Living in the Land of Abundance

On August 24, 2015 I started this blog and if you’ll recall I referenced the Jim Carey quote “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”  Well here we go again!  Matt’s last day as an employee will be July 28th.  We will then both be self-employed entrepreneurs.  We will continue selling on eBay and are also launching our own website and product line in the next month or so, so keep your eyes peeled for updates on that!

Over the weekend Matt and I started harvesting the honey from our beehives.  It took several hours  and we processed less than half of the available honey but we still walked away with almost 3 gallons of honey, and 3 bee stings between the two of us.  Now we just have to process the rest of it!

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As it turns out, one of the pastures that has become overgrown from years of not being grazed has become overgrown with blackberries.  Like a lot of blackberries.  We thought we were done picking blackberries in May because the little patch by the shed was spent, but little did we realize we had acres of blackberries growing in the pasture. In the last week alone, I have probably picked over 5 pounds of blackberries.  I have made blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry pancakes, I put blackberries in my yogurt and I think tonight I might make myself a blackberry mojito.  Anyone have any other ideas for what I can do with blackberries?  The goats helped me pick some but I think they ate more than they picked.

Last week we also had 26 new chicks hatch out in the incubator.  This is our second batch of meat chickens so don’t get too attached.  Aren’t they cute, though?

I also continue to pick lots of fresh veggies from the garden like this banana pepper, okra and cherry tomatoes.

Right now on eBay we have lots of shoes for sale, so anyone in the market for some nice shoes should take a look at our eBay store.  Any ‘techers looking to really stand out should consider purchasing this desk phone.

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Here’s hoping y’all find abundance in your lives and backyards too!

In Memory of Doris

Firstly, dear readers, I once again find myself apologizing for the time lapse since my last post.  Let me catch y’all up on what’s been going on.

The day after we returned from our honeymoon, Matt’s grandmother Doris passed away.  Matt has always told me about how he grew up living down the street from his grandparents and was very close to them.  He has affectionately recalled memories of riding his bike down the road to eat supper with them and he maintains that he was his grandma’s favorite.  I found grandma Doris quite entertaining, always making sarcastic comments and telling stories such as how she had to yell at some sassy teenager for walking out in front of her car in the Walmart parking lot.  When we spoke to her on FaceTime last Thanksgiving she started off with “Matt, what the hell are you doing in Florida?!”  She was a firecracker and she will be missed.  Here’s a picture of the whole fam at Thanksgiving in 2013.

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The following week, Matt flew up to Massachusetts to attend the services while I stayed back and tended the homestead.  I had already booked 2 dogs to come visit that week and the day after Doris passed, Maggie the goat fell ill with mastitis.  It came on quite suddenly and was accompanied by a fever which we could not break, so we ended up taking her to the vet where he prescribed an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory which I needed to provide via subcutaneous injections twice a day.  Poor Maggie was so sick we were incredibly worried that we might lose her, but fortunately we were able to nurse her back to health.  We decided that we would dry her off since she had been producing milk for quite a while anyhow.  So the bad news is that we no longer have a supply of fresh goat milk on the homestead.  The good news is that Maggie is back to her normal healthy, happy self and that I learned how to provide subcutaneous injections to a dairy goat.

Matt had a nice time in MA seeing family he hadn’t seen in a while and reminiscing and telling stories about grandma.  I am happy that he’s back now and we don’t have any more travel plans for a while! So let’s catch up on what’s going on at the homestead.

We have meat birds!  I believe I mentioned that we had incubated some eggs.  Well, we ended up with 20 out of 24 eggs hatching just in time for the wedding for all the kids to play with the chicks.  Right after the wedding, we got to work building a Joel Salatin style chicken tractor and got those birds outside.  We move the structure once a day to give the birds fresh grass.  We believe that we should be able to process them by the end of July.

We got worms! Yes, we have started vermicomposting.  Worm castings are one of the best fertilizers for plants so we wanted to start our very own worm farm to try to get some worm castings to nourish our garden.  I am still not sure how we are going to harvest the worm castings so if anyone knows anything about that, feel free to chime in!

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Our garden has been producing! I think every season as we improve the quality of the soil, we will see better yields.  So far we have been able to harvest shallots, peas, green beans, cucumbers, potatoes and cow peas as well as kale, collard greens and swiss chard.

It’s almost time to start harvesting tomatoes and we’ve also got some cantaloupe, winter squash and corn looking strong.

There have also been a lot of pretty flowers blooming around the property.

Since we returned I have also been working on fermenting things.  So far I have made sauerkraut, collard kraut and now I am working on a batch of pickles with the cucumbers from the garden.  I bought this handmade fermentation crock from etsy so my ferments will look nice sitting on my counter!

