July 30, 2021

Drop back two and punt?


Life at the manor has taken a few twists and turns over the years. Sometimes we've been reacting more than proacting. When a loved one has health issues, you're often at the mercy of disease progression or disease treatment and that's simply the way it is. Other times, you can lay out a good plan and see it through to fruition. Sometimes your plans are thwarted by forces beyond your control. 

And sometimes, and this is the hard one, you come to realize that what you planned, what was your dream, is no longer feasible. You realize there isn't time to invest into working the plan or you come to the crossroads of where you've been versus the fact you've gone as far as you think you can with it. So it is with me and my writing career. 

Becoming a writer was a fluke. I was bored one day and I sat down in front of an old HP desktop that had a whopping big 256MB hard drive and a One Note program, and I started to tell a story. The damn thing snowballed on me and here I am, decades later, with a publishing history, blogs, social media, and book sales. Unreal. 

It became my plan to retire so I could write full-time. I lived for the moment! Now that I'm in the transition into total retirement, I'm wondering if that's what I really want to do. With so much that I love to do - walking, gardening, canning, quilting - do I want to sit at the computer for several hours a day? 

The publishing industry is one of constant change. Established writers get pushed back by new voices fueling different markets. Amazon only rewards megastars. Many, many, many good, solid writers get lost in the algorithms because that's the way Amazon makes more money. My own work is buried by the algorithms at Amazon. My sales are predominately at iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and a few other subscription services overseas.  

Even Facebook has begun to punish promotion. I belong to a lot of Facebook groups, and as I started to promo the release of July Heat, my posts went "into review" because I included buy links. 

Should I spend the time, months in fact, creating a good story only to have nothing become of it? Or should I spend my time, daily, enjoying Holly Tree Manor? As I transition into retirement, would my time be better spent rebuilding old friendships now that we all have more time to spend together without the constraints of jobs? 

I can't see my way to striking a workable balance. Maybe it will be clearer when I'm not "employed" even on a part-time, work-from-home basis. And maybe I'll have to drop back two and punt my way into something I've yet to imagine. 

Some days I'm just along for the ride, not steering the boat. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor


July 28, 2021

That went surprisingly well


Himself wanted to create a dedicated shooting range. We're working on it but in typical male fashion, he needed (yes NEEDED) to test out his target backboard. To that end, we went to plink a few rounds.

Guess who "won?" 

Seriously, I whipped his ass. I suppose now he'll stop nattering at me to go plink with him. 

#men


The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

 

PS. Note to any copperhead living nearby - I will find you. There is nowhere you can slither to escape me and Walther. 





July 26, 2021

Tractor work at the shooting range


We decided to create a designated shooting range. We've been killing bales of straw for a while now and making sure the occasional dead tree was really dead, but we felt it was time for something in a more protected location. The "west forty" has the perfect hillside for safety. 

We went back and forth a bit but eventually concluded that a stack of dead tree trunks strategically placed at the base of the hill would stop any bullet that went wide of the target. So will the hillside but we had the option of stacking the deadwood or burning it, and we chose to stack the solid lengths. Some were too far gone and those went to the burn pile. And some of those dead tree trunks are there temporarily and will end up as firewood in the stove some cold winter day. 

It may seem strange to some that we want a designated place to practice, but practice makes sure you can hit what you're aiming at - like the friendly raccoons and the not-so-friendly copperheads. Believe me when I say I'm more of a threat to society when I get behind the wheel of my car than when I'm target shooting. 

Putting in a range is a lot of hard, physical work. There's no way we could do it without having the John Deere 1023 with a Brush Crusher grapple. While Himself was running the tractor, I was lounging on the John Deere x370 shooting a few videos. I managed to piece them together and get them up on the YouTube channel. 

One thing I'm rather sure of is that I'll never make a good videographer.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor






July 25, 2021

The deer munched the raspberries!

 

We have a small red raspberry patch growing behind our shed. I think it's remnants of my grandfather's berry patch that have gone wild. Last year I picked enough to make some lovely raspberry crepes one Sunday morning, and I planned to do the same this year. 

I checked on the berries every few days, delighted to discover there would be enough for the crepes and to put in the freezer for crepes in about six months. 

It was not to be. 

I checked them on a Saturday morning and told the Lord of the Manor that tomorrow was the day. I got up on Sunday and took a bowl to the patch and.....no berries. None. But there were fresh deer droppings everywhere. 

This fall I'm taking preventative measures. Those sneaky ladies will not rob me of one of my summertime treats again, no sir-ree. Not only will I fence the bushes, but I'm also going to start a few sets from the runners and fence those as well. There are only six bushes, but that's all I need. 

All you deer go find someone else's berries. These are mine!

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

July 24, 2021

Pantry prepping - canning ground beef

Yesterday, a trip to Walmart gave me a sticker shock. I was going to purchase a pack of 85/15 ground beef. I did not. Instead, I stopped at our local grocery and got it two dollars cheaper per pound. When a local store can undercut Walmart, I begin to think we may be in trouble. 

I bought thirteen pounds of 85/15 for $56.00. The same amount at Walmart would cost $71.00. 

What did I do with all that ground chuck? I pressure canned it. My Presto canner will hold sixteen wide-mouth pint jars. That's almost a pound a jar of shelf-stable meat in my pantry. I probably could have forced more into fewer jars, but I stuck to the amount of beef we typically use for spaghetti sauce. That's a good measure for us. Yours may be different. 

The National Center for Home Food Preservation gives instructions on how to safely can meats. If you want to can ANYTHING, that should be one of your "go-to" resources, along with the Ball book I've mentioned several times. Read and learn about the process so you do it correctly.

I even broke out the Ball lids for this project. I like the Tattler lids, but this was meat and I didn't want to risk operator error. 

I must confess I never thought I'd can any sort of meat, but times have changed. Inflation is running wild and all any of us can do is purchase wisely and practice whatever measures we feel necessary to save what we can. 

Will I go get more ground beef to can another batch? Not this weekend. Now I'll be on the watch for sales and then can another batch. 

Eat tomorrow at today's prices. Yep. That sounds like a good plan.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor





July 23, 2021

Sunflowers - bright and sunny spot

 Thank you to whomever it is who plants the small plot of sunflowers along the highway. It's a lovely, cheery spot in an otherwise gray drive. 

This is the third or fourth year this patch has been planted but it's the first year I stopped to get a picture. And I no sooner got the picture than the plot was harvested. 

It makes me wish for a summer row of sunflowers but I know it's pointless to plant them. There are too many squirrels and birds around to even hope for any sort of harvest. 

I'll just have to settle for enjoying this patch for a few weeks as I whiz by on my way to some busy-ness. They do make me smile!

