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

Monday, November 10, 2014

A new fence for the Garden

The last few days have been absolutely gorgeous,, mid 60's and sunny, and it has allowed us to get some projects started that have been on our list for some time.

Robb started on my new fence and I could not be happier! We saw a fence like this at the Schiele Museum in Gastonia NC. while visiting there for my daughters 7th Birthday. They had a mock 1800's Homestead set up, and for the garden they had a fence made of branches ( saplings) .I knew right then I wanted this fence for my back gardens!
We eventually want to do this for all the gardens,, but it may take awhile, as I have 4 separate gardens one of which is really big.
we have used everything for fencing, from chicken wire to plastic netting, and it just never looked nice. It really didn't even do a very good job at keeping the chickens out, as they could slip underneath the plastic fencing.

We are surrounded by National Forest, so there is no shortage of Trees here...;)

We decided on Rebar as opposed to treated lumber, A) because I just didn't think big posts would look nice with the smaller branches, B) we have a bunch of Rebar laying around that could be used..
So this is essentially a FREE fence, We do have to purchase a couple more pieces of Rebar, but had enough to go half way around. Fencing is expensive, so the fact that his is gorgeous and is costing us next to nothing is a bonus.

All you need to do this are Sapling Trees and posts of your choice.. You need to use sapling as the wood is green and pliable so you can weave it in and out of the posts....
As branches rot or fall, etc.. You can just stack more on and replace them.

Stil have a ways to go , you can see where its staked, we have one side done as of now.. Hope to get the rest done in the next week or so.

The Cools

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Starting a fire, the easy way!

Ok, so after 6 yrs of having our cookstove, you think I would be a pro at starting a fire. Truth be told , I was ok at it. and as a lot of your woostove folks out there,  I had those mornings where all I wanted was a warm house, and I couldn't get a fire started for the life of me ( ok I got it started eventually) without a lot of smoke and generous amount of  swearing mixed in, haha..
My husband tried to convince me to start a fire his way, being stubborn it took me a couple months to agree.. and let me tell you, THIS IS THE WAY to start a fire... set it and forget it,, lights up every time perfect!!
We would like to take credit for this technique, but Robb actually read it somewhere in Countryside Magazine a few years back.....and individual had wrote in , explaining how to start a perfect fire every time..  and he was right, so whoever you are,, Thank you!!

Ok, easy peasy

                                            * set 2 small logs on each side of the fire box
* place newspaper , paper etc in between the logs

Place Kindling wood on top of newspaper in cross cross fashion. we use stick sometimes, but love cut up pallets for our kindling.

Light it up!
Let me know how this works for you!  I don't think I'll ever start a fire another way :)

The Cools

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Death of a feathered family member

A few days ago we lost our Americauna chicken "Fire". It was sad but expected in a way because she was pretty old, about 5 1/2 yrs old.. She was a fierce egg layer and quite possibly the sweetest chicken we have ever owned.
Now we don't have burials this extensive for all of our chickens. Usually only the ones my daughter ends up naming.. and then somehow they are initiated into the family ;)
All Named chickens usually get buried in my flower bed. and receive a headstone. "Fire" also got a violin solo from Norah.. Its was pretty cute....

About a half hour later, Norah comes inside.. sits down and says
"Mom, can we study "Fires" Brain?

me: ummm what?

"Can we take "Fires" Brain out and study it.....

Don't worry "Fire" I told her no.....

I hope this indicates a future in the science field and nothing else..hehe

Until next time..
The Cools

Monday, November 3, 2014

Canning apples ( and other fruit)

Good Morning! A chilly 26 Degrees this morning so I figured I would keep my bones warm by the Cookstove and post  on the  Blog today.
I have had lots of people who wanted me to blog about Canning. There are so many variations when it comes to canning. 
Low acid foods need pressure canned ( beans, potatoes, corn etc)
Foods with a higher natural acidic content ( like peaches, apples, tomatoes( which are borderline) etc. can be canned with a water bath canner.
You can purchase a Water Bath canner at most any local store ( I hate to say Walmart, because I despise that place,, but hey if you gotta go there, so be it :) I honestly can not remember what mine cost.. maybe 20-30 dollars.
You will also need a canning Utensil set like this

this had everything you need to can safely without burning yourself.
Jar Grabber- for grabbing hot jars out of your canner
Magnet- for picking up hot canning lids and placing them on your jars
Funnel- for putting food and liquid into canning jars without making a complete Mess,
 plastic too-l to measure headspace on jar

OK , today I will talk about *CANNING APPLES FOR BAKING*.. peaches and pears are pretty much canned the exact same way, and at  the bottom of the blog, I will post the variations of sugar syrup and how much times the others need in the canner, as these things may be slightly different.

1. Get yourself some apples, whether its from an apple tree in your back yard or from a local market.. ( we have 5 apples trees that are not producing yet, so we usually do pick your own or a local market/farm). You can get a much better price picking your own and its a fun way to spend the day with the family!!!

2. STERLIZE JARS AND LIDS, this is very important as you want to eliminate germs bacteria dirt from the jars and then keep at that way. Fill up your canner about a little over half way and place on the stove heat on high.  Wash your Jars In hot hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Place the jars in the canner of hot water . This will keep the sterlilized while you are tending to the apples.
Place the Lids and Rings, in a small pot of hot water *** BE SURE NOT TO LET THE WATER BOIL AS IT WILL RUIN THE LIDS* keep it at a small simmer or just below that.

3. Make your sugar syrup solution... This recipe calls for 4 cups water 2 cups sugar and 2 tbsp. Lemonjuice. place in a large pan and heat to a good simmer...

4. Peel and slice apples. I Have this apple slicer, nothing fancy, but it works wonderful, just place it on apple and push down,, :) these are only a couple bucks..


4. Once you all your apples peeled and sliced ( I would say probably about 3 apples per quart jar?) place them in the sugar syrup so they are in a nice single layer ( ok I kinda stuff mine in there, just make sure they have room to move around and are covered in the syrup.) Let simmer for 5 minutes...

5. Take your jars out of the canner using your jar grabbers and line up on a towel, Place funnel on top of a jar and fill with hot apples.. Make sure you pack them in there good, without squishing them.

6. Ladel the hot syrup over the apples leaving 1" headspace,, remove air bubbles from jars using a flat tool of some sort.. wipe the rim of the jar with a clean towel and place the lid and ring on jar.


 7. Place jars in Canner of Boiling water ( it should be close to boiling at this point) making sure this is 1-2" of water covering the jars,, place lid on canner. Process Apples 20 Minutes in boiling water bath.. Remove from heat, set on towel and listen for the *PING* sounds, it means your jars are sealing! Do not touch jars or move them for about 24 hours,, then you can push on the top of the lid to see if the jars sealed. if it makes a popping sound when you push on it, it did not seal. you can place these in the fridge and use them in the next week.

These apples are great for Pie, apple crisp or apple crumble!
*NOTE: Granny Smith apples are recommended for this recipe, but I have used all sorts.


Sugar Syrup:
 light syrup2 1/4 sugar to 5 1/4 cups water,
 medium syrup 3 1/4 sugar to 5 cups water
Process time Pints 20 minutes Quarts 25

same as peaches :)

If I wasn't clear on something please feel free to comment with any questions or suggestions.