August 31, 2018

Perfect Timing...

Simple Abundance Book
This book, Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, resides in my bedroom. I don't read it everyday - I've had it for years - but whenever I pick it up and turn to the current date, it still reveals a perfectly timed message for me. Such was the case yesterday.
August 30th Entry - bookmark created by Daughter-in-Law #2
You may have noticed that I haven't been too busy in the studio these days. I kind of hit a creative wall following my trip to Kentucky. I had so many irons in the fire that I didn't know where to turn. In my effort to choose, I ended up overwhelmed, and doing nothing.
Yesterday's date entry was about not holding back - or procrastinating - on doing the things I enjoy. How can I go wrong, if any one of the projects waiting for me would be the next thing I work on?
I then read ahead to today's entry which says it's perfectly all right to embrace the downtime, rather than fight it. It said that when the creative spark lights again, there will be a flurry of you've come to expect from me.
So, either way, I can see busy-ness in my future. (Of course, I realize I haven't just been "sitting around"). All I have to do it open our pantry doors to reveal all the jars, filled with my kitchen endeavors.
Lisa Bongean's Twilight Garden Quilt In Progress

While I've been inactive in the studio, Lisa Bongean (owner of Primitive Gatherings) has been busy completing the quilt I've only begun setting up. You'll remember that my quilt has a gray background, rather than Lisa's dark one, but the wools for mine are the same as hers.

Lisa is two borders short of completing her set up. All her blocks are stitched, and she's working on those borders now. Then it will be ready to assemble and quilt. 

I'm actually hyperventilating a little, looking at this. I see just how much work is involved - and how very much I have yet to do. (And this is just one of the projects that I have on my list.) That could completely scare off any needleworker, so I don't feel alone in that regard.

Guess I'll be putting on my "big girl panties", close my eyes and just pick something - anything - to work on. There's a lot of value to the old "fake it 'til you make it" saying. Yes. I shall do that, I think.


August 30, 2018

The Day After The Storms...

Hickory Hill Farm Sunset
There were terrible storms around our state the day on Tuesday. A tornado landed about forty minutes south of us, trees and power lines came down, there were fires and damaged buildings. And, there was rain. Lots of rain. 

We lost power for two and a half hours, so Handsome and I brought out the battery-operated Ott lights, I lit Mom's antique oil lamp, and then made our dinner by their light. I love my gas range/oven, because we were able to cook even without electricity...just like when this house was young. We had a lovely meal, and stayed safe and dry within the walls of our farmhouse.

There were and are plenty of people sharing photographs of all the damage, and many friends are still without power. In typical Midwestern style, people pulled up their shirtsleeves and got busy with cleanup. We're saying prayers for all of them.

There's a comfort and calm that I get living in this home. I think about all the people it's cared for since the first occupants moved in. This farmhouse has withstood any manor of storms through the century of its life. I know that the foundation is sturdy and steadfast. The walls straight and true, and the roof will continue to keep us dry for the rest of our days...and then protect those we love who come after us. I've never been afraid one minute that we've lived here...even when I've been here alone. This home takes care of its people, and for that we're truly blessed.
I love this house. I trust its old bones.

August 29, 2018

Studio Playtime...

My Prepped Primitive Gatherings Summer Block Of The Week Freebies 5-8
I finally made time to do a little preparation for my next five Primitive Gatherings' "Summer Block Of The Week Freebies". There are twelve in all. I've stitched four; prepared four more; and have four left to prepare. 
I traced and cut out all the little blossoms, leaves and baskets onto the Heat n' Bond Lite, and then fused the shapes to my wools. After cutting all the shapes, I fused them to my ground fabrics. All I have left is to stitch them down now. 
I'll stitch these over the next few days, and enjoy every relaxing second. I so love putting needle and thread to fabric. Stitching bliss in my future!

August 28, 2018

Tuesdays With Tag - Peek A BOO...

Pensive Taggart

 Hi, Everybody!

The rains have finally come to Hickory Hill Farm. We really need it, 'cuz the grass was gettin' kind of crunchy. For all the water people around the state have gotten, it has pretty much skated around us here. We're all happy that the bird bath has been filled by Mother Nature, not Mom, and that the grass is gettin' roll-around-lush again!

The thing is...when it's rainin', Bella and I only go outside when we have to, and we get a little stir crazy just hangin' around the house. Stir Crazy, I tell you!!

