Get to Know Us and Our Small Homestead

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Hello. Here you will learn a bit about me and about Mr. Blue Eyes 
I am a wife, mother, grandmother, who is also a gardener, produce preserver, avid reader, and occasional needleworker.  I enjoy auctions, estate sales, thrift shops, antique shops, and finding real bargains.   My husband is Mr. Blue Eyes and he is my hero for many reasons.  He enjoys reading, knocking around with me at the auctions, thrift shops, and antique shops, gardening, building things, and is beginning to lose some of his enthusiasm for home renovations; although, there are just a few projects left to complete.  We are retired and enjoying it!  We are organic homesteading gardeners and are trying to only use heirloom seeds, no GMO seeds or plants for us.

We live within the city limits; but manage to grow most of our own produce and berries.  We have a sizeable lot on which to grow.   What we do buy we get from our local farmers’ market.  We do not have farm animals, as we are within the city limits.  However, we have discussed adding some chickens.  I have chicken envy and would really like the limited number of chickens that we are restricted to.  It would be great to have the eggs and meat.  We are still considering the issue and our commitment to “chicken care”  along with the need for a coop and run area, as well as the protection we would need to provide for the flock.  We have the next few months to consider the issues and make a decision.

Since we have no “meat” animals, we do purchase our beef from a local farm that raises grass fed, grass finished beef.  They use no chemicals on their pasture nor use any to treat the herd.  We have been getting organic pork from another vendor at the farmers’ market.  We’ve not found a source for chicken, as yet, we are still searching, thus the consideration of raising our own.   We shall see what God has in store and the future holds.

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Is It Spring Yet?

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I’m working on the blog, not publishing much; because I am working out some quirks. Anyway, The Farmer has been out getting some of the raised beds ready and asking where I want some new beds. We were out there making some decisions this afternoon and it was in the 60s with the sun shining and just a nice little breeze. I think Spring may make it after all. What do you think?

One of our neighbors has given us some large buckets that he got from Krispy Kreme when his company was doing some re-roofing there. Cool, as they contained food items like glaze, frosting, and other edibles. I am going to try some varieties of heirloom tomatoes in the, to see if we can make some decisions of which ones we want to grow for slicing and eating next year. I have several (too many) different ones to grow and taste and we don’t want to devote our entire growing beds to tomatoes.

Feb. 2014, we went to a compost workshop at our county extension office to see if there was any new info or any specific info for composting in our area. At any rate, I won a compost bin and we were thrilled. We started using it right away and The Farmer has been stirring and turning it, etc. I discovered a lot of beautiful, sweet smelling compost in it this afternoon. I’m excited about that. Our compost pile on the ground is doing well too and should be ready to use this Spring also. Thanks to all our trees, kitchen scraps, and Starbucks coffee grounds for wonderful free soil conditioner and fertilizer.  Don’t you just love “free stuff”?

Klutz Day!

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I don’t believe what just happened.  I just had a new post almost finished and evidently hit something that I shouldn’t have and deleted the entire thing.  Maybe it is time for me to close the computer for the day.?…..  I shall try again tomorrow.  Sorry about that.

New Year’s Eve and Happy New Year!

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Just a short note for the day. Guess who got a couple pieces of cast iron cookware for Christmas. I love it for the non-stick qualities of good seasoned cast iron and for the health benefits of using it. I had a small oval baking pan and a 4 quart Dutch Oven on my list of wishes, along with a good sturdy stainless steel off set turner or pancake flipper to use with my existing collection of skillets, griddle, panini press, and larger Dutch Oven. I also got a wonderful lid lifter that will make cooking in the fireplace or a campfire much easier. I think I will really like it as it is much sturdier and safer than a stick! I am going to work with both these items as well as my other cast iron cookware and try some recipes and come up with my own recipes.  Then I will do a series of posts on care and seasoning as well as cooking with cast iron.

I am looking forward to it and hope you are too. Cast Iron

It’s almost here!! Merry Christas!

