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!

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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!

88 Days!

What’s the most exciting thing happening at Prickly Pear Plantation in 2017?  Our wedding, of course!  We can’t believe it but it’s just 88 days until the big day!  The Prickly Pear Plantation Beautification project is in full swing.  We have been working on a back patio off the deck and a front walkway and landscaping around the house.

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A few weeks ago we had a 3 day stretch of very cold weather.  Night time temperatures were in the 20s and one day it didn’t get above freezing until noon! It is very rare that we experience freezing temperatures during daylight hours here, even in January.  Once that cold front moved out, it felt like spring.  We had high temperatures near 80 on multiple days last week.  And nature is confused!  The daffodils out front have bloomed as well as the azaleas near the front gate.  There is new growth on the apple trees and the bees are very busy!

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Speaking of the bees, they waged an epic 2 week battle against yellow jackets, but fortunately the honey bees were victorious!  It’s extremely concerning when yellow jackets discover your bee hives because they are carnivorous little beasts and if they get into the hives they will eat the bee larvae and can take over a hive within a few days, ousting the bees.  So I had to act fast.  First I reduced the entrances on both hives so that bees would only have a small space to guard.  Then for several days in a row I went out there with my fly swatter and murdered as many yellow jackets as I could.  I also bought a yellow jacket trap, but it probably only caught about 15 yellow jackets while I easily slayed hundreds with my fly swatter.  I watched the bees battle the yellow jackets in hand to hand combat.  It was pretty amazing to watch and I am proud of my warrior bees.  I haven’t seen a yellow jacket in about a week now and the bees are happily hauling in pollen in the warm sunshine.

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Two warrior bees guarding the entrance to the hive. 

The golden girls have proven to be prolific egg layers and I would highly recommend golden comets to anyone looking for some backyard chickens! Each of them has laid a beautiful chocolate brown egg every single morning since we got them.  They are egg machines.  We have started to sell the excess eggs to Matt’s coworkers and to date have sold about 7 dozen.  One coworker claimed that they were the best tasting eggs she has ever had in her entire life.  I think my hens are happy and I think happy hens lay beautiful delicious and nutritious eggs!

The other day I noticed that some ginger I had purchased at the grocery store had starting to sprout!  So I decided to plant it in a little pot to see if I can get it to grow.

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Herbs are amazing for flavoring foods and medicinal purposes.  Many herbs do really well in pots which means basically anyone can grow them!  My favorites are parsley, oregano and basil which are all growing in containers on my front porch which makes it convenient to go pick some when I am making pizza or pasta sauce.  I also feed oregano to my chickens to keep them healthy.  And  I used some of my very own basil in my last batch of soap!

Anything interesting going on on eBay you ask? Sure, you remember Big Mouth Billy Bass, don’t you?

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Oh the 90s!

Welcome 2017!

2016 was quite a year.  We accomplished a lot here on the farm and we think 2017 will be even more productive!  We’ve learned some lessons on growing food and are looking forward to more bountiful harvests this year.  We also have plans to create a farm website and begin selling products this year.  We would also like to tap into our creative side and start producing short videos featuring your favorite furry farm friends.  So don’t stray far! Lots of exciting stuff will be coming your way this year!

Yesterday I placed my order on Southern Exposure Seed Exchange for 31 different varieties of seeds to get us started this spring.  Let’s not forget though, that despite it being January, I still have greenery in the garden!  Yesterday I picked a bunch of Swiss Chard for a side dish for dinner.

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But I guess I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s back up to last week.  My parents came down to visit the day after Christmas.  Lola and my dad quickly picked up where they had left off.

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We also surprised my parents with some rocking chairs for their cabin.

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My parents also brought down some neat gifts for us like an antique butter churn, and a box of ammo for each of us!  The TSA had no problem with the ammo, but that butter churn…

 

Well we had an enjoyable week, lots of work was done on the cabin and the weather was pleasant for the most part.  We rang in the new year right here on the farm.

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Ok, that picture may have been taken at 8pm, did anyone really think I stayed up until midnight?

And here’s the cabin today!

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And here’s Leo with his Prickly Pear toy his auntie Jen made for him:

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Here’s to a happy, healthy, productive 2017!

