Category Archives: Reflections

More Pies

My husband loves when I make homemade desserts and I love my husband, so shortly after we finished our blueberry pie it was time to make another pie. This time I decided on lemon meringue.¬† As I got out my Betty Crocker cookbook to find a recipe I was feeling sort of down because I was not using any of our home grown fruit for this pie. After reading the recipe I realized that even though we can’t grow lemons here in Michigan, the eggs that are used both in the lemon filling and the meringue topping came from our chickens. That made me feel better. ūüôā

IMG_5491 (2)

We then had a break from pies for a couple of weeks because the weather got pretty hot. Sometimes it is just too hot to do any baking, especially when we turn on the air conditioning.

Thursday, after the cold front came through and it was cool enough to open the windows, I decided it was time to make another pie. This time it was strawberry-rhubarb, one that¬† a couple of readers mentioned as being a favorite. I didn’t think I would be making this kind of pie this year because our rhubarb nearly drowned this spring. Thanks to my husband performing lifesaving maneuvers (digging it up and moving the roots to dryer ground) it is still alive, but it has not produced stalks big enough to harvest this year.

A couple of weeks ago my husband mentioned that Karen, our next door neighbor, had some rhubarb that was ready to be harvested. She had already picked all that she was going to use and said I should come and pick what I wanted. The next day, before I got a chance to get over there, Karen was knocking at my door holding two big bunches of rhubarb with the leaves already trimmed off. You gotta love neighbors like that! I gave her a couple of quarts of our strawberries that I had frozen and we were both happy campers.

I cut up the rhubarb and put it in the freezer… until yesterday when I was ready to bake my pie. There are many recipes for strawberry-rhubarb pie out there, but since I am not a huge fan of pie crust (I usually don’t eat that thick outer edge) I decided to make one with a crumb topping.

IMG_5599

It is now evident that Autumn is quickly approaching and with that we have high hopes for both homemade apple and pumpkin pies. ūüôā I’ll keep you posted.

Do you have a favorite Autumn food?

 

A Starving Artist

Yesterday morning I was enjoying my morning coffee on the deck when I noticed that an anonymous arachnidian artist had turned our deck railing into his/her art gallery. As the sun attempted to break through the fog the lighting made for lovely viewing of this artwork.

As I photographed the five webs woven between deck spindles the artist was nowhere to be seen.

IMG_5496

 

IMG_5495

 

IMG_5494

 

IMG_5493

 

 

IMG_5492

While I might¬†view these as works of art, to their creators they are a means of survival – their “bread and butter” so to speak.

In the evening I decided to see if the webs had served their purpose. Were there any bugs caught in the webs? Would the “starving artist” eat tonight? I was surprised to see that only one web remained. Upon closer observation I noticed the artist, an “Itsy Bitsy” spider, not much bigger than a fruit fly, was moving in imperfect circles between two deck spindles. The evening lighting was such that the web was invisible,¬†but I assumed that Itsy Bitsy was creating another web.

After searchng for answers as to what may have happened to the other four webs I realized that I may have been wrong on two accounts. According to this article  https://indianapublicmedia.org/amomentofscience/spiders-recycling/ spiders sometimes eat their own webs. Perhaps that is what I witnessed in the evening, and if so this is not likely a starving artist.

Did you know that spiders eat their webs?

Working With Bees Wax Blocks

This post goes hand in hand with my post about Filtering Bees Wax and may bee helpful for anyone considering making their own balms, salves, furniture polish or anything else that uses bees wax. If you have never considered it, you might wonder why you would want to make your own skin care products with so many commercially made products available. The answer is ingredients. Have you ever looked at the ingredients in the skin care products you use. If not, I challenge you to do so. If you took up that challenge, I also challenge you to find out what those ingredients are and if there are any health risks associated with their use. Here is a website that may help https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/. When you make your own products you have total control over the ingredients and thus can make healthier choices.

I am not going to teach you to make your own products because it’s been already been done. There are hundreds, or more likely thousands, of recipes, tutorials and videos on the web that will teach you how to do it. The one thing I am going to teach you is a trick that I have not seen mentioned in any of them. I often come across recipes online calling for bees wax pastilles (small flakes or beads of wax). Other times I see instructions telling me to grate the bees wax block using a cheese grater. This gives you pieces similar in¬†size¬†to pastilles. Since bees wax is very hard it also may give you bloody knuckles (ouch!).

Now if you have shopped for bees wax you may have found that pastilles are more costly than blocks of bees wax, and if you are processing bees wax from your own hives then you are certainly not going to want to purchase pastilles anyway.

Let me save you the aggravation and potential scars that result from trying to grate bees wax.

Here is¬†the¬†method I use –

There are a few things you will need:

  • A scale (I use my digital kitchen scale)
  • A hammer
  • A zip lock bag
  • A freezer

First make sure the ingredients for the recipe you are using are measured by weight rather than volume. If you find a recipe that you like that lists ingredients in teaspoons or tablespoons convert it to weights using the same proportions of each ingredient. For example if a recipe calls for one tablespoon of bees wax and three tablespoons of coconut oil you could use 1 ounce of bees wax and three ounces of coconut oil (if you would like to convert ounces to grams click here). Not only will this make using bees wax easier, it will give you more accurate measurements.

Now that you have done the hard part (math) I will tell you the secret to getting a block of wax into small pieces to so you can measure small amounts. Put the bees wax block in plastic a zip lock bag then put it in the freezer. Leave it in the freezer for a couple of hours or until it is really frozen. Take it out of the freezer, make sure the bag is closed tightly and does not have a lot of air in it. Place it on a hard surface (I usually take it outside and put it on the deck). Now smash it with a hammer (many times if needed). The bees wax will shatter into smaller pieces that you can weight to get the amount you need.

When measuring your ingredient start with weighing the bees wax. If your pieces weigh a little bit over the amount required then adjust your other ingredients accordingly Using the above example if your bees wax weighted 1.2 ounces you would need 3.6 ounces of coconut oil.

Thanks for reading and if you have questions please leave them in the comments section below.

 

 

 

Sweet Summer Time

I can’t believe July is nearly over. I certainly have been enjoying the summer weather we have had this past week, but I fear that summer¬†will to be gone before I know it. I am trying to make a conscious effort to take¬†at least a little time¬†each day just appreciating what¬†the season¬†has to offer. Sometimes that involves taking a dip in the pond or kicking off my shoes and going barefoot in the lush green grass. Other times it involves observing¬†nature in all of it’s glory. Last week it also involved a homemade blueberry pie. ‚ėļ

Below are some of my observations from the past week.

¬†That’s Just Ducky!

One day last week, when I was working in the prayer garden, I noticed we had a visitor in the pond.

In the past when we have had ducks visit they have not stayed long. This one doesn’t want to leave.

IMG_5414

I can’t say that I blame her as it is a very lovely environment. I am not sure what kind of duck she is so if you know please leave me a comment at the end of this post.

We don’t want ducks or other water foul living in our pond so we have made many attempts at letting her know she needs to leave.IMG_5415

At first I thought it would be as easy as letting Trooper chase her off, but as he entered the pond she swam quickly to the other end of the pond. Trooper lost sight of her and interest. As I walked around the outside of the pond to the area where she was swimming she again just swam to a different spot. My husband attempts at throwing small stones in the water near her didn’t seem to deter her either. She certainly is persistent!

Finally on Friday when I had family over for a picnic lunch I told my niece, as she and my cousin set out in the paddle boat, that their job was to chase the duck away. A while later my niece announced that the duck had flow away. Good Job Ashley and Abbey! It was maybe a couple of hours later, after we had finished our pond activities, that we saw her land in the pond again. Good Grief!!!

I do think that she has since¬†gotten the message that we don’t want her there because now when she sees my husband or I approaching the pond she flies away – only to return when we are not around.¬†Perhaps she figures¬†“what we don’t know won’t hurt us – or her”.

Unapproved Housing!

So far this year I have written about robins building a nest in a flat of pansies and the sparrow who was raising her young in the middle of our strawberry patch but this is the oddest nest yet.

This past winter my husband noticed that what we assume was a confused woodpecker had made a hole in our U.S. Coast Guard approved floatation devise that our township requires be kept near the pond. It is not made out of wood!

IMG_5439

Last week he told me that he looked in that hole and saw what he thought was a sparrow inside.

IMG_5437

I decided to try to get a photo. As I approached a small bird flew out. It was similar in size and color to a sparrow but I noticed that it had a long pointy beak. After doing a little research I have decided it is probably a house wren. While it seems to have found a cozy home I am not sure that the U.S. Coast Guard would approve.

Birdseye View

Hawks soaring high above our farm is not an unusual sight; it’s just one that I have difficulty photographing.¬†It does get concerning when their search area comes close the area where our chickens are foraging as we have had several chickens fall prey to hawks in the past. Such is the nature of allowing chickens to free range.

IMG_5461

As I watch the hawk gracefully circling I envy its view from above.

A Berry Good Year

While our garlic crop was disappointing this year, all of our berries performed beyond our expectations. As I have mentioned in previous posts it has been a wonderful year for strawberries, currants, cherries, and blueberries. Grapes seem to be following suit.

IMG_5431

One day last week I noticed that the grape vines were sagging. Upon further inspection we discovered that the top wire that supports the grape vines had broken.

 

IMG_5433

The vines are so heavy laden with fruit that the wire could not support their weight. My husband was able to place a couple of wooden stakes under the vines to keep them off the ground, but repairing the wire will have to wait until after the harvest.

If A Tree Falls and Nobody Is Around To Hear It Does It Really Make A Sound?

As of this writing that question will go unanswered.

IMG_5456

My husband was standing in the garden, perhaps 100 feet from this tree last Sunday when the storm came through. He estimated the wind gust at about sixty miles per hour. As he felt the gust, he heard a loud crack and watched the tree fall.

The dead ash tree has been standing dead in the wood line for several years and we have been waiting for the right winds to come along and bring it down. We can now cut it up to use for firewood this winter.

The Garden Was Busy This Morning

Perhaps I should say buzzy. The squash and pumpkins are blossoming heavily right now,

IMG_5445

and bees and other pollinators love squash blossoms.

 

IMG_5448

 

IMG_5446

It is not unusual to see two or more pollinators in the same flower.

 

IMG_5450

The bees were also foraging in the buckwheat.  They moved quickly from flower to flower and I was not able to capture a photo of one.

IMG_5453

We don’t harvest buckwheat but it does serve a dual purpose. It acts as a cover crop,¬†enriching the soil¬†in areas where we are not growing food. It also helps feed the bees.

Thanks for spending a little time with me. What are you doing to make the most of summer?

 

The Garlic Is Harvested

WHOO HOO!!! I am so happy to have the garlic out of the ground and hanging in the barn. Especially since we got it done last week before the extreme heat¬†arrived. This year’s harvest was much easier than the past several years¬†because we planted significantly less garlic last fall. It was a big chore none the less.

Since my husband is working a landscaping job right now my plan was to work on harvesting the garlic in the cooler¬†morning hours then work on bundling and hanging it later in the day because I wouldn’t have to be in the hot sun to do that part. I knew he would help as time allowed.

The harvest went even smoother than I planned. I started digging the garlic Tuesday morning and had the first 1 1/2 rows dug by about 11:00 a.m. I had planned on working until noon but it started to rain. Since I didn’t know how long the rain would last I decided to get the garlic that was out of the ground to a dry spot and then take a break. I¬†put¬†the garlic on a tarp under the barn overhang, where it would stay dry until I came back to put it in bundles. That evening my husband moved it inside the barn.

That early rain shower didn’t last long or amount to much, but that evening and over night we had some significant rain fall, enough rain that my husband was not needed at his job on Wednesday. By Wednesday morning all that rain had moved out of the area so we were able to get back into the field and finish the harvest.

We took the¬†Scout and Trooper¬†and a cooler full of cold water and drove to the garlic field. As my husband got out of the van he said something that got my attention. When I asked what he had said he replied, “It’s the biggest bull frog I’ve ever seen.”¬† I went to take a look and had to agree.

IMG_5379

Thankfully this guy did not get run over as we drove into the field. It appeared as if this was not his first close call. He had abrasions on both sides of his body that looked as if something had tried to make a meal out of him Рa large fish perhaps. To keep him safe (or at least from getting run over) my husband carried him to the pond where he quickly swam away.

My husband and I worked together digging garlic and found that the rain that fell¬†the night before had worked in our favor as many of the bulbs could just be pulled out of the ground. “The less I have to put my foot on a shovel, the better,” my husband said.

When my husband took a wagon load of garlic to the barn he returned telling me that a neighbor had come to visit. This particular neighbor loves company and has really taken to my husband. His name is Peanut.

IMG_5387

A while later when I went to the barn I was greeted by Peanut, and as I was returning to the garlic field he decided to follow me. This was a concern because Scout and Trooper, who were hanging out in the van, are not cat lovers. Nowadays Scout is not much of a threat because his vision is gone, his hearing is poor and his body is weak. His nose still works perfectly though. Trooper on the other hand is still a very¬†keen watch dog who will chase off anyone or anything he doesn’t think belongs on our farm. Normally when Trooper gives chase the invaders run off and Trooper is satisfied that he has done his job. Peanut was not going to run off.

My husband attempted to introduce Trooper to Peanut and Trooper was very curious about this intruder. As he attempted sniffing Peanut from head to tail Peanut got offended. He hissed and scratched Trooper on the nose. My husband picked up Peanut and took him back to the barn area while I got Trooper in the van¬†then headed back to the garlic field. This only lasted a few minutes before Peanut was back by the van. Scout who couldn’t see the cat got a good whiff of him then became anxious and wanted to go looking for him. Trooper got out of the van so my husband grabbed Peanut, jumped in the van and took him home. He also went by our house and got a wet soapy wash cloth and some ointment for Trooper’s scratch. While he was gone Trooper went around sniffing all of the areas that the cat had been. Looking but not finding him. He then went for a swim in the pond and settled down a bit. Just before my husband returned I walked into the barn only to see Peanut laying in front of the tractor. When my husband returned I suggested he take Scout and Trooper back to¬†our house so we could get our work done. He agreed.

IMG_5385

Within an hour of having that mess settled we had the rest of the garlic harvested and by the end of the day they were all hanging in the barn. The above photo shows the approximately 1000 bulbs we harvested on Wednesday with the tools we used.

I have to admit¬†this year’s crop is disappointing.¬†Between bitter cold temperatures over the winter and an extremely wet spring we lost approximately 25% of what was planted. Of the bulbs we did harvest the majority of them¬†are small. We have very few bulbs that will be large enough to use for seed garlic for next¬†years crop.

What does this means for our future in growing garlic – I am not sure. We will just keep moving forward the best we can. Perhaps garlic farming is not in our future.

Thanks for reading?