Monday, January 28, 2013

keeping warm with food

chili the way we eat it
 There is nothing quite like a hot, home cooked meal near the end of a frozen winter day. I love seeing the family and our friends too, gather around the dinner table for some tasty comfort food! This time of the year, we mostly eat out of the crock pot or dutch oven.  
lamb curry over rice
 Here is one of our favorite ways to eat our Lamb:

1 1/2-2lbs of stew meat or another preferred lamb cut
1 large onion
3-5 garlic cloves
2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil & butter
3-4 Tablespoons of curry
2 tsp salt
1 Tablespoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon coriander
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 peeled & chopped apple
2 cups chicken broth
2-3 chopped potatoes

In a dutch oven on stove top. Add oil/butter, garlic, onions and curry saute lightly then add the lamb. Saute lamb until brown. Add the remaining seasonings and chicken broth. Cover and put in the oven at 300 degrees for about an hour to an hour and a half - or until lamb is tender. Add potatoes and return to oven for 45 min or until potatoes are tender and the broth is cooked away. Serve over rice.

cheesy bread
A tasty and simple way to add some flair to your favorite breads. Use any type baked bread. Cut deep horizontal and vertical lines. Put sliced mozzarella in between these. Add chives, garlive & butter...bake, grill, or broil for 5 to 10 minutes. It's delicious.

   “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
- Virginia Woolf

Eating to keep warm:

Eat What’s in Season

There’s a reason that root vegetables are at their peak as the weather turns cooler: Chinese medicine says that foods grown under the soil are warming foods. Also try cooked winter squashes, braised hearty greens and other winter produce.

Eat Foods that Take Longer to Grow

There’s a belief that foods that have a longer growing period are more warming than those that are harvested earlier. This is part of the reason why the aforementioned squash and root vegetables are good to eat during cold weather. Animal proteins, including fish, chicken, beef and pork, are nourishing and warming during cold weather, while vegetarians can enjoy onions, garlic, nuts and eggs.

Spice It Up

Season your foods with naturally warming spices, such as chile powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger (fresh or ground) and curry powder. These warming spices can boost your circulation and many can also boost your immune system. Add chile powder to stews, sprinkle cinnamon or nutmeg over oatmeal or baked goods, or head to your favorite Indian or Thai restaurant for curry or spicy noodle dishes (or make them yourself).

Enjoy Liquid-Based Foods

Dehydration is something we worry more about in the summer than in the winter, but you can easily get dehydrated in cold weather, too. That’s why eating soups and stews, as well as drinking hot beverages such as tea or hot cider, is especially good for you. Plus, the warmth of these foods and drinks will automatically boost your internal temperature.

Consume Whole Grains

Cooked oatmeal cereal in the morning, barley stew, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta or quinoa at lunch or dinner–these are all great whole grain choices for winter meals. These warm complex carbohydrates can help fuel your body for the cold, especially if you plan on doing some sort of outdoor activity, whether it’s skiing or shoveling the driveway.
Now that winter is in full swing, these foods will help you stay warm and toasty during the long months ahead.

Eating to keep warm is taken from the blog of Gaiam Life ~ your guide to better living. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

a guardian's labor of love

Reina and her hens
 Our livestock guardian, Reina, is one of the most loving and devout mothers I've ever known..she no doubt could've done this without me. But why should she..even canines like to be have companionship and encouragement, especially during a birth. Plus I wouldn't have missed sharing these moments with her for anything in this world! 

Reina's den
Reina's den was ready the week before her due date. Lined with straw bales, wind proof and completely in the dry - ready and waiting for whelp day. Her den is nestled among the ewe and goat paddocks with her hens roosting overhead...the perfect place for a future guardian dog to start life.  

laboring with Reina
January 24 - this was Reina's actual due date and she was always on I knew she would likely start her laboring sometime this day. Late that afternoon, Reina started in the early phases of labor. She was my shadow and needed constant touching. She would whine, pace and pant through her contractions. Contractions were far apart but she was dilating and her discomfort was obvious. Her belly moved and kicked..the babies were doing great. I could see them settling down low in her belly as they prepared for their birth.    
20 hours later - the birthing starts
There is nothing quick about labor and it is called labor for a reason..even for animals, it's a lot of work. During her 20 hours of labor, she ate, walked around and did many things she normally would. Except during contractions, this is when she needed extra massaging and comforting words of encouragement. I was now a midwife and most of my other duties were put on hold. Reina labored the majority of the time in her den..and I labored with her. It was an especially cold night and there was a snow storm coming. Her den was kept dark and quiet, just the way she likes it. The temp outside the den dropped into the teens but it hoovered around 52 degrees inside. In between contractions she was very content and took lots of quick naps. Around 2pm on the 25th, Reina was entering into the 3rd phase of labor, she was no longer content to rest in between contractions..she was ready to meet the babies her body had been nurturing for 64 days.
baby is out and still in the sac
 And one by one, 5 little 4-legged angels started appearing. 2 of the pups were born breech but Reina has no problems with birthing them. With just a couple pushes, each slid out beautifully. She vigorously breaks the sac. I swab out their tiny mouths and immediately clean the airways while Reina chews the umbilical chord and cleans up what remains of the sac. If Reina were not gentle in her chewing, I would cut and tie the chords off myself...but Reina does a superb job and so nature is allowed to take its course. Reina lovingly shares her baby cleaning duties with me, so I grab the towels and get to work.

 baby #1
cleaning & warming baby #3
  As each baby is rubbed and stimulated, they start squealing and rooting..instantly ready to eat! After they're good and dry, I place them back one by one next to their mama's belly. Reina lays perfectly still as the pups desire to survive drives them to find their mama's warm milk and within minutes, they're feeding. Reina looks at me..content and glowing. Her heart is overflowing. She loves being a mother and sharing in this journey with her was a privilege I'm extremely grateful for. Her joy became mine.

a happy ending..time to rest

Sweet sounds from the den!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Romancing the Snow

The flakes started falling last evening and this morning we awoke to the farm blanketed in snow. Pure and surreal. Our first snow this winter. Most of the animals stayed cozied up in the barn. They are quiet and calm. The silos wear snow caps. The trees, roof edges and fence lines are adorned with icicles. The farm is now a winter wonderland.

It's a romantic feeling to look out the frosty windows of the farmhouse to see the fields, the trees and the old barns in their purest form. Even though we know tomorrow it will all be mud, today its beauty romances us. 
 Snow Cream: 
In a large bowl mix together cream (or milk or both), vanilla extract and sugar (to taste). Stir until dissolved then stir in cup at a time. Delish!
snow cream

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Rosemary making herself at home in the house
Except for a few herbs in my window sill and the giant rosemary bush, in the winter months I'm pretty much herbless. And I very much dislike it. No matter how much I dry or freeze during the growing months, it's never enough to get me through the entire winter. I thrive on herbs and crave them. One herb that there is never a shortage of around here is Rosemary, even in the winter months she is very hearty.

I stuck a small Rosemary plant in the ground a few years and today I struggle to keep her maintained to the shrub status. Her branches have to be pruned often just to be able to open the door to the milk barn. In the summer months my hens flock to her. They make a great pair. The hens provide nice fertilizer and Rosemary creates a fragrant little haven for the girls. I can just imagine how many chicks Rosemary has seen hatching under her branches. One of the many reasons why she is my favorite herb.
Rosemary by the milk barn last Fall
Rosemary also helps pull me through my herbless winters. As the other herbs get sparse in my kitchen, I cook more with Rosemary. I also place her branches around the house, to me she smells green which is a reminder that Spring is just around the corner. Mountain Rose Herbs defines Rosemary as being best known for its aid in memory and hair loss and is also considered a symbol of love as the sprigs have been traditionally used in wedding ceremonies. No wonder the hens and I love Rosemary so much!
some Rosemary fans
 Taken from Mountain Rose Herbs:

Rosemary Properties: Analgesic, antiarthritic, antibacterial, antidepressant, antioxidant, antirheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, astringent, cordial, decongestant, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, expectorant, fungicidal, hepatic, hypertensive, restorative, stimulant, tonic

Their Benefits: Acne, amenorrhea, arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, colds, colitis, constipation, coughs, dandruff, dermatitis, diarrhea, dysmenorrhea, eczema, fainting, flatulence, flu, fluid retention, greasy hair, hangovers, headache, hysteria, insect repellant, jaundice, leucorrhea, lice, memory loss, mental fatigue, migraine, muscle aches and pains, nervous disorders, neuralgia, rheumatism, scabies, sinus problems, slow circulation, sore muscles, tonic, varicose veins, whooping cough, wounds. Rosemary oil has many applications. Diffusing the oil into the air will aid memory and disinfect the room. Using the oil in a massage oil may help with nasal congestion and sore muscles.

