Thursday, October 23, 2014

Crocktober 2014 Recipe: Ham It Up! Slowcooker Casserole

Alas, October is almost over...
Which means I've basically missed much of my beloved "Crocktober"....
Well, at least posting about Crocktober on here, that is.

I've managed to make at least one crock pot meal a week around here.
And with the temps having dipped into brrr chill area these last couple of weeks, we've enjoyed quite a nice variety of soups.

Tonight we're having my very favoritest chili- White Chicken Chili (recipe here).

In honor of Crocktober still hanging around for a few more days...
Here's last year's post that links to all my crock pot recipes to date.

And here's a new recipe!



Ham It Up! Slowcooker Casserole

6 medium potatoes, sliced thin (yes, leave the skin on- it's good for you!)
1 medium (fist sized) onion, chopped
1 pound ham, cubed
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (the sharper the better, in my opinion)
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
Paprika (optional but really, just do it)

In your slowcooker, layer the following: half your sliced potatoes, half of the onion and half a cup of cheese. Do it again with the other halves.
Spread the two cans of soup over the top using a spatula to spread it all over so it completely covers up all the potatoes and ham and cheesy goodness. Top it off with remaining half cup of cheese then sprinkle liberally with paprika. Not lightly, liberally!
Cook on low for 8 hour or on high for 4 hours.

This dish is quite filling! We baked up some biscuits and served up the last of our home grown tomatoes, sliced thick, as a side dish.

Really wishing I'd taken a picture of that deliciousness but I was too busy eating it!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

If you're still hanging around... Thanks.

To the five to eight readers who check in regularly and still believe I can blog.
Bless you.
Finding time to write at the farm has proved harder than I had ever anticipated.
My first job is to my family and following right close behind is being a homeschool teacher.
Those two jobs right there don’t afford me a lot of free time.
And to be honest, when I do have free time, I read a book or take a nap….. Life here is BUSY!
Here's the latest photo of my 3.... the three I spend the bulk of my time on. The three that are my j o b. Whew.


Lucy is a senior this year.
I know.
It’s a big deal.
I’m in the midst of taking her senior photos.
And two of her cousins senior photos as well.
It’s a big deal.
She’s got a great course load this year. An “easy” one too as she worked so hard those first three years of high school. She only has 4 credits she absolutely needs for graduation requirements.... She’s doing two independent study classes- sewing and genealogy. She created her own syllabus and course schedule for each. She’s become quite the genealogy buff and we have to set a time limit on her for her genealogy class or she’d spend most of her day up to her nose in researching the family tree. As for sewing, she’s currently in curtain mode. Making curtains for all our bedrooms and the sitting room/little library. She plans on helping Mads make her very first quilt too. So she’s also “student teaching” which is very good.

Speaking of Mads, she’s a freshman. Having two kiddos in senior high has added more minutes to my school day. I spend a nice chunk of time grading papers and workbooks every day. Mads is enjoying her classes. Even if it’s the heaviest class load she’s ever had; she really is enjoying it. She’s doing Notgrass’s World History this year and loves it. It’s much more intensive than she’s done for history in the past, but due to the fact that we’re history buffs in this house- it’s a very good fit. She’s also taking German (using Living Languages) and enjoying it immensely. We let her choose her foreign language class and she chose German as our family has quite a large amount of German ancestry. Sam likes to sit in on her German video lessons and tries out his new words on us a dinner every night.


Oh that Boy of mine.... he’s in fifth grade now. Reading continues to be a challenge but not nearly as bad as it has been in the past.  Oh, He just loves being read to but doesn’t really enjoy reading himself. We continue to plug away at it and some days it really is a chore; for both of us. But we soldier on. Our key right now is reading the right books. I chucked most of the readers that went with our curriculum and have researched interesting boy type (adventure, madness and mayhem, hilarious, gross) books that are at, just below or just above his current reading level. Our first book of the year was Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and he loved it. It combined lots of new, big words with hilariously fun stories. Now we are reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School and the smaller chapters are helping him stay on task and sharpen his reading skills. 

We just started our 11th year with our little local co-op homeschool group. Each of the kids has three classes. Lu is helping teach a weapons class with another high school senior and is taking a multi-media art class plus a creative writing class. Mads is also taking the art and creative writing classes as well as a cake decorating class, which she is seriously enjoying. That girl loves to bake and decorate! Sammer is taking a science class for boys (think oozing, gooey and gross), the weapons class that Lu is co-teaching and a Spanish class. So he's dabbling in both German and Spanish right now! 

As for me.... the days are full. I'm teaching the mulit-media art class as well as the creative writing class to the middle school and high school students in our co-op and am overseeing the weapons class (although I must say those student teachers have it well under control). I also managed to squeeze in a great little online hand-lettering class through Skill Share in September. I sincerely enjoyed it, even with my perfectionist tendencies setting themselves to war with an eraser.... It was my one thing for the month to do just for me. This month my one thing has been photography- both for fun and for reals as I've managed to get myself a few clients for senior pictures. Mostly my nieces. And my daughter. But it's good nonetheless.

Here's to looking forward to my presence here being a bit more.... present.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Our First Fall at the Farm

Last week was our four month Farmiversary.
And yes, we are still very much in the honeymoon faze here.
Every single day we continue to be more and more in love with this space God has given us.
I find it crazy silly sometimes when I think on how my heart fought against this for a time.


And here we are, officially in our very first fall on the farm.
It's seriously lovely so far.
Allow me to fill up this post with some wonderful glimpses of fall on the farm....

A few of the Ladies. Yes, that is what we call them.
As far as animals go- we haven't added to the one dog, 14 chickens ratio.... yet.
We're planning on getting a couple of pigs this fall, we've got the fencing and other paraphernalia and we know where we want to set it all up.... it's just a matter of getting it done. We've also got the pigs' names picked out. Yeah, we're those kind of farmers.
We also need to butcher 2 of our 3 roosters.
Because, really.... who needs 3 roosters?!
Especially when they take to crowing in stereo.
At 3:30 am.
And a few of the hens are molting.
Which means egg production has dropped considerably.
The good news is that our younger hens started laying their first eggs last week. So we aren't going without!
Is it silly that we celebrate these mini-eggs? We took pictures and marked the date on the family calendar. Oh the different things we look forward to with great anticipation here on the farm....

The weather has been kind enough that we haven't yet had to fire up the outdoor wood stove. The Mister is holding out for October 1st at the earliest.
I think it may even wait a couple of days after that.... Regardless of when we fire it up, I'm just so stinkin' excited to be burning wood for heat after 20 years of paying for natural gas. Seriously looking forward to the cozy factor of wood heat. And I love the smell of a good wood fire!



The summer vegetable garden is just about done. We're still harvesting a few cucumbers and tomatoes but it's dwindling fast.
We managed to grow 3 pumpkins in the garden. One for each kiddo. 


I'm so thankful the zinnias I planted are still going gangbusters.
I have big plans to add to my cutting flower portion of the garden next year. These flowers make me so happy!



Fall also means cleaning out the flower beds and pots. A task I am loathe to do when they are still looking half way decent but I know it's necessary. However, I treated myself to a few mums and a lovely ornamental cabbage to help me with the transition.




I expanded my canning horizons this year to include pasta and pizza sauce. It has been a seriously enjoyable experience. And it doesn't hurt that My Man can't stop raving about my amazing sauce and having everyone that stops by take a sample taste. I enjoyed it so much that I didn't try my hand at canning stewed tomatoes because I was so busy pureeing them. I made a note to self to not get so carried away next year. My secret ingredient is purple basil. Yum.


We'll be making applesauce soon and I hope to also give making apple butter a go. I must admit that I didn't think I'd find canning such a rewarding and fun activity. Yes, God is good.

The wood burner.... and the front of our lovely compost system.
We started our new compost system this past month too. A piece of fencing, three pallets and some fence posts and we've got us a 3 bin system (new pile, cooking pile and done, ready-to-be-used pile). Lu and Sam painted it white for me.
I love it.


The Mister is teaching the Boy to chop wood. I must admit that it gave me a start to see him swinging that ax but as I watched my husband tutor our son, I knew this was another one of those "rights of passage" and so I smiled, said a prayer for protection and let them carry on. He came inside with a blister and a huge grin that night. God is good.


And this right here.... this is our west field. We'll expand part of the garden into this field and we have plans for a small orchard in part of this space too. Right now, this is one of my favorite views.


