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A few days off…

I got 10 days off of work in which we dealt with e~learning and finishing some remodeling projects. Between classes youngest has been a big help playing handy manny. (For those of you that know youngest had an obsession with the show Handy Manny and we some times still holler “Come on tools!” whenever we are working).

So… we worked on putting up trim in the house.

Currently have a batch of tomatoes on the stove to turn into spaghetti sauce, and we need to make a run to the grocery store and hardware store. (We ran out of stain).

It’s been raining off and on today so I keep staring out to the garden thinking I need to grab the last of the summer harvest and plan on a big canning weekend. The fall plantings are doing well, and I even spied a few green beans this morning! Hopefully the impending doom of an early frost stays away. Farmers almanac is predicting an early fall this year, and a few of my homestead buddies out west are reporting the same! Noooooooooo I’m not ready!

I’m not ready for fall ESPECIALLY because we need our propane tank filled and when I called to check on the schedule they are delayed because… wait for it… THEY DO NOT HAVE ANYONE TO DELIVER THE PROPANE!!! This possibly made me hit my all time anxiety level panic button!!!! We heat and cook on propane!!

As the summer plantings slowly fade, and wither I can’t believe that it is almost September. Having just realized that Labor Day is fast approaching, and oldest made the VARSITY football team these are all signs of colder weather…

Oddly they are also panic triggers for me. Did I can enough? Freeze enough? Dehydrate enough? I don’t know why I always think that. Probably that fall hoarding anxiety kicking in full swing.

Another odd anxiety is if the kids have enough warm clothes? Do they still fit in their winter jackets? Bets are probably not. They grow like weeds, which reminds me… the mystery itching weed of death and destruction still is unidentified and I’m STILL getting more itchy spots of grossness.

Sigh. When anxiety knocks at your door, make a batch of homemade spaghetti sauce, and remember to live a simple life.

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WTF do I do with BEETS??!!

You may have been gifted some beets from the resident gardener in your neighborhood, and now you are asking yourself what the F*** do I do with BEETS? ah, the disgusted childhood eye looks back upon these odd wonders of the soil. Kind of a dirty brown color, with reddish purple tops. As children we could smell beets a mile away, and prayed to God above that Timmy’s mom would let you stay for supper and evade the blood red vegetable.

Whether you have outgrown that loathe of this root vegetable, or are curious about it I can fill you in, and give you some ideas on how to actually USE the beet rather than throw it in the trash.

First of all, let’s learn about the beet. Now, by no means am I going to say that this is the new incredible edible thing, but give me a second and we can think about it. Beets are a hardy root vegetable, which is why every neighborhood garden probably has them. Often described as an “earthy” and yet sweet flavor these beets are full of nutrition. They range in color from deep red to a bright purple. The red color of beets comes from betalains which have powerful antioxidant effects. Beets are said to be helpful in reducing inflammation because they are full of nitrates. The combo of nitrates (they remove harmful compounds from your bloodstream) and betalains are said to fight inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, or the ever growing fibromyalgia.

Said to improve heart health by reducing blood pressure those nitrates in beets are a super food. Naturally low in fat and cholesterol leads them to the front of the pack for people concerned with stroke risk and or heart disease. A nutrient-dense root vegetable that is low in calories, cholesterol and fat, beets are a heart-healthy choice.

Granted that still doesn’t send everyone running to the produce section, and believe me I would have been the last in line from childhood to recent times. Honestly, I can’t tell you exactly when it happened, but it was probably when I was pregnant with my son. I was eating all kinds of whacky food combinations. At any rate, one day…. probably in 2011… I. Ate. A. Beet. Thus beginning a slow love affair over the years that some times leads me to think, “You know, a beet sounds good right now.”

Canned beets

I enjoy taking canned beets (either commercial or home canned) draining them, and topping them with my favorite Italian dressing and a decent serving of feta cheese.

Putting them in a salad isn’t too shabby either.

Straight up out of the can to the side of my plate I still can’t manage. It’d take a lost bet at this point to conquer that feat.

The Neighborhood Beet

Straight from the garden to your unwilling home I have a few ideas for you.

Beet Chips. After you peel away the dirty skin of the beet simply slice them finely, and place in your fabulous dehumidifier at 160 degrees for two hours. Nice crispy snacks await! If you don’t have a dehydrator you can also bake the chips in the oven at 300 degrees for 45-60 minutes. I like the beet chips as a healthy nighttime snack.

Photos that follow are the process of chip making…. with short instructions, after all it is pretty simple.

