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Monday, December 23, 2013

The Nativity Story

Wishing you joy, peace and salvation.

Click to watch.
From the Foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains
See you soon, the Good Lord Willing.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Reclaiming Old Bars of Homemade Soap

Hello from the hills!

The baby chicks are growing, in fact they've graduated from their container in the kitchen to a stock tank in the basement. I turned off their brooder light for a few minutes and shined an LED flashlight to show off the Lavender Orpingtons pretty color.

I began cutting pieces for Bonnie Hunter's Celtic Solstice Mystery quiltalong, but I'm not sure I'll put my triangles together the way they're supposed to be for the quilt. I'm pretty sure these are components for colonial stars which I'm just not crazy about.

So I tucked them in a box until I decide how I want to arrange them in the quilt.

I make our soap from beef suet and had a batch turn slightly rancid before we used it all. (It probably had a bit too much fat for the amount of lye and water.) I didn't want to throw it out so I milled/grated it with my yard sale SaladShooter and added some herbs and food grade oils to make it smell good again.

 Here are some bars that I added orange and banana oils to so it smells a bit like bubble gum.

Peppermint leaves and oil really perked up these bars.

I added some cocoa powder and gingersnap flavoring to make chocolate/gingersnap bars. I can't wait to use this one.

I use the recipes in Norma Coney's book, The Complete Soapmaker for my basic soap and for the hand-milled bars. I added water along with the oils and herbs to all of these bars and will have to let them dry a bit before using. If you have homemade soap that you're not crazy about consider hand-milling it to give it new life.

Hope you're enjoying the season. See you next time, the Good Lord Willin'.
This post shared at: Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop, Encourage On Another, Make It Yourself Monday, The Homestead Barnhop, Natural Living Monday, Waste Not, Want Not Wednesday

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The New Birds In Town

  A few weeks ago I mentioned that a baby chick purchase had fallen through. Well, sometimes those disappointments work out for the best as I found some adorable ones that I think will be a better fit for our farm. A local farmer had some Lavender Orpington chicks for sale, and I got her last batch of the year, five straight run chicks. I had asked for eight, but it didn't work out that way. I'm happy with five though, I just hope they aren't all roosters. O.O We'll see...
Day old Lavender Orpington Chick
 Lavender Orpingtons aren't your average run-of-the-mill egg layers. They're very docile and fluffy as a marshmallow. I hope mine look this good in a few months.
Since I wanted eight chicks I chose three Buff Brahmas that were also the same age to raise with the Lavender Orpingtons.
Lavender Orpington and Buff Brahma Chicks

Here's a short video of the chicks in a brooder in the kitchen near a window. Notice the one on the right looking longingly toward the window like it wants to be outside. Most of them are asleep by the end of the video.

 Here's a look at how the Buff Brahmas should look like by next summer.
I've done just a bit of crocheting...

a new bathmat for one of the bathrooms.

 A couple of regular visitors.

 The winter storm (It's still autumn. O.O) has arrived here in the South, too. Stay warm, Y'all!

Wishing everyone a Wonderful and Happy Thankgiving!!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dandy, Just Dandy

Southern Direction
This post on Dandelion Coffee was featured at the Good Neighbor Blog Hop
                                                     And Wildcrafting Wednesday

It's that time of year, again, when the frost is on the pumpkins and I sprinkle sunflower seeds on the deck rail...
Carolina Wren

For the greedy, early morning visitors. I could sit and watch them for hours, but alas, there are other things to be done.
I was reading a post over at The Deliberate Agrarian site the other day about dandelion tea and immediately knew I had to try making my own, but I call it coffee since it's roasted, dandelion coffee. It's aroma and taste is not like coffee, but it's not like tea, either.

 I found several in my raised beds and dug them up then...

Cut the tops off and washed the roots...

Cut them in 1-2 inch pieces then...

Whizzed them in the food processor until they resembled brown rice according to the directions in the youtube video mentioned in the post by The Deliberate Agrarian.

Then I dried and roasted the roots to a rich, dark brown (darker than the photo below) according to the directions on the videoThe chopped dandelion roots can be dried naturally for a few days or in the oven at 220 degrees for about an hour then roasted at 350 degrees until dark and just beginning to smoke. See video.

This photo shows the color much better. Four good sized roots yielded 1 cup of roasted dandelion root. It should stay fresh for several months if kept in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.

Time for the moment of truth. Is it palatable or not? I'm an avid coffee and tea drinker so I think I'd be a decent judge of whether it's drinkable or not. The first thirty minutes in the oven they had smelled like green beans do while they're cooking so I wasn't sure they'd make a good coffee... O.O

However, I'm not one to chicken out so I added 2 tablespoons of the "coffee" to 24 ozs. of  hot, but not quite boiling water, and let it steep for 5 minutes.

 I strained it into a cup with sweetener and a bit of milk to soften the bitter taste I'd heard it has.

*sips*  ....
I'm not sure it needed the milk and sweetener. It IS actually pretty good - it has a roasted, slightly caramel bouquet. Goodman and I were pleased that it wasn't weedy or weird. BUT the good part I haven't even mentioned yet... Dandelion root coffee is LOADED with vitamins A, B complex, C, and D as well as a host of minerals. It aids digestion by breaking down fat and helps your body rid itself of harmful toxins. O.O
Not bad for a pesky yard weed I say.  I hope you will try dandelion coffee as it is a powerhouse of vitamins. Also, in this uncertain economy we may not always be able to purchase our favorite normal coffee. I love my regular coffee and plan to drink it still, but dandelion coffee is far and away better for our bodies so I'm adding a cup in mid afternoon for the health benefits. Cheers...

The socks are coming along slowly as I'm practicing the organ for a couple of hours each day. I've learned two songs  - When The Saints Go Marching In and Ode To Joy/Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.  
Have a great week, Y'all!
Linking to... Homestead Barn-Hop, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Encourage One Another, The Thankful HomeAcre Hop, Frugal Ways, Sustainable Days, Real Food Fridays, Farmgirl Friday, The Art Of Home-Making Mondays

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bring On The Wool

With the advent of cooler weather my thoughts go straight to wool. I've started a pair of boot socks using worsted weight yarn, size #4 needles and reviewing this two-at-a-time, toe-up tutorial for knitting them. It's been a couple of years since I knit socks using this method so the tutorial is a good reminder.

I use my clothesline as often as I can, but I've meant to make a set of felted wool dryer balls for awhile. Did you know they cut down on the time it takes clothes to dry in the dryer? They also eliminate static cling, and you can add a few drops of essential oil for scent if you like.

They can also double as scoops of ice cream. Mine are, obviously, having a difficult time making it to the dryer. Here'a a tutorial if you'd like to make some. Note: I made mine a bit larger than the ones in the tutorial with yarn I found at a flea market. Some of the older yarn isn't as skin-friendly as what we have today so I didn't mind using it for dryer balls. These cost me only $.22 ea. and freed up some space for my quilting stash. ;)

Shrub with berries along the pasture fence line. Note: These are not Autumn Olive berries. I got these and Autumn Olives mixed up when I first posted this entry, but thanks to Jacqueline's comment I realized my mistake. I wanted to mention that because I do not want anyone eating these thinking they are Autumn Olives. Sorry about that! Always be sure you are identifying wild foodstuffs correctly.

Close-up view.

 Goodman and I were out walking and noticed this nearly foot-high anthill... eek.

Eastern Red Cedar berries... love their frosted blue color.

See you soon, the Good Lord willin'.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Nifty, Thrifty Finds

I hear there will be frost in the foothills this week... just as our hydrangeas decide to bloom again. They were blue when we got them last year, and one of the three we planted stayed blue until mid-summer, but then they all eventually changed to pink. I really want them to be blue and have been reading how to do that naturally. I read one way is to mulch them with coffee grounds, and another is to give them a tablespoon of vinegar in a gallon of water once a week. I've been doing both. So, now they're lavender. We'll probably have to wait until spring next year to see if they turn completely blue. 

I've been picking sage leaves before the frost arrives.
I use it for cooking, of course, and I sometimes add it to homemade soap for it's astringent properties.

I picked a cabbage, too but not from the garden... I found it at a garage sale.

It's really handy...

 Remember the gold Corning Ware mixing bowls? I've had this bowl on the left for forty years and didn't even know they had sold casserole dishes, too. Youngest found it at a thrift store for me.

 I've taken up a new hobby - learning to play an organ. No, I've never played a musical instrument before, but this organ is really fun. In fact it almost plays itself. I found it on craigslist for a song. O.o My answer to modern radio - thank you, I'll just make my own music.

I better go practice now. O.o
Have a great week and keep warm....brr.
Linking to Natural Living Linkup, HomeAcre Harvest Hop, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fall in the Foothills

Greetings, Y'all!
 My pink verbena is still blooming.
 I heard they are loved by hummingbirds, but the hummers we have haven't figured that out yet. O.o
 I've watched this Eastern Kingbird catch insects all summer long. He's very wary so this is as close as I could get. Click his name to hear the different songs he sings.

 In other bird news, I had arranged to get a new flock of chickens, but sadly it didn't work out.

 Goodman and I will have to make do with these two gals until spring unless I find someone locally with hens for sale. That's not likely this time of year.

Our burning bushes are beginning to show a little color. It's still warm here and we're having wonderful fall temperatures daily.

 I've been busy gathering walnuts from our tree that grows along the fence line in the pasture.

My workstation isn't very glamorous...I stand under the deck and place the walnuts, one-at-a-time on a brick then give them a few good whacks with the rubber mallet to loosen the hulls.

Then lay them out to dry for a few weeks before the real cracking of the hard shell begins. O.o They are a bit of work, but the flavor is unmatched in the nut world for me.

Yes, it's a messy business but rewarding in every aspect. I'm saving the hulls to make a stain for baskets and furniture. Works great.

Our bluebird family of five shows up every day around 5 o'clock for a bath, usually about the time we sit down to supper. I call that great dinner theater.

 Yesterday I made Hungarian Cabbage Rolls. The roll (green) is under the chopped cabbage, sauerkraut and tomatoes. It was so I good I, actually, had a bowl of the vegetables with broth earlier for breakfast. O.O That. Was. Good.
Wildcrafting Wednesday Featured Blogger Award

Wildcrafting Wednesday,  The Art of Home-Making Mondays