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

July 21, 2021

First time preserving blueberry pie filling

One of the local groceries had pints of blueberries, 4/$5.00. In our area, that's a really, really, really good deal. So I jumped on it. I like blueberries although Himself doesn't care much for them unless it's blueberry pie or cobbler. Not a problem. I got enough to make pie filling and to bag up in small portions for me. It's a win/win. 

It would have been a bigger win if the blueberries would have been locally grown, but it is what it is. I went for the deal.

Blueberry pie filling is a lot easier than I thought it would be. I used the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving for my first attempt at this. Maybe next time I'll try a different recipe, depending on what I may find in the other canning books I have.

One thing I've noticed about the Ball book is that even if you measure exactly, you might not get the yield they say. Always have an extra jar ready. 

I have about half a jar of the pie filling left over. That's not enough to put in a jar and can, but it is enough to put over vanilla ice cream. Yep. This home canning has a lot of benefits. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor



July 20, 2021

The high cost of love

My mother has Alzheimer's Disease. I have issues with God over it, being that my mother was a faithful prayer warrior. 

When you hear the talk about the high cost of nursing home care, don't shrug it off. It's not a lie. My mother's care is just under $12,000.00 a month. Believe me when I tell you she doesn't receive $12,000.00 worth of care a month. She may not even receive $12,000.00 worth of care in the entire year. 

I had a choice. I could care for my mother or care for my husband. Some days I think I made the wrong choice, but the reality is my mother needs specialized care I'm not equipped to give her. 

My mother refuses to walk. There's no physical reason for this, she just won't do it. She won't get out of bed on her own. They use a lift to put her in a wheelchair. Consequently, she spends a lot of time lying in bed. 

She's in a facility that, thankfully, won't discharge her when her money runs out, which won't be much longer. Once her money is gone, the taxpayers will foot the bill. 

Alzheimer's Disease is a horrible malady. 


July 17, 2021

It gets green in the woods

Brush piles happen. 

We are never without dead brush that needs to be burned. Air pollution, you cry! So are airplanes, I say! If you can pollute on your way to exotic vacations, I can burn brush. Didn't think of that, did you? 

My house and yard are an oasis surrounded by woods, which are part of my property. For many years the southwestern corner was designated as our "wilderness" area or sort of a bird sanctuary. Unfortunately, the local critters have become too comfortable being too close to the house. We've been waging a war with the local raccoon and we decided his cover has to go. We are cleaning up the wilderness area. 

This job wouldn't be possible if we hadn't gotten the Brush Crusher. The grapple is able to lift and carry large pieces of downed trees and drop them directly on the burn pile. It's amazing.  How different the manor would look if we'd had the tractor and grapple twenty-five years ago before cancer first entered our lives and his health began to decline. 

Google Earth view
But there is little to be gained wishing the past to be different. We are here today and we do what we can today. I look out the windows of my sunroom office and am amazed at the transformation taking shape after only two days. I'm very happy with it. We still need to do a little weed-whacking and move some large rocks to the stone fence, but it will get done. One of us will take the old Husquvarna mower in for a finer chopping of small sticks. This fall, I'll sow a lot of deep shade variety grass seed and see what we get in the spring. We'll finish our shooting range, but that's for another blog entry. 

The manor has long had a park-like feel to it, and this will add to our enjoyment of the property. Well, it won't make Rocket the Raccoon very happy to get the eviction notice, but I don't care. 

Take that! you little varmint!  

Or should we thank him for giving us the motivation to clear that section of the manor so WE can enjoy it? 

Nope. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

July 14, 2021

Cowboy Candy - I've waited a year to make this!

I can put the blame on YouTube for my addiction to Cowboy Candy. It wasn't until I watched an episode of Living Traditions Homestead that I even heard about Cowboy Candy. I made a batch and it was down the rabbit hole from there. I processed several batches and enjoyed it over the long, cold winter. 

Cowboy Candy is great when mixed with cream cheese. I drain off the syrup, chop up the peppers, and mix. Crackers or raw veggies, the resulting spread packs just the right amount of punch to satisfy a snack craving. 

Earlier this year I started jalapeno peppers from seed and the result is that I have thirty-three plants all producing peppers. I anticipate being able to process multiple batches from my own garden. I'd like to make salsa, but we'll have to see how that goes. 

If you'd like to know a little more about Cowboy Candy and how I do it, check out my page here.  I do it about ninety percent by the Ball book, and about ten percent "rebel." 

Here's where I tell you to never go "rebel." The instructions to process food are in place for a reason, like so you don't die of botulism. My "rebel" is simply cooking the peppers a tad longer than required. 

Having home-canned food in the pantry is about more than just being prepared. It's about making some really tasty foods to enjoy. It's about preservative-free food and opening a jar of soup and having dinner ready in five minutes. It's worth a little bit of planning and a couple of hours here and there for a more varied menu. 

It definitely works for us. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor
 

July 11, 2021

Wildflowers

 Last summer, I built a wall

The small knee wall was something I always envisioned for a problematic area between the house and shed. It happens to be where I park the car and for decades it was an eyesore and a sore subject with me. I asked several men (ex-husband, a live-in boyfriend, the current spousal unit) and none of them was willing to do that much hard work. Ultimately, I did it myself.

Ultimately, the Lord of the Manor will never, I repeat NEVER, be absolved for not doing it. I ask for little, being quite self-sufficient, but I did ask for that. And he refused. It'll bite him in the ass one day, I assure you.

Last year I sprinkled the contents of a few cheap seed packets and got a bit of late summer bloom. This year, I bought a good quality pack of wildflower seeds and the wall is now exactly what I envisioned for so long. It's in full bloom and is gorgeous! I think next year I'll add a few herbs to the mix and see what happens. And next year I'll keep the seed envelope so I know what all the little flowers are because there are quite a few I don't recognize. 

It was worth an afternoon of very hard work and a lot of sweat to dry stack the rocks. Really, it was. I'm very pleased with the end result. But I can't help but think how much more it would mean if just one of those men had been willing to give me the gift of their time and strength. 

Apparently, not all of us are worth an afternoon.

No matter how pleased I am with the wall, it will always be tainted with my disappointment. It has made me examine other projects and figure in a factor for the same disappointment. I plan on doing things myself. 

So at what point does the man become nothing more than a millstone around the woman's neck? 

We are sometimes who we are forced to become, not the person we hoped to be. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor



July 8, 2021

Kohler's Pig by Michael Sowa

 
Have you ever had an image reach into your being and tell you secrets about yourself?

Many years ago - many, many, many years ago - my best friend and I were doing a bit of "shopping" to while away the hours of a Friday night. Being the frugal sort, I rarely bought anything I didn't truly need, but those evenings were about spending time together more than our purchasing power. One night we walked into a home decorating outlet and saw Kohler's Pig by Michael Sowa. We were both immediately drawn to it. She purchased the print right away. I needed to think about it before I parted with that much cash. Ultimately, I went back the next morning and got a copy. 

I have no idea why it's entitled, "Kohler's Pig." It's never mattered to me. What mattered is the little pig. 

Quite a few of us have heard the expression, “when pigs fly!” (Well, if you live below the Mason-Dixon Line you know it.) This familiar southern expression is the essence of impossibilities. "When pigs fly" is the no way, no how, no when, ain't ever gonna come to pass and why would you think otherwise of a mundane life. 

My parents didn't use the expression, not in so many words, but I grew up believing they expected little of me. Consequently, I expected little of myself until I turned thirty and had the first of many epiphanies. 

Thank God for my grandparents, and for this anonymous little pig. 

So think about the pig leaping off that peer. 

After being told all her life she can’t fly, she proves them wrong. Let the naysayers keep telling her it’s not possible. She knows. 

It doesn’t matter she’s alone and no one sees her do it. She knows in her heart she can fly because for a few glorious moments, she did it. If even for a singular glorious moment, she did it! 

So many of my victories are like the little pig flying. They've happened in quiet secret moments experienced alone. Does that make them less valid? I think it makes them more so. 

I don't need false accolades and praise any more than I need to prove myself to others. Neither does the little pig. 

She hangs in front of me as I sit at my desk, a constant reminder that I know how to soar. No romantic spirit animal for me. No wolf, no bear, no bison, no fox, no coyote. Mine is the little pig who still speaks to me even after thirty years, reminding me we fly together. 

She knows. Fly on! 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor



July 7, 2021

That did not go well, not at all


And so it came to pass that on June 26, 2021, after twenty-one years, I tindered my letter of resignation.

It did not go well. 

If you ever have the feeling that people do not listen to you, that they do not take your words seriously, let me tell you to not doubt that feeling. I've been talking about retiring since June of 2017. I must have been spitting in the wind. 

The upper echelons were, in a word, gobsmacked. They came as a group to see me so we could "talk it over." And so we did. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has forever changed our world. The change is maybe not what the creators of the virus hoped, at least not yet, but what they released on the people will have long-reaching effects. 

I, for one, will no longer be tied to working in a dingy little office in a downtown area that is rife with undesirables and crime. 

My employer counter-offered, and I agreed. 

During the 2020 lockdown, I proved I can do my job my way. Most of my job is now information gathering, disseminating, and sharing which can be done via email, and we all do email from wherever we are. 

Between now and May 31, 2022, I will be working mostly from home. I will be able to come and go at the in-town office as I choose. I know when I have to be there and when I don't, and they have acknowledged I know. 

I did not see this coming at me. I never imagined they would hand me continued employment on a silver platter, but they did. I will continue to work with full pay and benefits. They will search for my "replacement." I will stay on long enough to get her (or him) settled. 

I was willing to pay the ungodly cost of health insurance out of pocket to retire now, so whenever they find someone new will be fine. I'll have a bit of a reprieve from paying over a thousand dollars a month to continue my current health insurance. What a lie we were fed with the Affordable Care Act. 

It's been a lot to process. On the surface, it seems like an agreeable option but I confess to being disappointed in myself. This is not what I truly wanted. I'm acquiescing to the needs of others and not my own. It doesn't truly do me any harm to continue this way for a few months but I wish I would have "stuck to my guns."

No longer will I be forced to sit in the office with nothing to do, waiting on someone else to do their job so I can do mine. I can simply pack it up for the day and come home. If I have something going on at home, as I did today, I can either stay home all day or work a couple of hours in town. My choice. 

Maybe what bugs me is that during the lockdown of the pandemic, they didn't know if I was working from home or in town. I felt free of being under their thumb. Now I do not and therein lies the rub. 

We shall see how this new arrangement unfolds. 

No, it did not go as planned. Not. At. All.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

June 30, 2021

So how did the potatoes in the grow bags work out?


Last fall I conducted a little experiment on growing potatoes in fifteen-gallon grow bags. It was enough of a success for us to give it a try this past spring. I got a couple of Kenebeck seed potatoes and planted them in a big green bag - and they grew! 

Unfortunately, be it due to the weather or my inexperience with grow bags, the tops of the potato plants browned over the past two weeks. That meant the growing spuds were probably done growing because their source of nutrients had died. I wasn't quite ready to call it quits, but logic and common sense do sometimes prevail here on the manor. I emptied the bags to harvest the potatoes - and there were potatoes.

It wasn't the harvest I hoped for, but it's got potential. These can be used as seed potatoes now. There is no reason at all I can't allow a few of them to sprout and replant the bags for this fall. I even wonder if the plants will survive in the greenhouse over the winter. 

Half the fun of gardening is just planting and standing back to see what Mother Nature will do, and what she can do. 

We'll keep you posted.

Oh, and those really small potatoes? We'll boil them, butter 'em up, and enjoy!

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor


June 28, 2021

The peppers are forming

I have what is to me a new food obsession. I say it's new because I only discovered it last year and I'm totally hooked on it. What is it you ask? A little delight called Cowboy Candy or "candied" jalapeno peppers. I'd never heard of it until I saw a homesteader on YouTube make it. Himself is a big fan of jalapenos and I was always on the "take it or leave it" fence. 

Until I tasted Cowboy Candy

Oh, it's not pepper jelly, no. I've always liked a big spoonful of pepper jelly over some cream cheese with a handful of wheat crackers. Cowboy Candy is better. 

I planted pepper seeds earlier this year and damn if I didn't end up with thirty-three pepper plants for my little garden corral. They are doing so well! There are pepper blossoms everywhere and now little peppers are forming! 

The recipe I use to make and can Cowboy Candy can be found in the Ball Book of Canning and Preserving. It's a wonderful resource for technique and recipes. It's great to have recipes and not just a how-to on canning, say, apples. You get a recipe for apple pie filling which is one of the reasons I want to can apples. 

I'm hoping for a good harvest and a lot of half-pint jars of Cowboy Candy. It's amazing how quickly we went through the batches I made last year. I'm going for double this year. I really can't wait! 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor



June 26, 2021

When you least expect it


Just yesterday I posted about retiring. By the end of the workday, I'd had enough and I submitted my letter of resignation, effective July 31, 2021. 

Talk about something feeling anticlimactic, yes, it did. It felt like nothing at all.

There's no panic, no second thoughts, only relief that the letter is in and I can now actively wind things down. After twenty-one years, I have a bit of stuff to haul home. 

I'm not sure how I thought I would feel, but this "nothing" isn't it. For the first time in probably my adult life, I don't have a sense of urgency over all the things I want to get accomplished this weekend, or even this summer. I've entered a sort of waiting limbo. 

The Lord of the Manor has yet to question me. I think he's digesting the fact he's going to lose his private kingdom a bit sooner than anticipated. I'm sure we'll work it out. I do expect to spend a certain amount of time each day at my computer with my writer's hat on. That should give him sufficient time to do whatever it is he does all day. 

I don't want to get overly excited, but I can feel the excitement building in me. I've realized so few dreams in my life, well, only one if the truth be told. I was and am recognized for my writing. But the biggest dream I have for myself, the one that is most important, is to truly BE the Lady of the Manor. To be here, on the land my grandfather gave to me and that I love as much as he did. 

Perhaps Neil Young said it best: We've been through some things together, with trunks of memories still to come. We found things to do in stormy weather, long may you run. Long may you run, long may you run, although these changes have come with your chrome heart shining in the sun, long may you run.

Now a new Saturday beckons, one that I hope retains the peace I feel this morning. Long may I run.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor





June 25, 2021

How's the countdown doing?

taken 6/20/21
I have a countdown counter on my phone to track the possible days to my retirement date. I have a world of options ranging anywhere from tomorrow morning to May 31, 2022, and any day I choose in between. That's been the most difficult thing - deciding on the date. Because it's not just about the date.

If I choose to go on March 31, 2022, it's not 280 days. It's 40 weeks, which is rather biblical at the moment. Forty is one of the numbers of completion. March 31st equates to 200 weekdays, or workdays. But wait.

I don't work on Mondays. I gave that up a few years ago and it's been the greatest gift I've given myself in years. So I need to figure 200 workdays on the counter less one day a week for the 40 weeks, or 160 workdays. But wait.

Here at mid-year, I still have 14 vacation days and 5 paid holidays to go, so we must subtract another 19 days of work from the 160. This gives us 141 workdays remaining. 

And here's a thought for you. Why do they call it the work FORCE? I never thought about the word "force" having two separate meanings before. Shines a different light on it, doesn't it? 

taken 6/20/21
I tell myself I can make it another 145 days, but I wonder. The CEO is on vacation this week and I may make a few phone calls. 

I'm ready to be home at Holly Tree Manor on a full-time basis. I have work to do here. I want to transform the manor to match the vision I've carried in my heart for so many years. 

Yes, it's really time. Am I brave enough to take the step?

The Lady of the Manor

** I took those screen captures days before I actually go to write this entry which is why the numbers may seem "off."

June 23, 2021

Green and growing!

 We couldn't be happier with our little garden corral! Everything is green and growing and even producing blooms. We worry about the deer finding it, so we did put up a perimeter netting and so far <knock on wood> they're leaving it alone. 

I enjoy going out and watering it every day it doesn't rain. The tomatoes are in grow bags and those can dry out quickly. Next year, the plan is to get the tomatoes into five-gallon buckets. I didn't want to be a hoarder and purchase every food-safe bucket I could find, a notion that may bite me in the ass come next year, but there it is. 

Last year we started with five grow bags and had an encouraging harvest.  This year we've gone a bit bigger and instead of having just a few peppers, I hope to have enough for several batches of Cowboy Candy, pepper jelly, and more. We had enough cucumbers to eat and make a batch or two of refrigerator pickles, but not enough to store in the pantry. I love, love, love bread & butter pickles and hope this year to put my great-grandmother's recipe to good use. 

Then there are tomatoes. We seem to be cursed when it comes to tomatoes, but with over a dozen plants, we have hopes of some scrumptious tomato sandwiches. Considering we're growing old-fashioned Beefsteak tomatoes, it may happen. 

And so we wait and hope our little garden corral will do us proud. And we also hope our energy doesn't fail when it's time to preserve our harvest. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor



June 21, 2021

My Kindle HAS been acting wonky lately...

1. Read the small print.
2. Government is not in place to be your friend. 
3. If a corporation offers you something, it's not really to your benefit. 
4. Rule changes are rarely in your favor. Opt out. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020, we got hooked on YouTube. We joke that you can find out how to do just about anything because someone has posted a video. We stick mostly to cooking, gardening, homesteading, and automotive channels, but there's variety when we want it. One of the gardening/cooking channels posted a quirky little piece about reports of "smart" thermostats in Texas turning up or down on their own. 

I scoffed, too, but wait. 

Being curious, because this channel is a bit off-beat and the woman creating the content hears a different drummer, I restored to asking Google this morning. Guess what? The story seems to have legs. 

True or not, there's a big lesson, or several, here. 

The jist of the story is that some consumers in Texas may have enrolled into a "smart saver" program when they enrolled in a sweepstakes. How's this for a long link? https://www.click2houston.com/news/local/2021/06/19/local-residents-say-smart-thermostats-were-controlled-remotely-in-an-attempt-to-conserve-energy

Check it out fast because I expect it to be pulled. Here's another one -  https://www.wpxi.com/news/trending/texas-thermostats-adjusted-remotely-during-heat-wave-residents-claim/S35AZRBXARB6BBOT4BNA6NSWEE/

If your first question is how can anyone remotely reset a thermostat, let me say that the facility I work in has programmable Honeywell thermostats that I can adjust with my smartphone. There's an app. Of course, there's an app. More than one.  I'm linked in to the security camera system, too. It's a different app. 

It wouldn't take much for a large company to strike a deal with any of the thermostat manufacturers to obtain override permission. A few clicks on a computer or phone, and you're going to get hot. Or cold. 

If you have some Amazon devices, it could be even worse. Amazon has/is using its Ring and other devices to create something called Amazon Sidewalk. This new "feature" creates a low bandwidth network using smart home devices and can piggyback on your neighbor's wi-fi if necessary. And you are someone's neighbor, too. Don't forget that. 

I'm not sure my very mercenary cable internet provider is going to like this. Could this mean MY Internet gets cut off because my neighbor is watching porn? I wouldn't like that much.

And here's another thing. My Kindle Fire HAS been acting wonky lately. It's gotten very slow and it acts a bit confused. I checked, and it does "see" a lot of networks around me that are out of range. But what if they are suddenly boosted and become in range? 

Does my cellular carrier, T-Mobile, do something like this? 

I find this very worrisome. I want to opt-out of all of it. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor




June 20, 2021

How many stages will it take?

