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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Easy Peasy Broccoli Cheese Soup for a Winter's Day

 I've almost written a blog post a dozen times....and now a couple months have gotten past me!  I'll not make excuses, I'll just dive right in!

Winter has hit the Pacific Northwest in a more, well, winter-like way than usual!  We've had snow & icy temperatures more often, which I'm enjoying to the fullest!

Well, except for today, since I've got a nasty cold bug and the trip to the barn for evening chores sounds exhausting at the moment!

Our Christmas Country Chicks event went
 fabulously, though I completely exhausted myself sewing and crafting endlessly beforehand.  My Ebay and Etsy stores are still going strong, so those long, slow Winter days of lazily quilting by the fire haven't happened yet!  More like frantic bursts of sewing, stuffing, painting and sanding.

Today I made a nice Broccoli Cheese Soup, since I have a cold and it sounded comforting.  It's really easy to make:  Boil a pot of broccoli florets until they're as done as you like them.  Drain them and set aside for a minute.
In a separate kettle, melt a cube of butter.  Remove it from the heat and whisk in a half cup of flour.  When it's totally smooth, whisk in a pint of chicken broth and a cup of milk.

 Now you can return it to the heat and stir until it's bubbly and thickened.  I added about a cup of grated cheddar and a cup of smokey swiss cheeses (you can choose your own favorite) and a handful of frozen bacon bits.
Next you can toss the cooked broccoli in and stir.  I like my soup a bit thinner, so I added another pint of chicken broth.  You can thin it with more milk, if you'd rather.  Either way, it's delicious and will put hair on your chest!  (wait...what?)
Feel free to season it with pepper & salt to taste.
Eat up, we're not making dinner tonight.  Can you say....toast and hot cocoa?  I told you I have a cold!
 This is a corner of the garden, taken about a month ago.  The grass in there is greener than the lawn!  It'll take a bit of rototilling to get it back in shape come Spring.

Ripley the cat races through the house and flings himself against the sliding glass door repeatedly when he sees Tippy, the ouside cat.  Eventually he settles down....wherever he wants to, often in my crafting room.
 We've had a couple of lovely snows a week or two ago, and I got outside to wander and look for tracks.  Bobcat, rabbit, raccoon and a solitary elk wandered the road down to the valley.  Rumor has it that a cougar has been spotted repeatedly about 3 or 4 miles from here.  We haven't seen it or any sign so far this season.
 We've got long strings of Christmas lights along the fences that will stay until they burn out!  That long walk to the barn is much friendlier at night when there's a light to guide you!  Unlike in the city, where there are street lights, it is very dark here in the back woods!

I think I shocked a visitor recently when I mentioned that, yes indeed, we do milk the goats twice a day, every day!

So far, two of our milkers have freshened (given birth to kid goats) and each had triplets!  That means I go to the barn at 8am and again at 6pm or so to milk Shiloh and Merrieanne,  and then bottle feed six hungy babies!
Thankfully, the girls help me!

Isn't this a beautiful picture of the snow on the trees?   I was thinking about the first snow of the season on the forested hills outside my kitchen window:  The snow illumines each tree, changing the forest from a green mass to hundred of unique individuals.  I imagine that God sees us that way - where I see a crowd, the masses;  God sees each unique individual illuminated.
 A young family man we know was part of a project to film a living nativity over the Christmas holidays.  Afterwards, I received a call from him, asking if we'd be interested in some farm animals:  free of cost AND delivered!

Meet Mortimer, the bull calf (heart on forehead) and Harriet the heifer!  They are sweet little babies and growing like weeds!
Also in the package deal were four sheep!  Hmmm, I can see some woolly projects in my crafting future!

A little black goat came along, too.  She had suffered from starvation at a previous home and arrived in very poor condition, nearly unable to stand and with very little interest in life.  I broke out my arsenal of goat remedies and I'm happy to say, she is very gradually improving!   In her emaciated state, she was not worth a nickel, so I named her Bad Penny!
Here are the first of the triplets born.  For some reason, I've been busy enough to not remember to take my camera down to the barn now that there are actually six of them!

