Friday, February 28, 2014

Foto Friday

I was able to make a nice flaky pie crust and use up a jar of our blueberry pie filling we canned this summer. It was a nice taste of summer on a cold winters week.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Winter Blues

Each year, the WV Extension Agency puts together a conference for small farmers throughout the state. The days are filled with workshops on all kinds of topics. I'm hoping to make it next year as an attendee!

It is also a time for farmers around the state to showcase their goods in a winter farmers market. This year marks my fifth year of attending and each year gets better. Products range from honey and jams to baked goods to soaps and even some produce! There are also WV authors on hand signing their books.

Here's my haul. I could have spent another hour walking around and I had planned on taking some pictures while I was there, but alas a certain little girl was growing impatient.

Dawn at Brightside Acres makes some absolutely stunning teas. I adore her blend called Sparkle My Spirit. It was so helpful when we were building to help keep my stress levels under control. But, I can't drink it while nursing as it has St. John's Wort. So, today I asked Dawn what she would recommend for a nursing mama and she directed me to Renew. I'm drinking a cup as I write and it is wonderful.

I generally make our sandwich bread. Since I was gone all day today and I made Dan's lunch with the last of our bread from the freezer, I was more than happy to find some whole wheat bread from Joan at the Sheepherder's Kitchen. The loaf is beautiful and I love things with only a few ingredients and ones you can pronounce!

We are members of Mountain People's Coop in Morgantown and we love buying things like flour, oats, and peanut butter from them. It was nice to see them at a table as I remembered while walking around that I was out of oats!  I also picked up some dried mango. It is this mango that got us interested in starting to dehydrate our food.

I was drawn toward the book table because there were a number of children's books. Since I will be homeschooling, I thought it would be neat to get a book from a WV author. Melinda was there and told me about the story lines of each of her books. As a retired public school teacher, she tries to incorporate positive messages using nature. In this book, a young owl learns all about the other birds of forest and finds out that each one is different. Character traits are personified in each bird and the young owl learns that you are who you are. I'm already thinking of ideas to use it as a good jumping off point for a lesson on birds!

The illustrator and publisher are both West Virginians. I love that so many things can be found locally.

This basil smells amazing. Like knock your socks off awesome. There is a greenhouse in Berkeley Springs that uses aquaponics to grow produce year round. They had other lettuce as well as fresh turmeric. And tomatoes!  Now to figure out what to do with the basil!

We love supporting our local (and state farmers)! We are looking forward to the Bridgeport Market this weekend. We will talk to the farmer we are getting our chicks from and load up on some meat. Are there winter markets in your area?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

CSA Wednesday

Another Wednesday, another delicious box from Fish Hawk Acres! More brussel sprouts, some gorgeous heads of lettuce, watercress,  carrots, parsnips and bok choy. What would you do with all these goodies? Let me know in the comments! Especially what would you do with watercress?

A Cold Morning

The remedy to a cold morning in our house? A warm crackling fire in the wood stove. As much as I like our wood stove, spring can come anytime. I'm looking forward to getting our CSA box today. It always makes me happy to get my hands on some fresh produce in the winter. Check back later to see what we got!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Seed Storage

The warmer weather the past few days has me itching to get into the garden. We've already ordered and received our seeds and I've been wanting to organize them better. I picked up some basic photo albums at Target yesterday.

I definitely underestimated the amount of seed packs we have so I will have to pick up more this weekend. I put pepper and tomato seeds in the green album. These are seeds that need to be started indoors soon!

I only put one seed packet in each sleeve. This allows me to see both sides of the pack and allows me to see the planting suggestions and descriptions on the back.

The red one houses flower and herb seeds.

I'm so excited to have a test garden for flowers. I'd love to start a small flower farm in the future, offering cut flowers for local events. Don't those zinnias look dreamy?

How are you preparing for the garden?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

CSA Wednesday

Another weekly installment from Fish Hawk Acres. Celery root, winter radishes, carrots, brussel sprouts, eggs, and potatoes.

The warmer weather today has me itching to get in the garden. I'm hoping to get down to visit Chef Hawkins and his crew in the next few weeks to check out the greenhouse!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


There's something special to me about knitting. I taught myself how to knit two and half years ago after a little challenge from a friend's mom. My friend was having a get to know the baby picnic and received several gifts. One was a quilt handmade by her grandmother. I commented that I wish I could sew. I heard a reply of "Heidi, you don't have to be Martha Stewart."

Now, I had baked some chocolate chip cookies and made cake balls made into what looked like ice cream cones. This was was a challenge to me. I enjoy baking, but I needed something else to channel my creative energy into.

