Friday, January 28, 2011

Around My Home

As the winter slowly moves along, I thought I would share some of the things I have been looking at in my home as I wait for spring....  
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My husband gave this rocker to me when our boys were babies
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the boys call this the Book Room
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Some of my favorite things

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little boy's chair
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little girl's chair
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Some of the books are in Czechoslovakian and German

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My favorite hymn... Great is Thy Faithfulness

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


 I went to visit a friend, who has agreed to show me how to knit.  Another dear friend gave me the tools to start, but unfortunately our schedules haven't matched so we could get together and knit.

So, after my friend did a quick cast-on, I began my lesson.  I have successfully knitted about one inch of my yarn into the beginnings of a scarf.  I am excited about how simple and repetitive the pattern is to follow.  I also had the chance to see the many beautiful things that my "teacher" had made.

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When I came home I had a wonderful surprise in my mailbox.  My cousin, who lives in Atlanta, sent me a portion of her sourdough starter.  Yippee for me!!  It survived the trip, partly due to the cold weather, as if it had been refrigerated.

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My "southern" starter

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My two starters, bubbling and brewing

Once I had it out of the package I read the note that was enclosed I fed the starter and set it next to my starter.  I can hardly wait to make bread out of my "southern" starter.  Thanks dear cousin!!  

If anyone is interested, check out her blog, www.The Fox, it's full of cooking and baking ideas.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Frieda Katherine

Item ThumbnailJust like the littlest angel had a shoebox under his bed full of his favorite things; my great-grandmother, Frieda Katherine. had a box of her treasures too.  Her box contained her crocheting pieces.  Now, she had a work basket that held her knitting and mending, but in a cigar box she kept her crochet work as well as newspaper clippings with quilting patterns and crochet patterns.
The crochet thread is as thin as regular sewing thread.  Great-grandma made the prettiest pieces for clothes, as well as for her furniture;  little table pieces or pieces to decorate chairs, and such.
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crochet pattern written by Frieda
Frieda Katherine was in her 80's when I was born and died just before I turned four.  I only have a couple of memories of her; including her last birthday party.
She came from a German immigrant farming family, who had very little.  She would share an egg with a sibling for breakfast in the morning.  Comparing that to our three and four egg omelets people eat today, I cannot imagine having so little.  Yet, somehow, as with her generation, it was not something to whine over, it was just part of life.
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Frieda (seated) and her sister Mary.
She was very pretty; with light brown hair and light blue eyes.  She married my great-grandfather in 1905 and they were given 60 acres of farm land as a wedding gift.  She and her husband worked hard and after a few years had their only child, my grandfather.

The newspapers of the time would run columns for the housewife to learn various ways to make their home attractive.  If the woman wanted she could send in 5 cents either in stamps or cents to get more information regarding the quilting pattern.
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I also found articles from Die Deutsche Hausfrau or The German Housewife.  These articles, obviously written in German, were from a newspaper that was printed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for a number of years.  Eventually the paper was retitled Die Hausfrau.  Not only did the paper print information for the housewife and the young ladies of the house (jungfrauen literally translated as virgins), but it also ran letters from people in other states or cities, kind of like a personals column.

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May, 1904
The dates from the newspaper clippings range from 1914-1932.  There were a couple articles from The Farm Journal that were from the 1920's.  My favorite discovery however, came from a magazine article that was dated May, 1904.  Frieda was married in 1905 so I can only imagine that this was for her trousseau.
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Her wedding day. Note that they aren't holding hands.
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Some of Frieda's handiwork
Great-grandma made so many different crafts for her household over the years.  She could knit, crochet, tat (which is a form of crocheting), quilt, and she also made braided rugs.

Each of her great-grandchildren have a braided rug she made.  I know that her generation made things out of necessity but it did not mean that the women did not want a beautiful home.  I am grateful for her creativity, I only hope as I learn how to do these things, I too will have a home like hers.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Since I have been living on the farm I have felt like I am channeling a bit of Laura Ingalls Wilder, my great-grandmothers, and various pioneer women who have gone before.  In these moments I enjoy making things from scratch, taking the time to do the simple things, even if they are more time consuming.  I know the outcome will always be worth it.

I love sourdough bread, in all capacities where one can use bread, I want to use sourdough.  If sourdough is not available I want rye.  A few weeks ago I made rye bread using a family recipe.  I even ground my own flour from the rye kernels.  It was awesome.  This week I took on sourdough bread.
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my starter 
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my recipe called for a baking stone.  I used a clean terra cotta plant dish

My husband, Andrew, found a starter recipe online.  It's simple really; a little flour, a little warm water, some yeast, and maybe some sugar.  Mix the items together and leave it alone for a few days.  In a way it's similar to the Amish Friendship Bread that gets passed around.

After a few days the starter is ready.  Today was my first attempt at making bread.  I found another recipe online through Food that I could use to make the actual bread.  Again, so simple it's crazy.
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look at the crusty edges! Yum!
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i love the rustic look of the crust

Talking with a friend, I found out that there are some sourdough bread starters in Alaska that are 100 years old.  It may sound a bit gross, but at the same time, way cool that it has been around that long.  Any bread made from that starter has got to have great flavor.
See, the premise of the starter is that it actually collects wild yeasts or spores that are in the air in your home.  Which means that sourdough starters would have a slightly different flavor depending on the region where the starter was made.  So my cousin's starter in Atlanta would taste a bit different than mine.
I love making bread.  I love the kneading and the rising, the anticipation of it all.  It isn't hard to make, and now that I started this project I just might be handing you a container and telling you that you too can do this.  Maybe someday my great-granddaughters will be making sourdough bread with my starter.  One never knows. Until then happy winter baking!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Arliss and Travis are at it again!

I got a call from the school yesterday.  It seems that during Christmas break when we had the guinea pig for Arliss' class, a tin of pellets for his pellet gun fell into the bag of supplies.  Since it is against policy for the boys to bring ammunition home on the bus (for obvious reasons) I picked up the pellets and the boys from school today.
In a larger school I am certain that bringing ammunition, even accidentally, would have resulted in a serious disciplinary action.  Yet another reason to be grateful for small towns where the benefit of the doubt is given.
Other happenings during Christmas break included Andrew's dad coming for a visit.  He brought along one of our nephews, who is Arliss and Travis' age.  The boys each received a pellet gun or a BB gun from Grandpa.  Immediately after opening the presents and getting instructions about the do's and don't's of what and what not to shoot the boys were out the door.
The three cousins set up targets that they taped to cardboard boxes.  As the weather grew colder they went inside the barn, eventually the boys created a fort out of the bales of hay.
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By the time they were finished they had created a two story fort, using boards to support the sides and build floors between the levels.  For Christmas Arliss and Travis received compound bows from us, allowing for more fun in the barn.  We may never see them again.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Garden Preparation--61 days until Spring!

My Burpee Catalog has come in the mail.  It is the sign of spring to come.  I have not had a large garden before and I am excited and nervous about taking on such a project.
At our previous homes we have had a 2 x 3 ft section or maybe a 3 x 8 ft. section for gardening.  I now have a 14 x 24 ft. garden.  I have tons that I would love to plant, but I have to be realistic about what I can manage.
Carrots love tomatoes: secrets of companion planting for successful gardening [Book]There is a fabulous resource book called Carrots Love Tomatoes, which discusses companion gardening.  The book came out originally in 1975 and has become a major go-to book for gardeners.  I have also checked out Backyard Homestead. This book gives all sorts of information about how to grow a sustainable living on 1/4 of an acre.  It is really enticing to know what a person could do with so little ground.   Between the two books there is a no doubt I could be successful as a first time gardener.

Last week I received the book MaryJane's Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook  for the Farmgirl in all of us, by MaryJane Butters.
She has a magazine called MaryJane's Farm, that is full of different ideas, articles, etc. for organic farming on whatever size parcel a person has for growing.  The book is chock-full of information I could use here at the farm, including ways to build community among the farms in your area and even sewing projects.  I highly recommend the book, even if it is used for dream-building ideas for your "someday" garden/farm.

So far I plan to grow corn, squash, beans, carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, onion, and a number of herbs.  My husband likes spicy foods, so I have a number of pepper plants to grow as well.

I look outside and see 6 inches of snow and a weather prediction of 5 degrees Farenheit tonight, without a wind chill.  Welcome to winter in the Midwest.
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When I look at my seed packets and my gardening diagrams I can almost feel the sun on my back and the warm breeze on my cheek.  Almost.
Until that day, I will just keep watching the weather, and preparing for the growing season.  Happy Spring!!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

January Views

There is a farm on our road that has black angus.  The farmer turns them out into their cornfields after harvest.  The cattle eat the leftovers during the winter (as well as fertilizing the fields).  Here are some pics of what I saw the other day.  Enjoy.
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This is the only white faced one in the herd
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they are eating the grass along the fence line
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this one was so beautiful eating a mouthful of grass. once the camera came out, it was over...

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my own quiet barnyard

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my favorite still to take here on our farm
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sun coming through the snow clouds

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Saturday Mornings

When I was in college I had a part time job at Cinnabon.  Yes, those amazing, sticky, gooey, you-don't-want-to-know-your-caloric-intake, cinnamon rolls.  Since then whenever cinnamon rolls come up in our kitchen my husband defers to my "expertise."  Never mind that it has been 15 years since I worked there, I still retain my experience; some of it is on my left hip, some is on my right....anyway, I digress.

On Saturdays my husband is at work all day so it's just Arliss and Travis.  I love the idea of making something special on Saturday mornings.  It marks that the weekend has begun.  Today I made cinnamon rolls.  I love the smell, the shape, the texture, all of it.
We have a food service wholesale store here that sells dough in bulk.  Usually the dough can be used for pizza making, which was last night; but today I used one of the dough balls to make the cinnamon rolls.

