Thursday, May 29, 2014

May Monthly Moos {Smelling Freshly Cut Grass}



Do you remember a couple months ago in the March Monthly Moos post I told you about my husband's John Deere tractors and I mentioned that I have a John Deere too?  Well this is mine.   Pretty much anyway.  Eldon has to work on it, change the belts when I break them, and remind me to buy fuel for it.  But it is my mowing machine.  

It is a called a Zero Turn.  I think that has to do with the fact that you can turn it on a dime - like you have to be careful (or I do anyway) because you can really spin it around and mow over things you shouldn't!  


This is our highway frontage.  It goes all the way to where the tiny road comes off the main road and then curves on to the right...  and then goes on for a bit more.  So I have a lot of frontage that I mow.    Before we moved here we had leased our farm to a man that was caring for it.  He "forgot" to maintain this frontage and when we moved we spent a solid two weeks the first winter cutting vines out of the fences.  It grows fast and the vines actually can quickly become a "hedge" on the fence.   I made it my job to do all the "easy" mowing on the farm.  


Here is the same frontage after I mowed (and string trimmed - more on that in a minute).  My mower makes a five foot wide cut and it takes me four passes to mow on this side of the fence - and two passes on the other side.  It's a lot wider than it looks in this picture.  


I also mow along the gravel road that goes into our farm and all the way up the hill to our house.   Parts of the road I mow all the way to fence line (like in this picture above) and it is about 15 passes.  


This is how it looks after I mow - however, this angle shows all the way to the highway. 


This is our lower pasture, our hay pasture.  I mow along our gravel road and along the fence lines leaving the hay to grow, obviously.  This is how the grass looks after a week of not mowing!  


This is the same spot, just a little further back.  It is mowed as well as string trimmed.  (Our hay should be cut next week.  If you haven't read my post about that you can read it here.)



So now about the string trimming.  If we do not string trim under the fence we end up with this mess you see in the picture above.  Eventually the grass and vines take over and climb the fence posts.  It doesn't take long.  This is only 3 weeks of no string trimming.  Luckily I don't have to do it weekly when I mow, but it does have to be done about every 3 weeks.  


There's also places that I can't get to with my mower.  Around these guide wires, the mail box, utility poles, etc..  I have a great string trimmer that my son in law gave me.  It is really powerful, starts easy and is really easy to change out the string.  It used to be so heavy I would have to stop every few minutes and take a break... this is the third year that I've used it and by some miracle it has gotten a little lighter each summer!   I've gotten pretty good at it and actually I really enjoy it.   It is a lot of walking but I use our Polaris Ranger too and so it isn't as bad as it could be!  This is the main frontage road and I trim as fas as you can see up the road in this picture.  


You can see in the above picture that the mower actually gets a lot under the fence, it is just around the t-posts that I have to trim.  So it isn't terribly hard.  Just hot.  And humid.  (Smile!)

We could spray weed control under our fences, a lot of people do.  But since our cows eat the grass and the hay from our pasture and we sell the cows for meat... we are not willing to take the risk of spraying the grass.  I'd rather run the string trimmer!


See how much nicer that looks?

A few things I love about mowing:  I like to get on the mower, put my ear plugs in and just zone out.  I have a pretty good system now so for about 4 hours of mowing I don't have to think about much except the beautiful grass, the sunshine, and the instant gratification of manicured grass!  I love that immediately you see an improvement!  I like that it requires a little bit of skill to keep from turning it upside down in the steep ditch (which I haven't done, thank goodness), getting stuck in the culvert (which I have done), and throwing a rock into the window of your newly built home (which I unfortunately have also done).  I love that people pay a lawn company hundreds of dollars a month to do what I can do.  

I did tell my grand-daughter Jillian that I love to mow.  Then I made the mistake of complaining about it once and she said, "But Gram, you love to mow"!

And I do.  But mostly, I just plain love summer and green grass.



This wraps up the month of May.  Can you believe it?  I'm trying to hold on tight with both hands as I know summer is going to fly like the wind.  And I just want to smile through the sweat!

I would love to hear about some of your mowing mishaps!  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

It's The Season For Strawberry Pie


Oh how I love strawberry season in Tennessee!



 We are lucky to have a farm just 30 minutes from us where we can go and pick our own.  Or we can go to their farm stand in town and grab a bucket of them there.  There is nothing like fresh strawberries.  

So, I decided today that I just had to make some strawberry pie!  I thought I would share my favorite recipe with you today.  


I always make my own pie crust.  And please don't judge me, but I use lard in my pie crust.  I know.  I can imagine the eye rolling.  When I was engaged to be married 32 years ago there was a very elderly lady that wanted to give me a wedding gift I would use the rest of my life.  Her gift to me?  She spent an afternoon teaching me the secrets of her pie crust!  And she used lard and ONLY lard.  So, 32 years later I still follow her recipe to a tee.


