Here on our little hillside, in WV, we try to live a simple life. One where we can try to make the best decisions in regards to what we feed our family, and where we source our foods. We try to make green decision that are not only good for our family but for our community and planet as well. There is no place I would rather raise a family, than these WV hills! So I guess it is our responsibility to preserve them, and our heritage.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Blueberry waffles

We love waffles.  They are easy to make.  You can also make larger batches and freeze them to make your own toaster waffles.   What easier breakfast is there for the kiddos?  Plus you control the ingredients, so that is way better than giving your child the store bought kind packed with preservatives and unpronounceable ingredients.  Plus if you do a fruit waffle and if you add butter to the batter, you can cut them in strips and use for a fast breakfast to go.   This also makes a great toddler finger food. 

Waffle batter
1 3/4 cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries or other favorite optional

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl,  lightly wisk eggs, add milk, oil, butter, and vanilla to the  eggs.  Stir wet mixture into dry.  Cook till done on a regular or Belgium waffle maker.  

This recipe makes the better frozen waffle.  I have a different recipe for very light airy waffles, but the seem to be better fresh.   Hope to post it later.  Hope ya'll are doing good!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fresh tomato soup

I have been searching for a long time for a tomato soup recipe that uses fresh tomatoes instead of canned.  I finally found one, and it is good.  I adjusted the one I found.  Here is my version....

Tomato soup
2 cups chicken stock
1 small onion chopped
1 clove of garlic minced
1/4 cup basil cut
2 lbs. diced tomatoes
Sugar optional
Heavy cream optional

Add first 5 ingredients, bring to boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes.  Cool a few minuets, then blend til smooth.   Add salt and pepper to taste.  If too acidic, add a little sugar.  If you want to make it a creamy soup add 1 cup or less of cream.  Enjoy!!!
I really enjoyed this soup and will be making it again.  I hope you like it too. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Stop cheating on your health!!

I have always been very interested in the types of foods in which I eat.  Until I had my daughter, I could always justify "cheating" and eating something I knew to be unhealthy.   I have ate it before, one time won't hurt, everyone else eats it and they are fine, every excuse you could imagine, I used.  I knew that no one was really watching what I consumed and holding me accountable, but me.  I could easily fall victim to advertisements that said I should be eating this new cool food that everyone else has tried, or indicated that I am either the weird one or cheap one, because I had not given in yet.   I only bought organic in stores when I could afford to, and still ate foods I knew were harmful to my health, like processed meats and the fast food.
Since having my daughter, I have someone who I am accountable for.  She holds me accountable for myself, and because I have to make decisions that are in her best interest,  how can I justify eating something bad.  It is okay if mommy hurts herself by eating something bad, but I can't let baby have a taste because it is so bad.  What a yummy prepackaged processed cream filled snack cake, sorry baby!  How hypocritical!   Since I have cleaned up my eating, not only have I lost all my pregnancy weight, I have lost an additional 30 lbs.  That is 65 lbs. total in the last year.  
We eat from our yard when possible, from our local farmer, and buy the staples at the local grocer.  I try not to buy anything that I can make myself.  This includes mac and cheese, pancake, brownie or cake mixes, frozen meals or pizzas, etc.  I make almost everything from scratch, and try to eat whole foods as much as possible.  I normally leave the store with dairy, meat and veggies, with a few extras here and there.  I still have some items I purchase because I have yet to find a replacement for them, like certain toddler friendly finger foods, but I will!  
We grow, forage, or hunt for whatever foods we can throughout the year.  We purchase other foods for canning from a local farmer who is a good friend.  We purchase pork from a local 4-Her, beef from my cousins farm down the road, and eggs from local farms.  We are very lucky to be able to do this, but we also sacrifice our time to ensure we feed our family the best we can.  We can keep our grocery bill fairly low thanks to our preservation efforts.  I prefer to know what is in my food.  Now thanks to the new BPA free Ball Canning lids, we don't have to worry BPA in our veggies.  I purchase what is out of season at the store if I need to or if we run out of something before the next years season rolls around.  For the most part I can purchase all the groceries we need plus the staples (diapers,soap, toilet paper, paper towels, etc)  for about $50-$60 a week.  It is amazing how much you save when you stop buying junk!  Junk adds up fast...soda, chips, cookies, snacks, frozen meals, boxed goodies, processed meats....there is about $40 worth of junk in this list!
We don't skip the sweets, they are just homemade!