Tag and Bella

So, Mom was sittin' in her chair with her iPhone, and Boo and I decided to play "Peek A Boo". Get it? Peek. A. oh, never mind. She's back there now, right?

Tag and Bella, Too!

I'm pretty sure she's mockin' me now. I mean, I've got the ears, but she doesn't have to treat 'em like goal posts! You'd think Mom had a cheeseburger in her hands, instead of her iPhone in camera mode.

Happy Tag

This is my happy face! When Mom asks me a question that I'm actually interested in, I can get cuter than all get-out. Especially if there's a treat involved! One of our occasional morsels would be animal crackers! We'll almost behave for one of those!

I'm pretty sure I hear animal crackers bein' offered. We call 'em "cookies" around here. We don't really care what she calls 'em as long as she's dishin' 'em out! I think we'll have to postpone playin' more of our game for now. Cookies are much more important! Later, peeps!

I'll see you again in seven. 'til then...  
"Chase A Dream - Or A Squirrel".

August 27, 2018

A Tasty Weekend...

Our Farmhouse Pickled Beets

Friday night found us at our grandson's football game, and it was a perfect night to cheer them on to a win. Saturday morning, Shelly and I went to the farmer's market, where I purchased freshly picked beets, carrots and green beans. I bought the carrots and green beans to serve with our dinners, but I had other plans for the beets.

After I dropped off Shelly, I drove home (just down the hill), pulled out my big pot, cleaned the beets and popped them in the water to cook. Once they were soft, I took them out of the hot water and placed them in ice water until they cooled. Then I peeled and cut them up, placed them into hot, sterilized jars and added the pickling brine. Into the water bath for the allotted time, and this was the result. Four pints of beautiful, tasty beets. (I'll be getting more next weekend to do more!) 

Newly Canned Vidalia Onion Relish

While I was putting up the beets, I had sliced Vidalia onions and salted them to bring out their juice. After I finished with the beets, I pressed the moisture out of the onions and then completed cooking them with the rest of the ingredients. Turmeric was added, per the recipe, to give them this lovely yellow color. Three pounds of onions yielded four pints of Sweet Vidalia Onion Relish...and nary a tear was shed!

Homemade Canned Salsa

Saturday ended with a colorful, tasty batch of homemade, canned salsa. I tried the Mrs. Wage's Salsa Mix last year, and it was a huge hit with our grandson (among others). Why mess with a good (simple) thing? I used the same salsa mix this year and put it up in pint and half pint jars.

Hickory Hill Hickory Nut Pie Filling/Ice Cream Topping

I only had one thing on my mind for Sunday. Hickory Nut Pie Filling, which can also be used as an ice cream topping or anywhere else you'd like to use a sweet, nutty mixture to accent a dessert. Think pound cake, tarts, sweet rolls and more!

The recipe I used is a great one from Mary Marshall's "Cooking with Mary and Friends" blog. It's meant to be a Pecan Pie Filling, but hickory nuts are in the same family, so there was no problem substituting them for the pecans. (HERE'S a link to the recipe.) I knew I was going to make this recipe, so I ordered the thickener that was recommended in the instructions. It arrived on Thursday, and was in the jars by yesterday. There is actually a cup of nuts in each jar, and it will take two pint jars to make a pie...if it lasts that long!

When I was finished cooking the mixture, I had seven and a half pints to can and put on the shelf. Handsome and I actually tried this on ice cream after dinner last night, and I can tell you, it's fantastic! This one tastes like autumn in a jar, and I know I'll be making more.

This week, I'm going to switch back to my studio. I have some orders to work on, and packages to mail. I'll be doing a little stitching, too. Tag will see you tomorrow, and I'll be back on Wednesday to show you what I worked on today.

Have a great week!


August 26, 2018

August 25, 2018

A Productive Day...

Hickory Hill Farm Zucchini Pepper Relish

Friday turned into quite the productive day. The one zucchini Shelly gave me weighed four pounds before I took off the ends and removed the seeds! It was huge! As we don't have a basement freezer yet, I wanted to find something to make that didn't have to be frozen.

I decided on a recipe from Marisa McClellan's book, Food In Jars. It's called "Zucchini Pepper Relish", and I had all the ingredients. The main components are three pounds of grated zucchini, six pounds of chopped peppers (which I grew in our garden), and two grated sweet onions. Thanks to my Cuisinart™food processor, grating the zucchini and onion was a breeze. It was easy to chop the six cups of green and red peppers.