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I may not make it back for a couple days.  I am trying to finish up Christmas preparations and I won’t be able to take much time for the computer tomorrow.  We have houseguests coming tomorrow and then the family will be here for Christmas day and for dinner.  This is unusual for me; but, I have no idea what the menu will be.  My daughter will be making something vegetable and my daughter in law will bring a vegetable side and whatever else they all have planned.  We are doing the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy.  I think I may bake banana bread tomorrow and need to bake something with pumpkin as our son in law really likes pies and I won’t have any here.  Wouldn’t want him to starve, now, would I?  He’s a decent chap, so we’ll feed him.  LOL.  I think Heather, our daughter, will bring a Honey Baked Ham, she usually does and I love them.  They are a good break from turkey one evening.  We won’t have much turkey left after some goes home with our son and daughter in law.  We’ll see.  Sometimes our son smokes a turkey breast for them to have at home.

Christmas will be fun.  I really enjoy seeing some or all of our adult children interact.  Don’t you, if you have adult kiddos?  And; of course, the grandchildren are wonderful to have around.  They just returned from a trip to TN and went to the aquarium and Pigeon Forge where they got cowboy and cowgirl boots and hats.  They will have lots to share with us, so looking forward to that.  Our older son is coming down after Christmas for a few days.  The OH grandchildren are a bit older than the NC grands.  Just enough that it is always interesting to see what their  interests are.  The older grandson is now 13, and the twins are 11.  So fun to spend time with them.  I love them at every stage; but, am looking forward to the next stages and I am actually looking forward to seeing them as adults.  Not wishing their years away, just looking forward to the future.

Well, my friends, I am hoping that you, your family unit, and extended family a very Merry Christmas.  May you see hope in the future and feel the Peace that the gift of the birth of Jesus brought to us.

Peace, Hope, Love to all y’all,

Brenda

Last days to finish Christmas preparations

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We finished our two big goals for the day!!  Finished up our gift shopping earlier in the day, then went for lunch, and did our grocery shopping.  I don’t intend to go out shopping again before Christmas.  Anything we might think that we need, Mr. Blue Eyes will venture out to the jungle.  I’m exhausted, even though I was in my wheelchair during all this.  Getting up, standing, reaching, and holding items to look at construction, quality, and sizing wear me out and I don’t like shopping in stores very much. Plus, I was pushing the cart while Mr. Blue Eyes pushed the wheelchair.

Tomorrow we will put he tree up and do some decorating.  We had to wait for the living room to be finished and the furniture to be put into place, etc.  Now we have room to bring down the boxes from the attic.  I am eager to get this all done.  Then I think we may get some gifts wrapped and while he is continuing that project, I will get some cards ready to mail.  I have some seed trades to get ready for the mail, as well.  Wish us luck or say a prayer that we get these projects completed so I can do some baking.

Off to bed.  Good night.

Busy Weekend for Some

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There have probably been some of you folks who have been scurrying around with shopping, finishing handmade gifts, and/or your usual chores around the homestead and house.  I’m hoping that you got to scratch off some of the items on your to do for today.  It is such a busy time of the year, especially with livestock to tend and finish winterizing them.  Those who live in cold and snowy areas are finished with that, I suppose.

Somehow, we really haven’t done much for Christmas yet.  Mr. Blue Eyes has set some goals and deadlines for himself to finish some inside projects before Christmas like painting the living room!  He filled some nail holes and primed the walls so that he can paint tomorrow.  Thank goodness he needed more primer and had it tinted the same as the paint, that will hopefully mean only 1 coat of paint.  We will see.  Send good thoughts our ways, please.  He’s debating what to do next, remove the carpet in there and try to get the flooring down in there or paint the last bedroom and remove the carpet in there.  As much as I would like to have the new floor in the living room, I think removing the carpet and painting in that 3rd bedroom might be better time wise and we could pull the Christmas tree, ornaments, and such from the attic.  I could work on the decorating while he is struggling with the carpet removal and then painting.  We still need to finish up our shopping and baking.    I am not going to be able to do nearly as much baking this year as I usually do.

Just not much energy right now.  My anemia has reared its ugly head and needed 2 blood transfusions yesterday.  I feel somewhat better today, not as much shortness of breath and I feel a bit stronger and feel as if I can do a little more.

