Our life living off the land in our log cabin, breathing fresh mountain air, and getting back to basics.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Today Is My Birthday!

Happy Birthday to me!  Sharing a few of my birthday joys thus far...

My first nasturtium bloomed today, a lovely, edible flower with a fascinating center!

Mountain Man created a fresh mountain wildflower bouquet for me, especially attractive, as it was made with love:)

There is going to be a blue moon this evening (it is called such because it is the second full moon in a month, and when the atmosphere is right, it will appear blue).   I am looking forward to seeing it in the beautiful dark night mountain sky!  As of this moment, no sight of the moon...I will keep looking!

The last thing I want to share is that I am now 51.  I am perfectly happy being 51, I feel great about me and my life, and it sure is better than the alternative, which brings me to my anxiety about it.  I figure if I share this with you, get it in writing, then I'll be done with it...my mom died when she was 51; she had just gotten to the point in her life that she had gained self-confidence and I believe really learned to love herself just as she was and thus able to enjoy her life.  Then all of a sudden, her life was over.  No advance warning, no chance for preparation.  For many years, I have felt confident, accepted myself just the way I am, embracing opportunities to grow, and have kept moving in a forward direction, loving my life.  (Interesting that the theme of my daily inspirational reading for today was No Regrets, and the title "I Love My Life"...perfect and serendipitous that this was the theme on my birthday.)  Even though my love of my life is nothing new, being 51 is.  So I have this thought running around in my head (logical or not) that my path may follow hers.  With that said, I am letting it go.  For good.  I will not think it any longer.  I will not voice it any longer.  I know I have another 50 years to go, just like my maternal grandmother.  Thank you for "lending your ear" (or should I say eyes), and feel free, if you are open to this way of thinking, to send some supportive "healing, letting go" thoughts this way.

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,
51 and going strong,

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Life's Simple Beauty

I spent the day today with Bob and Art, who shared their personal knowledge and experience about the Peek's Creek mudslide disaster that occurred here in NC in September 2004.  I visited the site for the first time in October 2005, and the devastation was still obvious and palpable to me.  For some reason, though I had no personal involvement with the disaster, I was overwhelmed with emotion while there; Peek's Creek touched my soul.  I always feel my life unfolds exactly as it should, so not coincidentally, since then, I met Bob and Art, who are long time close friends of my Dad's (and eventually Donald's) and it just so happened that Bob's mom had a home in Peek's Creek (for 50 years) that was devastated.  Since my first day there, I have wanted to learn more about what happened, and after beginning my blog decided I wanted to write an anniversary post in honor of those who lost their lives, limbs & homes.  Come back to read more about the disaster on September 16th.  A sincere & heartfelt thank you, Bob and Art, for an incredible day; it far exceeded my expectations from both a personal and historical perspective.  I must truly say, I feel you are not only my Dad's friends, but now mine. 

Today's experience reminded me of how important it is to embrace every moment, live for today, and enjoy being.  So the rest of this post is about a few of the simple beautiful things that life presents.

A Meadow Beauty (to the best of my knowledge)...

A Partridge Pea (to the best of my knowledge)...

Collard green sprouts with empty seed pods still attached...
 ...a closer view...

 I don't know this bush, but the contrasting colors caught my attention as I drove by...

Healing thoughts for all those affected by Isaac's ongoing rain, and for those who may benefit from those same rains, much gratitude for Isaac's silver lining.

Thank you for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Harvesting Potatoes

We decided to harvest our red potatoes today, and some of the purple ones as well.  Here is our beautiful bounty, lovely, aren't they?

You know it's time to harvest potatoes when the once beautiful leaves and stalks look like they have died.  Not pretty, it actually made me wonder if these potatoes would be OK, but Mountain Man assured me this is what you have to wait for.  
It is easy to harvest potatoes, though you need to have a gentle touch.  We had planted the red seed potatoes about 3 inches into the soil.  So we first removed the straw, then gently pulled on the plant stalk, which pulled the potatoes up a bit.  The potatoes may still be attached by a small root string (I am not sure what the technical name is) so you pull gently.  There are also some potatoes that seem to be just laying there in the soil (if you look closely you can see one just peaking through the soil).
These are our first red potatoes!  Ahhh, so proud:)
Another plant; as you can see, some are still quite small...we could have left this stalk in for a bit longer.

