Flannel Jammies Farm

...praising God on our 1/5 acre of suburbia

Monday, May 30, 2011

Gratitude and Memories

 141.  the service, dedication, sacrifice, and honor of my husband, my father-in-law, and so many others in the military... some gave years, some gave parts of themselves, some gave their lives

142.  colored glass sparkling in the sunlight

143.  familiar smiles and laughter at the season's first farmers market

144.  ripening tomatoes

145.  the wheelchair that allows her more time out and about

146.  creating with a husband too treasured for words

147.  the day when swords are beaten into plowshares, the hope of unlearning the act of war

148.  a daughter's thoughtfulness, caring for me and nurturing the me I hope to be

149.  the memories of Daddy in the garden, on the road, working outside, eating bologna and cheese, telling again and again the favorite stories of his memories

150.  the places and people and things we've seen all over the world, the opportunities given in exchange for the years of service, that one of those ladies we met along the way prayed for me to know the Savior

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pickled Beets and Garden Peeks

Organic beets, check.  Apron, check.  Petite and adorable canning kit, check.  Here's an overview of my latest adventure in suburban homesteading:

I chose a recipe from Simply in Season for pickled beets:

Grabbed some organic beets, cooked as directed and sliced them:
organic beets
beets cooking

sliced beet beauty
I had just enough to fill two pint canning jars, which I processed in the hot water bath and then left to cool.  The next day the seal was perfect and now these little pickled pretties have joined the Strawberry Lemon Marmalade in my canning successes!

ready to process
canned pickled beets

This weekend we visited a couple of our local farmers markets:  Farmers Market at the J and Old Beach Farmers Market.  We had a great time (and so did our dog, Scarlett!) and scored eggs and bacon from Full Quiver Farm; Beer Brats from Weeping Radish; red potatoes, May peas, crowder peas, peaches and blueberries from Cullipher Farms; lettuce from New Earth Farm; white grits from Wade's Mill and pimento goat cheese from Goats R Us; vegan biscotti from Beach Biscotti; chocolate crumb cake from Perked Up Cafe; and the hubby enjoyed a breakfast of fresh coffee and cheese biscuit.  It's important to us to spend every dollar we can locally or regionally, supporting small farmers, agriculture, and families.
some of our market finds

We continue to harvest greens, onions, herbs, and strawberries from our garden.  So many other good things are growing in the warm sun.  Yesterday we noticed the first tomatoes beginning to turn... I can't wait!
beginning to ripen
cherry tomatoes ripening

Been meditating on this verse today, giving God the troubles of this world for His wise plan to work out, working my own earth in quiet prayer.  Blessings to you!

The Lord will mediate between nations
      and will settle international disputes.
   They will hammer their swords into plowshares
      and their spears into pruning hooks.
   Nation will no longer fight against nation,
      nor train for war anymore.
Isaiah 2:4

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Robert was right... again (Twin Oaks Sausage)

My son is so smart.  (I know, your children are fabulous, too!)  He really is.  And he is usually right.  I discovered a while back that he's right about thrifting.  He was right about the repairs needed on our keepsake Suzuki Samurai.  He's always been right about staying calm, extending grace to others, enjoying life.

This weekend I found one more thing he was right about:  Twin Oaks Vegetarian Sausage.  We've been using another brand faithfully to make "sausage" gravy and "sausage" patties and "sausage" & potato hash.  It was easily found and easy to work with and easy to keep using. 
We tried Twin Oaks Breakfast Style Vegetarian Sausage this weekend to make hash with onions, purple potatoes and sweet potatoes, served with homemade biscuits and sliced tomatoes (from Carolina).  It was delicious!  Just the right amount of spice and heat, perfect sausage-y texture, and SO MUCH BETTER than the other brand (which now seems like bland mush in comparison).  We found it at Organic Food Depot.

Robert, bless him, told us about Twin Oaks outside Richmond some time ago.  From the Twin Oaks website:
   "Twin Oaks is an egalitarian, resource-sharing eco-village. Since 1967, people have come to the fields and forests of Twin Oaks to share life and work, and participate in a secular society embracing cooperation, nonviolence, equality, and ecology. That’s more than 40 years of good vibes. . .

   Our tofu business generates much of Twin Oaks income. Members who want to make tofu volunteer to be involved in the process, and often devote a large part of their time to it. We take pride in making a really good healthy food in an eco-friendly atmosphere. We eat a lot of our own tofu, too… Every day! So we are very focused on quality and consistency in our tofu and soyfoods. The balance of Community income is made by Twin Oaks Hammocks, indexing books, and helping in an heirloom seed business run by Acorn (another intentional community located nearby). We’re self-supporting economically and share all income. Our businesses are all run as worker-owned cooperatives."

So, vegetarian, delicious, perfect texture, local, sustainable, intentional.  Twin Oaks is now permanently on our shopping list!

PS - Robert was also right about his new project.  It really is a beautiful thing:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Our New BFF...

