Crunchy, Pumpkin-y Goodness

I’ve been on a granola kick lately.

I love the crunchy texture in my yogurt and oatmeal (which I eat almost every day), so I go through a lot of granola.

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It all started when I bought a bag at the Amish store in town.  It was  flavorful and fresh,  but also pricey, so I knew I needed to learn to make this myself.

This is also the season for everything pumpkin.  The poor pumpkin is basically ignored until October.  Then, for the next three months, it’s game on.

So far this month, I’ve made pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins and now….

Pumpkin spice granola.

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I can definitely say life is better with pumpkin granola in it.

Granola is a very easy and forgiving snack to make.  It adapts well to substitutions which is good since I adapt quite a bit when I cook.  Here is the original recipe and here is my version.

Pumpkin Spice Granola

3 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1 c. walnuts, chopped
1 c. almonds or peanuts, chopped
1 c. packed brown sugar
2/3 c.-3/4 c. pumpkin puree
1/4 c. sunflower oil*
1/2 c. honey
1-1/2 TBS pumpkin pie spice**
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 250* F.  In a large bowl, combine oats, walnuts, almonds,
(or peanuts), and brown sugar.  In a small bowl, combine the remaining 
ingredients until well mixed.  Pour over the dry ingredients and mix until
all ingredients are wet.  Spread mixture on a baking sheet.  
Bake for 1 hour and 15 min.  Every 15 min., remove from the oven and stir
mixture to evenly bake.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  
Store in an airtight container.

**if you don't have pumpkin pie spice, you can use:
2-1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1-1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

*Side Note:  This summer, when I attended the Farm2Home Event at Moss Mountain Farm, I met the maker of a special sunflower oil.

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Made on Wayne Plantation in Scott, AR, this virgin sunflower oil is cold pressed to retain flavor, aroma, and nutrients.  As an added bonus, it’s made with non-GMO sunflowers, provides twice the amount of Vitamin E than olive oil, and is low in saturated fats. Sounds like healthy to me.  I love it when that happens. 

When I made the last batch of granola, I used this oil in place of vegetable oil.  What a difference!  The nutty flavor of the oil was the perfect compliment to the already nuttiness of the granola.  Goodness Gracious this is Good Granola.

I guess what I’m saying is, don’t be afraid to play around with this recipe.  The slightest substitution can make a surprising difference.

Enjoy!

Brenda

 

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Posted in Cooking, Family, Farm life, Garden, Home, recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

I Hired Some Help This Summer

I have a great view from my back porch.  image

But I have a slope just past the pool that is a grown up mess.

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A few trees were removed years ago to give the pool more sun which has allowed wild blackberries and poison ivy to thrive.  It was so grown up, the cows could not/would not even attempt to graze this area.

I really wanted to clean it up, but since I am terribly allergic to poison ivy, I decided to hire this out.

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Finding someone to do this was the problem.  Not many people can/will work with poison ivy and thorny blackberries.

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Spraying was not an option.  I put a lot of time, money, and effort in keeping my bees away from chemicals and I wasn’t going to jeopardize their well-being.

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The answer came while I was watching our local news one evening.  They were highlighting a special group of workers that would clear out brush.  They were touted to work quickly and efficiently.  They would show up early and stay late. The more poison ivy and brush you had, the more enthusiastic they worked.

 

Intrigued, I called and scheduled them to work on my horrible slope.  The perimeters of the area were defined as I anxiously awaited their arrival.  On the appointed day, twelve workers arrived in two minivans.  Twelve!  Two minivans!

Let me introduce you to these special workers.

 

They are collectively known as Greedy Goats of NWA.

As soon as they arrived, they did not hesitate to start working.

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They were kept in the perimeter with electric fencing.

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The owners stayed with the goats every day to make sure there were no problems.  If any of you have been around goats, you know they can get into trouble quickly.  They are notorious for escaping, oftentimes climbing a tree to do so.

Daisy tried to help

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but quickly tired.

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At the end of the day, the goats seemed to know it was time to leave and began to head toward the minivans.

 

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The Greedy Goats Group stayed several days and worked nonstop.  They don’t eat cedars so we will cut those down when it gets cooler.  Surprisingly, they don’t eat grass either, just weeds.  Now the cows can come in and finish it down.   Win, win.

Here are some before and after pics

I am very satisfied I found an alternative way to get rid of invasive weeds without spraying.   There are several rent-a-ruminant programs throughout the US, so you might check in your area to explore this “green” way of weed control.

Brenda

Posted in Arkansas, Farm life, Garden | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Bee Update

I haven’t posted much on the bees this summer, but I’m glad to report that all is well.

I started the spring with one very strong hive.  This was one of the original hives I started with three years ago.  I decided in early spring to split the hive which means I took several frames of bees, some brood (bee babies at various ages), pollen, and honey and placed them in a separate hive body.  The bees then made their own queen and, presto, I had another hive.

