{tractors and dr. pepper}

It was a requirement that I have Dr. Pepper on hand at all times for whenever Uncle Mel would come over to our house.  He loved that stuff.  Trust me, after all this work he did for us for Quilt Market, I had a case of Dr. Pepper on hand! And he loved tractors.  And his dogs.  And we love him.  Oh, how we love him.

Absolutely drops me to my knees and tears fall when I read this post.  Because my gardener retires this year.  And this is exactly what he had in mind - to hang out with Uncle Mel, build stuff, garden, sell at the farmers market.  They had plans together.  We had plans.  Plans involving our families and work and spending time together.  Plans.

Uncle Mel wasn't a whole lot older than my husband or his 3 other brothers.  They were like brothers.  Best friends.  And in most recent years, he's been more to us.

On February 1st, my husband gave a letter to Uncle Mel from the two peas.  We had not been able to see him for the last several months because he was keeping everyone away.  He didn't want us to see him.  He was sick and he wanted to protect us from that pain.  On that day, the letter told Uncle Mel how much the peas loved him, appreciated him for all that he had done, thanked him again for the great time they had staying at his house over Spring Break, told him how the thing they loved best about him was how he took care of Aunt Carla, and that they knew he knew this already but they wanted to tell him again - that Jesus loved him, and to be careful on his way to heaven.

They couldn't get Mel home because he was on a ventilator - which was a result of him collapsing at home 2 days prior.  His diaphragm muscles finally quit working.  For the last couple of years, we had been trying to help get him with the right docs to figure out what was wrong with him.  Everyone said he was fine.  But he wasn't fine.  Turns out, he had ALS and I think in his heart, he knew something was drastically wrong.  And as the disease progressed, he just didn't want us to see what was going on.

He just wanted to get home.  My husband told Carla - but he is going HOME.  "And home maybe not be the house he shared with you but he is going HOME."  And they made arrangements to bring his favorite dog to the hospital.  And Jake sat on Mel's lap, and Mel spelled out that he had a great life.  And that he loved everyone and then lifted his finger and pointed at Aunt Carla, his son, my husband and Carla's brother who was there.  And then my sweet husband left him alone with Aunt Carla and Mel's only son and Jake, his dog.  And then he asked for the tube to be removed, and he went HOME.

So me, my husband, my girls and our extended family - we aren't quite up to par just yet.  I'm not even sure how to get back to my blog because the words just won't come.  I just need some time.



{squash pie, yep!}

My husband, the Gardener, as I refer to him, had a pretty hefty harvest this year of butternut squash.  Oh...how he toiled over these vines as they grew.  Bahahaha!  No, really, he didn't.

These were volunteers from our compost bin from winter.  25 volunteers mind you.  TWO - FIVE.  That's a lotta volunteers friends.  What do you do with all that squash?  Make mash of course.

So last week, I cleaned, sliced in half and placed all 25 of these babies on foil lined pans.  Added a bit of water bath to the pan and baked at around 400' for almost an hour.  The skins come right off pretty much and then I mashed them, keeping a few chunks in there.  After it cools, I bag them and freeze them.

My Mother-in-Law, aka the worlds GREATEST pumpkin pie baker (sorry Mom, but it's true - my MIL has you beat by a mile).  She makes REAL squash pies.  Pumpkin or butternut squashes, etc makes no difference.  She adds milk, eggs, sugar, spices and salt and holy toledo - what comes out IS a slice of heaven.  A little chunky but real - real squash pie.  Not from a can.  REAL.  Ya gotta try it!  You'll never go back to the can.

And the rest of the mash - soup.  Did I mention I am awesome at soup making?  I believe I have...I'll say it again.  I rule at the soup thing. Give me a ring - you and I can get together for some squash soup, ok?

(I'll bring back the Monday Mornings Inspiration next week - any ideas where you want to see this go?  I'd love to have more people tooting their horns there!)


{the peas and their "sheepish" smiles}

I have been busy as a bee...sewing for art shows and preparing the peas for their sheep show in 4H. It's the Guys and Gals Lead and the show consists of the participants wearing outfits made from wool, leading their lambs around the arena, and modeling their outfit for the judges.

Thinking about being "green", we went to thrift store and shopped for wool sweaters that we could refashion.  We found a grey wool skirt and a load of sweaters.

I literally, had no idea what I would do.  I thought I would do some patchwork but honestly, until I put the scissors to everything...it just came as I went along.

I started with the grey skirt.  I cut off roughly 10" or so and added a ruffle hem.  Then, using the excess fabric I made a ruffle and sewed that onto the hem and added more of that ruffle to the green cardigan sweater.  With just a little bit left of that excess fabric, I made a rosette for a belt and also to add to her hat.  ZERO WASTE.  I used up every bit of what I cut off of the skirt.  And since I had no ideas on this skirt and just made it up as I went along - I am SUPER happy with how it turned out.  I wish it fit me.  I may need to pattern this because I just love the fit and flare!