And another plant, first tug...
...tug again...

...fresh red potatoes!

Now to harvest the purple potatoes, which was a much larger plot.  However, there were only a couple plants ready to harvest...this was the first purple potato we saw...
...and harvested!

FYI, we planted the purple potatoes on top of the soil and covered them with straw, so they did not require digging into the soil as much as the red potatoes did.

This is our bounty as we carried them from the garden.  Lookin' good, all covered in brown soil, smelling like a garden harvest!

I let them dry a bit, then brushed off the loose dirt. The soil was still moist and smelled rich & somewhat musty, but in a good way.  Then I rinsed them gently with cold water and set them on racks to dry.  Once dried, I will put them in a cool, dry place for storing.

It is important to be mindful of any potatoes that are green.  This is the result of the sun reaching the potato, which results in the development of chlorophyll, and that produces a poison called solanine.  We will have to cut the green off this potato, and if it goes to deep, discard it. 

Potatoes like to be stored in a cool, dry place.  Away from the sun.  We don't have a root cellar yet, but we will be sure these beauties continue to be edible for some time!  We may not have gotten a lot of potatoes, but enough to make us happy:)

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Post Holes, My Hard Head & Green Insects

We spent our day measuring for and digging the holes for the remaining posts for our deck.  The beginning was tedious because of all of the detailed measuring, but we figured it out.  Ronnie did stop by to help us set the line for the first hole, which was very helpful.  And I am happy to say he was quite pleased with the progress we made yesterday.  We needed a few minor adjustments to the alignment, but not much.  We were very proud of ourselves!

These are the 4 holes we dug today, 2 to go, but we were tired, and guess what, we decided to stop (see, we do learn from our experiences!).
 And this is the stringer Ronnie helped us put up to ensure the first hole was exactly where it needs to be.  This gives you an idea of where the deck will be ending, which is pretty much at the end of that horizontal 2x4. 

This is the picture of my boo boo that some of you were asking for.  Doesn't look too bad but I still have a nice lump about the size of my palm; it isn't a lump like a ball rather a lump like a mound.  It's a good thing I have a hard head (some would say in more ways than one).  I must admit I am more distressed about the amount of grey I see than the boo boo, and sure hope that thing heals up before my hair appointment next week!  Those grey's need to be gone!!!

I will close with these green creatures that caught my attention today. This way you don't have to have that picture of my boo boo in your mind for the rest of your evening/day!

This is a Sphinx moth caterpillar we discovered today.  Beautiful coloring and interesting details!  I am not sure what the moth will look like, as there are many, many green caterpillars.  But I am quite confident it is a Sphinx of some sort. 

And this is a Katydid.  He was cleaning himself on our grill, perhaps preparing for his evening of song.  I have been thinking that the loud sound I have been hearing all night long has been Cicadas, but I now know they are Katydid's, which make a 3 & 4 part sound like Ka-ty-did and ka-ty-did-nt.  You can hear them from dusk until about 4am (I don't know why they stop at at that time, but they do).  Cicadas make the underlying sound, sort of like a very small maraca that stops now and then.  Sorry, I don't have a picture of a Cicada, but if I did, it wouldn't work for my green insects section today.)
Truth be told, I would never have known the difference in the sounds if I had not seen this lovely creature visiting our porch tonight.  After researching a bit, so many questions I have had (but didn't necessarily know I had them) were answered!

The mountains have introduced me to so many new and interesting things, have I told you lately that I love this life?  I DO!

