Monday, December 29, 2014

Beekeeping Basics

I recently had the pleasure of blogging On Cold Creek Homesteads Page..

For anyone interested in the BEEginning Basics of Beekeeping this is a good place to start. A simple write up covering the basics On what it takes to get an apiary up and going!

The Cools

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


cold, rainy , grey..................... no sun on the solar panels for 3 days.**.Hibernating***

Sitting by the cookstove, labeling soap, Making homemade soup and bread, baking,baking,baking  and taking care of a sick little one...

feeling optimistic for the longer days ahead, sun on our backs,  hands in the dirt, and fewer sick days...........

The Cools

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Chicken Sausage Take two

So, last weekend the weather was warm enough to butcher our birds..... Being off The power grid we have very limited freezer space.. With a completely empty freezer to start with, I think we would be able to fit maybe 10 birds in there , which is close to what we butchered.. We decided to make more chicken sausage, A) because its delicious and a change from just regular ol chicken, and B) it takes up way less space....

This year is our second attempt and chicken sausage,, we made it about 3 yrs ago and I am not sure what we did wrong ( maybe we didn't add enough fat or the broth?) but it was dry.. edible, but dry....

Chicken Sausage TAKE TWO:

 So Chicken Sausage involves a little bit of work , but the end product is so worth it.
The General steps are : Debone the meat ( a bit tedious) , run through the meat grinder ( ours is hand crank so we have the little on help, and she loves it! ), add the seasonings and broth, grind again and use stuffer attachment to stuff during the second time grind.

I thought I would share the recipe for anyone interested.. I have to say its REALLY GOOD. This is a country sausage..


-  5lbs of chicken deboned ( about 2 birds) including all that fat ( this will make the sausage moist and not dry)
- 2 Tbsp Salt
-2 Tsp Pepper
- 2 Tsp Ground Sage
- 1 Tsp Ginger
- 1 Tsp Thyme
- 1 Cup cold Chicken Broth ( we added a pint both time we made this (2cups) and it turned out great..

Be sure to add all the fat and the broth, which is what gives it its moisture , since chicken does not have the fat content that pork does..

I give this recipe an A+ and the ingredients are pretty basic so most of them can be found in your kitchen cupboard.


Monday, December 8, 2014

December projects

Well winter is officially almost here.. Its been rather mild here in North west NC, and we have been able to get outside and work on all the things we cant get done in summer .
This Morning was a bit chilly, atleast do chilly to process our chickens. Robb defeathered one bird and quickly came in to warm his hands over the cookstove.. Cold and wet don't mix.. so we decided to wait until next Sunday to do the other nine.. But hey we have dinner for tonight ;)



Robb has been busy Building mating Nucs for the apiary
Mating nucs are tiny 2 frame hives, that we will Put newly reared Virgin Queens in.. The Queens will then mate, start laying eggs about 3 weeks later, and then we will move these frames into a full size hive.
Our plans are to really expand this year.. So he has plans on rearing a lot of queens, which means lots of mating nucs need built before spring!

Today ( instead of processing chickens) we started on Norahs Tree House! This is her Big present from us. We went and purchased some lumber yesterday to get started. She is over the moon about this, and I know she will get so many hours of play and imagination time ( and quiet time) here in her own little space..

I am starting on my HoneyBee Stepping stones for the Back gardens!! I can not wait to see what these look like throughout the pathway.. I am wondering if I should use pigment in some?? If so,, what colors/color combo do you think would look nice?
My plans are to get one or 2 done a week, So by spring I will have enough to place throughout the back garden.

Dreaming of spring here, but keeping busy .

What have you been up to??

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Holidays are Here

Holiday cheer is in full swing here at the Cools.. If Norah had it her way we would have started decorating in October. She is a verrrry excited little girl this time of year!
She is 7 years old, so the Magic Of Christmas is something to Behold. I am not sure how much longer she will believe in Santa, so I am savoring these years with her and sharing in her excitement!!!

What started out as a few homemade salt dough Christmas ornaments turned into a full Blown Factory,, She spent 2 days straight creating and painting. She decided she  wanted to sell some. I figured this was a good way to teach her about giving, so agreed. We sold them for 2.00, she gets .50 shipping is .50 and 1.00 goes towards St. Judes Childrens Hospital. This opened up a great dialog about children who may not be as lucky or fortunate as her this time of year. Those teachable moments come up when you least expect them ;)

I finished Norahs Advent Calendar, I am not a big fan of the Numbers,, I could not find Iron on numbers anywhere, so ended up using a marker paint pen,, Being that it is December 2nd, I really just wanted to get it done. I will probably end up putting some nicer Iron on Numbers , on.
These calendars  can be filled with chocolates, treats or little "notes" with rewards; ex. Popcorn tonight, or Movie time with Mom... :) A great way to countdown to Christmas with the littles in your life.

The Tree is up and decorated. We purchased to strands of LED lights, but could use another strand or 2... This way we can have the Lights on all the time ( being off the grid we need to conserve) 2 strands only use about 9 watts. eventually we will have enough to to put lights outside as well...

I really do love this time of year <3 p="">

The Cools


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks


Homegrown with Love: chicken sausage, potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing with homemade bread crumbs and chicken broth
, green beans, applesauce, Pumkin Pie,  Delicata squash, and grape wine..

 So thankful For Family, a roof over our head, and our *health*.. How blessed are we to bring this bounty from  our homestead to the table?

Wishing you and yours a wonderful and blessed Thankgiving!

The Cools

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Autumn chores

Another Beautiful yesterday in the holler allowed us to get some outside chores done. We anticipated butchering 13 birds, but once we did 2 realized that they indeed need another week or 2 to fatten up... The last batch we did were 11 weeks old. This batch is 11.5 weeks.. I do believe the cold is making it harder for them to gain weight, as they are eating like pigs!
On the bright side, getting 2 done allowed me to take some photos , so I can blog about how exactly you go about butchering a chicken, for those who are interested in possibly raising meat birds ( I will have this post up soon I promise!)

We decided to take 2 birds we were able to butcher and make some chicken sausage. Norah loved helping grind it up, and nearly did the entire 5 lbs herself. It was funny watching her use all the muscle to turn the handle . I am so glad she is able to participate in this and see where her food comes from!
11 More birds to process next week....

Robb was able to do a quick inspection through some of the hives, see which ones ( weak ones) needed feeding ( I will also be blogging soon about the dry sugar method of feeding bees)  and which were ok... Most hives looks fairly strong and only have 2.5 more months until they can start bringing in pollen.. c'mon bees you can do it!!

Our Garlic is starting to peek through the soil..

Love seeing signs of life near December,, its the little things that get us through the Winter here....

The Cools

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Break in the Weather

We have been cooped up in the house lately, with the weather being less than mild. The temperatures have been in the 30's ( for the high) and in the teens at night... Today started out chilly.. so we started off the morning with  Norahs Favorite weekend breakfast : (Homemade) Pancakes...{ see recipe Below}.... usually topped with butter and  and an endless variety of homemade Jam.

Norah is not the type to stay indoors, she is usually ready to run out the door and play at 8 am..  With no Saturday morning cartoons to watch or video games to play,, she is itching to go out and explore, play, run, and get rid of all that energy she has!I managed to keep her in for a few hours before we headed down to the creek.
Wilson Creek is right behind our house. We spend a lot of time down there, swimming ( when Its warm) digging for treasures, collecting rocks, catching crawdads, and just taking in the fresh air.

It was a balmy 50 degrees today.. warm enough to sit and read a book while Norah collected rocks for her nature collection. I am constantly grateful for the beauty that surrounds us here, and feel so blessed to be raising Norah in such an amazing place.

* Norah Janes favorite Homemade Pancakes*

1 1/2 cups Flour
3 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 1/4 cup milk
1 Egg
3 tbsp. Butter

Melt the butter in a pan.. Mix the flour , baking powder, sugar and salt,, make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the Milk, Egg and butter.. Whisk.. If the mixture is too runny slowly add flour until you reach the consistency you like...

Friday, November 21, 2014

Artist Feature and Giveway with Molly Johnson Ceramics !

Today I am happy to bring you an artist Feature and *GiveAway* by Molly Johnson Ceramics.

(scroll to the Bottom for the Giveaway)

Molly Johnson is A mother  to 2 small children. She resides in Indiana with her husband Ben, where they are both Artists. When she is not caring for her little ones, she is creating art and working as an Instructor at  The Indianapolis Art Center…
 My Interview With Molly

What Inspires You  as an artist?


Being and artist, to me is about balance. Creating arts give me balance in life that I wouldn’t otherwise have.  I am also inspired world events and possibilities that arise along the way bring new ideas to the table as well.

How long Have you been working with Clay?

Ive been working with art ever since I can remember.  I've worked with many mediums including , drawing, pastel, and painting. I started working with Clay in 2002 where I attended Kent State University with a major in ceramics.

Why clay?

The teachers  and the environment is generally is what lead me to ceramics.  The teachers were very inspiring. The mode in making clay is also different than other crafts, to me it is very calming.
What advice to you have for others?
Keep making work. Keep Creating. Don’t distract yourself with who is seeing it or what they may think. Try new techniques and apply then to your own idea. Pay attention to other artists and see how their techniques have evolved and learn from them.

Some of Mollys past work

You can find out more about Molly Johnson Ceramics and purchase her art at the following Links Below.



Molly has been generous enough to offer up this beautiful Tumbler!

This stout little cup would make a great holder of flowers, brushes, pencils, or knick knacks of any kind!

Made on the potters wheel of a white stoneware clay, it has a shapely figure with two handles that each coil into three loops. Two glazes interact along the surface creating a cascading visual effect of waverly lines down to its foot. The colors range from a pale pastel blue to a beautiful blue- green with crystaline qualities. Truly a dainty little addition to any table top.

How to enter


Giveaway ends DECEMBER 1st, I will announce the winner on December 2nd!!!!

Good luck!




Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sugar and Spice


and everything Nice....... That's what little girls are made of.. 

Starting to get a start on Holiday crafts and gifs.
I found this sweet vintage looking Mini suitcase at The Goodwill. Its the perfect size for my 3 yr old niece, I will be filling it with Handmade dolly clothes for her collection of baby dolls ( she is allllll girl and loves her dollies)....
I am still working on the scrap quilt, Ive finished sewing it together, just need to sew the binding and sew together... Thinking a  handmade Advent Calendar might be on the list too..................
What have you been working on?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

25 signs you might be Off the Grid

A little humor mixed with pure fact ( at least in our household)

25 Reasons you might be Off the Power Grid

1. You feel the need to ask permission to do anything that requires a heavy load,, even though you are adult.
2. You always decide what you want to eat BEFORE you open the fridge.
3. You know the coming weeks forecast better than anyone..
4. Your child constantly asks if they can flush the toilet.
5.your Christmas Tree lights have just been reduced to 3 strands .
6. on a cloudy summer day, you take a family vote to see who gets to take a shower.
7. You toast bread on the cookstove
8. when your husband comes home he asks " How many kwh the solar produced" not " Hi honey, what's for dinner.
8. Batteries In float mode is cause for celebration
9. not unplugging everything in the house before coming to bed is grounds for divorce
10. "not today honey, its too cloudy: might be a response to a question from your child.
11. you no longer own a hair dryer
12. there is a math equation involved with everything electrical.
13. strangers knock on your door to ask questions about your solar panels
14.Your child remembers to shut off a light when leaving a room
15. Your 6 yrs old knows how to use a washboard and wringer
16. you child dresses in front of the cookstove in the winter
17. you open a window to turn down the thermostat
18. running through a sprinkler on a summer day is not longer an option, instead you go to the creek
19. you praise the rain gods when your rain barrels are full and your garden is watered
20. you really miss having a Fan blowing on you in the summer
21.  you can not believe how much power a coffee maker uses, mind= blown. so you use a French press
22. you appreciate that your family members following the rule" if its yellow let it mellow" to conserve water, but think they sometimes get a little carried away
23. an interrogation may or may not begin if you forget to turn a light off after leaving a room
24. there are times of stress, insanity, and down right hilarity ..
25. You cant imagine living any other way :)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Quiet Sunday




A chilly start to the morning, gave Norah and Bolt ( our other "child") a chance gather at the warmest spot in the house. The day was spent eating homemade cookies ( mostly by my 7 yr old) , working outside while the sun was shining,  and finishing up some labels for soap ( along with  making another batch of lavender ). It ended with a concert by Robb and Norah , and  confirmed my suspicion that my lil mama has some serious rhythm. :) A blessed, relaxing day on the Homstead.. Hope yours was filled with the same!

The Cools

Friday, November 14, 2014

Latest Handmade Happenings

 Cold Process Soap! My new craft obsession....I have several batches curing  including a batch of Lavender. Homemade soap and delicious smelling home.. double win!
I have also been working on a small quilt with the overflowing stash of fabric scraps in my sewing room. This will either add some color to the living room or maybe a picnic blanket for next spring ( yes , I am already thinking spring)
Norah is working on some sewing crafts too. I am wondering if there wont be a sewing machine under the Tree this year for my budding seamstress..

I am looking to stock up my shop with candles and soap soon in time for your  HaNDMade Holiday shopping. What is your favorite soap scent?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A look back

While I could post probably one hundred photos of this past season, Ill leave you with a select few that offer  lots of color from the garden and some farmers market photos. The bees are tucked in for winter and the garden is done :/ time to hibernate  and look at all the seed catalogs that will slowly make their way to my mailbox over the next 2 months.. A good time for reflection .rest, and to  regain the energy to  do it all over again next February..I will miss the color that mother nature has to offer in the garden,but look forward to dreaming about next years gardens........................................

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Waste not want not...Chicken Stock

As December approaches, we have 12 Red Ranger Meat birds that are about ready for processing. These will fill the freezer and pantry and keep us full and content through  the winter months.
Once we cook a chicken for dinner, the remains are never thrown away. They are used to make the Most delicious chicken stock you may ever taste.
Stock is an essential around here for adding to anything from soups to casseroles and can always give a boring meal a little kick.

You may Can or Freeze the stock for later use. We really have to can it, as I do not have much freezer space, just a small freezer above the fridge. We can not have a chest freezer being off grid, so most everything here is canned.
If you have the space to freeze it, it keeps just as well that way!

Here is the recipe I use..
If you don't have peppercorns, bay leaf, celery,, that's quite ok, it still turns out delicious.

* leftovers from one 3-5 lb chicken
* 4 Quarts water ( I usually add  more water as it boils down)
* 2 Stalks Celery
* 1 onion
* 10 peppercorns
*2 Bayleaves
*1 Tbsp Salt or more if you wish

Combine all ingredients in a pan, bring to a boil then let simmer for a couple hours. Remove all the ingredients from the stock using a strainer )..

If canning return to a boil and fill sterilized jars...

Pressure Can Pints 20 minutes Quarts 25 at 10 lbs pressure ( please be sure to check your altitude to see if you need to use 15 lbs pressure)

If freezing in bags, let cool, fill bags and then lay flat on cookie sheet to freeze, this will make it easy to store in the freezer..


The Cools