Hickory Hill Farm Zucchini Pepper Relish

I followed the rest of the recipe, and ended up canning a gorgeous batch of relish. I canned them into pint jars, and had enough left in the pot for the "cooks portion", so Handsome and I could try some at lunchtime. It was delicious!

Hickory Hill Farm Crab Apple Jelly
I also put up the last of the crab apples into jelly, too. I have Lavender Jelly and Grape Jam to put up yet, and then I'll be finished with the jams/jellies for this season. 
Shelly and I are going to the farmer's market this morning. Who knows what will come home with us?  I can see a fun weekend in my future.

August 24, 2018

Torn Between Two Loves...

Week 11 - Primitive Gatherings "Twilight Garden" Summer Block of the Week and Freebie

I'm seriously torn between my love of all things "needlework", and the canning projects to ready for winter.

Week 11 of Primitive Gatherings' "Twilight Garden" Summer Block of the Week (and the weekly freebie) kits arrived in the mail yesterday. I'm behind...with one more weekly kit to arrive along with the finishing kit.

Plus, there's my beautiful, Royal School of Needlework silk butterfly to work on. I spend an hour here or there, one thread at a time, and I am making slow progress on my actual piece. I need many more hours in the day...and a bit more energy to be able to work on all these things ad infinitum.

Hickory Hill Farm Vegetables

I'm also harvesting tomatoes and peppers from my little garden, so I have a list of canning projects on deck. Vidalia Onion Relish, Zucchini Relish (YES!! Another way to prepare all the zucchini inundating kitchens this month), the last of the crab apples to become jelly, harvesting lavender to make jelly, and soon there will be Concord grapes, (hopefully) a few jars of pears, and applesauce! 
This is my thinking right now...As much as I love my needlework time, it can wait until the weather grows cooler and the days shorter. The fruits and vegetables in abundance right now wait for no one. It makes my decisions easier, knowing that our pantry will be full for the winter, and all that deliciousness will carry us through to the next growing season. I do have a few commissions that I'll take care of in the next week, and then I'll be back to the kitchen.

So, I guess the decision's made. I'll be canning until the last of my list has been preserved for this year. Once I've restocked our pantry, I'll be back to needle dancing. Isn't it wonderful that I have this delightful dilemma? More blessings from the farm...and because of our life back in Wisconsin. Life is good!

August 23, 2018

That's A Wrap...

FdL Symphonic Band Concert 08/22/18
Handsome and I had a busy day yesterday, finishing with a lovely evening for the last summer concert in the park. It was a great concert, filled with fun music and performances, and I was fortunate to share it with two friends, both named Deb. 
Mom's daughter, Deb and I always meet at the top of the hill for the best (in our minds) seats in the house. The past two concerts, I've reconnected with a school chum since second grade, Deb H., whose dad used to be the local sheriff. We first met up again through Facebook, and she joined Deb and me at the top of the hill a couple of weeks ago. We had a great time listening to music and getting updated on what we've been doing all these years. Last night, she brought along her beautiful granddaughter, McKenna to watch the performance. 

Handsome will be playing with the band in the fall, too, this year. We're both looking forward to that! They start again in September with rehearsals, but for now, he can take a little vacation. We already heard what's on the musical menu for fall, and really, I can't wait to hear their performances.

For now, the last summer concert was just right for a night in the park, with the same perfect weather we've had all season. Not one single concert had to be played indoors due to bad weather. Sitting on the hillside with friends, listening to your sweetheart play music really is the best. So now it comes to an end and, at least for this's a wrap.


August 22, 2018

He's 24 Carat Gold...

The "Dead End Guys"
Hickory Hill Farm sits at the north end of our road. Andy and Shelly live just to the south of us, higher up our same hill. You've heard me say before what great neighbors we have, and how we spend time with them whenever our schedules allow. But, while words can't really express just how special both of them are, I must try.

Shelly grew up in our house, and Andy also grew up on a farm. He now owns the tractor he first drove as a little kid, and he learned the self-sufficient ways of the farm people we love so well. We've lived in farm country over half of our married lives, so coming back to Wisconsin brought us back to living among farmers out in the country. We had no idea just what precious gems these two people are when we purchased Shelly's childhood home.