When we sold our house and moved to our apartment, I was able to find a local yarn store. The owner was so nice in helping me choose needles and yarn and gave me motivation. YouTube videos and books are what I used to teach myself. I started with a hat for Kole and I have been trying to challenge myself ever since.

My mom and step dad like knit dish cloths, so while watching the Olympics the last few nights, I knitted a larger basket weave dish cloth. I hope they'll like it! I'm going to try to share my works in progress each week as knitting (and weaving! ) are what I do to relax and relieve stress.

Do you knit? Crochet? Weave? Sew? Let me know!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Stitches Out!

We ventured out yesterday so we could grab some groceries. We also went so I could get my stitches out. My finger feels so much better! I'm looking forward to using my oils to help it heal.

We noticed we were under a winter weather advisory Friday for a potential of 2-5 inches overnight into Saturday morning. And we got 5 inches.

Our tractor has been stuck for about 2 weeks now. And Dan drove the truck down to the bottom of the hill last week. It was fun getting down off the hill. But, it was even more of an adventure getting up...

Luckily, we were really close to those when we got stuck. It was a little bit of fun walking up, but it was better than having to walk the whole 1/2 mile!

Dan went back out to dig the car out. And he decided for the next few days he will walk down and drive the truck. We are hoping for a little bit of a thaw this week.

Is it spring yet?

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Pom Pom Hat

I'm going to start a new Friday trend. I'm going to post just a picture. Today's picture is of my newly finished hat for our baby girl (who turned 1 this week!). My first pom pom hat!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

They're Essential!

We eat a healthy diet. We are active. We rarely get sick. I've been working hard to eliminate chemicals in our home and so I make our own cleaning products. Vinegar, anyone?

It's nice to have some things in my bag of tricks, though. When I was in labor last year, my doula had me using essential oils. Clary sage and lavender to be exact. They helped me not only relax, but I was able to have the natural delivery I had hoped for.

When some post partum anxiety issues surfaced, my doula came to the rescue again. Some essential oil blends helped me tremendously.

Recently, I decided to jump in feet first to the world of essential oils. And am I ever glad I did! Last week when I cut my finger, I immediately put lavender on it. It helped me with pain and the scent was very relaxing.  I followed the doctors advice and took a course of antibiotics and got a tetanus booster. But, the essential oils have been helping it heal nicely.

Lavender and frankincense have been helping with wound. I'm looking forward to getting my stitches out on Saturday and I will be a little more aggressive using the oils to massage. I had a reader last week suggest oils in the comments - I love getting comments! 

I also use lavender for my kids to sleep at night. My mom also uses lavender to sleep as well. For cleaning, lemon and melaleuca (commonly known as tea tree oil) have been my go to oils. With stainless steel appliances and two kids, I need something that works well for fingerprints. Lemon oil is the ticket. Mixed in with a little olive oil it cleans my appliances right up with minimal scrubbing needed. The wipes I'd been getting before not only needed elbow greaase, they also smelled funky. Now when I clean, it smells just like lemons. I recently made a homemade soft scrub cleaner and use melaleuca.

There are a lot of other ways the oils have been helping us out. I'll share more in the future, but for you use oils? What's your favorite? Let me know!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

CSA Wednesday

Another lovely installment of fresh veggies from Fish Hawk Acres! This week brings parsnips, apple cider, green onions, apples, kale, bok choy and lettuce. I love getting fresh greens, especially when we are expecting another 2-5 inches of snow by tomorrow.

And do you see the little ray of sunshine in the picture? Sunshine!!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Six Cookies

Sometimes I get a craving for cookies. But, I don't always want to whip out the Kitchen Aid and make two dozen.

Because I would eat them. My family wouldn't be left with much.

Enter the Small Batch chocolate chip cookie. I was introduced to this idea during my weight loss journey. A recipe that only makes 6 or 8 cookies? I'm in!

Small Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/4 C + 2 TBS white flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda

3 TBS + 1 tsp softened butter
1/4 C brown sugar
2 TBS white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 TBS + 1 tsp well beaten egg
1/4 C chocolate chips

Mix the first three ingredients in a small bowl. In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugars, either with a spoon, fork, or hand mixer (we use a spoon). Add in the vanilla and egg. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well. Mix in chocolate chips. Bake at 350 for 14 minutes. Enjoy!

The cookbook is awesome. I have this recipe memorized, though. 

