Thursday, July 28, 2011


There's something about leaving a legacy that has really intrigued me. Not simply a legacy of monetary value. Or things we acquire. But also a legacy of integrity. Hard work. Responsibility. Respect. Honesty. Those character traits we want so badly for our children to possess as an adult. Those are the things I yearn for my kids to learn. Those are the things I want to leave as a legacy to my children. The rest is just fluff.

Three years ago when we came to look at this property with the hopes of finding our dream country home we had no idea we would be building a legacy here. Nor that there would already be such history to our home. I can distinctly remember getting the tour of the property and the home-owner pointing to the back corner of the paddock to two white stones emerging from the soil. We took a stroll back there and there they were. Two gravestones from the 1800's. Now, I'm not one to believe in ghosts and hauntings, but I have to admit, I was noticeably freaked out at the thought of looking across my yard each day to a cemetery. I also remember him saying, "People are either freaked out by it, or they think it's cool." I can tell you that my husband and I were divided on that issue for quite some time. Well, despite the dead people buried on the acreage we pursued the purchase and here we are today. And today Jason and I both think it's pretty neat to have those graves back there. But only because they're from the time of the Civil War. The time of Abraham Lincoln as President. Can you imagine?? Our house has stood here that long... through so much ... history!

Last night we took a walk back there again, and I took the opportunity to document the gravestones. Sadly, when they were erected, they were quite tall and have broken many years ago. They now lay in the grass behind broken slabs of marble where they once stood. The one was actually broken a few places and tonight we decided to put the puzzle together, so Jason and Zoey moved some of the pieces so it made more sense. There's still a piece missing, and we've tried looking for it beneath the sod, but with no luck.

Zoey uses a pitchfork to look for more pieces of the stones that are missing.

There is also a third piece of history that has been a big question mark to us... the third, smaller, stone simply labeled "B.G.". It too looks to have broken off of a taller marble slab but we cannot find where it originally was placed. We happened upon the stone itself by accident while poking in the ground with a pitchfork. Years of neglect led to it being completely encompassed with grass and invisible.

Jason was teaching Zoey about dirt here. She was worried that he would dig up the people so he explained that after this much time, they would just be dirt. Always a teachable moment.

Over the past 3 years of living here, we've had the opportunity to meet several people who also have history here. Either they've lived here personally, or they are relatives of those who have. One lady was actually doing quite the genealogical research when she came to us. With the research she'd done and the information we were able to give her, we were able to piece together some pieces of the puzzle. She was even kind enough to share photos of our place from back in the time of it's original inhabitants. And while the home doesn't look all that much different today, we lament that the original barn is long since gone and replaced with a pole building.

Some day, this house will look even less like it did in pioneer days. But we're doing everything we can to preserve the memories and history that this old house holds.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

face the fear

Two Christmases ago I got the gift I wanted the most. A pressure canner. I was on the brink of a new gardening season, and if I remember correctly, my garden journal already had my garden plan drawn out for the coming spring. That next year's harvest was turned into stewed tomatoes, salsa, canned whole tomatoes, etc. But I was new to pressure canning, so I conservatively stuck to hot-water bath canning as a means to process my acidic veggies. This year however, I decided to face my fears of pressure canning. The process tormented me from the start, but I was increasingly tormented once I received a paper bag full of freshly picked green beans from my neighbor. I knew I had to make good use of this free harvest. And I also knew that meant I had to pull out the canner and just do it.

I have to interject here and tell you that it takes a lot of humility on my part to proceed with this blog post. Most people who know me as the pseudo-farm girl and pioneer spirited woman may think I'm an experienced canner. Not quite. Please don't judge me :)

Thankfully, my husband, Jason, had the day off the day I decided to dust off the canner and set to work. I got up early and washed and trimmed all the beans so they were ready to go. I chilled them in cold water so they wouldn't get rubbery and gross before I had a chance to can them. I perused the canner manual - trying desperately to understand the instructions. The fear of botulism and an exploding, over pressurized canner, kept disrupting my train of thought. Finally, I went to Jason and told him I needed his help. A slight grin and he agreed. See, over time I've learned that I'm a visual learner. Instruction booklets overwhelm me. I need to watch someone - have them show me through the process. So that's where Jason came in. He's a detail oriented person and we made a great team. He would read the manual, and show me what needed to be done. With each completed step, my pioneer spirit was being filled to a new level. I was doing it. I was facing the fear of pressure canning, and it wasn't so scary after all!

We compost - so I saved all my trimmings to make great soil for next year's garden!

This book was a recommendation from a friend. And every gardeners dream! A must have for anyone who wants to preserve the harvest. Also good "Preserving Summer's Bounty" - LOV-it!

It wasn't all without it's share of problems. Once we got the beans jarred and in the canner, we realized we completely forgot to get the bubbles out, so we reopened the canner in those early stages and checked the jars. No bubbles. Back into the canner they went and we turned the heat up. We knew we'd have heat regulation issues working on a glass cook top, but we worked our way through that. They canned at a slightly higher pressure rate than what the booklet said, but no explosions... to rocketing canner through the ceiling. When the timer was up, I let the canner cool down and carefully removed the jars from the contraption and onto an awaiting towel. As I went to put the third jar to rest, I heard it. The first of many "plink" 's as the jars sealed themselves shut, just as they were supposed to do. Seven jars. Seven "plink" 's. Not one casualty.

I did it. Well, with a little help. But in the future - having one canning experience under my belt - I'll be able to fearlessly pull out the canner and proceed with joy and not fear.

Our hard well water leaves the jars "milky" looking. Boo.