‘Twas the Night Before Catmas, err, Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the farm,
Not a creature was stirring, not even in the barn;
The stockings were hung by the coat rack with care,
In hopes that St. Leo Claus soon would be there;
The goats were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of peanut hay danced in their heads;

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And Stella in her ‘kerchief, and Jake in his cap,
Had just settled their brains for a long winter’s nap,

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When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
They sprang from the couch to see what was the matter.
(Well let’s be honest, Stella sprang, Jake mosied.)
Away to the window Stella flew like an owl,
Frantically barking and threw out a howl.
The moon on the breast of the white sand yard,
Gave a lustre of midday to winter swiss chard,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny hen-deer,
With a little old driver so orange and fat,
I knew in a moment he must be Leo the cat.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dizzy! now, Cadence! now Leah and Pevie!
On, Anna! on, Elsa! on, Golden Girls and Pevie!

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To the top of the deck! to the top of the catitat!
Now dash away! flit away! fly away stat!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of mischeif, and St. Leo Claus too—
And then, in a twinkling, from the cat room we heard
Clucking and meowing, it sounded absurd
As Stella drew in her head, and was turning around,
Through the cat door St. Leo Claus came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his paws were all tarnished with litter and soot;
A bundle of joy he had flung on his face,
And he looked like a runner who just won a race.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his whiskers, how merry!
His ears like a wizard, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the fur on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he purred, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

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A wink of his eye and a rub on my leg,
Soon gave me to know I had so much to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And clawed all the stockings; then turned like a jerk,
And laying his paw on the side of the tree,
And giving a push, down it toppled with glee;
He sprang to the counter, gave the cookies a shove,
And to the floor they all flew like the down of a dove.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he darted out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Ain’t No Elves on these Shelves

Hey y’all I think it’s time for a gardening update.  Well, our little kumquat tree has produced a bunch of precious little kumquats this season and I almost ate them all before remembering to take a picture!

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I also realize that I neglected to inform my faithful readers that I planted perennial French Shallots and both softneck and hardneck garlic a couple weeks ago.  They should both be ready to harvest in the spring.  They have started to come up now through the mulch.

We also planted some rye to overwinter some of the garden beds.  If only everything grew as well as Rye grass.

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The lone Kohlrabi is looking strong through several frosts.

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I also picked a bunch of mustard greens and lettuce the other day before a frost.

And that’s the gardening update! Just 2 more months before I begin planting for the spring season!

Since we moved to Prickly Pear Plantation, we have been using one of the offices in the barn as a storage room.  It has been a complete disastrous nightmare in there with boxes piled over my head and no place to walk.  Over the weekend it was time to get organized.   We took nearly everything out of the room and built some shelves!

It was awesome! Seriously this was one of my most favorite projects so far.  Organization is amazing.  Here it is all done and stuffed with crap!

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I wish I had a before picture, but just believe me, the room was a nightmare and I am just happy that I can see the floor in there now.   In the words of Matt “The key to Steph’s heart is to build her shelves”.  Touché.

Anyone ever wonder why it’s so hard to clean a goat house?

 

Reunited and it feels so good

Thursday Matt got home from work at around 4:45 and we rolled out in the van around 5pm, Texas bound! We drove through Alabama and Mississippi and stopped for the night in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana at a Walmart.  We continued our journey in the morning and arrived at Ashley and Shane’s house at around 3.  For those of you who don’t know, Ashley and I met in kindergarten and have been friends ever since, keeping in touch after she moved to Texas when we were 12.

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Here we are playing hula hoop, presumably in the early 90s. 

The last time we saw Ashley was 3 years ago when she came to visit me and Matt in Attleboro, but every time we see each other it’s like no time has passed!  It started raining about 5 minutes after we arrived and never stopped.  But we’re not ones to let a little rain get in the way of adventure.  On Saturday we went to the San Jose Missions, the Alamo, got lunch at Schilo’s and then explored the Riverwalk before heading back to the house for some dry clothes, a fire and of course, hot chocolate.

On Sunday morning after coffee we headed out! Not before taking a classic picture though!

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It was so great to finally meet Shane, the chickens and to see their house!  Ashley and Shane were wonderful hosts and we’re excited that it won’t be 3 years before we see them again since they’ll be here in April for the wedding!

We drove all day on Sunday and stopped at a Walmart somewhere in Louisiana.  The next morning we had a delightful breakfast at Cracker Barrel and then scooted over to Biloxi, MS to visit Beauvoir.  Beauvoir is the last home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

It was beautiful and the history was really interesting.  And to my sheer delight there were also farm animals there!

Next we grabbed some grub at the Fillin’ Station.

Then we battled our way home in the torrential thunderstorms.  The good news is that several inches of rain also fell at home, so things are looking a little less dusty! And we had lots of furry friends to greet us on our return.

Once we were home and settled in, we decided to get into the Christmas spirit and make a gingerbread house and cookies.

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And did we tell you we put the Christmas Tree up last weekend?

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Have a festive week, y’all!