Welcome friends! I thought I would give you fair warning that this post turned out to be quite lengthy, so you might want to grab a cup, glass or bottle of your favorite beverage to enjoy as you share in our pre-Christmas and Christmas activities.
O Christmas Tree
I had intended to include several photos documenting the cutting of our 2019 Christmas tree as I have done in past years. Regrettably, it was not meant to be. Although I snapped many pictures as we ventured out to the farm and cut our tree, it seems they are trapped on my cameras SD card. When I put the card in the computer the photo program seems to search for them but then freezes up and refuses to retrieve any photos. Fortunately upon buying a new SD card I am able to once again take pictures and load them onto my computer, so it is only those few that I will not be able to share.
Even though I cannot access those photos, I felt it was important to document this event since part of the purpose of this blog is to journal our activities. This is our fourth year of cutting a Christmas Tree from our farm. The trees we have been cutting are either Norway Spruce or Blue Spruce that we planted as when they were 12 – 18 inch seedlings in 2012. When we planted the young trees it was not our intention to grow our own Christmas Trees but this has since become our tradition.
It was Sunday, December 15, when we headed out to the farm to cut our preselected Christmas Tree. The temperature was hovering around freezing, and though the sun was shining bright as we walked out the door, the clouds quickly moved in and produced a brief snow squall. By the time we got to the farm, about 5 minutes later, there was a thin layer of snow blanketing the driveway, and setting the Christmas-like mood. The snow subsided as quickly as it had appeared and eventually the sun reappeared and melted the snow away.
After going to the barn to retrieve a saw we headed to the south-west corner of the property. The tree we had chosen was in a line of trees that were planted near the west property line to separate our property from the neighbors to the west. It is a lovey blue spruce that is slightly over four feet tall. We will plant a tree to replace this one in the spring.
I won’t bore you with the details of setting up the tree and decorating it since it all went smoothly and within a couple of hours the task was complete.
Made With Love
As in past years, I spent the month before Christmas making gifts. Since I have been working on increasing my sewing skills lately I decided to make aprons for the girls. This may seem an odd gift since only one out of four of them likes to cook, but I decided to personalize them.
The first two were made from a pattern that I bought several years ago and have never used. The second two were made out of worn out blue jeans, using this tutorial. I learned new sewing skills while making each of the patterns – the first involved hand basting a seam before sewing it in place and top stitching (that actually turned out pretty well). The second pattern involved making a ruffle and bias tape. On the last one I got very bold and changed the design from a ruffle and bias tape trim to a cut flannel, rag-type, trim. I was very pleased with the way they all turned out.
It was then time to personalize them – I wanted to capture each of the girls attitude for cooking.
The first was Tina who simply does not like cooking. She laughed when she saw it and agreed that described her.
This one was for Kara, who doesn’t like to cook, but calls me often with cooking questions. I’m always happy to get those calls. She too laughed when she saw the words and realized it was an apron.
The third one was for Hanna. While she may cook occasionally she is more likely to spend time painting, so I decided to make hers a painters apron. The old blue jeans that I used already had some paint stains on them and I added some more splotches with fabric paint.
The last one was for Lindell. She is the only one that seems to enjoy cooking and has recently told me about some of the meals she has made. When she tried on her apron she smiled and said “I love that it has pockets!”
The other big project that I made as a gift was a afghan that I crocheted. This was one of those situations where you might think “everything happens for a reason” or as I prefer to think “God was working behind the scenes”.
I started crocheting this afghan around Thanksgiving time simply because I found a stitch pattern that I wanted to try. I really had no plan for what I was making or what I would do with it. I began with alternating rows of red and blue yarn but when I ran out of the blue yarn the piece was not really big enough to be anything. I went to my yarn stash and found that I had enough of the gray and green yarn to at least double the size of this project. When I finished the gray and green section the afghan would have been a good size for a child, but since I didn’t much care for the color pattern and I didn’t have any children in mind to give it too, I decided to add a third section to make it large enough for an adult. I again went to my yarn stash and found that I had enough black and orange yarn to make a third section.
It was about this time that my husband asked me who I was making it for. “I don’t know,” was my answer, but I began to think about what to do with it. I realized that in the past I have made blankets for all of my daughters except Tina, so I thought I would give it to her. I wasn’t sure if she would like the colors but I was sure she would like wrapping herself in it as she tends to be chilly a lot.
It was two days before Christmas that we learned that we would be having an unexpected guest for Christmas. My father-in-law accepted my husbands invitation to join us for the day. That evening as I finished crocheting and began weaving in the ends I decided to give him the afghan.
Food and Family
Our guests would start arriving around noon so I spent most of Christmas morning in the kitchen preparing our meal. The turkey went into the oven at 8:00 am, then potatoes were peeled, celery and onions were sautéed for the stuffing and frosting was made then the cake was frosted. Meanwhile my husband vacuumed and tidied things up, started a fire in the fireplace and asked if there was anything he could do to help me.
Lindell and Brycen were the first to arrive, so I recruited Brycen to decorate the birthday cake for Jesus. Despite never having decorated a cake before he was eager to help. He completed this task with enthusiasm and I was grateful for the help. I didn’t get any pictures of the cake but I will say – Great job Brycen!
Other guests arrived shortly after. Another picture I didn’t get was Aunt Donna in her Christmas Tree tiara, but in the background of the picture below you can see the comfy-looking elf slippers she put on after removing her shoes. She brought two trays of mini cheese cakes announcing that one tray was made with amaretto. My first thought was “Oh, I’ll have to try that.” My second thought was “that explains the tiara”. LOL! I’m just kidding Aunt Donna doesn’t need to be under the influence of alcohol to do fun and crazy things.
Even before we ate we got Jackson and Addy busy opening gifts. I didn’t make anything for them this year, instead my husband and I spent a few hours perusing toy isles to pick out some gifts.
For Jackson, who has a mechanical mind and is always trying to figure out how things work, we bought this truck/racetrack set. The truck has a horn that blows and a key, that when turned, makes the sound of an engine starting and the headlights come on. It also came with race cars and tools to take the truck part. Once the truck is taken apart the race track is stored inside but we didn’t get it taken apart to see the race track while they were here.
For Addy I picked out a stuffed kitty. I remembered how much she loved Peanut the cat when she met him at our Halloween party, and since her mom said I could not get her a real kitty a stuffed on would have to do.
By far the best gift we received was having the family all together. When the girls were growing up we spent so much time together and never realized how much we would miss each other when they went their separate ways. Nowadays though they keep in close contact through a “sister chat” having them all together happens but once or twice a year.
I am not sure which one of them mentioned having a “sister photo” taken but when they were ready to pose I was ready with my camera. I snapped several photos and when I looked at this picture I wondered what they were all looking at to my left. Then I remembered that Brycen was standing next to me and after I took several photos he said. “now it’s my turn.” Apparently they all looked at him while I stole another photo.
I had the girls put on their aprons and pose again.
Then I handed over my camera and joined the girls. After this picture was taken I said, “now that you are all dressed for doing dishes…” and we all had a good laugh. Actually by this time my husband had many of the dishes already washed up.
Having both of our fathers there was such a blessing. Just like with the girls, the time spent with my dad has become less as the years go by, and the time the girls get to spend with their grandfather is even more rare. Isn’t it true that the more rare something is the more we value it? This was a day to cherish!
Having my Father-In-Law with us to celebrate was truely an amazing gift. This is the first time since we have been together that we have spent a Christmas with him, and I felt honored that at 86 years old he would make the two and a half hour drive from Ohio to celebrate this day with the family.
It had been many years since he had seen the girls and this was the first time he met Jackson and Addy.
When I gave dad his Christmas gift he told me I didn’t have to give him anything. “I wanted to,” I replied. When he said he would open it later, I had to insist that he open it now. He was pleased when he realized that it was an afghan and said he would use it to cover up with in his easy chair. I could relate to this as I have an afghan, that my mom made for me about 30 years ago, that I use to cover up with when I kick back in my recliner for a nap. Dad also marveled that I had made the afghan and asked how long it took. As he was leaving our house to travel home he told me “I can’t wait to use it.” 🙂
Christmas 2019 was a blessed day. As we celebrated the gift of the Christ Child our home was fill with laughter and love.
If you have stayed with me to the end of this very wordy post I thank you, and we wish you many blessings in the New Year.
Since Halloween falls mid-week this year we decided to celebrate early. Saturday we held our second (annual) Halloween party at the farm. Some readers might remember last year we ended up holding the party in our barn as the weather was not conducive to an outdoor party.
This year although we planned and were ready for outdoor activities we again had the barn ready as a back-up plan. The weather is just too unpredictable. Guests were instructed that costumes were optional, but they should dress for the weather (which should always be the case when you visit our farm).
By Saturday morning we were certain that rain would be coming later that day. Our party was to start at 2:00 P.M. and we were hoping to get some outdoor activities in before the rain came.
We spent very little money on decorations. We mostly used materials we had on hand. A few things, like this skeleton (below), we picked up at the dollar store. Looks like he’s been waiting to use the porta potty for a long time. LOL!
After my husband and I put the finishing touches on our Trick-or-Treat Trail I took some photos so I could take you all on the walk with me. Don’t worry. The trail was designed to be fun for children so there is no blood and gore, no Freddie Krueger, and no one chasing us with chainsaws.
At the entrance of the trail was a graveyard.
It was also the first trick-or-treat station. The hanging basket to the left is where the kids could pick a few pieces of candy from the basket (even the big kids got some). The headstones were made out of Styrofoam sheets my husband had collected at the greenhouse job he worked this spring. They were some type of packaging material and were dumpster bound had he not brought them home thinking we might have a use for them.
I had to edit the photo in order to see the writing and some are still not clear enough to make out the words. Buried in this graveyard (starting in the back row left side) are Ben Better, the double headstone is Ima Gonner and L.L.Beback, the third one in the back row reads Here Lies Mozart, Decomposing. In the front row it appears that Ben was not buried very deep as a skull has emerged from the ground. The headstone to the right is Barry M. Deep and as you can see the last grave is vacant (notice the shovel waiting by the grave). LOL!
While the kids might have been too young to pay attention to the headstones I think the adults who accompanied them enjoyed the humor. This candy basket contained reeses peanut butter cups, Hershey’s chocolate bars, kit kats and almond joys. If you have a favorite help yourself.
Just beyond the graveyard this guy was hanging out. He seemed to be the gatekeeper (minus the gate). Although he is by no means frightening, when we first hung him up, several night before the party, he looked pretty creepy from a distance, and several times in the days that followed I would be working in various areas around the farm a catch a glimpse of what seemed to be someone standing there, again very creepy. LOL!
A little farther down the trail is our next treat station. I had discovered these two logs laying in the woods and decided to give them some personalities (faces). This basket contained peppermint patties. They seemed to be a favorite of the adults.
As we come to the fork in the road we will veer to the right to find our next trick-or-treat station. This time it is both a trick and a treat.
My husband designed this basket with the glove secured in it and a fishing line attached to it. The fishing line was then run through a pulley that was attached to the tree behind it. He tied a small handle on the line and then ran the line to a stake that was placed along the path. When he pulled on the handle the glove (hand) would rise up out of the basket of candy. Very clever! This basket contained Smarties.
We continue to follow the winding path through the woods.
Our next trick and treat station is just ahead. This “haunted” rocking chair held a basket of ghost lollipops made from tootsie pops. The chair was also rigged with a fishing line/pulley system that allowed us to make the chair appear to be rocking on it’s own (or was it the ghosts?).
Another treat basket hung from a shepherds hook as we were exiting the woods. This one also held reeses, Hershey bars, kit kats and almond joys.
Upon exiting the woods we turn to the right and head north along our west property line. Another treat station lies ahead under an oak tree that appears to be inhabited by bats.
This basket contains white chocolate kit kat bars. As we venture up the slight hill and circle to the right we find our last trick-or-treat station.
The mummy hanging on this basket is giving out cans of silly string. When the kids took their can of silly string from the basket they were instructed that they could not use the silly string inside the barn. While I didn’t see any adults take a can some how some of them ended up with it. Hmm, I wonder how that happened. 😉
From this point we could now head back to the barn area where most of the other activities took place, but first I thought maybe you would like to see how the kids enjoyed their trick-or-treat trail.
Our Granddaughter, Addy, picking some candy out of the basket.
Our Grandson, Jackson, was fascinated with the hand rising out of the basket. He was more interested in how it worked than getting the candy. He did high-five the hand when I suggested it to him. 🙂
Before approaching the haunted chair our 5 year old, great nephew, Landon turned and informed us “I’m not falling for your tricks.” LOL!
My biggest surprise was how much the kids enjoyed the bats, reaching or jumping up to touch them or giving them a smack to see them fly. They spent a little bit of time playing with the bats before finishing their walk through the trick-or-treat trail.