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,

Monday, August 27, 2012

Deck Building, Day 2

Our original plan was that Ronnie (the carpenter we have hired to help us build the deck) was supposed to come over today.  But as things happen, something came up with another of his jobs and he was not able to make it today.  So Mountain Man and I, along with our good friend and neighbor Charlie, decided to work anyway.

Here is the beginning point this morning...
 ...and this is what we accomplished!  
We are extremely pleased that we installed the remaining 3 posts for the first 8 foot section of the deck, including the girders, (the first picture of what was accomplished) and some of the joists (the second picture).  This was very important, because we needed those posts up in order to properly measure out the 8 feet for exact location of the next 6 holes we need to dig for the footers for the rest of posts.  This way we can pour the concrete and have enough time for it to set so we can build again on Saturday.  

I did manage to earn the honor of being the first person injured (well, Charlie did cut his finger last Saturday) when a piece of wood hit me in the head.  It was late in the day, and we were all getting tired (should have been an indicator it is time to stop, but we really wanted to get all the posts up).  I should have known to move when Mountain Man was up on a ladder hitting the bracket that would hold the last girders we had to install, to straighten it out a bit, but I didn't think about it. Nor did anyone else.  As he whacked away, the wood acting like spacers in the bracket popped out, one tumbling right onto my head.  They were pieces of pressure treated 2x8's, about 6 inches long.  Not too heavy by themselves, but when falling from 10 feet high, it's heavy.  It hurt like heck, and I tried not to cry, but when I took my gloved hand off my head, and saw it was bleeding, I cried.  Fortunately, it was not gushing blood, and I put ice on it, but I have a nice knot to show for it, and a nice throb there, but I'm going to be OK.   

The best part about today was that Mountain Man and I realized we could build the rest of this deck all by ourselves if we had to.  Charlie was extremely helpful with tips of how to do some things, and made the job seem very doable and logical.  But we prefer to have help, both for the muscle and the experience.  But we sure are proud of ourselves, and I know that every time we step on this deck we will know that "we did it"!

Stay tuned for more deck building progress!

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Sunflower, A Bursting Heart & Mushrooms

This bright and cheery post is for my family & friends in central and south Florida who are getting soaked and blown around by Tropical Storm Isaac.  I hope all are safe and secure!

This is my first sunflower bloom, started by seed.  It is not very tall, about 2 foot, but a new bloom, spirited with new life...the first of many to come.  We have another row that is beginning to bud with blooms that are intended to be about 5'...I doubt they will get that tall, but I believe they will be bigger, taller blooms.  Below is the sequence of blooming from fully open back to the bud.  It took 11 days from the first bud to this bloom; I was surprised that it took that long...regardless, the process of unfolding is fascinating!

Mountain Man discovered this beauty in our woods the other day, a most interesting bush called the Bursting Heart Burning Bush.  These are the flowers, they don't bloom into anything else (at least that is what I have learned so far about it).  Intriguing plant, visually spellbinding in a way, and the name is enticing, especially if you didn't know what it looks like.  I will have to find out how to trim and nurture the bush, as the buds are not as full on the bush as I think they could be; there are pictures of these bushes with buds covering it.  It's such a distinctive fall blooming plant!  I am happy we have it!

And these are the mushrooms Mountain Man found while hunting (mushrooms) today...tender, sweet, mushroomy deliciousness (there are mostly hedgehogs, the bigger ones, and a few chanterelle).  We sauteed them with a little butter and parsley, and ate them with grilled steak, baked potato and young zucchini grilled whole (fresh from the garden).  YUM!
 This is the underside of the hedgehog mushroom...

 ...and the top.

If you have never tasted wild mushrooms, I suggest you try it.  They are delectable and different from what you can buy in the grocery store.  Be adventurous!  Take a tasty dive into the world of wild mushrooms, if you like mushrooms, you will be really happy you did!  If you don't like mushrooms, disregard this suggestion:)

This is the other wild mushroom Mountain Man found, a monster that must weigh 2 lbs!  We are still studying the edibility of it, but our first research shows it is edible (he will be the tester though, as always)!

