Friday, September 30, 2011

Farming Friends...

Hey All,

I just want to quick share an inspiring 3 minutes with you all...
The Callens Family are long time cyber and phone friends of ours, and, even though we've only ever met the father and two oldest daughters, we feel that old fashioned 'farm-family' bond with them. :o)

I was emotional after watching this video (hey, I am a girl--give me a break! ;o) but I just felt such a strong joy for the bond and closeness that the farming lifestyle ensues into the family and such a gratitude for my amazing family and just, really, an awe over how awesome life is... and perhaps I was feeling just a touch sad that these amazing folks aren't our neighbors! ;-)

I strongly encourage you to check out their blog: for some farming inspiration. (I have their blog listed under 'simple places to visit' on my sidebar, so you can easily see whenever they've updated.)

Big, beautiful fall storm yesterday! Power went out twice, but my knitting, the strum of the acoustic guitar and the laughter of the lantern-lit faces surrounding the monopoly board were all very relaxing against the ferocity of the weather outside. Apples and leaves on the ground everywhere this morning!

A very blessed day to you friends! :)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Give me your apples?"

"Can I have an apple?"

"Please, just a little one?"

"I want one, really...really...bad."

"...Just...a... little... nibble."

(Having a stare down over the apples...)

Theresa: "Alright, but, only if we play a 'stick-to-me' game first!"

Lena: muttering, grumbling, pony-swearing, under her breath...

"Hey! Come back here with my apples!!"

"Okaa-aay... I'm doing it..."

Aw, good girl. Here are your apples.

...And, once she's been humored w/ apples, we go ahead and humor ourselves a little...

Lena: "Wait... what duh...?"

"...I am totally not getting enough apples for this!"


Speaking of our funny farm...
The new Funny Farm Toy Barn is really coming together! I'm very happy with its appearance and how much I've been able craft for it with all of our rainy fall weather lately... The younger kids keep telling me what to make and then drooling over all the new toys (I have to hide them), so everything in the shop comes with hearty child approval!

I just listed Iron Man this morning:
  Johnny was really cute last night, watching me finish him up. He kept saying, "He is pretty cool, Mary. Actually, he's really cool. You know, he really looks like the movie. Actually, I think he's just as cool as the movie!" Finally, he said he wants to learn how to knit so he can make himself one. Think he wants one for Christmas? ;)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Mobile Knitter...

So, if you've browsed our shops recently, you'd see that I've been knitting up a small storm, of late...
 (or herd... whatever :)

I'm just really into knitting right now and thoroughly enjoying every minute behind my needles. But, if you've also been following the blog, you'd know that we're very busy with the harvest of late, so that means my knitting time is limited. On top of that, the girls and I have been really enjoying taking these long walks every evening, and while I really, really enjoy those, I always feel antsy when I'm empty handed, just strolling along...

SO, with those problems in mind, here's what I came up with...
The ultra uber, super duper, walking knitters delight! ;) 
HeeHee! I crack myself up. Sounds like I'm selling it! (I would never.) :)

I whipped this up in a few hours. The inside is loaded with pockets of every size, to carry my different sized needles, scissors, patterns, yarn...

 I put my working yarn in one of the top pouches and the drawstring closer allows the yarn to slide out while the bag is closed and I'm walking along. I know it sounds strange to walk and knit, but I love it! :)
 I've been so productive in my knitting lately; I grab my bag when we're walking out the door and knit every chance I get. I knit a half a horse body while watching the kids on the playground a few days ago, and finished up his head the next day while on a long walk with the girls. Soo fun to multitask doing things I love. :)

As much as I love my new knitting bag (the fabric is truly adorable) what I really love right now, are my new little ponies...

 Donna and I have been doing nothing but fighting over them all day long... 

Kidding... of course! :)
I content myself with knitting new ones, while she is content to hold them once in awhile (babysit, as she calls it). Maybe if she continues to be the sweetest-ever little girl that she is, on Christmas morn she'll find her own pony hanging out of her stocking. ;o) (Shh!)

For now, she keeps on telling me what to knit next...

"Mowre howrses!"
(As some of you may remember, Donna loves the movie Spirit, so this new pony, Spirit, was a long time request of hers. :)

Rainy day today, so I'm off to knit "mowre howrses" with my new awesome mobile knitter bag! :)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

"I Love Life!"

"I love life," is a statement that has been ringing in my ears lately, and leaving me feeling joyful after it comes out of the mouth of one or more of my siblings. It quickly draws my mind from other far away places and focuses it on the deep blue sky, the colorful fall trees, a little apple tree weighted down with fruit, or a cute, furry critter. Whether it's said with a deep, heartfelt sigh, or a light joyful skip and a hop, it always has the same effect: immediate gratitude and joy.

Gratitude for this lifestyle and the choices my parents have made and joy for the gift of my life and each gulp of air that fills my lungs...

Maybe it's the season that draws forth these exclamations from the kids, when the weather is exhilarating and gorgeous, the harvest is coming in delicious and abundant and the work and interaction with each other, plentiful.

(Lizzy and Johnny wash and process rhubarb while Donna oversees.)
(Pumpkin harvest--with lots more besides!)
(Enjoyed our first pumpkin pies over the weekend. Uoober yummy!)

After three days of drizzly fall rain, the sun is hitting me full in the face this morning as I'm trying to type here. Sunday or not, the backed-up laundry from the week will no doubt be filling the lines by this afternoon.

For the upcoming week, we have lots of harvested garden area that needs to be tilled up and fertilized before the snow hits. We have lots more harvesting to finish up, to include our root vegetables, potatoes, carrots, lots of brassicas, and herbs and roots to be dried for winter teas. We need to plant the garlic, thin the strawberry rows and transplant them, and hopefully break some new sod for a potato patch for next year. I have to trim the hooves of our blind mare. We're hoping to secure a better home for her this winter, that's more conducive to her blindness. I also have three sheep left to shear, and I'm eager to get them done so they won't be chilly yet this fall. :)

For today, I'm planning on relaxing with my knitting and enjoying some of this sunshine. The kids are hoping to make a little more fresh apple juice this afternoon (it's too fun to be classified as work) and I'm sure a lengthy girls' walk will fulfill our day as well.

Hope you all enjoy a joyful, relaxing Sunday as well! :o)

(A warm welcome to all my new readers from Down To Earth and many thanks to Rhonda for mentioning us! Also, a big thanks to all my helpful commenters on the blogger experiment. I didn't realize I had so many shy lurkers out there! You folks should comment more often--it's fun to hear from you and see who's all reading!)


Friday, September 23, 2011

Homemade Apple Juice a Washing Machine!!

 We are very lucky, or blessed, in many ways, as some of you already know, but one particular way happens to be that we live in the heart of 'apple tree central'. Seriously. There are so many overgrown apple orchards that a short walk down the road can easily warrant you a good cold sore! It's so disheartening to watch so many apples fall, that we always scramble to harvest and process as many as possible this time of year. One of the things we've always wanted to do was press apple juice out of the soft windfalls, but with our big family we knew we'd need a quick method, otherwise it would be consumed as fast as it was produced. Unfortunately, in the last few years, our attempts have ended up being too much work and mess and, as we stood by and scratched our heads, the season would quickly pass us by...


Not this year! 

Yay! :o)

Thanks to another brainy, big brother homesteading invention, we've been enjoying tons of deeelicious fresh apple juice for little effort!


All you need is an ordinary clothes washing machine (that's been thoroughly cleaned) and two grouchy, un-photogenic people to stand there and stare at it. (Haha, just kidding, the washing machine will do the job fine without being scrutinized by two grouches. Honestly--we were having fun! lol!) :o)

Anyway, after you sneak out your wife's/Mom's washing machine to the back yard (good luck with that!), then you need to go get a whole bunch of apples! If you want around 50 gallons of juice, better get a whole pickup truck load... or two!

...Can be squishy, have bird pecks and bad spots, even large bruises, just so long as you have the approval of a two year old and her doll, then you're good to start! ;)

So, the basic idea is you bolt a poky (nails sticking up) round board to the bottom of the basket and attach a shute (PVC pipe) to just an inch or so above it.

Then you run the machine on the spin cycle and when it's going fast, you drop apples into the shute as many as you can.

The pressure apple mass in the spinning basket throws the juice out, which you can see hitting the sides from the open back of the machine (like we were in the first picture).

When there's a few inches of juice in the bottom of the machine, the pump will turn on and suck the juice out out the hose, which Andrew had clamped on a clean five gallon bucket.
Sooo much fun to watch all that yummy juice pourin' out!

After a huge bushel of apples and a full spin cycle, you have to take out the PVC shute and shovel the pulp out of the basket.

The animals enjoy the pulp, so nothing goes to waste...

While we enjoy all this!

[CLICK HERE to see a video of this process!]

We boiled 20 gallons down into just a few to use as a concentrate later in the year. Several gallons went down into the root cellar but we're drinking so much I wonder how long it will stay around! 

Everybody is begging to make more, just because it's so much fun, but Mom wants us to put our efforts into getting the garden put to sleep, for the winter is quickly approaching!

...On a different note, I just finished knitting up Snow White and her 7 emotive friends. They turned out really scrumptious and I just listed them the TOY Barn, so check em out!
...Now to keep em away from Donna! lol! :)

Okay. Later Gators! ;)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Conducting A Little Blogger Experiment...

Hey Readers,

 I've had several reports from my readers having difficulty leaving comments on my blog. I've done research and tried many times unsuccessfully to fix it. I'm ready to take my problem to my blogging host, but first I wanted to conduct a quick experiment with my readers...

If you're reading this, could you kindly take a moment to (try and) leave a comment on this post and submit your results to this poll?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Little Sheepish...

Sheep shearing one of our girls from a few days ago...

Going well so far...

Then: disaster! Sheep threw me down and nearly escaped...

But help arrived just in time...

Needless to say, that darn little sheep left me feeling a little sheepish...

Until the next day when I sheared her bigger sister with no help.
And she lived. And so did I. And I got a beautiful fleece.
Triple score! ;)

Check out what I've been doing all with my new wool at my brand new, exclusively natural, Toy Shop!
the Funny Farm Toy Barn and check out the top two listings. :o)
Lots more toys on the way--I'm so excited!

Happy trails!

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Note From A Reader

A very sweet and encouraging note from one of my longtime readers:

Dear Mary and all,
your simply livin' blog has been such an inspiration.  I love reading about the truly different and blessed life you lead.  I was so amazed at the abundance of produce that you harvest and the savings you have, as organic foods are SOOO expensive here.  I spent $27 at the farmers market for a few onions, mixed greens, 6 apples, 3 beets, kale, sunflower sprouts, 1 cucumber and a small squash.  You have a gold mine there!  Plus a tiny plastic container of raspberries is almost $4.  You don't even know how incredible your talents are, they will sustain you for a lifetime.  I would've loved to have given those gifts to my children but would not have known where to start.  What's so interesting too is that you don't seem to take it for granted, your blogs are full of the excitement and appreciation of things that you're so blessed to be a part of every day and yet they seem new and awesome to you.  It's such a refreshing contrast to the kids I see every day at school.  Everything comes at them so fast, they would never have the time or patience or sadly, interest to photograph a hummingbird by a flower that they grew.  I wish we could give the world what you've been given.  Thank God and your parents, who's love and commitment are for real and never ending.
God Bless you,
A. Kathy