April 18, 2021

'Tis spring!

Spring is a busy season at Holly Tree Manor. The outside work ramps up and the inside of the house suffers from a lack of attention. Thankfully, we're both old enough to know a couple of dog fur dust bunnies won't harm us but tall grass harbors critters that may. This past week I talked with the cousin as he was removing a little, relatively harmless, hognose snake he found "sleeping" under his pickup. The theory is the little guy was drawn there by the residual heat off the engine. It's definitely time to watch where I put my feet when Deuce and I are in the woods. 

Last weekend, I got the mulching done around the patio and along the front porch. There is a bit more to do after I replace a rose bush that died over the winter. That will happen sometime later today. 

The plan for the new patio grilling/canning/storage area has been finalized, at least in my mind. With lumber prices being what they are, we're purchasing pre-made cabinets and countertops for a fraction of the cost of building them. It's unreal. 

Yesterday, I made a sweep around the yard and picked up those sticks large enough to damage the John Deers 370 and tossed them on the brush pile. I got the front yard mowed and decided the back could wait a day. I wanted to get soil into the food-safe five-gallon buckets in preparation for getting the pepper plants outside. After filling the buckets, we made a fast trip to the garden center for another bag of Black Kow, some peat moss, and vermiculite. Burpee's sent me an email saying my strawberries should ship soon and I need to have soil ready for them. 

One of my biggest concerns this year is digging a drainage swale in the backyard. Our property is about one-third the way up the side of a mountain and we get a lot of water flowing through during hard rains. The earth isn't static and something above has changed enough that we have a developing problem. There's no way to prevent the water from draining through so we can only attempt to manage it. Thank heavens for the John Deere 1023. 

The list of things to do goes on, seemingly into infinity. Crossing one thing off the list adds two more. It's good to stay busy but it's also good to stop and enjoy what has been accomplished. I'm sure that will happen in a few weeks when the air warms to the point that I don't need to be active to keep warm. 

Until then, spring has sprung and I'll enjoy ticking items off my to-do list and marveling at the many shades of green. 

And adding things to the list. I just noticed it's time to tie the peonies. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

April 11, 2021

Pepper dreams

We're a big fan of peppers. We love peppers in all sorts of food dishes, stuffed peppers, Cowboy Candy, pepper jelly, and even savory bread. Last year, 2020, amid the COVID-19 crisis, I grew two pepper plants in grow bags and had more success than I'd ever had planting them in the ground. Hmmm. 

I purchased several sets of grow bags, some seed starter trays, good Burpee seed, and as of this morning I have thirty-three pepper plants happily growing in transplant cups in my sunroom office. I can't safely get out the door at the moment, but I don't care. I don't want to risk kicking a delicate transplant over and breaking it. I'll walk through the house to get outside for the next few weeks. Having happy peppers is more important. 

It does occur to me that peppers are hardly a crop to sustain us through a true food crisis. Well, I planted two fifteen-gallon grow bags with potatoes and those plants look hale and healthy. Again, not enough to sustain us for long. Living on the side of a mountain has a few drawbacks and flat land to have a proper garden is one, and the neighborhood deer is number two. That I'm still working is another consideration. My "drop dead" retirement date is May 31, 2022, so next growing season will likely look different. This year, I experiment and learn. 

The recipe I use for Cowboy Candy was pulled from the Living Traditions Homestead YouTube channel. Cowboy Candy isn't candy, but it's good. I drain the peppers, finely chop them, and mix them with a block of cream cheese for a dip to have with raw veggies or crackers. The Living Traditions Homestead channel contains a wealth of information about small to medium homesteads. We like to catch up with them on Saturday mornings while we enjoy our coffee. 

Today I must replant tomatoes. Unlike the peppers, none of the tomato seeds I planted germinated. It's hard to say why, but I purchased the seeds at a home center and not a specialty seller like Burpee's or Baker Creek. It's also possible the soil in the starter trays didn't get warm enough being that the peppers held the best spot. We shall see. 

Now I must get on with my day and stop writing about doing and actually go do. 

