26 May 2012


Today is the last day of  the counting of the Omer, and tomorrow is Shavuot. Shavuot is also call the Feast of Weeks. Being Karaite Jews, we do not adhere to the Talmudic (Oral/Rabbinic law) mandates to determine the day, but use the mandate of  the Torah only for observation of this feast. According to Leviticus 23:15-16, "The Counting of the Omer" would always be on the Saturday that falls during the week of  Unleavened Bread. Forty nine days are counted off and the 50th day, which is a Sunday, is a holy convocation, a day set apart to celebrate before God. No customary work is to be done...it is a day of rest.
During the time when the YHWH's Temple stood in Jerusalem, this was a day when the two loaves of leavened wheat bread were presented to Him as a Wave Offering by the Priest. This was a  first fruits offering for the wheat harvest, the day after this offering, the wheat harvest would commence. The day goes back much further than the temple though, Shavuot is the day that God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Sinai, 50 days after the exodus from Egypt.
For our family, the giving of Yahweh's instruction is a red letter day. It reminds us of how much He loves us, through His salvation, liberating us from the bondage of the oppressor, His instruction, the 10 commandments and their explanation to guide our way, and His provision for our need for food and shelter. We are so grateful and there is much cause to celebrate!

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Haolam shehechiyanu vekeyehmanu vehegianu lahzman hazeh. 

Blessed you are O Lord our God, King of the Universe who has let us live and sustained us and brought us to this time.

21 May 2012

Early Blackberries

  The brambles are full of ripening berries and I had my fruit bowl this morning topped with fresh blackberries still warm from the canes. Normally, the blackberries are coming in in mid to late June, just slightly before our blueberries are ripe. But this year, everything in the yard has been way too early... We originally planted 3 domesticated cultivars and a gone wild blackberry from a long gone home place on a friends property. Over the years all of the varieties that we bought died for various reason, the "thornless" blackberry just withered in the North Carolina summer heat, One was prone to fungus and I think the other went the way of some other unfortunate upstarts in the yard and was accidentally mulched by the lawn mower. But the gone wild blackberry from the old home place, has proven to be hardy and nigh on indestructible. They have multiplied so much over the years that we have run out of room for them. We have two 25 foot long rows of blackberries, trained to fencing When the new shoots come up now we dig them up and put them in one gallon recycled plant buckets. Occasionally we thin out older plants that have become less productive and replace them with ones we have waiting in buckets, but mostly we give the plants as gifts or sell them.
  The berries as you can see in the photo, when ripe are bigger than my thumb. One berry covers most of the palm of my hand... These berries are wonderfully sweet and juicy. It is important though to know when to pick them .If you pick them one day too early, instead of filling your mouth with sweet blackberry goodness, it will be bitter/sour and cause your face to pucker up involuntarily. No amount of ripening inside will take the bitter taste away either.  This particular berry makes up the majority of our black berry canes. We have them trained to livestock fencing so that we can assure good air circulation, (to combat fungus), keep the brambles under control and off the ground, and keep the canes from attacking unsuspecting gardeners as they as squatting to weed.

  The best way to know that the berry you are choosing to pick is ripe is to turn your hand palm up directly under the berry and then gently tickle it with your finger tips. If it is ripe, it will fall off into your hand. The other way is to ever so gently tug on the plump dark purple/black berry, if there is any resistance then the berry needs long on the cane. If it comes off quite easily then it is probably ripe.
  We freeze most of the berries we don't eat outright. I used to make blackberry jam for the kids, (the biggest kid being my husband who dearly loves to slather jams on hot home made bread), but these days we are not allowing much sugar in our diet, so all those jars of glistening jelly are too much of a temptation. Instead of making sugary jams and jellies, I make smoothies with frozen bananas, mango or peaches and blackberries. I freeze all the fruit and then just grab a couple of handfuls of whatever I want, add orange juice, pineapple juice, or unsweetened cranberry juice and blend into a frosty smoothie that is thick enough to hold a spoon upright in the glass. During the summer months we practically live on these... nothing is better after working in the garden than a spot of shade, a companion and a refreshing, oh so tasty, smoothie.
  In case you have never made a home made smoothie, I will give you the run down on what we do to make sure we are smoothie ready whenever the urge strikes. Purchase very ripe bananas, ones with lots of freckles, or do what we like to do, buy them in quantity green and let them ripen on the counter and then when ripe we do a mass packaging of bananas and fill a freezer shelf with them. We let them ripen until just shy of a banana bread banana..., (banana bread bananas being almost too soft to peel, more black than yellow).  They should have some give when gently pressed with fingers, with lots of freckles, but not be squishy. Peel the bananas and break each one into three pieces, ( do not freeze bananas in the peel...once you freeze them you won't be able to get the peel off), fill quart sized freezer ziplocs with as many peeled bananas as will fit and still allow you to close the bag. Gently push out as much air as possible without mashing bananas to slow the browning effects of oxidation.

**There is a better way to store the bananas, but it requires a Seal-a-Meal/Food Saver type vacuum sealer. I lucked out and found my never-been-out-of-the-box, Food Saver at Goodwill for $14,
but the regular price is around $100.00 at Walmart. The vacuum sealer is worth its weight in gold if you eat raw like we do. It allows you to prepare many vegetables and fruits ahead without having to worry about things going brown after they are cut. It saves a lot of time in food preps since you can do a lot of prepping at one time instead of every time you need to prepare a meal. There is also much less waste of produce due to spoilage. Bananas will last much longer prepped with a vacuum sealer as they don't get brown and bitter like they do if you try to keep bananas in a Ziploc for more than a week or so. **

The bananas are the base for most of our smoothies, since they are readily available, affordable, and add sweetness and a creamy consistency without the addition of  sweeteners or dairy.  I put one to one and a half frozen bananas per person, in the blender.To this we add a handful or two other fruits that we have frozen fruit and enough juice to thin it some and aid in blending. I like mine thick enough to eat with a spoon, but if you want a smoothie you can drink through a straw, then just add juice until you have the consistency you want. Some time this summer I will try to do a blog post with some of our favorite smoothie recipes. I also would love to hear about your favorites, if you would like to share, leave a comment.

08 May 2012


Mary Poppins said, "Enough is as good as a feast", I tend to think Mary Poppins was a very wise woman...
Being content, and  able to recognize when you have enough, is key to living a simple life. The ability to identify between want and need is important too.
Another wise woman, my grandmother, had two favorite sayings: "Count your blessings" and "If wishes were horses then beggars would ride...". She would often use these sayings to encourage me to be grateful, or to admonish me that applying myself to a desired goal was far more effective than wishing that something could be. I have leaned on these truisms while raising my own kids, as well as a few others: "make no pie crust promises...easily made, easily broken", (adapted to my needs... from Mary Poppins...), and "Me thinks thou doth protest too much!", (misquoted from Hamlet's "Me thinks the lady doth protest to much").
Do you have any words of wisdom to add to the list? Any truisms that were part of your upbringing that you have passed on to your kids? I'd love to hear them!

Oh, I almost forgot there is a new post on the sidebar page "Keep it Simple".... I'd forget my head if it wasn't tied on...

30 April 2012

Everything is Coming Up Roses!

I opened the door to the back deck this morning and found that my rose arbor is in full bloom! It has been promising to burst forth for several days now, but the temperature has been cool so they stayed closed. Last night it was warm enough to sleep with the windows open so the roses finally bloomed.

This rose blooms for all it is worth in May, but that will be the last of the show until late summer when it will flush again. The second bloom isn't as much of a show, but it is really nice to see them again before the weather gets cold.I look forward to this show all year and it is really worth the wait!

 I especially love it when some of the petals fall and the walkway is strewn with them. It is lovely at night when the moon light strikes the blooms on the arbor and the petals on the ground. The whole scene takes on a dream-like luminescence. Maybe this year I will actually do what I always tell myself I will do, and take my camera and tripod out for some night time photos...

