Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Farmstead Plans - Upstairs Landing

Since it's going to be a while before we can get to the farm and actually start reclaiming it I thought I'd fill y'all in on some of the plans we have in mind for the place.

As the house stands now, it is liveable and fully functional for two people but, it has SO much more potential and we fully intend to tap into that potential and bring this farmhouse to life!

Our plan is to start upstairs and work our way down.

The current layout of the upstairs is a nice size landing with a non-functioning, decorative fireplace and three rooms.

(Please note:  photos are courtesy of Joyce Marcum Realty and Pinterest)

This is the landing.  It's a fairly good size space so I intend to use this as my sewing and craft storage area.

First up will be removing the border then adding a fresh coat of paint.  I haven't chosen a paint color yet but it will most likely be a pale, warm color in the yellow family or a creamy off-white to help lighten the space.

Then, we will decide on the best way to organize the space so that it is functional and practical yet inviting and inspiring.

Here are some storage and organizing ideas I've pinned on Pinterest...

I like the idea of the fabric enclosed in a glass cabinet.  The fabric is protected from the elements but since it can be seen it provides color and visual interest to the space while inspiring creativity.

The above space is very practical and the island of cabinets could serve a dual purpose; as storage as well as a cutting table.  Something similar to this would serve me well in my space.

Wow!  That's a LOT of fabric.  AND sewing machines!  I doubt I will ever have that many of either but it is great way to store and display all those beautiful cuts of fabric!

Speaking of sewing machines, one of these days I would like to own a Singer Featherweight such as this...

They're portable, lightweight, great for piecing quilts or taking to a class and they're old and would be a classic addition in the farmhouse!

Also in the landing is a decorative fireplace...

I believe this was a fully functioning wood fireplace at one time but since the chimney has been removed it is now just for decoration.

That will need to be remedied since there is no central heat in the house therefore no way of heating the upstairs during the winter months.  So, rather than hauling wood up the stairs we are planning on having a gas heater installed.  I hope to find something similar in style as the existing fireplace so that we won't stray too much from the originality of the house.

As you can see in the first photo there is no natural light source in the landing.  We are going to have some Solatube's installed that will bring in natural light in the space and will help cut down on the need for having to use lights/lamps which we would need to use even during the day since there are no windows in the space.

In case you're not familiar with Solatubes here's how they work and what they look like...

We had these installed in our bathroom and living room of our previous house and they are awesome!  (And, no, I am not being compensated for mentioning them.  Too bad, ha!)

I'm thinking maybe two small, possibly medium, size Solatube's in the landing should bring in plenty of natural light.  We'll see what the installer recommends for that size space.

We will also beef up the railing around the staircase and make it a little more rustic looking by using sanded and shellacked tree limbs or some salvaged/reclaimed wood.

Those are the plans for the landing for now.  Most likely those plans will change and evolve but ya gotta start somewhere!

I'd love to hear any ideas or suggestions you may have regarding this space.  Don't be shy, let's hear 'em!


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Practicing & Pinky Promises

Although we have closed on our new farmstead it will be several weeks, possibly a month or two, before we will be able to head to Kentucky and step foot on our new farm. See, a few months back, CountryBoy's bosses asked him if he would stay to the end of the job and he said he would.  (In this industry, it is common for the guys to 'drag up' near the end of a job and move on to another job just to make sure they are not without work for very long.)  We joke around that he made a pinky promise, ha!  But, since CountryBoy is a man of his word, he will stay and see this job through to the end.  The bitter end, wink!

Thankfully, several awesome people from Kentucky (that we hardly know or haven't even met yet) have said that they would keep an eye out on the place.  Love Kentucky already!

In the meantime, in anticipation of primarily eating things that we grow on the new farm or can get from other local farmers, I have decided that now is a good time to start thinking about, finding and/or coming up with recipes that use only farm fresh ingredients.  And, I am going to practice not buying anything at the grocery store that is man-made just for convenience sake.  Things like salad dressing and bread to name a few.

I know there will be a few things that we will have to buy such as flour, sugar (gotta feed those hummingbirds!) and spices but hopefully we can find some that have been minimally processed and won't have to buy them too often.

We stopped buying bread a long time ago and since I have a love/hate relationship with bread dough I am not in the habit of baking bread.  And, since I'm not much of a bread-eater it doesn't usually cross my mind that we don't have any bread in the house, er, fifth wheel.  Kind of like green peas.  I don't like green peas so we never have peas for supper.  I don't even think to buy any, ha!  (Poor CountryBoy who loves both of them!)  But, every now and then I get a hankerin' for some bread especially this time of year when I make a lot of soup or chili.  Gotta have bread for that!

So yesterday I wanted to try my hand at baking bread.  Again.  I've made bread in the past but it usually turns out too dense.  Tasty, but dense. 

I found a simple recipe for no-knead artisan bread.  I had all the ingredients... flour, yeast, kosher salt and water.  Sweet!  Let's do this!

I mixed it all up in my big ol' Pyrex bowl, covered it and waited.

The recipe said the rising period was 8 - 24 hours.  It wasn't rising very quickly and I thought maybe my yeast was too old.  But, it was also cool in the morning which could've had something to do with it.  Then, the sun came up and started warming it up and directly the dough was doubled in size.  That's a good sign!

 I let it rise for about nine hours before popping it into the oven.

I used a cast iron dutch oven and it came out just like the recipe said.  Yay!

Super simple and tasty!  I can't wait to add some other ingredients to it next time I make some, like maybe some Parmesan and Rosemary, or some olive oil and olives.  Mmmm, the possibilities are endless.

To go with the bread, I decided on a Crust-less Broccoli & Cheddar Cheese Quiche for supper.  With ingredients like eggs, milk, garlic, cheese and broccoli this dish is made up of things we will have available at the farm or farmers market.  

Purposefully cooking and eating this way will probably be a challenge in today's world of convenience and getting it done quickly but I am up for the challenge.  We want to purposefully live, eat, slow down, enjoy our farm and each other.  And, if you ever come for a visit then you can look forward to some farm, fresh, wholesome goodness and some down-home hospitality!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Preparing Ourselves

One of our goals at the new farmstead is to one day eat only foods that we grow, such as vegetables or fruit, eggs from our own chickens and raw milk, butter and cheese from our dairy cow and food, such as meat, that can be locally sourced and where we know the farmer and his farming practices.

I don't know about you but the 'food' that is sold in grocery stores stores today kinda scares me.  Most of it is not even real food but a mixture of poor quality ingredients and chemical additives to make it taste like food.  yuck.  Not to mention all the recalls nowadays...

But, let's not go there right now.

In preparation for the days ahead of hard work at the new farm I am concentrating on preparing foods that will nourish our bodies.  Foods that are simple yet loaded with lots of health benefits.

One such food is bone broth. (If you're so inclined, you can read more about all the health benefits of bone broth HERE.  If not, just keep reading.)

On Monday morning I threw some beef and oxtail bones. water and some veggies into the crock pot to start the simmering process of making bone broth.  I ended up needing two crock pots which thankfully I had.
Before long, the smell was driving me crazy!  You know, that smell of a pot roast cooking?  Yea, THAT kinda smell!

I let it simmer for about 32 hours then turned it off before going to bed to let it cool down overnight so that in the morning I could remove the bones and veggies and pick off any meat that was on the bones.

Then, I poured the broth through a strainer into quart jars.

Normally, after removing the bones and veggies, I would've chilled the broth then scooped the layer of fat off the top before putting it in jars.  And, if I was at home (rather than in the fifth wheel) I would then can the broth so it could be stored in the pantry.  But, since I don't have the kitchen space and canning would use up a lot of propane I have been freezing the jars.  Which is fine, but frozen glass doesn't travel well and we usually never know when we'll be pulling out until a few days before which doesn't give me much time to use up the frozen broth.

I recently read where the broth could be kept in the fridge for several months if there was a layer of fat over it.  Evidently, the layer of fat keeps air away from the broth thereby preserving it.  Thankfully, I have an extra fridge in the cargo trailer so I am going to give this method a try.  Although, with the cooler temperatures comes soup-eating time so I don't foresee the broth lasting very long!