Maybe just one more cup of coffee and a few more searches for recipes that highlight peppers first. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

April 4, 2021

Walking season 2021

It seems like I've been waiting forever for the weather to turn spring-like, and today it happened. It seems appropriate as today is Easter 2021. It was 55F by about 9:30 AM so I loaded Deuce's carry bag with treats, my phone, the new video camera, and his leash, and off we went. Our destination was the pond loop. 

It's been several months since we last made that particular trek, December 13, 2020, to be precise. Unlike the last time, the creeks were running full and fast, and while I had to search for dryer crossings, Deuce was in Labrador Retriever heaven. Lots and lots of water in the creek hits his hot buttons and he jumps right in. His joy is my joy and it's wonderful to watch. Stare into Deuce's eyes and you know someone special is in there. 

Walking season 2021 will, I hope, see my journey to better health continued. Walking invigorates me, ergo, I tend to accomplish more of the things I like to do - like walking. It feeds my soul to get out in the woods away from the noise of the television, cars, and renter neighbors I wish would find another place to live. Easter Sunday is hardly a good day to terrorize the tax-paying homeowners with dirt bikes and ATVs. My family lives up here in solitude for a reason and it's called peace and quiet. But I digress...

Walking is good for me and for Deuce. The vet said he needs to lose two pounds and I'd like to lose at least ten this summer. So, off we will go. Shorter walks on workdays and longer walks on the weekends, weather permitting. The pond loop is almost three miles, and according to my Fitbit, has a lot of stairs. 

We have a new inexpensive video camera and I took it along on its maiden journey. The footage isn't very good but I learned a few things which was the point of the exercise. I'll be able to pull some still shots out and that will have to suffice. If I upload it to YouTube, it will be just to show the man of the manor, and I'll take it down after he's viewed it. It's that jumpy and jerky. Lesson one - turn on the control that helps stop the shaking. 

There were some things I didn't appreciate finding on my walk. The old trails have existed for over a hundred years and many have been commandeered by the Park Service for hiking trails. In and of itself this is not a problem, but people have no respect. The clean, unlittered trails of my girlhood are no longer unlittered. An empty Monster Energy can, a facemask, a plastic Mountian Dew bottle - you can't blame those on homesteaders forced by the State of Maryland to abandon their homes. 

This time of year it's easy to spot the old homesteads. The daffodils are blooming and it seems every old place had them. They live on, untended, and beautifully wild. They inspired me to separate a few clumps of my own daffs and replant the bulbs one-by-one in my own woods in the hope that in future years, they will remain, bright yellow and white on an Easter morning. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

March 27, 2021

A peep in the night

 What do you hear when you step outside after dark? Just yesterday I was thinking about the tiny peeper frogs that herald the arrival of spring and, lo and behold, last night I heard them singing for the first time in 2021. I think they are perhaps two or so weeks early, but I'm sure they know they're really right on time.

In the country, the sounds change with the seasons. Summer brings the sounds of noisy insects like cicadas and katydids, and the eerie bark of foxes. Autumn is the time when the little screech owls make their presence known as their calls join the rustling leaves. Winter’s sound is that of the cold wind whipping through the trees.  
And spring brings the chirping song of the tiny peeper frog.

It’s amazing such a tiny creature can create such a riotous cacophony of sound. They begin to sing as soon as whatever signal brings them out of their winter hibernation. One night, if you’re lucky, you’ll hear one or two crystal voices. Pause to enjoy it because the next time you hear the peepers, the sound will fill the night with such a din that identifying an individual voice is impossible.

In all my years I’ve not seen one of the nocturnal peepers. I don’t guess I ever will since I don’t plan to go out into the woods at night to locate their colony. (I'll leave that to the folks who took the picture.) But every year I step outside and listen because when the peepers sing, I know it is truly spring.

I dread the day I fear is coming when the peepers are no more. Our amphibians are threatened by the damage to and the shrinking of their habitat. We may be fortunate and become one of the few remaining enclaves for the peepers, salamanders, frogs, toads, and even the local reptile, the turtle. 

The night sounds are truly one of my favorite simple country pleasures. Nighttime in the country reveals, even as it conceals, a hidden kingdom. Long may it reign. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

March 26, 2021

Cat and dog, dog and cat

A lot of my memories are tied to what dog I had at a particular time. There was Rebel, the dog of my childhood. Reba graced my teen years. Then there's a bit of a gap when I married for the first time and was absorbed in growing up. Then came the Callahan years - my companion after that first marriage ended and I lived without a human companion for many years. After Callahan, there's another short gap while I grieved the loss of a true and faithful friend. Life doesn't give you many of those, so treasure them. Then came the Jett years, and now we live in the time of Deuce. 

