Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Nature Inspired Holiday

I saw the most peculiar thing a couple of months ago in the store.... Pinecones..... in a bag...... for sale.................  I realize not everyone lives in a natural environment and I think  they deserve pinecones as much as the next person. ;)
So here are some ideas and photos to inspire a Natural, from the earth, handmade Holiday.

A walk in the woods and a basket is all you need. This is a wonderful way to kick off the holidays with your family . Children love running through the woods collecting natures tiny gifts.
This Year I collected Holly( which is abundant around here) pine, chestnuts, and pine cones of all sizes.
You can fill bowls with chestnuts,  or arrange pine and holly around the house..
pine and holly  may need to be replaced about every week. Although I find that Frasier Fir ( which are also the tree of choice here) really hold their needles for a long long time.. After we get out tree, I take all the extra cut branches and decorate.

   The Box was made by us, out of reclaimed wood, and the Candle tree Branch Candle holders were made by us as well :)..
A beautiful display for the holidays, and it didn't cost us but a penny.

I would love to hear your nature inspired Holiday Ideas!

Blessings and Happy Holidays!!!
The cools

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Grey Days

Between the constant drizzle and the fire continuing to burn on Table Rock Mountain/Linville Gorge in the Pisgah National Forest Grandfather District ( which is where we live in the Pisgah National forest., read more about this devastating fire here   http://www.hcpress.com/news/table-rock-fire-in-linville-gorge-wilderness-area-spreads-to-100-acres-zero-percent-contained-expected-to-grow.html  )
It has been an very very dreary smokey foggy  Grey Day....

I didn't want to start the Generator first thing and with no sun, the batteries were low... so we enjoyed the quiet, kept the cookstove fired up and played outside, Read books, Made Homemade Raviolis ( RECIPE BELOW) and worked up some more items for my Etsy Shop..

Homemade Ravioli Recipe:

2 cups Flour
3 eggs
2 Tbsp Oil
1 Tsp salt
Make a well in the middle of the flour mix and add eggs and oil, fold in and knead until elastic. Let rest for 5 minutes While making the Filling.

Basic Ricotta Filling
1 15 oz jar Ricotta
salt to taste
1 Tbsp Parley

Roll out dough to about 1/8" or thinner...use a cookie cutter ( I used a circle one and shaped it square,,hehe) or cut out squares.. Place a spoonful of filling on one square. Place another square on top. Use and egg wash to seal corners..

TO FREEZE for a later date.
Place on cookie sheet to freeze, then remove, place in freezer back and suck any air out with straw,to prevent freezer burn.

Hoping for some sunshine Tommorow!


Friday, November 15, 2013

There's a Hole in the Bucket, Dear Jaime

Ok, I am pretty sure almost everyone knows this song.. I remember singing it in the backseat with my sister, as a kid,, over and over and over,, and probably driving my parents INSANE..

Ironically enough, the song has come full circle, although now I believe I am actually living it...

The Off the Grid transition has been fairly smooth, but has required constant attention and thought,,, every action has an opposite and equal reaction ( Newtons Law) comes in full play here....

Its cold in the house, Dear Rob,b Dear Robb, its cold in the house Dear Robb, its cold..
start a fire Dear Jaime, Dear Jaime, Dear Jaime, start a fire Dear Jaime, Dear Jaime A fire
Now the circulating pump is running ( too much ) dear Robb, Dear Robb, .....
well use some hot water Dear Jaime Dear Jaime, use some water Dear Jaime , some water,,..
But that turns on the well Dear RObb, Dear Robb, that turns on the well Dear RObb, the well.
Ill start the Generator Dear Jaime Dear Jaime Dear Jaime..................... ok YOU get the point...

A typical morning here:

- Get up at 5:am on mornings that you need to start the generator ( its been cold out and draining our batteries a bit,, more on that later).. start generator..
you can not flush the toilet use any water ,, or use any heavy loads while the generator is running.
- Start a FIRE, it was about 55 degrees in here this morning,,, Brrrrrrrr.. we heat our entire home with wood, so thats a MUST first thing...
-Put the Coffee on ( use the percolator, as the regular coffee maker is hard on the batteries,,)

Now when the fire gets started it heats up our water...... when the water gets hot, it HAS to CIRCULATE, or the stove would blow up,, NO THANK YOU....
so when the water gets hot enough,,, the circulating pump kicks on,,, when we have had a fire going for a decent amount of time it kicks on A LOT..
so whats the problem with that??? Nothing major, but it does use electricity...... so what do you do to make it turn off........
USE hot water right??? well,, If your batteries are low ( like when they are cold or when its first thing in the morning before the sun comes up) you dont want to use too much water and turn the Well Pump on, because its a quick drain on the battery.....