Some people think I am too strict, other think I am crazy.  I just think I am trying to make informed healthy decisions for my family.  I try to limit preservatives, GMO's, MSG, sodium nitrate, excess sodium, dyes, fake sugars, etc.  We can't avoid everything, especially in our very rural area, with few grocery stores.  We do have the rare meal out, and we do buy the occasional treat.  We have made a lifestyle change.  We have always known what foods to eat, but always gave into convenience.  Since I am accountable for the health and well being of the entire family, not just myself, I can't use price and convenience as an excuse anymore. When I saw this article,  and another where it showed families around the worlds weekly grocery bills ranging from ~$30 to $500+.  I was a little more aware of my choices, and those of others around the world.  I know that as long as we are capable of providing our family plenty of nutritious foods, we are blessed!  We shouldn't be made to feel ashamed because we are not giving our kids the latest juice box, or sugary treat.  We need to be more cautious of what is in the food we provide and where it comes from.  I understand convenience, cost and time, but we have to start making informed choices as consumers or the market is never going to change.  It is vital to our health and future even more now with the introduction of Genetically Modified foods into the market place.  (foods manipulated with the DNA of bacteria, viruses, or animals)
I had worked the last 5 years, prior to having my daughter, in a Pre-K classroom.  As part of the curriculum, we had to eat "family style" meals with our students.  This included sitting around the table with them, sharing the same food that was provided by the school system.  Over these 5 years, I saw my weight gradually rise, and my health get progressively worse.  My cholesterol was going up, my triglycerides were raising, I was becoming pre-diabetic!  This was a requirement of my job, and could only be avoided with a doctors note.  Seeing as processed foods have been linked to Auto immune disorders, I think we need to take a serious look at the school lunches provided for our children.  Whole foods are served as sides and on a salad bar that is not accessible to all students.  The farm to school initiative is a great start, but we need to educate our children on the importance of good wholesome foods.  I personally saw very few parents who packed a healthy well balanced lunch for their kids.  I know in this day and age, it is hard to get your child to eat something good for them when they are subjected to endless TV commercials that tell them how cool the junk they eat is.   Yes, a lunchable is easy, but the only healthy thing it offers is the cheese.
Not only is this food being pushed on our children, it is highly addictive.  It is not nutritious, and completely unhealthy.  They know it, we know it, but we keep buying it!  Why?    Isn't our health worth the time and effort?  If your health and eating habits affect your children, both genetically and by influence, shouldn't we make it a priority?   What you make a habit of eating can influence the health of your grandchildren.  We need to start breaking this cycle of addiction.  Start buying whole healthy foods for your family.  Maybe start introducing new fruits, to your kids, maybe try a new food a week until you can phase out the junk.  Instead of hotdogs, try a new crock pot recipe with whole meats and veggies, or go meatless for a night a week.  That would be far healthier than eating the processed, nitrate ridden hotdog on a nutrient depleted bun, with a gob of GMO laced HFCS and sodium loaded ketchup.  Swap the soda for water.  I know it is hard to find time to prepare and cook healthy meals and snacks in our busy hectic worlds, but this really should be a priority.  Educate yourself on the negative effects of the foods you eat.  Take a serious look at the health problems in your family.  We are sometimes even told by a Doctor to change our diets, but we don't because we are addicted to the sweet/ salty, convenience of the junk.  Stop giving in to media pressure to eat out and buy crap.  Spend some time in the produce isle, or better yet local farmers market.  Or heck, take the kids to visit a farm.  Read your labels.  Learn about the effects of GMO's and fight for your right to know if you are eating any, demand labeling!
If we rely on these big corporations to provide us with wholesome nutritious foods for our families, we are in big trouble.  To them the dollar, and stock prices are far more important than the health of your family.  So quit abusing the authority and power we have as consumers.  If we stop buying bad foods and start supporting your local farmer.  You as a consumer can make the change needed.  Start by changing your eating habits, and your families.  Lead by example.  Forget the snickers and grab a banana.  (and I am by no means asking anyone to give up chocolate!)  I have found that eliminating the temptation helps.  If healthy food is the only option it is easier to choose.  Be strong!  You have an addiction you are trying to break, and breaking that addiction in a child can take extreme patience and strength.  Read labels, and support organic brands.  I have been buying my daughter the Annie's Homegrown cheddar bunnies, they contain far better ingredients than goldfish, and no GMO's.  Just be aware of your decisions and know that your hard earned dollar speaks volumes when you spend it.  Sacrifice an hour worth of reality TV a night and find new healthy recipes your family can try, or cook together.  Start a family recipe book, let the kids help plan the weekly menu to help encourage their healthy changes.  Let your kids plant some veggies, if they grow it, they might be more tempted to try it.  If you prep all your fruits and veggies and have them ready to eat in containers, it makes snacking and cooking easy.  Made some homemade dips for them too, to change up the flavors.   Just be informed and aware, and make an effort to eat better.  We owe it to the future generations.  Fighting the junk is hard.  I know, but your family is worth it.  Here's a small glimpse at how some of our healthy eating looks

This weeks dinner menu included....
Monday: Roast ( with the last of the venison, local potatoes, carrots & garlic, and celery & onion from our garden)  
Tuesday: leftovers
Wednesday: Tacos with venison burger, homemade taco seasoning, garden tomatoes & lettuce, and homemade taco sauce.
Thursday: Taco pizza with homemade crust ( great use of leftovers)
Friday: Pork chops local potatoes and local broccoli

What could be found on my grocery list:  
cheese ( cheddar, cottage, cream, mozzarella, etc)
butter (not margarine)
spices/ baking soda/powder
yogurt (organic)
peanut butter
organic snacks

What we provide for the year: (we grow, get locally, hunt or purchase locally)
green beans
tomato products (spaghetti sauce, pizza & taco sauce, ketchup, salsa)
pickles, pickled peppers/cauliflower

Any small change is good and always leads to another good healthy choice. Good Luck!  

Friday, July 26, 2013

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Muffins

I came across this recipe on our journey to find healthy, homemade, toddler friendly finger foods, since our little Ms independent insists on feeding herself!  It sounded yummy, so I gave it a go.  I made it according to the original recipe I saw posted.  I will probably adapt it some in the future, but this muffin is delicious.  Seriously what toddler doesn't like cinnamon & sugar?  Now you may not think this recipe very healthy, but you can use whatever organic ingredients you like.  Also anything is better than a processed, preserved, packed and shipped store bought item any day.

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Muffins
1 3/4 C flour                                                        
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 C sugar
3/4 C milk
1/2 C melted butter
1 egg

In a large bowl, mix first 5 ingredients
In smaller bowl mix sugar, milk, butter & egg
Add liquid mixture to dry mix, stir till moist
Add to muffin tins, I used regular & mini muffins for my tiny fingers.
Bake @ 350 for 18-20 minutes

While hot, brush with melted butter & roll in cinnamon sugar.  I melted about 3 TBSP and had some leftover....just make little cinnamon sugar mix in a small bowl and roll them around to coat them.

I usually buy clearance cupcake tins when I see them (after holidays) they are super cute to use with the kids and cost pennies, that's great!!  (The ones in the photos are from clearance Valentines & Easter)

In the future I would mix the wheat flour with a little buckwheat flour, but that might be the only change I make.  Around here, I add buckwheat flour to just about all my baked goods.  :)    These muffins were a hit with everyone.  Even our teenager liked them!  They had the texture of the perfect cake doughnut.  Also traveled well in little hands.  This recipe is a keeper.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

ice fishing bounty

Around our house, we have four seasons.  Ice fishing, bass fishing, ginseng, and hunting.  That takes us from January to December.  Last year was a huge disappointment when there was no ice.  So far this year it has been on and off, but at least the boys have been able to get out a few times so far.

We love every year when a bunch of people go out and try to catch their limits.  We have a fish fry, with fries, hush puppies, and all the homemade trimmings.  There hasn't been enough ice this year for that but we did manage a few good fish dinners.  We normally make a simple batter and fry them up.  I would offer up a batter recipe, but I still haven't found the perfect one.  So by all means, if you have a good batter recipe, PLEASE share!

There are two local fishing areas that have walleye, perch, and bluegill.  With spring around the corner, I am not sure how many more trips out the boys will make.  At least we had the chance this year.  I guess if it comes down to it, they might have to take a short break from bass fishing to stock up on walleye later in the year.

On a side note, the weather was beautiful today, all the snow melted off, and I got some outside work done, finally!  We got one of the apple trees cut back and the back yard cleared from the debris left from Sandy.  Also got all three porches cleaned and ready for spring, trimmed the Rhododendron that fell in front of the basement door, and started to clear the garden for this year.  It wasn't much but it was a good start, and it was so nice to spend my first full day outside!  Hurry up Spring!!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

homemade pancakes

As my daughter starts eating more and more solid foods, I am looking for more healthy recipes to make that she can snack on.  I don't like to buy store bought snacks, and prefer to make things from scratch so I can control what goes in my food.  So I have been on the hunt for healthy baby friendly foods.  I made pancakes the other day, and it was hilarious to she her eat them.  She took one bite and her eyes got really big.  Then she proceeded to eat an entire pancake, I am not sure she came up for a breath while shoveling it in!  I am not a totally strict mamma.  I did put a teeny tiny bit of butter and syrup on hers.  This could explain why she liked it so much.   :)

There are 101 different pancake recipes.  You can make so many substitutions or additions, the possibilities are endless.  I used a basic recipe.  It uses milk, cause quite frankly, I hardly ever have buttermilk on hand.

1 3/4 C Flour
2 TBSP Sugar
1 TBSP Baking powder
1/4 tsp Salt
1 egg lightly beaten
1 1/2  C Milk

add dry ingredients to bowl mix in milk & egg
let raise a little then cook on griddle.

Stack them, top them, serve them, and eat them.  

The variations on this basic recipe are endless.  Adding vanilla, banana, pumpkin, chocolate chips, blueberries, applesauce, etc. Using Wheat flour, whole grain, multi-grain, or a mixture.  Using Stevia, Agave, or some other sweetener.  Whatever you feel like, but a basic recipe is always a good place to start.

I do however recommend you have a good castiron griddle.  And Lodge makes the best. 


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

raspberry cobbler

I  decided on a cold winters day that it was time to break into my frozen berry stash.  What better way to enjoy those berries than in a delicious cobbler.  It was a desperate attempt to create a bit summer in the dead of  winter, and I think we came pretty close.  :)

When I froze the berries, I added a little sugar to them so they would be ready for cobbler or crisp when I needed them.  I also froze them in quarts, because for either a crisp or cobbler, you would need at least a quart of berries.  I  thawed them out and added them to a 9x9 baking dish.  I didn't need to add anything to them, just sprinkle with a little flour to thicken the juices as it cooked.  
The cobbler topping is very similar to a biscuit recipe, but sweeter.

Mix 1 Cup Flour
2 TBSP Sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Then chunk in the cold butter
mix till it looks like course crumbs
beat 1 egg with 1/4 C milk
mix with flour mixture and spoon on top of the berries

I sprinkle dough with a little extra sugar, then Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until underneath of topping isn't doughy anymore.
 Then serve and enjoy!!
 I like mine with milk and sugar!!

Monday, January 28, 2013

simple life at stake

Growing up in the mountains of West Virginia, I always had a dream of escaping this place.  Into a big city, with endless possibilities.  When the opportunity to leave came, over and again, I decided to stay.  I could not leave these mountains.  There is something about this way of life, these people, & about raising a family here.  I want my children to have the opportunity to see and experience the things I did as a kid, well, most of them..  ;)  These mountains helped shape who I am.  These mountains have taught me so much!  These mountains taught me to appreciate the simple, green life they help provide for us.

These mountains provide everything we need from entertainment to jobs.  From the family working in the coal mines, to the animals harvested during hunting season.  These mountains give us everything we need.  You can grow a garden and raise animals for milk and meat.  You can forage for berries, mushrooms, herbs, greens, ginseng, ramps, nuts, etc.  You can fish the local streams for native fish.  If not native, it was probably raised locally, somewhere like the Bowden Fish Hatchery.  You can also learn so much from these mountains about nature, science, animals, weather, & living in general.  These mountains also provide great entertainment.  From swimming in lakes and streams, looking for crawdads, hiking, biking, 4-wheeling, catching lightening bugs, boating, rafting, camping or simply exploring the woods.  You get so much from these mountains!

These people are special too, and you can never truly appreciate all that they have to offer, unless you can embrace their lessons as gifts.  The soul of every West Virginian resides in the way of life our ancestors adapted to in these mountains so many years ago.  We are a very friendly and welcoming group of people, with an amazingly rich heritage.  From the music, folklore, arts, culinary traditions, work ethic, family traditions, and beliefs, these people and our culture are remarkable!  Here are a few local musicians, Chad Slagle, The Davisson Brothers Band, Breach the Silence, & 6'6 240, as just a small examples of the great music that comes from this state. You can find a huge collection of WV artists (pottery, jewelry, fine art, folk art, etc.) at the Tamarak.  You can see live animals at Hovatter's Zoo or the French Creek Game Farm.  Go to the Theater, catch a concert, attend a music festival, watch the Mountaineers, and there are always local musicians playing somewhere close.

