Tornadoes

Tornado ~ Tuscaloosa, AL 4/27/11

Okay, I admit it.  I’m a news junky when it comes to catastrophic events.  Yesterday I found myself watching video after video of the tornadoes that tore through the South Wednesday afternoon and evening.  Reading articles and looking at pictures.  Massive tornadoes like this are horrific and yet fascinating.  Hey, you out there, I know I’m not the only one that thinks like this….LOL…..admit it.  I loved the movie Twister.  There is something about them, the sheer force of Mother Nature telling you she could care less what you have built where on her Earth.  They drop from the sky, wreak their havoc, and just as inexplicably disappear right back up into the clouds they came from leaving the sun to shine on the destruction they have wrought and the lives they have forever damaged.

The one that hit Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, AL was absolutely devastating, an EF5, the worst out there.  It was also mesmerizing to watch.  They think that tornado started in Birmingham and then traveled the 60 miles to Tuscaloosa, picking up strength all the way.  Tuscaloosa didn’t stand a chance and they had warning that it was coming.  Hell, what can you do to avoid a mile wide tornado?  Not everyone is in a place to hear warnings, etc.  The warning sirens go off and what do you do?  Immediately think of your family and where they are and how do you get to them?  Can you get to them?  Can you trust whoever has your kids to get them to safety?  And before you know it, it’s there.  And it’s too late.

My heart goes out to all of those all across the South who have lost family members, hell, whole families have been lost.  I have sent prayers out for all of the injured and those who have lost so much.  People have lost their homes, their livelihoods, friends, pets….this list goes on.  Their lives will never be the same because of this one terrible storm.  Looking at some of the videos and photos online is just heartbreaking.  Whole neighborhoods just flattened.  Apartment buildings leveled.  Can you imagine trying to find bits and pieces of your life in all of that mess???  I can’t imagine it.

We had an evening and night of Severe Thunderstorm Warnings and Tornado Warnings on Wednesday as well.  It can be nerve wracking to say the least.  At least in this old house we have a really neat root cellar we can go hide in, I have lived in many houses without even a basement when I lived in NC.   My TinMan lovingly told me I was over-reacting a bit to the warnings and to the way the sky looked Wednesday evening.  (He has lived through multiple hurricanes, a few tornadoes, etc and has many years of preparedness skills behind him.)  I just smiled back and told him that I had been through tornadoes before too, most of the time I have been alone with the kids and had no one but me to worry about all of the “what ifs.” So, when I hear the warnings I take them seriously and try to prepare for the “what ifs.”  I have always been that way…get the important stuff together so it can be taken to the “safe spot” if we need to go.  What’s on your list of stuff to get into your safe spot?  For me, it’s my kids, my purse, my phone, this laptop, my camera, the pets (if they can be corralled).  The rest could be replaced.  I know one thing we have to get cracking on is putting together bug out bags (BOB) for everyone.  That is a bag/backpack that has everything in it you would need to survive for a few days away from home during the event of a crisis/catastrophe like a tornado ripping through your house or town.

When the boys were small, both still in daycare, we had a really bad tornado come through our area in NC.  I worked in the next town over as a home health nurse and was at the office.  A good 25 minute drive on a good day.  We heard the warnings, the sky got black and no one would let me leave….the storm was heading on a direct path from where I was at toward my home.  When it blew past my location I left….couldn’t get anyone on the phone at the daycare and my ex was at home and I couldn’t get him on the phone either.  The whole trip home along the back road, I could see the very distinct path this “storm” made.  They never did call it a “tornado”  but just really bad straight line winds.  Yeah right.  I couldn’t get onto my street, trees were down everywhere.  It took me 20 minutes to find a way down to my house.  Thankfully my ex was okay, the house was okay.  The daycare was about 5-6 miles from our house, they still were not answering the phone.  It took us 2 hours to find a way to make it through town to get to the daycare.  Thankfully, it too was unscathed and the kids were okay.

Several times since then I have been alone during particularly bad storm periods where tornadoes seem to be everywhere, multiple tornado warnings in a single day and night.  Some seasons you have bunches and others not.  I’m not a panicky person, but I am a cautious one.  They put out the warnings for a reason.  Weather forecasting is much better at placing these events now than they used to be, very sophisticated radar can almost place them on dime.  When they warn you that a tornado shows up on the radar close to your vicinity, you take heed.  Well, TinMan doesn’t discount that but he also said that I need to learn to look at the sky and listen to what is going on around me.  I do, but he is right, I’ll give him that  :), maybe I’m not as focused on that as I should be.  When a tornado is heading your way it will get very still just prior, the birds will go silent and the wind will calm for a moment.  The sky will start to get pitch black and that unmistakable roar will be heard in the distance.  While we had some ominous looking clouds Wednesday night, the other signs were not in our immediate area.  However, they give warnings for a reason and Mother Nature, well, she is a fickle woman after all….LOL.  Sometimes you can’t tell what is heading your way until it is upon you. Be prepared.

So, when warnings come our way I will remain vigilant.  Keeping my ears and eyes open and watch the radar and listen to the weather reports.  My family is all I have and if we sit in the root cellar for an hour or so for nothing but a bad storm, well, then so be it.

On the note that tornadoes are fascinating creations of Mother Nature – have you ever wanted to go storm chasing?  You know they have “vacations” set up with storm chasers out in the mid-west, saw it once on the Travel Channel.  Big Grin.  I would love to see one up close….like maybe way out in a Kansas dirt field and know that no one was going to get injured or lose their homes because of it.  Sigh.  We all know that is a rare event.  I guess I will keep being a tornado video junky and keep praying for those who are almost always caught in their paths.  And that no one I love and care for is ever in the path of one.

Blessings,

Storm

Honey Wheat Bread – Our favorite!

Hello everyone, sorry it’s taken me so long to get this recipe posted.  As the old farm adage goes, we’ve been making hay while the sun shines 🙂  I have been trying to get this blog written for 4 days…LOL.

I thought I would share the recipe for my family’s favorite honey wheat bread.  It will make 2 large loaves. This is really easy to make, even if you’ve never made bread before.  No, I don’t use a bread machine….I gave it up in favor of my Kitchen Aid mixer and doing things the traditional way.  It took a few tries to figure out exactly how to get MY loaf to look like a professional baker’s loaf, mind you, but it’s not that hard.  Really.  It’s all in how you proof your yeast and set the bread out to rise.

Okay, here are the ingredients you will need for the bread:

2 1/2 cups lukewarm water    2 TBSP white or brown sugar
2 tablespoon active dry yeast    2 1/2 tsp salt (Kosher is best)
4 1/2 cups bread flour    4 TBSP (1/4 cup) light olive oil
2 cup whole wheat flour    4 TBSP (1/4 cup) honey
8 tsp (2 2/3 TBSP) vital wheat gluten    2 TBSP cane molasses

First off, turn your oven on to its lowest baking temperature.  For mine that is 170 degrees.  Let it preheat.

So, how do you proof yeast anyway?  Well, there are lots of theories on that and I’ve tried a few….LOL.  But this is what works for me:

You need a large bowl or at minimum a 4 cup glass measure.

2 ½ cups of warm water – now this is the trick – let the tap water run until it is as hot as it gets.  Fill your bowl with the 2 ½ cups of hot water.  Let it sit for a minute while you get your yeast and your sugar ready.

2 TBSP of packed brown sugar or white sugar, your preference.

2 TBSP of active dry yeast

Now, test your water with your finger tip, if it feels just warm, you are good to go.  If it gets too cool, your yeast won’t bloom.  If it stays too hot, you will kill your yeast.  Argh.  Add your yeast and sugar to the warm water and whisk briskly for about 30 secs or so, make sure the yeast and the sugar have dissolved.   This is what your bowl of proofing yeast will look like at the start:

Put the bowl of proofing yeast aside while you get your other ingredients ready, about 10 minutes.

Dough Hook

I have a Kitchen Aide mixer with a dough hook on it.  If you have one of those, please go drag it out and use it.  Or any other mixer with a dough hook.  Or you can use your bread machine for the kneading part of our program.  (Anytime I can let a machine do it……I do.)  If you use a bread machine please follow the directions as to how to add the ingredients to your pan, then select the dough cycle.  Once it has completed kneading, follow the rest of the steps as listed below.

Place all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of your mixer.  I use the whisk attachment to mix them together or you can use a spoon.

**Note ~ I use Kosher salt for baking/cooking because I have found that it seems to cook up better, have better flavor than regular table salt.

***2nd Note ~ I sometimes get creative and substitute a cup of the bread flour with another grain flour, most often Spelt.  Haven’t heard of Spelt?  ***I’ll give you the low down on Spelt after we’ve made our bread.

Now gather your wet ingredients (Molasses, honey, oil) and measure them out into a glass 1 cup measuring cup.  Stir them together as best you can ~ you know oil and water don’t mix?  Well, oil and molasses and honey don’t mix well either….LOL.

NOW, finally….back to your proofing bowl of yeast.  WOW…how cool is that?  This is called a yeast bloom.  When you have proofed your yeast correctly you will have about an inch or so of foam on top of the liquid.  Isn’t that pretty?  I just love it when my yeast blooms  🙂

Look at all that foam!! Perfectly blooming yeast

Next step….add the honey, molasses, oil mixture directly into the yeast and whisk it briskly again so that the honey and molasses dissolve.

You should already have your mixer set up with the bowl of dry ingredients and the dough hook attached.  Start the mixer on the slowest speed and gradually add the yeast mixture.  I use a spatula to make sure that the flour stays off the walls of the bowl and it all mixes in well.  I lock the bowl and increase the speed up a notch and let the dough hook do my kneading for the next 5 min or so.

Too Sticky

The dough will be sticky, stickier than most.  However, that being said we don’t want it to be toooo sticky.  So, I usually set aside about ½ cup of bread flour and gradually add just a little at a time to the dough as it is being kneaded, I rarely use the whole half cup.  You will get the hang of how much to add.  Just remember, the dough should still be fairly sticky when you are finished kneading.

Perfect dough

While you are letting the dough knead get a very large mixing bowl ready for your bread dough to do its first rising in ~ I use a stainless steel bowl that is about 12 inches across and 7 inches deep.  Your dough will rise to the top of a bowl that size.  I usually put the bowl in the oven for a minute to let it warm up.  Once it has warmed up, drizzle about a TBSP of olive oil in the bowl and use your fingers to fully coat the inside of the bowl.

Take the dough ball and place it into the oil coated bowl.  Tip:  The dough can be hard to get out of the mixing bowl so I coat my hand with olive oil and it makes it easier to get it to release from the bowl.  Knead dough just a bit and form it into a ball, place the ball into the oiled bowl.  Turn the dough ball in the bowl so that it is coated in olive oil and then cover the bowl with a damp towel.  Now, if your kitchen is warm enough or you have a nice sunny spot to sit the bowl in for the dough to rise, just let it rise that way.  I usually have to put mine in the warm (preheated to 170) oven.

Allow to rise for 1 hour

If you put it in a warm oven to rise be careful that it’s not too warm or you will kill the yeast and your bread won’t rise.  I learned this the hard way….LOL.  Several loaves later I figured out what I was doing wrong.  Anyhoo….Cover you’re your bowl and place it in the warm oven.  I have found that if I turn the oven off, it cools down too quick and the bread won’t rise well.  Sooooo, I leave the oven on but open the oven door a little to let the intense heat out.  Now that it’s heading into summer I am hoping I can skip this step and just let it rise in the sun.

You should let your bread dough rise in the bowl for about an hour or until it doubles in size.

While your dough is rising you need to get your loaf pans ready or if you wish you can simply make loaves and place them on a baking sheet to rise.  If you are like me though, the bread will be used for sandwiches, etc so I use the loaf pans.  My pans are 9 x 5 inches.  There are some pans that are 9 x 4 and those are too small for these loaves.  Grease and flour your pans, set aside.

The dough has risen!

When your dough is ready, punch it down in the bowl and turn it out onto a floured surface.  Knead just a little bit.  Add a little flour to the bread as your are kneading it for ease.  Flatten the dough ball out onto the counter so that you can divide it easily into two pieces.

sigh...I think I am going to get a hand model next time....LOL

Divide the dough in half

I use a pastry knife to divide it into two equal halves….hahahaha.  I never get them equal….LOL.  Take each half and roll them up into oblong loaves.

Some day I will get them equal...maybe

Place the loaves into the pans and then put the pans back into the warm oven. (Follow same procedure for rising as before, not too hot)  No need to cover the pans, however.  I usually spritz the tops of the loaves with water during the rising process so they don’t get too crusty before cooking.  Again, let the loaves rise for about an hour, the dough will top out over the edges of the pans.

Once your loaves have risen fully, leave them in the oven but increase the temp to 350 degrees and close the door.  Be sure to spritz them with water again one last time.  Allow them to bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30-35 minutes or golden brown.

Ready to bake (this picture sucks, I apologize ~ it's the lighting) Problem is, if you move the pans for the "perfect picture" you risk having the bread fall.

Lots of folks tap on the bread to check for doneness ~ it is supposed to sound hollow when fully baked.  Sigh….I can never figure this out, Lady bless you if you can!

My fool proof TIP:  If you pick the pan up and the loaf shakes loose in the pan, it’s DONE.  Unless you have an old pan that sticks no matter what you do.  My pans are from Wally World, the $4 variety and they work just great.  No need for fancy bakeware.

Once I take the bread out of the oven I set it onto a cooling rack, you can leave it in the pans or take it out immediately, your choice.  I take mine out immediately ~ I don’t know about you, but I HAVE to have a slice of fresh warm bread as soon as it comes from the oven.  Once I have it out of the pans, I take a large chunk of real butter and rub it over the tops of the loaves before slicing.   YUM!!!

Fresh from the oven....ahhhh nothing beats the smell of fresh bread

Perfect texture....YUM!

Well, so there you have it.  My favorite honey wheat bread.  The texture of this bread is so good….light and airy, moist and it really doesn’t dry out either unless you’ve added too much flour during the kneading process.  We love it and it really is easy to make.  My boys don’t even want me to buy store bought bread anymore, they prefer the homemade.  Once you get the hang of making it, it becomes less time intensive and less of a chore.  It’s a joy to make your own bread and see the expression on folk’s faces when they taste a little slice of homemade heaven.

I really hope ya’ll will try this out and please let me know what you think!  The next recipe will be for my Herb bread, your house will smell like an Italian restaurant!

Love, hugs and blessings to everyone!

Storm

****SPELT FLOUR ~ Spelt is an ancient grain, similar to wheat.   It has a nutty, slightly sweet flavor.  Spelt is an incredibly nutritious flour and it has been said that eating a serving of it a day is like eating an apple…LOL.  Lot’s of great health benefits.  It is higher in Niacin (Vitamin B3) than wheat.  It is also higher in protein than wheat.  It has higher amounts of minerals such as copper, iron, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus. These minerals are naturally high in the bran of the spelt grain. Our bodies need these micronutrients to perform a variety of functions and to support healthy nervous, cardiovascular, skeletal and immune systems.  While it does contain gluten, it has a higher water solubility making it easier to digest for folks with problems with wheat – however, consult your physician if you would like to try spelt and have celiac disease.

Heirloom Seeds

Geez, another week almost gone.  Where does the time go?  We have had excellent weather this week, sunny with highs in the 80’s for the most part.  Still very windy, though.  I feel like I’m living in Winnie the Pooh’s Blustery Day….LOL.  It makes it hard get some things done with the wind blowing so hard.

We have just about finished with the re-tilling of the garden, only a small patch of the back space left to do.  I did get some corn planted on Tuesday, 2 long rows of an heirloom variety called Stowell’s Evergreen sweet corn.  According to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange this is one of the oldest white sweet corns tracing back to American Indian stock.  It was developed in 1848 by Nathan Stowell of NJ.  It remains in the milk stage for a long time hence the name “evergreen.”  I can’t wait to try it….I just love fresh corn!  Just in front of the corn rows I planted two varieties of cucumbers, this will allow the cukes to climb up the corn stalks.  The first variety is called White Wonder, they are an heirloom straight cuke for slicing or pickling.  The second variety is called Ellen’s Family White.  This is an heirloom from NC which appealed to me since I lived in NC for a long time.  These cukes are good for pickling and also have a tender skin, good for quartering and serving as a side dish in vinegar….yum, makes my mouth water thinking about them…LOL.

Alot of my seeds came from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange this year.  Their motto is “Saving the Past for the Future.”  When looking for heirloom and non-GMO (genetically modified) seeds this year I was looking for a seller that was local to my region.  Doesn’t make sense to buy seeds grown from plants in Oregon does it?  Their weather is nothing like ours here in Virginia.   I love Heirloom seeds.  The thoughts of growing plants that have been around forever, are a part of our history just tickles me.  I want to continue that history and maybe someday make a little of my own once I learn enough about propagation and creating your own varieties.  To qualify as an heirloom or family heirloom the variety has to have been introduced prior to 1940.  After the 40’s hybrid varieties became the “in” thing as people were looking for drought and disease resistance.    If you live in the Mid-Atlantic region I urge you to check out Southern Exposure’s website and if you don’t, please find a local seed savers exchange in your area and choose open pollinated heirloom or organically grown varieties if possible.  Always know where your seeds are coming from and be as sure as you can that they are non-GMO.  Heirloom seeds are saving a way of life and food from times past.  A better way of growing and a better way of living in my humble opinion.

Why do we need to worry so much about genetically modified seeds?  Growers and farmers have been modifying and hybridizing plants for generations, what’s the big deal now you ask?  Well, there’s this company called Monsanto.  A giant conglomerate working closely with the FDA in this country as well as having their fingers in a lot of other country’s farms and food industries.    Ever heard of Round-up?  Monsanto makes Round-up.  They have also been accused (and have admitted to) developing Round-up resistant weeds and crops.  Why would they do that?  Think about it.  They are also into seeds in the same way.  Their growers and developers have genetically modified seeds so that the plants they produce will be sterile.  They produce seeds but the seeds will not germinate.  Thereby, eventually, making the world dependent upon Monsanto’s seeds to grow food.  They are genetically modifying corn, alfalfa, soybeans, potatoes and who knows what else at this point.  They hold the patent’s for these seeds making it illegal for the farmer to retain any seeds from his plantings for next year’s crops, even if they would grow.   The sad thing is our own government helps them by not requiring labeling of their seeds as genetically modified.   The other sad thing is that you don’t have to plant their seeds to be affected by them.  If you plant your corn in a field next to theirs (and you may not even know it’s their field planted with GMO corn) and the wind blows pollen from their field to yours, your corn is now contaminated and genetically modified.  Because they hold the patent for their corn, they can then sue YOU for growing their corn without their permission.  WTF?????

Recently, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, along with 60 other plaintiffs filed suit against Monsanto.   Please, please research Monsanto and their insidious business on your own, don’t take my word for it….there is plenty of information out there regarding their practices and belief that they have the RIGHT to control your food and how you grow it.  They are working hand in glove with the FDA and Congress to gain control of OUR rights to grow our own food and eat what we choose.  This is not a “conspiracy theory” but fact.  They had input into the design of this bill that President Obama signed into law in January, The Food Safety Modernization Act.  (Also see the UN’s Codex Alimentarius that Obama also made the US a part of…sigh).  “They” say this bill won’t affect us that much, the local farmers and growers.   Hmmm.  Please read it and tell me what YOU think, I’m interested in other folk’s opinions on this subject.

Wow…I really didn’t mean to go off on this tangent today….LOL.  It just seemed to flow and it is something that we all need to be aware of, especially if you want to keep eating healthy food and want to know where it came from.   I could rant about this all day long.  It makes me extremely angry that we, THE PEOPLE, have allowed government to become so out of control that they are now determining what is best for us to grow, if they allow us to grow it, and what is best for us to eat.   They allow companies like Monsanto and others of their ilk to produce whatever franken food or seeds they like without caring about the consequences to the Earth or her people.  It’s all about money and control.

Wake up, people.  Please research and find out what you are planting.  Where it came from and who grew it.  It’s not easy to get away from companies like Monsanto, either.  Read this article, A Month without Monsanto.  The author was very surprised at how difficult it was to do that because they are literally everywhere.  They are creeping into every facet of our lives and we have let them.  It’s time to stop it.

Okay….enough of a rant for today!  I’m going to go bake some bread…we are down to the last few slices.  Yes, I bake my own bread.  Haven’t bought any of that store bought “stuff” in months.  Yes, I’ll post the recipe and how to a little later….LOL.  There is nothing like fresh, warm bread right from the oven with butter slathered over it…..YUM!

Talk to ya’ll later!

Storm

Homemade Granola

This is so easy to make and it’s the perfect complement to add to yogurt or ice cream or just snack on by itself!

Homemade Granola

Ingredients:

4 cups old-fashioned oats

1 1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries

optional:  After it cools you can add chocolate chips!

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 F. In a bowl mix the oats, almonds, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. In a saucepan warm the oil and honey. Whisk in vanilla.

Carefully pour the liquid over the oat mixture. Stir gently with a wooden spoon; finish mixing by hand. Spread granola in a 15×10 inch baking pan.

Bake 40 minutes, stirring carefully every 10 minutes. Transfer granola-filled pan to a rack to cool completely. Stir in raisins or cranberries. Seal granola in an airtight container or self-sealing plastic bag.  Store at room temperature for 1 week or in the freezer for 3 months.

Storm’s Banana Bread

I made banana bread yesterday and thought I would share the recipe with ya’ll.  This banana bread is so good!  It’s soft, moist and very flavorful.  My oldest son John goes through spells where he begs me to make it and I can’t keep it in the house.  I hope ya’ll enjoy it just as much.

Storm's Banana Bread

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup honey

4 large eggs

4 over-ripe bananas

1 cup sour cream

3-4 tsp Vanilla

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp kosher salt

1 TBSP Cinnamon  (for spices you can add as much or as little as you like, according to taste)

2 tsp Nutmeg

3 cups bread flour or all purpose flour

1-2 cups chopped walnuts (depends on how nutty you like yours!)

Cinnamon Sugar:  1/2 cup white sugar mixed with 1 TBSP Cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Grease 2 bread / loaf pans. 

In the bowl of your mixer (I LOVE my Kitchen Aid!!) add all of the ingredients except for the nuts and mix well.

Once mixed, fold the nuts into the batter.

Pour batter into each pan until half full, reserve the remaining batter.

Take the Cinnamon Sugar and sprinkle it onto the batter in the pans.

Pour the remaining batter into the pans and again, sprinkle generously with the Cinnamon Sugar

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean.

Please let me know if you make the bread and how it turns out for you!!

Happy Baking!

Storm

Spring Wildcrafting

Wow….it’s Thursday already.  Where has this week gone?  We have been busy, busy here on the farm since my last post.  We’ve had beautiful sunny weather with a nice breeze that has made it ideal to get outside.  Finally…LOL.

On Monday we did get all of the potatoes and onions planted.  We have 2 long rows of reds, 2 rows of russets and around 100 white onion sets.  We also started the re-tilling of the rest of the front garden which we completed yesterday (with Becca’s help) and TinMan completed adding the fertilizer and lime to the back garden bed.   The back garden will be ready for re-tilling shortly.  The garden beds not only have great soil, they are full of rocks.  We are accumulating enough to build a low garden rock wall…LOL.  Lots of white quartz and granite stones.

Front Garden bed approx 30ft x 50ft

Becca & TinMan tilling in front bed

Today and tomorrow we are going to work on finally completing the greenhouse so I can move my seedlings and seed starting operation out there…..I am running out of room on the side porch!!!

The yard and fields are full of new spring life.  My dogwood is just beautiful in full bloom.  Have you noticed wild dogwoods peeking from the woods alongside your roads?  I love to see them in the spring along with the Eastern Redbuds in bloom everywhere.   Spring wild flowers are also popping up along with new green growth of what some folks might consider weeds.  However….they are not weeds.  Most of what people call “weeds” in their yards or alongside the road have some sort of herbal/medicinal value and have been used for centuries for this purpose.  Wildcrafting is usually TinMan’s territory but I couldn’t resist taking pics of all of the neat plants I’m seeing in the yard and fields – although, some pics are just for pure pleasure.  Oh…what is wildcrafting?  That is the gathering of herbs and plants from the wild to use for medicinal purposes.

Here are just a few of my pics from the farm:

 

Dogwood in Side yard

Dogwood blossoms

who knew blueberry blooms were so cool looking?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thistle, not sure what kind yet

Young Mullein

Yellow Dock

Young Burdock

Red Dead Nettle

Narrow leaf Plantain

Henbit, a member of the Dead Nettle family

Chickweed, close up

Deer trail in the field

Multicolored spring leaves make for a beautiful pic

Deer trails leading to the Pecan trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, I hope you enjoyed the little nature walk around the farm….smile.  These are only a very small portion of the pics I took over the last 2 days, I think it was something like 200 pictures that I took. I am somewhat of a photo nut and I love my new digital camera.  Can ya tell?  I want to apologize for the way the pics end up in the blog.  I may end up changing the theme just so I can get my pics to display right!  LOL, I am so anal about stuff like this that putting pics in my blogs takes longer than writing them…LOL.  Sigh.  Well, I’ve fiddled with this long enough and need to get my arse out of this chair and OUTSIDE!  It’s a gorgeous day and here I still sit…..but I love showing ya’ll the farm and all of the beautiful things nature is providing for us here.  I hope you enjoying seeing them.

Have a great day!!

Storm

 

Morning Thoughts on the Garden

It’s a nice breezy and cloudy morning here in Southern VA.  Hoping to see the sunshine this afternoon.  We have had rain and some pretty bad storms off and on since mid-week last week.  It has made getting out into the garden….difficult.  To put it mildly….LOL….can you say MUD?  However, all the rain has made everything so pretty and SPRING green.  I love the greens in the spring….all the different shades that you see in the new leaves on the trees, the grass and the flowers starting to shoot up.  Our daffodils have all but finished now, but I found some red Tulips out front that are now blooming.  The Irises in the side beds have shot up over the past week too and now have blooms getting ready to open, I can’t wait to see the colors.  It has been really cool watching all of the plants coming up that I had no idea were here….we are going to have a profusion of Day Lilies too.  I have also found wild roses climbing the fences in several spots….I love the little pink wild roses.

Bloom on Apple Tree

We have a small orchard here at the farm and the apple trees are in bloom and so pretty.  It’s an old orchard (not sure how old, at least 15-20 yrs old) but the trees appear to be fairly healthy.  We pruned them a bit about a month ago.  I would love to add some peach trees and a pear tree….maybe a cherry.  All in good time….smile.   We also have blackberry thickets, several large ones, out in the back fields, and of course they are climbing on the fences in several places.  Yum.  I managed to find some blackberries last fall after we moved in here and they were huge, big as my thumb.  I don’t know about you but I love blackberry cobbler and jam.  Also in the way of fruit we brought 2 blueberry bushes over from Becca’s old house and they seem to have taken the move rather well so hopefully we will have a few berries off of them this year….I would love to add some more of those as well.  You can do so many things with Blueberries.  TinMan makes a wonderful Eyesight Support Tincture with them.

We have potatoes and onions to get into the ground today.  We prepared that part of the garden last week and after all the rain the fertilizer should be well into the soil by now.  We have two large garden spaces, both about 50 ft long by 30-40 ft wide.  We had my brother and his friends come with a large garden tractor, discs and tiller to do the initial tilling back in early March.  The land we are using for the gardens has been used mostly for cows in the past so the dirt is very rich looking, great soil.  I did a soil test kit on both of our garden plots last week just to see if they needed amending with anything.  The soil here on the farm is fantastic.

The front garden (where we will plant the potatoes, corn, beans, etc) has almost perfect soil according to the test kit so we just added a little 10-10-10 fertilizer.  The back garden (where we will plant squashes, tomatoes, peppers, etc) needs a little lime and 10-10-10 added to it, otherwise it also appeared good in the soil test.  TinMan and our friend Becca went and got some horse manure from another friend’s house on Friday and we added that to the back garden.  We will probably end up going to get another truckload of that for the front garden as well.  This manure had been sitting for awhile and is very nutrient rich.  As much as possible, I would like to get away from having to add anything to the soil next year.  I am going to start exploring what the requirements are for the USDA Certified Organic label.  I’m sure it’s a long process like anything else government related….LOL.

Well, the day is starting to pass by so I’d better get myself up from this desk and get a move on.  I hope ya’ll have a wonderful week!

Blessings,

Storm



 

UPDATE: NEW Job Interview

UPDATE:  I have another job interview this week.  This one I LIKE, REALLY LIKE.  I had a telephone interview last week with the supervisor and the owner of the company. That interview went really well, they got some good references (Thanks Sue and Laura!!!) and now they have have called me for a face-to-face interview at their office in Maryland.  It is for a nursing job (Workers Comp Case Management) but one that will allow me to work from home, right here at my desk.  It will also allow for some flexibility so that if I need to do something here, like make bread, etc, I can do it.   PERFECT!!  The folks that I spoke with sound like really nice people to work for and the company is not this huge corporate conglomerate, which makes a hell of a difference.  I’m very excited about this interview.  I hope that it goes well.  We will be traveling up on Wednesday so I can meet with them and then traveling back the same day.  Whew!

While I am not really 1000% excited about returning to work (who would be after 5 months of freedom? LOL) we do need the additional income to help with the farm and buying a truck, etc.  So say a prayer for me if you would, this is one nursing job that would be good to have and I’d really like it, I think 🙂

I’ll keep ya’ll posted as to how it goes!

Storm

——————————————-

I am among the thousands of unemployed right now……at first that thought scared the crap out of me.  Being unemployed.  No income.  But they approved me for unemployment so I am getting those funds which to a certain extent I hate.  I told TinMan I’m just viewing it as the social security that I will never receive that I’ve paid into all of these years….LOL.   I don’t like being dependent upon the government for my living.  That being said, I don’t want to go back to work as a nurse either.  I’m in one of those catch-22 places in my life.  If I take a job making less money per hour than I was making at my last job, my unemployment will disappear but I won’t be making as much money as if I had remained unemployed.  Ugh.  I’m one of those folks I love to dislike.  Even though I am a nurse it has not been easy finding a job in my narrow niche specialties of Home Health and Worker’s Compensation case management.  This area is really depressed economically and I’ve lost 2 nursing jobs in the last year.  Honestly, I keep thinking that the Goddess is trying to tell me that I’m done with nursing….to move on and find what I am really meant to be doing with my life.

A note on unemployment:  To maintain the unemployment funds you have to apply for at minimum 2 jobs per week.  Some weeks it’s hard to even find 2 jobs to apply for that 1) I feel I’m qualified for as a nurse or 2) that I feel that I could perform well or enjoy doing that is not a nursing  job.  I’m trying to keep the nursing jobs I apply for local because I’ve promised the boys that we are NOT moving again.  I don’t want to move again either.  They are settled in school and I love living on the farm.  I could not find this lifestyle for them in or close to a bigger city where nursing jobs abound.  SO, every week I dutifully apply for at least 2 jobs.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to work.  I want to earn my own way.  I just don’t want to do it as a nurse anymore.  I want to start my own business, which TinMan and I are doing with the farm and Belfire Botanicals.  I think we can make a success of it as long as I can devote the time needed to helping run it.  There is so much to be done here on the farm and in getting ready for the opening of the Farmer’s Market on May 7th.  I really don’t have time for a full time job.  Why am I agonizing over this today?  I have a job interview this afternoon.  It is with the local hospital in their wound clinic – mind you, I have interviewed at this hospital for at least 4 different jobs now and haven’t been hired. However this job is one that  I would be very suited to with my skills from home health nursing.  I don’t want to go for the interview.  I’m afraid they might offer me the job and I really don’t want it.  However, if they offer and I turn it down….the unemployment funds will stop.  It’s not much money but it is helping us stay afloat right now.

Catch-22.  Crossroads.  If it were just me and TinMan, we could survive on his monthly income…it would be tight but do-able.  But….I am a mom with 2 kids.  I love my boys…..wouldn’t trade them for anything and they need/want things that I can’t give them without that “extra” income from a full time job.  (Do they really need all of the things they want….no). Responsibility sucks sometimes…smile.   So here I sit with a dilemma.  I am living the life I want to live right now.  Getting up each day and working on the business and building the farm back up.  I spent yesterday out in the garden getting it ready to plant – tilling up the soil and adding fertilizer.  Looking at new little flower seedlings popping up in a flower bed that I have cleaned out and added plants to.  This is the life I want, not working from 8am-5pm everyday in a windowless hospital clinic.  Money isn’t everything, at least it shouldn’t be.  Right now I’m home when the boys get home from school.  I’m able to allow my eldest son to be on the football team because I have the ability to pick him up from practice 3 afternoons a week.  If I go back to work I don’t know how those things will work out because we only have one car.  I don’t know how the business will work out because I won’t be able to devote the time needed to it without over-stressing myself.  I don’t want to go back to being stressed out and overworked.   I don’t much like myself when I get that way.

So…what to do?  Do I waste the interviewer’s time (and mine) by interviewing for a job I don’t want?  Cause I really don’t want it.  I am a nurse….a healer in my heart.  I just don’t want to be a nurse in today’s world anymore.  I don’t enjoy it anymore.  I want to heal in other ways now….more natural, earthly ways.   I’ve spent the past few months healing myself from all of the stress of my previous jobs…..I like the person I am becoming out from under all of that stress.

So…what do I do?  I think I will go stand outside in the sun and thank the Goddess for this wonderful life I’m leading right now and put it all in her hands.  My heart tells me I’m right where I’m supposed to be and doing what I am supposed to be doing.

Thanks for listening to me ramble this morning…sometimes it just helps to talk it out, ya know?  BTW…please feel free to comment, leave me your thoughts, etc.  I would love to have feedback!

Blessings, Storm

POISON IVY – an all season irritant, not the movie

“Leaves of three, let them be.”

Well, how do you recognize Poison Ivy in the winter or early spring if no leaves are available?  I really wish I had known how a couple of weeks ago.   The purpose of this blog is to educate ya’ll and for me to fuss and complain a little….LOL.  This may be rather long winded so bear with me.

I have never had a problem with Poison Ivy or Poison Oak.  I’ve waded through patches of both and never even had a little bump.  My brother has always been so allergic that if he is even within 10 feet of a plant he will get a rash.  My oldest son is the same way.  Me, I’ve never had a rash from it…..until recently…and boy is payback a bitch.  And I never, EVER want to repeat this again!  I have been suffering from my contact with this plant for over 2 weeks now.  Some days it seems as if it’s going away and then again….maybe not.  It has stressed me out so much that on Friday I woke up with HIVES on my thighs and my upper arms – something else I have never had in all my life.  I have the rash on both of my arms, forearm area all around; on the back of my right leg from above the bend of my knee down to mid-calf, this rash looks like a good 2nd degree burn; and two patches on my inner thighs that appeared a week later.  The one on my leg really doesn’t bother me much unless I touch it or wear long pants.  The stuff on my arms drives me insane….especially at night.

So, how did I get it you ask?  We are cutting down an old, diseased apple tree that is next to the chicken coop.  This tree had/has what looks like an old vine running all the way from roots to top.  This vine was also burrowing into one corner of the chicken coop, underneath the siding.

The vine looked like this:

Old vine running up a tree

Now, I’ve never seen a poison ivy vine in winter, nor one so old.  Usually, what I see is the newer stuff growing on little thin green vines running along the ground or maybe halfway up a tree, but I’d never seen a vine like this one.  I guess I led a sheltered life from ancient poison ivy….LOL.  The little hairy tendrils along the sides help the vine stay attached and climb.  They cling very stubbornly to whatever they are attaching themselves to, be it a tree trunk or vinyl siding on a chicken a coop.

So, here I go, in my ignorance (and stupid belief that I will never “catch” poison ivy), gleefully whacking away at this stubborn vine that has attached itself to the chicken coop and is running merrily along the ground all around it and up into the old apple tree.  I had no idea that this vine was poison ivy.  This vine looks dead, mind you….as dead as any dead plant I’ve ever seen.  Just FYI, never gleefully whack at any plant or dead vine without knowing what you are whacking….sigh.  Lesson learned.  And yes, I was wearing gloves when I was gleefully whacking and pulling on this vine. Those who know me know that I hate to wear gloves when gardening (I like to feel the dirt), but I do wear gloves for this kind of work.  I did have on a short sleeved t-shirt and blue jeans.  I always wash my hands thoroughly whenever I come in from outside.  However, I must have missed washing my arms.  How it got onto the back of my right leg I’ll never know.  I just know that from now on if there is even a remote possibility of me coming in contact with Poison Ivy or Oak I will have on long sleeves and a suit of armor.

Okay, that does it for the bitchin’ and whinin’ ….maybe….LOL.  Now for the Education.

“Leaves of three, let them be.”

The only time this isn’t true is with Poison Sumac, it has 7-13 leaves and with Virginia Creeper which has similar leaves, but has 5 leaflets.    Box Elder and Blackberries have 3 leaflets and are often mistaken for Poison Ivy, but they are not poisonous.  Virginia Creeper  is often found growing right along side poison ivy to add to the confusion.

Box elder and Virginia Creeper

Young Poison ivy plant

The poison ivy vine is just as poisonous as the leaves.  The vines can grow close to the tree with orange, brown or gray tendrils that grow into the bark (see picture above for an old vine) The orange tendrils are poisonous.

 

Poison Ivy vine with orange tendrils, climbing through my crepe myrtle

The vines also excrete the oil that causes the rash.  This oil is called urushiol. This is some very potent stuff.

Here are some FAQs on Urushiol from http://poisonivy.aesir.com/view/fastfacts.html (This website is an excellent resource for all kinds of info on Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac).

  • Only 1 nanogram (billionth of a gram) needed to cause rash
  • Average is 100 nanograms for most people
  • 1/4 ounce of urushiol is all that is needed to cause a rash in every person on earth
  • 500 people could itch from the amount covering the head of a pin
  • Specimens of urushiol several centuries old have found to cause dermatitis in sensitive people.
  • 1 to 5 years is normal for urushiol oil to stay active on any surface including dead plants. **** It can also be spread by your animal’s fur, being left on tools, clothing, etc.
  • Derived from urushi, Japanese name for lacquer ( The Japanese put this oil into the gold leaf on the Golden Temple at Kyoto to prevent thieves from stealing the gold – if you were caught, your hands would be red from the rash – hence the phrase “caught red-handed”)

Here are some myths related to Poison Ivy from the same website, http://poisonivy.aesir.com/view/fastfacts.html

  • MYTH: Poison Ivy rash is contagious. FACT: Rubbing the rashes won’t spread poison ivy to other parts of your body (or to another person). You spread the rash only if urushiol oil — the sticky, resinlike substance that causes the rash — has been left on your hands.
  • MYTH: Do not worry about dead plants.  FACT:  Urushiol oil stays active on any surface, including dead plants, for up to 5 years.
  • MYTH: I’ve been in poison ivy many times and never broken out. I’m immune.  FACT: Not necessarily true. Upwards of 90% of people are allergic to urushiol oil, it’s a matter of time and exposure. The more times you are exposed to urushiol, the more likely it is that you will break out with an allergic rash. For the first time sufferer, it generally takes longer for the rash to show up – generally in 7 to 10 days. *****This is true cause I have some rash patches that showed up a week later and it had to have come from my hands on the day I became infected….cause this part of my body was nowhere near that vine!

Do’s and Don’ts

DO NOT cut Poison Ivy – Don’t cut the vines period and never cut vines that hug the tree.  Only cut free-hanging vines and even then, be sure that they are not poison ivy.

DO wash your hands (and anything else the poison ivy may have touched) thoroughly and/or shower.

DO NOT rub your eyes, touch your face or other parts of your body until you have thoroughly washed your hands.

DO clean your tools thoroughly if they have touched poison ivy…wash them thoroughly and be careful what they touch.

So…what do you do if you end up with the rash anyway?  Heck if I know…LOL.  I have read so much stuff on how to treat poison ivy over the past 2 weeks its mind boggling.  The consensus is that nothing really works 100% and not everything works for everybody.  I have tried every remedy out there (almost) including bleach in the bath water.  If you are HIGHLY sensitive to this stuff you should probably go to your doctor or the ER.  Once there they will more than likely load you up with antihistamines like Benedryl and steroids such as Cortisone.  There is a “cure” scrub on the market called Zanfel that supposedly removes the Urushiol after it bonds to your skin.  Hmmmm.  It costs around $40 at WalMart.  For a small tube.  Right now, I am without insurance so a visit to the medical doc has not been in the picture and $40 for a small tube of stuff isn’t either.  TinMan has tried his best to help me but it seems that Urushiol is particularly stubborn and once it bonds with your skin you just have to ride it out and treat the symptoms.  Stop the Itch.  If ya’ll figure it out or have remedies not listed here, please let me know.  Please.

Another remedy that is plant based/natural include those that are made from Jewel Weed (impatiens capensis).  Jewel Weed is often found growing around Poison Ivy.  The sap from the stem can be applied to the rash and it will aid in drying it up and decreasing the itch.  (Unfortunately, it’s only out and about in summer) I couldn’t find any products with this ingredient locally, but I know that Burt’s Bee’s makes a soap from Jewel Weed.  I am now the happy owner of SEEDS for this plant, however….LOL.

Another plant based remedy is from a plant called grindelia robusta . It is a member of the daisy family and to me, looks like a yellow thistle.  This is the main ingredient in a scrub that I used made by Tecnu.  This scrub helped some, but after a few days it’s effectiveness seemed to wear off.   I am also the happy owner of SEEDS for this plant too.

There are many, many remedies out there.  I found that what has worked best for me is taking baths with oatmeal and baking soda in the water.  This has a soothing and drying effect on the rash.  I take about a cup of quick oats and cook them like I would if were going to eat them.  Draw a bath of warm water and add about a ½ – 1 cup of baking soda (depends how big your tub is).  Once the oatmeal is soft, pour the whole pan into the bathwater then soak in this for 15-20 min.  While you are soaking take handfuls of the oatmeal and apply it to the rash as you can and let it sit for a minute or two.   I have also taken some of the water from cooking the oatmeal and put it in a jar to use for dabbing onto the rash when I’m out of the tub.

Nothing however seems to really get rid of the itch for very long.  How long does it last?  That is also a good question and depends on you and your sensitivity to the oil.  The best guesses out there are anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks or longer.

How do you get rid of the vine?

If you are like me you don’t like to use chemicals around your garden or plants…even poison ivy.  Whatever you spray to get rid of it will likely contaminate and kill everything else around it as well.  I searched for some all natural remedies and found a few out there that cost a bundle to buy.  One was made with Clove Oil.  This one sounds the most promising though, it was listed on several websites and the ingredients are common to most homes.

1 cup salt
8 drops liquid detergent
1 gallon vinegar

Combine salt and vinegar in pan.  Heat up to dissolve salt.

Add detergent.

Apply with spray bottle.

According to the websites, this will kill all plants, so be careful not to kill your other plants.

****Once I try it out I will let you know how it works.  ( I may add some clove oil to it for good measure!)

So, the moral of this long winded story is:  Stay away from Poison Ivy!! LOL

Learn to differentiate it from other vines and lookalikes.  Wash, wash, wash any exposed skin very well, usually just plain soap and water will do.  And if you come down with the rash anyway…ah well,   you just have to suffer and deal with it the best way you can….Medical doc, herbal/natural remedies, sheer willpower to not scratch!!

And learn to wear long sleeves, long pants, gloves and that suit of armor when we go out gleefully whacking at brush and vines….even if it is 80 degrees outside.

Hope this has been helpful!!

Storm

Very Berry Smoothie

Okay, this is what I am having for brunch today…..very easy to make and very healthy too!!

Ingredients: I don’t measure, btw….just add whatever feels right 🙂 and depends on how many you want to make, the ingredients listed here make a blender full

  • frozen triple berry mix (I get it from Sam’s) or you can use fresh in season
  • fresh strawberries ~ 4-5 med sized, sliced
  • one banana, sliced
  • fresh goat’s milk ~ about ~2 cups –  if you don’t have access to goat’s milk, you can use whole milk, ice cream, or fruit flavored juice.
  • vanilla yogurt ~ 1-3 heaping serving spoons full (maybe 2 cups if you measured)
  • honey to taste
  • bee pollen ~ about 2 heaping TBSP
  • wheat germ ~ about 2 heaping TBSP

Blend all the ingredients very well in the blender then pour into a glass……YUM!

Enjoy,

Storm