Here you can see the layer of fat already forming on the top.

The jars have been in the fridge for a day now so the layer of fat will be nicely congealed.  Tonight, when I get ready to make some soup (cuz it's cold and drizzly here), I will scoop the layer of fat off and discard it leaving only the nice, rich, healthy broth.

If you read up on the health benefits of this broth then you know that it helps reduce inflammation which causes all sorts of ailments; heart disease being one of them which is a concern for us.  You also hear on television about all these ailments and diseases caused by inflammation and to ask your doctor about such and such medication and if it's right for you BUT, you never hear what causes the inflammation in the first place!  Again people, let's get to the root of the problem not put a bandaid on it.

In case you're wondering, here's the definition for inflammation from Medical News Today:

Inflammation is the body's attempt at self-protection; the aim being to remove harmful stimuli, including damaged cells, irritants, or pathogens - and begin the healing process.

My theory about inflammation?  Much of it is caused by foreign substances entering the body, either by our environment and/or the foods we intake.  God skillfully and wonderfully created our bodies and He also created the plants and animals for us to eat that would help sustain and heal the bodies He created.  Man stepped in and created 'food' but that 'food' has little to no nutritional value whatsoever so our bodies have become malnourished even though we are consuming more than our ancestors ever dreamed of consuming.  God also designed our bodies to fight infections, foreign substances and toxins using inflammation but it can only eliminate so much.  The rest?  Again, this is my theory, but I believe what is unable to be eliminated becomes various ailments and diseases and affects each individual differently according to genetic makeup.

It's well known that heart disease is linked to inflammation but according to Medical News Today they have no idea what causes inflammation:

Although scientists know that inflammation plays a key role in heart disease and several other illnesses, what drives inflammation in the first place is still a mystery.

Really?  Try looking at all the chemicals that are allowed in today's so-called food.  I know the government (FDA) says that the amount of chemicals allowed in each 'food' is tolerable in a body.  But, multiply that magical amount by the number of times ingested (before elimination) plus the addition of other chemicals such as sodas and energy drinks that are consumed throughout the day by most individuals.  Simply put, they have no way of knowing the amount of chemicals ingested in any one individual at any given time.  Most people are on chemical overload with very little nutrition which the body needs to fight the chemicals that were just ingested.  If the body can only eliminate a certain amount of foreign substances (chemicals & toxins) then where do the rest go? 

It's not rocket science.  It really isn't.  And again, these are my opinions but I think if we would really stop and think about all the new diseases that weren't around even thirty years ago we would have to wonder why.  And when I get to wondering the only common denominator I can see is food.  We all eat and much has changed in the food industry over the years.  I think it's just what we eat that makes a difference.

Our goal at the farmstead is to eat what we grow and know what we eat so that we can give our bodies the nutrition it needs to sustain and heal us from whatever ails us so that we can live healthy lives.

Sorry.  I really didn't want to get into this on this post but there ya have it.

When I started writing this morning, I just wanted to share with y'all how we are preparing and nourishing ourselves for some hard work once we get to the new farm and how I am concentrating on food preparations that are simple yet nourishing and are how we intend to eat once on the farm but, I got carried away.  I honestly had no intention of 'going there' so I hope you'll forgive me but at the same time, I do hope you will at least think about my theory.  Read labels.  Know what you're eating.  And, if you have any theories as to why there is so much inflammation these days I'd love to hear them!

Friday, December 5, 2014

It's Official - We Are Farm Owners!

After an arduous two months (one day shy) since we made the offer on our dream farm we are the overly excited and proud owners of a 20+ acre farm in the North Central region of Kentucky.  WOOHOO!

Our dream of owning and retiring on a farm somewhere in Kentucky has come true.  There are times when we have to pinch ourselves to prove that it is real.

Our minds are bursting with ideas.  Ideas for the house, the garden, the grounds, the barn, the chicken coop and run, the guesthouse....  gah!  I'm about to explode, haha!