Ah, Deuce. Is it because he's with me now or because he IS so very special. He's far and away the most intelligent dog I've ever known. The philosophical may have to wait. 

Spring is finally here on the manor. It was above sixty degrees Fahrenheit when I arose at six o'clock this morning and that's a very good sign. I'll have to go outside after dark this evening and listen for the peeper frogs - the real harbingers of spring. 

Regardless of the season, mornings with Deuce don't vary. I get up and let him out and back in, then shower and dress. Once dressed, he and I head out for a short morning stroll during which he completes his outside activities for the morning. Being a warm morning, Loki accompanied us today. 

Loki is a fine little feline who believes he's a lion or at least a big cat. He's not. At only ten pounds, he's the smallest cat I've ever owned. But he is the most ferocious. 

We stopped long enough for me to snap a couple of pictures of the daffodils and snowglories, and Deuce and Loki put on a little show for me. I would have filmed it had I know they were about to perform, but they gave me no warning. Who knew Loki would leap from his perch and the dog would run? For about ten paces, and then the game got switched and Loki ended up in a maple tree. It may not amuse a city dweller, but my boys having fun gave me a good laugh to start the day. 

Thank you, dog and cat. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

March 24, 2021

A lighting upgrade

I think I'm fortunate in that even after almost forty years, I still like my little house in the woods. It's not a mansion by any stretch of the imagination, but it's MY manor house. I wonder what my grandparents would say if they knew I was still here, so many years after their passing. 

Like anyone who lives in a beloved house for a long time, after a while, some things start to wear on the eyes. In my case, it was a pair of light/fan fixtures in the dining room and kitchen. They were installed in the early nineties when ceiling fans were entering a revival and gold trim was everywhere. I've wanted to get an updated look for many years, but true to the Yankee side of the family, I thought it was foolish to spend the money to replace perfectly operational equipment. 

I had a "snapping" moment when I spotted a pendant light that was just what I wanted but didn't know that until I saw it.

One of the few renovations we've done was to remove the L-shaped bar between the kitchen and dining room and replace it with an island. I've always wanted a light above the island but didn't want to give up the custom pot rack we built for over it. A pendant light was always the solution but I never saw one I really liked enough to cut a hole in the drywall for - until now. And the bonus was finding a fan/light combo that matches.

The new fans and pendant light are in and I love the look. The darker finishes work perfectly with the granite counters. Taking down the pot rack so the brother-in-law could do the electrical work gave us a much-needed push to rearrange the pans and lids and run the crystal stemware through the dishwasher. Everything is back in place and shiny clean. 

Installing new lights doesn't sound like it would be a big change but it was just what we needed this spring. The COVID-19 pandemic has had me working from home and it's helped me settle on a few changes for my nest. There is a silver lining to everything. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

March 20, 2021

A reliable, hardworking tool - the log splitter

We've had our log splitter for a good number of years, well over twenty, and we've split cord after cord after cord of firewood with it. These days, it's looking a little worn. 

With my retirement just around the corner, it's time for us to decide if we have the mobile repair guy come and give it a bit of a re-build or should we spend the money on a new one? 

There are a lot of options out there we didn't have twenty years ago. Now we can look into one that runs off the PTO on the John Deere, not that I really want that hassle. What I would like to have is one where you can roll the rounds onto a tray that the machine lifts up to the splitting rail. 

So I think that's my answer right there. It's time to retire the old splitter and get a new one that won't be so hard on my back. Maybe the mobile machine guy will want the old one for parts. It's worth asking, isn't it?

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

March 18, 2021

This is going into the menu rotation: Hamburger Hash

 Being fair, I have to admit the spousal's love of the food channels on YouTube is beginning to pay dividends. The latest find is from Chef John's Food Wishes channel. This is the same Chef John that brought us Chicken Parmesan a few months ago. 

Hamburger Hash. This is pretty much what the name of the dish implies with very simple with pantry-shelf and freezer items. 

I got some very lean ground beef for this. Chef John gives amounts of everything, but we're more of a "that looks about right" pair of cooks. So I got the pack of burger that looked about right for a meal for two. 

Step one - brown the burger in some olive oil and butter. Remember the burger is very lean so there's not much fat. Once the burger is browned, add a diced potato, or in our case, what was left in a bag of frozen hash browns. We try to be frugal.

Once the taters are have reached the beginning to get soft stage, add in onions and bell peppers in the amount that looks right for your taste buds and let everything continue to brown.

Chef John recommends salting between each ingredient addition, which we did. To finish the seasoning we added cayenne pepper and rosemary to taste. Chef John topped his hamburger hash with a poached egg while we went over easy. 

Oh, my, was it delicious! 

We've added this to our meal calendar to pop up once every five months. We think that will be a good spacing for this dish. 

The Lady of the Manor

March 16, 2021

I hit the X!

There really is no excuse for what a law-abiding citizen in the State of Maryland has to go through to purchase a handgun. 

I've been fingerprinted and my prints sent to the state police and the FBI. They found nothing. OF COURSE they found nothing. I'm a law-abiding citizen. 

I had to take a four-hour safety course on how to handle a gun. Did I get to handle a gun? Nope. I watched the instructor handle a gun. I don't have a gun so I had no hands-on instruction. 

I got to test fire a handgun a sum total of eight times. Not my gun. Not the gun I have to learn to handle. Not the gun I need to know how to break down and clean, put back together so it doesn't blow up in my face, and load and unload. Nope. 

Why didn't I get to learn how to handle my gun? Because I can't purchase it until the paperwork comes through. How fucking stupid is that? 

I got to pick up the instructor's gun and fire at a target. 

Yeah, baby. I hit the X in the center. 

Then the spousal unit fired the gun eight times. He let me win, I'm sure, because he didn't hit the X. 

Laws really are only for honest people, and they punish honest people in the stupidest ways. Honest, law-abiding citizens do not buy a handgun to shoot another person. They purchase it to shoot venomous snakes and rabid raccoons. Or go to the brother's backyard and plink at targets stuck on a bale of straw. Or fire a few shots in the ground to scare off a flock of blackbirds. 

I'm more of a threat to others when I get behind the wheel of my very fast, zero to sixty in a few seconds, corner on a rail, four-thousand-pound car that can flatten your ass into the pavement. Not that logic rules in this world. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

March 12, 2021

I don't often see this - stunted daffodils

The first daffodils of 2021 are up and in bud. They're a bit stunted from coming up under snow, but still a welcome spring sight. 

I confess I've never before seen such short little beauties. The only explanation for it is the snow cover we had for such a long time, which is not usual in our micro-climate. I'm eager to see if they shoot up in height before they open or if they'll open as they are.

There are other daffodils up, but none had buds on yet. Did the snow insulate these? Is it just a nice warm and sunny spot? Mother Nature loves to do things like this and I'm happy to have spotted them and to enjoy yet another simple country pleasure. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

March 11, 2021

Volunteer crocus are always welcome

The first crocus of 2021 are open! I didn't plant them where they are but that hardly matters. I was delighted to spot them on my afternoon walk. 

I used to have a lot more crocus scattered about the manor, and I think I'll purchase a bag or two of bulbs the next time I see them. Driving up to the house and seeing the crocus blooming in a wave across the woods gave me a happy feeling. I'm sure now that I'm home more, seeing crocus happily blooming everywhere will make me even happier! 

Seeing the crocus tells me it's time to start paying attention to what's coming up. The little blue snow glories should make an appearance any day now. They've multiplied over the years to where they make quite a showing. I've thought, many times, I need to dig a few of those tiny bulbs and plant them at the top of the lot. They will self-seed and like all plants, the seeds tend to do better heading down a hill. 

It really is the simple country pleasures that make life enjoyable, at least at Holly Tree Manor. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

March 10, 2021

Legal gun ownership in Maryland

Both the spousal unit and I grew up around guns. We were both taught proper respect and handling at an early age. The men in my family were predominately military and hunters, the men in his family military with only a few hunters. We recognize guns, or any weapon, are tools to be used properly.

We've been hearing for years - most of our lives if the truth be told - that it needs to be more difficult to buy a legal firearm. For whom exactly? What fucking idiot believes a criminal will try to legally purchase a firearm? 

Second amendment rights? YOU BET. The second amendment is about the right to overthrow the government if it seizes too much power away from the people. The part that says the people have the right to bear arms to use to do this is the problem politicians have with it. Think long and hard about that. 

Disarm the populace and politicians don't need to fear the populace. Think long and hard about that. 

But this isn't about skanky politicians beyond the fact that they're desperately trying to make it more difficult for a law-abiding citizen to have a gun.

I'm getting a license to purchase a handgun. 

I plan to purchase more than one and stockpile some ammo.

I would prefer the spousal unit to get the license, but he's disabled. Getting him to be digitally fingerprinted, to a safety class, to the firing range, etc., isn't possible. Handicapped accessibility my ass. Where would that be? And so it falls on me.

We live in the woods. Last summer a raccoon strolled onto the patio in broad daylight. Himself was trapped, unable to flee the beast or to defend himself. I was at work and called the Sherriff's department to help him. What a fucking joke. No help came. I got home as quickly as I could and got him to safety.


Raccoons out in the daylight are generally rabid. This can't happen again. He will have a handgun in his saddlebag for his own protection. 

I have to assume all you folks who want handguns melted down would rather see him die a horrible, agonizing death from rabies than protect himself. I don't think much of you and your ilk. 

Getting a license to purchase a handgun in Maryland isn't all that easy, nor is it cheap. You need to get digitally fingerprinted- $50 and up. You need to take a safety class - $100 and up. You need to fill out an application - $10 and up. Cost of the firearm - $300 and up. 

I'm not a criminal. I don't have a criminal record. A criminal has to do nothing but pay someone for a gun. 

As a law-abiding citizen, I must endure a protracted and expensive process to obtain a weapon for my family's protection. 

The reason for that? The money it generates for the government. 

Follow the money - always. Think about that. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

March 9, 2021

Our littlest holly tree is doing okay

The winter of 2020 is mere days away from being officially over. We have twelve days to go until the spring equinox and I must say I'm definitely ready for it. 

The littlest holly on the manor (that I'm aware of, anyway) survived the winter in fine style. I'm happy to note it has grown a good bit since I first discovered it. I'm guessing it doubled in size since last April.

If I were brave I give it a shot of fertilizer but I need to go do some reading about hollies first. Even a little might be too much, or it may encourage too much growth too fast. It's always better to admit what you don't know and remedy your lack of knowledge. 

Over the coming days, Deuce and I will once again fight our way along the old tractor path to the southwest corner of the manor. When we get there, I'll be on the lookout to see if any other hollies are growing and mark them with reflectors so that as we clear the old path, we don't remove any youngsters by mistake. What would Holly Tree Manor be without holly trees?

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

March 7, 2021

The first seeds of 2021 are planted


Yesterday was a busy day here on the manor. Saturdays are frequently filled with bits and pieces, drips and drabs of chores, and other small items that need attention. Most Saturdays it's a shared half-hour over a cup of coffee and we set off in our own directions for a few hours. I had one thing on my "must do" list and that was plant pepper seeds. 

There was a more pressing item, however, and I did see to that as soon as I had on shoes. We had to replace the sump pump this past week and the discharge hose needed to be secured, something I didn't do the other night. Because it was night. Like after ten o'clock. Why do these things always wait until after dark to go bad? We had a replacement pump on hand, but could it not have waited until the weekend to die? Nooooo. Anyway, I securely zip-tied the discharge hose and moved on to playing in the dirt. 

It's been a good many years since I tried to have more than a pot or two of tomatoes. Last year I had some small success with tomatoes, peppers, and a cucumber vine, enough so that I'm expanding this year. I have seeds for peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, pumpkin, and watermelon, as well as a few herbs which I plant every year. Basil is a wonderful plant to have on the patio. 

I found some small seed starter trays that have a dial in the lid to help humidity escape. They seem like a good idea for me since I've had issues with damping-off in previous years. Each planter has twelve sections. I planted bell pepper seeds dried from last year, Ring Leader jalapeno, Biker Billy hot peppers, and Great Stuff sweet peppers. I hope the mix of Ring Leader and Biker Billy will make some awesome cowboy candy. If, of course, the usual curse of being able to grow peppers was truly broken last summer. We shall see.