In Farm Project news, we continue to help my Pop with his and mom's little Mom & Pop Apartment. Windows went in a few weeks ago and the wrap went on in preparation for siding. In keeping with the look and feel of the old farm, my dad is having wood siding custom made just like the old siding was.... oh, the nostalgia! We were able to salvage enough pieces from the original building to do the peaks but there just wasn't enough to finish the entire building. 


We've got quite the list of projects for Fall here on the homestead. And I'd like to squeeze in a bit of fall flower bulb planting in anticipation of some new beauty in the spring. I have always enjoyed the revolving of the seasons so it is with great pleasure that I view them so much more deeply and it seems, with a slower savoring right here on the farm.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Playing Catch Up

And so it has come to pass that I have indeed taken an unintentional but very much needed blogging break this summer. It seems moving to the country, fixing up an old farmhouse and starting your own little farm doesn't leave much time for me to sit down and put thought to paper.....
And while I missed it, I enjoyed what filled my time so much more so.


We just celebrated our 3 month farmiversary on Sunday and we still (me most of all) marvel at how much we love this place and how deeply it has entwined itself in our hearts, minds and souls. We are, apparently, quite cut out to be farm people.
Who knew?

In the past three months I have managed to unpack perhaps 2/3 of our boxes. It's a daunting task people. Not for the faint of heart.... and some days, well, some days I just don't wanna do it.
So I don't.

In the past three months we have patched, primed and painted 4 rooms, built shelves and hauled three trunk loads of "stuff" to Goodwill. It's interesting how I thought I needed it when I packed it months ago and upon gazing at it now, it has no pull.... so out it goes.

Yet...
I still can't find my favorite, passed down from my grandfather glass pie dish.
And I haven't even felt the need to hunt up the boxes of living room and dining room knick-nacks.
I do, however, miss all our books.
So we're slowly unpacking those boxes now that we're almost done with the schoolroom.

School starts next week.
I'm not ready. 
I don't think my kids are either.

Our summer has been super crazy and yet simply amazing.
We lived here one month before we took off on a week long urban mission trip.
And then we had far off relatives come and stay for an entire week.... family two of my kiddos had never met and my oldest doesn't even remember meeting and I hadn't seen in over fifteen years. It was the bestest, stir your heart and share the memories week I've had in I can't remember when.
We all promised it wouldn't be 15 years before we did it again.
I missed them 10 minutes after they were gone.
And I miss them still.

Our summer has been about family, farm and food.
The six chicks we added to the flock this spring are growing up nicely.
Except that 3 of them are roosters.... and like to have crowing competitions.
Often.... as in most of the day.
We are currently fattening them up in preparation for a few Sunday dinners in our near future.


We spent a good chunk of summertime helping my parents begin a remodel that will be their little mom and pop apartment. And then we started working hard on the schoolroom....
Which is almost done.
Yes, we're 3 months into this two generations together gig and we're all still getting along just peachy keen fine. No, I'm not kidding. My parents went on a four day get-away two weeks ago and we missed them terribly. We've worked out a nice routine as two generation family of seven all living together.
I was once asked if we felt like the Waltons.
Yeah, a little bit. In a very good way and on just a wee bit smaller scale.

The girls and I have been baking and canning.... putting up the first of the harvests. We've got almost fifty pounds of blueberries in the freezer (we ate about ten pounds fresh!), thirty-five quarts of green beans frozen, and ninety-six pounds of beef (the cow is thanks to the Mister's sister- they raised a few this year.... we hope to have our own next year). We've canned a dozen jars of bread-n-butter pickles and three dozen dill pickles.... with hopes of canning at least a dozen more of each. We also made our very first ever in the history of us batch of pasta sauce. Garlic basil pasta sauce.... made with our very own heirloom tomatoes. I now understand why you call your first batch a test batch.... our sauce is rather runny, but nothing a can of tomato paste can't fix. I made spaghetti with it last week.
It was divine.
Seriously.
Lu and I are planning on cooking down the next batch a bit longer so as to thicken it up without altering the amazing flavor we've concocted.

Summer is coming to a close and we're eking out every last bit of goodness... the sunsets here are amazing, family bonfires are cozy, the star gazing is sweet and the family time seems slower and fuller.
We can't complain.... actually, we continue to be in awe of it all.
I suppose that bubble will burst one day but today wasn't that day and I don't think it'll be tomorrow either.