I can still remember sitting at her rickety little table as she taught me how to cut in the lard to the flour, add the exact amount of ice cold water, and carefully stir to the perfect consistency.


She said, "Let the dough rest for 15 minutes.  Don't forget this step."  And I never forget.  Even when I'm rushed!


I have seen people struggle rolling out tough pie dough.  This dough is the perfect consistency.... it just rolls out without any work or effort.  


Since I was making a strawberry pie I had to cook the pie shell before placing in the filling.  I just prick my crust with a fork and then pop it in the oven.  I know a lot of recipes say to fill with pie weights, but I never have.  


And there is my cooked and cooling crust.  There might be a few little air bubbles here and there that possibly using pie weights would take care, but it doesn't bother me.  


While my crust was baking I made the filling and had it ready to pour in when the pie shell came out of the oven.   I love those fresh strawberries - they make the filling so bright and beautiful.  

Be sure to make your pie about 5 hours prior to serving.  It takes awhile to cool and set up properly.  I cover mine with saran wrap before placing in the refrigerator.  Also, it is best eaten the day of!


Right before you are ready to serve it, whip up some cream.  Do not, I repeat, do not use the whipping cream in the can.  It just does not taste the same!  


I like to whip mine up pretty stiff, add some vanilla and just a tad bit of sugar.  It doesn't need to be very sweet as the pie is sweet enough!


And there it is.  Perfect!


So.... how do you make your pie crust?  Butter, shortening, lard???  My daughter makes a lovely pie crust with butter.  But I just stick with my tried and true lard recipe!

Happy Strawberry Season and pie eating!  


********************

Strawberry Pie

Place pie crust of your choosing (your own special recipe or a store bought crust) in your pie pan, prick the dough with a fork (or place pie weights in) and bake in 425 degree oven until done, about 15 minutes.

Rinse, dry and hull 6 cups of fresh strawberries.  Set 4 cups aside.  Puree the remaining 2 cups in a blender or food processor.  

Whisk together in a medium saucepan:
1 cup organic sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
2 cups pureed strawberries
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, and boil for one minute.  

Pour 2 cups of the remaining strawberries in the bottom of the cooked pie shell.

Pour cooked strawberry filling over the strawberries.

Place remaining 2 cups of strawberries on top of filling.  You can arrange these beautifully, or you do like I did and just toss them on!

Refrigerate the pie at least 4 hours to set.  This pie is best served the day it is made.

Serve with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

******************


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Guest Bedroom Reveal



It's funny to me how long it has taken me to feel settled with the decorating in our new home.  I've struggled with every single room.  I have refused to just buy "stuff" to fill up the rooms, so it has been a slow process getting them exactly the way I would like.  This is our Guest Bedroom.  


My plan from the beginning was a room that was warm and cozy, but very simple.  I absolutely didn't want a lot of clutter and stuff.  Honestly, the picture I had in my mind was a bit of a simple Shaker style.


  I wanted my colors to be blue and yellow but after doing quite a bit of looking I settled on the white comforters and bedskirts from Target's Simply Shabby line.  I love them.  


I purchased the yellow buffalo check fabric from Country Curtains (did you know you can purchase fabric from them?) and it is the nicest quality.  It was worth every penny.  I made the curtains very simple; however, I did line them.  This bedroom is a very light bedroom so I knew the curtains would need to be lined to help darken the room when necessary.  


I have a pet peeve with curtains that are too short, so I like mine to drag the floor.  I think possibly I made these a bit too long though!  I will shorten them someday!  


I love this desk that I found at one of our local antique stores.  It is very old and very simple.  


I love all the dings and scratches on the top!

I am on the hunt for a similar looking piece to go on the other side of the room.  But I refuse to settle for just anything and I have yet to find what I'm looking for!


I love the decorator fabric I found for the throw pillows, they add a bit of a modern touch.  I just made simple envelope type pillow covers and I did purchase nice down pillow inserts so it makes these throw pillows just lovely.  I like the contrast of blues to the yellow buffalo check curtains!


I am happy with the overall look of the room.  Simple Shaker style with a bit of color and modern patterns thrown in!  


This is the room my darling grand-girls stay in when they visit, so while I was getting these pictures this little blonde, blue eyed pixie was bouncing from bed to bed!  

We've been so lucky since moving to Tennessee and into our new home that we've had the privilege of using our Guest Bedroom quite a number of times (not counting our grand-girls!).  Isn't over-night company just the very, very best?  We are so thankful for friends and family near and far that have come to visit us in this wonderful place that is now our home.  

Happy Memorial Day weekend to you, my friends.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Porch Life


The weather has officially become "porching" weather and we are eating a lot of meals outside on our back porch now!  The back porch is probably used the most because it has shade all the time.  


It's great for our long picnic table that I refurbished last summer.  This year I decided to put a permanent table cloth on it.  So I purchased several yards of the laminated fabric and used my staple gun to attach it underneath.  I also covered some old foam with fabric I bought at Ikea this winter.  It isn't outdoor fabric so I don't expect it to last beyond this summer but I sure love how it looks.  


On the other side of my porch is one of my favorite things.  I love my metal chairs and table.  I purchased the very rusty chair and little table a couple years ago and re-did them once.  But I had done the sanding myself and I wasn't able to completely remove the rust, therefore I was never very happy with the end result.  Then some very dear friends gave me this....


It is a wonderful old metal bench with a very sweet history and they entrusted me with it.  When they gave it to me, it had at least six coats of paint that I could see!  I took it, the chair and the little table to a local man that does some sandblasting and priming and this was the result after he finished!  


 I struggled with what color I wanted to paint the three pieces and eventually settled on glossy black.  I love them so much.  


I wanted to make some throw pillows and when I started digging in my fabric stash I came across some tea towels that I had purchased from Target a few years ago and stuck away for this very thing... and promptly forgot about them!  It was like a gold mine!  I love the grain sack feel that they give.


I also painted this little children's chair while I was at it.  It had been a sort of vintage rusty look and it never quite looked right for my porch.  


I've got a few herbs growing in pots here and there.  This old ammunition box got set here to use for another project and I ended up loving how it looked with the pots on it, so it stayed!


And then there are my old wash tubs and stand that I love so much.  The hydrangeas seem to love this spot.  It is shady and the dirt stays moist.  


Our back porch is not actually complete yet.  We will be putting up railing, stairs, and eventually I will paint the concrete floor.  But the focus has shifted to building a garage/shop and so next year we will focus on finishing porches and doing landscaping.  

I have discovered that 900 square feet of porches requires a lot of thinking when it comes to furnishing them.  We have so many factors to take into consideration:  we are a working farm and we have muddy boots and animals, there is always a good breeze on the hilltop so the furniture has to be sturdy so it doesn't blow off the porches (and the hilltop),  and they require a lot of work to clean so I don't want to constantly be moving junk around.  


As of right now this is the condition of my front porch.  Very, very minimalist and not at all complete.    It is a really long porch with side porches off of each end.   


And we can't put too much clutter on the porches because where would my precious Grand-girls skate and scoot?  

(Our son and daughter-in-law just a swinging')

And finally on one end we have this wonderful hanging swing that I love.  It was given to us by very special friends.  We all seem to gravitate to this swing. 

I do have a lovely metal bed and "sleep porch" on the other side.  That will be another blog post, another day. 

So that is the story of my porches today.  They need a lot of attention and a lot of creative thinking... but with a view like that we don't need much except a swing right?  (Smile!)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Life Is Precious



My planned post for this weekend was to tell you all about my garden.  I have pictures that show the gorgeous soil that was tilled so faithfully by Eldon.  The natural weed control plan I had in place which involved laying end roll newspaper and covering it with straw.  It was looking so gorgeous.  


My spring peas were just starting to climb the fence, my lettuce was just about ready for picking.  10 rows of heirloom, non-GMO corn planted and starting to sprout out.  The rest of the garden awaiting seeds and plants.  


Then we had an EF3 tornado in our community that took two lives, about 50 homes and thousands of huge old trees.  Flooding came with that.  The calmness I felt through it all was very strange.  I was very sad and heartsick for those so horrifically effected.  But it wasn't until I saw that my garden was gone that somehow it hit me.  And I cried and cried.  Hopefully, I'm not so shallow that I was crying for the loss of my garden.  But when I looked at it and felt so heartsick, I had a picture (albeit very tiny) of what it must feel like to come out of your shelter to the absolute loss of life, home and belongings.  All that you have labored for and loved.  Gone.  In the space of a few minutes.  


This morning I took a drive just a mile or so from our farm to see some of the damage.  Obviously not through the destroyed neighborhoods where they are limiting traffic and gawkers.  But I drove a backroad alongside some very damaged homes and through the woods.  I took my camera.  I couldn't manage to hardly lift it to my face.  I felt so horrified at the devastation.   And I can't believe that it was so close to our home and that of our daughter and family.  



I stopped at my favorite local Farmer's Market to buy some fresh strawberries and cried with the lady that owns the market.  The strawberry farmer lost his entire crop.  His livelihood.  The bucket of strawberries I bought came from the field where he and his brother tried, the day after the tornado, to salvage what they could to sell.  We stood there and the tears rolled.  She told me of the lady that lost a good share of her house and the work involved to have everything repaired was huge.  But she came to buy flowers to plant because she needed to get her hands in the soil and see life.  

I will begin work in my garden again next week.  And instead of crying about all the work that I need to re-do I will be thankful that I, and my family, are alive to work the soil again.


Today, I missed my parents so much.  I think I just wanted to cuddle up next to my elderly Momma and Daddy and feel the comfort that only parents can give.  
(The above picture is me with my parents and my daughter and her girls taken back in November.)  

Life is precious.  

 And I have a heart full of thankfulness.