But, really, what could be better than some cookies, milk, and the Olympics?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

What I've Been Up To

I've been a little silent the past few days. And it's because on Thursday, while making Dan's sandwiches for lunch, I cut my finger with a butter knife. I was trying to separate out two pieces of frozen bread and my hand the butter knife collided. Three stitches, a tetanus shot, and antibiotics and I'm on the path to healing. It's feeling better and the splint is off, so I'll be back at it tomorrow.  I'm hoping to get up a review of the book Fresh Eggs Daily.  Happy weekend, friends :-)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

CSA Wednesday

Another lovely box from Fish Hawk Acres! Spaghetti squash, purple potatoes, carrots, beet, micro greens, winter radishes, and eggs. Yumm-o!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Fast Food

Nope. Not McDonalds. Or Chic Ole as Kole likes to call it. Dinner in the pressure cooker! I got a pressure cooker last year for my birthday after making some comments about how neat it would be to cook a whole chicken in an under hour.

I finally got around to doing that. I love the pressure cooker for pot roasts. It has a knack for making some melt in your mouth goodness out of a tough cut of meat. And it is a lifesaver for our dried beans. An overnight soak, a few minutes in the pressure cooker, and we have beans ready for any recipe.

We picked up a whole chicken on Sunday at the Winter Market. We hope one day to raise our own meat birds, but until then we are so grateful there is a farm nearby that raises chicken. And pork. And lamb. And rabbit. They pretty much raise everything.

Here's the pressure cooker. No, it's not your grandma's pressure cooker. No jiggly knob at the top. No cowering in fear that the lid might explode off and leave you with chicken bits everywhere. This baby is electric. The model we have has options for browning meats, slow cooking, and keeping things warm. While I haven't tried the slow cook option, I hope to soon so I can eliminate the slow cooker from my cabinet.

Here's the bird in all it's wonderfulness. It looks a little brown and that's because I browned it before cooking. This bird was 4 pounds. I don't think I'd want something much bigger to fit comfortably in the pot.

I followed a few ideas I found online and most indicated that for a 4 pound bird, it should only take 25 minutes at high pressure. At 25 minutes, it definitely was not done. It took around 45 minutes total for the thermometer to register 180 in the breast. The meat was moist and it was gobbled up at dinner.

When we cook chicken in the slow cooker, we usually throw all the bones and skin back in and let it cook on low overnight to make stock. From what I've read, the pressure cooker is the way to go for stock! So, after removing the meat, we threw the bones and such back in the pot. I added some carrots, garlic, bay leaves, and salt. It's cooking now and I'm excited to see how it turns out!

Do you have a pressure cooker? What's your favorite meal to make in it?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

5 Acres and a Dream

I love to read. When I was younger, my book of choice was a good crime fiction. Patricia Cornwell, anyone? As time has gone by, my library of homesteading and real food books has increased. Barbara Kingsolver and Michael Pollan inspired me to take a more in depth look at what I was consuming. After we purchased our property, my bookshelf expanded to include books on chicken keeping, keeping a family cow, and other homesteading books. I also have a few memoir type books from other farmers and homesteaders.

As one of my birthday gifts, my mother in law got me the new book "5 Acres & A Dream The Book." I had never heard of the title or Leigh's popular blog. I checked out the blog and got to reading. I became hooked quite quickly!

Leigh's book is neither a how to book nor a memoir. She outlines the ongoing journey she and her husband Dan are in to becoming self-reliant. She goes into some detail discussing what it means to be self reliant vs. self sufficient. Is it possible for someone to be completely self sufficient? Probably not. But, self reliance is a goal that is attainable.

One of the things that inspired me the most was the development of Leigh and Dan's master plan. They laid out their 5 acres and assigned area to specific objectives. It is an ever changing plan, but it helps to focus Leigh and Dan. I love this idea and it has the wheels turning in my head for our farm. We have 53 acres to work with and we initially plotted out a rough idea of where we wanted things. We haven't looked at it since we built our house. As we are approaching our third summer of living in our house, we are starting to expand gardens, add chickens, and start our vineyard. A master plan is something we are going to start working on soon.

Leigh doesn't sugar coat this lifestyle. When dealing with animals and nature, changes don't occur overnight. Sometimes it takes a year of trial and error, or several years, to see if a breeding program or garden spot is going to be successful. And hard decisions sometimes have to be made. Leigh talks about some decisions that weren't easy, but necessary.

It's encouraging to see a couple doing what they love. Through trial and error, they are making progress toward their goals. Leigh and Dan are empty nesters, so they are starting their journey a little later than we have started ours. We are fortunate that we built our home from scratch and have that out of the way. Now we can focus our efforts on developing other areas of our homestead. Leigh and Dan have made great strides in improving their 90 year old home and each decision is made with the future in mind.

If you're looking for a book that will challenge your thinking and inspire you to pursue your homesteading goals, you should definitely check out Leigh's book. It's self published, too, which is way cool!

Happy Homesteading, friends!