Rosemary and favorite!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Whisper Hill Farm

Holly & James - aren't they cute!

What a sweet treat to see our dear friends from Whisper Hill Farm coming down our driveway yesterday! Holly is without a doubt my soul sister. It's been an honor being a part of her life journey and having her be a vital part of mine. Her friendship is pure refreshment. And she brought coconut cream pie!

 Then there's the farm..veggies, breathtaking flowers, rolling hills, more veggies, a greenhouse to die for, a charming farmhouse, more veggies, two great dogs, a repurposed tobacco barn..and more veggies! 

 Whisper Hill Farm is the divine love story. Beautiful from start to finish. How I admire these two amazing people who are so near to my heart. No super fancy equipment..just loads of hard work and a dedication for doing what they love and sharing that passion with others.

We enjoyed lots of coffee, a concert treat played by some local, young and extremely talented musicians (one being our flutist daughter Megan), delicious food and chit chat until the wee hours of the morning.

Nothing like a visit from friends to inspire and warm the heart.

James & Holly's farm in Rapidan VA

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

skin deep

freshly poured avocado & sheep milk soap

As the body's largest organ, skin is powerful yet still unappreciated.

Flawless skin is a thing of beauty. We coddle it, we nourish it, we try to improve it. Yet, we regularly dis it as "only" skin, misunderstood and undervalued. It's a shame. Perhaps if we understood our skin, we would appreciate it to the depth it needs and then give it the proper nutrition and respect it deserves. 
my mini lab
When I first started making soaps..admittingly it was because of the excess of our farm's milk. I was putting milk in everything, so why not soap too! Who knew then that this was the start of my venture with skin products. And so my Simply products were born. Simply Soap - Simply Scents - Simply Lotion - Simply Lips - Simply Baby and the list keeps growing. While putting my chemistry fascination to use, I was also vigorously studying on the different skin types, conditions and endless combinations when I came across the Skin Deep website. This site was without a doubt, instrumental to me as I started to put cosmetics together. If you haven't already, I strongly encourage you to check this website out now. It was a complete eye opener to me and since finding this site, I have not purchased or made a product that wasn't up to Skin Deep standards. Extremely grateful for that much needed education! If you've ever wondered about what's in your skin products or if it's even safe..Skin Deep will educate you too.
tea tree, eucalyptus & clay sheep milk soap almost ready to be cut
So now with a lot of what I've learned meshed together with my devotion for wholesome farming is what defines Simply. I'm diligently working on a trademark as well as a patent but all this aside, it's my sincere hope that the passion and gratitude for our farm life is what can be felt in every one of my Simply products.

vegan rough spot cream
 The farm that's in our Simply products: nourishing farm milk, herbs, spring water, wool, herbal teas, herb infused oils & soon to be added our own rendered lard

my Peppermint Clay soap and some pine needle tea = a sinus relief alternative

Sunday, January 6, 2013

better biscuits

We work hard and eat well. It probably comes as no surprise that we are biscuit lovers, they're a part of many hearty meals served here on the farm. If you have not tasted or made biscuits from scratch, I highly recommend you try them. Besides being extremely simple to make..the taste and texture is delicious and by far beats them whop on the counter style biscuits. Once you start making them, nothing else will do. And like I said..they're easy!

Here's the basic mix:
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup cold butter
cut the butter into mixture until crumbly then add 1 cup cold milk
drop by the spoon full onto a cookie sheet (preferably one with sides that will catch the melting butter - unless you enjoy setting the smoke detectors off)
bake @ 450 for 10 min
We love the basic biscuits but I've used all sorts of variations..adding shredded cheese to the biscuit mix and topping with butter, parsley & garlic is also one of our favorites.
homemade biscuits and sausage gravy - can you guess which plate belongs to my cowboy?

 Cheers to better biscuits!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Apple Cider Vinegar

For those who have not yet heard or witnessed first hand how fantastic Apple Cider Vinegar is..this post is for you! The 15 reasons to use Apple Cider Vinegar came from the MindBodyGreen website. I am a complete ACV convert..I have been using it daily for myself, our home and for the farm critters for over a year now. Besides internal use, I use it on my hair and on my skin. And of course I clean with it. Since I'm also a Lavender junkie, I always add a bit of lavender to the mop bucket or any homemade cleaning solution - including those that contain ACV. All the animals here get ACV in their daily drinking water - in the summer besides the obvious health benefits, it also cuts down drastically on the algae that can build up in their waterers. I do prefer Bragg ACV and because of how much I use..I've considered inquiring with them about purchasing a fuel tanker full of it to park in the yard!

15 Reasons to Use Apple Cider Vinegar Every Day

Apple cider vinegar is my new obsession. I recently began taking apple cider vinegar shots 2-3 times a day for a quick and effective energy burst. However, looking deeper into the product, I have discovered so many other useful ways to incorporate apple cider vinegar into a daily repertoire. It is effective for pretty much anything – your skin, your hair, your house, and even your pets can benefit from its qualities. Raw, organic, unfiltered and unpasteurized, apple cider vinegar is so much more than a salad dressing! 

1. Apple cider vinegar is a completely natural product. It is made from apple juice and is fermented to hard apple cider. It is then fermented a second time to apple cider vinegar. When using natural apple cider vinegar, we instantly decrease the consumption of unnatural chemicals in our homes and daily lives. 

2. Apple cider vinegar can be used as a rinse for your hair after shampooing, and will aid in increased body and shine. I recommend recycling an old shampoo bottle, then filling it with 1/2 a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a cup of cold water. Pour the solution through your hair after shampooing several times a week for dramatic results. 

3. Natural apple cider vinegar regulates the pH of your skin. Dilute apple cider vinegar with two parts water, and spread the concoction over your face with a cotton ball to replace your current toner. You can do this at night after washing, and in the morning before you apply your moisturizer. A dab of apple cider vinegar can also be left on the skin overnight to fade age spots or acne scars.

It is also a recommended agent for warts. For warts, soak a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar, then fasten the cotton ball over the wart with a Band-Aid overnight. The skin may swell some as it reacts with the solution. However, the wart will fall off. Once it falls off, the treatment should be continued for a few more days, to make sure the wart doesn't return. 

4. Apple cider vinegar can help remove stains from teeth. Rub teeth directly with apple cider vinegar, and rinse out with water.

5. Add a cup of apple cider vinegar to your bath, and soak for 10 minutes to eliminate discomfort from sunburn.

6. Apple Cider vinegar can be used as a natural aftershave. Fill a bottle with equal parts apple cider vinegar and water, and shake before applying to the face. 

7. Rubbing apple cider vinegar on your hands and feet will give massage-like benefits and relief to tired hands and feet. 

8. Apple cider vinegar can aid in weight loss. For daily weight management, add 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to 16 ounces of water. This concoction can be sipped throughout the day. Data shows some limited, yet significant, weight loss benefits from sustained daily intake of acetic acid (which is a main ingredient in apple cider vinegar).

In a 2009 study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, it was found that subjects that consumed acetic acid for 12 weeks experienced significant declines in body weight, abdominal fat, waist circumference and triglycerides. Triglycerides contribute to the bad cholesterol that we want to avoid.

9. Apple cider Vinegar will balance your entire inner body system. The body constantly strives to achieve a state of equilibrium. Apple cider vinegar helps the body maintain a healthy alkaline pH level. Research shows that higher acid levels (lower pH level) leads to a lack of energy and higher incidences of infection. Hence, my desire to sip some a few times a day for a natural boost of energy. 

10. As part of balancing the body's pH, apple cider vinegar creates an overall detoxification of the body. Research shows that it can help stimulate cardiovascular circulation and help detoxify the liver. 

11. This miracle vinegar helps to break up mucous throughout the body and cleanse the lymph nodes. Believe it or not, research suggests that apple cider vinegar can help with allergies because of its ability to reduce mucous and sinus congestion. When reducing the effects of allergies, it can also help stave off sinus infections and their related symptoms (sore throats and headaches).

12. This vinegar is rich in natural enzymes that can help rid your body of candida -- yeasts that are attributed to thrush in humans. Candida also is blamed for creating symptoms of fatigue, poor memory, sugar cravings, and yeast infections.

13. Though it might seem like an oxymoron to treat stomach acid with an acid-containing vinegar, there is research suggesting that apple cider vinegar works by correcting low acid, hence reducing heartburn. Natural remedy experts say you should begin to feel relief very shortly after taking a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar followed by a glass of water. Note that apple cider vinegar will not give relief if you have an ulcer.  

14. The use of apple cider vinegar is effective in repelling fleas on your pets. One part vinegar and one part water can be sprayed on your pets fur and rubbed in generously to the skin. Saturate the entire coat, and continue every day for a few days to a week. Any flea infestation will surely be gone. 

15. Apple cider vinegar will clean your toilets and have your bathroom smelling like apples! Just pour apple cider vinegar into the toilet, and allow it to sit overnight. It can also be used in dishwashers as a substitute for dish detergent. Mix 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar with 1 cup water, and you can use this solution to clean microwaves, kitchen surfaces, windows, glasses and mirrors, too.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I dream of sheep

Driven only by the aroma coming from the coffee brewing, was I able to get out of bed this morn. It was a long night and I'm especially grateful today for the hubby who sees to my caffeine need when I'm not even awake yet. Sitting at the breakfast table, still in pj's, sipping a piping hot cup of dark roasted java brewed just the way I like it and wiping the sleep out of my eyes, I begin sharing my dream with my cowboy. Even though I know he thinks I'm a bit over the top, he's a patient listener. While looking out the window into the ewe paddock and spotting a problem ewe, I then go into details of the revelation in my dream and how I will determine which ewes have been problematic this past year and why. Doesn't really seem like morning coffee talk but the beginning of every new year I'm reminded of the task that lies ahead and the culling of the flock presses deeply on my mind. The girls are due to start lambing next month and since we have found our balance with the right number of ewes to keep in our flock, the rest quite simply..have to go. So then comes the difficult task of deciding who stays and who goes. There are certain ewe lines that I in particular like alot - I had been keeping these lambs and culling out less desirable ones. But now that some of these lambs are now adults, I've run into some problems with them. So these lines who I adored in the past, our now thrown into the pot of possible culls. I can not express enough, how hard culling is for me. should be hard. A shepherd knows their flock...inside and out. Personalities, health issues, lambing & mothering capabilities, milk productivity, color patterns that they throw in their lambs, wool quality and which number they are in the flock. There is a head of the flock and a tail..and all the ones in the middle have numbers. When they come in the barn out of sequence, extra attention is given to the ewe that was out of line and she is thoroughly checked for any issues that she may be having. When one is culled, it throws the entire balance of the flock off. Also sheep are very sensitive creatures, they absolutely know when members of their family aren't there anymore. They form relationships with their fellow sisters, without a doubt..they're a family. All of this is taken into consideration when culling. I have not been a shepherd that long but have been one long enough to know, that as difficult as culling is - it is absolutely vital to the longevity and sustainability of the flock. In order to pick up on even the slightest flaws, countless hours are spent being in the midst of these girls. While they're grazing in the fields, while they're lambing and feeding their lambs, while they're milking in the barn and while they nap under the trees..I'm watching. There are some that I have bottle raised and even seeing me walk by the window in the house catches their attention. They know my walk, my face and my voice. It's an incredible bond. These girls are not pets, they're a part of who I am.
Eve is our free spirit and the 2nd lamb born on our farm - she's a daughter to our beloved flock matriarch, Scarlet
 My cowboy sees this first hand and knows how pressing this is on my heart, so he listens and nods as I pour out which ewes are being added to the cull list. The cull list will be watched intently over the next couple months, while they finish growing their lambs - deliver them and nurse them - her udder and milk productivity being vital to our farm is at the top of the important list. Their lambs are also critiqued - their size, how fast they grow, health, personality brightness, color and wool. I dream of sheep. It's not always about their sweet, devoted eyes or the need to have their cheeks scratched but it is always with their best interest at heart. It's a responsibility I do not take lightly and am thankful it only comes around once a year. The end of this month marks a year since my Uncle Steve passed away. A couple months before he died, he and his wife gave me a sweet picture that now adorns my bathroom. It pictures a lovely flock of sheep, a couple of them are so happy their hooves are not touching the ground. And it reads, "if at night you can not sleep, count your blessings instead of sheep." When I read it, I smile and add my own version.. when at night while I sleep, I count my blessings when I count my sheep. While very difficult at times, being a shepherd is a labor of's why I dream of sheep.

This great read is currently on my nightstand Love for the Leicester Longwool Sheep