I’m not sure if I have mentioned in previous posts that I learned how to knit a couple years ago and have really enjoyed it.  Most recently I finished a pair of socks for myself that I had been working on for quite a while.  Matt’s parents got me the book “Two At a Time Toe-Up Socks” and this yarn for my birthday last year which encouraged me to knit myself my very first pair of socks ever!  I am just glad they fit!

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Any other knitters out there?  Finish any cool projects lately?  Have any ideas for next projects?

I have had visiting pups for the last month straight, a total of 4 different dogs staying with us here which has been great but a bit hectic.  The last pup left today and I am ready to relax for a few weeks before the puppy party begins again.  Let’s end here, on a positive note, with an adorable picture of Stella and her visiting pals, Sammy and Bane.

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The Honeymoon

Well we’ve been back from our honeymoon for a little over a week now and it’s time to recap!  We went on a roadtrip going up through Alabama, across Tennessee, into North Carolina, then down through South Carolina, into Georgia and back into Florida.  On Day 1 we drove up to Tuscumbia, Alabama and visited Ivy Green which is Helen Keller’s homestead.

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Here I am at the infamous well where Helen had her “aha!” moment and learned the word water.

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That night we went out for Mexican food to celebrate Dos de Mayo.

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Then we went to a Walmart to try to get some cord or something Matt needed for his phone and on the way into walmart a man pulled up next to us in his car and tried to sell me a bunny.  That was weird.

We stayed that night at a campground in Tuscumbia and headed out early the next morning towards Memphis, bound for Graceland! We toured Graceland, Elvis’s planes and visited the museums on site.

We ended up seeing everything we wanted to at Graceland by 2pm so instead of staying in Memphis for the night like we planned, we decided to fly by the seat of our pants and head to Nashville for the night!  We went to Jackalope brewhouse and then Yazoo brewery.

Then we got some dinner at Peg Leg Porker.

We took a drive down Broadway but couldn’t find any parking so we decided to just head to the Nashville Walmart and sleep there for the night.  The next morning we took off towards Asheville and decided to stop in Crab Orchard, Tennessee to see this waterfall.

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It was a pretty awesome place to stop and stretch our legs with a short hike down to the bottom of the falls.  We continued our drive but decided to stop again when we saw a sign for Bootleggers Moonshine.

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After some free samples and a tour we continued on.  As we were getting off the exit to the campground we were going to be staying at for the next 4 nights, we couldn’t believe our eyes, but there was a sign for Sierra Nevada Brewery! As it turns out, this Sierra Nevada Brewery location has only been open for a few years and it was just 2 miles from our campground.  For a long time Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale has sat in the #1 spot on Matt’s list of his favorite beers, so stumbling upon the brewery was good fortune!

The next day we visited the Biltmore!  First we toured the home and gardens.

Then we went over to the stables and winery!

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On the way back to the campground from the Biltmore we stopped at Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville for some beers.

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We weren’t overly impressed with Wicked Weed so we headed back to Sierra Nevada for some more great beers and some amazing food.

I discovered that my beer of choice, Otra Vez, happened to contain cactus! The next day, it was time to attend the Mother Earth News Fair!  We arrived early and waited for the gates to open.  It was absolutely freezing out and we were grossly under-dressed for the conditions.

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It was a nice day of learning and good food but cold, windy weather mixed with some rain made us long for some sunny Florida weather! We came prepared the next day though, which wasn’t quite as cold and windy.  We arrived even earlier the second day so that we could get good seats to Joel Salatin’s Pastured Poultry Profits workshop.  Then we headed over to the book signing so we could each get our books signed.

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Here I am with my hero, Joel Salatin, holding my copy of “Everything I Want to Do is Illegal” after having it signed.  Joel is brilliant and I think everyone in America should read this book.  For the consumer it really sheds some light on why it’s so difficult to find wholesome food these days.  For the wannabe farmer it gives you an idea of obstacles 1-8000 that you may encounter when trying to sell the wonderful wholesome food you have produced.

Well that was certainly the highlight of the day, but we did also attend workshops on vermiculture and meat rabbits before heading back to the campground and cooking up some leftovers.  The next morning we head out en route to Kinston, North Carolina to eat dinner at Chef and the Farmer.  This restaurant is featured in a PBS show called A Chef’s Life that Matt and I have watched a few times which is how we got the idea to visit the restaurant.  Everything was delicious!

We slept in a Walmart parking lot that night about an hour or two from the restaurant and in the morning headed for Savannah, Georgia! We arrived at the Marshall House which is our hotel of choice when visiting Savannah.  There was a congratulatory bottle of champagne in the room which we drank in rocking chairs on the balcony overlooking the street.  Throughout our honeymoon we made 14 short videos and posted them to our new youtube channel “Mediocre Manor”.  Here is one from the hotel in Savannah:

If you are interested in keeping up with what’s going on at the farm, subscribe to the channel so you can get notified each time we post a new video.  Ok, now back to the story.

