I’m a Bad Blogger, but a Decent Farmer

So, it’s been a long time since I blogged and I apologize. When you hear some of the things we’ve done, though, I’m sure you will understand.

In April we mostly moved to the farm to be with my grandmother and mother. Moving was a big deal — it always is. I swear if I ever move again I am only taking my clothes. We had to move stuff just to be able to move our stuff in. We had an auction house come get a large truckload of items and auctioned it off. We had Haven House, a local domestic violence shelter, come out 3 times for donations. We sold a lot of our stuff or gave it away.

It was really stressful. Blending two homes and grieving at the same time is not exactly the best way to accomplish a move, but we did it and we survived.

We planted a garden. A nice, big garden with tomatoes, corn (that fizzled along with most of the nation’s), cucumbers, zucchini, lots of herbs, radishes, hot peppers, and cantaloupe! I am so excited about the cantaloupe.

We cleaned out some cars that had been sitting here for 15 years. This enabled us to get into parts of the barn that had been shut off for a really long time. I started posting things on Craigslist as architectural salvage and reclaimed barn wood and have had the most amazing response. Yesterday we took 900 pounds of metal to the salvage place. Owie. I’m sore. It feels great to have that gone, though.

We got 2 chickens and 2 goats. I love them. The hens are so cute and the friendliest I’ve seen. One is a Barred Rock and her name is Wilma. Betty is our Rhode Island Red. Something tried to eat Betty one night and she got a bit banged up so we made a new reinforced coop. They each lay an egg a day. The goats are Nubian and one is a nanny and her name is Prism. She has the prettiest eyes. The other one is a neutered boy and his name is Joe and he is such a little sweetheart.

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On June 10th, we added a new puppy. Minnie is her name and I just ADORE HER. She is a mini-doxie and she made me smile through a really difficult time emotionally. She fits in like she’s always been here.

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She’s not necessarily a rescue, like our other dogs, but she was being re-homed. Always adopt!

We did manage to take 2 little vacations. One was to Cullhowee, NC, to visit my cousins. That was just Derek and me for two days, but it was really fun at the 4th of July. The other was a family vacation to Charleston, SC. I will never drive to Florida again. We went to Folly Beach and all of us fell in love with the whole trip. I was very fortunate to have many friends offer to take care of our animals and Gran while we were gone!

We’ve also worked on repairing the house. It now has a new roof and gutters and even new wall/siding in a few areas. We have done so much work! Goat sheds and fences and chicken coops and gardens and hauling out trash and selling items.

Also, I hate ticks. Hate. Ticks. Thankfully our hens have gobbled up the ones around the house.

I miss Grampa. I wish he was here to help advise on some of this stuff. When I go out and clear trees and brush I think of him and appreciate all the hard work he put into this place.

The Dream Changed a Little… Grampa Died (Part One)

My last post told how we were going to make plans to move to my grandparents farm in Sevierville. Sadly, my grandfather, Thomas J. Hall,  passed away on Sunday, February 26th, 2012 at 8:12 p.m. I think it would be therapeutic for me to blog about what happened.

On that Sunday we had packed up a few extraneous items for our home and were going to store them up at their house in preparation for putting our house up for sale. We had planned to get there around noon, but that changed when a friend of mine wanted to come over and visit. As soon as she left, we headed up there. We stopped at Krystal’s in Seymour.. a random detail, I know, but it sticks out in my head. I don’t know exactly what time we pulled in the driveway near the barn, but my grandfather’s truck was already there and he was in the barn attempting to move some hay. We stopped and my husband went to help him while my daughter and I wandered through the barn looking at it and making plans. She and I decided to walk up to the hill where our house would go. Grampa didn’t seem to want to go and it struck me he must not be feeling well. I’m so glad I gave him a hug when I saw him.

We came back down and got in our car, with Grampa following in his truck to go up to their house. My husband said, “Grampa was spitting up/vomiting a little.” I said, “What?” I really couldn’t grasp that because I’ve never known my grandfather to vomit in my entire lifetime. My husband said well, he says he feels a bit mucousy from allergies maybe. This also didn’t sound like him and I actually worried a bit that he had caught some stomach virus that was raging around town. We drove up to their house and got out and began unloading our packed items into their garage. I noticed Grampa wasn’t eagerly running to get boxes. Then he began clearing his throat a lot and vomiting. At this point I became extremely concerned, especially knowing that vomiting can be a sign of a heart attack.

