Monday, November 30, 2015

Black Walnut Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

We have over ten pounds of black walnuts we harvested on our land, so I've been finding ways to use them up.  I made some black walnut cranberry oatmeal cookies that turned out really well, and thought I'd share the recipe.  It makes about 4 dozen cookies.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup of shortening or softened butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
2/3 cup dried cranberries

Cream shortening and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla, beat well.  Add dry ingredients and oats.  Stir in cranberries and walnuts.  Form into balls the size of a walnut and press down.  Bake at 375* for ten minutes or until just starting to brown. 

What do you think, readers?  Do black walnut cookies sound tasty?

Friday, November 27, 2015

I Like Your Fungus

1.  I don't often think of fungus as being pretty, but sometimes you can find some really neat specimens out in the woods.  Like the fungus I found on one of our poplar trees when I was hiking around our land one day:

2.  I was driving the boys home from chess club one day, and they told me some wild story from the bus.  I said, "You're pulling my leg!"  There was silence from the back seat.  Just as I thought that maybe they didn't know what the saying meant, Reid piped up, "Mom, how can we pull your leg when we're in the backseat?"

3.  We don't have an Xbox or a Wii, much to the boys great eternal disappointment.  They do use one sometimes in gym.  They do a game called Just Dance, and there is a leader that the players have to try to follow step by step.  The boys like to play this at home.  It cracks me up.  They put on music and one will lead while the other two have to follow his dance steps.  See, I stand by my point - we don't actually need an Xbox! 

4.  Pierce came home from school and said that a book they were using in reading had a bad word in it, and all the kids were talking about it.  I asked which word it had.  Pierce said the "J" word.  I ran through all the bad words I knew and was stumped.  The "J" word?  Finally I gave in and asked Pierce to say it.  He spelled it for me.  Turns out the word is jackass.  Readers, were you stumped like I was?

5.  I can tell you one thing I won't be doing today!  Black Friday shopping.  Ick!  Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving.

Linked today with Willy Nilly Friday

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Two Years, Francie

Guess who's celebrating two years with us?  Remember way back when?  The bony, wormy, skittish and terrified mare that I brought home the day after Thanksgiving?

Well here she is today.  Look at that healthy belly! 
Yes, Francie is doing just fine these days.  Enjoying more pasture time than riding time, with my busy schedule, but she seems happy and enjoys extra treats and following me down the driveway every morning when I get the boys on the bus. 
 I know some of you have been following Francie's story from the beginning, so i do try to give an update now and then.

I truly hope she doesn't remember much from her days before she came to Two Bears Farm.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Kitten with An Attitude

Our little Manx kitten that we found at the end of the driveway a few months ago is hitting his teen phase.  He's sweet as can be, but has a nose for trouble.  Recently, he showed us the meaning of feline irony when he got ahold of the "Taking Care of Your Kitten" book my boys were reading.  Luckily, it wasn't a library book.
I find it interesting that he decided to chew up the page where it talks about how cats are carnivores.  I guess he showed them.

I'm trying not to think about what Bobby is going to do to the Christmas tree and presents this year....

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fire Cider

Fire cider is a home remedy that has been made by herbalists for years to boost the immune system in the face of colds and flus.  There are many different recipes out there, but from the ones I saw, they all look like they will put some hair on your chest.

I wanted to try my hand at making some fire cider this year, and it would give me a good use for the ginseng that Paul dug up on our land.  You can google for different recipes to find one you like, but make sure that you know the plants you are using if you forage for them.

I chose a recipe that had ginseng, horseradish, ginger, garlic, and a dash of cayenne.  You put these ingredients in apple cider vinegar and cure it for a month or so before straining to use.  Sweeten to taste with honey. 

I plan to take some at the first sign of a cold.  It will be ready in early December.  Supposedly you can also do things like mix it with oil to make salad dressings or stir fries. 

A few days after I made the fire cider, I made a sore throat spray using the sage my dad gave me to plant a few years ago, with peppermint, honey and alcohol.  It tastes pretty good!

Readers, do you have any home remedies for cold and flu season?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Mega Squash

My cushaw squash weren't storing in the basement as well as I'd hoped.  I had regularly been checking all my squashes, and one of them had a small soft spot.  I cut into it right away only to discover that while the flesh looked fine, the pulp with the seeds was all black and musty.  I had just finished reading a book on survival by Cody Lundin in which he wrote that the sickest he ever was from something he ate was from eating an old garden squash (and he has eaten some really nasty stuff out in the wild).  Apparently squash can get full of mycotoxins.  I decided to toss the whole thing.

After some thought, I went ahead and processed all my cushaw squash that was still good.  I didn't want to risk losing more.  They have the shortest storage life of all the winter squash I grew anyhow.

I made Cort carry them all upstairs for me.

Just kidding.  I had Cort hold it for about two seconds so I could take a picture, and he almost fell over. 

I got twelve cups of puree from this cushaw, and made pumpkin bread for the neighbors.  Meanwhile, I'm hopeful that my butternuts and blue hubbards hang in for a few more months. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Tracking Down Sugar Maples

We have some sugar maples on our land.  The process of getting syrup from them is intimidating, because it sounds like it is a very lengthy and tedious event. 

Just in case, though, the boys and I hiked around the land marking sugar maples.  They are easier to find when the leaves are still on, so you need to mark them in the fall.  Tapping for syrup happens in the winter.

I won a pair of Oboz boots at GoFest this year, from a drawing that Walkabout Outfitters did, which I love. 
My old hiking boots were too small, because my feet grew a half size with each pregnancy.  When we finally take our backpacking trip, hopefully I'll have these well broken in.

Readers, do you know what a sugar maple tree looks like?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Processing Walnuts

Fall is walnut season, and we have a couple of trees that were planted by the house, long before we ever lived there.  We put the twins to work gathering walnuts.  They picked up hundreds! 

Paul's parents passed along a walnut cracker that was missing a piece.  They picked it up at a yard sale for cheap.  Paul was able to weld the missing piece, and built a cute little box to mount it in, with sides to keep the walnuts from flying around. 

Walnuts are the superhero of nuts.  Ours are organic and raw, which have added health benefits.  Walnuts have been shown to have health benefits on brain health, cancer, reproductive health and diabetes. 

I made candied walnuts for the first time and they are delicious plain or on oatmeal.  We have a lot more to go on the walnuts, but we're cracking them, one shell at a time.

Readers, do you have a favorite way to eat walnuts?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Halloween 2015

We had a good Halloween.  The boys had a fall festival at school and dressed up as Paul Revere, a knight, and a ninja. 

Then they had an event at a local church and they chose Paul Revere, Where's Waldo, and an alien costume. 

Finally, we went trick or treating.  They chose the ninja, alien, and knight costumes.  We have other costumes, but they just seem to have some favorites. 

This picture isn't the best focus because the skeleton was moving and flashing, and I used my cell phone to take it.  But you get the idea.  They had fun and got loads of candy. 

Readers, did you know that aliens wear smelly toe shoes?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Winter Squash Storage

By the end of September, my garden was completely crawling in squash bugs again.  Luckily, I was ready to harvest all my winter squash.  Cushaw, butternut, and blue hubbard.  The blue hubbard is certainly a new favorite, and supposedly it stores very well over the winter.

I 'borrowed' some space on the massive wine rack Paul built to house all the wines he makes. 
The cushaw squash will spoil the fastest, so we'll be eating those first.  I've been checking them every few days to make sure nothing is going bad.  So far, so good.

Readers, how are you storing your vegetables in the winter?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Peanut Butter Fudge and Other Things

1.  Every year in the fall I get a craving for peanut butter fudge.  It's pretty much one of my favorite things ever.  I can deny the craving only so long, and then I break down and make a batch.  It never lasts for long.
2.  I had to take some time off running.  I had a hamstring issue that wouldn't go away.  I hadn't thought about it, but it turns out the last time I took a week or more off running was three years ago.  I guess I was overdue.  It still wasn't easy for me.

3.  The batch of chickens we ordered last summer are maturing, and we had a couple of roosters.  They crack us up in the mornings while we wait for the bus.  They are trying to crow, but it kind of sounds like a dying sqwaaaaaauuuuuukkkkk instead.

4.  Because we had too many roosters, we ate one last weekend.  Always a nice thing to know where your food comes from.  I don't do any butchering, but once it's all done, I am happy to do the cooking.

5.  After we ate the rooster, I returned the bones to the crockpot with some celery, garlic, water, and seasonings.  I cooked it overnight on low to make some bone broth.  It was a little oilier than I expected, but Paul fixed it with a huge batch of rice and some veggies the next day, and it was delicious.  I also had a couple of jars for the freezer.

Linked today with Willy Nilly Friday.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Pierce is 9

Last month, Pierce celebrated his 9th birthday.  It was a fun day, even though half of the usual family members who come weren't able to make it this year for a variety of reasons.  Pierce wanted a Minecraft cake. 
Thank goodness for those minifigure packs - they make the cake making process much easier.  I did a white cake with a middle layer of peach jam, buttercream frosting, and cinnamon graham crackers around the edges.  My dad declared it his favorite of my cake creations.  With salted caramel pretzel ice cream, it was very tasty.

Here's hoping Pierce has a great ninth year! 

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Tale of When Bo Had to Guard His Family

Last June we took in Bo, an English Setter, who lost his family in a tragedy.  He's been the goofiest of dogs - chasing butterflies and leaves, leaping through fields, trying to jump on the schoolbus daily, and opening any unlocked door in our house.  It took me five months to teach him how to sit.  But he's sweet with the boys and affectionate when he isn't obsessed with birds.

A couple of weeks ago, Paul went out of town for work.  I took Reid to lacrosse, and we got home around 7:40.  The boys and I rushed in the house, to begin the business of getting ready for bed.  A strange sound rumbled from the back porch.  What was that?  Was that Bo?  Growling?  Couldn't be.  I had never really heard him growl before.  I wanted to investigate, but with bedtime looming and the business of brushing teeth and getting into pjs, I became distracted.
A bit later the boys were all tucked in and I went up to my room to do some reading.  I had just settled into the pillows with the cats and a book, when Bo started barking like crazy.  Sometimes he barks at deer, so I didn't think too much about it.  But then I heard yelling in the woods on the property behind our house.  I turned off all the interior lights, checking all door locks along the way.  Then I turned on all the exterior spotlights.  Bo was barking on the back side of the house, so I went back upstairs, cracked a window, and watched Bo from my viewpoint, listening carefully in between his barks.
Imagine my alarm when in the grainy darkness I could just make out Bo chasing a pair of running legs down the driveway.  I immediately contemplated my options.  I knew it would take the sheriff a good 15 – 20 minutes to arrive, and then he wouldn’t necessarily be willing to go traipsing along our land in the dark.  Instead I texted a neighbor, a federal park ranger, to see if he was home.  He called me right away, and said that he’d come over to check things out.
Over the next hour Bo continued to pace and bark, but the yelling and voices stopped.  I got a text around ten that said my neighbor was back home, that it was a long story, but that he had taken care of the situation.  It wasn’t until the next evening when Paul returned home that we got the full story.  I think he didn’t want me to be scared all night.
It didn’t matter, though.  I couldn’t sleep that night, and was up every hour to check on things.  Know who else didn’t sleep?  Bo.  Every hour I got up, Bo was sitting at the top of the driveway, quietly keeping watch over the horse pasture.  He didn’t go to his snug bed on the porch once.  Even at 6:30 the next morning, he was still carefully keeping watch.
Our neighbor told us the next day that he had snuck up on our land from the backside.  Even though he has encountered numerous crazy situations for his job on the Blue Ridge parkway, he said even he was taken aback when he saw the man in our horse pasture.  Missing clothes, covered -- dripping in blood (like something out of a horror movie, according to the neighbor), drunk and delusional,  this is the man our dear dog chased away.  Our neighbor detained him until the police and an ambulance arrived to take him away. 
It takes my breath away to think of how our sweet, affectionate Bo protected his family that night, and then sat up all night making sure the threat didn’t return.  Some people may think that Bo was lucky to get a new family after he lost his, and flunked out of several other attempts at rehoming.  But the truth is that we were the lucky ones to get him.  I can’t imagine a more valuable fur friend than the one that puts his own life on the line to guard his family.  Had it not been for him, and our neighbor, things might have turned out very differently.  Not even a high tech alarm system could have handled the situation like Bo did.  So guess who got a big batch of home cooked bacon and a good dose of hugs the next day? 
Readers, have you ever had a dog do something amazing for you or a loved one?