Andy works a "four on/four off" schedule, and his days off are always busy. This week was the week that he offered to help us. It began a while ago when we talked with him and Shelly about wanting to find a barn beam to help support one of the horizontal beams in the Compass Barn that was starting to sag. When we had new flooring brought in, we also had a small concrete pad poured that would be used as a footing for such future beam. Not only do Andy and Shelly have wood from the barn that used to be on our property, but they also have old wood from Andy's dad's barn that was taken down a few years ago.

On Sunday, Andy crawled up onto his storage shelves and found a beam that was nearly the perfect length for our purposes...and then he brought it down (and took lead to install it) for us. Of course, I got the guys to pose for me when they were finished. (Two Handsomes in the same picture!)
Removing Wood Burner Duct Work

We also talked about having the wood furnace removed from the basement, because we have no intention of using it. So, yesterday, Andy showed up with his tools and said he'd take it out for us...which saved us a call to the HV/AC guys to hire them to do it. Together, he and Handsome went to work.

Electric connections were unhooked, and the slow, methodical process of taking apart duct work and venting took place.

He'll Find A Way...

Andy started where it mattered most to me, and when finished, he announced that our laundry chute (beginning on the second floor and ending in the basement) no longer had a piece of duct pipe running through it. No more laundry getting hung up inside the chute!! wooo hoo! 

Finally Out!
It required bending a long, continuous section of ducting to get it out, but he did it, and I'm tickled! The guys removed every last piece of ducting, and then disassembled the parts that needed to be removed to be able to take the furnace up and out of our basement. 
By 4 pm, everything was loaded up except the actual base unit, which will come out soon. Andy spent most of his day off - his precious time - helping us. Handsome and I are now working on how to adequately thank him for all he did, and continues to do, for us. 
Folks like him are so rare these days. He's cut from the cloth where neighbors stop everything to help each other. He is a man of many talents, and we just hope that there will come a time when we can return the favors for him. Until then, he and Shelly can expect homemade goodies from us, and know that they have ongoing and deep gratitude from the two people who now live where their family members used to live. We may not be family by blood, but we sure think of them as family we were lucky and blessed to choose.

Thanks again, Andy (and Shelly). We'll try to show you how much we appreciate you every day.

August 21, 2018

Tuesdays With Tag - The Garden Helper...

Brynwood's Taggart

 Hi, Everybody!

I bet you're thinkin' I'm the gardener, right?

Wrong! If you're lookin' for me to help garden, those crops are gonna wither on the vine! I'd much rather be chasin' squirrels or loungin' on the porch. No manual labor for me. However, the same can't be said for a certain black dog...

Liljegren's Suncoast Bella

There she sits all innocent, but I know. She's tryin' to make me look bad. No one has told her that suckin' up isn't allowed around here! We "four paws" have to stick together after all. She's gonna give us a bad name!

The Gardener

Mom has a little garden over near the pole barn...and Boo has taken to collectin' her own crops. Right next to her in the first barrel are carrots, and in the next barrel is a tall, lanky, nearly done-for-the-season cherry tomato plant. 

Harvestin' Crops

The Black Dog has decided that she likes the cherry tomatoes, so she's started a personal "pick your own" program. Unfortunately for Mom, it's also an "eat your own" program. She also has her eyes on the carrots, but so far, Mom has discouraged her from pickin' those.
More Ripe Tomatoes Soon
The cherry tomatoes may be gettin' to the end of their production, but Mom's big tomatoes are still goin' strong and gettin' ripe on the vine. Boo thought she might pick that low-lyin' one, but Mom told her, in no uncertain terms, that she had to stay away from those! We'll see how that works!
We finally got rain last night, so maybe the grass won't be so crunchy by tomorrow. We've really needed the rain that everyone else has been gettin'. Nothin' like rollin' in fresh, wet grass. mmm mmm We can't wait! (It will help the tomatoes, too.) "Herself" will be pickin' again before you know it...unless Dad catches her. He'd just as soon she stick to her regular diet, without adding any more veggies!
I'll see you again in seven. 'til then...  
"Chase A Dream - Or A Squirrel".

August 20, 2018

The Best Of Times...

Stylized Farmhouse Monarch Butterfly
We had a perfect weekend. In fact, we had so much fun with our friends, Mike and Joann that we didn't take one, single photograph. We'll commit the wonderful times we spent together to memory instead.

Today, I'm going to put up the rest of the crab apples, turning them into tasty jelly. There are a lot, so this will be a busy day. The weather should be perfect for it, too, so if you're looking for me, I'll be in the kitchen!


August 17, 2018

Let's Hide Behind The Chain Saws...

Geico "Good Choices" Ad Image

Have you ever seen this commercial? (HERE'S the link, in case you haven't.) Handsome and I thought about this one yesterday, as we were making our way back home from a trip about 45 minutes south of the farm. Let me explain...

Hoosier Cabinet From Marketplace
Handsome and I wanted to find a Hoosier cabinet, or something vintage on this order for the kitchen, and saw this in the Facebook Marketplace. I had extensive texts with the owner, who said her brother would be happy to show it to us, as she was going to be out of town. We made arrangements to see it yesterday morning.

We drove south to the address she gave us, but there were three houses on the same driveway. Which one? There were two that were pin-neat, and one that looked ready to tear down. You guessed it. That was just the beginning. (Handsome muttered something about, "How do I get myself into these things?")

As her brother invited us in (alarm bells blaring!!!), I was so grateful my husband was with me. He had originally suggested that I check out the cabinet on my own, and then go back with him after the weekend. I'm soooooo glad we decided to go together instead, because, really, I couldn't have done it alone.

At first, I thought the house was being renovated, but once inside, I realized that brother had been sitting on a ratty recliner in the "living room", watching tv. There was garbage and debris everywhere. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. Then, he said, "It's in the basement. Follow me to the "dungeon". " I kid you not! If I'd been alone, this is where I would have said, "Thanks, but no. I've changed my mind about the cabinet." As Handsome was with me, we followed him downstairs. (Isn't that always where the crazy, axe murderer takes his victims?)

Needless to say, the basement was funky; the dehumidifier wasn't keeping up; the lighting stunk (as did the basement); and there stood the lonely cabinet against the wall. I felt bad, seeing it languishing away in the basement, but once I saw that the drawers stuck and didn't line up, along with the other issues it was having, I knew. I looked at Handsome, and he gave me the ever-so-subtle nod. No way were we taking it home with us. Honestly, who knew what was growing in it? We really didn't need to add another project, either. We thanked "brother" and got out of there as fast as we could. 

We didn't say anything to each other until we were back on the road. I took a deep, cleansing breath, and Handsome started to laugh. I said, "You almost had me go there alone!" He replied that he'd learned a good lesson, and wouldn't make that mistake again. Then, we both laughed about how this reminded us of the Geico ad. "Let's go hide behind the chain saws", and "Look! We can run to the cemetery." My husband also told me that I can expect to hear a lot more about this excursion. I'm pretty sure I can count on that.


Another Culinary Windfall...

Crab Apples For Jelly
 I now have two and a half five-gallon buckets, filled with crab apples!
My aunt and uncle have a gorgeous tree that's been producing these little gems for years. They've faithfully raked, gathered and then tossed them..until we talked about it last growing season. I asked if I could have them to make jelly, and they generously said yes!

Crab apples typically ripen before the larger apple varieties, so it works out well for me. I picked up all they had gathered from the windfalls, and then the three of us shook the tree and picked up the rest on Wednesday. They've never sprayed the tree, so there are some imperfections (and a few bruises from their great fall), but I can work around all that. Bonus is that there are no chemicals on or in the fruit.

As of last night, I my first "no added pectin" juice from the first three pound batch. I'll be turning it into jelly later this morning. By the time I'm finished, I'll have plenty for the pantry, some to gift, and likely, some to sell in my online shop and to my Facebook friends. Three pounds of apples was a mere "drop in the bucket" of what I have to prepare. I'll keep track of how many jelly jars get filled.
First thing today, Handsome and I are running an errand about an hour south of the farm. We're looking at something special - perhaps for the farmhouse. If it comes back with us, you'll be nearly the first to know. It's definitely going to be a busy day!

August 16, 2018

And, The Kits Just Keep On Coming...

Block Ten - Primitive Gatherings "Twilight Garden" (and Weekly Freebie)
The old saying, "Time waits for no man" is absolutely true! Since I went to Kentucky, I've been busy with outdoor pursuits, and studio work (and play) as time allows. Truth is, I'm waaayyyy behind on setting up my Twilight Garden blocks, and stitching the Summer Freebies.
I'm seriously craving studio time, but have had other obligations keeping me away. We also have company on the weekend, and I want to make sure everything is "just right" for their first visit to the farm. 
Even so, I'm going to work on some portion of this today. I think I'll cut out lots of little, red flowers, and green leaves so I can at least get something done on the minis. Time to try to catch up!