Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Family Farm

On Sunday, our little family piled up in the truck and headed to Lebanon to visit my Grandmother's farm.  Three generations of my family have lived here; the house, barns, and sheds all built by my great grandparents.  Our intentions were to get a few nest boxes for the new chicken coop Wes has been working on.  Long ago that farm was fully operational - hundreds of chickens, beef and dairy cows, pigs, and my great grandmother's huge vegetable garden (although I am fairly certain the vegetables were only for home use).  It has been probably 40 or 50 years since its heyday, but the evidence of what a huge operation it was is still there if you look hard enough.  

We filled the truck bed with the nest boxes and several other treasures we had to take home with us, but truth be told I am pretty sure we could spend countless hours out there finding all manner of "antiques".  My favorite and most treasured of all the things we found were my great grandmother's canning jars.  I only knew Mama Laine as an old lady, but everyone that knew her has stories of her.  Gin, my grandmother, has told me how she would snatch up and kill any kind of varmint before it knew what hit it; "she was a tough old bird!" she said.  Also, her cooking was famous through the whole town.   Her husband was sick for quite a while and she managed to support the family - 4 kids plus her father in law - by selling pies and chicken salad (with home grown chicken, of course) to local restaurants and families.  Back in her day she didn't have the luxury to go to the grocery for green beans in winter, or even the option of a deep freezer to store her summer produce, so she canned.  Everything.  I must have brought home 40 jars, and that is just what has survived.  Some of them are so neat just to look at, but then to think that my great grandmother used these very same jars to pickle beets or can tomatoes just makes it all the more special.  

A few of my favorites, from left: Longlife Mason, California Poppy Ball, regular mouth square half gallon Ball, liberty bell Mason, star Mason Jar, square quart Ball.

Another amazing find was these old pictures tucked away in a rotting trunk in the milk barn.  I have no idea who any of the people are; I am hoping my dad will know.  I may even try to ask Gin, although I am not too hopeful she will want to help.  All but two of the pictures are unmarked.  The one with the most information, a picture of a football team with names and positions written on the back, is half rotted away.  Still legible are the year - 1913 (!), and V.T.S., which I guess is the school or institution the team played for.  The other is a picture of a young woman with the words "Mamie, I love only you.  Mara" written on the side.  The name could be Mora or Mary or something similar.  Such a mystery...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Weekend (or A Chicken Update)

The kiddos and I were lucky enough to have Wes home for an extra day this past weekend, so we made the most of it.  We spent Saturday with family and friends, including celebrating our sweet niece's 6th birthday, then Sunday and Monday we stayed busy at home.  We were even paid a visit by Wes's Granny on Sunday.  

Have I ever mentioned how amazing Wes is?  He is pretty dang amazing.  He worked all day Sunday and Monday building a new coop for our growing flock of chickens (14 birds at the moment).  He also helped me finish planting our trees and grape vines just in time for a nice rain shower to water them.  The coop isn't quite finished, the bottom picture is it's current condition, but I imagine the chickens will be in their new digs in 2 or 3 weeks, maybe sooner.  

While I'm talking chickens (seriously, once I get started it is hard for me to stop...), Broody Hen laid her first egg yesterday since going broody back in October.  She has always laid her eggs in an old hanging basket that sits on a table on the side of the porch.  She must have been confused yesterday because she kept hopping up on this table (not her usual one, which is on the other side of the porch) and looking around, maybe for her basket, until finally giving up and just laying the egg right here:

Not the best spot for an egg, but I'll take it.  After cleaning up from coop construction, Wes piled a bunch of stuff on this table and Broody was forced to find a more appropriate spot today.  

All in all, we had a pretty wonderful weekend.  Tonight I have the TV to myself, and having read mention of Downton Abbey no less than 5 times in the past few weeks, I have to see what it is all about.  A cup of tea, some knitting, and episode 1 are waiting for me...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Dig It

I recently read that in the South, late fall to winter is the best time to plant trees.  This little fact got Wes and I seriously talking about what trees we want to add to our orchard this year.  And while we are at it, how about some more berries, too?