Just when it looks as if Mr. Blue Eyes can get out to the leaves, the silly lawn mower decided not to run.  It’s old and tired, I guess.  He’ll need to tinker with it to get it running again so that he can cut up the leaves to make a leaf compost.  We were hoping to make it until mowers and such go on sale to buy one.  Hope he gets it running again long enough for the leaf project, at least.

So, what kind of cookies are your favorite to make for Christmas?  I’m trying to decide which to bake.  Mr. Blue Eyes really likes pumpkin with chocolate chips- they are a definite and I think pecan tartlets, sugar cookie cut outs, and something chocolate.  Oh, I almost forgot, he wants us to make pizelles, they’re easy and it’s a sit down job.  We have to have kolache, so I may not do the sugar cookies.  I think I wil scratch the something chocolate cookie and do a small gingerbread muffin instead.  That will work and can be served with breakfast the next day.  We will be hosting our favorite (and only) daughter and our favorite (also only) son in law, from Atlanta, GA  for the Christmas holidays.  I’m trying to make this as stress free as I can.  One of our sons and family will be coming for the day on Christmas.  They usually come around noonish, we eat Christmas lunch around 1:00 , so the little ones don’t get too hungry and cranky, then we open gifts.  It will be a fun and busy day, to say the least.  All of us agreed that dinner would be here so that I can retreat and rest when the need arises.

Well, I think I have decided on my baking menu and will start to work on the dinner menu after speaking with my daughter and daughter in law.  Our other son and family won’t be here, though.  With children in different schools, work and vacation schedules, and travel concerns coming through the mountains in a snowstorm, it just doesn’t seem feasible at this time.  Too many winter storms and crazy weather happening.

Y’all have a good evening and sleep warm and tight!

Happy Day! Happy Dance!

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Celebrate with me or with us and do a little happy dance.  Mr. Blue Eyes has finished the wood project.  Yay for him.  The weather, rain and  extreme cold, friend’s agenda and bad back, as well as extreme hardness of the red oak, etc. all worked against him.  He has finished and hauled the log splitter back to friend’s home.  Clean up and moving it to the log stack took a day or so, as well.  We’ve been having a nice fire in the late afternoons and evenings with stacked wood from last year’s harvest since it has been so cold lately.

Mr. Blue Eyes is working in our bedroom painting the ceiling and walls and removing the carpet, under the carpet he discovered oak hardwood.  It is in good condition; but, does need to be sanded and refinished with a darker color.  I am so very glad to have carpet out of 2 bedrooms, the hallway, dining room, and little den.  Still need to remove it from 1 bedroom, living room, and possibly the sunroom.  Haven’t decided on what type of flooring to use in the sunroom.  The carpet needs pulled up and then some type of flooring to replace it.

Right now my hope is to get our bedroom painted and GET THE BR FURNITURE OUT OF THE LIVING ROOM!!!!!!!  I want to put our Christmas tree up and decorated, as well put up Christmas decorations.  We don’t do a lot of decorating, we both prefer older type decorations and not too many.  I have some things items that I would like to declutter from the attic.  I will offer them to our daughter and daughters in law, whom I think of as daughters.  I know that they are not going to want all that I want out of here and what they don’t want will go to a consignment shop.

The fire is dying and my eyelids are getting heavier by the minute, so I’m off the computer.

Good night everyone and sleep well.

Thursday 12/4 On The Homestead

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I’ve found myself pretty busy and tired most of this week.  I’ve enrolled in pulmonary rehab as ordered by my cardiologist at the Heart Failure Clinic.  I had to go on Tuesday,  Wednesday, and tomorrow.  Wednesday’s session was quite tiring and I didn’t do a lot afterwards.  But, I did make ham and bean soup, using some of our food storage.  In the fall we had pressure canned several varieties of dry beans.  I used some of the navy beans from the pantry.

Ham & Bean Soup

1 frozen smoked ham hock (or left over ham and bone, using as much ham as you like

I chopped onion

2 celery ribs, chopped

1 clove minced garlic

2 carrots, sliced

small amount olive oil

2 quarts home canned navy beans

2 – 3 cups ham stock, chicken stock, or water

1 Tbsp tomato paste (I freeze mine by Tablespoon in saran wrap and put into a zip freezer bag)

1 tsp dried thyme

1 bay leaf (I use fresh from my bay tree and slightly finger crush to release flavor)  Don’t crush a dried bay leaf, though.