We had him sit down once he stopped vomiting and got the blood pressure cuff. It was 250/160!!! I said go get aspiring NOW! My daughter ran for it. We gave him some and kept taking his B/P to see if it would come down. It did immediately begin coming down… but still not what you would call good numbers. He has suffered his whole life with a slow heart beat, down in the 40’s sometimes and usually had low to normal blood pressure and a pulse rate. I had him lay on his left side and kept asking him questions and he kept refusing an ambulance, but then he finally said he had been having some pressure in his chest. That was it, I called 911. The ambulance was actually driving past the property and they were up to the house in 3 minutes from the time of the call.

The paramedics were so nice — they put an EKG on him and said, yes you are having a heart attack but it looks like we’ve caught it. They asked where to go and I said Fort Sanders Regional so long as it wasn’t a flat out emergency and we had to go to Sevierville — they said if it was bad that Sevierville would send him back to Regional anyway. I asked if I could ride in the ambulance and they said yes. The whole way there, Grampa was doing well and I heard them give him Nitro, start an i.v., give him Zofran, etc. At some point I learned our car had a flat tire and that my husband, grandmother, and daughter were following in Grampa’s truck.

We arrived at the E.R. and the doctor looked at the heart tracings and said how great the medics were at stabilizing him. I went off to register him and came back to find he was doing what seemed to be quite well. They fussed at him about moving the hay and I was standing by him holding his hand and I said, “No more doing the horses.” Grampa said, “Who will do them?”. I said, “We will.” He got tears in his eyes and said, “What will I do if I can’t work? Just sit around?”. I said, “I need you to stay around so I can move up there and you can be with me.” Another doctor came in and I turned around and started bawling. A sweet nurse came over and held me and reassured me that we had gotten there in time and praised the paramedics and my giving him aspirin and knowing the symptoms of a heart attack. The doctor told us we needed to get him up to the catheter lab to find the blockage and repair it. I asked if they could wait just a minute because his wife had arrived and just then in came Derek, Gran, and Andin. We all got to tell him we loved him and we would see him soon. He was quite relaxed and happy as they took him out the door and Gran said, “Don’t you die, Tom Hall!”

We went up to the ICU waiting room and were told how it worked about the recliners for sleeping, etc. The employee who was there was fantastic and very soothing. After a bit, maybe 7:00 ish, she came out and told us he was doing well they didn’t think he would even go to ICU or CCU but into what is called a step down room. Whew! I called Andin’s dad to see if he could come get her so she could go to his house for school the next day. Derek was going to leave and get AAA to repair our flat tire. Gran and I sat there for another hour… or a bit longer and I started feeling really anxious. I got up and paced. Gran decided to go to the bathroom.. it was maybe a bit after 8:30. A woman from the cath lab came in and asked for us. I said, “Here we are but my gran is in the bathroom.” She said she would wait and sat down. I was afraid to ask anything. Gran came back and the woman told us the doctor would talk to us now. We got up and she said bring our things.. this didn’t sound right to me because we had been told we would be staying in the recliners or in his room when he got to one.

The walk to where she was taking us was awful. She tried chatting with Gran, but I kept thinking this isn’t right, something is wrong. We went through some double doors and she began to put us in a little conference room. I lost it then. I looked at her and slightly shook my head and she shook her head back. She closed the door and I stared at my Gran wondering if I should warn her. She looked so happy to find out how he was doing and to maybe see him soon. I said, Gran.. something isn’t right. We stared at each other with sick dread. She said do you think he died?! I said I do.. but maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m wrong… but I knew I wasn’t. The woman came back in and said the doctor was on his way but we were too distraught and begged to know. She said he had died. She held Gran and I stood there and shook uncontrollably. I called Derek and sobbed” You have to come back RIGHT NOW.”

The doctor came in and was so nice.. and looked truly upset. He said he never in a million years thought he would be standing here telling us this — that he thought we not only had caught it in time, but that he could find the blockage and repair it. He said the veins and arteries were just too far gone and that Grampa had a massive acute onset heart attack and that was it. A nurse came in, too, and told me that Grampa was joking and cutting up with her and then it just happened — that there was no worry or suffering for him. It was instant and nothing they did to bring him back worked.

(to be continued)

Dream Come True

We plan in the next little while to move to some property in Sevier County, TN and have our own farm and home. We’ll have to sell this house first. We’ll have to figure out my teenager’s school schedule and where she will want to go. We have to have surveys and appraisals and all sorts of things done.. things that are fairly unfamiliar. It’ll all work out, though, and it’s going to be a lot of good, honest, hard work.

I want goats and chickens and a solar dehydrator.. and a greenhouse out of repurposed materials.. lots of projects on my to-do list. There is no time limit for any of them. I have begun packing extraneous items to clear the house out for easy selling.

Saturday we went to the property and chose our spot. My grandparents walked with us and it was one of the best moments I’ve ever spent with them.  Here are some photos of the property. Please send good vibes!

How blessed am I that we will get to have a farm to be more self-sustaining — and in one of the most beautiful areas of the country.

Finally! A Gluten-Free Bread Recipe for the Bread Machine (that you want to eat)!

I’ve tried a few times to make gluten free baked goods. Let’s just say most of them elicit a polite “Good try.” from my family as they discreetly place the offensive food in the trash…or give it to the dogs.  It makes me sad because I’m actually a great bread maker.. well, a great baker in general, minus fancy cakes. Plus, my husband has to be missing bread by now — he has been seriously committed to being gluten free for over a month.

So, I am very grateful to have found this recipe:

http://lynnskitchenadventures.com/lra/gluten-free-bread-machine-bread/

I have a hard time following recipes exactly. I’m a substituter. Yes, I know that’s not really a word, but it describes me. Therefore, for this recipe, I didn’t use potato starch or powdered milk. I used a bit more water and a bit of garbanzo bean flour and olive oil instead of canola. The rest was followed exactly… and I used about 2 tbsp of yeast. I don’t have a GF setting on my bread machine, so I did the standard whole grain loaf for 4 hours.

It smelled delicious baking. I was almost afraid to open  the machine and see what I normally see from my GF attempts- some sad, soggy, rubbery piece of yuck. Here’s what it looks like!

Let’s hope my husband thinks it’s tasty! It’ll be served tonight along side a slow cooker of potato soup and a fresh salad.

 

2/13/12

Crafting!

I’ve just been in love with Pinterest lately. Rather than only spend time on there looking at all the great ideas, I really want to be sure I’m making some of the fantastic food and crafts. While we were having our house worked on this week, I took the opportunity to make a few things.

Recycled/upcycled tee shirt headbands:

I just love the green!

I also went a little crazy making braided bracelets out of recycled shirts. They weren’t all tee shirt material, so the textures are different.

These particular ones have a Hawaiian shirt cut up into them.. a very beachy feel. I’m looking forward to making some more cool things!

Nachos!

Yesterday I slow cooked a bag of black beans.. I do mine for nearly 24 hours on low. This morning I rinsed the beans and threw them in a pot with our last cherry tomatoes from our garden and covered it completely with water. I then used 2 packs of some store brand chili mix (sorry, sometimes I do take shortcuts and the mix is one of them) and let it simmer for a few hours until it was a thick, luscious consistency.

We knew this was going to be used for nachos, so here is the rest of the recipe:

Preheat oven to 350*

One bag of your preferred tortilla chips
One medium sized ripe avocado, finely chopped
One bunch of green onions, finely chopped
Approximately 2 cups of the black bean chili
1/3 block of tofu, fried (we had previously fried some and used the leftovers) and cut into small pieces
8 oz Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
Garlic to taste
Hot sauce to taste
Chili powder to taste.

Spread the chips on a baking sheet (I lined with foil to make cleanup easier). Scoop the black bean chili evenly over the chips (make sure the chili is not overly hot or it will instantly melt the cheese). Layer the cheese, then generously spread the green onions, avocado, and tofu around. Season to taste. Bake for approximately 10-15 min until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Enjoy!

Black Bean Fail

I burned an entire crock pot full of beans. They smell AWFUL. I accidentally had the slow cooker on high instead of low for the soak I do for beans. This puts a damper on chili tonight — so canned beans to the rescue!

Our garden is obviously nearly gone but I had enough cherry tomatoes to make stewed tomatoes for the chili. I threw in a bit of fresh garlic clove for flavor, sauteed 1/2 of a large onion in some olive oil, added the beans and my stewed tomatoes and some vegetarian “beef” crumbles. This is an easy vegan meal. We don’t eat vegan or vegetarian all the time, of course, but we do try to limit meat consumption.

Spices:

Generous portions of chili powder, cayenne pepper, powdered garlic (we love garlic!), a bit of black pepper, salt — all to taste. I would give you measurements, but I just sort of look at the portion size and adjust for taste.

We’ll eat it with some tortilla chips tonight.

Fall and Yarn (and food)

It’s so beautiful out in East TN!

Today I sat on my patio and crocheted a scarf and hat

I don’t use patterns for the scarves and hats I make.. I just pick some yarn and let inspiration take over.

While I crocheted these items, I made a ground beef and vegetable soup:

Brown 1/2 lb ground beef, add chopped onions until cooked. 3-4 small potatoes sliced, 1 and 1/2 cups of spinach, and a maybe 1/2 C of lentils, add water, cook until all items are cooked. I added salt, pepper, and garlic for spices — YUM!

I also used my bread machine to make Raisin/Cherry bread and mixed up some vanilla almond milk and confectioner’s sugar for icing. Wouldn’t it be great if bread machines could make more than one loaf at a time?

Grocery Shopping at Earth Fare

This morning some doula clients of mine gave me a $40 gift card to Earth Fare, which is just about the perfect gift anyone could give me. (Thanks B and H!) I had already planned to go grocery shopping today, so I headed to the Turkey Creek location of Earth Fare with plans to try to stay close to the amount of the gift card for my total expenditure.

Nope. I went over by more than double.

It’s ok, though. I came home with 3 lbs of natural, free-range, antibiotic/hormone free chicken thighs and legs for less than $5. I got 2 lbs of natural ground beef, which will be made into meatloaf tonight, along with the organic asparagus.

Other items I purchased:

Organic eggplant
Organic bananas
Organic green onions
Capers
Feta cheese
2 things of Tofu
2 Cartons of Almond Milk
2 Cartons of Kefir (oh, I love Kefir!)
2 boxes of Earth Fare’s brand of shells and cheese
2 cans of tahini (hummus, anyone?)
3 types of vitamins/supplements (one is a liquid calcium/magnesium/zinc/vit D/potassium blend in liquid form)

So while the total bill was $92.00, I really feel I got my money’s worth to get healthy food plus some supplements we needed. I’ll just try to go easier on the rest of the food budget for the month. I can’t wait to make something eggplanty and delicious.

Whole Wheat Pasta Casserole

Yesterday I made my “famous” chicken and dumplings for dinner (I’ll share the recipe at a later time). In order to make this, I get a small whole chicken and boil it in a large stockpot as the base for the chicken and dumplings. Then I take the carcass and immediately put it in the slow cooker (couldn’t imagine life without my slow cooker) and fill it with water. 24 hours later, I have this:

 

Gorgeous, beautiful, homemade chicken broth. Imagine how much use you can get from one small chicken!  Part of it was used in tonight’s dinner. I had bought a box of whole wheat rotini pasta from Big Lots ( a good place to score random gourmet food items) for $1. I began boiling the pasta and sauteed some onions and chicken sausage together. When the pasta was finished, I put it in my favorite casserole dish, spread the onions and sausage in, then added fresh kale, frozen corn, and olive oil, garlic, and a spice for use on grilled chicken. I grated some Sharp Cheddar cheese on top — and then ladled a few ladles of my fresh chicken broth into the dish. This is how it looked before it went into the oven.

I baked it on 350* for about 30-40 minutes. It was delicious. The chicken sausage could have been a little spicier, in my opinion, but it’s what I had in the freezer from a previous purchase from Angel Food Ministries.