Rainbarrel Love

After much pondering and hand-wringing and trips to ogle its beauty at Green Alternatives, we 'took the plunge'...
into rainbarrel stewardship!

Tom set it up in no time, and after a couple of Spring showers, IT WAS FULL OF WATER!  Turn the handle, water for the garden flows out, free and without chemical additives and, well, free!  It's positioned on the side of the house in the vegetable garden, so we just fill up the watering cans and refresh the plants.


Here are a few garden photos from this weekend:

The Veggie Garden
Through the gate

Cucumbers and Trellis
Yellow Squash

First Banana Pepper

Yummy Tomatoes
Upside Down Tomatoes

Though we wander in this world that is not our true home, we are called to be stewards of its goodness.  Take care of your little plot of this earth, no matter how small.  Dig and water and nurture.  Grow something.  Enjoy its freshness on your plate.  Share it with others.

"Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce."
Jeremiah 29:5

Grateful for these Gifts...

131.  The protection of this cozy home on windy, stormy days

132.  Fresh, organic food... right outside my door

133.  A husband, "farming" with me on this little plot of suburbia

134.  A refreshing visit from sweet son and daughter-in-law

135.  A passion rekindled, a ministry forming

136.  The Word, alive and true

137.  The way the bed feels at the end of a long and difficult day, pulling me in and wrapping me up in comfort and rest

138.  The public library, filled with so many new things to learn for free

139.  A good report from the doctor

140.  Strength enough for this day

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sweet Sunday Surprises...

We have lots of children in our neighborhood.  They are fascinated with our vegetable and flower gardens.  They love to pet and kiss our dog, Scarlett, and she, sensing their innocence, patiently allows it.  They like to knock on our door.  Alot.  Just to say "Hi!" or "Can we pet Scarlett?" or "Can we visit the garden?"  Alot.  Sometimes I'm in the middle of cooking or working or even napping.  Sometimes I wonder why their parents let them knock on doors.  Sometimes I get frustrated and sigh when I hear the knock... again.

Today, I opened the door to go out and found this blooming display of love on my storm door...
Flowers and Autographs from our neighborhood children
My heart melted and I asked forgiveness for my sighing in the past.  I remembered that a couple of these neighbor children have a precious Christian mom expecting her sixth child.  I remembered that one of these children is outside most waking hours because "Mom says I need to play outside".  I remembered that our children are grown and that my husband and I have time and love.

I remembered singing in church, and praying that God would show me the neighbors He has chosen for me to serve.

We brought Scarlett out to the front porch and we spent an hour with these little ones, telling them about our flowers and our antique school desk and cultivator and milk can.  I answered all their questions and asked some of my own, drawing them into simple conversation. 

And I received an spontaneous hug with a quiet, "I love you, Miss Donna".

Jesu, Jesu,
Fill us with Your love, 
show us how to serve
The neighbors we have from You.
Thomas S. Colvin

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thinking About Shortness of Breath...

There's a hidden side to Flannel Jammies Farm.  There is unwellness here, progressing disease, robbing my mother of her very breath.  Mom is weak, winded with the slightest activity, sometimes confused and often frustrated, and unable to work as she is so used to doing, keeping everything bright, spotless, and running smoothly for all of us.  She was back in the emergency room this week, terribly short of breath. 

I cannot know the feeling.  It has only happened to me once or twice in my life.  My mother lives this way, laboring over each breath, her body unable to make the needed oxygen exchange.  I cannot know, I cannot imagine. 

But is that really true?  What about the times that I am 'breathless' in my spiritual walk? 

The Creator made a world filled with living creatures, bones and muscles and miraculous inner workings, by the word of His BREATH.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
Psalm 33:6

The Creator made man.  But it wasn't until He gave His BREATH that man was made alive.

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, 
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; 
and man became a living being.
Genesis 2:7

Ezekiel tells of dry bones being brought to life by the BREATH.  The Spirit, wind or BREATH, controlled the waters in the Old Testament, filled believers in the New Testament, and gives comfort and illumination and guidance today.  The Word is filled with such references.

When I don't have make time to study the Word and to pray, I become breathless.  When I walk in disobedience to my loving Father's commands, I become breathless.  When I tear down one of God's own with careless and hurtful words, I become breathless. 

This form of breathlessness leaves me stressed, struggling, twisting in God's arms in confusion and anger.  This form of breathlessness leaves me weak, unable to function at a normal level and easily 'winded'.  This form of breathlessness renders me useless for His good work, prepared just for me.  Maybe I can, in this way, try to understand Mom's shortness of breath.

I pray that I will stay close to the Breath-giver, being filled with His Word, molded by His will.  I pray that He will give me tenderness and compassion, that He will use me to comfort and care for the breathless.  

Breathe on me, Breath of God, 
fill me with life anew, 
that I may love what thou dost love, 
and do what thou wouldst do. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

So Much To Be Thankful For...

121.  An honest pastor, speaking the heart, speaking His Word, speaking Truth

122.  Tea

123.  Cloudy, gray mornings

124.  Quiet reflective moments in this too, too busy world

125.  The opportunity to play dress up

126.  An unexpected day with an treasured friend

127.  Fresh, local, organic strawberries, bursting with the bright sweetness of Spring

128.  Finding Him in all the moments

129.  My own "thorns in the flesh", calling me to my knees, to slow down, to rest, to be still

130.  Always Tom

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Canning local strawberries...

It's Strawberry Season in Virginia Beach!!!

I picked up some delicious, ripe, juicy, red-to-the-middle strawberries from Cullipher Farms.  Did I mention that the strawberries are organic.  Yeah.  Organic. Local. Deliciousness.
For Mother's Day, my sweet daughter decided to help me further the dream by getting me a precious Ball Home Canning Discovery Kit.  My height (5') and my health (another topic altogether) make it difficult for me to reach and lift things like a full canning rack from a pot of boiling water.  This little canning kit is perfect!  It's green, which is adorable, and it only holds 3 pint jars... just right for me!
So we got to work.  I found this recipe on the Ball website for Strawberry Lemon Marmalade:

Strawberry Lemon Marmalade   Makes about 7 (8 oz) half pints

1/4 cup thinly slice lemon peel (about 2 large)
4 cups crushed strawberries (about 4 1-lb containers)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
6 Tbsp Ball® RealFruit™ Classic Pectin
6 cups sugar
7 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

1.) PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2.) COMBINE lemon peel and water to cover in a 6- or 8-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for 5 minutes, until peel is softened. Drain and discard liquid. Return peel to pan.
3.) ADD strawberries and lemon juice to peel and mix well. Gradually stir in pectin. Bring mixture to a full rolling that can not be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.
4.) ADD entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off foam if necessary.
5.) LADLE hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
6.) PROCESS in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed. 

How does one crush strawberries?  I wasn't sure, so I cut off the stems and leaves from each berry and then cut them into smaller pieces.  Then, in batches, I put them into a rectangular dish and crushed them with the Southern woman's multi-tool:  the potato masher!

Slightly over 4 cups = 8 half pints
After following the directions for mixing and cooking the strawberry mixture, steps 2 - 4 of the recipe, we were ready to fill the jars.  Watch out... hot strawberry goo can splatter and burn!  Trista brought home the CUTEST squatty-little-wide-mouth-half-pint jars for this project.  We used a funnel and filled the jars, checking the headspace as directed.
After cleaning the rims and placing the lids and rings, we placed the filled jars, 2 at a time, in the green handled basket and lowered them into the boiling water.  Time moves SSSOOOOOOO slowly when you're canning for the first time!  After 10 minutes, we lifted the basket from the boiling water.
So after letting the jars cool and waiting the appropriate 24 hours and checking the seal, we had the most delicious Strawberry Lemon Marmalade EVER.  It was sweet, total ripe strawberry goodness with a crisp lemon finish.  YUM!  One jar out of the 8 we made did not seal properly, so that jar is OURS and is in the fridge to be used now.  (I'm hoping some will be left for my breakfast toast before worship tomorrow.)
We had some tonight on top of pound cake, topped with additional fresh organic berries and whipped cream.  What a wonderful way to end the day!

Go ahead.  Pick some local and organic fruit.  Bring it home and preserve it.  Give it to friends.  Open a jar in the deep midwinter and bask in the warm, sunny memories.  Simple blessing... great joy.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Garden To-Doings...

"Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent 
as a sunny spring day."  
~W. Earl Hall

I lose time in the garden.  My shoulders mysteriously become detached from my earlobes and fall into their normal position.  My jaw releases and a silly smile plays on my lips.  My heart slows and my breathing becomes deeper.  The stress, the challenges, the brokenness fall away as I putter and chat softly with the Vinedresser.  It is quiet time perfection for me.

Yesterday's garden 'chapel time' revealed such sweet surprises...
Early Girls coming along nicely

Upside Down Tomato - no need for a special planting device; an old pot will do to amaze the neighbors

Cherry Tomatoes in bright clusters

More Tomatoes!!!
Tiny Yellow Squash

More Yellow Squash
Peppers Blooming

More Peppers
Joi Choi... great in stir fry!

Zucchini and Onions

Strawberries... most of the ripe ones were picked and eaten by neighborhood children who climbed the fence into the garden.  I think they see our garden as a glorious green wonderland!

And finally, my favorite flower, the white rose
We have so many other goodies: herbs and eggplant and still some asparagus and greens and ... well, you see where I'm going with this.

We're continuing to add compost and grass clippings to the beds to nourish and keep moisture in while suppressing weeds.  The flowers are blooming all around, bringing bees and butterflies and even a hummingbird to the garden.  Scarlett, of course, checks the garden progress several times a day, chasing any squirrels or bunnies stopping by for a snack.  It is tiring work for her!

Thanks for visiting... come through the gate anytime, or just climb the fence like the neighborhood small people do!