Salt & pepper to your taste

Sauté onion, celery.  When they are becoming slightly soft and perhaps translucent, add garlic and sauté 30 seconds, don’t let it brown or burn.   Remove half of veggies to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to add in.

Add stock or water and tomato paste to 1/2 vegetables in pan along with bay leaf, thyme, and ham hock.  Liquid will probably not cover the ham hock, if it doesn’t, just turn ham hock over after an hour.  Bring to boil,  then simmer 2 hours.  I used a ham hock this time and when turning it over I slit it in several places to expose more of the meat to the stock.

After 2 hrs. add the complete 2 quarts of beans with the liquid in the jars, along with the reserved veggies.  Simmer another 1 1/2 hour and make sure beans are soft.  Remember they have been pressure canned; but, they may not have completely cooked in the canner.  If using dry beans, follow package instructions for soaking and cooking.  This will need to be finished and ready to add after the 2 hour simmer.  If using canned navy beans, will need at least 2 large cans, or 3 regular size cans  add at the end of initial simmer.  This will probably only take 45 minutes to simmer after adding.

When beans have 15 minutes left to simmer, taste and add salt and pepper, if needed, and continue simmering another 15 minutes.  I usually add some dried or fresh parsley at this stage.  It adds some vitamins and  makes it look prettier.

Serve hot and enjoy with some homemade bread, maybe purchased baguettes or another crusty bread.

Black Friday

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Were you out shopping among the masses for deals and door busters? If you were, I hope you found your items and got them at a good price. I am not knocking any of the Black Friday shoppers, at all. I’m just not one of them. We used to shop on the Friday after Thanksgiving; but, then it was just the Friday after Thanksgiving. The stores were crowded with shoppers; but, no one was fighting for merchandise or any of the other things that have been shown on TV the last several years. It just looks too crazy for me and I’m not ever going to camp out to save my place in line to get through the door first for the door busters, no matter how good the deal. We have become more online window shoppers this weekend and then shop locally if we can. Oh, I admit, we do sometimes order online to get the best price and for items we can’t find locally. It happens sometimes.

Do you ask for Christmas wish lists? I do, I want to give folks what they are wanting, it might be something that I had not thought of giving them, etc. I think it makes giving so much easier. Now, it certainly doesn’t mean that they get all items on their list or I may get a good idea for something else that I know they would like just as well. We have a budgeted amount to spend and really don’t spend more than that. We also save to pay cash for shopping.

I spent the day by the cozy fire and just relaxed and was on the computer to accomplish some daily goals. Mr. Blue Eyes worked on his wood project in the back. He split most of the remaining logs and stacked a good bit of it in the new, to be seasoned area of the wood pile. It had been too cold and rainy to do outside work the past several days, so it continues. He really wants to get that chore done over this weekend so that he can move on to other projects or chores before winter arrives. There are a lot of leaves to blow back to the area where we are going to compost them with used coffee grounds, some pruning of the berry vines and ornamental shrubs, and finish putting the garden beds to bed for winter. Then he will work inside at finishing some of our renovations and putting down the wooden flooring in the kitchen and living room. We (actually he) has taken up the carpeting in the master bedroom and one of the guest rooms and discovered wonderful oak hardwood floors. They do need sanding and staining; but, worth it for the cost savings. He pulled up a bit of carpeting in the other guest room/stitching room and confirmed that we have the same flooring in there. Now, there is no hardwood in the living room, den, or kitchen, so we will have to do those floors. The nice thing is that we have all the flooring needed stacked in the sunroom. That’s where the tiles for the kitchen backsplash are stored. I keep telling myself “someday it will all be finished. There is still no mantle over the fireplace since it was torn off to install drywall after the paneling was removed. I am still trying to be patient, some days are harder than others. I’ve lived with unfinished projects for a long time now and am just hoping to see the light at the end of the tunnel. There will be photos of finishes as they are done. Pray for patience for me, please.

I think I might bake some bread tomorrow. Yummy!