After trick-or-treating it was time to play on/in the straw bales.
The rain held off for at least another hour while the kids played on the straw bales and silly string wars took place.
No one was exempt from getting “stringed”, so grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles, some armed with a can and some not, joined in the fun.
Just before the rains came my husband and son-in-law moved the straw bales to the barn porch. The straw stayed dry as did the kids as they continued to play.
The kids all looked so cute decked out in their costumes. Don’t feel bad if you don’t recognize their characters because I didn’t. I had to get the scoop from those in the know (their parents). I’ll clue you in – Landon, Jackson and Addy are characters from a cartoon called PJ Masks where three children become superheroes at night. Landon is Catboy, Jackson is Gekko, and Addy is Owlette. Kenzie is wearing a Queen Bee costume (appropriate for a visit to the farm). Queen Bee is part of a collection of doll called L.O.L. dolls.
You may remember Peanut, the cat, from the day we harvested garlic, well peanut has become a regular visitor, showing up at the farm almost daily. I had concerns about peanut being at the party because I thought he might jump on the food table.
It seems that my fears were unwarranted as once the guests arrived Peanut found many a welcoming lap to sit on. Several times I spotted Addy giving Peanut kisses. It was so precious.
While all of our guests followed our instructions to dress for the weather a few came in costume as well. Jinkies! That’s Shaggy, Velma and Scooby Doo in the lower righthand photo.
In case your wondering what was on the menu we decided to keep it simple. We bought fried chicken from our local Meijer deli and I have to it admit not only did that make it easy it was also good and priced right. I made a pasta salad, we had a veggie tray with dip and cheese tray with crackers and apple slices with caramel dip. For dessert Aunt Donna made monster cookies and I made rice crispy treats. I dare say no one should have went away hungry.
It was a great day filled with food, family, friends, and fun. We couldn’t ask for anything more.
Thanks for visiting. Did you get some of your favorite candy? Would you have showed up in costume? If so who/what would you come as?
It’s hard to believe that autumn is here. I just wanted to hold on to summer – perhaps indefinitely. Since it is humanly impossible to stop time, the best I can do is hold onto and treasure the memories that Summer 2019 gifted me. I have decided to place some of these precious memories in this post where, like keepsakes in a trinket box, they will be safely stored and I can return to them whenever I like. I will also share them with you.
At The Farm
In early August I used my hours at the farm for picking blueberries, watering plants, and mostly weeding the prayer garden (this is the time of year that weeds really start to take over if they are not kept in check).
I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts that the prayer garden was in full bloom. My husband said he wanted to correct that statement but didn’t. He is right of course – by design the prayer garden is in continuous bloom, from early spring, when the daffodils appear, until late fall, or at least until we get the first frost of the season there is always something blossoming.
By mid August my chore list had changed. We had some decent rain so we didn’t have to do much watering. We began picking tomatoes and peppers and I began cleaning our 2019 garlic crop.
For the past four weeks or so the focus has been on harvesting our garden and either cooking and eating or preserving the harvest. While most of the tomatoes have been frozen so far, I did manage to get 15 quarts of tomato sauce canned. We have been enjoying fresh red skin potatoes (boiled or made into potato salad), Swiss chard (sautéed with garlic, cooked into an omelet or added to a cream cheese stuffed chicken breast), baked butter nut squash, tomatoes (fresh on the side, on a sandwich, or cooked into homemade pasta sauce) and stuffed green peppers. I also cut up three small cabbages and started the process of turning them into sauerkraut. This is the time of year that all of the work pays off.
Busy, busy, busy.
We have eight healthy hives right now and our son-in-laws hive is thriving as well.
We have harvested honey three times this summer from three different hives. Each harvest yielded approximately 30 lbs. of honey. After we harvest the honey and wax from the frames my husband sets the frames back out for the bees to finish cleaning them up. The picture above shows the bees completing this task.
A few weeks ago one of the hives swarmed. My husband captured the swarm and put it in an empty hive. He then placed a feeder with honey in it on top. The next day the bees had left that hive. We are not sure why they weren’t happy there but they did fill up on the honey before leaving.
The eight Jersey Giants that were cute little chicks this spring are now full grown hens. They began laying in eggs in August and will hopefully keep us in fresh eggs through the winter months.
Normally I don’t make a lot of soap during the summer months but I found I was out of a few varieties. I decided to have some fun with it.
My sister had given me some silicone mini molds so I made a few small bars using them. I can see making holiday themed sample soaps or using teddy bears or duckies as favors for a baby shower. They would however need to be clearly labeled “Don’t Eat It!” as I would want someone thinking they were white chocolate.
I have also been practicing using my soap stamp and getting better at it. It’s really a matter of stamping the soap when it is still just a little soft.
Family and Fun
In early August we planned a family picnic at the farm. Not all of the girls could make it but Tina and Ken brought our grandkids and Kara also came out. After we ate, our three year old grandson, Jackson, went fishing with his dad and grandpa and caught his first fish. I didn’t get any pictures of this because Tina and Kara and I had taken (granddaughter) Addy to pick blueberries.
Not only did Addy enjoy picking the berries she enjoyed eating them as well. The cutest part was that each time Addy, who is learning to talk, picked a berry she would say appo (apple). The first time she said it we thought it was so cute we laughed before telling her “berry”. So after that each time she picked a berry she would say “appo” and laugh then when we told her berry she would say “ber-ry”. Her laugh was so contagious that we were all laughing each time she said “appo”.
In August my husband and I went plant shopping. Normally I don’t like shopping. The exceptions are going to a greenhouse or nursey and shopping for yarn or other craft supplies. Each spring we usually go to a local green house and pick up a least a few plants for the year but it’s quite easy for me to get carried away and buy way more plants than I need.
You may remember from this post that my husband was working at a greenhouse this spring and was able to bring home many plants that would have otherwise ended up in the dumpster. With all the free flowers we had there was no need to go plant shopping…until August. While working the landscaping job that he started in July my husband had to make a trip to a nursery where they purchased anise hyssop plants that would be planted at one of the jobsites. “They had pretty purple flowers and the bees were all over them,” he said as he told me about the plants. I knew this herb had some medicinal properties and if the bees like it then we should definitely plants some.
I did a little homework and found that anise hyssop is generally a plant the deer avoid because of it’s strong fragrance. This sounded like the perfect addition to our prayer garden.
We purchased two large plants that were in full bloom and two smaller (less expensive) plants that should continue to grow each year until they are about a foot wide. I understand that these plants also drop seeds each year that will readily sprout into new plants. These plants are still blooming more than a month after we planted them and I saw bees foraging in them yesterday. 🙂
As we were walking through the green house I noticed a table full of flowers that I was not familiar with. They had bright orange and yellow flowers. They were marked $5 each. After asking an employee if the deer would eat them and being assured that it was not likely, I picked out two yellow and one orange. (There I go getting carried away.) The plant is called lantana. It wasn’t until we got them home that we realized that they are an annual so will not be coming back next year. 😦
We took a Sunday off in August to visit the Armada Fair and watch the tractor pulls.
My husband and I wore our matching tractor pull t-shirts so my daughter snapped a photo of us. We were joined by daughters Kara and Lindell and Lindell’s boyfriend Brysen. We arrived early enough to walk through the animal barns and view the exhibits before the tractor pulls began. I’m not sure which is cuter baby goats or baby cows. I love seeing them both.
We also filled up on lots of expensive fair food. I wonder which was higher the calorie count or the price.
For those of you who, like Brysen, have never seen a tractor pull, let me sum it up. Basically tractor pulling is a competition to see who’s tractor can pull a weighted sled the farthest. If you would like a little more information see this article.
This tractor, named Cruel Intentions, is owned by the Capozzo family. They also own and operate the excavating company that dug our pond. This is the tractor we were rooting for that day and they did take first place in their class.
After the tractors were finished they brought in a couple of semi’s that did an exhibition pull.
In the photo below I was trying to get a shot of the score board that electronically records each tractor’s speed and the distance they pull but my aim was a little high.
After viewing this photo I did spot something I hadn’t noticed before. The street signs to the right of the score board mark the intersection that leads to the adult beverage tent. If you can’t make out the signs they say “Good RD” and ” Beers LN”. That made me chuckle.
The beverage tent was the other place we visited at the fair and while I mostly stuck with non alcoholic beverages that day I did end up drinking a glass of hard cider when Lindell ended up with an extra one.
Even though autumn has arrived, and the temperatures have been slowly cooling, we are forecast to have at least one more of summer-like day today and I will happily take all that we can get.