Because I cannot Paint It!

“Are you a photographer?”  Dreaded question.

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I tell folks I like to take photographs.  That is about as far as I dare myself to go.  To call myself a photographer is just too big.  To be a photographer one must know what one is doing, know their camera inside and out (not!), and  how to get just the right image.

It is a big title—a photographer.  Same as calling oneself a painter—oh my!  It is true some of my photos have won prizes, in small shows.  I do sell note cards with images I thought would look pretty on cards, and a couple photos hang in the homes of kind folks.

So the main reason I take photographs is because I cannot paint it!  This post is to share with you photos I have taken.    It will be a joy should they bring a smile to your face or recall a pleasant memory.  Please let me know the ones you like!  It is always fun seeing which ones ‘speak’ to folks.  They all tell a story of some sort, yes?  Share your thoughts with this amateur you-know-what.

Happy Friday to you! 

Cowboy Stew

Who would not enjoy a big, steamy bowl of this fun-sounding stew?

Most of the ingredients are canned. 



Ingredients:

1 lb hamburger

1  medium onion chopped (or 2 onions if you like lots of them!  They are great for fighting colds!)

4-6 medium potatoes

Can of:  green beans, corn, and beans  (your favorite type of bean, any type will work).

Large can of diced tomatoes (if all you have is tomatoe sauce, that is fine).

Slice onion, not too thin.
Chop potatoes in a good-size bite!
Brown onion and potatoes while browning hamburger.

It saves time, and makes for great taste to brown onion, potatoes, and hamburger together.  Should they get sticky in the bottom of your dutch oven, add a small amount of water to loosen the goodness.  Also, turn your burner temperature down.  We tend to cook too hot!  Do not know what a dutch oven is?  Check out blog:  https://bluerockhorses.com/2018/10/05/the-million-dollar-question/

You must know your tools and how to make them work for you!

After the meat is browned, add the tomatoes, corn, beans, and green beans.  Season with 1 tsp salt and pepper.  If more broth is needed, add 1-2 cups of tepid water.  For extra fullness in flavor, stir in a teaspoon of beef bouillon into the water.  Better Than Beef is the bouillon of choice for me.

Remember, this is a stew, not a soup.  Which means it should not have as much broth as a soup.

  

Mix everything gently. 

Please do not boil your stew! It only needs to simmer gently.  There will surely be left-overs, and the best part?  They will taste even better the second and third night (or in a lunchbox!).

  This recipe will serve 4-6 with leftovers, which we always strive for! It can easily be doubled as well.  Simply double everything.

Kitchen Tips

Keep your pantry in a good supply of canned green beans, corn, diced (or crushed) tomatoes.  There are usually 5-6 cans of each in my pantry. 

Onion and potatoes should also have a permanent place in your pantry.  Take them out of the plastic bags (this causes them to rot faster), put them in pretty baskets!  Should the potatoes start growing ‘eyes’, break them off and toss out in your flower bed.  This will extent their shelf life (if you do not, the ‘eyes’ will cause potatoes to shrivel up). 

Enjoy!  

Thoughts and ideas are always welcome!

Homemade is healthiest and best!

The Million Dollar Question

Every mother and wife has heard it forever, it seems.  So, what is this question?

“What’s for dinner?”

And it comes everyday!  Even for those of us that enjoy cooking, everyday is a lot.  I am here to help you with this daily chore.  Sans a complete autobiography, suffice to say I raised four rowdy boys, and one brave little girl on one income in a small 1,800 square foot home.   For a couple years, four of the five were teenagers all at once!

They are all now grown and some with children of their own. Feeding them was a mighty daily chore, most especially with one income.  I can say with certainty it can be done, and done well.

So, I have decided to post on my blog recipes that are real winners with moms, dads, and children.  But before recipes come, the right cooking tools need to be on hand.  And anyone who follows my blog knows I love tools! Here is a fun blog on  The Tool Purse

Required Kitchen Tools:

Crock Pot  I do not recommend one over the other, except this, be sure it has a Low, High and Keep Warm feature. Also, I suggest you choose a good size one, at least big enough to hold a whole chicken, or a nice size roast.

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There are lots of crock pots to choose from.  Be sure it is large enough for a whole chicken.

Dutch Oven  This is a round heavy metal cooking pot with a snug fitting lid.  Can be used in oven or stovetop.  This is your most valuable kitchen cooking tool.  In the photo are two different types of Dutch Ovens.  The green enameled over cast iron cooks remarkable meals in remarkable time!  I use this one in the oven.  The stainless steel one I use on the stovetop.

Good Heavy Slotted Spoons and Solid Spoons  Good spoons are necessary tools for your kitchen.  There are so many to choose from.  Try them out before purchasing to be sure they fit your hand well, are comfortable, and have a good long handle.

 

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Have a good supply of sturdy slotted and solid spoons in your kitchen tool box!  The colored ones are fun!

 

 Good Thick Hot Pads   And plenty of them.  Also hold them in your hand to be sure they fit well, are soft and bend well.  Some are so stiff they are a danger for  handling hot pots and lids.

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Be sure your hot pads are thick, soft and pliable.  Do not forget to make them fun too!

 

So, check your kitchen ‘tool box’, be sure you have good tools for working and preparing the delicious meals you will be making for your family with yummy left-overs.  For a very fast starting recipe try this:

 

Crock Pot Whole Chicken

This is one of the easiest recipes to put together.  Do it in the morning before going to work.  It will take less than 15 minutes.

Remove whole chicken from plastic, discard the giblets.  Rinse chicken inside and out.  Place whole chicken, breast side up in crock pot.  Season with salt, pepper, paprika, or your favorite seasoned salt.

For extra flavor add onion and cloves of garlic.  No need to peel them.  They cook sweeter in their skins and can easily be pressed out of skins at end of cooking time with your fork.  Also add a few potatoes with skins on.  Pour a cup of water over all of it.  Set crock pot to “Low”, and go about your day.

You will need your slotted spoons to remove chicken from crock pot.  It will fall apart upon removal.  Arrange on a plate with the cooked potatoes, onion and garlic.   Allow to cool while your favorite vegetable cooks in a little boiling water on the stove.  After cooling some, remove the skin from the chicken, discard, the chicken will fall off the bone.

For extra yumminess, mash your potatoes with a fork, get a little juice with your solid spoon from crock pot, pour over meat, onions and potatoes.  Enjoy!  Let me know how it turned out!

This will serve a family of 4 or 5 for two nights (providing they are all not teenagers!).

 

Homemade is not as hard as you think!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calming the Grass-Fed Steers?

The steers have gone to a cool place.  Any reader  familiar with this blog knows what that means.  It is the hardest day for this PFO.  There is little hope this day will ever get easy.  They have been processed and delivered to the buyers.  Buyers who have an interest in the quality of food they eat.  They know the farmer.  They know the farm.

 

“Are they grass-fed only?”  The most asked question heard from interested buyers.  “No, they are not.”

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Are they grass-fed only?

What many folks do not realize is that cattle have a natural fear of man.  Unlike dogs, cats, and other household pets, cattle have to be taught to feel comfortable around humans.  The way this works for us is with feed.  As I heard a cattleman say once, “Feed keeps the cattle humble.”

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Cattle have to learn to feel comfortable around humans.

What does that mean?  Here it means getting close to the cattle.  This is of utmost importance to this PFO.  They are visually checked daily for injuries, pests, and vital signs.  Is their breathing normal, eyes bright, coat healthy looking and coming on nicely for cold weather?  Do they have a good appetite?  Are they interested in their surroundings?

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Feed allows us to get close to them.

When they are trained to come to the feed call and beating of the feed bucket, they are willing to hang around we humans.  If these steers were totally grass fed, I suppose we would need re-training on how to properly care for them.  Until our steers are comfortable with us, they spend all their time in the woods and graze at the farthest points in the pasture.  They bolt away should we get too close.

 

After learning to come in when called for feeding time there is a peacefulness to the day here with all the animals.  They will hang around with the horses and chickens and feel far more at ease.  This is the goal for us.  Is there a more bucolic scene than cattle resting in grass chewing their cud?  Well, do not answer that.  Suppose we are cattle folks at heart!

Training does not take too long.  A couple weeks going out into the field to bring them in quickly gives way to them coming when they hear our voices calling.

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Our steers get plenty of fresh air and all the grass they can eat.

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It does not take them long to learn the sound of the feed bucket.

 

Our goal here at the farm with our hand-raised steers is to give them plenty of fresh air, a place to run, and all the green grass they can eat, along with a little feed to keep them near us for the best of the best care for them.  Right now, as I write this, the steers are out lying in the wet, wet grass peacefully chewing their cud…

 

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Feed allows us to give the steers the best of best care.

 

 

Know the farmer.   Know the farm.

Homemade is best.

Humid Summer and Frigid Winter Work

What drives a man to want his career in life to be outside work at the mercy of hot, humid summers, and cold, wind-driven winters?  Ben Harrison, proprietor of Harrison Custom Fencing in Boyce, Virginia, will be happy to answer that question.

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               Ben Harrison, Proprietor, Harrison Custom Fencing, Boyce, Virginia

Being outside was the first answer he gave.  Not once did he did complain about the weather being too hot, or cold.  He just wants to be out-of-doors.  “Being my own boss,”  was his second reason for why he started his custom fencing business back in 1982.  Ben is not a man of many words.  Good thing I had plenty of questions!

“What do you enjoy most about your business,” was my next question.  He gave a little chuckle.  “There is something fun about being in charge, having a crew, and having them work.”  I laughed out loud at his response to this question, “What do you like least about your work?”  His rapid response?  “Don’t like rocks, too much to do.”

 

Questions turned to equipment as I asked him about that huge truck he used to drive the posts into the ground.  Intimidating is a good word to describe this enormous truck.  He called it a Guard Rail Post Driver.  I called it scary!   Ben could literally drive that massive machine from post to post through  levers on the back of the bed!  No time would be wasted climbing in and out of the truck to the next post.    Hydraulic power was the force used to slam the 1,600# weight onto the fence post into the ground.  That truck was frightful and amazing at the same time.

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The heavy weight just hit the post. Ben is checking to see if the post is level.

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It is hard to see just how big this machine is.

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Ben can drive this truck to the next post from the back end.  He’s ‘driving’ it now!

His crew of four men were kind and patient with all the questions and photos from this nosey PFO.  There is something wonderful and amazing about men and women who work their job well.   This is how I know they are good at what they do, because they make it look easy!

I hope you enjoy these photos.  They speak for themselves for a job beautifully done.  Thank you Ben and your fine crew.

 

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Beautiful job.

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The fence has upgraded the looks of our farm.

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Harrison Custom Fencing (old fence will be removed)

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New fence heartily approved by this self-appointed farm inspector!  

Thank you again, Ben.

 

Know the farmer.  Know the farm.

Homemade is best.

Run Between the Raindrops!

We Virginians that live here in the northern Shenandoah Valley should all be a little lighter in body weight this summer.  The spring rains have yet to end in our part of the world.  Looks like rain again today as well.

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Looks like rain again today.

Our summer has been spent running between the raindrops, mowing and weeding the gardens between storms.  And storms they have been!  Torrential rains, thunder, magnificent lighting all across the skies.  Flash floods, roads washed out, downed trees, broken fences from fallen limbs, and piles of cut grass have kept us occupied all summer.  One would think a few pounds would surely be lost in the busyness of this yard work!

 

A few of we hardy gardeners have thrown in the towel on our gardens.  Tomatoes are plentiful—just green, green.  The crabgrass seems to be the main item happily taking over every space not even previously known to us,  where does it come from?  Though the field corn has faired well.  There may be some fall planting, though no commitments as yet.  Given the choice though, this wet weather seems better than drought.  Sure wish we could give some to California.

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We have had rain all summer.

We Shenandoah Valley folk take what we get as far as weather goes.  Try to see the best in it, and smile at the start of another fine day, rain or not.  There is always something worthy of our attention and good to do everyday.

 

There have been few summers that have stayed this wet with grass so lush and beautiful into August.  Well, this too shall pass, as the old adage says.  So, in the meantime, keep your mower blades sharp, fuel tanks full and good humor running full blast.  Oh, and do not forget a good, tall glass of lemonade!

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The field corn has faired well.

The old-timers say, “Make hay while the sun shines!”  Well, guess what?  The sun is shining right now.  Time for this PFO to get out there with the weed eater!

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As we old-timers say, “Make hay while the sun shines.”

Know the farmer.  Know the farm.

Homemade is best.

 

 

The Art of the Smithy

The blacksmith may be not on every corner these days, but he is alive and well at my twinsters’ ranch in Green Mountain Falls,  Colorado.  Her son, Joseph, was taught the art of blacksmithing years ago.  He learned this skill well from the master smithy at Rock Ledge Ranch in Colorado Springs, CO.  A beautiful tourist attraction for those interested in the history of the farming folks that settled the area.

 

He began in the shop as a teenager, and now, well into his 20’s he is accomplished in this art/trade.  He was asked to make flower crooks for his sisters wedding this past June.  With the help of his Virginian cousin (who is a greenhorn), they crafted twelve beautiful flower crooks.  Two of these lovely pieces of hand-wrought crooks made their way back to my gardens here in Virginia.

 

It took all afternoon to make these pieces of art.  Yet, I did not tire in watching these two smithies craft plain steel bars into lovely pieces of useful art.  Joseph was teaching Gordon as they were making the crooks.  It was fascinating, and even this Primary Farm Operator was learning a few things!  In fact, Joseph being the fine teacher he is, let this ‘ole PFO have a few whacks on the anvil!  What an amazing song is sung with the hammer on the anvil!

 

 

In addition to teaching us the craft of blacksmithing, Joseph also shared some interesting and fun sayings used in our daily talk that is attributed to this craft:

 

“Knock the daylight out of it.”  A term used of the master blacksmith to an apprentice.  To take a bend out of the metal the apprentice would place the bend upwards on the anvil—and hit it.  This straightens the metal and removes the daylight between the metal and anvil.  So, in other words—‘Straighten Up!”

“Too many irons in the fire.”  A reference to having too many pieces of metal in the fire, which could cause some of them to burn because of too many.

“Loose your temper.”  Tempering is a process of metal.  After hardening it, it is tempered to make it a good balance of hard and flexible.  If the temper is lost, so is the usefulness of the piece.

“Strike while the iron is hot!”  That’s a blacksmiths life.

“It has a nice ring to it.”  Refers to the sounds a good anvil makes when struck 🙂 !!

 

 

The beautiful finished crooks!

Here is a beautiful poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for your enjoyment:  The Village Blacksmith

Thank you, Joseph, for your time, talent, teaching, and contribution to this blog post.

Homemade is Best!

Be it food or metal!

Know the farmer and the Smithy! 🙂

Can You See What is Going On?

Blogging and summer just do not seem to get along together.  Most especially after this wet, rainy Spring we have had here in our part of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  This PFO (Primary Farm Operator) has been in constant battle with the flourishing, well-watered weeds in the gardens.

As soon as one bed is looking like someone cares for it, the ‘make-you-loose-your-religion’ Crabgrass has moved happily back in!  Grrrrrrrr……

 

This short post though is about something all together different.   At the end of this post is a video of the steers in the pond.  Watch the two steers standing close together.  Watch carefully and to the very end of the video.  Something very interesting is going on.  Can you see it?

 

The fish are jumping out of the water and eating the flies that are annoying and biting the cattle.  Can you see them?  How cool is that?  God’s World is amazing and never ceases to amaze this old PFO.  Yeah!

 

Happy Summer!

Homemade is Best!

Don’t say ‘Small’, say ‘Intimate’

Father Harry and I raised five children in an eighteen-hundred square foot home.  Four of these busy little critters were boys and one sister, who is the youngest.  Twenty plus years of busyness filled that simple, happy home.  I was describing our ‘small’ house one day to a dear friend.  She sweetly reprimanded me and said this paradigm shifting comment,  “Don’t say ‘small’, say ‘intimate’ “.

 

What a different frame it put around my thoughts of our smaller-than-everyone else’s place.  We had suddenly become a family that was no longer crowed together,  but rather characterized by “close personal relations;  warm friendship;  warm, cozy.”  How strong and wonderful words are!

 

This was the exact word I used when we packed the pick-up truck full of one grown son (our main driver),  his sister-in-law, her three adorable children  (with one still in a car seat), and this Primary Farm Operator.  On the road for a 1,300+ mile trip out West to attend a family wedding.  It was the first time for my sweet DIL and children to be away from their dad/husband, who could not get time off work.  Uncle Gordon would have to do for the nine days.

Leaving their dad/husband was a bit rough, but we were all packed and ready to go.  I have always believed everyone should make a road trip across our mighty country at least once.  It is stunning, fun, and tiresome (I don’t know why Dorothy ever wanted to go  back to Kansas!)  Just the same, it is beautiful to drive through.

 

It took about 27-28 hours to drive from our farm here in Virginia to the Gordon’s, Longtime Ranch, in Green Mountain Falls, Colorado.  We stopped for a quick nights rest on the west side of St. Louis.  Snacks, fruit, sandwiches, books, i-pads, toys, blankets, pillows and of course a good atlas had all found a traveling space.  The luggage carrier strapped in the truck bed was full.

 

 

The joy of traveling with little ones, and a momma that have not experienced a cross-country trip made it all the more fun.  Crossing the Ohio, Mighty Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers were thrilling.  Passing through towns that look so different in form and feature from our own filled us with wonder.  How amazingly different our country is!

 

My twinster and her family went beyond the call to make us feel comfortable and welcomed.  Even with the amount of work at their ranch for their daughter’s wedding, they had time for us.  It was truly a blessing from start to finish.

 

Perhaps this little blog post will give you the notion that traveling with family can be done.  It surely was well worth it!

 

Happy Family Travels! 

 

 

 

 

Spud, Ben and Larry

“Just look at that!”

Whatever was in my hands and lap was thrown onto the floorboards of the van.  “Stop, please!!”, came the over-excited request from me, ” Let me out!”

Fanatic, passionate, over-excited or just plain crazy.  That adjective I will leave to you.  All the same, I was out of the van and quietly jogging up beside a jolly-looking fellow driving a team of gorgeous Belgian horses on a country dirt road in Vermont.

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There in the road was a jolly fellow and his beautiful team of Belgian horses.

“Excuse me,” I said quietly, not wanting to startle the driver or the 3,500 lbs or more of the team of horses he was driving.  They had blinders on, so I knew to move slowly and quietly.

 

Sitting comfortably on an old school bus seat (he told me that what it was), attached to an iron sled, he quietly pulled the horses to a stop.  The one nearest me turned his big head towards my voice.  When he saw me, I was confident they would not startle.

“May I pet them?”

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My older twins and I so happy to meet these magnificent horses.

“Yep,” came the reply of the jolly man whose name was Larry.

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The jolly man, Larry, said we could have a ride!

They were happy for a stop, and delighted to be admired and petted.  Spud, the ‘old’ man, is thirteen years old.  He is the teacher to Ben, the three year old youngster.  Facing the team from the wagon, the experienced/teacher horse is usually on the left, the young/student horse on the right.  Larry kindly answered all our questions, and then I just had to ask,  ” Is it possible you could give us a ride on the sled?”

To our utmost joy, Larry said, “Yes!”  I sat beside him on the seat, my older twin sisters stood behind and took photos, and asked more questions.  Our friends stood in the road and took more photos.

 

Larry drove the team up a hill and down another road.  He stopped at one point to let the horses have a rest.  We switched riding so all could have a turn.

Larry said he was training the team for pulling contests, that is why they were pulling the iron sled.  He has been driving horses since he was a small kid.  His father worked his entire farm with horses, they had no tractors. Driving on the road requires great attention in case the horses get spooked and watching for cars around corners in the middle of the road.  Great care is given in training the horses so they behave in public.  Just like little kids they learn quickly what they can get away with.  If allowed to get away with bad behavior they will try again, and sometimes grow even worse in bad habits.  Spud and Ben were perfect gentlemen.

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Spud, the teacher, is happily having, Ben, the youngster scratch his ear!

It seems every work horse I have ever met has a one-syllable name.  I have to quote the answer because it made me smile,  “I think all the horses we have ever had had short names…guess you don’t want to be hollering long names.”  Well, that settles that.

 

Larry and his wife, Betsy, own Sugarbush Farm Maple & Cheese Farm in Woodstock, Vermont.   They have farm fresh cheese and maple syrup.   Call them at 802-457-1757, find them on facebook, or

click here to find their link

 

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Thank you, thank you, Spud, Ben and Larry for the grand ride!