Thank you to my new gardening neighbor and friend for your generous green bean donation. And thank you to my sweet husband, for taking time out of your day off to help your freaked-out wife work through her fears.

Monday, July 25, 2011


I was all hyped up to blog about my first canning experience - and I will! - but something very extraordinary has taken precedence. This weekend, we brought home two more ladies to join our growing flock of hens. Two beautiful, auburn, rhode-island reds. With a suggestion of the name "Rhoda" from a friend, we decided to name the other one "Mary". If you've got the same warped sense of humor as I do, you've probably seen the movie "Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion". There's a point in the film where Romy & Michelle are arguing about who's the prettiest, while envisioning themselves elderly, and they're saying "No! I'm the Mary. You're the Rhoda!" Unless you've seen it, you're probably wondering how you'll ever get back the last few seconds. If you HAVE seen it, you get it!

Anyway, being that 'Mary' is the one they both wanted to be, we named the hen with the perfect comb, Mary. And the one with the uneven comb, Rhoda.

Meet Mary.

Rhoda & Mary

I anticipated that it would be a few days before they would lay, due to the stress of transporting them from north Appleton. However, we were surprised the very next day when Rhoda gave us a single light brown egg! Vanessa was on cloud nine - my little chicken farmer. Prior to the big event, she'd been checking the next boxes feverishly. Possibly prolonging the egg laying process for lack of privacy. But at long last, she excitedly carries the egg to the house to show the others. I was so worried she was going to drop or crush it from all her exuberation! But, it made it safely inside for show and tell and to be placed in the fridge. There was discussion as to who would eat the first egg, and we decided until we'd wait until we had 5 eggs and then each have one for breakfast.

Vanessa heading in to check the next boxes. For the 100th time.

A peek inside at the favorite spot to nest.

Well, waddaya know!

The very first Hilfarm egg.

Look how proud she looks!

As if that surprise wasn't enough, today we heard some ruckus coming from the run this afternoon. A friend, and fellow chicken farmer, recently told me that her hens make a lot of racket after laying as if to show off. So, I immediately ran to the next boxes and took a peek. Wouldn't you know! A small cream colored egg! I took it to show Jason and he said he'd seen our barred rock, Lacey, in the box I found it in. We decided to look some more and Jason spotted a second egg in the same box under some hay. A beautiful, small, light blue egg. Perfectly formed. A gift from our americana, Diamond. Looks like our new, mature ladies got the ball rolling in the egg-laying department!

Aren't they cute? I almost hate to cook them up!

I am thrilled, so say the least, that my hens are to the point of laying eggs. To know that I nurtured them along from wee pullets to the point where they're happy healthy and producing eggs as they're supposed to is very fulfilling. And it only adds to my joy when I walk out to the coop and they all come running to the fence to see what treat I've brought for them. They trust me. And now they're providing for me and my family. My pioneer spirit is filled with joy.

One last picture of Vanessa with our Americana, Kitty Hawk. She carries this one around like a baby and the silly bird puts up with it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

lazy summer days.

Sometimes it's nice to get away from the hub-bub of normal daily life and enjoy some time doing ... nothing.

A few weeks ago I volunteered to go to the summer house because an assessor was coming for tax purposes and me, being the only one without a "job", was the only viable candidate to be there during the day when he would come. So, I packed up some kids, food, swim wear & the dog and we headed out for the day.

Once we got there and got settled, it became apparent to me that I had nothing to do. Well, aside from the book I brought to read. The house was clean. The crockpot was on with the soup I'd made the day before. And the kids were enjoying their favorite episode of "Mr. Bean" - of course the one where he looses his trunks in the pool!

I have to admit that I got a little anxious. I started thinking of all the things I could be doing if I were at home. The floors to be washed. The sewing to be caught up on. The garden to be weeded. But here I was, forced to sit. It turned out not to be such a bad thing after all. I had the opportunity to close my eyes and "rest" to the giggling of children watching TV. I was able to watch the kids play with all the new and different toys that the house has and we don't. I was content to just BE.

Later, after the assessor made his brief tour of the house, we were able to suit up and head to the beach. The weather was HOT and the water was refreshing. The kids had a blast and again I just sat and watched them enjoying summertime. It ended up being a pretty fantastic day.

Monday, July 11, 2011


It's that time of year! The berries are ripe and my hands are stained. And so are the kids feet! Last week we picked mulberries from the tree and we had to do it barefoot so we didn't wreck our shoes.

Thankfully the tree is on the outskirts of the yard so we don't worry about tracking it in the house. Because it's early in the season, our first batch of jam was triple-berry jam: mulberries, raspberries & black raspberries. The black raspberries were a surprise.

I had planted raspberries from my mother-in-law last year, but this year these strange berries grew amongst the raspberries. It wasn't until they ripened that I figured out what they were! How they got there is still a mystery. But as a gardener, I welcome the new plant to nurture and harvest from.

All the berries mashed together. I am in love with the color!

My little helper.

And my big helper!

The jam is all done and 'resting' until it can go in the freezer. The little jar in the front is for a boy I babysit for. He helped make the jam and so I'm sending home some for him to enjoy!

It took us 4 days to collect enough berries to make the first batch. But by Friday, we had enough and made the triple berry jam.

I kept putting off strawberry picking this year and finally realized it's not something I enjoy. What I do enjoy is the jam making process and of course, the jam. So this year I opted to purchase a flat from the local farm stand to make my strawberry freezer jam.

This whole process taps into my pioneer spirit. The idea of storing up goods in your pantry for the long winter ahead. Using what you have - things that you grew and harvested - to feed your family. It makes me smile.

All my wonderful, glorious, delicious strawberry jam!

And on an unrelated note... my rummage sale find. Only 75 cents!

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