Farm life changes continually, and at the same time it stays very much the same.  Animals and chores come & go and we tend to do the same kinds of things over and over through the years.

Well, I've caught up for now and it's about time for chores again, so I'll stuff my pockets with kleenex, and take my aching self down to the barn.  Imagine how good that woodstove is going to feel when I'm done with chores and can collapse in my recliner for the evening again!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

It's Fall on the Farm!

I'm sitting in my recliner...yawing, and it's only 9pm but I'm so tired.  Fall is such a busy time of year that it seems there are far more things to accomplish than there are hours in the day or days in the week!   Long winter days inside are starting to sound like a vacation!

Mr. Ripley believes he should be part of every adventure.  My daughter, Laura, and I were suddenly overtaken by the need to 'Fall clean' the house.  Included in that endeavor has been all kinds of odd sorting through things and disposing thereof.

We went through a couple boxes of fabric scraps...
Much to Ripley's delight....

We have a solitary grapevine on the garden fence.  My son planted it 10 or 15 years ago and the most it has ever produced was a box or two of grapes.  This year has been a phenomenal fruit year and we harvested 6 big boxes of purple grapes for juice and jelly!  It's all canned and tucked away in the cellar.
The apple harvest is still booming and we've already canned many half gallons of cider, quarts of apple pie filling, pints of applesauce & apple butter....made pies and dried apples in the dehydrator.  The goats, rabbits and two young steers have enjoyed apples, too. We've given apples away and still they continue to drop from the trees!

We had a cider-making potluck party with a group of friends and sent them all home with jugs of the fruits of their labors!

Today I picked a box of Jonagolds and one of Libertys to store in the outside fridge.  I tasted my way through our 20 year old orchard.  We planted it when we first bought this land and we are definitely reaping our reward in harvest this year!
Apple pie filling day was much more fun this year as we made it a group effort with friends.  Many hands make the work light and with all those hands peeling, coring, slicing, stirring, filling and canning, we managed 100 quarts of pie filling that day!  We'll all be eating good this winter for sure!
Our Country Chicks Craft Fair on Sept 30th & Oct 1st were a rousing success!  We doubled our profits this time and enjoyed it a lot.  Our vendor space is coming together nicely now, so future shows should be quicker and easier to put together.

Many long hours of crafting were represented in my shelves & bins at the show.  This buzzard was one of a kind and didn't last long.

 Since it's a Fall show, besides some of my all-season items I made quite a few Halloween items, too.

Our next show is only about 7 or 8 weeks away and it's a Christmas show.  I've already started on a dozen Old Worlde Santas and some little snowmen,  Lots of work to do to be ready, and of course we still have things to can!

 As we picked them earlier in the season, I put the pie cherries, berries for jams, cranberries and other things in the freezer to can later.  Now that we're close to hunting season, I'll have to get the freezer cleaned out soon as my DH insists that he's going to get an elk this year and I"ll need to have space in the freezer to store it.  I figure I can wait until I actually see it hanging before I get too worried!
 The urge to clean house is keeping me entertained with things like going through closets, boxes & dressers and sending things to Goodwill and I'm anxious to keep working through it and hopefully go into the Winter less cluttered and in a much more orderly and organized fashion!  Wish me luck!

Well, the garden is finished for the year, other than mowing the remaining vegetation down and trimming back the raspberries.  I've closed some of the windows in the rabbit house and we've combined the young and old chicken flocks.  Four of the goats will head off to the auction, the haying equipment will be moved under cover and the porches de-cluttered and ready for Fall & Winter winds and rain.

This morning we had the first frost of the season and a fire in the cookstove.  The sun came out later and it was warm enough to open the windows once again, but the weather forecast is calling for winds & rain for the next few days so it's time to fill the wood box and get the kindling chopped.  Soon the sunshine will be gone for good.

