Thursday, June 23, 2011

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!

It has been one year since our family moved to the farm.  It has been quite a wild ride over the last year. Some of the highlights have been:

1.Waking up when our bodies told us to, instead to the sound of someone's car alarm going off.

2. Watching the changing seasons in the trees and bushes.  The colors are amazing.

3. So many more birds to see and learn about; way more than the robins, cardinals, and blue jays in the suburbs.

4.  The sound of the wind as it whips through the trees and even feels like it is rocking the house.

5. Watching the new calves arrive with their mommas, each with its own attitude.

6. Adjusting to septic and well after a lifetime of city sewer and water.

7.  The sky each morning as it rises over the fields and each evening as it sets just over the hill.  Every single day has been different.
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8. Arliss and Travis as they have matured and grown.  This was their first year at a public school and they did very well.

9. The sense of discovery and adventure as I learn the various plants and their names.

10.  Learning how wonderful it is to wear overalls daily.  They are truly some of the most comfortable clothes ever!

11.  The cycle of seasons according to the farmer. The right time to plant, harvest, cut hay, rebuild fences, and always have time for a chat.

12.  The friendliness of a small town.  No rush, everything in its own time.

13.  The amazing sweetness of fresh peas right from the pea pod, eaten in the garden.

14.  The blessing of the simple.

I have loved seeing each season, each day, learning, appreciating, and being grateful for every breath.

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I am sending gratitude, joy and a blessing of simplicity today... may you find it too--wherever you live.
oxox

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Weekend

This past weekend my mother-in-law and I went to my favorite green grocer.  I've mentioned before how they sell produce in berry box/cases for $1-2.50 a box.  Well, we went a little crazy and bought almost 20 boxes of fruit and vegetables.
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Some of our bounty from the green grocer
My dining room table became the processing place and after two days we finished with tons of prepped veggies and fruit in freezer bags and three different kinds of jam.  We had a lot of fun laughing and enjoying each other's company.
I made strawberry/kiwi jam, kiwi jam, and a mixed fruit jam.  The recipes for the strawberry/kiwi jam and kiwi jam are from my favorite Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing, and Dehydration.  The recipe book is printing through the Alltrista Corporation in Muncie, Indiana.  The strawberry/kiwi jam is simple to make, which always makes it easier to make it again and again.

STRAWBERRY/KIWI JAM:

3 cups crushed strawberries
3 kiwi, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger (I used grated fresh ginger root)
1 package powdered pectin
5 cups sugar

Combine strawberries, kiwi, lemon juice, ginger, and pectin in a large saucepot.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Add sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Return to a rolling boil.  Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Skim foam if necessary.  Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.  Adjust two-piece caps.  Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.  Yield: about 6 half-pints.

KIWI JAM:

3 cups chopped kiwi
1 package powdered pectin
1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice (I used 1/3 cup lemon juice)
4 cups sugar

Combine kiwi, pectin, and pineapple juice in a large saucepot.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Add sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Return to a rolling boil.  Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Skim foam if necessary.  Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.  Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.  Yield: about 4 half-pints.

My multi-fruit jam was a combination of apples, nectarines, peaches, apricots, and plums.  I did not follow a particular recipe, but instead kind of followed the idea of applesauce.  I add cloves and sugar to the mix and my sons can hardly wait to open a jar.

Overall, my mother-in-law and I bought more than 22 different kinds of fruits and veggies.  I know it seems crazy.  The best thing is between my canning and our chest freezer we are set for a long time.  I love it.

I spent today working in the garden and planting the last items and putting up the last section of fence.  The wild critters have been getting into my compost so I had to put a stop to it before someone or something was hurt.
Hope your week is wonderful.
Sending love and veggies from the farm!
xo

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gardening Continues

During the past week our area, as well as many others in the nation, experienced extreme heat.  Our farm is lucky enough to have the added blessings of breezes, but the temps were still pretty high 94-96 Monday-Wednesday.  Our 100 year old farmhouse does not have air conditioning so we became pretty creative with fans, windows, and window shades.
I had the grass to cut and that meant 2 days of cutting.  As I have mentioned I use a push mower to cut the approximate 2 acres of grass that surround the house and driveway area.  Even though it is time consuming, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment when the grass is cut and the yard looks orderly.
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My tenderhearted Arliss
On Tuesday Arliss had a friend over and the boys hit the usual spots; the barn rope swing, the pond,  and the hose with cold well water to cool off with after a bike ride.  With a few strips left to cut Arliss handed me my iced sun tea and finished off the last of the mowing.  I love his heart, he knew I was tired and hot and he helped me.  God grow his heart continually.
On Wednesday, after my Bible study, I went to the garden to build up the mounds around my potato plants and broccoli and cabbage.  I planted the corn, pepper plants, and cucumbers I had started in the cold frame.
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Potato plants with rebuilt mounds and grass around the mounds

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Corn in rows with pumpkins
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Arliss with a tomato cage on his head
Travis and Arliss had fun getting 5 gallon bucket of water for me, if for no other reason than to play with and in the water.  They also brought tools to me in the garden and kept me company as I weeded.
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Water from the buckets to the wheelbarrow to the buckets
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Cool dogs
Our dogs, Rover and Rufus, needed help cooling off in the heat as well.  We have found a kiddie-pool works wonders.  Fill it with the cool well water and the dogs will figure out what to do next.  Rufus, our lab, cannot seem to remember that he is a water dog.  He does not like to lay down in the water. Rover, our brittany, needs no invitation though.

We are now experiencing a few cool days with major rain and that is good for the plants in the garden.  I hope your garden is growing quite well.  I am looking forward to eating some of our goodies when the day comes.
Sending love from the farm.
oxox

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Here I Am !!

I know, I know,  I have been away for some time.  I am sorry. Things have hit Mach speed here it seems and sitting down at the computer has been near impossible lately.

Here are 10 things happening around here--just to quickly catch you up to speed...

1. The fields have been planted. We have soybeans in the front fields and field corn toward the back by the pond.  The planting happened and that very night we had crazy rainstorms that soaked the fields.  Now the soybeans are about 3 inches high or so and doing fine.  They look a bit like English pea plants at this stage.


2. Memorial Day was spent with family here at the farm.  Grandpa or "Poppy" as my 2 year old nephew calls him, gave each of the grandkids a ride on his tractor.  It's a 1948 Farmall "H" beautifully restored to the classic, glossy, red color.  Travis and Arliss are able to drive it solo, a watershed moment for any 10 year old.  They have been driving it solo for a couple of years now.
Farmall H right-side view
This is not my dad's, but it's very similar.
3. Travis and Arliss have finished school with high marks for their 4th quarter.  We were very proud of their accomplishments.  Did I say that we were very proud??  Because I am VERY proud, ya know.

4.  Summer is here in spades!  As is usual here in our section of Illinois, we had winter, then spring for 2 days or so, then bam! summer came with a vengeance.  We have had temps in the high 80s and low 90s already and June just started.  Yesh.  Thank goodness for breezes on a farm.

Yard Machines 13AC762F020 Riding Mower5. My riding lawnmower continues to behave like a teenager.  My dear dad has been spending time with it getting it to run and fixing the deck so it engages when it is lowered.  Memorial Day he fixed it and it worked beautifully.  I turned it off to eat with the family, got back on to cut a bit more-nothing.  The starter died.  Once the starter is replaced-by dear dad- it should behave itself.

6.  Ticks.  I know, it's gross to talk about bugs, but the reality is here on the farm ticks are a part of life.  Arliss has found two on him so far and Travis found one crawling next to him.  Before you start thinking about not coming to visit, relax.  We do tick-checks after walking through tall grass or playing in the haymow.
American dog tick.  
7. Iced tea.  I love iced tea.  During the winter I drink hot tea a lot, like 4-5 times a day.  Now that it is summer, I make sun tea and then drink it during the day and then make more.  I am easily drinking 2-4 quarts of tea a day.  It's one way to get my fluids and there is nothing like sun tea on a hot day.
Sun Tea

Best Lemonade Ever Recipe8. Lemonade.   If I am not drinking iced tea then I am drinking lemonade.  I alternate between making frozen concentrate and homemade lemonade.  For the homemade I just follow the instructions on the label of my lemon juice bottle.  Now, to make things more fun, I add frozen fruit to the lemonade.  I have enjoyed blueberry lemonade, strawberry lemonade, and raspberry lemonade.  I make sure to keep the fruit in the pitcher when I pour it so the flavor gets stronger as we drink it.

9. Barbecue chicken.  Dearest hubby made the best chicken for dinner.  Grilling is wonderful, the heat from cooking is outside and the clean up is easy!! No pots or pans to wash!  Seriously, if you haven't grilled yet, what are you waiting for????

barbeque chicken on a gas grill
don't you just want to eat it right now??
10. Peonies.  Peonies are my favorite flowers.  I wait and wait and wait for them to bloom and then all of a sudden one morning there they are, like giant fireworks made out of flowers.  I put a tomato cage around them when they are still very small so as they grow the cage helps hold them up.  My folks use baler twine to tie them to the fence to keep them up.  I love the color, the smell, everything about them.
 Peony is the flower for the May portion of my Farmer's Almanac calendar
Well, that's what has been happening here.  I hope you have time--no, I hope you make time- to relax in a lawn chair or hammock and appreciate the world around you.  I would love to tell you more, but my lawn chair is calling and my iced tea is waiting.

Sending love and the sweet smells of summer,
With love from the farm!
oxox