Since the original hive was so large, I decided to do another split following the same technique.  I moved this hive to my dads garden where they continue to enjoy their new surroundings.

Then the swarm calls started coming in

and before I knew it, I had 8 hives.

Later in the summer, a friend asked if I would be interested in buying her dad’s three hives and equipment and, since I’m a bee junkie, I said yes.  The clincher, though, was this…

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a 12 frame ELECTRIC honey extractor.  No more cranking!! happy dance happy dance

So, on a hot Saturday night in July, we took our sixteen-foot trailer and made the hour drive for a very unique date night.

Moving bees on date night

Most people go to the movies on date night

I sold one of the hives and put one hive at my dads and the other at my house.

Now I have more hives than I know what to do with.

The honey harvest was good, though, and we harvested over 200 pounds  We had white clover blooming for a long period of time and the honey was very sweet. The honey we pulled off later was quite a bit darker with a stronger flavor.

 

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Spring harvest on the left, late summer harvest on the right

 

My granddaughter has been talking about helping me, so we got her a bee suit

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but when she heard and saw how many bees were in the hive, she decided to stand by the fence.  We will try again later if she wants.  I will say that she is the cutest, toothless, beekeeper I’ve ever seen.

Now that fall is here, preparations are happening to make sure the hive is ready for winter.

First and foremost, I need to make sure they have enough to eat.  Believe it or not, bees do not work tirelessly just so I can take their honey.  In the winter, the bees cluster together to keep warm and eat on the honey they worked so hard to make.  For a strong colony, they will need about 60 pounds of honey stored in the hive.  That’s one deep hive body with ten frames full on honey on both sides.

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This is one side of one frame almost full of capped honey.  Each frame weighs approx. 5-6 pounds when full of honey.

 

When I harvest honey, I am always mindful of how much I pull off and I never take it all.  It could be the difference of living and dying for the bees.

Next, I keep an eye out for pests.  Bees have to worry about bugs, too.  Varroa mites and small hive beetles can weaken a hive quickly.  All summer I have been monitoring and fighting small hive beetles.  I have been using unscented Swiffer pads to catch them as opposed to using a chemical treatment.  The bees will roughen up the pad and then chase beetles to the pad where they get stuck.

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It’s been working pretty good and I try to change out the pad every couple of weeks.

I’ve also been using disposable beetle traps.

Small hive beetle trap

Hive beetle trap

These traps are filled with oil or diatomaceous earth and placed in between frames.  The bees chase them to the traps where they fall in and die. Recently, I’ve been studying how to use essential oils to combat both varroa mites and beetles so I will let you know how that is going soon.

Next, I change the entrance reducer to the small opening.

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In the summer, the large opening allows a large number of bees to move in and out, and provides air and ventilation throughout the hive.  In the winter, the smaller opening helps keep the bees warm.  This time of year, the boys (drones) are kicked out of the hive.  The queen also slows down on laying eggs so there is not much traffic going through the hive.

Soon, the bees will be tucked in for winter and I will have time to clean and organize my little section of the barn.  In the meantime, it looks like Peaches has taken over my watch.

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Brenda

 

I am linking this blog post to Our Simple Homestead blog hop.

 

 

Posted in Arkansas, Bees, Farm life, Garden | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

What a Summer

I can’t believe summer is over and I am loving the cooler weather that’s upon us.

The gardens have had to fend for themselves this year as my sisters and I have been taking care of my dad after an accident in June.  Let’s just say his leg met a very heavy concrete slab and the slab won.  Thankfully (hopefully), we are on an uphill course and ever since they released him from his cast and walking boot, he has been on his tractor.  It was a long summer for him and he was more than ready to get outside.

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Dad’s dog Sally in his flower bed

The flower beds survived, but the vegetable garden was a bust.

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Blossom end rot on tomato

The early tomatoes had blossom end rot.   Then, just as newer ones were coming on, dad went back in the hospital with pneumonia and all of its complications.    So, the garden was the last thing on a very long list of things to do and all ended up rotting on the vine except the little cherry tomatoes.  It’s all ok, though.  I don’t depend on my garden to survive, instead, I depend on my garden for therapy.   After long days at the hospital, just walking through it calms me down even when things looks so ragged.  It was on one of these walks I decided I would make this year “the year of the seed”.

When vegetables and flowers mature, they produce seeds.  In the fall, when the garden is almost done, is a great time to harvest seeds for next year.  One tomato or one pepper can produce enough seeds to fill my garden for next year so, instead of stressing about what I couldn’t harvest,  I changed gears and decided to “let it go”.

Then came an email from a company I had written some posts for in the past. Hometalk asked me if I would be able to do a Live segment for their Facebook page.  The timing was mid September, though, and most of my garden was beyond done and pretty embarrassing .   I suggested a seed saving demo instead and they agreed to that.  They trained me to do it myself, so on a warm Monday afternoon, I set up and talked about saving seeds.  And talked and talked.  It was supposed to be 20 minutes which I thought I would never be able to talk that long on saving seeds, but from start to finish ended up being 40 minutes.  Oops.

I do love to talk about saving seeds.  Not only does it preserve the legacy and history of a plant, it’s a time-honored tradition among many families.  And don’t forget the fact that is saves so much money for next years garden!

The tutorial and video can be found at:

http://www.hometalk.com/21871394/saving-seeds-for-next-year-s-garden?scid=3222180#c-3222180 and it’s also on my Facebook page as well.  Hope you can check it out and let me know if you have any questions.  I appreciate all of your positive comments and support!

In the future, they are hoping I can do some live feeds from the bee yard.   I would need an assistant for that and, for some reason, everyone is suddenly busy.

Any volunteers?

Anyone?

Hello? (tap, tap, tapping on the computer screen)

That’s ok.  You can get back to me on that one.

 

Brenda

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Arkansas, Arkansas blogger, Family, Farm life, Flowers, Garden, Seeds, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

My Goal Today

My goal today is to keep on the sunny side of life while sitting in the shade (or better yet, in the pool)

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Stay cool my friends

Posted in Arkansas, arkansas weather, Farm life | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Tomato Woes

Every year I look forward to vine-ripened tomatoes.

Starting in the fall, I carefully save seeds from my heirloom tomatoes, plant them in February in my greenhouse, and baby them until it’s warm enough to plant.

I also start saving my eggshells in the winter so I can throw a handful in each hole when I plant in the ground.

Much to my dismay, this year’s first crop of tomatoes have looked like this.

tomato blossom end rot

This is called blossom end rot.  It’s caused by a few things happening in the soil and nature.

*Lack of calcium in the soil (which is why I always throw a handful of eggshells in each hole) Liquid calcium products are also available in garden sections and can be a quick fix for this problem.  I decided not to do this as I think it was due to the next 2 problems.

*Either really wet or really dry soil.  Mulching helps balance this out but unfortunately I didn’t get around to it this year. We did have some extreme wet conditions in early spring followed by dry spells and then days of rain again.  When tomato plants grow quickly due to rain and then set fruit when it’s dry, blossom end rot visits your tomatoes.

*Too much nitrogen.  This is not usually a problem for me as my garden is almost always lacking nitrogen.  I know this because I send soil samples to be tested almost every year. (this is a free service for me through our county extension office).  I try to combat this by planting a cover crop in the fall and tilling it in the spring.  This year, though, I cleaned out my chicken coop and tossed all the old shavings on the garden.  Chicken litter is used routinely on pastures in my area for fertilizer and  I’m thinking I might have overdone it.  Oops. You know the old saying, if a little is good, a lot must be better?   I guess I had that mentality that day.

*pH too high or low, and also high salt content of the soil can also be a factor in rot. Again, a soil test can give you all of these answers.  I prefer to send in a sample to be tested, but I’ve also seen kits at garden supply stores that can give you this info as well.

All is not lost though.  The tomatoes with blossom end rot went to the chickens and my tomato plants are almost 5 ft. tall and loaded with fruit.

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The tomato jungle

Here’s hoping my days of blossom end rot are over and I can enjoy a juicy tomato soon.

Hope your gardens are growing well!

Brenda

Posted in Arkansas, Farm life, Garden, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

The Gardens at Moss Mountain

As one would expect from P. Allen Smith’s  Moss Mountain Farm, his gardens were absolutely incredible.  Mr. Smith led the garden tour and I’m sure he was telling everyone about all the different species and wonderful tidbits about each plant.

P. Allen Smith's Moss Mountain Farm

Me?  I started out in the front of the line and somehow ended up being the last, lone straggler of the bunch.

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But, as an avid gardener, I was not about to rush through this tour (even though it was 95 degrees).  Each way I looked, there was a different combination, structure or venue that caught my eye.

After you make your way through the vegetable garden, you enter a beautiful wedding venue surrounded by roses.

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The flower gardens around the house have a natural backdrop of the Arkansas River.

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After the garden tour, Mr. Smith led us to Poultryville.

Poultryville can be seen from the main house

P. Allen Smith's Moss Mountain Farm from Poultryville

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and houses an extensive collection of heritage poultry.

The poultry houses were just as impressive as the poultry.

Once again, I found myself hanging back admiring the different breeds only to look up and see the rest of the tour yards away.

Not wanting to be labeled a chicken stalker, I quickly caught up with the group in time to see his famous daffodil hill.

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In the spring, over 200,000 daffodils pop up in this meadow to welcome spring.  What a sight that must be!

I appreciate Mr. Smith hosting the Farm2Home event for bloggers and farmers and I hope to attend next year as well.  Maybe next time I can stay with the group and learn some gardening secrets to pass along.

Not making any promises, though.

Brenda

 

 

 

Posted in Arkansas blogger, Chickens, Flowers, Garden | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments