A bit about us...

We are a modern family of three, living on less than two acres with a 3,000 square foot garden that meets our produce needs and allows us to share with friends and neighbors. Our laying flock of chickens seems to expand each year as we raise chicks each Spring to replace older hens. This blog is more of a journal, if you will, for us to chronicle and share our experiences in the yard, garden and kitchen. It is our hope that along the way a few folks might learn something, be entertained, or simply enjoy sharing in our stories and the lessons we learn on a daily basis. I named the blog after the times when I am the happiest, when I am elbow deep in earth.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The $613.00 Chocolate Bar

While traveling in Texas last week, I stayed at the cutest little boutique hotel.  There weren't many decent choices for lodging, aside from pricey Bed and Breakfast spots. When I found The Hangar (check it out here), I was thrilled by the price and the World War two themed decor and overall style of the accommodations.

It's been built to look like an airplane hangar and is located at Gillespie County Airport, a quaint airstrip for small planes.

Folks fill The Hanger on the weekends (only 50 rooms total) and unique gatherings are held in their themed conference center and ballroom. For example, there was a gathering of Pearl Harbor survivors and Hugh Laurie (Dr. House) spent some time there filming once. It has an observation deck for watching planes and a super cool 40's Diner that serves only lunch.

I'm told Thursday through Saturday they have live music in the Captain's Lounge and that it is quite the soiree!

I had a hankering for a bite of chocolate as I settled into my room for the night, so I asked the desk clerk, Carol, where I could find the vending machines. She explained that because the hotel was kept as much in true "1940s" fashion, they didn't have any. I could walk over to the airport terminal and purchase one from a basket that was on the honor system (in the dark) if I wanted.  I passed.

I went up the pretty staircase to my room and put on my pajamas and turned on the television.  My phone rang a short while later. Carol had walked over to get me some chocolate and wanted to bring it up to me.

Being an absolutely amazing and sweet lady, she brought me this glorious snack (which hit the spot!).

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sticks and stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.  We have all heard that.

Few can deny saying it at some point in their childhood.  Is there truth in it? Not really. Words really can and do hurt. Most of us can let some silly things roll off like water on a duck's back, but negativity eats away at our emotional armor and those things get through and penetrate deep into a person's well-being.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Black Walnuts - Part 2

Having woken up with very sore hands, arms, shoulder and back, I decided I really did need to find another way to husk these treasures without quite so much abuse to my system. (If you missed reading Part 1, here it is.) I had read about people driving over them, but worried about that crushing the actual nutmeats and ruining my labors. At this point, I was absolutely up for the risk... so when my mom offered her limestone driveway as a place to husk the nuts "smarter, not harder," I went for it! Shane loaded the second 100+ pounds into the truck and off I went!

Do you see the white creepy crawly visitor coming out of the husk of the walnut? That's a husk fly larvae. They live their entire lives in the husk and cause no damage to the nut itself. They are gross, and really work to soften the husk, which I found just made it easier for me to remove (once I got over them being so yucky). :-)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Black Walnuts - Part 1

While on a trip to the west side of Michigan camping for Shane's birthday, we discovered a hickory tree that was dropping its bounty.  That bounty needed rescuing... I was sure of it! :-)

I gathered over several days as they fell in the wind and rain and we easily removed the green husks to reveal the tasty nuts encased in their shells.

While out and about, I also gathered some acorns for crafts, and the leaves from the respective trees for reference.

When we came home, I spent time learning about them, and discovered I would need a special nutcracker to make lighter work of removing the shells, once they were allowed to dry and ready to be cracked.  The same nutcracker was also designed for the very tough to crack black walnut, should I ever have a chance to get hold of some of them.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Be nice. Just do it.

I bought a new sewing machine almost two years ago.  I bought it from a Viking dealer within a Jo-Ann Fabric Store and it was a nice enough machine that it came with two classes to teach me how to use it.  After my first class (January 2012), I was waiting near the door for S to pick me up when I overheard a young man asking about Mason jars.  Anyone who knows me, knows this perks my ears up. I heard the associate tell him that they did not sell single jars (they do now, but did not at the time), and that he could go to Wal-Mart to buy a case. He explained that he needed only one, to which she replied that she could not help him.

Me, being me, I walked over and offered to help. I called Shane and asked him to check the trunk of the car for a quart jar before he came in to get me and my sewing machine. I know it sounds silly, but there is always a chance there are jars in my car.  On this occasion, there was not.

The fun part of the story is WHY this young man wanted the jar...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Spreading The Love - Blueberry (Wedded) Bliss

I received a call a few weeks ago from a very nice young lady who had purchased some jams and jellies from me (my side "job" as Earthly Grace Preserves) at the farm stand last summer. She thought of me as she was planning her sister's bridal shower. The bride had selected blue and white as her colors, and she hoped I could make some blueberry favors for her to hand out to her guests. We put our heads together and decided on two flavors for the guests to choose from: Blueberry and Blueberry Basil. I offered to include the decoration and labeling to eliminate some work for her as well. Once the details were arranged, I went to work.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I entered the fair with a few things... here's what happened.

I decided it would be fun to enter some canned goods into the fair and see how I could do against some locals. I immediately learned that the judges do not taste the product and that items are therefore judged by appearance. For most items, this means headspace, consistency, color, etc. Essentially, they are really looking at the "art of canning."

I labeled my entries with the required information: Item Name, Process used for canning (Water bath or pressure), Time processed, Date Canned.  Entries must have been canned since the last fair to be considered.

Jams and Jellies are expected to be plain and combination flavors (like my blueberry basil, chipotle peach, strawberries and cream, etc.) are only accepted in the "Any Other" class. You are allowed one entry per class.

There are 9 sections offered: Fruits, Jellies, Jams, Preserves, Vegetable, Juices, Relishes, Pickles and Meats. I entered 7 of those, omitting Preserves and Pickles, this time. ;-)

I dropped off 23 entries the night before judging and went home to try to sleep. I had taken the next day off work to spend at the fair with a great friend and was eager to see the results.

Here are my results: