Friday, May 31, 2013

Spring Cleaning

We've been working our fingers to the bone around here! It happens every year. The house has been closed up all winter and you would not believe the amount of dust that accumulates on every surface, high and low.  Now, I admit I'm not the most diligent housekeeper but even Martha Stewart would have a hard time keeping up with the dirt generated by living on a country road. Besides, I understand she has staff - a lot of staff!

Here you see my staff. Chris has hauled the vacuum up to that high shelf  to give it a good clean. Obviously something I would not be capable of. You will notice there are two ladders in this photo. I'm no slacker in this enterprise my friends. Believe it or not we also washed down every beam in the house! Nuts right? My husband is a firm believer in doing a job right or not at all. Every ceiling fan blade is slick as a whistle. Now you know what I've been doing instead of blogging or sewing or lounging around reading a good book! Chris, I hear your old job calling... Just kidding. It really is great to have help around here with this odious chore. Those wires you see are my indoor clothes lines. I told you about drying our clothes inside here.

As if inside spring cleaning wasn't enough we've also been doing some major outdoor cleanup. Winter always results in downed and damaged trees that need tending to. These are just the ones inside the fence around the house! Yep, I'm a helper with that project too although I confess I'm more of a fetcher than anything else. I do know how to use a chainsaw though and I have a very sharp pair of loppers! 

Is it summer vacation yet?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

We Love Oatmel Cookies!

 Our family is obsessed with oatmeal cookies. But - not the soft, chewy kind. Oh no, we like the crunchy, toasty kind of oatmeal cookie. And get those nasty raisins out of our cookies! Personally I like raisins (not in my cookies) but my whole family detests the things. They all react to a raisin as if they have a bug in their food. 

 Here's our family favorite oatmeal cookie recipe (minus the raisins or anything else for that matter). If you just have to have stuff in your cookies go ahead and add it you won't hurt my feelings. These morsels are crisp and buttery and keep really well. The recipe makes a lot 'cuz we eat a lot, it's easy to cut in half. I usually bake off half the recipe plain and then add some butterscotch chips, my personal favorite. Use a cookies scope for uniform size and even baking.

Dad's Favorite Oatmeal Cookies
makes 10 dozen

2 cups shortening - butter flavor is best
2 cups granulated white sugar
2 cups brown sugar
4 lightly beaten egss
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups all purpose white flour
1 tbs cinnamon
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
6 cups oatmeal - use regular oatmeal not quick
optional - 2 cups chopped nuts or chocolate chips or butterscotch chips or horrors raisins
Cream shortening and sugars together. Blend in eggs and vanilla. In separate bowl sift flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Fold dry ingredients into creamed mixture. Add oats and any other optional ingredients and mix until blended. Use a cookie scoop or roll into 1 tbs size balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. I use parchment paper for easy clean up. IMPORTANT: Flatten slightly with a fork. These don't spread very much and if you don't flatten the center they may not cook evenly.
Bake at 350* for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks. CRUNCH!

Can be made into refrigerator cookies by forming dough into a log. Wrap log in plastic wrap and chill thoroughly. Just before baking, slice cookies 1/4" thick, place on greased cookie sheet and bake as above.

Until next time

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It's a Waiting Game

Only four days to go until HATCH DAY. Mrs. Gold has been patiently setting and this morning is the first time I've actually seen her off the nest. This is her first time and I'm so surprised at how well she's doing as a broody. I'm hoping she will do equally well as a mother bringing up her chicks. It rained heavily all night last night and when I went out to check on her this morning she was walking around her little enclosure soaking up some sun and getting a drink, grabbing a bite to eat. I brought her a dry curtain for her nest box and as soon as I replaced the soggy curtain she scooted back inside cooing to her eggs and rearranging them.

June 1st is hatch day and we're expecting a full house of nine lunch guests. They might be surprised by peeps! For now the maternity ward is quiet. 17 days down and counting...

Until peeps day,

6/31/13, 8 PM - We have 2 chicks so far!! I'm so excited. Goldy is being such a patient mama waiting for the others to hatch and keeping her two new babies safe. The first little one is a fuzzy yellow ball of fluff the the other is white with a black stripe, both super cute and active. I'll keep you all posted.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Pretty Is As Pretty Does

When I told you about my new camera I also told you that the camera case that came with it wasn't even big enough to fit the camera much less the cords or battery charger or other doodads. Why they would give you a case that doesn't fit their camera is a mystery. That's a rant I won't even get into.

So I went shopping for a case that actually fit the equipment. What a shock. Camera cases are expensive folks! Like really expensive. I just knew I could do better than spend close to $100 on a carrying devise and I did!

Behold!! My new camera case. It's cute, it's blue and it holds EVERYTHING. I shopped around and found this purse at Ross (my favorite discount store, by the way) for $12! It has a sturdy, long strap for carrying and an inside zipper for extra memory cards or whatever. The battery charger and transfer chords  fit and even the manual.

Score! Do you try to find an alternative to high priced items? What's your best adaptation? DO TELL.

Until next time,

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mrs. Gold Wants a Baby

This is Mrs. Gold. Mrs. Gold is giving us the stink eye. She's giving us the stink eye because we are daring to disturb her maternity chamber. She does this to any and all intruders - her sisters, her husband and me, the hand that feeds her. Mrs. Gold wants a baby and she won't let any one nor any thing stand in her way.

I've seen this look before. Back in the '80's when I was a childbirth educator and apprentice midwife I was well acquainted with this look. Most mothers in labor get this far away look, a combination of deep concentration and total devotion to the task at hand. You had best stay out of her way and let her get on with it I have found. Unfortunately Mrs. Gold had to be moved for her own safety and the safety of her chicks to be. She was not happy to put it mildly. We waited until the dead of night to do the deed.

She's sitting on 10 eggs right now. There were 12 but I broke one earlier in the week (good thing she can't count) and she or one of her nosy sisters broke one in the nest so now there are 10. That's one reason to move them. The other girls just won't leave her alone. The other reason is that the nest boxes are too far off the ground and when the chicks hatch they will have a long drop with no way to get back up to the warm nest and no protection from their Aunties.

Here is her new maternity ward complete with her own food and water and a fence separating her from the neighbors. When the babies hatch they can be seen and heard but still protected from the main flock for a week or two. We moved her at night and kept her confined for a day so she could get used to the new arrangement. Now she's happy as can be and has two more weeks to go to hatch day. She only leaves the nest every two days or so very briefly for a quick drink and snack and then it's back to duty. I feel for her I really do but she is determined. It's her first time as a broody and I think she's doing fine. You'll notice we even scattered rose petals for her to make her feel special!

Still giving us the stink eye. Some ladies just can't relax until those babies arrive. Let's keep our fingers crossed that all 10 hatch successfully.

The Chicken Chick

From the Farm Blog Hop button -

'till next time,

Friday, May 17, 2013

Ladybug Picnic

1-2-3, 4-5-6, 7-8-9, 10-11-12 ladybugs came to the lady bug picnic. Well, actually about a billion more than that! I know where the ladybugs go for their annual family reunion. A very short walk from Dogwood Lane Farm down a dirt road and over a rickety bridge across Canyon Creek is the Ladybug Picnic Grounds.

At first you see a cluster and think, "oh, look at all the ladybugs!"

 And then as you start to look around you exclaim, "OH, look at all the ladybugs!" Yes, every little bit of red you see is a ladybug.

But then... you're afraid to take a step in any direction. " OH, LOOK AT ALL THE LADYBUGS!"

Until next time,

From the Farm Blog Hop button -

circa 2011 The ORIGINAL Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

In the May Garden

Spring arrives in waves in the foothills. April brings the lilacs, wisteria and dogwoods if we're lucky. Their glory is fleeting and a cold snap might turn their beauty to withered black so we really love them if they stay.

 Then comes May, glorious May!

These blooms are as big as dinner plates!

The vegetable garden is all planted with tomatoes, beans, squash, cucumber, strawberries and herbs.

Next will come the roses to prove that all the planning and digging and winter dreaming were worth it. How does your garden grow?

'til next time,

From the Farm Blog Hop button -

Friday, May 10, 2013

A New Camera Might Mean Better Pictures

Or might not. It's all about the operator. This is my new camera. See that camera case? The camera doesn't even fit in it! What's up with that? My old camera is a Sony Cyber Shot and I've had it for at least 8 years. I love that little camera but I've dropped it so many times that the battery keeps falling out of the bottom and it just isn't reliable any more. Now I have this baby and a whole new learning curve. Believe me when I say this is not the most expensive nor the most complicated digital camera out there, far from it. It is complicated enough to make me a little intimidated tho so if my blog photos are less than stellar for a while you'll know why.

When I was a young college student I saved my money and bought a fabulous Canon film camera. I swanned around campus with that thing hanging from my neck taking artsy photos of sidewalk cracks and tree branches. I took a photography class and learned all about f stops and film speeds and went to late night foreign film showings to later critique the cinematography. Then I got a life. I wasn't in school any more and I couldn't afford film much less afford to have it developed. Now fast forward to 2013 and I love digital photography. I can take as many shots as I want, throw them all away if I don't like them, keep just the ones I want, manipulate them in a thousand ways all with very little cost. Magic!

My photos are not very artsy, but I like them and I have fun messing around with them and with the new camera.

Until next time,

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sending Prayers for Libby

Reprinted from Blackberry Creek Home Arts

Quilting phenomenon Libby Lehman suffered a brain aneurism last week in Houston after returning home from Paducah. She had surgery Wednesday, followed by a massive stroke on Thursday. Her left side is paralyzed; she is left handed. 

According to a post by Ricky Tims on Facebook, Libby is being kept under sedation to give her brain a better chance of healing. She is in critical condition.

Let's keep this prayer chain going for Libby and her family.
I just spoke with Lester (husband). Libby remains in critical but stable condition. The vascular spasms are now beginning to taper off. These will taper off on a bell curve, so they will begin slowing quicker and quicker. We pray that this continues. The doctors say if she can make it to the weekend without another stroke, the chances of a future stroke are very small. So, that's the primary concern at the moment.

They are slowly stopping the sedatives and are expecting her to slowly begin to awake. It may take a day or two - or even three for her to wake up.

Because she has been on the breathing tube for such a long time, they will remove it today and do a tracheotomy. It's a common next step for patients who have been on the ventilator for this long.

A new CTscan was performed and the doctor believes there is less damage than originally thought. However, nothing can be determined until she is fully awake. She will eventually be undergoing weeks of therapy.

All in all the report is much the same - slow recovery, but moving forward, not backward.

Do not send flowers.

Send cards or quilted cards to:
Libby Lehman
617 Caroline
Houston, TX 77002.
I am forwarding this information and prayer request and hoping that you will keep Libby in your prayers. I had the privilege of taking a class from Libby about three years ago and I can tell you first hand that she is a delightful, generous and supremely talented quilter/artist/person.


This is a Neat Trick

My friend Diana the embroidery queen showed me this great product and I just had to share it with all of you. For me the worst part of a hand embroidery project is transferring the design on to your cloth. Light boxes? I don't have one. Taping to a window. Awkward. here's the solution. Self adhesive, water soluble stabilizer that you can run through your printer/copier. Genius! These are the two options I found, Tranfer-Eze and Sticky Fabri-Solvy. They both work the same way and Dianna says they give the same results. She's used them both. She prefers the Tranfer-Eze but it's harder to find and slightly more expensive at least around here.

They come in roughly the same size  8 1/2 X 11 paper backed sheets that will run through your ink jet printer/copier one at a time. Determine which side your printer prints on and put a sheet in the tray face up or down depending on your printer/copier. Put your design in the copy tray and print. That's all there is to it. If you don't have a copier you'll have to take it to a copy store.

This was a long design so I used two pieces of stabilizer lined up after printing.
 Once the design is printed let dry for a few minutes and prepare your fabric. Preshrink your fabric for best results because your going to be using warm water later to dissolve the stabilizer and you don't want any nasty shrinky surprises. Iron fabric nice and smooth. Peel the paper backing off the stabilizer and smooth onto fabric. It's not so sticky that you can't reposition if you make a mistake so don't fret. It doesn't smear and after you rub it down it stays! You have a nice crisp design to follow that won't fade.

Start stitching! Once you're done rinse in warm water and the stabilizer is gone taking the marks with it. Once my project is finished I'll report back but Diana has used this many times and swears by it. Have any of you tried this? What do you think? Willing to give it a go?

Until next time,

Monday, May 6, 2013

Is that a Space Alien in the Garden?

We used to tell the kids that space aliens were popping up from under ground when the asparagus started breaking through. Their fingers were clawing through the surface. Wicked I know. They got a thrill out of it anyway. giant purple asparagus

This has been a wonderful year for the asparagus patch. I think it's a combination of weather and just the right fertilizer. I applied blood meal and lots of my own compost around January so it had time to soak in and do it's magic and the spears have been enormous. I was trying for quantity. Giant spears are not necessarily what I was going for but the purple variety I have produces huge spears anyway and these are even bigger than usual. Before you ask I have no idea what the name of this variety is. I planted this bed about 10 years ago and I think I got the purple roots from  catalog but I can't be sure. I can tell you that even though they're so huge they're tender and sweet all the way down the stalk so there's hardly any waste tender and delicious - amazing. The green variety is Martha Washington I think and it's doing really well too. 

The harvest season is short but prolific so I'm always looking for ways to use the crop. I don't think asparagus freezes well at least not for me. It always defrosts mushy no matter how hard I try to prevent it and I never seem to have time to pickle it so we just eat it every night until it's gone. Any suggestions for what I can do with it? Orzo with Asparagus & Parmesan

Here's a recipe I adapted on the fly that turned out well and would be a good vegetarian main dish or a nice side dish.

Orzo with Asparagus & Parmesan
serves 2 generously as a main dish; 4 as a side dish

2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic finely chopped
3/4 cup orzo
1/4 cup white wine or vermouth
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock 
asparagus (as much as you'd like) trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
 1/4 cup Parmesan

Heat the oil in a large skillet and saute garlic and orzo briefly until lightly toasted over medium heat. Add white wine and evaporate by about half. Meanwhile warm whichever broth you're using (I use the microwave for this step) and add it to the pan all at once. Stir so all the orzo is coated. Cover and simmer on low stirring occasionally about 20 minutes. If the liquid is getting low before the pasta is done add a little more broth or water. In the last 5 minutes add the asparagus and cheese, stir to combine, cover and remove from heat. The residual heat will melt the cheese and cook your asparagus. The asparagus will still be crisp and there should be just a little silky sauce or more if you like. If you like your asparagus cooked more just leave it on the heat longer. No worries.

Adapted from


Until next time,