Item ThumbnailItem ThumbnailI pulled out my Pioneer Woman cookbook and found her recipe for cinnamon rolls.  Her recipe makes 40-50 rolls.  But I took some of her recipe and adapted it for my own.  I forgot to take pics of the dough as I prepared it but if you get her book you can see some of what I did.
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We don't keep powdered sugar in the house, instead we make it as we go.  With a coffee grinder I put in approximately 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, I grind the sugar until it is powdered.  Once I had enough sugar ground then I set it aside for the icing.  I put in melted butter, a little milk, and a few drops of lemon extract (part of the icing recipe from Cinnabon).  I also put in the juice of an orange to lighten the lemon taste.

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my smoky kitchen
When the rolls were almost done I noticed some smoke coming out of the back vent on the stove. Oops!  I had too much butter in the pan that mixed with the sugar and overflowed to the bottom of the stove.  Next time I will use a cookie tray to catch the drips.

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The culprit!!

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The icing had a wonderful color and texture, the lemon was a bit strong, note to self for next time, less lemon extract.  I am not the best about following directions, especially when I didn't have a recipe to start with.  Either way, the boys loved the rolls and so did I.  I have enough icing that I can save it for another batch.  In the meantime, I hope your Saturday is as wonderful as ours.
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wish you could join us....

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pruning Apple Trees

In my nursery catalog that came the other day I found their section of apple trees.  Gramps had always talked about Wolf River apples, I thought it had been a nickname.  Lo and behold, in the catalog was a Wolf River-1881 apple tree.  It turns out Wolf River apples are so named because their variety originated in Wolf River, Wisconsin in 1881.  I was excited to know at least one of the fruit tree varieties we have here.  Overall, there are three or four apple trees, one pear tree, and one peach tree on the farm.  I have no idea why a peach tree, I would think a peach tree wouldn't do well here in the cold Midwest.

Gramps passed away in 1999 so I know the trees have been ignored for at least 10 years, probably more.  While looking in the shed for some tools I found a container of fruit tree pesticide with a date in Gramps' handwriting; it said 1994.  That would explain all of my trees producing so poorly; they haven't been cared for in over 15 years.

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part of it is finished
When we moved to the farm I started researching how to care for the fruit trees and various bushes.  A site put out by the Ohio State University gave great instructions for pruning fruit trees.  The key is to prune a fruit tree during the winter so that the tree is dormant.  If the tree was pruned during the growing season the tree would spend its energy on the area where it had been pruned, instead of on producing fruit.
I put on my overalls, they are quickly becoming my favorite,  my hiking boots (I have not found another pair of boots that are better), grabbed my hat and work gloves and headed for the trees.  I have a bow saw and pruning clippers that I use when I am trimming or pruning plants and trees.  I could use a chain saw, but that doesn't allow for quite the control I want.
I stood looking at the tree deciding where to start.  I knew once I began there would be no way to un-cut a branch.  The tree had a lot of branches that looked more like brambles than anything else. 
I looked for dead branches, branches that rubbed on another branch, and branches that interfered with one another's growth.  If a branch fit those categories it was as good as gone.
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Another view of the pruned apple tree
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The other apple trees 
By the time I was done I was covered in sawdust.  The tree already looks healthier than before, I am hoping it will produce even a dozen good apples next year.  Now, onto the other trees...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Last Day of Christmas Break

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wooden box, now a cabinet

Today I decided to clean out the pump house.  The weather has been mild and I knew it wouldn't last, so I put on my new overalls, a flannel, a baseball hat with our farm logo on it, and found some work gloves.  The pump house is from my grandparent's farm, when they sold it in 1986, they moved it here.  It has housed extra cinder blocks, gardening stuff, and whatever else could fit in there.  Spring is a few months away and I knew if I didn't do it today, I wouldn't do it later.
Whenever something used to belong to my grandpa it is a given that one will find things repurposed.  Sure enough, I found a couple of things in the pump house that were not intended for the way he used them.  I have learned this is typical farmer behavior; if it can be reused in some other way, it will be.

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wooden traffic sign, now a shelf
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the "green" spoon

I arranged some cinder blocks and a few pieces of wood into a couple of work benches.  While I was moving things around I found my grandfather's initials.  It was not the first time I had found his initials on the walls of farm buildings.

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I also found a spoon covered in long dried green paint.  It is the same green color as the trim from Gramps' farmhouse.  I just hope it wasn't one of Gram's good spoons.
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my bucket of soil is under my work bench, ready for pots

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The lilacs are silk, just a way to keep the faith

When I finally finished there was order and I felt good.  I received my first catalog today, to me that is the first sign that spring will be coming.  The next thing I need to do is prune my fruit trees.  They are desperately overgrown and wild.  But that is another post, for another time.  Until then, keep the faith, spring is coming.