 Tagg likes to hang out on the deck in the evening. It is my favorite time of the day to be out there as well. The air is filled with the scents of rose and jasmine, there is a nice breeze that draws cool air from the woods, and the roses practically glow in the gloaming of the evening.  What a way to end the day! I hope this finds you all doing the things that bring you joy. Until next time, Shalom!

28 April 2012

Spring At Heart's Ease Cottage

Spring came in February this year, now it has decided to be Winter in late April. We have had temps dipping into the low 30's, which doesn't do much for my warm weather crops like tomatoes. I never plant tomatoes before May 1, even though our last frost date is April 15, because I don't trust the weather to do what it is supposed to do. Unfortunately I had  tomatoes that I had started indoors out for the day to start hardening them off and I forgot about them. The temperature over night dropped to 31 degrees. When I remembered them in the morning I went outside to find my poor little baby tomatoes had withered with the cold..sigh. I just have too many things going on at one time these days... I will start new tomatoes from seed for my specialty tomatoes, but I will have to go ahead and by some flats of Romas so my canning tomatoes can go in the ground May 1.
The gardens this Spring have been beautiful and as I write this my rose arbor is bursting forth with hundreds of pale pink blossoms. I will take some photos tomorrow, when it stops raining. For now, here are some photos of what Spring has been like here at the Cottage:

 The azalea bushes in front of my house were spectacular this Spring! These bushes are about 20 years old. Last year we planted 90 more azaleas in what used to be the front yard.

We now call  it the "Bird Garden", since the birds have come by the droves to hang out in the bushes. The new bushes haven't bloomed yet since they are a later variety, but I will be sure to post some pics when they bloom.

This little bunny fountain is playing flower pot this year while I rework the garden it usually resides in.

I try to plant some Heart's Ease every year, as a nod to our beloved Cottage. The weather here turns warm so early in the year that they quickly go to seed, but I enjoy every minute of the time they are with us.

Da spent a lot of the late summer last year reclaiming the blackberry trellis' that turned into a thicket of unruly brambles while we were living in Costa Rica. All his hard work paid off this Spring. The canes are absolutely covered with blossoms and newly set berries.

The thumb-sized sweet berries will come ripe in July, and will be eaten with home made granola for breakfast, will accompany other seasonal fruits in smoothies, and will be made into some mouthwatering  cobblers. We will freeze some, make some into jam and best of all we will get to share them with neighbors and friends.

                    Friskie enjoys a walk through the iris beds with me.

                    This Iris smells like lemon Chiffon Pie!

                              Granny Smith Apple blossoms.

    Our resident Anole spends the afternoon napping on the deck rail. 

   Here he is showing off his colors for any sweet young thing that might be watching...

Patrick's Rose, better known as David Austen's "Graham Thomas", has bloomed a month early. The early Spring weather convinced everything in my yard to bloom way before its time.

This rose was damaged in a wind storm last year and I thought it was going to die... It came back with determination and has graced the deck with its citrus scented blooms since late March.

   Black Seeded Simpson, Lolla Rosa, Mesclun mix and Romaine lettuces, will be in the salad bowl this Spring, along with beet greens, new onions and Cherry Belle Radishes. In the bed to the left of the lettuce, Jersey Wakefield Cabbages and Cherry Belle Radishes grow as companions. The radishes will be ready for harvest before the cabbages get large enough to compete for the sunshine.

Lolla Rosa is a compact curly leaved lettuce that is cut and come again, I have harvested most of this bed twice and I will still be able to cut it once or twice more before I need to replant with a warm weather variety.

At the time of this photo the romaine still had a few weeks before it was mature. As of this week it will be ready for harvest.
Well, I'd better draw this post to a close, but before I do I will give you a sneak peek of my newest garden project... My newly renovated kitchen herb garden.

My established herb garden was overcome by couching grass and some insidious form of weed that looks like Artemesia but with a very aggressive nature. So I have finally dug out all the weeds, sifted the soil and am now I am replanting my surviving herbs, as well as adding many new ones. I will post more on the herb garden another day.

                  May you all be blessed with a simple life!

26 April 2012

Dealing with Ducklings...

  It is impossible to know what  day will hold...when I got up this morning, I had a to-do list a mile long. First on my list was to go to Lowe's hardware store to pick up some paint for the ceiling of the bathroom we are renovating. When I rounded then bend into town I was struck speechless as the car in front of me hit a mother duck and 2 of her twelve babies. The mother duck flipped out from under the car and half ran/ half rolled down the embankment to the railroad tracks. The babies, who were no more than a day or so old, tumble head over heels, rolled free of the car and then ran in the direction of their mother. The other 10 babies were trying to cross the road. I whipped into a driveway and ran back to try to get the ducklings off the road. They were running willy nilly all over the place, but when they saw me they all ran for the cover of the shrubs at the edge of the drive.
  I went looking for the mother duck and the two ducklings that went for a tumble under the car. I searched the embankment and the edges of the woods, but I couldn't see the mother duck or ducklings anywhere. I went to Waxhaw Town Hall to request that local animal control help in catching the ducklings... fat lot of good that did me... I even tried to use the logic that ducks in the road were a traffic hazard, but there was no help to be had. So I went downtown to a friends pet grooming business and asked my friend if she could help me with the ducks. She and one of her employees came with me to help round up ducklings.
   When we got to the location where I had left them, we could hear them peeping away, but they were deep in the woods in thick underbrush, so we couldn't get to them. We crossed the road in search of the mother, we searched both sides of the tracks and the surrounding embankments, the mother was nowhere to be seen. We were getting ready to give up when my friend saw one sad little duckling running down the railroad tracks. The three of us spent the next half hour running up and down the hillside, across the railroad tracks and  through the dense brambles at the top of the embankment, trying to head off this tiny little duckling. It was as fast as greased lightening and seemed to have an endless supply of energy. I was afraid of traumatizing the poor little thing but a storm was coming...the skies were black and I could hear thunder rolling in the distance. If it had feathers, I would have just let it be, but since it was covered in the fine down of a hatchling, I knew the coming storm could mean death for it. At this age the duckling is not water proof, and is supposed to be sitting snug and warm under the protection of its mother during a rain storm, (although I can't imagine how she would possibly fit all 12 ducklings under her...). So  we needed to catch it before the storm came. Eventually, my friends ran the little fella up the hill as I sat waiting in a tangle of brambles. I whisked it up as it ran by me and cradled it in my hands until we could get it closed in the box we brought with us to hold it.

  As we climbed in the car, the skies opened up... Whew!

  With my friends back at work and the duckling tucked away in a box in the trunk, I headed for home to call Wild Waterfowl Rescue to come get my little friend. There are laws forbidding the interference with or domestication of wild waterfowl, and I wouldn't want to go afoul of the law... (I just couldn't resist the pun... sorry), so I didn't even entertain the idea of raising it myself. I left a message for the rescue people and opened the trunk to get the box out. As opened the trunk, out popped the little duckling! I was startled, but managed to catch the little stinker in mid air. I have no idea how it got out since it was a box with very high sides and the flaps were closed over the top, but I was glad that it didn't get loose again, since the rain was coming down hard and it was beginning to hail!
   Once inside I put a hot water bottle in the box and covered it with shredded paper. I pulled the flaps of the box straight up and taped them so that the box sides would be higher, set the whole she-bang in the tub and pulled the shower curtain closed. The phone was ringing so I went to answer it and when I returned to check on the duckling it wasn't in the box, or for that matter, it wasn't in the tub either! I found it in the laundry room and spent another few minutes chasing it around. I have raised chicks for twenty years and never had any trouble keeping newly hatched chicks where they belong. Once they have feathers and begin to hop and flap, it is a different story, but chicks that are less than a week old generally stay where they are put. I didn't think ducklings could be much different...show how much I know! I eventually had to cover the box in cheese cloth and tie twine around it to keep it in.
  The phone call I went to answer was from the Waterfowl Rescue, they were on their way to my house to pick up the duckling. When she arrived, I told her how much trouble I'd had keeping up with the little urchin, (I did this as an attempt to explain why the box was trussed up like a Christmas package). When she looked in the box she chuckled and said it was no wonder... the duckling I thought was a Mallard was really a Wood Duck. She explained that the Wood Duck is very agile and that even at a very young age these ducks can climb trees. She also told me that most rescued Wood Duck ducklings don't survive, since they are flighty and don't take well to confinement. They often beat themselves to death trying to get free. How very sad, but I can see how it could happen.
  The rescue worker took the duckling and put it in a little net container. She was going to go back to the place where the mother was hit to use a mother duck call to see if she could get the other ducklings to come out of the woods to her. I wish her luck, it took three people a half an hour to catch one little duckling, I can't imagine one person trying to gather up 10 of the wild little things!
   The Wild Waterfowl Rescue organization is run by volunteers. This young woman came out in the middle of a terrible storm to collect the duckling from me and then spent who knows how long trying to find the rest of them. I am thankful for her efforts and the efforts of the organization she volunteers with. Whether it knows it or not, that is one lucky little duckling!

07 April 2012

Chag Pesach Samech!! May HaShem's Peace be Upon You All!

Last night we had our Pesach, (Passover), celebration. It was a lovely time of fellowship and as always I was caught up in the story from long ago, of the night that the Angel of Death passed over the children of Israel and spared their first born. Then at the break of day the entire House of Israel and a vast number of others left the hardships of bondage in a foreign land and followed Moses into the deliverance that God had promised more than 400 years before.
  During the next seven days I will eat unleavened bread and contemplate the future Exodus. Both Jeremiah and Isaiah speak of the time to come when God will regather his children, Judah, (the 2 southern tribes) and Ephriam, (the 10 northern tribes), from the four corners of the Earth and settle us as one family, in peace in the land that he promised to His people so long ago.... sigh... let it be soon!
  During the week of unleavened bread we will enjoy tender and tasty flat breads cooked on a hot griddle, no nasty, tasteless matzo crackers in this house! The secret to good unleavened bread is the kind of wheat that is used to make the bread. Most recipes call for whole wheat flour or unbleached flour, but normal bread flour is made from hard red spring wheat, which is high in gluten. Gluten is great for making wonderful lofty loaves with the assistance of yeast, but unleavened bread made from hard wheat is tough and chewy, due to unstimulated gluten. In order to make light, tender unleavened bread it is best to use soft wheat flour. Cake flour is made from soft wheat, but is void of nutrition and makes for a pasty textured flat bread. It is possible to find Bob's Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour in small bags at most higher end grocers or you can find soft wheat berries at a natural food store and grind your own. I use Atta flour if I am short on time, but I prefer to grind my own from my cache of long term stored soft wheat berries, since they are organic. Atta flour, which is used in Indian cookery to make chapati, is made from whole grain soft wheat berries. It makes great unleavened bread and can be found at any Indian grocery.
  Here is a simple recipe for unleavened bread:

2 cups whole wheat soft wheat flour
1 tsp. sea salt
1 cup very warm water
Olive oil

  Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix with finger to incorporate. Slowly add water with one hand while mix in with fingers of the other hand. When water is completely absorbed and flour is beginning to stay together,remove from bowl and knead until ball of dough is smooth. Cover and let rest 10 minutes. Break into pieces the size of a walnut and roll into smooth balls, it should make 12 to 16 balls. Cover with a towel.
  Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle to medium high heat and drip a small drop of olive oil on skillet and polish with a paper towel removing most of the oil and leaving a shiny smooth finish on pan. Choose a ball, drop it into a small bowl of extra soft wheat flour and roll it around to lightly coat. With the palm of your hand flatten ball into a round and roll out into a circle 4-6" in diameter, turning and rolling to keep it in shape. Check to see if water sizzles when a drop is flicked onto the skillet surface, if it doesn't sizzle an pop the water on contact, the skillet isn't hot enough, so heat more and test again. Once the skillet is hot and the first dough round is rolled out to desired size, drop the dough circle onto the griddle, leave there until small bubbles start to form on the bottom side and the bread slides easily when pushed lightly with a finger. Turn when bubbles are forming and allow bubbles to form on top side. The bread should begin to puff. Use a spatula to lightly press to help bread to puff. When there are a few good pockets of air in bread turn and repeat until bread is mostly filled with air. Don't worry if it doesn't completely inflate, but make sure that there are large pockets of air or the bread will be chewy. When done remove from heat and brush lightly with olive oil or ghee. Place in a towel lined bowl and cover with towel corners to keep warm. Roll and cook dough balls one at a time, so that the dough rounds don't dry out.
  The breads freeze very well, if let cool completely before freezing. To use after freezing, place in foil and heat in the oven until just warmed through. They will taste like you just made them! Whether or not you keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread, these little flat breads are nutritious, full of flavor and filling.

31 March 2012


   I woke up this morning feeling nostalgic. I had dreams last night of the sun sparkling on the waters of the New River, I could hear snatches of John Denver's song, Poems, Prayers and Promises playing in the background. I could almost smell the fresh, tangy spring air and feel the sun on my face. I was dreaming of a time long past when I was a young bride living in the mountains of Virginia; when my life was spread out before me and everything was possible. I woke with my heart  filled with warmth and my head full of memories.
  While sipping coffee and watching the birds at the feeder on the deck I savored the fading sensation of my dreams and reflected on how much of my life today is built upon the foundation of that period in my life. It was 1978 and my husband and I were living in Blacksburg, Va., the home of Virginia Tech State University. With the end of the Vietnam war, the  "Hippies"  who collected around the college town in the late 60's became the  "Back to Lander's" of the 70's. The rich, inexpensive land in the areas surrounding Blacksburg became the home to many of these idealistic souls. Due to their influence, some very good vegetarian restaurants and a natural foods co-op thrived in the downtown area.
  The local natural food co-op, Grassroots, gave a discount to anyone who volunteered to work hours at the store. The shelves were lined with glass jars that were filled with whole foods of every description. Exotic sounding teas and spices scented the air and were offered for sale by the ounce or by the pound. I was a working member and soon had my very own glass jars full of wonderful smelling "natural" foods, lining the shelves and counter of our tiny kitchen.
  The vegetarian restaurant/bakery, Our Daily Bread, had glass cases stuffed with dark crusty loaves of whole wheat bread fresh from their brick oven. The wholesome vegetarian soups and salads they offered were a welcome change from the junk food fare geared to the college students. You could enjoy a steaming bowl of
soup and a sandwich made with fresh baked bread, in the exposed brick dining area or take it to go and sit out in the grass on the hill across the street and watch the world go by. It was those earthy loaves from the bakery and the Tassajara Bread Book that inspired me to learn to grow a sour dough starter and make my own whole wheat breads.
  During the mid to late 70's many good books and publications came out on the subject of self sufficient living, organic gardening, natural foods and vegetarianism. Some excellent vegetarian cook books were authored by vegetarian and natural food proponents like Molly Katzen  and Laurel Robertson. Rodale Press was publishing,  Organic Gardening magazine, a digest size magazine that was full of sage advice and instruction on natural ways to grow food and contend with garden pests. Mother Earth News magazine published many articles on homesteading, organic gardening and thought inspiring things like how to build a home from old tires and bales of straw.  Many of these publications are still in business, although I think an essential spark went out with the tragic passing of Robert Rodale and by the corporate buy out of Mother Earth News and the subsequent move from their facilities in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Both Organic Gardening and Mother Earth News are still useful resources but in my mind lack the vitality and vision of their beginnings. 
  With all the new life being breathed into age old ways of living and the good resources available through Rodale and other publications, there was real hope for a change to come in the way people looked at commercial food production and petrochemical use, as well as an up swell in desire to return to simple living. The years have seen many changes, there is more awareness of the virtues of organic and sustainable agriculture, but not many have embraced the concept of living a simple life.
  For me the idea of self sufficiency and simplicity was life changing. I had grown up moving from place to place as a military brat, but on occasion I would land at my grandmother's house for a season or more while my parents dealt with technical difficulties. During this time I would stand at my grandmother's elbow on the porch shelling peas or on a chair next to her in the kitchen while she canned the garden surplus. The memory of those happy days coupled with the inspiration of those I knew in the Back to Land Movement, led me to crave a simple way of life. It would be many years and many, many miles later that I would actually have the ground to grow my dreams in. But the memory of those days in the lush green mountains of Virginia, living among others who dared to dream of going back to basics, kept me inspired to prepare in what ways I could, for my dreams to become reality.

*As a side note:
  I still have most of the books and magazines that I leaned on for instruction and inspiration, many of them still get a fair amount of use. My original copy of Moosewood Cookbook  by Mollie Katzen, is still on the shelf for sentimental reasons, but since it is now in two pieces with many loose pages, I have purchased a revised edition for kitchen use. Rodale 's Home Food Systems is a very good read. Some of the appliances that are discussed are no longer available but the basic information is relevant and very useful for anyone who is interested in knowing more about whole foods and how to use them. Laurel's Bread Book and Laurel's Kitchen are both inspirational and functional. John Seymour's The Self-Sufficient Gardener is a "must have" for those who are interested in self sufficiency and raised bed gardening. He wrote several books on self sufficient living, The Self Sufficient Life and How to Live It, was his last, published a year before his death in 2004. It covers many aspects of self sufficient living from raising animals and raised bed gardening to making your own alcoholic beverages and more. It is definitely worth owning.

** all the links for the books are selected randomly, I do not have any affiliation with Amazon or any of the other websites that I have linked to.**

25 March 2012

Thanks To My Talented Husband

Due to the diligent efforts of my husband, my computer has come out the coma. He coaxed it back to life, formatted my hard disk, (sigh...), reinstalled programs and found back ups for most of the important things. The only thing I lost outright was my bookmarks. I use them extensively and will probably never find all the websites again, but it is a small price to pay to have a functioning computer again! Many thanks to Da for all the time and effort it took to get me back online! Now it's time to write some posts for my blogs...

19 March 2012

Computer Problems

  I have been very busy composing new blog entries and a few tutorials, but recently that all came to a halt when my computer died. Unfortunately, my oven stove also died, (a very expensive replacement...), and I have switched to my Coleman camping stove for stove top cooking and my toaster oven/cast iron dutch oven for baking. This is likely to go on for some time since I have not found a stove I like or can afford at the moment. But I must prioritize and put the funds towards a stove replacement first...
  I have been very excited about all the things I am preparing to post here and I will continue to compose my posts and tutorials on paper, waiting for the opportunity to get back on the internet. I make periodic forays into Charlotte and can possibly post from the library while there. I will at least post updates to keep you informed about life at Heart's Ease Cottage. I will be missing you and hope to be back posting from home very soon! Until next time, Shalom! Elle

25 February 2012


  Saturday morning is the best morning of my week. Our Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday, so Saturday morning is the one morning of the week when there is nothing on my "to do" list. I can lay in bed until noon if I like, but I seldom do since I don't want to miss a minute of this wonderful day!
  I actually plan for and work towards the Sabbath all week. There are things that I do Sunday through Friday that help me to have life ready for a down day. I have found that by accomplishing something every day towards Sabbath, I am  not only cutting down on the amount that must be done on Friday, but I am preparing my heart  as I work in anticipation of the day.
  Friday is Preparation Day, the day that allows my Sabbath to be peaceful and restful. I have planned, worked and shopped all week so that on Friday I can focus on baking, cooking and put the finishing touches on the house. At sundown Friday, all is ready for my day of rest.
  So here it is... Saturday morning. All the cares of life were checked at the door at sundown last night, they will be there to be dealt with at sundown on Saturday, but for a blissful 24 hours, we will have rest from the cares of this world. The world will of course, go on with it's hustle and bustle, "go here, get this done, take someone there..." , but here in my home we are insulated from the world, set apart. There is music playing on Pandora, I have written letters, played cards with my husband and  watched the birds at the feeder. I have food at the ready so whenever anyone one is hungry they can help themselves. We won't leave the house unless it is for a walk later in the day, so there will be no stress from swimming through traffic, or dealing with rude drivers. We won't be buying anything or conducting business. If the phone rings it will be screened. We will have time to think about pleasant things, time to rest and regenerate. We have an opportunity to meet with our Creator on the day that He established  from the very beginning for our own good ...the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath....
  To me, the Sabbath is the key to a simple life. In it I have time to see my life from a safe distance. I can decide what is important, I can let go of things that take my peace or stress me out. It is a time for getting out of the forest so you can see the trees. So whether or not you believe in keeping it for "religious" reasons, the principles of the Sabbath can work to your good and towards a simpler life. Why not try a day out of time? Work for six days and take the seventh off. Let your body and your mind have a day of rest and receive the benefits. Let me know how it goes!

12 February 2012

Lots of Changes Going on at Hearts Ease Cottage

  Hi all! I am in the process of reworking this blog. I am still debating whether or not to keep it on Blogspot...  I have a large quantity of material to be posted that I have been working on for some time, but have hesitated to post it since I didn't know what I wanted to do about location... for now I am reworking this blog, keeping this blogspot address and creating a "mirror" blog on Wordpress.
  My objective for the blog remains the same. I want to talk about living a "simple" life, growing food, raising animals, baking, cooking, homeschooling, putting food by, pantry keeping and much, much more.We have spent more than 20 years homesteading on a very small piece of property. We have used edible landscaping and intensive garden techniques to help us find room for 10 kinds of fruit, medicinal and culinary herbs and to squeeze in 10 3' x 20' french intensive raised beds, we have two goat barns, a chicken house, and workshop, as well as flower gardens and outdoor "rooms" for enjoying the gardens, birds and butterflies, all on a one acre piece of property.
 It is my belief that even the smallest piece of land can be encouraged to grow delicious fruits and vegetables, to provide goodness for the table and health to the body from fresh air, sunshine and hard work.. It is possible, even in the smallest apartment in the city, to have a flourishing "kitchen" garden, with no dirt and very little sunshine required to grow food just bursting with nutrition. I want to share what we have learned over the last 20 years and illustrate that no matter where you live, you can add fresh home grown food to your diet and live a simple life based on hearth and home.
  Our personal lives have had lots of changes over the last few years. Our needs have changed as well. We are in a new stage of life. Both of our boys are grown and have moved to their own places We had very bad news about my husbands health, which caused us to make a big decision and move to Costa Rica for a time to fulfill part of a "bucket list". Our year living in Costa Rica was wonderful, rejuvenating and memorable, but it exacted a heavy price on our beloved homestead. We lost two lovely mature standard plums to a freak accident while we were gone and most of the beds and the herb gardens were overtaken with couching grass. We have spent the last year and a half reclaiming the gardens and reworking the homestead to meet our new needs. As of this moment, the vegetable gardens are in prime condition for planting. We are establishing a new garden for permanent beds of asparagus, artichokes, Goji, strawberries, and other perennial edibles.  We are laying new pathways, establishing a koi pond, and have planted 100 azalea bushes to add beauty to our place and to attract birds to nestle in their branches.
  Our present life circumstances may have changed some, but our dedication to a simple life and to creating a lovely bubble of sanity in this crazy world remain the same. I am in the process of developing curriculum for  classes, writing tutorials and possibly an e-book or two, to share with you this year. I am excited about the way things are taking shape both on the ground and in this blog. I hope that you will stop by and see what we're up to. And as always, I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment and tell us what you are doing to make yours a simple life.
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