Family & Fall Cleaning

My college girl was home this weekend. I made a big pot of chicken and dumplings on Sunday and we ended up having a nice family dinner. My sister joined us and my other daughter came with her baby and husband.  Everybody stopped along the way at Farmer’s markets and Fall festivals and brought donuts, apple cider and pumpkin cakes, adding to the feast.

The weather had been continuously dry and hot.  The hibiscus went onto a second bloom.  Overnight, rain came and a cold snap with it.  Now, the leaves are suddenly turning  and daytime temperatures have dropped 30 degrees.  The outside plants have been brought in, cut back and repotted and Fall cleaning  has begun.  I guess that’s sort of a nesting instinct… getting things clean and snug and organized for the long, cold stretch ahead.    Curtains, walls, floors, pillows  and windows washed.  Area rugs dragged outside and damp mopped with soap and water,front and back, spot cleaned and dried in the sun.  Winter blankets pulled out of storage,  washed and dried on the clothesline.  Summer clothes put away.  All the cleaning agents I use are natural..vinegar infused with orange peels, borax, essential oils, homemade soap.  Soon my little old farmhouse will be sweet and sparkling.

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Garden Update

The days are busy picking blueberries, drying herbs, weeding and filling the house with giant bouquets of Bee Balm and Annabelle Hydrangeas. I made a big batch of sauerkraut and we have fresh garden salads every night.  The last of the garlic has been harvested and I’m keeping watch on the tiny beans, cucumbers, peppers  and squash that have set. They’ll be ready for picking soon.

I haven’t had to take any measures against bugs yet. There’s just been the normal wear and tear that goes with gardening organically. A few holes in the cabbage don’t bother me.  Everything is doing really well except……my tomatoes are dismal. The plants are sparse and spindly. I tried a new variety this year, Granny Cantrell. Last year I grew Ace..also an heirloom variety and I had gorgeous plants and was swamped with tomatoes. I’m not sure what the problem is.  Maybe its just not my year for tomatoes.

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Asparagus for Breakfast


So thankful to wake up to sunshine, flowers and WATER! Our water was restored yesterday. Early in the morning until late afternoon.. all weekend long, this small business owner worked to replace our water pump and tank. The pump was 200 feet down into the ground! I am so thankful to him. He went above and beyond what I expected. There are still business owners that care, do excellent work and have a lot of integrity.
The flowering trees are still blooming, the currant bushes are in blossom too. The funny fritillaries didn’t seem to help my mole problem but I like the whimsical note they bring.
Asparagus is coming in. There’s nothing like it….freshly picked from the garden, blanched in boiling water just until the color turns very bright so it is tender yet slightly crisp. I melt a little butter on it and add a sprinkle of sea salt. I had it first thing this morning, out in the garden with some coffee and cream.
I planted the apple trees this weekend. A few years ago, my cousin in South Carolina gave me an odd tip; when planting fruit trees, she adds a handful or 2 of dry dog food into the hole. I’ve done it ever since. I wonder if that is a common thing?
Happy Spring!

No Water

This morning there was no running water. Luckily, a nice man came right away to assess the problem. It turned out to be a pretty big one, as far as these things go. The well pump was broken. Finding the pump was the first issue. For a while he thought it may have been under the patio or even worse, under the driveway pavement.  Good thing it wasn’t. He said the problem with old farmhouses is that there’s a lot of buried metal and his pump locater gets thrown off.   Once he had a good idea where the pump might be, he started digging  with a shovel but things got complicated and the man had to get a backhoe. He ran over an electricity line but it only went to the garage and nobody got hurt. Codes have changed since the pump was last replaced in 1979. Things will have to be set up differently. If all goes well, I should have water next week some time. Now, it’s late in the day and the nice man is still out there digging with the backhoe. This pump is down deep, I guess. It could have been worse. I’m glad it didn’t break a couple months ago when the snow was 3 feet high. We would have had to wait til the frost table went down and that would have caused a cascade of home owner disasters.. frozen pipes, heating and plumbing problems… Best to count blessings at this point.

Country to City

Yesterday I just about finished the spring cleaning on the back gardens.  This morning we visited my middle daughter.  Last  summer she got married and moved to a city.  Luckily, there’s some outdoor space and she and her new husband made it really inviting!  They refurbished an old patio set of mine.  She sewed up some fabric pillows and  he filled buckets from a home improvement store with pots of herbs.   We had brunch on their patio… vegetable frittata,  fresh fruit and croissants.  It was  a great visit.  I miss my daughter and wish that she didn’t live so far away (I exagerate; it’s less than 1 1/2 hours away)  but it’s good to see that she and her husband are making such a  nice life of their own.

Say it isn’t Snow


Once it finally gets warm and things start growing and blooming outside, it feels as if it will last forever. But it snowed yesterday and last night the temperatures dipped into the 20’s. The magnolia blooms, still not quite opened are turning brown at the edges. I suspect the cold will take its toll in other ways but out in the yard everything looks fine and luckily, the snow didn’t stick.

Getting Ready

Baking, cleaning, finishing up a few things to go in the Easter baskets,continuing to sow seeds for the garden…today was the beginning of a busy week.  I made Laurie’s  ginger-carrot soup from Notes from the Hinterland  and it was delicious!  We’re still getting snow..flurries mostly and the temperatures are cold so chances are that we wont be having any daffodils or tulips anytime soon ouside.  Luckily, the indoor plants are doing their best to make up for it.

Spring Flowers, Winter Thaw

The first flower has  sprung!  Most of the snow in the front yard has melted.  The back yard is still  snowy but a heat wave of 60 degrees is coming so that should be gone soon.  I was working in the front gardens today, mostly pruning and cleaning.  After just a couple of hours, I realized that  I  am out of shape.  I cooked up a batch of vegetables in some of my chicken broth and ran it through the blender when the vegetable were tender.  Vitamin packed and good for the bones!   I am excited that have a lot of work ahead of me and I want to be up for it.

Saint Patrick’s Day

My house smells like cooked cabbage today but I like it because it reminds me of my Grandparents.  I still have the cup my Grandfather used for his supper tea.  His parents came to the States from the county of Donegal.  They raised their children in the tenements of Boston where she was a midwife and he was a policeman.   Happy Saint Patrick’s Day everyone!

My Old House


My house was built in 1848. I fell in love with it the minute I saw it and it has suited me perfectly. My youngest started college this year and the other 2 have moved out on their own. Raising a family of 5 here, a lot of stuff accumulated. A year ago January, I set a goal to clear things out and replace them with things that I made or refurbished myself. Big radiators, exposed pipes, tiny closets, funny little doors and odd little rooms add loads of quirky character and good opportunities to be creative and flexible. Every week I fill a box of things to be donated and another of things to bring to the recycling center. Progress has been slow but sure, eventually I will have everything simple and clean and homemade. We won’t talk about the dreaded cellar now.. I haven’t made my way down there yet, lol.

Dominos, Snow & Salad Dressing

Last night my daughters came over for dinner and a game of Mexican Train Dominoes.  With temperatures in the negative digits, 2 feet of snow on the ground and a forecast predicting more snow for 3 straight days, I needed some fun.  Plus, I got to to send care packages home with my girls.

We had escalloped potatoes with ham and a  big salad with homemade dressing and some side fixings.   Instead of mixing all the salad ingredients together, I  put everything on the table like a salad bar.  Mixed lettuce, tomatoes and celery went together in a big bowl  and  then onions, blue cheese, dried cranberries, nuts, avocado, peppers were in their own smaller bowls. Everyone added what they liked to their own salads. I made a basic creamy garlic salad dressing by mixing these ingredients together in a jar:

  • 1 small, raw garlic clove, mashed (sprinkle a little sea salt on the garlic before you mash it up to pull the juices out of it)
  • 4 Tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonaise
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (  I used apple cider vinegar but white wine vinegar is good too)
  • 1/4- 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • salt and pepper to taste

This tastes better if it’s made a few hours ahead and even better made the night before.  It will stay about a week in the fridge.   Shake the jar before serving.

For dessert I made vanilla cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting.

I’m ready for the snow.

 

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Missed by the Blizzard

It was our turn to get lucky, I guess.  We ended up with only 6-8 inches of snow where I live.   I took a ride around town in my old jeep and everything was shut down except for a gas station and a liquor store.  Sending out warm and safe thoughts to those who did not fare as well!

Home Made

hand painted table

Table I painted

My Grandmother grew up on a farm and raised her children on a farm as well.  They had a cow and some pigs, geese, ducks and chickens and a giant garden.  Canning, churning, cheesemaking, baking, sewing, soap making, tending the garden and the children…she did it all and nothing went to waste.    She made comforters and stuffed them with goose feathers.  Any stale bread or cake was ground into crumbs and added to the next batter.   Ashes and fat were used to make soap.

I’m told the house I live in now is a lot like where she raised her children.  By the time I knew her, she was widowed and  living  down south in reduced circumstances.  She had 4 small rooms and the littlest bit  of land.  No matter.  She made it her own and she had a garden.  Behind the house was a small tin shed she called her “utility room”.  There she kept her treasures, all cast offs and rummage sale finds.  There were yards and yards of material,  neatly arranged, color coded, on  floor to ceiling shelves that lined  2 of the walls.   Glass jars filled with buttons, thread, yarn, laces and trims, were on shelves along the third wall with pots of glue, sparkles and paint. In the middle of it all was an old wooden work table and next to that, her  foot pedaled, black Singer sewing machine.

From this place, she worked her magic, transforming  her little home into a clean, cozy nest.  She did it all with her own hands.  Everything always had a fresh lick of paint.  Starchy white curtains were drawn back so sunlight filled the rooms.  Chairs and couches, plumply reupholstered, were strewn with cheerful pillows in happy colors. Chenille bedspreads and patchwork quilts were on the beds and her braided rugs on the floors. Here and there, you’d see a bit of sparkle from some old jewelry, on a soapdish she’d  made or on a picture frame.  Pick up a dishtowel, and there was a smiling duck she’d embroidered.   There were always homemade jellies and a scratch cake in the pantry, and homemade bread in the breadbox.  Her house smelled like laundry brought in fresh from the line.

This is what I aspire to, though I have a long way to go.  I have my own little workspace where I sew, paint and repurpose things to make them beautiful to me.   I’m happiest there, in my garden and my kitchen, working on things to make my home fresh, cheerful and clean, where nothing goes to waste and  I can make things that I call beautiful.  Life is not easy, far from it.   Appalling things happen, personally,  globally.   I am learning to do what I can and let go of, or pray about , those things over which I am powerless.   In the meantime, this is where I am and what I do.

Painted rocker with my Granmother's quilt

Rocker I painted with my Grandmother’s quilt