I hope you have enjoyed this cheer-filled (and fungus filled, but that is meant to be a positive, LOL...that means Laugh Out Loud) post! 

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Let The Deck Building Begin! And Lise's Deck Builder's Soup/Stew

Woo hoo, so excited, we are building the deck today.  Well, beginning to build it!  This is the progress we made at the end of the day, when the rain was coming.  The deck boards are only sitting there, they are not secured, but we wanted to get a visual of what it would eventually look like. 

This is what we started with this morning at 7:45 am. 
I can not give you all the details of how the deck was built, just pictures of the progress.  This is Ronnie, a carpenter by trade, and after watching him work for a day, I can easily say and expert craftsman!  The beginning of the project is setting the ledger (holds things to the cabin wall supports), then lining up the first post (holds the deck up), which is critical in getting the rest of the deck just right. 

Once that first post is set, the rest of the ledger is completed corresponding post for the other corner of the deck is lined up and secured.

Then the posts in between, along with girders (these go between the posts to hold them together and square) and then the joists (these are what hold the floor up) all begin to come together.  It is interesting to me, in watching this take place, how logical it all is.  But the tricks of the trade to make things progress smoothly and easily are truly an art!

There is a lot of ducking, stretching, reaching, lifting, bending, leveling, measuring, aligning, hammering and grunting that takes place.  Also adjusting, remeasuring, fixing, etc...  Did I mention laughing and joking?  Lots of that!  Oh, and eating, but we'll get to that. 

You are looking at joists that Mountain Man was securing in this photo.  It was a task, trust me, but he did it!

In the end of the day, we have the beginning of a deck.

During all this, besides lending a hand every now and then, and taking pictures for the history books, I cooked for the small gang of builders we had (Johny, Ronnie, Charlie, and Ron).  I made Lise's Deck Builder Stew/Soup, corn bread, and Toll House cookies made with both milk and white chocolate...you have to keep the builders happy (and energized), after all!  The corn bread and Toll House cookies were basic recipes; I must say both turned out deliciously.  The soup was a basic put what you think will work in a pot and hope for the best recipe.

Lise's Deck Builder's Soup/Stew

1 onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced (could use more but this is all I had)
2 tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 package beer brats (or Italian sausage)
1 bag frozen veggies (peas, carrots, beans, corn)
1 can black eyed peas
1 can pinto beans
2 cans large northern beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can chicken broth
1 large cube vegetable bullion (makes 2 cups)
1 fresh zucchini, diced (added with about 1 hour left to cook)
1 fresh summer squash, diced (added with about 1 hour left to cook)
herbs de Provence
dried whole oregano, crushed
dried whole basil, crushed
whole fennel seeds, crushed
all spices/seasonings are to taste

I am not going to give you pictures of the whole process, I don't think you need to see all that.  It is a basic process of beginning with your raw veggies, saute in a little butter and oil until softened.  I add the spices at this stage.  I pull these veggies out of the pan once they are cooked and set aside.  I find this approach allows things to cook independently before combining flavors, which enables each flavor to evolve independently.  Brown the beer brats and then add the raw tomatoes (don't remove the brats for this step), this will help pick up all the good sticky bits from the browning of the meat.  Now add your veggies back into the mix, all the canned ingredients, and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer, covered.  About 1 hour before you will be serving the meal, add your fresh zucchini and summer squash.

This was a scrumptious, hearty soup/stew.  Serve it with freshly made corn bread, and you have a winner.  Some like the cornbread on the side, some right in the soup/stew.  Either way, YUM!  I also brought them Toll House cookies and fruit in the mid afternoon (working at keeping their strength up!).

I say soup/stew, because it was much thicker than a typical soup, but not as gravy like as a stew...you can make up your own mind!  Truth be told, I staged this picture tonight, as I forgot to take a picture of the final dish, and while it is not steaming it actually looks pretty good, maybe I should stage more food photos rather than taking them when serving...something I shall consider!

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,