Thursday, December 27, 2012

Painted Antique Maple Bucket Gifts

Long ago, maple sap was collected in wooden buckets hung from a tree.  The farmers gathered the buckets and dumped the precious sap into a large tank on top of a horse drawn sled.  The buckets themselves were works of art, but so very heavy.  I can't imagine how strong the people who collected the sap must have been!  Then galvanized maple sap buckets were created.  They were lighter and I would guess more durable and less prone to leaks.  Still, each bucket had to be collected one by one and poured into a tank.  Now, we use food grade plastic tubing and run lines through the forest and down to a sap collecting tank.   

It's rare to find one of the old wooden sap buckets around.  They are truly collector's items.  The galvanized buckets, however, are much more readily found.  

I live in a maple syrup area.  Metal maple sap buckets can be found at auctions and stacks and stacks are tucked away in old barns.  I've collected a few hundred of them because they're beautiful and functional.  They make a lovely and unique palette for my painting and came up with a few designs that fits them.  One popular design I create is a winter scene.  Although the designs are similar, no two buckets are painted exactly alike.   

 I usually tuck tiny cardinals here and there throughout the evergreens.  This bucket was special ordered with a slightly larger cardinal than I usually paint.  The customer wanted her mother to be able to see them more readily.  

Then I fill them with local goodies - maple syrup, maple coated nuts, jams, local honey, etc. to create a gift bucket.  

This finished bucket cost $50.00.  

But what do you do with the painted buckets?  We keep ours beside the wood stove filled with kindling.  I saw one prettily filled with pine cones.  Put a plant (in it's own pot) inside one.  Use one as an ice bucket for wine, beer, and sodas.  Weight one with some rocks and then fill it with tall, interesting twigs and set it beside your front door.  Whatever your imagination can conjure.  Because I'm not sure of the integrity of the galvinization (is that a word?), and what was used to make the buckets (i.e. lead),  I would hesitate to have food come in direct contact with the interior of the bucket.

 I'll be posting pictures of my other designs and I hope to have a bunch of these and the other designs available for sale by the spring. 

Be sure to go over to the blog hop at Frugally Sustainable!


Woowee That's A Lot Of Snow!

We have been blessed with a mild winter.  I know that a lot of people like winter and snow.  When you're hauling hot water to the chickens and rabbits, shoveling poo, carrying sacks of feed, and doing the myriad of chores around the farmlet, then less snow certainly makes chores simpler!

But boy oh boy did we get dumped on last night!  Solomons Words For The Wise posted a picture which shows a measuring stick with 15 inches of snow by 9:40 last night - and it kept on coming!

Chores will be a lot harder, but the critters have to eat.  I'll shovel out an area where the chickens can lounge outside and have their breakfast  I'll make sure the bunnies have lots of extra hay and feed.  Last night, with the oncoming storm I filled their sleeping area with a big pile of hay so they could snuggle down into it and keep warm.  So now I guess its time to go use my knees as a cow catcher and bust a path down to the coop!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Homemade French Baguette Using The Sunbeam Breadmaker

A few months ago, when I noticed that bread was $4 and $5 a loaf for decent bread, I decided to get a bread maker.  I did a bunch of research and ended up getting the Sunbeam 5891 2-Pound Programable Breadmaker.  

Sunbeam 5891 Programmable Bread Maker

I.  Love.  It!

It's so very easy to throw ingredients into the breadmaker, turn it on, and in three hours have a fresh, delicious loaf of bread!  

Now I know what ingredients go into my bread.  There aren't any di-something or others.  I've been using honey, whole wheat flour, yeast, water, kosher salt, some ground flax, some wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds.  Mmmm.

One con.  The bread maker does make a sort of odd shaped loaf, but with some creative cutting I end up with average sized slices.  

Here are a few things I learned about making bread in a bread machine: 

1. Don't follow the order that the bread maker manufacturers tell you to put ingredients into the machine.  Start with very warm water.  Follow with yeast, then sweetener - I like to use honey or maple syrup.    Swirl it around.  My bread always rises beautifully!
2.  You don't have to buy special bread machine flour.  Just get some wheat gluten and add one teaspoon to each cup of flour that you use.  I put a teaspoon of gluten in my measuring cup then carefully scoop out my flour and level it off.  A small bag of gluten will last a long time.
3.  Don't buy special bread machine yeast.  Any yeast works just fine.
4.  Add salt last and don't use iodized salt when making bread.  I read somewhere that the iodine kills the yeast and it does seem to be true.  

I got pretty decent at making sandwich bread and wanted to expand my repertoire.  I looked at baguettes in the grocery store and they look sooo yummy.  Then I flip them over and see all the funky stuff they're made with.  Maybe not.  I decided to give a recipe for bread machine french baguettes a try.  You make the dough in the bread machine and then finish in the oven.    

My recipe comes from 

French Baguettes

Prep Time: 15 Minutes Ready In: 1 Hour 50 Minutes (probably longer)
Submitted By: Judy Taubert Cook Time: 25 Minutes Servings: 12
"Great eaten fresh from oven. Used to make sub sandwiches, etc."

1 cup water
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water

1. Place 1 cup water, bread flour, sugar, salt and yeast into bread machine pan in the order recommended by manufacturer. Select Dough cycle, and press Start.
2. When the cycle has completed, place dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in bulk. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.
3. Punch down dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 16x12 inch rectangle. Cut dough in half, creating two 8x12 inch rectangles. Roll up each half of dough tightly, beginning at 12 inch side, pounding out any air bubbles as you go. Roll gently back and forth to taper end. Place 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Make deep diagonal slashes across loaves every 2 inches, or make one lengthwise slash on each loaf. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Mix egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water; brush over tops of loaves.
5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.


Here's what I did different from the recipe above: 

- I used 1 tablespoon honey in place of the sugar (I just use a roughly tablespoon sized dollap)
- I used regular flour with gluten added.  The first loaves I made with unbleached flour and later loaves - I substituted wheat flour for 1/2 cup.
- I rolled out the baguettes on a piece of parchment paper. 
- I used the whole egg whipped up to brush all over the tops and sides of loaves.
 - I used scissors to snip the slashes.  
  - Most importantly, I preheated the oven with my pizza stone and a pan for water placed in the oven.
Using a cookie sheet I slid the baguettes, parchment paper and all, onto the hot stone and then poured about two cups of hot water into the pan for water and quickly closed the oven door. 

These are delicious with a crispy exterior and tender interior.  My son came home from school and ate a whole baguette with butter and honey all by himself!

And as an added bonus they are a fraction of the cost of store bought baguettes!

Be sure to hop over to Frugally Sustainable for their blog hop!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Farmacy

I love this.  Sadly, its not my 'fridge (though I wish it was!).What's in your Farmacy?

Once upon a time I saw a blog that gave a recipe for a tonic that used honey and elderberry syrup.  You would take a teaspoon of it each day.  I would love to know if anyone knows where I might find a copy of it?  It really helps when I give my prone-to-allergies son a teaspoon of local honey each morning.  Since elderberries are antiviral I imagine the combination would give colds and flu a one-two punch! 

The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while Nature 
affects the cure.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The 2-Minute Video Monsanto Does Not Want You To See

Nice huh?  No, not really.  And now they're trying to sneak it by again.  From the Center For Food Safety:  

"The biotech industry has quietly inserted a dangerous policy rider into the Agriculture Appropriations bill now being considered in Congress. Though wrapped in a “farmer-friendly” package, this “farmer assurance provision” is simply a biotech industry ploy to continue to plant GE crops even when a court of law has found they were approved illegally."  

Here's the link to send an email to your state representatives to tell them, "NO!"  

Don't forget to go over to Homestead Revival's Barn Hop!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Beautiful Foggy Day On The Farm


The unusually warm weather we're having is creating fall and spring-like weather conditions instead of normal snowy weather conditions.  Its a lot easier to get chores done without the snow but I'm worried about how this will affect spring maple season.

One of the white horses in the top photo is my horse, "Lady."  She is the culmination of many, many years of wanting a horse.  More to come about her later!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Baby Angora Bunnies Are Born

Five days ago I noticed that one of the angora rabbits was pulling hair off herself and any other rabbit that got close enough to her.  She ran around frantically with mouthfuls of hay.  I told my husband, "she's going to give birth."  I don't have a kindling box (kindling is what its called when a rabbit gives birth), so I found a wicker basket that fit the bill.  A few hours later we looked inside the rabbit's hutch and there lay eight tiny babies.  Not in the basket I provided, of course.  

"They'll freeze to death if we leave them out here," my husband said.  The temperature hovered near thirty degrees and it was rainy/snowy.  So we decided to bring them and mom inside.  I tucked the eight babies into the basket and put them and the mother into a small dog carrier to bring them up to the house.  I was fearful that the mother rabbit wouldn't accept the babies if I touched them, but I didn't have any other options.  Now I have eight adorable baby bunnies and a momma bunny living in a great big dog carrier in my den.  By the way, bunnies poop and pee a LOT and I'm cleaning the cage twice a day!   

Each day I distract momma rabbit with a carrot and check all eight babies to make sure they're alive and getting enough to eat.  There are six blacks and two grays.  The momma doesn't seem to mind me taking them out of their basket and giving them a quick check.    

A pile of baby angora bunnies.
Last night, I heard the momma get in the box with her little ones for a nursing session.  Rabbits aren't like cats.  They don't lie around in the crate with the babies.  They get in once a day for about five minutes and that's all the nursing the little ones get.  Its a survival tactic.  The mother rabbit doesn't want predators to know where her babies are hidden so she stays away from them.  

All of these babies will be for sale in about seven weeks.  I can take a picture of one particular bunny if someone would like to give one as a Christmas present.  Then you can put the picture in a card and then they'll get the baby when its ready to leave the mother.  In a week or so, when I take the pictures, they'll look much more like adorable little fuzz balls (vs. the naked mouse look they're sporting now!)  

Angora rabbits are more work than regular bunnies because they require more brushing to keep their hair clean and tangle free.  But you can harvest their fur about four times a year and the angora rabbits have a wonderfully calm temperament!  Many people keep them indoors.  I'm not fond of having rabbits in the house and my rabbits have an outdoor pen.  I've found with mine that they seem to be calmer as outdoor pets.  We put the pen in a shady area in the summer (to help the bunnies stay cool) and we put it in one of the high tunnels for the winter.  They are doing very well.   

“Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were--Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter. ” 
― Beatrix Potter

Don't miss Homestead Revival's Barn Hop!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Garlic Planting

Whew.  Garlic got planted last week - just before the snow fell!

I'm about six weeks behind my usual garlic planting schedule, which is normally around Columbus Day.   The garlic guru from Wooleylot Farm said that garlic can be planted as long as the ground is workable.  The unseasonably warm weather we've had has made the ground easily worked until just a few days ago.

This is the third year I've planted this garlic that I originally bought from Wooleylot Farm.  Each year I plant the cloves from the biggest and best bulbs.  Because of this, each early summer I've been rewarded with bigger and more lovely garlic bulbs.  It would have been a shame to not get in this year's planting!

Its easy to plant garlic.  Make a shallow trench about 3 inches deep and place the cloves in it, six inches apart. Be sure to plant the cloves pointed end up. If you plant them upside down, they will grow but will be misshapen and smaller than they should be. You'll see the top of the clove makes a u-turn to reach the sky!  Rake soil back over the cloves, so that they are covered by 2 inches of soil.

Finally, mulch with 3-4 inches of organic material such as straw, alfalfa hay, or grass clippings.  My garlic is well mulched so hopefully it will get a chance to develop a bit of a root system before the ground gets too hard.   

Once you've tasted and cooked with freshly grown  garlic you become spoiled and don't want to use any other.  Plus, I plant a hardneck variety of garlic and it would be a shame not to have those wonderfully tasty spring scapes!

Garlic scapes and venison steaks...mmmm.

“My final, considered judgment is that the hardy bulb [garlic] blesses and ennobles everything it touches - with the possible exception of ice cream and pie.”
Angelo Pellegrini, 'The Unprejudiced Palate' (1948)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Important Late-November Winter Gear

Today is the first day of deer hunting.

I can tell because: 

 The deer aren't following their usual paths through our area.
The dogs are skittish, jumpy, and hiding under my feet.
In northern Pennsylvania the kids have this day off from school for "Deer Day."
And I hear occasional gunshots in the distance.

This is when I pull out my most important part of my late-November winter gear.

Its not pretty - but this bright orange hat may literally be a lifesaver as I go about my outside chores!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Try Organic Food...

Source: Food Inc.

Although, maybe it should read great grandparents..because after the Second World War...that's when more pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and plastics were introduced....

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Celery As A House Plant?

To my surprise the celery plants that I started from seed did beautifully in the garden this year and I dehydrated a bunch for winter soups.  The flavor is so very much better than store bought celery.  The texture is tougher so I like to use it in recipes more than I like eating it raw.

 Quite often though, recipes call for fresh chopped celery.  Celery almost tops the Dirty Dozen list for the most pesticide-ridden crop and organic celery is crazy expensive.  Then I read a blog about a woman who started growing celery plants from the bottoms of old celery and I figured that since my celery already has a great root system, why don't I try repotting it and growing it indoors?  

Yesterday I dug up four celery plants (I had to clean off a bunch of outer stalks as the frost had got to them) and planted it in a pretty pot.  

Oops, ignore the ugly price sticker!

I think it makes a pretty nice looking "house plant."  We'll see if it grows!

I have more celery plants in the garden. Give me a call if you would like to come and dig up a plant to pot (hurry though, the frost/snow may kill it pretty fast).

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy Halloween (a day late!)

Rat Meat Loaf

Shape the meatloaf

Add carrot ears, caper eyes, uncooked spaghetti whiskers and cooked spaghetti tail.  

Finish with lots of hilarious comments and jokes!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Watermelon Radishes

I got out of the habit of blogging often and I'm going to try to get back to it.  I almost considered giving it up because I've become so very busy, but I've met many people who say they read it and love it and I love meeting new people through this medium!  

This past summer was a kick in the pants as far as the amount of work my mini farm seemed to require and the motivation that I had to complete it.  I've made some changes in my philosophy on how I will continue and I think these changes will refresh my outlook.

The garden will change from being a market garden to a smaller garden for only my family.  Hours and hours and hours of backbreaking weeding and garden work will do that to you!  I felt like I missed the summer and many opportunities to enjoy time with my family.  

Moving ahead, I'm going focusing on producing maple syrup, and most importantly, honey.  Local honey seems to be the lost commodity that everyone wants and I'm happy to work the bees to provide.  Next year you'll find me at the Farmer's Market with locally made or produced maple syrup and honey, and Jackson's preserves and jellies.  

Sometimes it takes awhile to find your focus and sometimes the focus changes even when you think you've found it!

Late in August I did a small planting in the high tunnel.  I'm experimenting to see what I can  get to grow through the winter for fresh vegetables year round.  

Yesterday I picked watermelon radishes.  These giant sized radishes taste exactly like the smaller red outside-white inside radishes, but sure do put a nice punch of color on the dinner table!

I sliced them up to serve with a bit of salt.  The rinds are a little tough, but the inside is tender and delicious.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Are You Keen On Kale?

It comes in these giant, frilly, green bundles at the grocery store and you look at it and think, "what the heck do I do with that?"

I didn't know either.  Then I grew it one year and fell in love with it.  

Sadly, kale is number ten on the Dirty Dozen for pesticides list so look for a local organic farmer who is selling it to buy it now.  Kale probably made the list because, in early summer, kale gets attacked by flea beetles like crazy, and looks like lace part of the year.  But then in the late summer and early fall, when most pests have died off due to the cold weather, suddenly kale comes into it's glory.  It grows green, tall, beautiful (and nutrient dense) leaves and it laughs at the cold weather!  I've gone out into the garden in the middle of winter and picked kale out of the snow!  

Now its time to cook the kale. You can find a million recipes online, but for me the most simple recipes are the best. and my two favorite ways to serve it are, first, to saute kale in olive oil with some garlic, a drop of lemon juice, and a little red pepper and the second way is to chop it up and throw a big handful into just about any soup you're making.  Easy!

I'm not to whom I should credit this chart.
It comes via Food Inc. with a juice generation logo.  

Give kale a try!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Gem In Elkland, PA

We took the pigs to the butcher this weekend and on the way back we found this little gem of a garden in Elkland, PA.  

If you're driving through the town just a too little fast and fail to look to the side you'll miss this little gem located on a narrow lot.  Only a tiny part of the garden is visible from the main street.  
(The sun was setting when we found this and the pictures are not as brilliant as I hoped they would be!) 

Then.... you drive around to the back, make a right and drive through a non-descript parking lot and bamm!  you're hit between the eyes with astounding beauty as you negotiate the narrow alley.  

Both sides of the tiny one lane alley have been turned into a virtual wonderland!

 Above, you can see the trucks driving by on the main street.

You'll find this garden as you're heading east on Rt 49 through Elkland, PA.  Look to your right just before the traffic light.  Take a right at the light then make another right through the parking lot behind the buildings to see the rest of the garden.     


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Yummy, Super Simple, Homemade Ice Cream

Five Minute Ice Cream RecipeI found this yummy, and oh, so simple, ice cream recipe on yesterday.  It's very flavorful, refreshing, and delicious!

5 Minute Ice Cream

10 ounces frozen sliced strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream


Combine the frozen strawberries and sugar in a food processor or blender. Process until the fruit is roughly chopped. With the processor running, slowly pour in the heavy cream until fully incorporated. Serve immediately, or freeze for up to one week.

I found the sugar to be a little bit grainy and I think the next time I make it I would put the sugar and 1/2 the heavy cream in first and process it for a few seconds to help dissolve the sugar.  Then I would add the sliced strawberries ( I used a frozen rasberry, strawberry, and blueberry mixture), chop them, and finally the last of the heavy cream.

In the comments of this recipe people talked about using frozen peaches and other fruits. They would all be amazing!

I think this tastes more like a really rich sorbet than an ice cream and it's sooooo tasty!

Click here to see the actual recipe page on

P.S.  I would love to know what fruits you use and what changes you make to this recipe!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Pigs Don't Like Thunder

I found out yesterday, as I was feeding the pigs, that they don't like thunder.  I was gathering up their feeding dishes while the pigs walked around me when suddenly a boom of thunder went off and all three squealed and went shooting past me out into their field.  Very scary for them and for me! 

pig running scared

Monday, September 3, 2012

(Unwilling) Showtime on the Farm

Sometimes, in the course of dealing with critters I potentially give my neighbors quite a show. 

A few years ago I had a bumblebee fall down my shirt and start stinging me.  Bumblebees can sting more than once!  It would have made a great "Funniest Home Videos" to watch me run around like a maniac as I peered down my shirt and finally ripped it off (yes, I had a bra on!).  

Then, this spring, we had the great pig chase.  Our piglet shot through the fence the second we put it in it's new home and we spent over three hours pelting around chasing it around the forest.  One farmer, who was working down the lane, said he would see the pig run across the road, then he would see a pile of people chasing after it.  A few minutes later the pig would go back across the road the other way and here would come the chasers again!

The other day, I looked out and the pigs had drunk enough water from the 50-gallon drum we use for their water to make it light enough for them to lift.  They had pushed it around until it was lying across and pushing down their fence.  Yikes!  I envisioned a three hour chase of giant pigs through the woods!  So, I started trying to get the drum back in place so that I could refill it with water.  The drum is tethered to a fence post and sits on concrete blocks.  I move the concrete blocks back in place.  Pigs, who are insanely strong and curious pushed them over like they were styrofoam.  So I'm telling the pigs to "leave it alone!"  They don't listen.  So I get some food and throw it at the other end of their pasture.  I quickly try to get the drum set on the blocks and start filling it with water.  Here come the pigs again and they start pushing on the drum - which try as hard as I can, will not be held in place by me.  Then they chew on the tethers and start pushing around the blocks.  Trek out to the barn for more food.  Finally, after a few more sessions of this the drum gets put in place and filled with enough water that they can't move it - not exactly the way I want it - but it will have to do!

Yesterday, as I was cleaning our around my asparagus patch, an angry bee (they always seem to get so angry this time of year) starts buzzing around my head.  When you work with bees you learn their "give me the chance and I'll sting you buzz".  I have a slight allergy to bees (hives- great for a beekeeper, right?) and didn't want to deal with the Benadryl and sleepiness period after a beesting, so I took off at a dead run for the house.  Every time the I slowed down the bee kept angrily dive bombing me, until I got inside.  There's nothing like an angry bee to turn you into an Olympic caliber sprinter!   

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Be A Stickler

 Good to know information for the next time you're looking around the produce section of the grocery store!

“The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway.” 
― Michael Pollan

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Yummy Pepparkakor

For my birthday last year, Sara, my dear friend from Sweden, whom I met in Okinawa, Japan, and who is now living in Washington state, gave me the recipe for these cookies named Pepparkakor.  In the package she included a bottle of Ljus Sirap (or light syrup) and a packet of Bikarbonat Natron.  The finished cookies are spicy, sweet, and oh, so yummy!

The light syrup the recipe calls for is a Swedish syrup called Ljus Sirap.  The bottle Sara sent me is made by the company, Dan Sukker.  It's a syrup made from sugar beets rather than corn.  The bikarbonate called for in the recipe is bikarbonate natron by Santa Maria.  Both Swedish products should be available at an IKEA store. 


Bake at 350-degrees for 8-10 minutes.

1 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. light syrup
1/3 c. water.
150 grams butter (room temperature -about 1-1/2 sticks)
1 Tbs. ground cinnamon
1 tsp, ground cardamom
1 Tbs. ground cloves
1 Tbs. ground ginger
1-1/2 tsp. bikarbonate
3-1/3 c. flour

On stovetop, simmer together sugar, syrup, and water.  Mix butter and spices and add to the pot.  Let this cool without mixing and stirring.  

Mix bikarbonate with flour.  After the first part has cooled, mix it with the flour mixture,  Add that extra 1/3 cup flour if it feels too runny.  

Place in fridge overnight.  Roll out THIN dough and cut out cookies.  Add a peeled almond on top of each cut out.  Sara said she likes to make pigs.  I didn't have pig cutouts, but I think the hearts and stars are very pretty!

How to peel almonds:  Place them in a small pot of boiling water for a second while stirring.  Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for 3 minutes.  Drain almonds and put them on a cloth towel.  Rub them with cloth and the skins pop right off. (Note: I accidentally found out that if you squeeze the almonds with your fingers you can shoot the insides across the room!)


The cookies were soft the first day and then, on the second day, they became delightfully crisp with a more pronounced spice taste.  De-lic-ious! 

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