Today the kiddos and I took a field trip to one of my favorite places in Fairview - GroWild.   I love this place.  I wish I could spend all day there and just follow the staff around, soaking up all their plant knowledge.  They specialize in plants native to the Southeast, and they have a LOT of them out there.  Here in our little valley, though, if we can't eat it we don't want to grow it, so we have only explored the edibles they offer (apples, pears, plums, nuts, berries, grapes...).   

Last spring the whole family made the trip and came home with a trailer load of trees and bushes, enough to start a respectable orchard and berry patch, plus a pecan tree.  This year we were a bit more modest, but we still managed to fill the truck bed.  As of today, the orchard has 1 plum tree, 2 pear trees, 4 apple trees (1 new), and 2 old apple trees that were already on the property.  Our berry patch has 8 blueberries (3 new), 6 blackberries (2 new), and 2 raspberries.  We also bought 3 muscadine grapes and a serviceberry tree.  The future site of the vineyard is the rocky slope that runs down from the orchard, and the serviceberry we will plant close to the house in hopes of getting a few berries before the birds eat them all.  

I am already envisioning being up to my elbows in apple peels, being covered in blackberry juice, and Audrey eating all the blueberries off the bushes before I can pick them...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My Valentines

We spent yesterday morning making Valentines for our library party today.  I love a homemade gift more than anything, except possibly giving a homemade gift, so you know I was not going to let the kiddos pass out Spiderman cards (as much as they may have liked that...).  

I found the idea for these handprint hearts on pintrest, and thanks to Lincoln's mad scissor skills we had about 15 of them done in no time.  The hardest part was tracing their chubby, wiggly little hands ("it tickles!!").  

Valentines Day has never been a big deal to me; Wes and I have always been happy to exchange homemade cards and maybe eat dinner in a restaurant.  But, like so many other things in life, now that we have kids it is different.  I love these little holidays almost as much as Christmas now.  There isn't as much build up so they don't have any expectations of what is waiting for them, making the little surprises all the more special.  I have big plans to give them a few small treats in the morning, followed by heart shaped pancakes for my 2 sweet little Valentines.  

Happy Valentines Day!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Garden Dreaming

Daffodils started blooming this week, and the weather is starting to warm up ever so slightly. I am thinking of the garden...

I want to plant a little bit of everything and a lot of a few things. Including:
Beans of every kind, especially dry beans
Brussels sprout
Herbs, and lots of them
Potatoes, white and sweet
Popcorn, no sweet corn this year
Winter squashes of every variety

And lots more, I'm sure; that's just what I can come up with a quick spin through the alphabet. I don't know if I will get it all in the ground, but I'm sure gonna try.

Seed starting has been on my mind most today. Primarily, how exactly I am going to do it. My efforts last year were all a flop, so I am back to the drawing board for now. I have a cold frame in mind, hopefully built out of some old windows I will find for free somewhere...

Notice all those tomatoes on there? It is a goal of mine (and always is, although not yet realized) to grow and can enough tomatoes so that we don't have to buy any all year. We eat a can or two a week usually, so I figure I need about, well, a lot. I have high hopes that this is going to be the year.

Friday, February 01, 2013


A few days ago we crafted a little snow storm in our playroom (dining room?  I never quite know what to call that room...) and it has since grown into a near blizzard hanging from the chandelier.  I only had a flicker of a hope that we may see some snow this year; much more present was the thought that this indoor storm was likely the only snow we'd see.  Happily, I was wrong.  

The beginning of the storm
This morning we woke to a mostly white yard and temperatures cold enough to keep it that way for at least a few hours, despite the not frozen ground.  We ate breakfast and hurried out as soon as we could for some snow play.  I sent Lincoln and Audrey out first and went back in for coffee.  When I came out they had both trekked up to the other side of Puddle Creek and Lincoln was pulling Audrey down the hill in her little sled.  It was so sweet I could have cried.  

Not much snow and clumpy grass made sledding hard, so we decided to try the snow on the back porch.  It was too dry for a snowman but perfect for snow angels.  Lincoln made a few great ones, but Audrey didn't quite get the whole arm and leg flapping thing and kept just plopping down and getting back up.  Several times she waved her arms around in the air and kicked.  It was great.