Mr. Ripley is growing and learning how best to torment Maddie the chihuahua.  He appears out of nowhere and then disappears just as fast,  but can usually be found if you put out a box or basket.
My older daughter and I are part of a $5 Quilt Club that meets once a month for a year.  We've done it in the past and are enjoying it once again.  Here's the first block in my quilt.  Every block will be shades of red.

My son & younger daughter and I were talking at
the dining room table yesterday afternoon.  It was sunny and pleasant, about 3pm in the afternoon, when something hit the screen of the sliding door.  It was a little black bat.  He stayed clinging to the screen for about 15 or 20 minutes and then suddenly flew off again.  It's very strange for a bat to fly in the daylight and we wondered if he was disturbed from his hiding place by something or if he was ill.

This is just a smattering of what we've been up to on the hilltop and there's still much to do before the farm can sleep for the winter.  What a blessing it is to have such a bountiful harvest!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Summer is almost over and Ripley the Cat is aptly named!

I remember (ok, vaguely...) when I was a child and the only instance in which time went by fast was during Summer vacation from school.  The rest of life, especially the school year, seemed to go by in slow motion.  NOT ANY MORE!  I see that it's been many weeks since I popped in here to my blog/journal, but I guess I'll just take up once again in my usual haphazard fashion!
The newest addition to the farm is....drum roll please.....Mr. Ripley!  Above is a lovely shot of Ripley wondering what on earth I am pointing at him....and to the right is one of the REAL Ripley doing what kittens do best - getting into mischief!
Who couldn't love a face like that, though!  He's already been to the vet for his necessary shots & alteration, and now he's starting his life as a house cat.

Being attacked by a flying bundle of teeth & claws is hard to get used to, but we're working on it.
 On September 30th and October 1st, we'll be in our booth at the Country Chicks Fall Fair at our fairgrounds, so I am busy making bunches of primitive things to sell.  Be sure to come and see!

These are just a few of them.  To be totally honest, my camera chip is full and I've been either too lazy, too tired or too forgetful to take care of it.

Call me ignorant (but not to my face!), but I found out the hard way that the little memory disc/chip that goes in my camera has a teeny tiny little lock on it that slides up or down.

I mean, really!  Who can even see that well?  Why on earth would you lock the camera chip?

We spent a couple days camping at the beach and I couldn't take a single picture because I couldn't get my camera to work.  Of course I would have Googled the solution if I'd been home, but we had no Internet service while camping.
Hard to live without Google, lol!
I entered some of my primitives in the Fair, which the girls and I worked at for a couple of weeks.  One week we were there on a Wednesday so people could check their entries in to our Living Arts department (think quilts, canning, baking, crocheting, sewing...) Thursday for judging and ribbon awarding and then Friday to display all those beautiful items for the viewing pleasure of the fair-goers.  Fair started the following Tuesday and ran through Sunday.  Very busy, lots of fun, ever so tired!!!
This was my birthday present to my husband.  Yes.  It is indeed, a Spock monkey.  Everyone should have a Spock monkey, Captain.  It is logical.
 We've actually done quite a bit more canning than just carrots, but - remember the camera chip?  Yeah.

Today we canned a dozen jars of green beans and started the applesauce.  I'm aiming to can about 48 pints of applesauce, maybe a dozen apple butter and then a bit later, apple pie filling.  We're working through the Gravenstein apples at the moment and waiting for the Kings to get ripe for pie filling.  We will not starve this winter.
The garlic is dry & braided and the onions, too.  There are actually quite a few more than pictured and we're thinking of canning carmelized onions.  I'm also thinking of painting the entire inside of the house, washing all the windows inside and out and quilting all those UFOs (Un Finished Objects) lying about, HA! HA! HA!
One can only accomplish so much, which is quite a bit, but then we run out of gumption.  Wonder where you can get a nice big pile of gumption?
The weather has been amazingly hot, even hitting 100* here in the good old Pacific Northwest, but now you can feel a change coming on.  It was warm today again, maybe 85* but the wind is picking up and it's already chilly enough to need all the windows closed!  Before you know it, we'll be filling the woodbox and starting up the first fires of the season!
Here are the girls at our tables, set up with vintage sewing machines at the Fair.
 I'm so absolutely BLESSED by these daughters the Lord chose to give me!  MAN I love these girls!  They are truly my best buds.
 Rebecca entered her Labyrinth Walk quilt and on the third or fourth day of the Fair it won People's Choice!  So happy for her and what a lovely quilt, don't you think?
 While we were working at the Fair, a casual acquaintance stopped by to say hello and mentioned that he had a serger that he no longer used and that he really should give it to us.
The next day, this little beauty showed up in the kitchen at our building with my name on it!  What an unexpected blessing!
 Here's another of the items I'll have for sale at the Fall Fair.  Fall is my favorite time of year.  I make old-fashioned kinds of Halloween items along with my other primitives.  I stay away from evil or scary stuff - my stuff is more reminiscent of times gone by.

When I was a kid we would gather in costumed groups and stop at as many houses as we could to Trick-or-Treat and gather up as much candy as possible.  I remember many happy moments spent later in the evening, our bags dumped out on the floor in front of us as we all examined and compared our loot!  The neighborhood was a safer place back then.  Oh good grief!  Here I am, talking about the 'good old days'...and me so young!  (DO NOT LAUGH AT THIS POINT!)

Well, I was lazy and didn't make dinner, so now it's almost 8:30pm and about time to make some nice toast and hot cocoa (from scratch, naturally!) so I'd best stop this catching-up-on-the-blog stuff!  Before I go, you can see a pic of my newest little addition to the collection here---------------------->
It's a tiny chainstitcher machine.  Isn't it cute?  It's very small.

My hubby has a nasty cold (at this time of the year!) and I have to go to the dentist tomorrow for a night-guard fitting because I clench my teeth.  Life is full of such things, but God is good and blesses us every day.  Until I write again, may He hold YOU in the palm of His hand and may you know Him better!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hobo Dinners, Yummy Bean Casserole for the Hay Crew and Little Deer has a Fawn!

Oh what a busy month it's been.  Almost a whole month and I've almost blogged so many times and then just....didn't.

Have you ever lost someone you loved so very dearly?  Almost 9 months have somehow passed since we lost my mom and still some days I am shocked and heart-broken anew.  Did she know we loved her so much?  I still dish up too many plates for dessert sometimes and a few days ago I stood in the room that was hers and cried.  I miss her company.  Sigh.  More time.  More time will ease the ache and loss, though never the hole.

It seems like our summer was here and now gone.
First, it was day after day of HOT, unseasonably
so, weather.  Up in the 80s, the 90s...Way too hot
for us Western Washingtonians!  Like boneless chickens, we lose all ability to do anything useful as we wilt.  Too hot to do any more planting or weeding outside.  Just when I finally had gone through my closet and found capris, short sleeved shirts, sandals.....South it went!  Now, the low temperature tonight may supposedly reach the upper 30s and it's been nothing but gray skies and cloudbursts and gullywashers!

 I must say, it was almost....chilly!  I donned a flannel shirt and woolly socks.  I sequestered myself in my sewing room and finished a quilt top!  The weeds in the garden and flower beds have gone crazy, the dandelions have taken over the yard and I've no need to feel guilty for not working on them because IT IS RAINING CATS AND DOGS!   Ahhhh.

What else have I been up to?  Hmm.  I had loaves of onion mustard sourdough and Italian Hersbs & cheese breads in my freezer, left over from the Farmer's Market & Spring Festival, so I sliced & diced & dehydrated them!

 Now I've got dry bread cubes for every occasion!  Yesterday I crushed a couple cups of them and made meatballs!

It's going to be a 'fruit' year for sure, if the pests don't get all the goods.  The apple trees are loaded with little apples and even though Dave hard-pruned the pears, there are quite a few of them, too.  The Italian Plum is loaded, but one huge major branch split and needs to come down, so not as many plums as we thought.  What can you really do with plums, anyhow?  I mean, you can eat SOME, but boxes and boxes?
 Something has been digging up everything we plant.  Hostas are dumped upside down.  Artichokes strewn out of the ground.  Onion bulbs UNplanted.  Then, in the barn, feed bags torn and feed scattered about.  Traps with tempting tidbits have now managed to catch 3 possums (opossums) so far.  We'd been expecting raccoons but we were wrong!

Mama Deer has twins this year.  She's very flighty and we only catch an occasional glimpse of her.

 On the other hand, Little Deer has a single fawn and she proudly brought him to the yard for me to see.  She's in my daughter's black books, however, as she has on more than one occasion, jumped the fence into her yard and eaten a special rose bush.  For some reason, I get blamed for this.  Just because I sit on the porch and converse with her and occasionally throw her an apple does not mean I am responsible for her friendliness....does it?

The perfectly pretty peonies pleased Pam.  There.  Say that 5 times real fast!
Windows 10 took over BOTH my computers when I wasn't looking.  My desktop computer upstairs in my sewing room crashed.  Completely.  It died and I am sad.  It also took over my laptop, but we have managed to adjust without bloodshed.  Just when I finally had a mutually agreeable relationship with that dumb computer and now I have to LEARN NEW THINGS.  I am old.  Well, getting there!

Hobo Dinner.  THAT is not a new thing and it is so easy that you'll want to run to the kitchen right now and fix yourself one for dinner.  Or lunch.  
 I keep frozen hamburger patties in the freezer just for such occasions.  I made individual ones in oven-proof plates.  Just slap a frozen (or thawed) hamburger patty in, salt & pepper..maybe a delicious tangy onion, few potato wedges and some sliced carrots.  You can dab a little butter on top or, if you're not afraid of real food, bacon grease!  Then you just slap a piece of tin foil aluminum foil over those puppies and bake at 375* or so until it's all done!
Yum, what a feast!
During those 90*+ days, I had to keep two fans on my rabbits in their building.  I went out on the two hottest days when the temps reached almost 100* and misted them with water and laid wet rags in their cages for them to lay one.  I didn't lose even one bunny, even out of this litter of little ones!   I got some dirty looks from rabbits as I sprayed water on their faces, ears & fur!
 The weather's been so unseasonably warm & dry (well, until this rainy spell) that we've already cut & baled over 600 bales of hay!  The barn loft is full and ready for winter!  I fed the hay crew dinner two days in a row - hamburgers on a bun and Yummy Bean Casserole the first day,  and the next day, pizza.  Homemade, of course.  It didn't dawn on me until later that I could have actually PURCHASED ready-made pizza!  Go figure. What will they think of next?

NOTHING is better than this bean dish.  Try it.  You'll thank me.
 Of course, unless you raise your own ground beef and have kielbasa made, and of course use your own canned beans and won't taste quite the same as mine, but it's one of those no-fail recipes, so give it a go anyhow.

It's great for potlucks, too.
 While my mom was undergoing cancer treatments, we had to be in town (about 35-40 minutes away) sometimes 2, 3 or even 4 days a week for anywhere from 2 to 5 hours not including the drive.  Then, of course, taking care of her when we were back home again took up much of our time.  Now I'm still trying to get used to NOT having to go anywhere and NOT feeling guilty for sewing or working outside.
I realize that a lot of women go to work and spend many hours away, but with a chronic illness like Lyme Disease, it was a hard road to travel and none of us has recovered very well yet.
In past years, varmints ate my strawberries & raspberries before I could get to them.  Now I've got them under wire row covers and in a chicken wire covered cloche and they are doing GOOD!  Here is my little batch of strawberry rhubarb jam.  If this rain hasn't molded them, I should get more strawberries.  I confess that we've mostly just scarfed them down as fast as I could get them in the house.  Can you say....Strawberry Shortcake with Whipped Cream?????

Well, I'm sure more stuff has happened than I have remembered to write, but I'll stop rambling for now.  God has been good to us and I thank Him every day for His love and blessings to us.  This farm is my happy place.  All those years when I was a child, living in duplexes in the city with my single mom, I dreamed of living on a farm.  Well, I also dreamed of eating all the whipped cream I wanted, but never mind that!  Until next time!