Next we headed down to River St. for our customary alcoholic slushies at Wet Willie’s but made it back to the Marshall House for the free cheese and wine reception at 6.  Next we got a crab boil for dinner!

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Then we went on a walking ghost tour of Savannah and heard some ghost stories and ghost sounds.  We rounded at the night with an ice cream from Leopold’s, of course, because that’s what we do when we’re in Savannah! The next morning we were off again, this time homeward bound!

We had an amazing trip, got to see some really cool places, eat some great food, talk to interesting people and gain valuable knowledge. BUT, there’s no place like home!   A lot has happened since our return so I will catch y’all up on that in the next post!

At Last!

We’re officially Mr. and Mrs.! We had a fantastic week leading up to the most amazing wedding.  We feel incredibly fortunate to have so many awesome friends and family in our lives that contributed to such an unforgettable week.  And this blog post is dedicated to recapping this joyous celebration!

Family and friends started arriving a week in advance of the big day, many staying with us on the farm, in our guest rooms, or camping in the yard.

On Thursday all the ladies headed to Margaritaville on Pensacola Beach for a bachelorette party! We got some sun, decorated margarita and tiki glasses, played some games, had some drinks and ate dinner at Crabs We Got ‘Em.

It was so great getting to spend the day and night with my long lost friends who all traveled so far to celebrate with me.  I have such great friends!  So great that I woke up looking like this.

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Thanks ladies!

On Friday we did a rehearsal and had a dinner for everyone that had arrived at that point.

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We also had a unicorn pinata for the kids!

And rounded out the night with s’mores!

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And then, the big day had finally arrived! We got all set up!

The fathers picked up the cake from the Milton Quality Bakery.

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My sweet little niece Penny and I picked wildflowers from out in the fields and put them together into bouquets for myself and the bridesmaids.  Karen helped Matt with the final touches on his outfit.

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And when everything was all set, Matt waited for me under the live oaks.

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My walk down the “aisle” was preceded by my stunning bridesmaid, Cindy, gorgeous sister and matron-of-honor, Jen, handsome ring bearers, Sam and Max, and beautiful flower girls Evie, Penny, Cadence and Leah.

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Then we said our I do’s and made it official!

Next we took some pictures!

Then Matt and I danced our first dance to Etta James “At Last”.

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And we all ate, drank and were merry!

Oh, and there was cake!

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And shots, and games!

And let’s not forget the entertainment!

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And as the sun set, and much more beer, wine and liquor was consumed, karaoke began. But perhaps it’s best if that isn’t documented via pictures.  Evie won the award for staying in her wedding attire the longest, flower crown, boots and all!

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The day was everything we dreamed it would be!  Thank you to all our family and friends who traveled great distances to celebrate with us!

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Next up: our roadtrip honeymoon! We’ll be visiting Helen Keller’s home in Tuscumbia, Alabama, Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, attending the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, eating dinner at the Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, North Carolina, and lastly staying at the Marshall House in Savannah, Georgia.  We’ll post again when we’re back on the old homestead!

Spring is for Projects!

Spring has sprung and there’s lots of action around the place!  My parents were here last week working on the cabin and visiting.  The rainwater collection system, solar water pump and filtration system and the composting toilet and bathroom sink have been installed.  They even slept out in the cabin the last 3 nights of their visit!

We recently purchased an egg incubator in order to incubate some chicken eggs.  We started the incubator up on Saturday with 24 eggs and it takes 3 weeks before the chickens start hatching, theoretically.  I am hopeful that the incubator will maintain the appropriate temperature and humidity for the 3 weeks and not freeze or fry our eggs!

The outdoor kitchen is coming along and the construction of the outdoor shower has started as well.  The refrigerator and kegerator now live outside in the kitchen, as well as a gas grill that we acquired via craigslist.  Here’s the progress so far on the outdoor shower:

This week we have also had a smorgasbord of dogs visiting! And it ain’t over yet!

We’ve got lots of seeds in the ground and little plants coming up so stay tuned for  a gardening update and lots of greenery!  Have a sunny week y’all!

Flower Buds on Apple Trees and Outdoor Farm Kitchens…

Old vinyl records and warm snuggly kittens
Honey Bees that fly with sunshine on their wings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

So we decided to build an outdoor kitchen.  I spend a lot of time in the kitchen which I don’t mind, but on beautiful sunny days, it bums me out when I have to go inside to start preparing dinner, or to make cheese, or yogurt or soap etc.  So we hatched an idea to build an outdoor kitchen so that I can do all these kitchen activities outside enjoying the fresh air.  We decided the kitchen would be great to have for the wedding for guests who are camping to use, for the caterer and bartender to use, etc.  We also plan to build an outdoor shower off the side of the kitchen but we haven’t gotten that far yet.  This is how far we have gotten:

The sink is now operational and we also have lights on a light switch and several outlets.  We plan to get some sort of stove top as well as a gas grill to complement the charcoal grill and smoker.  The kegerator has also been moved outside and will soon be joined by the refrigerator.  Hopefully we can get the outdoor shower built and the rest of the kitchen buttoned up within the next few weeks since we are down to 50 days!

Another wonderful thing is that the apple trees are blooming!  It really is starting to feel like spring here with flowers popping up and the grass is starting to turn green again.

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Earlier this week we started planting in the garden! We planted swiss chard, carrots, beets, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, turnips, peas, kohlrabi and daikon radishes.  Here’s hoping we have a more abundant harvest this year!

My parents were here last week as well. There is now a pine floor in the cabin and the bathroom has started to be framed out. They cut their trip short to return to MA for my grandmother’s funeral, but they will be coming back next week and are planning on being able to sleep out in the cabin before the end of the trip!

On eBay we are currently selling Beauty and the Beast Black Diamond VHS.   Apparently some people are willing to pay a premium for the Black Diamond versions of Walt Disney Classic VHS tapes, so here’s hoping one of those people stumbles across our listing.

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Lots of exciting things coming up in the next few weeks as Spring rolls into town, so I will do my best to keep y’all updated! Have a great weekend!

In Memoriam

My deepest apologies to my faithful readers for the time lapse since my last post!  I just returned to Prickly Pear yesterday after a short visit to MA to attend my grandmother’s funeral.  Yes, sadly, Barbara Jarvis passed away at the age of 88 and her family and friends gathered on Friday to celebrate her life.  Her passing prompted a trip down memory lane which led me to discover that some of my fondest memories of my grandmother revolve around her idiosyncrasies and were really what made her so endearing.  Let me explain.

As a child, at every birthday, Christmas, or other gift-giving occasion, we were taught when opening presents to be very careful not to tear the wrapping paper.  If you were able to extract your gift without damaging the paper, you would proudly deliver the paper to Grammy, who would carefully fold it so that it could be used for the next birthday or holiday.

Sometimes on a weekend we would go visit my grandparents at their house in Cape Cod.  If it was summertime, we would go to the beach.  My grandmother would pack enough cookies, crackers and beverages for every person on the beach as well as a bag full of vintage beach toys, which, of course, were in immaculate condition.  In fact, everything that she owned looked as if it had been taken out of the box that day, whether it had, or it was 50 years old. And regardless of the age or expense of the item, television or can opener, I am sure that the original box,  complete instruction manual and receipt for the item was carefully stored somewhere in her home.

When we would arrive at her house, we immediately went for the fully stocked candy dish on the coffee table before asking her to take out the gumball machine.  The little gumball machine, which she kept on the dresser in the bedroom along with a small jar of pennies, would dispense a gumball in exchange for a penny and it was only allowed to be operated by children under the close watch of Grammy.  Next we would go into the basement and ask if we could type on her typewriter.  She would put a piece of paper in there for us and we would slam away at the keys for a while.  When we were done, she would look over the piece of paper and tell us she had found several bad words, presumably swear words!  Nearly every visit included a homemade dinner of roast beef, gravy, baked potatoes and carrots, and french style green beans.  It was our absolute favorite and we would eat every bite on our plates.  She would often tell us about “other children” who had to be told that they better “eat up and shut up!”  which we found hilarious.  And no visit to Grammy’s was ever complete without asking her to take out her teeth.  She had a full set of false teeth which we found fascinating and she would often oblige us and pop them out or snap them at us, much to our amazement.  When it was time to go, she and my grandfather would stand in the driveway and wave to us until the car was out of sight.

When we were young, my grandmother was an avid knitter, knitting all of her grandchildren Christmas stockings with our names, and many various sweaters and other clothing.  When I was about 10 years old, I had a ferret named Shaquille who had become ill from cancer and was losing her fur.  I worried that she would be cold and I requested that my grandmother knit her a sweater.  Much to my delight, she knitted Shaquille a tiny little custom sweater which fit perfectly.  I say custom because I have a hard time imagining a pattern existed for a ferret sweater.

I know this collection of memories may seem a bit odd to some, but to me, these are the things that come to mind when I think of Grammy and I wouldn’t have it any other way!  And who knows, I’ve been sharpening my knitting skills lately and maybe someday I’ll find myself knitting an obscure sweater for a grandchild’s beloved pet.

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Easter 2011? 

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My college graduation with my grandmother and Aunt Maureen

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The infamous Ferret Sweater! Obviously I still have this 17 years after Shaquille’s passing. 

I would also like to give a shout out to Matt who kept all of the animals alive, fed and milked while Joe and I were gone.  What a rock-star!  Ok, I know I didn’t provide any farm updates, but I promise I will do another blog post later this week on all the farm happenings!  Talk at you then!