She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. Proverbs 31

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gardening for Wildlife

My friend, Cora of Hidden Riches From Secret Places, has sent me the most wonderful gardening book ~ Gardening for Wildlife published by the World Wildlife Federation. I do believe this is my favorite gardening book ever!

It is overflowing with all sorts of creative and inexpensive ways to attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife to our home. I plan to incorporate this book into our science curriculum this summer so the boys can enjoy its benefits as well!

Our property is forested with our home sitting right in the center. However, being a new home site, the wildlife tends to stay in the forest and "safe" places. My vision is to draw the creatures out and make our home garden blend into their natural habitat so we can enjoy them more.

So as a small step toward that goal, I mounted an old wooden birdhouse onto a cedar log and posted it at the entrance of our walking trail in the backyard. At the base, I've planted daffodil bulbs for a splash of color this spring. It's just a simple start but I'm so pleased with it.

Since Luke & I both enjoy woodworking, I hope to make a few similar birdhouses to tuck into little nooks & corners here and there throughout the summer.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Family ...

Life has been busy here at our home lately. Two of our boys graduate next week ~ Jase from high school and Luke from eighth grade.

It is a bittersweet time. I'm so very proud of the godly young men my boys have become and yet I miss that "little boy" sweetness. Yet, they remain joys to be with who still love being with family and for that I am so thankful. I heard Jase on the phone recently with a friend explaining that though he would love to visit with his friend, he had worked a lot lately and needed some time with his family. Such a blessing!

So today I just decided to share some family photos. I have no greater blessing on earth than to share my life with these precious souls.

Luke (14), Jeffrey (?), Jase (18)

One of family favorite fun activities is playing crochet outdoors. My mom and dad always played with my sister and I. Even as we became adults, Mom & Dad brought the fun of this game into our church group and the whole bunch of us would play at picnics and outings. Now when we ask the boys what they want to do today, often they'll say "let's play crochet." This photo was taken during one of those games. The expression on Luke's face tells you that he did NOT win! LOL But no matter who wins, we always have fun!

Jeffrey & Colton (10)

Jeffrey & Colton ~ best buddies ~ but Colton will forever be a Mama's boy. God gave this precious child an extra dose of sweetness and love. He is loved by everyone who meets him. He has made more friends in his 10 short years than I in my 40 years! He is truly a blessing to our lives.

Finally here is a photo of me with my new kitten, Cotton ~ short for Cotton Candy! Isn't he the cutest thing you've ever seen? He only has a black tail and one black spot near his ear. And he is a runt so he is so tiny that he looks like a doll.

If you haven't yet, scroll on down to my Giveaway Post. There's still to win a primitive bunny!

Have a blessed weekend,

Sunday, May 18, 2008

From My Kitchen - Gooseberry Patch Books

My FREE Gooseberry Patch recipe books arrived this weekend. And they are so neat! The two books, Family Favorite Recipes and Fall Favorites, contain recipes like Apple-Raisin Cobbler Pie, Pumpkin-Raisin Snack Cake, Mediterranean Spaghetti and Fall Butternut Stew.

And you can still get yours for FREE! Just click on one of the books above to go to the page. Fill out the form. Hit send. And before you know it, these wonderful little recipe books will arrive in your mailbox.

One more thing before you go ~ Tomorrow I'm having a fun giveaway right here at Farmhouse Blessings and another giveaway with my primitives group, Glad Tidings Primitives & Folkart! So be sure to come back and join the fun!


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Frugal Living ~ My New Solar Powered Clothes Dryer

Once again those rising prices have challenged our family to find creative ways to save money. So we decided to make the transition from our old electric clothes dryer to this new model.

With a couple of nails, some sturdy line, a few wooden clothes pin and three wonderful old trees, I created the ultimate clothes dryer. It is so easy to operate and very efficient. The operating manual's only instructions are to be aware of the weather report!

... and I couldn't be happier with it. I find it so relaxing to just take my laundry outdoors while listening to birdsong as I hang each piece. I actually look forward to laundry now. I am going to plant some flowering perennials around those trees to add to the pleasure.

My goal is to plan my laundry days around our weather from now until winter and only use our electric dryer for a 5 minutes fluff on clothing. I'm looking so forward to the impact it will make on our energy expenses!

Live joyfully,

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Frugal Living ~ Homemade Laundry Soap Update

Both enamelware pots came from the thrift store for under $5 total!

I just had to give an update on my journey with this homemade laundry soap recipe. I have been using it for 2 months now and I'm loving it!

Not only is it saving us lots of money, but my clothes are fresh and really clean. No soap residue. No extra rinse cycle so we're conserving water as well as energy. I feel so good about cutting out the extra dyes and chemicals from the clothing my family wears.

I now add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to the rinse cycle and no longer use liquid fabric softener or dryer sheets. Just do a google search and read about the chemicals used in these products. Yikes!

My friend, Cora of Hidden Riches From Secret Places, has also found some additional uses for the laundry soap. Just click on her name to read more about her experience.

If you've given homemade laundry soap a try, I'd love to hear what you think or if you've made any changes or improvements.

I'm also trying 2 new homemade cleaners this week as well. They are pure and inexpensive. I'll be posting the recipes later this week!

Wishing you joy,

Monday, May 12, 2008

From My Kitchen ~ Amish Friendship Bread

Here is Mrs. Smith's recipe for Amish Friendship Bread that so many asked about.

In order to make this recipe, you need some starter from a friend or you can begin your own. I found a good recipe for making your very own starter.

Amish Friendship Bread Starter
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup milk

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Let stand 10 minutes. In a 2 quart container glass, plastic or ceramic container, combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or flour will lump when milk is added. Slowly stir in 1 cup milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Cover loosely and let stand until bubbly.

Consider this day 1 of the 10 day cycle. Leave loosely covered at room temperature.

Amish Friendship Bread
With starter that you have made above OR starter from a friend ~ follow this schedule for 2 delicious loafs of bread.

HINT: Mrs. Smith gave me the starter in a heavy duty 1 gallon zip lock bag. It really made preparing this bread so simple. It was easy to mix. She wrote the dates on the bag which made remembering when to add ingredients much easier as well.

Day 1: Stir or squeeze bag.
Day 2: Stir or squeeze bag.
Day 3: Stir or squeeze bag.
Day 4: Stir or squeeze bag.
Day 5: Stir or squeeze bag.
Day 6: Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk.
Day 7: Stir or squeeze bag.
Day 8: Stir or squeeze bag.
Day 9: Stir or squeeze bag.
Day 10: Pour all the starter in a large bowl. Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk. Mix.

Pour 3 - 1 cup starters into separate containers or ziploc bags. Keep 1 bag for yourself to begin the process again and give 2 starters to friends so they can enjoy some bread too!

Use the remaining starter to bake your bread using the following recipe:

Important notes to remember:
Do not refrigerate
Do not use metal spoons or bowl
If using a plastic bag, release air when necessary
It is normal for starter to thicken, bubble & ferment

Okay ~ let's get started!

Add to the remaining starter:
1 cup oil
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 large box vanilla instant pudding
2 tsps cinnamon
Fruit, veggies or nuts of your choice

Mix ingredients well and pour into 2 greased and sugared loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Cool.

It is sooooo good! I really enjoy the versatility of this bread. You can use whatever fruits or vegetables that are in season or on sale at the market. The loaves I made were just stuffed with plump blueberries that I got from a local farmer last year.

My "vultures" would hardly let me get a photo before they were holding out their plates. They were so ashamed that the covered their faces when I turned the camera toward them! LOL

Thanks Mrs. Smith! You've made my boys very happy.

Happy Eating,

Friday, May 9, 2008

Apron Fun

When I've not been outside enjoying this beautiful spring weather, I've spent a little time doing a bit of sewing which is something I enjoy so very much. I thought I'd share a couple of the aprons that I've stitched up.

These two harvest aprons were made for two sweet ladies who have been so kind to me. You know who you are, and I hope you know how very much I appreciate your friendships!

Both aprons were made from a pattern found in MaryJane's Ideabook. It is a lovely but simple pattern that uses only 2 complimentary 1/2 yards of fabric. The panel on the front of these aprons is a large pocket ~ perfect for gathering eggs, veggies from the garden or to carry your small gardening tools.

I also completed this very special apron for my dear mom as a Mother's Day gift. (Love you, Mom!) For this I used a basic Simplicity pattern but added a flirty ruffle and some sassy oversized pockets. I sure hope she likes it!

Blessings & joy,

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Our Rustic Arbor

And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden. Genesis 2:4

For what seems like forever, I have dreamed of a rustic arbor on which to grow flowering vines and gourds. I've always enjoyed when gardeners create outdoor rooms with an entryway all blooming and green. It's almost magical and makes me think of the very first garden that God created in Eden. I can only begin to imagine its splendor.

And the earth brought forthe grass, and herb yielding seed after its kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was itself, after his kind; and God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:12

So my son Luke (14) & I began this project together for our eastern garden room. On a frugal budget, we hauled fallen cedars from the woods surrounding our home. Using hand tools, Luke cut the lengths for me and hammered them together. I just pointed and sat on the logs to hold them still! LOL If I had to do it over, I'd use bolts but that will be for my next arbor!

Here are some photos of that little area before our arbor.

We added the birdbath and feeder in April. It is surrounded by flowers from my friend, Tami, which will bloom for us next spring.

Finally, here is our very primitive & rustic arbor ~ its a good thing I like prims! It is surprisingly sturdy after we sunk the feet 1 foot into the ground. (Thank you, Jeffrey, for digging those holes!) I have already planted morning glories and moonflowers. The morning glories will bloom during the daytime and when they close at dusk, the fragrant white moonflowers will open to catch the moonlight.

I still need to add an A frame roof of twigs. I'm still working on and may add it later this weekend IF I can figure it out.

Luke & I are enjoying our success! I was trying to hide the fact that I was still wearing my pajama pants by using the watering can, but it didn't work! LOL Pajama pants or not, I still wore my apron!

If I only I could post a photo of the picture in my imagination. My vision for this outdoor room is so pretty. It is my hope to fill in the area from the tree to the arbor and then from the arbor to the house with flowering bushes & plants to make a screen of green so that when you walk through the arbor it will open up to an emerald room where we can picnic and enjoy crochet ~ one of our family favorite games!

Any suggestions? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Blessings & joy,

Monday, May 5, 2008

From My Kitchen ~ Blueberry Pecan Quick Bread

Such a delicious fruit-filled quick bread that can be easily doubled and frozen! The serving dish in the photo is a "thrifty" find that my mom picked up for only $2. It is so pretty, and I just "love" serving bread to my family in this lovely piece.

1/4 c shortening
1/4 c margarine/butter
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 c bananas, mashed
1-1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon
1/2 c quick oats
1/2 c blueberries
1/2 c nuts, chopped

In a large bowl, cream shortening, margarine and sugar together. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition; stir in bananas.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir oats, blueberries and nuts into dry ingredients. Carefully blend the dry mixture into the creamed mixture, stirring only to moisten.

Pour batter into a well greased 9x5 loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan. Allow bread to cool completely on a wire rack.

This is a very versatile recipe. I added 1/2 cup more blueberries and left out the oats because I didn't have the quick oats. You can use walnuts or pecans or just leave the nuts out altogether. Just use what you have in your pantry!


Friday, May 2, 2008

Farmgirl Pleasures

Yesterday, the boys and I had the pleasure of visiting with our friends Julie, David & Jireh of Principles of the Founding Fathers. Everyone ought to have such sweet friends as they are. We just love them to pieces!

And we had the distinct pleasure of spending time with Julie's parents, Mr. & Mrs. Smith as well.

Julie, Mr. Smith & me

Mr. Smith is an accomplished gardener and gave us a tour of his gardens & orchard while imparting to us some of his extensive knowledge of gardening. It was so exciting, and I took 4 pages of notes.

Here is a photo of one of his apple trees. He has grafted many different species of apple onto this one tree and it bears ... are you sitting down ... 13 different types of apples! Isn't that amazing? I can hardly wait to return in the fall for a peek at that!

He also has a tree that bears peaches, plums and nectarines! He tells us that in springtime the 3 distinctly different blooms attract lots of attention from folks passing by. I can only imagine!

Mr. Smith & Colton enjoying the new tiny peaches

This particular grapevine produced 30 gallons last year.

I so enjoyed listening to this soft spoken man share his passion of growing all things that I forgot to take pictures of some of his plants. He has strawberry plants that were in his mother's garden and are 40-50 years old ... and they're still bearing fruit!

Luke, Mr. Smith & Jase

I so admired the teamwork between Mr. & Mrs. Smith. He grows the bounty, and she turns it into delightful meals for her family. It is so simple yet so very beautifully a picture of teamwork within a marriage. I was inspired.

The boys & I were the very fortunate recipients of a loaf of Mrs. Smith's Strawberry Amish Bread. It was soooo good that (I'm a bit ashamed to admit this) it never made it home. We ate the whole thing on the ride home! LOL I didn't even get a photo.

Me, Mrs. Smith & Colton along with the unopened loaf of Strawberry Bread that has never been seen again!

But I did get a bag of starter so I can make my very own on May 16th when the starter will be ready. I'm so glad because the boys told me on the way home, "Mom, we hope we don't hurt your feelings. But this is the best bread we've ever eaten!"

Sounds like I may need to spend another afternoon with the Smiths to get some cooking lessons!