So we currently have 2 SMALL ISSUES
1. The batteries, we put the batteries outside,,, now we did this KNOWING the cold would effect them, but were concerned about off gassing of the batteries if we kept them in  the house ( you can vent them though).
Robb has them well insulated , but the cold is still draining them a LOT..
2. When we hooked up our cookstove to our hot water, we bought a circulating pump.... we have now found that it may be a little too big ( i think we were afraid to go to small ,, afraid of it not doing a good job and creating a dangerous situation,, exploding steam is NOTHING TO MESS WITH,, .. If my hubby wasn't such a smarty pants I am not sure I would have agreed to the hot water cookstove hook up,)

our 2 SOLUTIONS......

(This is the Solar Hot water Bread box , )

Remember the solar Hot water heater box we built??? This was to heat our water in the summer,, well , It turns out it didn't work as good as we would have hoped.....I didnt help that all it did was rain this summer either, but on a hot sunny day,, one person could take a QUICK hot shower... It worked, but we have decided to redo it.. and put it on the roof....
the GOOD NEWS is , we can use the wood from this to Build a Batter box, so we can Put the Batteries Inside.....

( that green thing is the pump)
2. Buy  a new circulating pump

we are going to sell this one and buy a smaller one.. It runs entirely too much. It we have the fire going all day, the pump is on... and I can only use so much hot water... and have to be careful because the well pump used a lot of energy,, so we dont want it continuously kicking on...

we definetaly knew we would have to adjust some things... Other than that, it is working good..
well with the exception of the generator... But I will save that story for another day......

One step forward two steps back,,, the adventure continues!

The Cool Family

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

We did it!

We did it! Monday the Power Company Came out and Disconnected our power completely. We even Had him remove the powerline from the house completely.
Right before he snipped the wire he looked at my husband and said " So you really think this is going to work huh?" Robb sensed the sarcasm in his voice, but disregarded it, and let him get to work. Ignorance is Bliss I suppose ;)

The first couple days we were disconnected it was completely cloudy, so we got to know our generator pretty well. It was like walking on egg shells,while learning the system. You have to be very careful not to drain the batteries to low ( we are talking 12 deep cycle golf cart batteries, NOT CHEAP).
So for the first couple days, I limited everything, radio, computer, water, ....hehe,, I was hesitant to use anything, as I did not want to be the one to fry the batteries, and I am the one at home all day...

Lets just say there is not some little computer screen that tells you " hey, you have 80% of your battery left,,," I was really hoping ( actually I kinda thought) thats how it would be.
I had to learn about amps, volts, and watts, how to read the charge controller, the inverter, and how to start the generator.

Its been over a week, and everything is working better than I could have imagined!
Yes , I do have to limit computer, and you have to pay constant attention to your charge controller and inverter... it almost has to become second nature.....

So right now the solar panels/batteries are powering

*well Pump
*coffee maker ( we plan on getting a french press)
*sewing machine and serger
* Iron
* circulating pump ( which circulates the hot water that comes from the wood cookstove)

Our Home is heated with wood, our hot water is heated by our cookstove( so no hot water heater at all), we cook and bake with wood on our cookstove and have purchased a propane stove to do any cooking in the summer,.. and we do not own a washer or dryer, its all done by hand..
Although there is talk from the husband that in the summer we will have plenty of power from the Solar, so I may be getting a washing machine for the summer months!

So all in all its been an AMAZINGLY smooth transition. Life is just how it was before we disconnected ...


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Happy Fall!

Happy Fall!
The leaves are changing,the mornings are chillllly, and fires have begun in the cookstove. I took my first HOT bath in about a year, and it was fabulous. The solar water just doesn't give ya hot hot water , for a relaxing bath ;)
We have pulled most all of our garden, pruned the blueberry bushes and the raspberries, fed the bees and tucked them in for the winter, and picked loads of shiitakes which will produce again next spring.

I have fallen into craft mode Big time. The seasons seem to change at the right time for me. I am always ready to slow down and hibernate, just in time for those chilly winds to start blowin'.

Our solar is completely hooked up and we are calling the power company this week, to disconnect!
I will save that for my next blog, as my head isn't in the right place right now to try n explain all of that. Its been a bit complicated and has taken some learning and a whole lotta caution. ( those batteries were expensive, and we are just testing the waters now, afraid to drain them to low)
there have been many many bumps in the road,,, but we are there!

My daughter Norah and I have been busy crafting and decorating for fall and cookin up all kinds of baked goodies in the cookstove..
This week we made homemade Hot pretzels,, check below for the recipe.

I hope everyone is enjoying the change of seasons! I would love to hear what you look forward to during the Fall season....

The Cool Family

Pretzel Recipe
4 tsp Yeast
1 1/4 C. Warm water
5 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C Baking soda
4 cups hot water ( brought to a low boil)
1 Tbsp oil
Dissolve yeast in warm water, let sit until creamy. In a separate bowl mix flour sugar and salt.
Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add Yeast mixture and Oil. gather into a ball and knead for about 7-8 minutes, cover in oiled bowl and let rise for 1 hr.
divide dough into 12 pieces, roll out into 24" ropes , take each end and criss cross over to form a pretzel shape ( basically a knot).
Drop into baking soda and hot water for about 30 seconds, Brush with egg and add your favorite seasoning ( salt, garlic, sugar n cinnamon etc)
Bake at 450 for about 8-10 minutes!

You can find these stockings along with many other items,  on my shop at

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Bountiful Year

Ive abandoned my Blog entirely too long to really write about what we have been doing over the past couple months....Lets just say its been extremely Busy, and we have been extremely Blessed at our homestead.. THe gardens thrived despite all the rain ( this year was nothing but rain, the rainiest year on RECORD in our area),  and the berries actually LOVED IT! Between strawberries, wineberries , raspberries and blueberries, we probably picked 16 gallons of berries this year. We even picked enough peaches to make some Jam :)
We didnt have much of a summer, and it already feels like Fall is setting in.............

Our off grid system is still at a stand still,, all we have to do is run the wire and hook up the batteries,controller, inverter.... but bee season has just kept my husband too busy to anything else..
Hopefully Ill be blogging up hooking all of that up in the next month!!! all good things in all good time.............

 For now Ill leave you with a few ( of many )Pictures of our blessed n Bountiful summer.................

We Come from the Earth, We Return to the Earth, and in between, We Garden ...<3 br="">
The Cool Family

Monday, June 24, 2013

and so this is Farming...............

My husband and daughter left early this afternoon for some much needed time together. So as they headed of to do some bike riding at the park, I decided to hit the big garden which is so so so weedy, but after 20 minutes of weeding its started pouring rain, which forced me into the house, and onto the computer to Blog ( its either that or laundry and since I cant hang anything on the line right now....;)

This is our 4th  season as beekeepers. We started in 2010 with 3 hives, bounced up to 6, then up to 20 back down to 9 up to 17 back down to 14 and  are now up to 30 hives( and growing).

.This year I really feel like we are on our way to small time/part time farming..........and its tiresome but feels good!

 Beekeeping is tough. There have been many bumps along the way. and even a time early this year where my husband unintentionally participated in the failing of some hives, and was thinking about giving up on beekeeping. I had NO idea this was going through his mind. I knew he was distraught early in the season after a few big mistakes, but had no idea how much. And then,, things really started repairing themselves ( as nature tends to do despite  the mistakes of humans!) and Robb jumped back on the Bee Bandwagon, :)
I havent seen much of my husband since the beginning of May. We are Not full time farmers ( and I dont really know if we ever will be, although its nice to have a goal and dream) . He is gone 50 hours a week at his day job. He comes home, eats dinnner, talks briefly about his day, and heads out to the bee yard.  When the sun sets he heads to the shed, building hives, building nucs, priming , painting, and building frames..
Lets just say he has been pulling 80-85 hour work weeks since bee season has started.... and lets also say  , IT PAID OFF. We pull and enourmous AMOUNT of honey this spring!!!Nearly 5- 5 gallon buckets! Thats approximately 320 lbs of honey ,, and that was only off of 6 hives ( you dont always pull honey off of all your hives, some are weak, some needs queens replaced , some are new splits,, etc)
We are getting ready for our summer honey flow now!

This was a serious VICTORY for us. We actually went out to lunch and celebrated that afternoon... Might as well bask in the victory and relax for a hot minute :)

I have been been pulling my weight too , now ;). I have been busy Bottling, Labeling, bookeeping, taking care of all internet sales, and packing/shipping.

Now we are learning the business end of it.. selling the honey. We are only doing 2 markets right now. But are also getting in touch with some stores. and actually have one store carrying our honey right now...

My husband is tired. I mean tired....
Last night he looked over at me and said " One more month of hardcore bee management and things should slow down a bit.... but right now all I can think about are bees, I have bees on the brain, big time"...

Our goal is to reach 100 hives....Im really trying to wrap my head around what that would be like, if we are this busy now......

As my dad told me the other night  " Tommorow is a new day"... so I guess we will just wait n see what tommorow brings <3 p="">

Also if you are interested in purchasing some of our delicious Honey, You can do so at :


Some Photos of our life lately here at Bee Kind Family farm

Cutting our larvae for Queen rearing

 Queen cells

Newly hatched virgin Queen

Mating nucs

Hive bodies and supers,, My husband makes all of his equipment..


The man behind it all, watching his girls :)