I would venture to say that West Virginia is one of the nation's top hidden secrets. Most of us would prefer to keep it that way.  Our state has been in the news lately thanks to the MTV premier of Buckwild.  However, our state should be in the news, for a far bigger reason,  the destruction of our mountains.  I know you have heard the debates over mountain top mining, but the truth is, our home, our mountains, are being destroyed daily by the process of Mountaintop removal.  An evil form of coal mining that blows the top off of our mountains and then tosses the remaining rubble into our nearest creek bed.   Destroying  not only the mountaintop, but areas surrounding it as well.  It is an extremely destructive form of mining, and employees more machines then men.  It is destroying our home, our heritage, our history, and it is killing our people.  Destroying our Mountains, destroys our way of living.

It is bad enough that our mountains, that have shaped who we are, are being blown up. Now one particular mountain is at stake that helped shape not just Appalachian heritage, but American history. Unfortunately  few have even ever heard its history.  Have you ever heard the term "redneck"?  Ever wonder where it came from?  Have you heard of Mother Jones?   Do you know how the UMWA started?  Do you know Blair Mountain and the history she tells?  Well, you should!  Everyone should!  Instead, this huge part of American history, & this historic mountain is in a legal battle between those who wish to preserve her and those who wish to surface mine her.

Many families in this state, including my own, have depended deeply on the coal these mountains hold.  For years, underground mining has supported our families, preserved our heritage and held our history. Mountain top removal however, seeks to strip us of our history, heritage, culture, and health. Strip mining is bad enough, but the damage to land, water, people, wildlife, heritage, etc., that comes with Mountaintop mining is unacceptable!  These mountains provide us with a simple yet seemingly perfect life.  It is time we start to channel our inner Mother Jones and "fight like hell" for the mountains that have shaped our lives.  We deserve the right to pass these mountains on to our children and grandchildren.  Actually it is our duty to preserve our culture for them, and to do so, we must preserve our mountains!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

peach crisp

One of my favorite things about canning and preserving my own food, is being able to have a taste of summer in the dead of winter.  Recently I made peach crisp with some of the canned peaches we had done the year before last.  With the preserved fruit on hand, this dessert is so simple to make, and you should have the other ingredients in stock in your pantry.

For the crisp I emptied the fruit into a baking dish.  I had the peaches canned in halves so I chopped them up a bit.  You can also use fresh, frozen, or store bought canned peaches.

In a large bowl: mix ~ 4 cups of oats, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 -1 cup of cold butter, and 1 tsp cinnamon with your hands, until the mixture can be formed into ball and crumbled.  

Crumble oat mixture over the fruit and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until oats reach desired crispiness!

You can adjust your fruit to crisp ratio to your desire, we like about an even amount of both.  

Let cool, or not, and enjoy!!  There is nothing better during single digit winter weather!  Except for Raspberry cobbler, and that is next!  Yummy!!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The vaccination debate

My daughter has her regular check up soon, and it is time again to consider whether I will allow her to get the recommended vaccinations.  So far I have allowed her to receive all the ones recommended, just on an altered schedule.  Now the tough decisions are going to be coming, like MMR, and the pressure from doctors to get the flu shot, which we have never favored.  

There is suppose to be a ton of scientific evidence that vaccines work; however, there is also no determined cause for autism, and vaccinations have not been ruled out.  There was recently a Japanese study that proved a link between the two.   It can be anything from an ingredient in a vaccine, to a reactions between two or more of them, or even, a combination, faced with a specific genetic trait that could be causing an increase in occurrence.  Hopefully one day we will have answers.  Until then, must we conform and follow recommendations?   

When I was young, we were required to receive 7 immunizations, my daughter today is required to get 14.  Sometimes piggybacked to be the equivalent of  8 or 9 vaccines at once.  Even if considered safe, that is an awful lot for such a little body to handle all at once.  We have never been a family who relies on the drug store or pharmacist.  We prefer not to allow these chemicals into our bodies, but are required to put ones worse into our daughter?

Did you know that people with Eczema should not get a vaccine for smallpox?  How about if you have a egg allergy you could have a reaction to the flu shot, and what if it is given to a child to young to know of they have an egg allergy yet??  How about a connection between vaccines and diabetes?  What about adult booster shots causing problems such as auto immune disorders?  There is a ton of mixed information out there,with the government & pharmaceutical companies being, seemingly the only ones, saying they are safe.

I live in WV, which has one of the toughest laws for vaccinations exemptions.  My daughter is required to be on schedule in order to attend public school.  Some child care centers even require them to be current on their shot record.  Religious beliefs and personal beliefs do not matter! Refusal to get immunizations basically requires you to home school your child.  Which with all we are seeing today may not be a bad thing to consider.

For other parents I would love to hear from you on your feelings towards the requirements, or how you have managed to navigate through the dreaded immunization schedule to allow for something potentially less harmful for your children.  Or do you simply follow recommendations and don't question the doctors?  As parents isn't it our job to try and protect our children?  With all the mixed information out there, I guess you can only make an informed decision, if you are well informed.  

Friday, January 4, 2013

looking ahead

As we start down the journey which will be 2013, I look back at 2012 and all that it had to offer.  Our greatest achievement was the birth of our first daughter, in April.  :)  After this, my contributions to the garden and remodeling this old house, halted for the most part.  My other half, however, managed to harvest almost everything by himself, put up new fence, and the majority of the other household tasks.  Our 16 year old is now a licensed driver. I mean Seriously?!?  There have been a great deal of changes over the last few years, (first time mom, new house, left job, etc) and I feel we are finally getting settled into this old house and the land is starting to head in the direction we would like.  As everything else seems to be working itself out too.

There are so many thing that need to be accomplished once spring arrives and we can start working.  Winter will be for finishing the last of the remodeling in this old 1911 house. Since winter has technically just begun, I was looking for a way to get a jump start on some of the outside tasks I am anxiously awaiting to start.  Since the move, our main focus was on starting a vegetable garden, so we would still have the ability to preserve our own food these last two years, even though the harvest was smaller than usual.  The one thing I have missed the most is my herb garden.  I sorely missed it when canning pickles and I didn't have fresh dill.  So I decided to start some plants indoors for the winter and transplant them outside when the weather breaks.
basil, thyme, catnip, cumin, lemon grass & sage
I like to use seed starting soil.  Follow directions for planting each type of seed.  Water lightly, and then place them in about a 1/2 an inch of dechlorinated water.  In this take along container, you can even fit the lid over top and make a mini greenhouse for your seedlings.  I plan on transplanting them to clay pots after their roots get strong.  I can keep them in the kitchen window until it is warm enough to keep them outside.  Then, hopefully after I get the patch tilled up for the herb garden, this will help give me a nice jump start.

This is a small start, but I somehow feel better having seeds in the dirt.  Next lettuce!  When the snow melts, we need to prune the apple trees.  They need pruned when they are dormant, but thanks to hurricane Sandy, we are going to have to trim them completely back.  One tree even got split in half.  I hope we can save it!   Also the weight from the almost three feet of snow that Sandy produced, along with her winds, also destroyed the majority of trees and bushes in front of the garden.  These now get to be cut out and the land tilled up so we can extend the garden plot about another 30 feet.  This should almost double the square footage.  YAY!!

I hope to get elderberries transplanted onto the property this year.  We also need to plant a peach and pear tree, start the strawberry garden up here, plant more blueberries and work on the grape arbor.  Also, if we can find good cherry and plum trees, we need to plant them.  Not to mention I would like to plant another nut tree, to add to the black walnut., if possible.  All this in addition to the changes that need made to the old landscaping.  As well as the clean up should keep us busy.  Our daughter will be around a year old when the outside work really starts.  She will be walking everywhere and exploring everything, this is going to be so exciting.  I wonder how much we will actually accomplish with our curious little adventurer on the go?  I can not wait!!

We now have the ability to get birds.  We have discussed meat chickens, egg chickens, and turkeys.  I would love any suggestions and advice on coops or breeds.  We are planning on raising them as naturally as possible, so I would love to hear any feedback on the most effective way to raise them.  Also advice on predator protection.  (raccoon, opossums, coyotes, etc.)  Please leave comments with advice or links, or share the info to our Facebook page.  Any advice would be appreciated!  :)  We harvest our own venison, split a cow that my cousin raises a 1/2  mile down the road, and buy pork and eggs from a local 4-Her.  We do not know a local supplier of meat chickens, so we plan on doing this ourselves.  We can always harvest wild turkey when in season, but we would love to raise about 6 for cooking each year.  So again, any info would be great!

For now, I will impatiently await the arrival of spring, while getting my hands in the dirt as much as possible.  We will try to finish the interior of this house, which consists of trim, fixing a few closets, running duct work, and waterproofing the basement.   Seeing as we started with framing in studs, I feel good that we are almost done, for now anyhow. A thought I am going to keep in mind , is that from here out, the days are only getting longer and the warmth of summer is getting closer every day. Guess we will try to stay warm and cozy inside and out of the cold for a few more weeks.