That being said, this blog will be coming to life again, yay!  I will start sharing with y'all some of our ideas.  Mind you, when we are actually able to start doing the work (hopefully in a couple of months) some of these ideas may change, some may evolve into something more or less and some may even be nixed all together but I still want to share the original ideas with you.  Who knows, y'all may have some awesome ideas to share with us so that we can make the original idea even better!

So, stay tuned if you want to follow along and throw some suggestions our way!

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Quilt Festival Newbie

Weekend before last one of the largest quilt shows, International Quilt Festival, was held in Houston.  Before taking a quilting class last year, I had never heard of such a thing much less imagined I would ever attend one.

Well, here we are, almost a year later from taking the class I became a 'festival newbie'!

This all started when CountryBoy and I were getting ready to leave Arizona to head to Texas for the next job.  I had some things for sale at the local quilt shop and when I went to pick them up I mentioned where we were headed next.  The quilt shop owner then told me about this huge quilt show in Houston.

At the time I said "how cool" thinking that I would never attend for several reasons.... a) I don't like crowds, b) I don't like cities, c) I would never do either by myself, and d) I haven't been quilting or sewing very long so I wasn't sure what I would get out of it.

Long story short, I mentioned the show to a friend of mine, who also recently started sewing and quilting, and the ball started rolling.  Needless to say, after months of planning and waiting the time had finally come for both of us to attend the largest quilt show in the United States.  And yes, we had to choose THE largest as our first, ha!  Leave it to us!

To say that it was overwhelming is a complete understatement.  Thankfully, my dear friend is quite savvy when it comes to travel planning so I left that up to her.  Rooms for this convention book a year in advance but she found us a great place to stay near the convention center at the Hyatt Regency.

The hotel was huge.  We were on the 25th floor with a view of part of Houston's cityscape.

Hyatt Regency Lobby
I have to take this opportunity to say that the staff was amazing!  They were very helpful with lots of suggestions for getting around town and to and from the convention center.

But, months before we even got to the hotel there was an overwhelming amount of show information to read through and decipher.  Things like schedules, classes being offered, vendor lists, demonstrations, and on and on.  I have to admit that I started to block it all out.  It was information overload!

This is the only festival that uses the entire convention center, all three floors - it is THAT huge!

Over time, my friend and I started working our way through all the info and decided that our best course of action would be to take a few classes, hit the vendor floor and just get a 'feel' for the quilt show this first year.

We each chose classes we were interested in taking and luckily, we chose a lot of the same ones so it was fairly easy to decide which ones to take.

The first class was Denimania, where the instructor showed us examples of things that could be made out of denim as well as giving us several patterns to take home.

Quilts, wall hangings, duffle bags, tote bags, pillows, stuffed animals, just to name a few things.  I like working with denim; it is sturdy material with lots of color variations.  My friend and I walked away very inspired by all the possibilities an old pair of jeans could make!

We took a class in free motion quilting that was hands-on.  We learned and practiced several stitches which helped us get over our fear of free motion quilting.  (This class was from 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. and I was worried that I would have a hard time staying awake since 9:00 is past by bedtime, ha!  Fortunately, the class was very interesting and kept me awake, smile!)  I still have to work on my motions and body movement but I have the general idea.

Another day, we took a Sampler class where you were free to walk around and check out the many varied demonstrations going on.  We checked out organization ideas, lace ideas, hand quilting techniques, just to name a few.  And then we ended our classes with a demonstration on how to machine quilt large quilts in pieces that can be done on a regular sewing machine and at home.  I'll have to try that one some day.

There were LOTS of quilts on display but we only had time to check out a few of them.  I tell ya, many of these quilts are works of art...


They were celebrating their 40th year so the theme was Ruby Jubilee.

This quilt inspired this year's quilt pin and tote design...

In between our classes, we hit the vendor floor.  An unbelievable amount of vendors!

And this isn't even all of them!

We did manage to visit every vendor that caught our attention and interest over the course of the four days we were there.

And, I have to say, that there was only one day where the crowds were almost unbearable and too thick to see or check anything out.  Fortunately, we were in classes most of that day.  The rest of the days weren't too bad and we were able to move around freely (which we were both thankful for!).

We found LOTS of cool things but I think we both did very well at not buying everything that we thought was cool and holding out for those things that we couldn't get where we lived or something that we just really loved.  Most times, we would think on the item overnight so that we weren't making spur-of-the-moment purchases then regretting it when we saw something better or something else we would've rather had.

Here's a few of the goodies I bought...

A permanent dye kit to dye lace, some lace embellishments, and some grapevine lace.

This will be so pretty when dyed!

I also purchased a yard of flowered lace but sadly, it did not make it in my bag and I did not discover it until I got home.  I've emailed the vendor but haven't heard back.  I'm expecting that to be a loss of $8.  sniff.  It was so pretty too.

Moving on...

For some time now, I've been looking for a pattern that uses Jelly Rolls (made by Moda) which are strips of pre-cut fabric. I saw this pattern, Strips Ahoy, and instantly liked it.  This particular one is even signed by the pattern maker who happened to be at the show although I did not get to meet her.

Right after spying the pattern this Jelly Roll caught my eye and I thought it would be pretty with this pattern.  I can't even explain why it caught my eye because I don't usually tend to gravitate towards blues, but nonetheless, I liked it and I thought it would be nice to make for the guestroom at the new farm so, I bought it!

I glanced at the pattern and realized that I needed two Jelly Rolls and there was only one in that booth.  Now, I was on the lookout for another one just like it somewhere in the vastness of vendorland.

I told my friend to help me look for it and that the name was Lexington.  Wait, what?  Lexington?  Our new farm is an hour away from Lexington!  Cool, huh?!

Then later that evening as I was emptying my tote bag full of goodies I realized that the blue theme would go along perfect with the water pitcher and basin that I got from my Mom.  For having given no pre-thought to decorating the guestroom  I think it is amazingly coming together!

I bought this roll of fat quarters because they will pair nicely with denim and have that sort of vintage feeling.

These fat quarters just caught my eye along with a couple of others that I will show you in a bit.  I have no idea what I will do with these yet but I know I'll come up with something, wink!

I love totes and purses.  These patterns caught my eye and I'm excited to give them a go.  The one on the right converts from a purse to a small backpack.  How cool is that?  Great for those times when you need to be hands-free!  Also, my friend has made several of this pattern makers purses and she says her instructions are awesome.  We'll see, haha!

After the quilt show was over, I was fortunate to have my friend stay with us a bit longer.  Luckily, after being together 24/7 for four days we were still talking!  And, feeling inspired after such an awesome weekend we couldn't wait to do some sewing.

We decided to use some of the fat quarters we bought to make the Sit and Stitch Pincushion pattern above.

Here's how mine turned out...

Is that not the cutest, most practical thing?!

Now I won't have scissors, seam ripper, tape measure and a spool of thread cluttering up the tiny endtable/shelf  or needles sticking out of the couch.  ouch!  Everything has their place.

Isn't this cute?  I bought these scissor keepers at the quilt shop in Arizona.  I loved the pink bling and the old sewing machine.  One day I'd like to have an old Singer Featherweight in the sewing room at the new farm.  I think it would fit in perfectly at the farm and will be great for straight stitching.

The pincushion is filled with crushed walnuts shells.  Who knew there was such a thing?!  As it turns out, it is used for reptile bedding.  We had to go to a pet store to find it.  But, it is said to help sharpen the needles so that's a plus.

This was lots of fun to make and hopefully I will be making more in the future.  Gotta use up the rest of the 5 lb. bag of crushed walnut shells, haha!

And, last but not least, was my very last purchase...

an oversized safety pin (more like diaper pin size) and a few charms to commemorate this awesome experience!  (Notice the old sewing machine, wink!)

Overall, the quilt show was totally aamazing for these two festival newbies!  The attendees were all very pleasant (with a few exceptions) and welcoming and as I mentioned before, the staff at the hotel was very helpful and accommodating.  Every night we were wore slap out from all the walking, gawking and inspiration but we wouldn't have had it any other way!

This may have been our first festival but it most definitely won't be our last.  Hopefully soon we'll be looking for festivals in and near Kentucky, smile!

Till next time friends,

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