s the nerd in me). I want so many that people will call me “that crazy violet lady”.

So naturally, a few weeks later I was in Lowe’s again and there was a FULL FLAT of sad, neglected AVs. Be still my heart. But they weren’t yet marked down and I’ll be danged if I pay more than a dollar each for a flowerless AV from Lowe’s when I know that’s what they mark them down to. Enter my DLS (dear long-suffering) husband. A week later, he has to go to Lowe’s. I beg him to go check on the flat. When he returns, it’s like Christmas. He scores fifteen violets…for a dollar a piece. I am giddy. It was better than getting a pony.

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So later that night, he says, “Why is it that you can’t just have ONE of something?”

Me: I don’t know what you mean.

He (looking at me like I have lost it): You can’t just have one. Why do you have to get multiples of everything?

Me (puzzled look): I don’t know what you’re talking about.

He: We have six dogs, more chickens than anyone we know, like 10 parrots….(voice trails off)

Me: shrugs

Of COURSE I know what he means! It’s the same reason I couldn’t have a pair of zebra finches. I had to have 15. I couldn’t have one gerbil; I had to have every color so that I could, quite literally, be able to recreate ANY AND ALL possible color variations in the gerbil breeding world. I couldn’t have just one orchid; I had to save them all from Lowe’s and my kitchen window looked like a Brazilian rainforest minus the monkeys. I couldn’t just have “three or four” chickens, but instead I needed one (okay…more) of each breed known to mankind. One roll of washi tape? NO! I must have one representing each holiday, each possible vacation destination, and every color in the full Pantone color library.

But I have good news! I am older and I am tireder. Yes, tireder. And I am tired of having multiples of anything! Minimalism and my obsession to have a full set of 200 gel pens to go with my new coloring book do not mesh. So, I have been clearing out my past obsessions, and not putting anything else in their place.

Except African violets. Which I can justify because they do not poop nor do they shed. Those are some of my new requirements to come into my house.

Also, if you know where I could get a plant like my original AV, you are my new friend…I really do miss it and I will always make enough window space for one more!

Cheers!

Texas: Hotter’n a pot of collards

It’s no secret that in Texas, if you want the weather to change, just wait two minutes. Honestly, it’s a real mixed bag around here. You can walk out in shorts and a tank top that morning, and come back a few hours later in need of a pair of woolen underwear, four layers of clothing, and a full-body zip-up sleeping bag with arm and legholes. But that’s just fall.

In the summer, it is hot. Like…deathly hot. Like…walk into a steaming hot blanket kind of hot. You will hear us say all of the time, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” Well, I am here to tell you that it’s both, and it’s horrible. And hint, hint, it gets worse the older you get. I have learned that I need to be inside from about 10:30am until just before sunset. If I can’t do that (and let’s face it, I can’t), then when I AM outside, I’m hugging the treeline to stay in the shadows. It is on days like today that I dream of moving to Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Maine….pretty much anywhere where my shoes aren’t melting on the pavement and where snow is not a rarity.

Fortunately, there are only a few months that are pretty gross, and our winters are mild. Starting mid-July through September, however, I am ready to live in an igloo and hunt caribou. Or whatever igloo-dwelling people do. I don’t care. I no longer wonder why people take mid-day naps around here and siestas in Mexico. It’s because it is too hot to even manage a decent conversation without wanting to kill or seriously hurt someone. You want to see mayhem? Go check out a line of people waiting for ANYTHING in Texas come July. It ain’t pretty.

BUT, at least earlier this year, we got rain. A ton of rain. Enough to scare you kind of rain. And with a lot of rain, you get a lot of wildflowers. And this year, the crepe myrtle were so beautiful, they literally brought tears to my eyes…I swear I saw a double rainbow and white doves and the American flag in the background as I was taking photos. Really.

So please feel free to live vicariously through my happy photos during the month of May and June. Sadly, everything in my front yard now looks like it has been hit with a blowtorch.

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