Thursday, October 27, 2016

There Shall Be Showers...

We have been getting more than our usual share of rain this fall!  If the extra moisture is any indication, should the temps fall just a few degrees colder, we will be experiencing snowfall here quite soon.  The mountaintops are covered in snow already, and this coming winter looks to be a promising one for anyone involved in the snow business!

For us, we are busy with the usual preparations that fall and approaching winter bring.  Fall is the time when we try to get our freezer full of meat to get us through the winter.  We purchased a large amount of chicken breasts through Zaycon Foods, and that all needed to be packaged up for the freezer.

My husband bought me this Food Saver machine a couple of years ago and I just love it.  It makes packaging meat so much easier, and the meat does not get freezer burnt like it often does even when using the Ziplock Freezer Bags.

I use the Food Saver rolls, so that I can cut and seal my own bags for whatever size I need.

The Food Saver sucks out all of the air within the bag and then seals it.  So, all I have to do is mark it with the packaging date, and it is ready to go into the freezer.

I have been very impressed with Zaycon's meat, and continue to purchase our chicken breasts from them each spring and fall.  It is so nice to be able to meal plan knowing I have plenty of different meat in my freezer to choose from.  It took an afternoon of work to get this meat put up, but we will enjoy it all winter long.

Sadly, we had another bit of chicken drama with my little flock this past week.  I went in to lock up my chickens for the night, and did my usual head count, and came up short.  With a heavy heart, I went through the head count again, and realized that one of my little white banty leghorn's was missing.

I found her in the garden in a little dust pile as if she had taken a dust bath, fell asleep and never woke up.  I scooped her little body up and placed it in an empty feed sack.  I was thankful that whatever happened to her, she died in a happy place.

We took her out to our little pet cemetery and placed her there beside Rudy and Cosmo.  The little fir tree growing above the graves always speaks peace to my heart when we have to make another grave here, its gentle branches swaying in the wind reminds me that life goes on.


Yet, in the midst of all of this, there have been an afternoon or two of sunshine, and Annie and I went for a little roam together, just to experience the last fleeting joys of a season that has passed all too quickly.

It is the tamarack's turn for fall splendor.  The needles of the tamarack turned a golden yellow in the fall, and when they fall off... we all know that winter is upon us.  You can count on it... when the tamarack's lose their gold, the snow begins to fly.  But for now... their golden glories are drops of yellow sunshine across the mountains and hills, and beautiful to see.

As Annie and I briskly walked, I noticed this mushroom growing alongside the road.

I do not know what kind of mushroom it is, although it looks very happy growing right here.

Here you can see a fine example of just how prolific the tamarack tree can be.  These woods were logged several years ago, and several tamarack seed trees were left. You can see by all the little yellow trees, that the seed trees have done a great job of starting new trees.  Tamarack trees are highly prized trees valued for their dense high grade wood.  Tamaracks are highly sought for firewood because the orange-colored wood burns hotter than other pine, and yet splits easily. An interesting fact about tamarack trees is that the bark is very medicinal. Tamarack pitch can be used to help heal cuts and bruises, which was a remedy used by the American Indians.  They also used to make a steeped tea made from the bark to relieve coughs and colds.  I personally have not tried these remedies, but it is good to know about them, and perhaps one day I will give them a try.

I always enjoy this scene as we walk.  I often stop to talk to the horse, but she never really pays much attention to us.

She has very busy work to do, she tells me.... and so I just quietly watched how the light streamed around her as she continued noisily to chomp away.

She and the turkeys enjoy the field together.

Annie-girl and I always try to walk faster up the hills, but the view on this hill makes me want to slow down and just enjoy the horizon and the ever-changing sky.

Looking off in the distance, her gaze always intent.

The evening shadows were approaching in the late afternoon skies as we walked in the brisk, fresh air.

The sun's lengthening shadows here make Annie look like a wild wolf, lol!

Our neighbor's tree is losing its leaves quickly now.

It's time for burning brush!  I'm always so thankful to see the brush piles burn up, up and away!

The rains have been near nonstop the last few days.  On a recent trip into town, it was raining quite hard as we drove, but still, I couldn't help but enjoy the beauty of these gorgeous maple trees lining the streets.

They are losing their leaves fast as the rain comes down, and then it will be a soggy mess for the homeowners to clean up... but such is the season of fall... we enjoy its loveliness as long as we can. And even in the rain, my heart sings for joy, at the beauty that abounds around us.

Is there any place like home? After being out just for a few hours to take care of errands in town... it was a joy to return home to our humble abode where Roger waited for us, chickens rushed out to greet us, and a comfort meal of Southern Chicken and Dumpling's and Iron Skillet Biscuits were on the evening's menu, perfect for the rainy weather day!

There shall be showers, of course... life is full of puddles, clouds and showers... sometimes they are messy and miserable... but with all things considered... there can be showers of blessings in the midst of our everyday lives, along with simple blessings of lovely fall days - and whether they come rain or shine - they mean much to this simple-loving heart of mine.  :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Orange Vinegar Cleaning Spray

Sometime ago, I found a recipe on Pinterest that most of you probably know about and use.  My family dubbed it the "vinegar stuff" but I think its official name is Blue Dawn Vinegar Spray, and it works to clean just about everything.  Since beginning to use this spray, I have not bought another bottle of cleaning spray for the home.  This stuff covers it all, amazingly!

Not too long ago, I looked at the pile of orange peelings that were piling up in the compost bin, and thought that surely there must be a better use for them than the compost pile.  So I gathered up orange peelings and when I had enough, I stuffed them into a jar and poured vinegar over them.

I let the orange peelings sit in the white vinegar for a week or so, until the vinegar began to turn a soft brownish color, which is the color in the jar above.

Then I strained the orange peelings...

And this was the resultant orange vinegar!  Oh it smelled heavenly!  It was so fresh and fragrant, I just wanted to clean my whole house with it!

And so what I did was "tweak" our beloved vinegar/dish soap/water recipe using my fragrant orange vinegar.  Oh my goodness!  Amazing! The strong vinegar smell is replaced with a powerful fresh fragrance instead... and if you need some inspiration to clean your house... this just might do the trick... {smiles}...

Orange Vinegar Spray

Fill a pint bottle with orange peelings.  Pour enough white vinegar over the peelings to cover.  Seal the bottle and put away in a dark place (I just covered mine with a dish towel) for about a week or two. When the liquid turns a light brown, it is ready to use.  Strain the peelings, and measure vinegar.

Add to your spray bottle a 1:1:1 ratio - vinegar/Dawn dish soap/water starting with vinegar, then Dawn, and ending with the water.  (For example: 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup blue Dawn dish soap, and 1/2 cup water).  Shake well.  (Note: If you want to make the spray disinfecting, you can add 1 tsp alcohol to your spray bottle.)

*Some people warm the vinegar just slightly before adding in the Dawn and water, and I've noticed that when I take the time to do that, it does seem to mix easier.  Not a necessary step, but one that can be done.

** Please note, one thing I have learned is that you need to use the BLUE Dawn dish soap, as there is something in the chemical formulation of the blue Dawn that works well with the vinegar.

This Orange Vinegar spray can clean a host of things. I use it in the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry, and I have not found a formulated cleaner on the shelf of the grocery store that does a better job than this does.  I spray it on laundry stains, in the bathtub, toilet, sinks, on any carpet stains, and I also use it in the kitchen. I have separate spray bottles that I keep in the bathroom, laundry room, and kitchen.  As with any cleaner, you should probably test in an inconspicuous area of carpet or clothing first.  

Do you have a favorite cleaning spray recipe that you like to use? If you do please share... or anything to make the cleaning-your-house chores easier!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Golden Light after the Storm

There's something joyous about seeing the storm pass by, with the clouds announcing golden leftover light, the sun's warmth filtering through the mist left by the passing storm.

A beautiful moment like that happened yesterday.

I was inside when the world all around me just seemed... golden.

Going outside the skies were ablaze in the goldenness.

The storm had just passed and the last golden rays of sunshine for the day were warming the misty shadows.

Rain... rain... rain.... it had rained all day until I thought we might need to find an ark to navigate about in.

The golden light bathed Simba in its warmth... but he didn't look none too thrilled, now did he?

The show didn't last long...

 but just long enough...

... for me to breathe in its radiant glow, and thank the Master Painter once again for the glow that had not only filled the skies, but my heart.

Poor Roger... he worries about me in moments like this.  What is up there that you are looking at? 

 Ah well... a drink of rain water makes everything better...

The goldenness melted into misty pinks over the mountaintops...

My gaze coming back to rest on the terra firma... and this little rose bush burning brightly caught my eye,as if it had picked up and held close the golden light too.

And my garden lightly bathed in the waning light, rests quietly, its season now passed.

Bits of golden light still dancing around, capturing Annie in a moment of deep thought.

Wet pine needles, downed from the storm... a carpet of golden delight.

Our little blazing maple, now quiet and still, the storm and rain having dethroned her leafy covering.

The ground covered with the fallen leaves... signs the beloved season has passed far too soon.

Annie's attention was suddenly quite intense.  I knew better than to ask "what is it?".  I moved quietly to her side to see...

A staring contest.... intense.  Fierce.  In her mind, life and death perhaps.

Her gaze never faltered, nor did Annie's.  I stood amazed.  I watched her two fawns romp in the background.  And yet, she never gave in.  She knows me.  She knows Annie.  I raised my camera gently, taking the pictures.  She never moved.  She was not afraid.  I took a step to get a better vantage point ... too close.... and heard her "PFFTTT" and off they went.  Not another sound, not a leaf, not a twig, nothing.  The forest was quiet again.  Annie shifted her stance, and rubbed against me.

Early today I heard a shot ring out in the woods behind us.  I hope it wasn't her.  She knows us well, and comes by often to watch us.  She has learned to stay out of reach of the dogs, and her fawns play happily around while she and Annie stare each other down.  I too have enjoyed my visits with her.

It was time to close up the chickens for the night.  I turned the light on and did my usual head count.

All cozied up and resting quietly for the night ahead.

Annie and I headed inside.  The golden light had faded, and my hot cup of tea was waiting... and this little poem wrote itself in my heart as I sipped my tea, and watched the lingering shadows accept the final embrace of darkness.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Leaf Peeping Adventures with a Friend

Thanks for everyone's concern about the storms that we were supposed to get, I choose to believe all your prayers and well wishes made a difference.... we got lots of rain, but no wind, and all is well!  It is still raining here today, on and off, we are still getting the showers, and it certainly looks like this moisture is going to continue for a while.  I expect we will be getting snow before much longer.

But, the skies cleared for a short while Monday, and my dear friend GT and I set out on a little adventure around her town... leaf peeping!  It was so fun, and we just were in awe of the beauty of the little town she lives in.

She took some pictures, and I took some pictures, and I will share some of the highlights of our leaf peeping in the short window of time that the skies cleared for us :)

Some of GT's pictures around town... aren't the colors vibrant and full!  We both agree we haven't seen the colors this brilliant in years.

A collaged collection of some of the pictures I took.

GT took this picture, and I love the contrast of color between the red, oranges and yellow.

 GT's dog, Tracker... watched us sadly as we left to go leaf-peeping, and was waiting patiently for our return! He is just the sweetest dog.  They have another dog too, Zeke, but he happened to be inside when I got this picture, both so sweet and lovable... love our furry friends too!

The drive into town was full of color, and the moody skies were constantly changing.

The drive along the river is a joy, every time we pass by...

Maples don't grow here naturally, but people have planted a lot of them, and they are gorgeous in the fall.

Such a vibrant palette of colors.

I think the Painter dropped a big blob of yellow right here...

Clouds gathering for a storm (and downpour it did, later...)

But while we were out on our little adventure... the drama in the skies waited for the climax until we were done ...  

This little city park is rather obscure and unnoticed... until today...when it shouted gloriously to the world with its vibrant colors.

Downtown... the most delightful, quaint little pizza place you will ever happen upon.

Have you ever seen a tree with such bright colors? Even surrounded with all the colorful trees around town, this tree seemed to glow unusually bright.

The outside seating was lavishly decked with whispering leaves.

My friend and I agreed... this tree stood out, above all other trees, with its form, brilliance, and colors.

I wonder if it is the same tree as my blazing maple?  Its colors are very similar.  But, this tree dazzled. We were in awe.  Pictures do not do it justice.

G picked us each a leaf, and we carried our little treasures home with us.

Could there be any canopy more lovely than this?

This unique little table sat quietly against the wall, buried in an abundance of leaves.

Do you notice the half-eaten apple left, perhaps as afterthought?

The pizza place was closed at the time we were there, they open in the evenings.  Such a delightful place beckoned us to return, and soon!

Sometimes beauty hurts.  Have you ever felt that way?

And sometimes leaf-peeping gets you into trouble.  We stopped at another little city park, and I held up my camera to take a picture, and the flash setting had been tripped, and so the flash triggered.  I looked away from the camera, and here came this big truck headed straight for us!  I thought it was going to hit us, and we both braced for the impact.  He squealed to a stop, barely missing us, and rolled down his window.  I rolled my window down.  He asked why we took a picture of him.  I replied I hadn't, I was just taking pictures of the trees.  He said, well I saw the flash, and want to know why you took my picture.  I finally convinced him I didn't have his picture, only trees.  He rolled up his window, and sped off.  GT and I shook our heads and just laughed and laughed.  Who knew leaf-peeping could cause such trouble!  LOL!

Beautiful, magnificent, lovely... !

It was time for our little adventure to end, as GT needed to get back home.  We were only out for a short time, but the joy we experienced together, and seeing the beauty around us was refreshing and we enjoyed a good laugh after our little "flash" escapade.

As I drove home, the skies closed in, and pellets of rain began dropping out of the sky.

We couldn't have planned our little outing at a more perfect time... and in fact, it wasn't planned at all.  I was dropping something off at her house, and she was gifting me with a bag of pears from her pear tree, and we decided spontaneously to go out for a drive.

I'm glad we enjoyed the little adventure we had.  Now as I drove home, the bright colors in the sky softened to a dull gray as the rain clouds unleashed their pent up energy.

My goodness, had it been a few degrees colder, it would be snowing...!  Not quite ready for the snow yet... but its arrival is all but imminent.  But for now, we will cherish the remaining spots of fall colors as long as we can.  :)