The “earthy” beet in its natural state
Peeled beets…
Tops and skins from beets
I cheated and used a stand mixer attachment to slice the beets. I’ve never been able to evenly slice anything.
Put on the dehydrator tray
Put in the dehydrator, and life is simple! LOL

Pinterest to save the day also offers a lot of beet salad ideas, and roasting recipes.

Honestly, I guess you could also can them, but if you don’t know if you like them why would you go to the trouble of canning them.

Dyeing with beets

If you find you want nothing to do with beets at all a cool project is dyeing fabric with beets. It’s an all natural way to dye fabrics and yarns for other projects. Reader be ware… it takes a little bit of time to dye with beets. At least it did on the diy site I found. I was going to attempt it this weekend past, but hours were involved and that was something I couldn’t schedule in that day. So I saved the tops and peelings of all the beets I turned into chips. I plan on dyeing some tea towels here in a few weeks, and I’ll let you know what a disaster that turns out to be.

In short when it comes to beets you either love them or you hate them. Either eat them, or put them to use as a fabric dye. Whatever you choose to do with your gifted beets… remember… to live a simple life.

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Louffa Gourds

Remember these?

The things I’ve been trying to grow for 3 years now? The failed attempts over and over? Year one nothing sprouted, year two they drowned in tsunami rain storms, and this is the tale of year three….

I planted the seeds around the electrical pole in the backyard with my son. Thinking it’d be the perfect place for them to climb and be virtually maintenance free. Their flowers would be perfectly pollinated by the butterflies and hummingbirds coming to our little wildflower patch. It’d all work out perfectly this time.

This year after waiting for what seemed months the louffas sprouted, and day before yesterday they were happily climbing their way up the electrical pole. The day before yesterday they were probably a little over a foot off the ground. As of yesterday they are taking the eternal dirt nap we call compost.

What happened?

The power company came out and did inspection on the area poles. They uprooted the plants, torn ferociously from their happy home, and leaving me utterly upset. This was going to be the year!

I was going to have sponges for the shower, for the cast iron, for general cleaning purposes, and now I’m left empty handed.

On a side note they also trampled the butterfly garden… which appears like it will bounce back, but the louffas are laid to rest for this year… Rest In Peace

Next year I’ll try again. Next year I’ll build my own trellis for them to climb. Far, far away from the electrical pole.

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Early Morning Excitement

So there I was…. you can already tell this will be a good story! All great stories begin with the old age “so there I was”.

So there I was in my bathrobe, hair a wreck from restless sleep, enjoying the quiet sunrise of an early morning. There is nothing better than watching the sun rise from its slumber. As you yourself are waiting for the sweet nectar of those magical beans to brew ahh a perfect morning.

Suddenly the tranquility is broken by disturbed hens alarmed by an intruder. The dogs already alerted are running to the run. I squint trying to see what is wrong… my glasses are in the bathroom and of course are necessity at this moment.

Clutching my robe closed I put on whatever footwear is left at the back door. Flip flops won. Trudging through the cool dew soaked grass I see three blurry fur balls. One, a new blur, is chasing a small white blur while my two blurry dogs are running block keeping it away from the blur I believe to be one of my young Pekins.

While our dogs are occupying this intruder I am able to scoop up the poor duck and get it in the run. I see this intruder is the neighbors young pup who feels it’s play time and has no need to go home.

Our dogs of course join in the fun of play time as they see their job is done… so I’m hollering at our dogs to go back home, still clasping my robe for dear life, and trying to keep from braking my ankle in the now slippery death traps on my feet.

Now enter the neighbor coming to retrieve his pup. It turned into a whole mess of dogs not listening to anyone. Dogs running in circles, me clutching my robe, frustrated by the whole ordeal, I finally get ahold of Charlie, our youngest fur child.

Enter Rooster, who looks annoyed, gets the dogs to listen with ease and gets them in the house. Ugh. I feel ridiculous standing there in my robe, hair a wreck, holding a sandal that I had used to unsuccessfully get our dogs attentions.

I head back into the house for my much needed glasses and magical bean juice.

Fast forward to after breakfast when morning choring is done. I get water for the little chics in the coop, and feed. I grab a pail of feed for the ducks and chickens and throw it in the run. As I go to grab the buckets that need refilled with water I see something odd. That white duck is way smaller than I thought.

Wait, what? Thelma, Louise, one, two, three, four, and a tiny duck. My brain clicks into gear and realizes that none of my ducks were lose, and couldn’t have been. This miniature version of my Pekins must be one of the neighbors roaming call ducks. Sweet Jesus I feel dumb.

The phone tree is sprung into action. First, the neighbor who on previous occasions has said “oh, their neighborhood ducks we just let them free range”. P.S. this always pisses me off because one that’s not what free range means, and two maybe I don’t want your damn hippy critters in my yard as I have enough to keep track of. Besides all that the neighbor in question is a quarter of a mile down the road, and apparently gives two shits about where their critters go.

The hippy simply replies “They aren’t mine”. Ugh… now the next neighbor I know has call ducks… I actually like this lady and she’s a hot mess like me so I can see how her call duck got lose and is over here.

“I don’t think it’s mine. I didn’t notice anyone missing this morning.”

Are you kidding me? Out of the twelve people in this town only two of which keeps call ducks, and neither of them are claiming this one. FML

At this point I’ve now resigned to the idea that I now have a call duck. She’s getting along fine with everyone and it is adorable.

Fast forward to when hot mess gets off of work and realizes it probably is her call duck. An exchange of texts asking certain details of said duck, and a little banter she says she’ll be over in a bit to check.

“You’re not home”

“Yes I am.”

“F*** I’ll turn around”

“I’ll go outside LOL”

Here she comes, my favorite neighbor, driving the gator. I chuckled to myself as I realized this adds to our critter encounters together. She asks after the pig, and critters and makes small talk. She tells me her husband drug home two geese, the two she told me about for sale at the local farm store.

“Now there’s goose shit EVERYWHERE!” She exclaims. “Back steps. Goose shit. Drive way. Goose shit. Everywhere goose shit!” She’s animated as she’s explaining the situation with the goose shit, and I can’t help but to laugh.

We enter the run, her in her crocs, me in my muck shoes, and we round up the call duck. We talk about how many of her escaped critters have been found or saved by us, and she thanks me again. Just a few days prior I had called that her dog was in the road. Call tucked under her arm she drives away in the gator.

Left alone to tend to our flock I think to myself how cute that duck was. The stray thought of having call ducks enters my mind. I shake the thought away as I tell myself they’re not in the plan of sustainability, and laugh to have even had the thought. We have enough going on.

Meanwhile I’ve received a call from day care, the youngest doesn’t feel well. I picked him up and discovered he has a fever, call the pediatrician, and head to the big city. Viral infection. So a few rounds of puking and diarrhea later the poor thing is tucked into bed.

As I call it a night I can only hope that tomorrow is less chaotic.

So, when life throws you lemons… remember to live a simple life, and make some lemonade.

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GRIT magazine, Bloody Mary’s, and smoking supper

The ribs have been smoking since three o’clock, the chicken since four, and Bloody Mary’s have been drank since five…

As I sit here sipping Bloody Mary’s, I’m reading the latest installment of GRIT magazine.

So far I e learned from @gritmagazine that switchel is the way to go for a Gatorade replacement, that the correct fat is good again, and that my theory is correct. Our ancestors ate better than we do! Even with all that fat!!

The bloody Mary’s are refreshing in this heat, and the smoker is maintaining nicely at 225 degrees.

I dropped youngest off at his first away sleepover, and the bloody Mary’s sounded good.. so here I sit with #grit, the beverage, and a smile on my face.

Oldest and Rooster have asked when supper would be ready…. for snacking purposes.

Supper will be ready shortly, boys.

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To Mulch, or not to mulch… THAT is the question.

For the many, many years that I have been gardening I’ve tried many varieties of weed control. Finally this year I may have the answer to the age old question to mulch, or not to mulch. I say mulch! There are many reasons why; that we will explore in this blog post.

First off let me start off by telling you in my early gardening years I over gardened. By this I mean in all honesty I bit off more than I could chew, and there was NO way one person alone could have kept up with that garden. At least not while working a full time job! It was ridiculous! A never ending battle pulling weeds, and buying into a garden gimmick hand tiller that never worked well enough for me. Have I mentioned that I am a dreamer, and think that I am the original Superwoman? LOL

So a few years into gardening I heard about using newspaper to control the weed population. It may work for some people, but for me it was a complete mess. It must have been non-stop gale force winds all season it seemed. I’d come home after a twelve hour shift to find newspapers all over the yard, in the tree line, and anywhere you could think that a newspaper would like to travel to.

the new york times newspaper
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

One year I used grass clippings as mulch. Dumbest idea ever when you realize a little too late that your yard is infested with dandelions which you have now introduced to your freshly tilled garden. As you can imagine I actually thought about trying to make dandelion wine, jam, and whatever else you could make with a full crop of these yellow bastards.

shallow focus of clear hourglass
Photo by Jordan Benton on Pexels.com

Fast forward almost twenty years…

Last year we salvaged the landscaping mulch when we switched over to rock. Taking that mulch into the garden worked well except it was a dark mulch, and tended to cook the younger plants in the beginning of the season, but if you water it enough when it’s cool in the mornings it seemed to help. As the plants grew this mulch worked surprisingly well. Sure there were weeds here and there where I didn’t put mulch thick enough, but for the most part I was super happy with the mulch. I was able to spend more time harvesting and preparing our veggies.

white rabbit in brown wooden box
Photo by Elijah O’Donnell on Pexels.com

This year is a new mulch and so far I am very happy with it. I purchased about 8 bales of pine shavings from the local co-op, and have been using that as mulch. Mulching with this material has shocked me in so many ways! First of all unlike it’s cousin the landscaping mulch, this is lighter in color and isn’t cooking the plants. Second it is maintaining moisture in the soil very well even in this sweltering heat we’ve been having. Third, if it’s thick enough it does cut back on weeds, and if there are any determined bogies I just plop more shavings on top of the problem area, and presto. Smothered weeds.

The garden this year is full with the companion planting, but it also looks nice and neat with the mulch that we used. While it’s not as cheap as recycled mulch the pine shavings are not too expensive. I think in total we probably have 50 dollars in pine shavings. The mulch from the store would have costed probably double in price. The saving grace of mulching your garden is time saved from back aching weeding and hoeing.

So, I say mulch! And keep living that simple life!!!

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News from the garden

Live a simple life

It’s so exciting to see the yellow flowers popping up on the tomatoes, the jalapeños and pablanos growing already. I could go on and on… so I will.

The corn is coming along nicely surrounded by cucumbers and marigolds.

The garlic is reaching for the sky and just barely starting to yellow at the tips. Their neighbors the carrots seem to be doing well. Root veggies are never my favorite to grow because you can’t see the fruits of your labor.

Cantaloupe is making its way to the fence slowly but surely. Lettuce is beginning to take shape of lettuce rather than mystery weeds.

The sunflowers, oh the sunflowers!! They are almost knee high already! Their companion the provider green beans didn’t survive the heavy rains we had the day after planting.

The luffa or louffa guard plants are getting bigger. As you know I was very impatient on their sprouting, and am happy to finally see some development.

The trash can method potatoes are doing well, and hopefully producing a ton of red and Yukon potatoes!!

The butterfly flower patch has expanded to include two rose bushes and two butterfly plants. They are surrounded with sprouts of sweet peas, and other wild flowers and zinnias. I’m excited for some lovely bouquets from them all!

All in all it’s been a good start to the season. We only lost the green beans, one tomato plant to a bunny, the cucumbers and watermelon that didn’t sprout after the heavy rains; pretty sure I can call it a win so far.

Onion sets and broccoli seeds have been purchased for fall planting. I plan on planting garlic harvested from this years crop in the fall. There is also a reserve of carrots and lettuce seeds for the coming fall months.

This year will be the first year that I really made an effort to grow heirloom varieties of everything as well as an attempt at fall planting. It’s also the first year for companion planting.

Oh! I forgot about the herbs!!! Basil is bushing out nicely after the first cutting. Cilantro is emerging thick in their pot. Mint is contained in containers so it doesn’t overrun the garden. All in all I’m very pleased with everything.

So that’s the news from the garden! Next blog will be about mulching your garden, and yes pictures will be included LOL

Enjoy the lovely weather we are having, and remember… live simple.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor

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Duck Egg Mayonnaise

Welcome to our first publicized recipe on A Day in The Simple Life! If you love a tangy and smooth mayonnaise this is the mayo for you! AND it’s only five ingredients!!

You’ll need… a mason jar or other covered container, a large (10 cup will do) food processor, and a spatula!! Aside from the following ingredients of course…

2 duck eggs, room temp. If you don’t have room temp eggs give them a warm bath in running water for two minutes or so.

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (you can sub with white but I prefer the tang of red)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or more to taste (I used a 1/4)

2 cups extra virgin olive oil (some people only use half of that but I love EVOO)

In your food processor, process the two duck eggs for 20 seconds. Add all ingredients except salt and EVOO (or oil of your choice). process another 20 seconds.

Scrape sides and bottom of processor bowl with spatula. You don’t want to leave any goodness stuck to the walls!

Slowly, and I mean slowly add EVOO to running processor like a drip at a time. Once the mixture begins to thicken you can add a slow steady steam.

Once all EVOO is added, remove the top and taste. Add salt to your guesstimate and process for a few seconds. Taste again. I ended up adding a few more shakes of red wine vinegar then gave it another whirl.

Place you delicious duck egg Mayo in a mason jar or covered container and refrigerate. BAM you’re done!! Except for clean up of course.

So there you have it a tangy and creamy HOMEMADE Duck Egg Mayo! Remember when you have a recipe calling for Mayo, and you’re fresh out… live simply, and whip up another batch!

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Weekend Adventures Featuring Josh and the Raccoon…

The weekend started like most others the boys were playing in the yard, I was watering the garden, and Rooster was doing odds and ends in the yard. When Rooster stepped inside shortly here came Josh in his car. He looked panicked, “Where’s Nick?”. He just stepped inside he’ll be right out. At this point I was a little worried that something was wrong.

When Rooster came outside we learned what was going on from Josh. There was a raccoon in his garage, and it would not leave. After a brief discussion of the hows, the whys, and the what are we going to do to it Rooster loaded into the SUV, and rode off into the fading sunset with Josh.

The boys and I waited patiently, but started laughing hysterically when we could hear a leaf blower in the distance. We knew all too well what was going on. They were trying to force the raccoon out of it’s hiding spot using the leaf blower as motivation. We were later filled in by Rooster that the leaf blower only aggravated the raccoon even more.

A truck came down the road, and pulled into Josh’s drive. Ahhhh reinforcements. Josh’s father-in-law. Armed with a .22 lever action rifle. Oh Lord, I thought, someone is going to not only need a round of rabies shots, but a bullet wound patched up as well. (Have I mentioned that I worry a lot?)

A little while later I got a text from Rooster to send the boys down. Oldest took off down the road with youngest on his heels yelling “Wait for me!” It was quite the sight.

Josh was nice enough to bring all my boys home with no need for rabies shots, or battle wounds on the side by side. Which I am sure was an extra treat for all of them. Once home the boys recapped the tale of Josh and the raccoon. Apparently a company had brought out traps that didn’t work on Tuesday when the critter appeared in the rafters of the garage. With a three hundred dollar price tag to catch the critter! I don’t know how that works out when your father-in-law and neighbor kill said critter if you still have to pay a fee. Anyways, I am getting ahead of myself.

When father-in-law showed up they had chased the raccoon back into the soffit with the leaf blower, and once it showed his face… well, you guessed it. Said father-in-law shot the raccoon, but not well enough. Upon the second emergence of the raccoon it received a shot between the eyes, and the deal was done. We learned something new about our neighbor; he’s never shot a gun before. I don’t know the details, but I am curious. Every red blooded American should own and know how to shoot a gun. (Just my opinion)

Upon the death of the furry critter Rooster was called upon to get said dead critter out of the soffit. We also learned that Josh also really doesn’t care to retrieve critters out of soffits. LOL.

In comparison the rest of the weekend might have been a little bland. We went fishing with my dad, and Rooster did great this time backing the boat into the water! All of us worked in the yard, building a great new chicken gate, and getting the garden finished up.

Remember my impatience over the corn? It sprouted! WooHoo! Now I am just impatiently waiting for the louffa gourds to make an appearance! Gardening is for patient people, but I do find it relaxing when I can plant, and harvest everything myself. The help of others seems to be stressful to me, and honestly it takes a little of the passion out of it. (Have I mentioned that I am a control freak?) When youngest was planting those rows of corn I thought I would lose my mind. The row wasn’t straight, the seeds weren’t deep enough, but ignoring the tightness in my chest I let him carry on. It was either it was going to grow or is wasn’t. The yearly crap shoot just in different hands. The boys really should learn how to garden for themselves because they will need the experience for when they get older and out on their own.

Sunday Rooster and Oldest went fishing in a pond up the road, and I worked on making breakfast for the week. I made egg bites, breakfast burritos, and cleaned the house. Did I get everything done I wanted to? No. I never do. All in all it was a productive weekend though. Once Oldest and Rooster returned from fishing I had Rooster cut up a pallet for me to make a herb planter. I put mint, tarragon, and Oregano in the one planter, and planted basil in the other. My ambition is to have enough basil plants to make pesto. We love pesto.

Waking up to face Monday morning was a little rough… We both had tossed and turned all night, and morning seemed to come too soon. Making it through a super long work day was trying, but we made it. Now I am sitting here blogging while youngest has guitar lessons, and Rooster is in the big city with Oldest for Football camp. We’re off to the homestead to get supper ready, and water the garden along with the flowers. Talk soon, and remember to live a simple life.