The days are full.
This is a good life.


I'm pretty sure posting here will continue to be sporadic for a bit longer.
But you can catch me on Instagram in the in between. It's been lots easier to keep up with that this summer than this....







Tuesday, June 24, 2014

One Month: Our Farm Adventure has really begun

It’s been one whole month since we moved here. I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around it still.
In some respects, it’s like we’ve been here forever and in others it’s still so new and unreal.
Making my childhood home, my parent’s house, into mine has been a balancing act.

Things seem slower here…. I don’t know if that’s because of the whirlwind weeks of packing and painting before the move, the fact that school is finished, that this is real country living or if it’s just still my ideal idea of what countrified living should be. Or perhaps still, it’s a mish-mash of all of the above.
Either way the wind blows on that- I am most content and enjoying a slower pace. The Mister and I often find ourselves working side by side then stopping and looking over all this beautiful land and we just can't believe how amazingly and abundantly God has answered our prayers for this home.


Frontview/ North side of Farmhouse. The main portion is a traditional four-square built sometime between 1876-1892.
By the time we made the move I was weary and worn down. My heart hurt for what I was leaving and all the boxes upon boxes of family life that still doesn’t have a place in this home and is still regaled to the barn. Yes, I was quite sad to leave the yellow house behind but I have found that I don’t really miss it. It has already become a memory in my mind, a part of my past. The family that owns it now cut down my Granny Smith Apple tree last week. The tree my very own Granny & Grandpa Smith (although I called her Gramma) gave to me in honor of my college graduation 20 years ago. Yes, that makes me sad. The tree was leaning just about sideways and we figured that since it had no sentimental value to the new owners that this would be the case. it gave us the biggest ever bumper crop of apples last fall. It’s one of the things I wish we could have taken with us when we moved. [That and Lu's Lilac we planted the spring after she was born.]

In my pantry are all that is left of that tree. Six jars of homemade applesauce made from those apples and from the apple tree at my mother-in-law’s home. I kinda don’t want to eat it and then again, I do. I want to set the table for a pretty celebration and celebrate the eating of those final jars of applesauce. Crazy, eh?


Front looking east. This small building was once a gas station. My parents turned it into a screened in porch after a tree fell & destroyed part of it. We are now re-configuring it into a little Mom & Pop apartment for my parents. My great grandfather ran this little gas station for 3.5 years, 1946-50, until the new highway was built a half mile north. He sold Gargoyle gas.
Standing in front yard looking Southwest at side yard and west field. Here you can see the swing set, part of the wood pile, the potting shed and part of the gardens.
West side of yard looking south. You can see the top of the barn and a portion of the south field.
West view of Farmhouse. The Mister and my Pop are putting in steps for me at the sliding glass door to the kitchen. The kitchen, pantry, bathroom and back porch were added in the 1920's.
We’re embracing this countrified farm life and all its freshness. Soon the newness will wear off, but who cares? I’m all about these moments- right here, right now and the capturing of them in my mind’s eye. Lets leave the future let downs to the future and enjoy this big, wide open, beautiful present. Like the big moon that hung low over the field last weekend. The thunderstorm that rolled across the horizon with the most amazing blazes of lightning last night. The steamy, sultry quality of the budding garden this morning…. The cackles of the chickens as they call to my son in the morning to come let them out of the coop. Loud family dinners served on the big dining table with places for all seven of us now that we’ve added my parents to the mix. Digging in the garden and planting new flowers. My kiddos wearing muck boots and grinning ear to ear as they do chores. The quiet night sounds that feel so over the top and special compared to the harsher sounds we were use to in town. How dark it gets at night without street lamps…. Can I just say how much I love these beautiful dark nights?!

Closer look at coop (and chicken tractor), potting shed, gardens and west field (which is just grass right now- contemplating getting some cows and putting them out to pasture there).
The old barn. When my parents moved here 33 years ago there were 8 outbuildings. Some weren't in very good shape. Now we have the station and the old barn. We hope to add a new barn next to this one- where the old large chicken coop use to sit. We like the idea of keeping the same footprint as it once was.
South view of Farmhouse. To the right is the kids playhouse made from materials we salvaged from tearing down dilapidated outbuildings.
We feel more at peace here. All five of us. Myself included. This is the fit for our family, of that I have no doubt. I love watching my husband work on the farm and begin to put into motion his vision for this place. I love the relaxed, contented look of him as he works out here. We don’t feel rushed or hurried, and yet we work harder than we did in town. Farming, even our wee little farm, takes muscles and sweat and real labor.
My head rests easier on my pillow at night. I still don’t have everything unpacked, in fact, we still don’t know how we’re going to fit everything in this space but I know we’ll find a way to make it work, make it do or soon find we really didn’t need it to begin with.

I still haven’t quite found my rhythm here…. My routine. But I don’t feel out of sorts about it either. Maybe I’m still recuperating from the big move or maybe I’m learning to embrace a slower way of life and accepting that the routine will develop in time. Since I’m not panicky about it, I tend to think it’s more the latter…. Which is another testament to God’s hand in all of this. At least once a day I find myself looking over this place, this home and it’s land and thanking Him profusely for his abundant and blessed provisions.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Free Printable: June's Menu Plan


Whoa! June has just about passed us by and I totally and completely forgot about adding the link to the menu page on the blog this month! So sorry.
Moving has definitely put a kink in my blogging.

Without further ado and without much month left: The June Menu Plan



And what's June without strawberries?

Here's two links to my favorite jam recipes on the blog:

Strawberry Freezer Jam
Strawberry Peach Freezer Jam




Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Leaving, Saying Good-bye and Amazingly Blessed

Ah.... new month, new home.

God is good.
And life is crazy.
And that's fine with me.

We're still getting settled here at the farm.
We got our internet hook up last Friday but things have just been too busy for posting.


We moved on May 24th with over 40 of our friends and family helping us- equipped with trucks, trailers, minivans and cars. We were able to move everything in a one trip caravan of vehicles- even the kiddos swing set/playscape! I still can't put into words what it meant to us to have so much help. My friends even cleaned the old house after everything was moved out. Cleaned it top to bottom! That in and of itself was such a gift to me!


And they didn't stop there- they unpacked the vehicles at the farm and then my friends began to help with the unpacking. A handful unpacked and set up my kitchen and pantry (even deep cleaned the freezer!) and a couple arranged the living room for actual living, made my bed and unpacked and arranged The Boy's room!

The best part of all.... our friends praying with us. Moving from the only home we've ever had as a family, our home of twenty years was difficult. Our friends took this into consideration and as we were almost done with the packing they gathered around us and prayed over us. How can I use my words to capture the feelings of having your loved ones encircle you and pray over you?! Prayers of praise and thanks for the wonderful home we were leaving, prayers of thanks for how God's hand was over the whole selling process, prayers for the new home we were making, prayers for the young couple that would  be moving into our old home, prayers for my heart as it ached- that God would be my comfort and remind me that all my memories and all I that love most was going with me..... prayers for blessings, peace, calm and contentment to be ours....

Dear readers, as I remember those prayers, sitting here ten days later, I am still undone and overwhelmed. How great is the Father's love for us that He would go before us and prepare the way, that he would send a large contingency of friends and family to come alongside us in this? That He would give us beautiful weather and no broken dishes? That I would lay my head on clean sheets in a neat and tidy room that first night and wake to an unpacked kitchen?
That He would love me so much so that He'd be in all the little details that He knows matter to me? Oh Lord, you quite simply undo me.


I cried many tears that day. Tears of sorrow and tears of joy. Tears from just being overwhelmed by the vastness of this undertaking and tears from seeing so many give of their time and talents to us..... I knew leaving that yellow townie farmhouse was going to be difficult but I never doubted that God wouldn't see clear to carry my sorrow and carry me through.

We went back on Monday to get the last few things from the carriage barn, for me to dig up a few of my plants and to painstakingly measure every little mark of our homemade growth chart on the door frame to our bedroom. The yellow house still tugged at me but there wasn't much strength behind the tug. I could tell God was helping us let go.


Before we left we prayed one more time in our home.... holding hands together in an empty, echoing dining room. Praying our thanks and praises for all God gave us in that home, for all we had learned and how we grew, praying for God to remain present there, for Him to bless the new owners and should they not truly know Him- that He would stir their hearts toward Himself.

We took our time praying and agreed together that God is unbelievably good.

Then we locked the door and walked away.


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