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If you’re just tuning in, this is a brand new ongoing series in which I document each month of our lives in our transition to a simple, homemade life on a modern homestead. We ditched town and moved to the country in 2008 and we blog about both our successful and not-so-successful ventures in homesteading, switching to natural products, and embracing a whole foods lifestyle.  Check out the entire series here.

The garden is going well!  Oh how I wait (and wait and wait....) for those beautiful green tomatoes to show their first blush of red.  How I long to pick them fresh off of the vine.  Fingers crossed this will happen soon.  Our veggies are a tad bit behind because I started them about 4 weeks late.  The good news is we are at farmers markets every week so we still get to enjoy the veggies as they come into season.   Then, once ours are producing, we can switch to eating right from the garden.  I did downsize my garden this year but I think I will go back to a large garden next year.  It's just so satisfying!



I don't want to jinx myself by saying this, but so far the wild bunnies and woodchucks haven't eaten much, just a few pea plants.  We really need to fence the garden in next year.....

And we have added to our wildlife....we have skunks.  Ugh.  They join the fox, whistle pigs, deer, possum, fisher cat, etc.  A mama and baby.  Can I just tell you how absolutely adorable the baby is????  (if he sprays any people or critters he will officially no longer be cute)  I've put J on skunk relocation duty.

Our blueberries are just about ripe.  The plants are currently not in good locations (we have a LOT of shade, so finding full sun for any plants is difficult) and we plan to move them to hopefully help them grow.  Our local PYO blueberry farm is officially open.  We'll be picking in the next 2 weeks so we can get them put up in the freezer as well as get some jam made.  This year I'm trying Blueberry-Maple Jam.  Doesn't that sound divine?

All of the home projects are now on hold.  The kitchen sits without cabinet doors, the bathroom is without a second light & new floor, and outdoor projects such as the front steps will wait for fall.





The Coop Girls are, for the most part, doing well.  The two girls who you see in the photos above are not playing nicely.  As a matter of fact, they are downright nasty at times to a few of them.  We are hoping that once the littles are introduced, with the inevitable change of pecking order, maybe, just maybe, things will shift slightly.  If not, well, I'm not sure what we will do.  Hazel (the chicken directly above) stands on the girls backs who are clearly at the bottom of the pecking order, and pecks and pulls out their feathers.  Usually she figures out how to jam their heads into the fence so they can't move.  And when they are out and about on the property, she hunts them down to ensure they understand she's still in charge.  Such a bully, isn't she?


Speaking of the littles, they are doing very well.  They will be ready to enter the full coop in about a month.  They are currently enjoying their very own coop space and outdoor run.  We've just started training them with the mealworm trick so they can free-range.  The mealworm trick is that since chickens LOVE freeze-dried mealworms they will go wherever the mealworms are.  So, in order to ensure we can get them safely back in the coop when they are free-ranging, we train them to the sound of the shaking bag.  I shake the mealworm bag and they come running.  Their reward is a handful of mealworms.



The dogs and Jack are doing well.   They are all very busy supervising anyone and anything that comes onto the property.  The mailman calls them his fans.  If the dogs aren't barking to greet him on the days he runs a package up to the house he asks "where's my fans?"  Oh how I wish they didn't love barking so much.  But they do.  I've had many people tell me they want French Bulldogs because they don't bark.  Huh????  They don't bark like most small dogs, I suppose, but oh yes, they do bark.




The Apothecary business is in full gear, of course, because summer is officially here!  We are keeping up with products much better this year (at least so far) than last, but trying to balance it all makes it difficult to introduce any new products.  I fear falling behind again.

Like any business, trying to balance all of the pieces remains the largest challenge.  Because it's just the two of us we wear many many hats.  We both love working for ourselves which means we happily wear all of those hats.  We've been better this year about not working 7 days a week.  It's hard, but we are figuring it out.


If you would like to see more of our day-to-day, please join us on Instagram.



How was your June?

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I
f you’re just joining in, the “Change Your Life In 2018” series is my quest to make some small changes this year.  Rather than setting easily forgotten resolutions I wanted to focus on 12 changes that would help me learn and grow as a person.  I’ve chosen to focus on one change per month so that it could not only become a more manageable goal, but I have a better chance at making these new habits as well.  I hope you’ll join me in the challenge!

We spend little time thinking about, well, what we think about.  After all, there are too many other things to reflect upon.  This means we run on auto pilot, which is all fine and dandy until our thoughts begin to guide us in the wrong direction.  The reason being, the way in which we think about ourselves and our life turns into our belief which then becomes our reality.



This can be a very good thing, provided our thoughts are positive and have us moving in the right direction.  For instance, you think you can succeed, and then you believe that you can succeed, which means your chances of succeeding are pretty darn good.  Unfortunately, if our thoughts are not positive, it will have the same result.  You think you will fail, leads to you believing you will fail, which means this will become your reality.  You will fail.  It's not that positive thoughts have some woo-woo magical fairy dust, rather, they push you to do more resulting in a much better chance of succeeding.

"When You Change The Way You Look At Things, The Things You Look At Change".
 - Dr. Wayne Dyer

I will give you an example from my own life.  The company that I worked for just prior to working for myself originally hired me into an entry level position.  I had been in management prior, so this was quite a step down, but I liked the company and decided to take it.  I had in my mind from day one that I would become the manager of the department even though there was already a manager.  So I worked as though I was the manager of the department.  Four months later, when she surprisingly gave her notice, because I had proven myself to the department director, I was offered the position of manager.  It's not to say that if I hadn't decided I would become the manager one day that the opportunity never would have presented itself, rather, my chances were much better because I had decided that this was what I would work toward.  That same process then worked for me to achieve the director position one year later.

You've likely heard many people talking about the notion that if you believe in something and feel it strongly enough that you can get the universe to shift in order to make it happen?  It's basically what happened in my example above.  I get that there's a whole lot of doubt about the validity of this.  I think often times it gets watered down a bit too much to be simplified into:  belief + feel = achieve.  Which I don't think it was intended to be.  Using the example I gave above, if I had believed I would be the department manager and then sat back on my laurels and did nothing to try and achieve it, it most likely would not have happened and I would have been cursing the universe for failing me.  When really, I would have failed myself.  Instead, look at it as, if we want something and believe we will achieve it and we couple that with feeling it while at the same time working passionately toward it, then the universe will assist us in achieving it, therefore, becoming our reality.

The good news in all of this is you get to choose your thoughts.  At times we feel we have no control over situations including our thoughts regarding it.  But we do!  We can choose, at the very least, how we respond.  This means that you can alter your perception and, therefore, change the direction of your life at any time.  It's not easy, because you are fighting against the stories you tell yourself subconsciously, but you can absolutely do it.  It's a matter of giving up self-limiting beliefs in order to reach your greatest potential.

"Your Worst Enemy Cannot Harm You As Much As Your Own Unguarded Thoughts".
- Buddha

This takes time and perseverance, and here are a few things you can do to shift your perception:

  1. Become Aware - pay attention to circumstances that produce a negative emotion.  Question the origin of it and validity of your belief.  i.e. if the negative emotion is "I can't do it", why do you believe this?  Have you tried it before and failed?  If so, what could you have done differently? Did you lack confidence that time as well?
  2. Replace Positive Thoughts - once you're aware of a negative emotion and you've questioned it, replace it with it's positive counterpart.  Do this regularly and often.  Write it down so it becomes visual and say it to yourself so it's verbal.  If the negative version creeps into your head, work to consciously replace it.
  3. Challenge Yourself - consider stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying something that feels uncomfortable.
When you believe that you create your own reality it will be empowering.  But it can also be overwhelming as it's up to you to carefully select what that reality will be.




Next month’s topic is: Take Care Of Yourself

Find the introduction to the series here: 12 Things You Can Do To Change Your Life In 2018
Find January's challenge here:  Letting Go Of Regrets
Find February's challenge here: Figure Out What To Do With Your Life
Find March's challenge here: Setting Goals & Chunking Them Down
Find April's challenge here: Change Your Routine
Find May's challenge here: Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Find June's Challenge here: Simplify Your Life & Find Your "Why"

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The first (and only) time my husband went strawberry picking with me he was not a happy camper.  It was too hot.  He had to bend over for too long.  It took waaaaayyyyy too much time to fill up the bucket I brought.  Yada yada yada.



When we got home I made him these sweet biscuits.  Kind of a reward of sorts.  He was thrilled!  (he said he still wasn't happy about the berry picking though....)



Usually, when you see a sweet biscuit, you think of strawberry shortcake, as I first used them.  Oh but what a wonderful time we've had experimenting with other fruit!  Blueberries, mixed berries, peaches, and cooked apples are also all amazing on this incredible little biscuit.  We freeze fruit so that we are able to enjoy this delicious treat mid-winter when we need a little pick-me-up.  We heat the frozen fruit up over low heat on the stovetop, mashing it lightly as it cooks, drizzle in a bit of honey or maple syrup and devour enjoy on the biscuits.  If you want a thicker fruit blend (like in the photo above), just add a little cornstarch, arrowroot or cleargel.  Like whipped cream or whipped coconut cream?  Yup, add that to.


However you choose to dress them up, these biscuits belong in your dessert rotation.





Sweet Cream Biscuits
makes 8 biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar (or granulated cane or maple sugar)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold
1 1/4 cups whipping cream, cold
Additional sugar for dusting the tops, optional

Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment.  Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Grate the butter and add to the flour mixture, tossing with your hands briefly. Mix in the cream until the dough begins to come together.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a 1 inch thick circle.  Using a 3-inch round or square cutter, cut out biscuits and place on prepared baking sheet.

Continue lightly balling dough back up and patting to 1 inch thick to cut biscuits from all of the dough.

Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.  (**these can be refrigerated up to 2 hours or frozen up to 1 month at this point.  If baking from frozen, increase baking time to 25 minutes**)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly dust tops with additional sugar, if using.  Bake until golden and flaky, about 15 minutes.

These are best enjoyed the same day they are baked.



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If you’re just tuning in, this is our 1 year challenge in which I share our weekly meal plan as we try to eat primarily locally grown food.  You will see that I often I make 2 different meals because I am primarily plant-based and my husband is not.  Most of what we eat is made from scratch and any boxed, canned and/or frozen products follow the Real Food guidelines.  Meal planning is my way of controlling the grocery budget (read as a LOT of dollars saved), ensuring there is no food waste for the week, as well as saving time.  You can read more about meal planning here.

Last week is a bit of a blur.  J had a minor knee surgery the Friday prior so things were a tad erratic as we weren't entirely sure what to expect.  The good news is, he's doing very well and back up and running.  Well, not running, but you know what I mean.  Actually, he is completely against running even when he hasn't had knee surgery, so that will never be a true statement.  But I digress.....

Raspberries are here!!  Both red and black varieties, and they are sooooo good.  Summer squash is up and running.  Well, for the farmer's at the market they are.  My 4 plants have teeny tiny squash on them.  I'm sure in no time they will be the size of a baseball bat, but for now, I'll get them at the market.  Cherries and peaches made their debut in the stores a couple of weeks ago.  The prices have finally dropped to what I deem reasonable, so they went on the shopping list.  I'm not aware of anyone local who grows cherries or peaches to sell.  

This week it's quite hot and very humid.  Upper 90's to just over 100 degrees + high humidity = a very unhappy group here at Cobble Hill.  Not one of us has an appreciation for it.  The poor chickens are miserable and the dogs are bummed about not being able to hang out on the deck much.  It goes without saying that the grill will be used a lot this week.  Sunday was a high of 104 degrees with the heat index.  Needless to say it was a HOT day to be a vendor at a farmer's market which is why I opted not to take a photo of my market veggies.  That and I forgot my cute little market basket.  Instead I bring you a photo of beautiful lettuce growing in the ground.

On to the menu!

Weekly Meal Plan:
Sunday
Breakfast - Breakfast Burritos
Lunch - PB&J Sandwiches, Kohlrabi Sticks, Cherries
Dinner - Grilled Buffalo Shrimp, Veggie Stir Fry & Rice

Monday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Mixed Berries & Raw Almonds
Lunch - Salad (me-bean, J-grilled chicken)
Dinner - Burgers (me-bean, J-beef), Grilled Potato Wedges, Kohlrabi & Celery Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette, Quick Pickled Cukes

Tuesday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Mixed Berries & Raw Almonds
Lunch - leftovers
Dinner - Zucchini, Corn & Bean Stuffed Zucchini, (J) Grilled BBQ Pork Ribs

Wednesday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Mixed Berries & Raw Almonds
Lunch - Salad (me-bean, J-grilled chicken)
Dinner - Crispy Veggie Korean-Style Pancakes with Soy-Sesame Sauce, Veggie Fried Rice, (J) Grilled Teriyaki Chicken Thighs

Thursday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Mixed Berries & Raw Almonds
Lunch - leftovers
Dinner - Potato Gnocchi with Sage Butter, Broccoli, Roasted Red Pepper, & Black Bean Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing, (J) Grilled Steak Tips

Friday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Mixed Berries & Raw Almonds
Lunch - Salad (me-bean, J-grilled chicken)
Dinner - Grilled Stuffed Zucchini Boats (me-Bean, J-Sausage), Homemade Naan Bread

Saturday
Breakfast - French Toast
Lunch - Quesadilla's (me-bean, J-leftover chicken)
Dinner - Homemade Pizza (me-broccoli & pesto, J-pepperoni & mushrooms), (J) Jalapeno-Peach Grilled Chicken Wings

Weekly Food Cost:

Farmer's Market - $69.00
  • CSA (scallions, mesclun mix, sugar snap peas, broccolini, kohlrabi) $18.00
  • Zucchini, Lettuce, Black Raspberries, Red Raspberries, Strawberries, Cucumbers $20.00
  • 2 small whole Pasture-Raised Chickens - $22.00
  • Grass-Fed Beef, Ground - $5.00
  • Salsa (canned) - $4.00

Commissary - $12.78
*I am not allowed to share individual costs from the commissary so I've listed what we purchased and the total price*
  • celery, burger rolls, potatoes, mushrooms, chicken wings & tortilla shells

Trader Joe's - $28.09
  • Raw Walnuts - $8.99
  • Raw Slivered Almonds (2) - $6.98
  • Rolled Oats - $3.99
  • Parmesan - $5.15
  • Coconut Creamer (2) - $2.98

Whole Foods - $18.95
*if you ever shop at Whole Foods and are an Amazon Prime member, make sure you download their app before you go - they have some nice discounts for Prime members*
  • Peaches - $4.69
  • Cherries - $4.28
  • Vegan Mozzarella (Follow Your Heart Brand) - $6.99
  • Potato Gnocchi - $2.99

Grand Total - $128.82

Weekly Food Notes:
  • You should never (ever) see eggs on our shopping list since we raise chickens for eggs.
  • I had on hand: soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, herbs (garden), flour, butter, jam, cashew butter, frozen corn (from last fall), frozen peas (store bought), radish, frozen jalapeno (from last summer), roasted red peppers, rice, sun-dried tomatoes, sausage, parmesan cheese, black beans, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, mustard, steak tips, pork ribs, 

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It's strawberry season which means sticky red delicious jam will be stirred until perfection is achieved and then carefully poured into jars, waiting their grand finale - a few minutes in the water bath pool.  And then we wait to hear the "pop", "pop-pop-pop" as the lids seal on the now cooling jars.

There's just something so comforting about the process.

One of the most important traditions in the jam making process is the official licking of the spoon and sharing of the foam which is skimmed off of the top before spooning into jars.  J and I delight in getting our first taste of the newest batch.



notice, the cabinet doors are still off and waiting for paint.....





Because canning season is primarily a summer activity, we set up a small station on the back deck.  This allows the house to remain cool while the pot of water continues a slow and steady gentle boil, batch after batch.  I've thought about making the jam outside as well, but it doesn't heat up the house too badly, and I hate to be that far away from the sink.  Just in case.  So, it's made inside and finished outside.

Thankfully, I have a GREAT supervisor who keeps a close eye, ensuring it is prepared properly.



I decided to try a small batch of strawberry honey jam, to see if we liked it.  What a silly thought.....how could we not like it?  It is delicious!  And so, I made a larger batch. 

I am sharing the recipe here in case you would like to try it too!


Strawberry & Honey Jam

1 cup honey
4 teaspoons Pomona’s Universal Pectin Powder
8 cups washed, hulled and mashed strawberries (a food processor works great for this)
3 tablespoon lemon juice
1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
4 teaspoons calcium solution (included in the box of pectin)

Fill a canning pot and a smaller pan (unless you have a lid rack, then you only need the canning pot) with water and bring both to a boil.  Turn heat down to medium and keep sterilized jars hot in the canning pot while keeping the sterilized flat parts of lids in the smaller pan while you prepare jam.


In a large pan or dutch oven (stainless steel or enamel), combine the mashed strawberries with honey, lemon juice, lemon zest, pectin powder, and calcium solution. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir 1-2 minutes until honey is dissolved. Remove from heat.  Remove any foam from the top (it won't hurt the jam at all if you did incorporate it) and share it with your sous chef(s).


Carefully remove the sterilized jars from the canning pot, pouring the water from each jar back into the pot, and place them upright on a kitchen towel placed on the counter in front of you.


Turn the heat back to high on the canning pot and bring the water back to a rapid boil. Ladle the jam into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top.


Using a plastic knife, run along the inside of the jar a few times to pop any air bubbles that may be trapped.  Use the damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars clean. Place a flat lid on each of the jars and then a ring (not tightened tightly, just finger tight). 

Return the jars to the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least one inch. Bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes to process. Turn pot off, remove the lid, and raise the rack so the jars are no longer fully immersed.  Allow to rest 5 minutes before removing.  Remove the jars and place where they will not be disturbed for 12 hours. After 1 hour, check to see that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if the top can be pushed down, it hasn’t sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately and used within 2 weeks.

Store in dark cool place like a pantry or cupboard out of direct heat or sunlight. for up to 1 year. 





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If you’re just tuning in, this is our 1 year challenge in which I share our weekly meal plan as we try to eat primarily locally grown food.  You will see that I often I make 2 different meals because I am primarily plant-based and my husband is not.  Most of what we eat is made from scratch and any boxed, canned and/or frozen products follow the Real Food guidelines.  Meal planning is my way of controlling the grocery budget (read as a LOT of dollars saved), ensuring there is no food waste for the week, as well as saving time.  You can read more about meal planning here.

I was so excited to shop at the farmer's market again this week - zucchini, cucumbers, beets and scallions made their debut.  Although I had originally planned to create 2 asparagus dishes this week, I opted to call asparagus season officially over and switched up those veggie recipes so that I could take advantage of the new findings.

Strawberry season is in full swing.  I debated (momentarily) going to a u-pick field for my jam-making berries but instead purchased a flat from a farmer at our Sunday market.  This saved me from sweating in a hot field, the pain of bending over and over and over...., and a few hours that I could instead devote to something else.  Seemed like a no-brainer.  I happily carried my flat from the booth across from ours and announced to my husband that I was checking "strawberry picking" off of my list.  I will be able to complete jam-making as well as freeze quite a few for use later in the year.  And, of course, set aside quite a few for simply eating.

I used honey as the sweetener in the strawberry jam I've already made and I really like it!  So I purchased more this weekend for my second jam-making adventure of the season.  Also, this year, instead of granulated sugar I'll be using maple syrup in my blueberry jam.  I've heard from a number of people that it's amazing.  If you've tried it, I'd love to hear what your thoughts are.

I've just about used all of the lettuce I planted this year.  I decided against continual planting (and continual watering, and continual weeding) and instead will buy it.  I do have kale planted that I've been harvesting to add to salads.  It should provide for another month or so before the heat begins to take a toll on it.  I will plant it again toward fall.  I like to grow it so I can pick it as baby kale - so much more tender.

I have tomatoes on the vines but it will still be awhile before they are ready.  Just seeing them, however, makes me very very happy.  You'll notice that we bought steak at the grocery store this week.  Here's the thing with grass-fed beef.  It's more flavorful, but it's also tougher.  We've had some really good grass-fed beef steaks in the past.  Yes, they were a little tougher but not bad at all.  Lately, however, they've been incredibly tough, so, we are buying any steak that J will be eating at the grocery store going forward.  We've had great success with any cuts that you slow-roast as well as burger, so those we will continue to purchase from our local farmers.


On to this week's menu!

Weekly Meal Plan:
Sunday
Breakfast - Asparagus Frittata 
Lunch - PB&J's, misc. raw veggies
Dinner - Fajitas (beef for J and Veg & Bean for me); Mexican Rice; Salad

Monday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Strawberry Jam & Raw Walnuts
Lunch - (me) Salad (including mesclun mix, sugar snap peas, sun-dried tomatoes, black beans with roasted red pepper dressing, (J) French Bread Pizza
Dinner - (me) Baked Sweet Potato Stuffed With Beans & Veggies, (J) Chicken Burger & Coleslaw

Tuesday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Strawberry Jam & Raw Walnuts
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - (me) Pasta with Pesto & Veggies, (J) BBQ Pork Tenderloin, Rice, & Sautéed Sugar Snap Peas

Wednesday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Strawberry Jam & Raw Walnuts
Lunch - (me) Salad (including mesclun mix, sugar snap peas, sun-dried tomatoes, black beans with roasted red pepper dressing, (J) French Bread Pizza
Dinner - Burgers (me - veg, J - beef), Potato Salad, Quick Pickles, Kohlrabi 

Thursday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Strawberry Jam & Raw Walnuts
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - (me) Chop Salad, (J) Grilled Steak, Homemade Rice-A-Roni, & Oven-Fried Zucchini

Friday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Strawberry Jam & Raw Walnuts
Lunch - (me) Salad (including mesclun mix, sugar snap peas, sun-dried tomatoes, black beans with roasted red pepper dressing, (J) French Bread Pizza
Dinner - Quinoa, Beet & Orange Salad, (J) Grilled Pesto Chicken Breast

Saturday
Breakfast - Sourdough Waffles
Lunch - Flat Bread Pizza (me - veggie, J - pepperoni) and Salad
Dinner - Tacos (me - bean & veg, J - beef), Guacamole, Mexican Rice, Cilantro-lime-corn Salad

Weekly Food Cost:

Farmer's Market - $97.00
  • CSA (sugar snap peas, kohlrabi, cucumbers, beets, mesclun mix, & radish) - $18.00
  • Flat of Strawberries (8 quarts), zucchini, scallions, & lettuce - $44.00
  • Milk - $2.50
  • 1/2 & 1/2 - $2.50
  • Pork Tenderloin - $13.00 (cut in half for 2 meals)
  • Grass-fed Beef Ground Burger - $5.00
  • Honey - $12.00

Hannaford - $36.75
  • limes - $1.98
  • oranges - $1.69
  • horseradish - $1.69
  • taco shells - $1.99
  • burger rolls - $3.69
  • prime rib steak - $9.08
  • cherries - $7.42
  • sweet potato - $1.04
  • red potatoes - $3.49
  • coleslaw mix - $1.69
  • blackberries - $2.99

Grand Total - $133.75

Weekly Food Notes:
  • You should never (ever) see eggs on our shopping list since we raise chickens for eggs.
  • I had on hand: herbs (garden), Corn (frozen from last summer), kale (freezer & garden), sun-dried tomatoes, onions, carrots, mayo, black beans, rice, pasta, beef flap meat, boneless skinless chicken breast, olive oil, butter, avocado (last week), ground oats, flour, yeast, sourdough starter, roasted red peppers, and flour tortillas.

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If you’re just joining in, the “Change Your Life In 2018” series is my quest to make some small changes this year.  Rather than setting easily forgotten resolutions I wanted to focus on 12 changes that would help me learn and grow as a person.  I’ve chosen to focus on one change per month so that it could not only become a more manageable goal, but I have a better chance at making these new habits as well.  I hope you’ll join me in the challenge!

Reading the words "simplify your life" can immediately result in shivers for fear of the task of decluttering as you envision your home stripped down to absolute minimalism.  Let me assure you, that's not what we're focusing on for this month's challenge. 

Instead, our focus is on the "why".


Yes, it's important to begin the processing of simplifying parts of your life.  Think about how much easier your day is when your home, office, etc. are clean and/or your schedule is freed up a bit.  I  personally think much clearer and am just generally happier when my home is tidy.  Think about the feeling of lightness and relief you get when you purge an area or a function you didn't really want to attend is cancelled.  Purging/simplifying/lightening your life are all things to be worked on this month, but before you even delve in, begin working on finding out what is at the heart of the clutter.  Because without discovering this, it will all accumulate again in a matter of time.

What Is Your Why?
A quick personal story.  I've shared before that I come from a family of collectors and I've previously written about overcoming that clutter-filled life.  But I was also, at one time, addicted to clothing and shopping for clothes.  When I was in my teens to my early twenties I dealt with upset, lack of confidence, feelings of not fitting in, loneliness, and all other uncomfortable feelings with shopping.  I had so many clothes at one point that I wore a different outfit (top and bottom) to college for one quarter without ever wearing anything twice.  Ridiculous, really, but at the time it was easier to focus on clothing than what I was trying to avoid facing.  I was addicted to clothes and shopping as a way of dealing with my uncomfortable feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.  Or, rather, of not dealing with it.

I purged the clothing when it just became too overwhelming, but before I knew it, my closets were full again.  Because this is how I dealt with things.  Eventually I realized that I needed to figure out why in the world I couldn't stop buying.  I needed to implement purposeful, committed steps.  For me, I quickly realized that some of it was learned behavior.  It was how my mother dealt with things.  It was hard to face the reality, but I did and I actually am completely opposite now.  Now, 20 years later, I don't really enjoy shopping and the clothing that I have purchased were bought because I needed or liked the clothing, not because I didn't want to face uncomfortable feelings.

Getting to the root of the clutter and/or excess of "stuff" is critical.  This is your "why".  Once you figure out your why, you can start working on fixing that.  Then, it's time to attack the clutter!  Dealing with the excess that you've accumulated is INCREDIBLY difficult, but it's also incredibly freeing.  And when you are partnering this with working on your fears and/or insecurities, you will feel such a weight lifted off of your shoulders. 


Action Items
So look underneath the piles of stuff (no matter how well organized those piles are......) and be honest with yourself.  What fears or insecurities are hiding in your stuff? 

When you are about to go shopping, or you start to pull out your credit card, stop yourself and ask why you are buying this. 

When you physically put your hand on something to determine whether or not to purge, really pay attention to your feelings as you start to make the decision.

Take Back Your Time
Clutter isn't just about things, it can also be about how we live our lives.  Often we overbook our lives and it feels cluttered and out of control.  Again, looking at the action items above, you want to find your why.  Why are you agreeing to everything thrown at you, even though you have no time to do it?

Become intentional about the people you spend time with and the commitments you agree to.  Yes, there are things that we "should" do that we will end up committing to.  But really assess every invitation that comes to you.  Are you agreeing to all because you "should"?  You've heard the term "take your life back"?

This is your life - you choose how you live it and what you should or should not do. 

Make sure you are actually making that decision.  If not, it's time to assess the whys.

Do you have any tips of things that have/haven't work on your own journey to a more simplified life?



Next month’s topic is: Your Thoughts Are Your Reality

Find the introduction to the series here: 12 Things You Can Do To Change Your Life In 2018
Find January's challenge here:  Letting Go Of Regrets
Find February's challenge here: Figure Out What To Do With Your Life
Find March's challenge here: Setting Goals & Chunking Them Down
Find April's challenge here: Change Your Routine
Find May's challenge here: Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone




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I love strawberries.  I always have.  I could eat them 3 for each meal for weeks on end.  J likes strawberries, but he likes baked goods made with strawberries even better.  I make this pie every single year at the onset of strawberry season and once or twice in the winter with frozen strawberries and rhubarb (if you're using frozen, don't unthaw the fruit and increase the flour to 1/2 cup).

This pie is absolutely delicious.  It's sweet, a touch of sour from the rhubarb, warm from the spices, and oh so juicy.  (if your family are not fans of allspice or cloves, certainly omit.  but keep the cinnamon if you can) It is the PERFECT spring dessert.




Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
Makes 1 - 9 inch pie

Crust:
12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
1/3 cup lard or vegetable shortening, chilled
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup ice water

Pie Filling:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons tapioca
1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
tiny pinch of ground allspice, optional
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, optional
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
5 cups strawberries, washed, stems removed and sliced
1 cup rhubarb, washed, trimmed and sliced into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces (I remove the stringy outer layer first but you don't have to)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

To make the crust:
Dice the butter and vegetable shortening and return to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8-12 times, until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. Dump out on a floured surface and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and let dough rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

To make the pie filling:
Put the strawberries and rhubarb in a large bowl. Add the flour, tapioca, sugar, and spices {including salt}and gently stir until thoroughly combined.

To put it all together:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove the pie crust from the refrigerator and cut the dough in half. Roll each piece on a well floured surface into a circle to fit a 9 inch pie pan. Place the first rolled dough in the pie pan, then pour in the filling ingredients. Place the butter on top of the filling. Cover with the second rolled dough and crimp the edges. Cut several steam vents in the top crust using a sharp paring knife. Place the pie in the refrigerator until the oven comes to temp.

Baking the pie:
Place the pie on a cookie sheet {to prevent any spill-over onto your oven floor} and put in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue baking 40-45 minutes longer, or until pie is bubbly and the crust is golden.

Transfer pie to a cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature. Serve.



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If you’re just tuning in, this is our 1 year challenge in which I share our weekly meal plan as we try to eat primarily locally grown food.  You will see that I often I make 2 different meals because I am primarily plant-based and my husband is not.  Most of what we eat is made from scratch and any boxed, canned and/or frozen products follow the Real Food guidelines.  Meal planning is my way of controlling the grocery budget (read as a LOT of dollars saved), ensuring there is no food waste for the week, as well as saving time.  You can read more about meal planning here.

Oh asparagus......I LOVE asparagus but I must say, I'm ready for new veggies!  And our CSA delivered on that wish!!!  They had sugar snap peas and broccolini this week.  Can I just tell you how truly excited I was?  The sugar snap peas are sooooooo sweet and delicious.  I did buy more asparagus too, this may be the last weekend it's available so I wanted to make sure we eat it until it's gone.  For a year.  It's so sad to think about the length of time.

Our CSA started up.  If you are not familiar with this concept, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is a system where farmers and the consumers (members) are in partnership of sharing both the benefits and risks of farming. Members purchase a share at the start of growing season so the farmers receive up-front capital to grow and manage the farm. Members then receive an allotted amount (share) of vegetables each week. Where the risk comes in is if the farmer has a crop that fails, that type of veggie or fruit won't be a part of the share. This typically comes at a savings over purchasing the items themselves weekly.  I've already paid in full.  Our Certified Organic CSA charges $390.00 for 21 weeks, breaking down to $18.60 per week.  Ours is a free choice CSA meaning we are able to select a set amount of items per week, but we get to pick which items.  I will list the weekly cost below including a list of what I received.  We eat a LOT of fruits & veggies, however, so I've considered either purchasing the larger share or purchasing another CSA from another farmer and "sharing the love".

I used quite a bit that we had on hand this week, making room for the items we'll be preserving for the next year.  I also purchased a few items for canning.  Our food costs would have been considerably more had I not had some of the meat and seafood in the freezer. 

Strawberries made their first appearance this weekend as well.  Now that I think about it, this was a GREAT weekend for fresh food!  Strawberries are absolutely one of my favorite foods and, therefore, I tend to stockpile them.  Not always a good idea as sometimes I hoard stash many bags in the freezer....

Some of you have emailed asking me about veggie burger recipes.  One of my fav's is from the blog Oh She Glows and is found here.  It features black beans and sweet potatoes, which are almost always in my house.

On to the meal plan!

Weekly Meal Plan:
Sunday
Breakfast - Breakfast Sandwiches
Lunch - (me) Veggie Sandwich, (J) Ham Sandwich
Dinner - (me) Rice & Veggie Bowl (Sugar Snaps, Kale, Asparagus, Broccolini, herbs, Black Beans), (J) BBQ Chicken Quarter, Rice, Asparagus

Monday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Strawberries & Raw Walnuts
Lunch - (me) Salad of Quinoa, Kale, Chickpeas, Cilantro, Sunflower Seeds, & Grated Carrots, (J) Homemade Flatbread Pizza
Dinner - Grilled Salmon Salad & Homemade Sourdough Bread

Tuesday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Strawberries & Raw Walnuts
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - (me) Soba Noodle Bowl with Roasted Red Peppers, Sugar Snaps, Kale, & Asparagus), (J) Grilled Steak Tips, Rice, Asparagus

Wednesday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Strawberries & Raw Walnuts
Lunch - (me) Salad of Quinoa, Kale, Chickpeas, Cilantro, Sunflower Seeds, & Grated Carrots, (J) Homemade Flatbread Pizza
Dinner - Orecchiette with White Beans & Broccolini, Homemade Sourdough Bread

Thursday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Strawberries & Raw Walnuts
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - Burgers (Veg - Me & Beef - J), Potato Salad, Kohlrabi Sticks (*see note above for link to veggie burger recipe*)

Friday
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Strawberries & Raw Walnuts
Lunch - (me) Salad of Quinoa, Kale, Chickpeas, Cilantro, Sunflower Seeds, & Grated Carrots, (J) Homemade Flatbread Pizza
Dinner - (me) Salad with Avocado, Black Beans, Sugar Snaps, Radish, Broccolini, & Roasted Red Peppers, (J) Grilled Pork Chop, Mac & Cheese, and Sautéed Sugar Snaps

Saturday
Breakfast - Breakfast Burritos
Lunch - Bean & Veggie Quesadilla's 
Dinner - Grilled Chicken Breast/Veggie Burger, Mushroom Risotto, Stir Fry of all leftover veggies


Making For the pantry:
  • Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam
  • Vanilla Strawberries
  • Strawberry-Vanilla Jam
  • Rhubarb Compote
  • I think I will put a bit of asparagus in the freezer as well.  It's good in frittata or quiche.
Weekly Food Cost:

Farmer's Market - $87.60
  • Milk - $2.50
  • 1/2 & 1/2 - $2.50
  • Asparagus - $8.00
  • Lettuce - $6.00
  • Rhubarb - $8.00
  • Strawberries - $21.00
  • Grass-fed Beef Burger - $5.00
  • Grass-fed Beef Steak - $16.00 (this was large enough for 2 meals, so I've put 1/2 in the freezer)
  • CSA Share - $18.60 (included organic kohlrabi, mesclun mix, broccolini, sugar snap peas, radish)
Commissary - $14.23
*I am not allowed to share individual costs from the commissary so I've listed what we purchased and the total price*
  • Potatoes, lemons, garlic, carrots, sweet potato, onions, sugar

Hannaford - $28.75
  • 2 Avocados - $1.76
  • Mushrooms - $3.99
  • Dates - $5.99
  • Organic Black Beans - $1.59
  • Organic Bananas - $1.86
  • 4 Pectin - $13.56

Grand Total - $130.58

Weekly Food Notes:
  • You should never (ever) see eggs on our shopping list since we raise chickens for eggs.
  • I had quite a bit on hand: Kale (garden), Ham, Parsley (garden), Basil (garden), Cilantro (garden), Raw Pecans, Raw Walnuts, Rice, Quinoa, Chickpeas, Raw Sunflower Seeds, Pasta, Pork Chop (from last week - farmer's market), Roasted Red Peppers, Chicken Quarter, Chicken Breast, Honey, Balsamic Vinegar, Maple Syrup, Mustard, Mayo, Cheddar Cheese (from last week - farmer's market), Salmon, Flour, Butter, & Olive Oil

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If you’re just tuning in, this is a brand new ongoing series in which I document each month of our lives in our transition to a simple, homemade life on a modern homestead. We ditched town and moved to the country in 2008 and we blog about both our successful and not-so-successful ventures in homesteading, switching to natural products, and embracing a whole foods lifestyle.  Check out the entire series here.

Oh, the weather.  It's been quite a blend of beautiful days, a sprinkling of humid days, and a day here and there of rain (also deemed a beautiful day - particularly to the garden!!).  While April ended up being one of the warmest on record, May was a bit cooler than normal overall.  It was a lovely month though and we were even able to get the garden in early and without row covers to keep it warm.



we've been eating a LOT of asparagus lately

herb box on the back deck


potato plants
The Garden
The dehydrator has now taken it's summer position on the pellet stove.  We leave it there all summer and the first part of fall so we can throw fruits and veggies in as they come in season.  It's annual reappearance actually came about a bit early this year to ensure apples didn't go bad.  I had a few apples from our local orchard that were starting to go past their prime so I wanted to slice them up and dry them out.  So, it's all set for it's first in-season produce which will be strawberries!

I did restrain myself on the garden and did not plant as much as I would have liked to.  I'm a sucker for seeds!  I really wish I had the time to plant it all as it's so gratifying to nurture it to harvest.  Instead, I resisted the urge and only planted sugar snap peas, spinach, kale, tomatoes (a LOT of tomatoes.......), peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, zucchini, green beans and cucumbers.  Most of our garden will be for putting up.  Green beans, spinach, sugar snaps, broccoli, kale and peppers will be frozen, what cukes we don't eat fresh will be transformed into pickles and canned, and tomatoes will be made into sauces and salsa and canned as well as canning them as whole tomatoes and diced tomatoes. 

This is if the critters stay away - I did not plant enough for us AND them......

We have a small asparagus bed as well, which we will be expanding.  We are going to add more once the harvest is complete for the year - should be over next week.  Our blueberry bushes are still small so we'll be picking at a local field again this year.  I removed our strawberry plants last year because I just couldn't keep fighting the critters for them so I'll be picking those at a local field as well in another week or two.  We'll also do u-pick for winter squash rather than growing it this year.  Our pear tree is looking good so, fingers crossed, we shall see some delicious pears, and our elderberry bush will produce a generous amount of berries that we will need to make time to dehydrate (so we can make elderberry syrup throughout the winter for amazing immune system boosting). Our farmer's markets will keep us in supply of the remainder of veggies & fruit.

Rhubarb is in season right now.  I don't grow it, however, we're able to buy it at our farmer's market.  I've made Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (using up some of our frozen strawberries), and super moist Rhubarb Cake.  I also plan to make and can a few rhubarb recipes for use this winter.

I was thrilled to be able to weed and mulch our flower beds.  Well, I have 3 to go, but it's almost completed.  I haven't had time to do this in a couple of years and it looks really nice.  We added a few plants too, just to bring a bit more life to the front yard.  I also moved my zucchini plants to the front yard.  I'll be interested to see how this works.  We've struggled with squash bugs for 2 years so I'm hoping that moving them 1/2 acre away will help.

Whistle Pig vs. The Wind Tunnel
Ground Hogs, a.k.a. Whistle Pigs (I like this name better so I'll be using it) are quite bountiful in these parts.  They are cute little things who completely terrorize my garden from time-to-time.

I haven't seen any this year, although I continue to keep a lookout, knowing they must be around.  I've seen wild bunnies, but no whistle pigs.  Until last week.  I was walking up the driveway to retrieve the garbage cans.  Although we've had whistle pigs live in our front ditch before, it didn't even strike me that there could possibly be one there.  Until we almost collided.

I had grabbed both the recycling can and the regular trash can, but the recycling can was falling over.  As I leaned into it to catch it, a whistle pig whizzed by me at top speed, narrowly missing my leg as he dove into the ditch.  I jumped, causing the recycling can to fall into my leg and lodge the can's edge into it before I was able to grab it and keep both it and myself standing up.  My leg hurt a bit, my heart was racing a bit, and I headed up the driveway, pushing one can and pulling the other.

I shared my near collision with J who shared the same concern that I had.  It's likely to get hit by a car if it stays in the drainage pipe in our ditch.  Every single year, for the past few years, we've had a whistle pig hit and killed.  We're assuming they were the ones who took up residence in the drainage ditch.  So, it was decided that J would try to catch and relocate it.  Off he headed to the barn and reappeared armed with the have-a-heart cage in one hand and the leaf blower in the other.  Leaf blower?  What is THAT for?  I wondered.

I followed behind him, inquiring about the tactic.  His thought process was to blow into one side of the drainage ditch and leave the trap at the other end.  This way, when he runs out, he runs right into the trap.  No concerns with him getting in the road this way.  Oh boy, I said silently.  I just don't think this is going to work.

The leaf blower was turned on and the wind went through from one side to the other.  Leaves came out, a few sticks came out, a random piece of trash came out, but no whistle pig.  He tried it again.  No whistle pig.  I tried to reason that the poor guy was probably traumatized and wouldn't come out for days just as J began to start round 3.  He agreed and gave up on the wind tunnel theory.  We left the trap the remainder of the day, checking it every hour, but no luck.

We haven't seen the little guy again.  I'm not sure if he packed his little whistle pig suitcase up and left on his own or if he's just hunkered down waiting for Armageddon to come to an end.  Only time will tell.

 a work in progress......


Kitchen Renovation/Projects
Well, it's not done.  We still have painting left to do but everything else is completed.  For now....... I have one final project on the calendar for next year which is to open up the wall a bit more between the kitchen and the dining room.  Because of this, we made sure we had extra hard wood flooring of both the dining room (that was installed last year) and the kitchen (the kitchen is a vinyl "hardwood" flooring).

We absolutely LOVE the larger window, the countertops, the stove, the backsplash, the sink, the faucet (who knew I would love a faucet?) and the flooring.  Love, love, love it all.  The window is only inches taller than the previous window but it feels even bigger!!

I will share more photos once it's completed.

We are hoping to go through the garden shed in the next week.  This isn't a huge project, although I'm sure it will be time consuming.  The garden shed has, unfortunately, become a catch-all building and because this "catch-all" will be going away this year, well, we need to go through it.  Anytime you need to go through things and assess "keep", "sell" or "give away" and then box up the "keep", it seems to take more time than one would expect it to, doesn't it?  It's not, for the most part, my stuff, it's mostly J's, so I'll just be there to help organize.

the chicks are getting big!



The Coop Girls
The "littles" are getting so big!!!  They are so sweet.  It's really enjoyable to watch them as they figure out what their wings are for, as they realize grass and bugs are delicious, as they learn to roost, and as they see and react to new things in their world (seeing the dogs for the first time was quite scary for them - something, I swear, they chatted about all day long).

The big girls stand and glare at them.  Actually, only a few of the big girls do, but it is really funny to watch.  They are so disgusted by them and their cute little chirping - you can just read it on their face.  Egg production is up, however, and that's a good thing.

We continue to get jumbo eggs about twice per week.  Still not sure who's laying these marvels, but we love to collect them.  It's always fun to see their shape (one actually looked very much like a football in shape) and size. 

About a month ago we switched them to a new Certified Organic feed from Green Mountain Feeds.  They seem to really like it.  It's non-GMO and soybean free.  We are able to get it from our local feed store which makes it very handy.

Oliver

Jack

Emerson

The Dogs + Jack
Oh Jack.  A guy who discovers new obsessions from time-to-time.  He has a new one.  The new bathroom rug.  He believes it was purchased for him and gets very upset when anyone else dares to step foot on it.  He's a guy who loves texture so, apparently, I selected a nicely textured rug.  I bought a second one once we knew we liked it.  This way it doesn't get worn out so quickly.  J joked that we should give one of them to Jack and put it upstairs so we can once again use the bathroom in peace and without his attitude.

The dogs are doing well.  They LOVE the sunny weather so there can be more outside time. More time to supervise the school buses, UPS man, and postal delivery guy.  And any white vehicles.  Oliver hates white vehicles.  I have no idea why, he has since we adopted him. 

There is also some construction going on a few properties away so anytime the back-up beeping starts he jumps up and listens.  Our previous Fed-Ex guy used to back up our driveway when he would deliver to us.  It's been about a year since he's left our route but Oliver still remembers this and waits for "Mr. Mark" to come and visit him.  The poor guy is always disappointed.  So, back to napping he goes.



The Business
Although it's not technically summer, to us this is the start of our summer season so we are in full swing!  We are trying to keep production running smoothly.  We start our second farmer's market next Wednesday.  It's a market we did two years ago and loved it.  Last year we were too busy to attend.  Since we are now both working for the business we can pick it back up again and we are thrilled!  It's a beautiful market.  It lasts from June through September, making it a nice addition to our week.



How was your May?

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