The other outfit I knew I wanted a very full twirly skirt.  I cut patches of cottons and sweaters and pieced them together.  I couldn't put right sides together because the seams turned out REALLY bulky using the sweaters.  So instead, I just overlapped them and zigzagged across the outside to tack the edges down.  I wasn't sure how that would turn out but it worked great and you can't even tell the seams are on the outside.  Plus, the seams all lay so nice and flat - there was really no other way to do it I don't think.

I really wanted these outfits to have a vintage but modern spin and I think we achieved that.  We even found cute vintage wool hats at the thrift store.

Well, the show was last night and the peas had a blast.  We all did.  Ok, maybe not so much Sprout.  It was way past her bedtime AND she was kind of ticked that she wasn't showing.  There was a 3 year old class.  Next year Sprout, we promise!

My green pea showed with little lamb Carly, a tunis, and my little peachy pea showed with little lamb Allie, a suffolk.  Both lambs borrowed from two very sweet families.  The peas were happy to have the Gardener there to talk to some of the other Dads to get the low-down on sheep because they want some of their own asap.  Which means a lot of work and expenses - so we told the girls there has to be much research done before we make any commitments.  Owning livestock is a big responsibility you don't just jump into on a whim.  But the girls are old enough to take it on themselves and so we will just need to thoughtfully consider it .

So how did they do in their show?  Well, they are judged on their ability to control the animal, the animal itself with the majority of points based on the outfit and their modeling.

The peas took 1st and 2nd in their class!  We were so excited but the peas were OVER THE MOON!!  I thought it might be an issue that one beat the other one out but they were ok with that.  And their 4H advisor bought them a milkshake to celebrate.  THAT was heaven for these girls!!

Earlier in the week, one of the peas competed in the Pocket Pets program with her hamster and she took 5th place in that show.  (that's her below in her interview and then with her award).  They have gotten to miss some school, hang out with their friends, watch their friends win (wow!  our club has done awesome!) and eat fair food (oh sweet heaven, steak sandwiches and elephant ears, and rootbeer).  Sprout slept through most of it (note the pink boots - that's all she wears these days.  If I had pink cowgirl boots, it's all I would wear too!)

This was their first year and they have had made the most amazing memories - it's one of those things that as a parent, I know that this week will be something so special to them as they grow.  It's been a great experience for our family.

4H is everywhere!  Rural and Urban and they have tons of projects ranging from robotics to bicycles and sports, health and nutrition...not just livestock and animals.  It's a fantastic program and I HIGHLY recommend you check it out for your kids!

And now...maybe we can get back to a normal schedule somewhat.  Maybe.

{two peas had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow}

Our county fair is next week.And the girls get an excused absence from school for the entire week to participate in fair.

They are super excited about that.  Except they aren't actually missing the entire week.  Just a couple of days.  Remember THIS from summer?  One of the peas and her sewing 4H project.  Well, the other pea decided to do a pocket pet project so she is showing her hamster at fair.

Yep, a hamster.

No, these are not hamsters.  These are sheep.  (ha!  I know that's pretty obvious but since I said "hamster" and then showed you a picture of a lamb, just to be clear, I've not lost it completely.  Yet.)

And both girls are doing the Guys and Gals lead show.  You get to dress up in a wool outfit, model while leading a lamb.  They were told if they had any hope of ever being the Lamb and Wool Queen someday for our county, they needed to participate in the sheep programs.  They promptly jumped right in.  And no, we don't have sheep.  These girls are borrowed.  Maybe next year.  They are already working on the gardener to either get them 2 lambs OR a cat.  Or at least, this is how they posed the request to him.

Wish us luck!

DON'T FORGET - Catch me LIVE today on Fave Crafts Radio at 3pm EST.  Or listen to the podcast right after the show!

{my favorite garden meal}

This morning, I went for a run, albeit, not a very easy run, in our lower pasture.  Our neighbors horses were down in their adjacent pasture and I scared the bajeebers out of them when I came running through our field.  We talked for a bit.  I tried to coax them over to the fence but they would have nothing to do with me.  Hrumpf! After I ran our pasture perimeter 3 times, I started up the sled hill.  We have a big sled hill that goes from our house yard down to the pasture and I walked that up and down and up and down...just trying to get my heart pumping and calories burning so I can button my jeans which have gotten, um, a little snug lately.

At the top of the sled hill is our garden.  When I named our company, Two Peas in a Pod HOMEGROWN designs - the homegrown referred to not only our two peas but also our garden which we depend on to feed us fabulous goodies.  Our tomatoes are coming on so fast that I found a bunch starting to rot on the vine!  UGH!

So, I picked all that I could and will wash them and freeze most of them for soups and chili and sauces this winter.  You can freeze the tomatoes whole with the skins on and then when you need them, as they defrost, the skins come right off and then you can crush them into whatever dish you need them for.  It's making my mouth water just thinking about it.

My kids all time favorite tomato dish (after just plain ol' slice of tomato and cottage cheese) is bruschetta.  I don't measure anything but do it all to taste.  A BUNCH of tomatoes, grape, cherry or regular tomatoes, about 4 cloves of minced garlic, fresh basil minced, salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Heap that on some crusty french bread.  OHHH, my!  So, so, so, good!

Another tomato favorite of ours is open face cheese tomato sandwiches.  Just like a grilled cheese but open.  Butter your bread for grilling, lay a slice of cheese and then a layer of tomato slices and grill until your bread is toasted and cheese melts.

What is coming out of your garden these days?  What yummy things are you making with them?

{Don't forget to come and see me at the Country Living Fair this Friday and Saturday in Columbus, OH.  I'll be working at the Modern June booth as an honorary "Junie" for the weekend!}


A new blog feature I hope to post as I can...Monday Mornings Inspiration.  Just a look at many of the fabulous artists in our crafting community and what inspires them.  Mentors and friends - people I admire and enjoy their art - and I want to share that with you.  There is an artist in each of you, there really is.  Don't say, "Not me" because YES!  You!  Enjoy these posts and then look for what inspires you.

My first feature is with the wonderful Jayne Barnes of Honeyrun Farm.  Jayne and her husband are master artists with their hands, the soil beneath their feet and what they produce from their farm.  My roots being strongly planted in agriculture and the environment, it is a pleasure to share Jaynes art and inspiration with you today.  {I can attest that you haven't tasted honey until you've had Honeyrun Farms honey - it is quite simply, the best ever!}

Here is our interview with Jayne:

1) Since the feature is called Monday Mornings Inspiration, can you tell me what inspired you to a career / hobby in farming and crafting? I grew up on a small dairy farm and always loved being outside.   I studied Sociology in college, and I never thought I would one day earn a living from farming.... but here I am!  My husband I and are both from farm families and we kind of just fell into beekeeping after I gave him a hive one year for Christmas.  What started as a simple hobby has turned into a bit of an obsession!  I love doing crafty projects, so living on a honey farm allows me to enjoy the farm life while also creating useful items from the hive and garden.

2) What continues to inspire you each day and how do you keep your art fresh? Farming follows the seasons of course, so there are always changes that dictate how our days go and what we are doing.  In the Spring, we are busy working in the greenhouse, preparing the garden for planting, and checking the hives to make sure they are strong and healthy.  The summer is our busy season with honey extraction, produce and flower harvesting, and selling at farm markets.  In the fall we are harvesting heirloom pumpkins, fall honey and bee pollen, and making sure the hives have enough honey to last the winter.  In the winter, we still keep busy making beeswax candles and handcrafted soap.

3) What 3 words best describe you?  People say I am practical, laid-back, and content.

4) What could you not live without to get through each work day?  Your phone/computer or your coffee? Computer!  We actually don't own a TV so I get all my info/news from the computer.  Also, as a stay-at-home mom, Facebook is my contact with the adult world.  :)

5) What is the best part of your job as a farmer/crafter? Getting to do what I want every day!  That is the pleasure of owning your own business.  I do think we work harder than if we worked for someone else... we have longer hours and work on weekends, but we wouldn't trade it for a day job.  When you grow up watching your parents run a farm, it just feels like what you're "supposed to do"... know what I mean?

6) What advice would you offer to someone when it comes to living a creative life? Follow what you love... don't do things because other people are doing it or it looks like it can make money.  Only do it because you love it. 7) What can we expect to see from you in the coming year in terms of new projects and design? We are experimenting with all sorts of new infused honey flavors:  vanilla infused honey, chocolate whipped honey, cinnamon infused..... etc.. etc...

Thanks Jayne for sharing your inspirations!  Check out Jayne's fabulous products on their website and follow their family farming adventures on her blog.
PS I promise to get to the Birthday giveaway very very soon...our family has a big week ahead of us. Hoping for nothing but positive results and I will sort through your comments soon and post winners later this week!

The Gardener goes BIG!

You know how boys never seem to outgrow their toys?  Their toys just get bigger?

Each year, the gardener (aka my husband), goes out with tiller and tills up the garden at the end of the season, getting it ready for next year.  This year, he and his Uncle decided they needed to expand the size of the garden.  See...the gardeners Uncle planted a HUGE garden this year and sold at the local farmers market.  My gardener was envious, I think.  The gardener and his Uncle have been chatting away for hours about tractors, dirt, bugs, seeds, squash, potatoes and more.  I think in retirement, they secretly want to be farmers.  Which, secretly, I love.

I could hear over the roar of the tractor something about sweet potatoes.  After they worked on the top garden near the house, they went down the sled hill and into the pasture and tilled up a big patch there.  Turnips, oats and all kinds of things were planted there.  Here's the one catch to the winter plantings though...

...I thought it was strange the gardeners "hunting buddies" all kept dropping by to see the "food plots".  Huh?  Turns out...all that work and food being planted down in the pasture is for the deer.  Because the gardener is all about organic and the true "hunting and gathering" thing in providing for his family.

Now mind you, these guys love nature.  They love sitting still in the woods and listening to the trees sway and the squirrels jump from limb to limb.  They talk and plan all year for deer season and honestly, it is truly more about the "hunt" than it is about the "kill".  Because they do a WHOLE lot of hunting and very little killing.  We usually get one deer a year.  But, the gardener and his buddies, each evening, meet up on our driveway, gear up, walk down the hill to their tree stands together, then a few hours later, come back up, stand in the driveway and chat more before calling it a night.  I think it's like girls getting together to go shopping and sit down for coffee to talk...this is their version.

So it turns out these "food plots" and winter cover crops weren't planted for us humans but rather for the wildlife.  Boys and their toys.  It makes me smile to see my husband and his buddies having such a good time "playing".  I swear, everytime I mention to them, "are you boys having fun on your playdate"...they just laugh.  Because, in fact, there is something very wonderful about having friends to play with.  It makes my gardener a better person to get to hang out with his buddies and dig in the dirt.

He did say that in the Spring, that big garden down below would be converted to goodies for us...mainly squashes and watermelons and canteloupes and more.  Sounds perfect to me!  Go play!



{dirt don't hurt}

I am often reminded of how close I am to God when I just get close to the soil.  All of that dirt that sustains us.  Nourishes our bodies.  Feeds the roots of the trees that help clean the air we breathe.  Feeds my soul.

"Ecological Sustainability"

"Live within our means"

"Skin of the earth"

These words really grab at my heart.  I know, you're thinking - what the huh is she talking about?

The other evening, I was watching a special on PBS (we don't have cable TV, never will) on the Independent Lens - a movie called, Dirt, the Movie. It was based on the book titled Dirt, the Ecstatic Skin of the Earth by William Bryant Logan.

You know those feelings you get when something really excites you and motivates you and encourages you and inspires you?  Dirt does that for me.  Growing up, I remember being very small and walking with my Dad and Grandfather on my grandparents farm down in their woods.  I remember my Grandfather pointing out wildflowers to me and talking about the trees.  I fell so deeply in love with the sounds and smells of nature and it has always excited my heart.  God created everything we need.  Our  every need can be found in the dirt beneath our feet and all around us.  Our earth has it all.

When I went to college and majored in environment and natural resources, I would be absolutely giddy being so immersed in everything that has to do with the outdoors.  As a parent, I know that part of my job is to teach my children about the God that gave us life and all of His creation.  Most of our life together as a family revolves around having our hands in dirt, our feet on a trail, exposing our lungs to wonderful fresh air.

{“Children should be allowed to go barefoot in the dirt, play in the dirt, and not have to wash their hands when they come in to eat,”} Dr. Joel Weinstock

Dirt is good for you.  Good for your immune system.  Necessary for our food supply.  One of the quotes I loved from this film was "live within our means".  In everything.

We live in this gotta have it now society.  'Kids these days' think that when they get out of school, they will have the house, the car, all the furnishings, the job, the gadgets - everything right now.  Whatever happened to working for it?  Saving and earning?  In this gotta have it now society, we often overlook how that lifestyle degrades our environment.

Living within our means, ecologically speaking, means that we can't continue with our massive industrial farming ways.  We have to nurture the soil.  Bring the ways of the past back.  Think about sustainable living.  Live simply.  Teach our kids where our food comes from.  Plant a garden.  Compost.  Buy local foods.  Support the small family farmer.  Drive our car less.  Turn off the TV more.  Go outside.  Be engaged in nature.  Appreciate.  Give thanks.  Slow down.

When I think about these things I think clear back to that time when I was a kid.  When those feelings about being outdoors so excited me and still do.  When I would dream about the man I would marry someday, I dreamed how he would share in that love of the outdoors. He would be a cross between a cowboy and a farmer.  God brought exactly that man to me.  Exactly the life He planned for me.  And I am so thankful for the bounties that lie outside my own backdoor that He provides for my family.

What about you?  What do you think about sustainable living?  What things do you do as a family that help to promote sustainable living?

Check out the trailer for the movie here...I hope you love it as much as I did.