November 2020
 We've begun to do the work to clear the old tractor path. It's been a long time coming because it will be a lot of hard, physical labor, labor that I will need to do. The Lord of the Manor no longer has the physical capability and I thank God that I do. 

Last November, on a bright sunny day, we made our way to the edge of where the work started and did a few minor things - mostly assess what really needed to happen. That led us to the purchase of a Brush Crusher.  Brush Crusher is the brand name for a front-end grapple for the John Deere 1023.  We purchased ours from Good Works Tractor and had it shipped since we knew we were capable of the assembly. 

The grapple is able to lift heavy logs and hold them while I use the chain saw to cut them to length. It can also "bite" into the brambles, yank them out, and hold them firmly for a trip to the brush pile to be burned. Oh, if we'd had this thing twenty years ago! 

June 20, 2021
There is a massive amount of work involved with clearing the old tractor path. Deuce and I took a walk along the southwestern strip of it last winter. A short video of our walk, in the snow, can be found here. 

The path was clear back in my grandfather's day. The property he gave me was at one time a small apple orchard and a strawberry patch. I still have tiny wild strawberries grow each year. 

It may not look like we accomplished much, but we can at least see the stone fence again. Our next task is to finish cleaning up as much as we can before we move on to the next twenty to thirty feet. It may take us this entire season to clear the whole stretch, but we'll keep after it, a few hours at a time, until we reach the corner of the property.

Making the turn north will have to wait for next year. Maybe. The Brush Crusher is a true game-changer. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor


June 19, 2021

Curried Apple Chutney from the Ball book

Curried Apple Chutney
Last summer I purchased the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. (not an affiliate link) It's a great resource for experienced and newbie canners alike. I want to try many of the recipes in the book, and yesterday, I got a headstart on canning apple goodies. The original plan was to do apples in season, but one should never walk away from a good deal or a free deal. Preserve it! It looks like apple season will be all about apple pie filling and that's okay. 

Chutney, sweet or savory, has always interested me. I had everything needed for the Curried Apple Chutney so last evening, I went to work and got it done. It didn't take too long to do, either. I spent about half an hour peeling apples, chopping the onion, and measuring out everything. The chutney needed to cook for about forty-five minutes, during which time I prepared the jars. Once the mix has cooked, it goes into the jars, and then it's time to follow a water-bath process for fifteen minutes. Then the jars came out, I tightened down the Tattler lids, and scampered off to my Kindle. 

Curried Apple Chutney jarred
First thing this morning I checked the jars, gleefully discovering all the seals are good. The book says the recipe makes ten pints, but no. It made twelve half-pints or only SIX full pints, and I measured everything very carefully since it was my first time using a recipe. Sometimes you get what you get. The Ball book is usually very accurate in the recipe yield, so I'll give them a pass on this one. 

I also learned something else this morning. Apparently, the Jarden company, which makes Ball jars, is now owned by the Newell company. Is this why we can't find metal lids? At this point, I'm liking the Tattler lids more and more. 

There are many additional recipes I want to try in the Ball book, but what I need to do next is simple apple jelly. As I peeled the apples last night, I saved the peels and the cores to cook along with some sliced apples to make the apple juice for the jelly. Waste not, want not as the old saying goes. The remaining pulp will go out in the woods for the little ones. I still have several jars of Caramel Apple Jam on the shelf, so no apple jam or apple butter this year. 

My coffee is cold and this entry is finished. It's time for a fresh cup and to check the weather forecast for the day. After that, who knows? The day will unfold, with or without a decent game plan.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

**You can find a bit more about this chutney here.**

June 13, 2021

Cherry jelly - first time making

Growing up country, having a cherry tree was not a big deal. My grandfather had several "wild" cherry trees that produced cherries growing in odd locations. Not every "wild" cherry bears fruit, so having several was quite a boon for my family. 

These trees produced an abundance of fruit, but the cherries were small. It took a lot of work to harvest enough fruit for everything my grandmother wanted to "put up," but it was worth it. I haven't had cherry jelly since she stopped canning. And I do mean jelly, not jam. She strained the pulp and used the clear juice. 

When I was making grape jelly a few short days ago, I saw that the Sure-Jell insert had the formula for cherry jelly. I finally had the chance to make a stop at the local fruit stand and brought home about four pounds of fruit, enough for one batch of jelly. 

Making the jelly was much the same as making the grape jelly. The cherries are cleaned then heated to release the juices. Being that I was making jelly and not jam, I didn't need to pit the cherries before heating them. My grandmother was no one's fool. She knew how to streamline the work and I learned from her. 

Once the cherries were hot, I used a potato masher to mash them. Then I added a splash of lemon juice to preserve the color, ladled the hot pulp into a jelly bag so the juice could strain out, and went on about my other chores. Several hours later I had three and a half cups of juice - just the correct amount for the Sure-Jell formula. 

The juice was transferred to a large pot and reheated, the pectin added, and the mixture brought to a roiling boil. After a minute, the entire four cups of sugar were added all at once while constantly stirring the mix. Yes, you have to have the sugar measured and ready to go in all at once. It's important to do it that way. 

After the sugar is added and the mixture is at a roiling boil again, set a timer for one minute and keep stirring until the timer goes off. Then remove the pot from the heat and jar the VERY HOT liquid. Process in a water bath according to your altitude. 

Just like with the grape jelly, I used the Tattler reusable lids. Tattler lids are made in the USA and last for years. 

I'm pleased with the results. There was just a little bit of jelly left in the pot that I scraped out and tasted. I think we'll really enjoy the cherry jelly next winter. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

June 12, 2021

The garden corral

In an effort to thwart the local deer, my veggie garden is a container garden located in what I'm calling The Garden Corral. 

The garden corral is located on what was our pool pad. To our sorrow, the Lord of the Manor can no longer safely get in and out of our little pool. Well, he can hold his nose and fall in, but it's the getting out we're not sure about. It's one more thing he's lost the ability to do as his overall health declines. Fifteen years ago chemotherapy saved his life, but the damage it did has lingered long after the cancer was dispatched. Life is a series of trade-offs. 

My little garden space is a work in progress. I started this year with grow bags and quickly graduated to 5-gallon buckets for the peppers. Next year will require something different for the cucumbers and radishes. The much-anticiapted strawberry grow bags are, in my opinion, a real bust. I don't like them so the strawberries have already been replanted. 

So on we go. 

I have fifteen buckets with peppers, thirteen grow bags with tomatoes, five grow bags with cucumbers, one with beets, one with carrots, one with a bush pumpkin, one with a bush watermelon, and one with sugar snap peas. 

The peppers are what I'm most interested in this year. With any luck, Cowboy Candy, pepper jelly, and a good amount of salsa will be added to the pantry. Past eating fresh tomatoes and making a few batches of salsa, I'm not sure what will be done with the tomatoes. We'll eat the watermelon, and I'll likely freeze the pumpkin puree. I tried canning pumpkin last year and never again. If I'm going to end up with mush, I'll just freeze mush. 

Will the harvest make me sorry I went on this journey? Perhaps, but the idea of having even a small amount of food in my pantry that I know has no preservatives in it is worth a little work. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor


June 11, 2021

Garden fail: Radishes

 This is my year to experiment and learn about container vegetable gardening. As I've mentioned, an in-ground garden would be decimated by the deer, so my focus is on what I can grow in my little garden corral. 

Here's the link to a video of the deer in our woods: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0JXEfL2vqk . As destructive as they are, we love watching them. 

It's a given that not everything I plant is going to prosper - case in point is the radishes. I purchased good seed from Burpees and got really good germination. It was downhill from there. 

Radishes are said to detoxify your blood, help lower blood pressure, boost immunity, and taste de-lish! I know not everyone agrees on that last item, but we like them. My plan was to serve up some fresh in a few salads and dehydrate the rest. Once dehydrated, they're stored in airtight containers until you re-hydrate them for use.  

But back to the garden fail. I did pull a few young radishes out for salad toppers, enough to be sad we missed out on the rest. 

Good seed germination doesn't equate to a good crop. Lots of things can go wrong like the gardener putting the grow-bag in the greenhouse and allowing the radishes to get too warm. Radishes are a cool weather crop, liking temperatures anywhere from about 40F to 70F. When the weather prognosticators predicted a hard frost, I set the bag in the greenhouse for protection - and then forgot to take it out the next morning. (There was NO frost, by the way.) And so the radishes died before their time. 

I'm disappointed, but I'll try again this fall. Radishes mature quickly so if I plant again about six weeks before our average first fall frost date, we should, hopefully, be able to harvest a nice little batch. 

Maybe, come fall, the radishes we harvest will look like the ones in the picture I ripped-off of the Internet and I can post a good photo for everyone else to use. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor



June 8, 2021

Trail cam provides proof of activity

 Last fall, on an impulse, I purchased an inexpensive trail cam to see what actually goes on in the backyard after dark. It's been both interesting and disappointing. 

We expected to get a lot of deer footage and we have. Unfortunately, there are times the trail cam doesn't activate until it's almost too late and we get a two-second blip. Other times it works the way we want it to. A few months ago it gave us a five-second video of a doe with a very bad limp. We agreed it was unlikely she'd survive the summer. Now, thanks to continuing footage, we can report she has healed and has just a slight limp. She was living alone in our woods but is once again traveling with her group. She can keep up with them when they run so we're hopeful all is well with her. 

We'd also hoped to discover where the foxes pass through the yard so we can set the Havahart trap for them. They've got to go. Not only would they eat Loki if they could catch him, but they carry a virus dangerous to dogs. 

And then there is the raccoon. The raccoons around here can carry rabies. He needs to be dispatched if we can catch him. Common sense says this one is probably fine since we don't see him during the day but it's a chance I don't want to take. I go outside with the dog after dark and I've had an unholy fear of rabies all my life. 

One thing I've learned is that I should download the footage from the trail cam more frequently. Clicking through thousands of images takes a lot of time. If I made it a weekly habit, it would only be a couple of hundred images to view. 

But sometimes the cam picks up some very strange wild life, something almost unexplainable. Something that amuses at least one of us. 

The Lord of the Manor does occasionally do a little work, and now he has proof.



The Lady of Holly Tree Manor



June 7, 2021

Now that the fragrance is gone

Every year I look forward to the peonies blooming. We like to sit on the front porch in the early morning before the sun lifts over the trees and starts to cook us, and the fragrance is wonderful. The peonies are a sort of homage to my grandmother and mother. They were fonder of the plants than I am, but I like the visible connection to them and to my younger years. When the peonies bloom, I hope any rain holds off for a week or so because rain ruins the flowers. This year, we got to enjoy the blooms and the fragrance for about ten days but now it's time to deadhead the bushes. 
 
An unfortunate side-effort of peonies are insects, notably bees and wasps. They, too, love the fragrance but I draw the line a coexisting with wasps. 

This morning, before the sun topped the trees, I got the clippers and went out to do the deed. Much to my surprise my helper, although four-footed and black, isn't who I expected. Loki doesn't care much for work. 

His idea of help could have gotten him hurt. Every time a leaf waved in front of his face, he took a swat at it. It didn't bother me but I doubt he'd have enjoyed it if the clippers caught his paw by mistake. 

In the end, the job was finished without bloodshed. Next spring will bring new blooms and I'll remind the cat he doesn't enjoy gardening. 

I doubt my words will have any influence on him at all.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor 



June 6, 2021

A light harvest: dill and spearmint


I would love to have a true herb garden. Herbs are lovely, fragrant plants just on their own, but they have genuine uses, too. I have memories of accompanying my great-grandmother into the woods and watching her fill her apron with mysterious green leaves. My mother used to drive up the mountain to one particular spot and cut some sort of mint for summer tea. She tried to transplant some year after year but it wouldn't grow in her garden. My problem is the deer and how they nibble on everything. 

Spearmint grows around the edges of my patio and I confess, by the end of summer I'm yanking it out like it's a weed. But this time of year, I'm harvesting the leaves for my summer brews. I like nothing better than to put a few spearmint leaves, a slice of lemon, and a chunk of real ginger in a water bottle and drink it down. 

I noticed this morning that the dill has reached the point where it will bolt and set seed if not cut, and the spearmint looked ready to flower. It was time for a little harvest. 

Both are easy to dry. I use a dehydrator, but you don't really need one. Chop and spread the dill out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and it will likely dry fine. You could also put it in the oven with the light on overnight. That little lightbulb creates more heat than you'd think. You can also tie the stalks together and hang the bundle upside down to dry, but I've found the little dill leaves can drop off and make quite a mess. 

My mother cut and hung spearmint, and that works great. I take a shortcut and use a dehydrator. Once the dehydrator finishes, I put the leaves in a quart mason jar with a moisture absorbing pack, vacuum seal it with the food saver gizmo, and store it. How long does it keep? I doubt there's a good answer to that. I keep mine until when I open the jar the fragrance is gone. 

One day soon I'll plant a proper herb garden, but until then I'm happy to have made even this light harvest. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor



June 5, 2021

Acquaintances and grape jelly

Yesterday, I decided to make a run through the Walmart grocery store to stock up on a few things and obtain an out-of-season produce item. The Lord of the Manor needed... okay he didn't NEED grape jelly, but he wanted it. I knew my local grocery didn't have Concord grapes, but a quick online check said Walmart did. We do prefer to buy locally, but asking him to wait until fall for his next peanut butter and jelly sandwich would have made a grown man whimper.  

So I'm roaming the aisles at Walmart and encounter an acquaintance. Upon learning I'm on vacation and looking forward to retirement, the old gal dissed me. SHE is never going to retire. SHE likes working (i.e. living under the rule of another). SHE will never "bother" with a garden as long as she can shop at Walmart. 

Well, excuse ME! 

I have two takeaways from that meeting. One, don't shop at Walmart at 9:00am on a Friday because she may be there, and two, I'm not the crazy one. 

I was happy to get home, restock the pantry, and make a batch of grape jelly with no additives or preservatives. I followed the Sure-Jel recipe and the jelly set as it cooled. Sure-Jel has never failed if I've used their formula. I do need to get a canister of pectin for "rebel" recipes, though. 

It wasn't until I lined up the jars I'm putting in the pantry for a picture that I realized I'd lined them up like bowling pins. Subliminal? Yep.

The lids I used are the Tattler lids. Tattlers are reusable lids made in the USA. I like the idea that they can be used over and over for as long as the gasket is okay. If the gaskets start to wear out, you can purchase a bag of them separately. Tattler lids seal just as well as regular one-use metal lids. The initial investment sounds like a lot - $11.00 for a dozen lids and gaskets, but it's a one-time outlay of cash. Metal lids that are used once and discarded, which can't be found in any store around here in June of 2021, need to be purchased time after time. It just makes sense to me to buy a few boxes of Tattlers as I go along. 

The day awaits. We have a market not too far away called Ivy Hill Farm. We're coming up on cherry season and I happen to like cherry jelly. Maybe I can convince the Lord of the Manor to take a little drive today if they have some available. It may be time to order another box or two of lids. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor










June 4, 2021

Brood X 2021

 They have arrived. Brood X. 

We've been hearing the cicadas singing for about a week, some to the south and some to the east, but none right on top of us. I think that's about to change. 

Yesterday, I went out to check the trail cam and pull any footage off it, and lo and behold, there was evidence of one of the little buggers hanging on the tree above the camera. It had shed its adolescence shell and is now on its way to breed as a bigger badder bug.

This morning, they're singing away! I suspect one of the cousins is now surrounded and by tomorrow, we will be, too. 

I remember the last time Brood X emerged, seventeen years ago. I didn't think much about the mystery and marvel of it at the time. This year, no matter how loud, I'm not going to complain. 

This may not happen again in my lifetime. It's a sobering thought. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

May 31, 2021

Oh, yeah. Meatballs.

 

Continuing on with my journey into the world of pressure canning, this morning I turned six pounds of ground chuck into five quarts of meatballs in beef broth. I'd hoped to get six jars, but I didn't allow for the way hamburger shrinks when cooked. Trust me, I know better. 

This is more of an experiment than the chicken breast. We like meatballs but they don't figure high in our meal rotation. If these have a good flavor and texture, that could change. I do like the idea of opening a jar and having the meatballs ready as compared to pulling them out of the freezer and have to not only heat them but thaw them first. Plus, they tend to dry out in the freezer no matter how well the vacuum seal holds. The jarred meatballs will not have that problem. 

To process the meatballs, I first formed them and put them in the oven for thirty minutes to render out the fat. Then they went into the jars while hot, and I filled the jars with hot beef bouillon broth. Remember - hot food goes into hot jars goes into hot water in your canner. Three hots. Meat of any kind in quart jars is then pressure canned for ninety minutes. You need to pressure can meat for it to be safe to consume. Do not water bath meat. 

The Lord of the Manor hasn't said too much about the meat canning. I think he's withholding judgment until I open a jar and use it in a recipe. I'm sure the next time we have spaghetti, there will be meatballs in the sauce. Beyond that, meatballs with mashed potatoes and gravy was a staple in my mother's menu rotation. I'm also thinking of meatball sandwiches and Swedish meatballs. The poor, misguided man has come to terms that just because I'm in the final countdown to retire, it doesn't mean I plan to make cooking to feed him my life. 

I do know that if the meatballs turn out the way I hope, I'll process more. Canned meat is shelf-stable meat. If the electricity goes out, we can eat meatballs or chicken. They might be cold, but the food will be pre-cooked and ready to eat. That's a win I can really get behind. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor




May 28, 2021

Ugly chicken? Nope. Beautiful chicken.


 Last summer, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I knew it was time to get serious and become a prepper. Not a doomsday prepper, but a prepared pantry prepper. I decided to follow in the footsteps of my grandmother and practice home canning. Never having used a modern pressure canner, I did what a lot of people do - I clicked over to YouTube and started watching. It didn't take me long to settle on a 23-quart Presto canner. 

One of the channels I watch belongs to a lady in Minnesota. She has quite the prepper pantry and I'm sure she needs it, living in a more northern clime. She does a lot of canning and puts out a lot of videos with some really good ideas so I watch regularly. Chicken is one of the things she cans, and she calls it "ugly chicken."

I did, too, until this morning. 

This morning I jarred sixteen pints of chicken. This meat is now preserved and is shelf-stable. A power outage won't thaw it out and ruin it. It's fully cooked and ready to eat, add to soups, add to potpies or casseroles, or drain and make chicken salad. 

No, there's nothing ugly about this chicken. It's beautiful.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

May 15, 2021

Outdoor living


I've always wanted to spend more time outdoors. I remember the summers of my youth when I was rarely indoors. My mother always had to come outside and bellow for me to come for what reason she had at the moment. My father instituted the porch light rule. I was to go nowhere in the neighborhood I couldn't see the porch light. When it came on, I was to come home. Yes, I grew up in a much different world - a country world. 

Adulthood stripped me of those carefree outdoor days, but retirement may just give them back. This is the year of some patio improvements. 

There are several reasons for installing an outdoor work/cook space. One - we can (yeah, that's a given). We enjoy grilling and since we screened the patio we can add eating outside. Before the screens, the insects kept us from truly enjoying outside dining. Another reason is so that I'll be able to do some of the canning outside and not risk damage to my solid surface stove. Our new work/cook station has a Formica countertop and that will be quite handy for all sorts of projects. Who doesn't love an easy clean work surface? 

And then there is the extra storage for a lot of gardening items and drawers for our outdoor grill implements, lids, oil, and more. 

I'm really looking forward to summer evenings on the patio this year. We may even break down and get a new television with a remote control that works. Of course, I'll need a good lounge chair if that happens. 

Somehow, I don't think that will be a problem.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor



May 14, 2021

The historic stone fence

 The north side of the manor is bordered by a tall and wide stone fence. I'm about five-foot-eight and it towers over me by a few feet. The best guess estimate is that it's at least twenty feet wide at the base. Yes, it's massive. 

One of the things I would love to do is to dry stack the section I can see from the patio and sunroom. It's never been stacked, so it will be quite a challenge. I've always loved artwork depicting medieval walled gardens. The same for the modern urban backyards featured in so many home and garden television programs. A walled garden has that unique blend of fresh air and privacy. I have plenty of both so maybe it's more of an aesthetic for me. 

My grandparents purchased the land I live on during the Great Depression for $236. They were more fortunate than most in that they both had jobs. One worked days and one worked nights and they didn't see each other at all Monday through Friday, but they did what was necessary. They made weekly payments to the man who sold them the land until the debt was paid. 

I refer to this stone fence as historic because it's actually listed on the property deeds going back into the 1800s when the manor was part of a land tract known as P--s Resurvey. When my grandfather first planted an orchard here, folks from the area would bring in stones by wagon and toss them on the stone fence. It was a local thing and certainly explains how the thing got to the size it is. 

I don't plan to stack the entire length of the stones. I'm not that crazy to attempt a job like that. I think a section behind the house, picnic table, and the firepit would be just enough. But if I get bored in some future time, or maybe get ambitious, expansion is always on the table. 

And I will be on the lookout for the not-so-friendly neighborhood Contortrix Agkistrodon. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor



May 9, 2021

Taking pantry inventory

 

We knew it would happen - we need to inventory the pantry. I keep a spreadsheet of what's in the dry pantry and what's in the freezer, but I get remiss about adding and subtracting items. Generally, this isn't a problem because the pantry isn't so huge we can't remember what's in it. Taking an inventory is more about refreshing the memory than updating a spreadsheet. That's not to say the spreadsheet isn't important. 

Our spreadsheet has both food and non-food items on it, and a couple of cross-referenced columns for things we buy only at Sam's Club and/or Costco. Theoretically, I should be able to check the spreadsheet and see if we need to make a run to the big box store but it only works if I keep the spreadsheet up-to-date, which I've admitted to doing a not-so-great job of. 

In this past year, we moved the pantry to an unused bedroom. The Lord of the Manor has some physical limitations and it's not safe for him to go up and down the stairs. Thankfully, our house is a rancher so building a shelving unit was both practical and easy for him. (Silver lining - the den is now all MINE.) The pantry is still growing as I add more home-canned items, but it will never be huge. If we have enough guests at once, plenty of room remains for them to sleep comfortably in that room and to easily grab a midnight snack of the Little Debbie of their choice. 

In the future, we will likely add to the spreadsheet. We don't really know everything we have in the shed or in the bins marked "electrical" or "plumbing." It's likely we often purchase little things like fittings when we should have checked the bins first. I have a lot of gardening stuff and I really should keep a list so I know what fertilizers and weed killers I have on hand, and how old they are. 

Taking the occasional inventory of the pantry is the only way I know to stay organized enough to be able to honestly say I'm saving time and money by having a working pantry. We won't go into detail about how well the pantry served us during the pandemic of 2020. Suffice it to say it did, and it's been worth all the effort we put into it.  

Take the time to plan a pantry and begin to work your plan. It won't happen in a week, or even a month. Building it to a good working level takes time, but it truly is worth it. If you'd like to know more about how we set about getting ready, you can visit the static page in this blog at Building the Pantry

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor


May 8, 2021

A magical moment


Yesterday, it was cloudy and rainy all day, and a bit chilly for May. The rain isn't all that worrisome. May is historically our rainy season. 

But then, about eight o'clock last evening, the sunlight found its way beneath the clouds and the manor simply glowed! The pictures do not do the moment justice. 

I was in my sunroom, which doubles as my office, and it was magical. There are some things a camera can't truly capture and this was one of those moments. Yes, you can see the streams of sunlight and how green the woods are in spring, but the glow is something you feel as much as see. 

And it was so quiet! Nothing stirred in the woods. No deer, no birds, no squirrels. For about five magical moments, the world was still. It was amazing. 


The Lady of Holly Tree Manor



May 7, 2021

I worked for that money


I sent my Federal tax return in weeks and weeks ago. As of yesterday, my refund has not been issued.

The Fed still has MY money. Okay - no they don't. They've given it to other people under the guise of "stimulus payment."

I do not like this. 

What can I do?

I've done it.

I've instructed the guy who does payroll where I work to deduct as little Federal income tax withholdings as is legally possible. I've already paid in a bundle and that's all they need from me since they won't issue my refund. 

Yes, I'll have to pay a wee bit when I file next year, but that's fine. I accept. 

Can you imagine if everyone working did this? Do you think the politicians would notice?

I'd move on to the State, but my refund came back promptly, so I'll let them slide - for now.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor



May 6, 2021

Strange bedfellows


The Second Amendment provides a mechanism for the people to overthrow the government by allowing the common man to own and use firearms. The right to bears arms, as it's stated. 

I'm someone who likes to eat food that I've preserved because I know exactly what is in the jar (and it's NOT chemical preservatives). 

So here we are at the beginning of the summer of 2021 and I can't buy ammo or canning jar lids. Now if that's not the strangest combination of shortages, I don't know what is. What's even stranger is that Blogger REFUSED to load a picture I'd titled "ammo."  

Ah, but is it really strange? I do not think so. You can call me crazy but I really think the "little guy" is under attack from all sides. 

Blogger also refused to upload the picture of canning jar lids at first. I had to do a screen snip. What the hell is so dangerous about canning lids? 

I'm getting very suspicious about some of these shortages. I live in the country and we have copperhead snakes for neighbors. I need bullets. And as for not uploading a picture of a bullet, I don't think a PICTURE can harm anyone. People are fucking nuts these days. The gun doesn't pull its own trigger.

As for the jar lids, it makes no sense at all that I can purchase all the jars I want (the jars come with lids and rings) but I can't get just the lids. I have jars. MASON JARS don't even need to be recycled! Just wash and re-use. Is it a problem that I want to can fresh veggies, make and can homemade salsa, and cowboy candy? Boy, that's a subversive activity. 

This is why we country folk turn into preppers and even hoarders. Manufacturers have no clue as to what is really important to us. We don't need no stinkin' diamond rings, Ubers, or meal delivery. We need everyday items like canning jar lids. 

I think we're all being played by the government and the people pulling the strings behind the government. They're setting us up for something big. 

Just saying. You know...while I'm still free to say it... 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor