Monday, April 20, 2015

Wild Edibles ; Natures garden in your own backyard


Its the time of year where everything is blooming and full of life! Atleast here in the Mountains Of NC. My gardens are thriving and everything is growing beautifully. But My garden ( or yours) is not the only place to find a plethora of edible goodness!
Perusing through your backyard is enough to find at least a little something, and if you live near a wooded area, you are sure to find a bounty of wild edibles!

So here are some photos, tips and facts about the food that is all around us, and often disregarded! Keep in mind, there are many many more out there than the ones I listed ( including Bloodroot which for some reason I saw everywhere yesterday and could not, for the life of me find today, go figure)..

Morel Mushrooms
a prized delicacy! Hunted by man avid wild food lovers, they are not always easy to find . Morels come up in early spring.
Containing 136 IU vitamin D content, B vitamins, including folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin and thiamine.

A cup also contains 28 mg of calcium, 271 mg of potassium, 13 mg of magnesium and 8 mg of iron, 128 mg of phosphorus, 14 mg of sodium.

oh and they are delicious...

I suggest doing a google search on them or getting a book on wild Mushrooms before hunting, as there are some look a likes that are NOT edible and actually extremely poisonous..
Please be sure to hunt responsibly !

Stinging Nettles

Many of you know stinging Nettle as that plant that when brushed up against, leaves a itchy burning rash.. and well, It indeed does, but that is only one aspect of this amazing plants! Nettles are extremely medicinal! they are used for everything from Bladder and prostate problems.. and really the benefits of this plant are endless, so I will leave you with these links :)

Nettles should be picked young( and before they bloom). They can be dried and crushed and used as a tea ( as in the link above) or they can be boiled for 5-10 minutes and used in soups, stews, omelets, etc...
You can even add them to your pesto when blended..
Its a wonder food folks.. :)
oh and yeah once you boil it or dry it,, no more sting, they are ready to eat!
Wild Violets
These pretty little violets are very high in vitamin A and C , studies have shown that these beauties contains more than twice the amount of vitamin c of the same weight of an orange and nearly twice the Vitamin A of spinach!
These flowers make a spectacular Violet jam!
Well I did not take a separate photo, but I am pretty sure we all know what a dandelion looks like ;)
ohhhh dandelions,,, How I feel for thee,,, so many people spray you with ugly pesticides when you have so many benefits!!!!
THey are high in Antioxidants, and are used as a diuretic, in Liver health, Bone and skin Health,,and are used as a digestive aid, just to name a few!!
You can make Dandelion Jam, Wine, and Tea! You can even just eat them fresh in a salad!

oh and leave some for the Honeybees, they love them too :)
Again, no separate Photo, but if you are familiar with ferns, then you are familiar  with those little compact curly cues that emerge from the ground in spring!.. They are so pretty to look at and when Picked from Ostrich or Lady Fern, they are edible!
They are high in potassium, iron, vitamin A and Vitamin C, to name a few!
Sautee them in butter and Garlic,, YUM!
Ramps ( wild Leeks)
These are my favorite. Probably the best tasting onion for cooking!!! They can be found in sandy soils and on hillsides. We were gifted some Ramps from some friends, so ours our in our yard and come back every year! You will often run across them while hunting for other wild edibles.
and last but not least ( and I have not tried these yet)
These produce a tiny fruit that is edible when ripe. GREEN FRUITS (unripe fruits) Are POISONOUS, they are edible when the fruit turns soft and yellow......

Again, these are just some of the many wild edibles Mother Earth has to offer. These particular ones are in abundance in my area ..
So get outside and see what Mother Earth has for you!! Happy Foraging!

The cools



Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Beautiful Easter Sunday


1 of 4 Queens that have hatched, this is one of the biggest virgin queens we have reared, she is at 1 o clock in the photos and is walking away,(pointed rear end )

                                                                        Recycling bin
                                               1 of my 5 gardens ( back garden) taken from Norahs tree house
Robb in Bee yard 1

A place to rest :)
We spent the Entire day outside day, it was the perfect way to spend Easter Sunday. The temps were in the mid 60's and it was a good solar day ;)  After the basket hunt and  annual chocolate breakfast sugar high,haha, Norah worked in her garden and got all her veggies in! She is  going with a purple theme this year. She has planted potatoes, Purple Kale, Purple Cauliflower, Purple Carrots and Purple Beans! She watered and even weeded around the rocks ( last year she didn't weed her garden much, and lets just say there were lots of tears come august, when the weeds were as tall as her,,haha)

Rob got into the hives today, to check on some Queen Cells,, We had a couple queens hatch today! If you look at the photo,  (its not the greatest pic) the queen is at 1 o clock and is walking away, you an only see her hind end :) She had only been hatched a few hours when the photo was taken.

Robb also built us a nice recycling bin, we have been using a trash can for the past 10 yrs.. without a lid,, haha, so you can imagine how messy that looks on the backporch... This one is made with recycled wood and has room for 3 buckets on the inside, it looks much nicer and will make recycling easier as everything will be pre-sorted! 
He Even had time to break out the chainsaw and make me a chair out of an old stump that is inside my back garden area,, isn't it cute ? :D

and me? well I weeded, seeded , planted, and hand dug some new spots for annuals, all day!... I am making good headway on planting .. Ive got almost all our cool weather crops in, so far I've planted, Potatoes, onions , Broccoli, Cauliflower, spinach, ,Kale, lettuce, strawberry plants, swisschard, radish, carrots, beets, arugula, cilantro ( and I might be missing something ;)
as soon as I am sure we are past our frost date, I will be planting, Beans, Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Squash, cucumbers, sunflowers( well I cheated and put some sunflowers in today ;) watermelons , sweet potatoes and winter squash,....

We all have a bit of sunburn, and are tired, and boy what a good feeling it is!

I hope everyone had a blessed Easter Sunday..
The Cool Family


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

recycled , reused, and repurposed; projects on the homestead

Having fun making some improvements inside and out this  past week :) Our new hoop house is done! My folks were here to visit last week and helped put the plastic on.
 If you are interested in how to make your own hoop house be sure to check my next blog post! I will have a basic how to on how you can build your own!

Most everything in our home is second hand or recycled. Not only because we cant really afford new but because I find a total thrill in buying something used for a fraction of the cost(who doesn't love that rush! haha), and knowing that I am treading lighter on the earth buy reusing something is important to us.

Our hoop house is made with almost all recycled materials. The base and the plastic are the only two things we bought new.

RECYCLED items include:
wood for framing on walls, rustic wood on the outside, those super duper cool camper windows, the pvc conduit piping, the door... oh and those gorgeous gold ceramic pots ;)

I was also able to spruce things up inside the house ! I went shopping with my mom, and ya know when you go shopping with your mom, you naturally go to the thrift store and buy a light pistachio green retro couch ;) Got it for a steal and its in amazing condition!
My living room is quite dark ( I love earth tones,, browns etc, maybe a little too much,) so brining some color into the room and brightening it up was a great idea.....

The bluebird curtains are made from Old/Recycled sheets I scored at the goodwill. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them, I thought maybe some clothes for my little one. My mom mentioned that curtains would look cute, and she was right ;) I finished them up yesterday and they turned out lovely.
Stay tuned for the "How to build your own recycled hoophouse " blog.. I will need my husband to sit down and blog with me...
Hopefully we can find time in the next couple days to sit down and get that done..


The Cools

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Spring Awakening

I do believe spring is officially here ( and hope I don't kick myself for sayin so)! . Mother earth is waking from a long winters nap. The Maples are finally blooming( about 3 weeks behind last years bloom time) and its a big relief for us as beekeepers, because it's the first real source of pollen for our bees!
daffs are up and ready to bloom, early spring perenniasl are popping through the soil, garlic is taking off and our Hens are laying like crazy..

I am hoping you are seeing signs of bring in your neck of the woods!!

The Cool Family

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

3 More Solar Panels and other homestead projects.

After 3 rounds of snow, sleet and Ice, we finally had a break in the weather yesterday. I have been having My normal "spring is coming and there is so much to do and none of it is done" anxiety,,haha
Usually around this time I am constantly chattering about everything that needs done, and my wonderful husband ( being a mild mannered fella') usually nods and listens,, knowing that this is my normal behavior this time of year.. ;)

Right now the list of things to get done is pretty much endless,( don't get me started)

It felt SO good to be outside yesterday. It was about 60 degrees and partly sunny.. a perfect day to get our Solar stand built! We bought 3 additional panels about 3 or 4 months ago, but time, money and weather prevented us from getting it built, ( if its not one factor its another , sure y'all know how that goes).
So with all variables in our favor, we got it built! This is going to help our  energy situation immensely. Right now we have 1440 watts of solar., This would in fact be plenty if we didn't live in a holler. We are down in, surrounded by some very tall mountain ridges, so sun is not in great abundance here. These 3 additional panels should really help us in winter especially! we are adding 3  more 240 watt panels.

While Robb worked on the Solar stand and my waddle fence ( which is almost done. pictures soon!). I spent the day, planting spinach , getting the pea trellis up , planting peas, made a stepping stone, transplanted some kale, did some more seeding .and finished of the day with baking a homemade apple pie ..

Hoping to get the gardens tilled up next week, weed barrier down and some fruit trees transplanted before they bud! Chicken tractor still needs finished for the meat birds as well..
The Forecast looks pretty nice after the rain clears out in the next couple days, So I feel like we will be right on schedule!

Everyone enjoyed the sun and weather,  kids n critters included ;) ( and the bees, oh yes they were out BIG time , just didn't get a pic but trust me they are happy to be out as well :)

The Cool Family

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Snow, Ice, and the aftermath of Backwoods living

So, we did get some snow on Monday! It was not near the foot of snow they were calling for but we did end up with about 5" of the white stuff followed by icepellets falling from the sky for about 4 hours....
We spent Monday  hiking, baking, eating, and staying warm.... It was a lovely day!

Now.. we deal with the aftermath

I realize to some 5" of snow and ice doesn't qualify as snow storm ( we know we know that you northerners get like 10 feet haha)
But with where we live, 5" of snow, covering a thick layer of ice can be crippling here.

the first 12 miles, in and direction of our commute is narrow( sometimes single lane) windy , rugged( depending on which you way go, some are worse than others) dirt/gravel road...

Could I leave in this weather? maybe, but its an awful idea, especially with a kid in the car.....

No guardrails , just big ol drop off into the forest or the creek should your car decide to slide, and there is no turning around which can pose a problem, not to mention not a single person around( especially when its like this), trees in the road,, and yeah..... you get stuck, you are pretty much screwed..
There is NO cell service here for about 40 minutes, ( we dont own one)so you cant call anyone either,,...

This is JUST to get to a paved road. this is 2 days after getting 5" of snow......

My commute , to get Norah to school, or to go to town is : 12 miles of gravel to get out of the national forest, then 4 miles to get to a crossroads, this crossroads is our "town" it has a gas station, post office and a small mountain  school of 300 k-8th grade
Then to get to a small town with a grocery I drive another 10 miles
Total travel time : about 40-45 minutes to get her to school and about and  hour to town.

so now we deal with the aftermath, which will go as follows
frozen ice roads , slush, and then the worst part.........MUD .......

Not sure we are leaving this week at all,, the temps are going below 0 again tonight so the road is going to stay a sheet of snow covered ice.. and they don't plow here,, unless the forest service contracts someone out and that takes about a week before anyone shows up.

Hope everyone is staying warm,, after this arctic blast, I best see some daffs popping out of the ground :) Ive got peas to get in the ground too , along with apple trees to move as soon as we thaw out!
for Now Im thinking like a Chicken,, I'm staying in ;)


The Cools

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Garden Fence Update


My husband has been working so hard in allll his spare time >insert sarcasm here< to get my fence done for me In my Back Gardens..
Its getting there! He spent most the day Sunday working on it... I am making the stepping stones and have so many more to make.. I am using a mold and can only make one at a time,, so its slow going..  but hope to have a majority of them done in the next month. Then we will had mulch in the walkways..
I have quite a few different garden spots, but this one is going to take the cake. I cant wait to see it bursting at the seams with veggies ,flowers and pollinators ..

Ill be sure and post a picture this Spring!