I also have a new celery re-grow started. In just a day it's sending up a bit of new growth. It will join the other three re-grown stalks in the greenhouse in about two weeks. 

The plan for today is to plant the basil and dill seeds in cherry red pots that I'll keep in the sunroom for the next several weeks. Once the sprouts are of a size to have good leaves, I'll transfer them to the greenhouse for a few more weeks, and then it will be time to set them on the patio to enjoy and harvest.

Also on the agenda is to put together three more racks/trellises to support growing veggie plants this summer. I'd also like to get the snowblower off the John Deere 1023, and my grow bags filled with a soil mix. Things go so much smoother when you stay ahead of what needs done. 

Spring is an exciting time on the manor. We know we won't accomplish everything in one weekend, but sometimes we try. Stay tuned. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

March 6, 2021

Canning "homemade" chili

Observing my grandmother as she home-canned food was one thing. Doing it myself is something altogether different. Mam made it look so easy - and it is, up to a point. I never appreciated the time that goes in to stocking the pantry with a variety of homemade foods, but I know it's worth every minute spent.

Mam used to pressure can venison. That's not something I'm likely to do unless the world keeps going the way it is and we can't purchase beef. At that point, the small herd of deer that passes through the manor every day on their way to the creek might be at risk, but that's another story. Today's story is about canning homemade chili, or chili con carne if you insist. 

Our chili is homemade only in that we open the store-bought cans at home. We start by browning two pounds of lean ground beef and then draining and rinsing it before dumping it in the pot. Then we add beans - kidney beans, black beans, and white beans (cannellini or great northern). After that, in goes diced tomatoes, one can of cream of tomato soup, and lately, a can of chili starter. Seasonings to taste follows as the chili warms.  As you can tell from the picture, I'm not brand specific. I look for bonus buys and advantageous bulk buys on canned goods. 

Into the stockpot it all goes until everything is heated through. Since this batch was to be processed, I didn't allow it to simmer for hours. Once in the jars, it needs to be pressure canned for ninety minutes and I think precludes the need for simmering. 

I ended up with enough chili to fill six one-quart jars, so I added a jar of water to fill up the canner. This becomes a jar of sterilized water which is handy to have for first aid or water-quality failures. Think about that one. You'll note I used a Tattler lid on the jar of water. 

Canning a batch of chili was a labor-intensive process, but well worth it. I'll do it again once this batch has been consumed. I won't tell you how to do it. I recommend you go to the food preservation website and read the information on canning meat found there.

What I will tell you is that I continue to be in awe of my maternal grandmother. She taught me so much without me ever realizing I was getting a lesson. Sometimes I'm sad I have no one to whom I can pass on her knowledge, but that's the way it is. I have no connection to the future, only the past. Which makes my life a rosy place to dwell.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

March 5, 2021

Have we made it?

 Have we made it through to spring 2021? I'd like to think so. In fact, we're counting on it. 

Getting a snowfall in March is not uncommon where we live. Getting one that drops more than an inch or three is a bit rare. Just a couple of inches is an annoyance, not an inconvenience that restricts my travel. 

The time has come. The snowblower is coming off the John Deere 1023 and the loader and bucket are going back on. 

I'm willing to roll the dice this year. 

We'll just have to wait and see how it works out. Maybe I'll get a video of the removal procedure. Something else we'll have to wait and see about. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

March 1, 2021

And sometimes we get an "oops"

The spousal unit frequently cooks for us, and when he sets himself to the task, he can do rather well. Over the last several years he's started to bake bread and has branched out to English muffins, biscuits, hamburger rolls, dinner rolls, and now pita pockets. It's sort of amazing to me that he decided to start baking just as I decided to cut back on carbs, especially breads. Maybe that's another blog entry for some distant day. 

Some of his inspiration comes from YouTube channels. If he sees it being done it makes sense to him. A printed recipe is not a "how to" as far as he's concerned. I agree.

So it was pita pockets the other day and it turned into an expensive endeavor for him. 

The enamel over cast iron skillets do not come cheap. 

Never use a rubber spatula in a hot skillet. If you melt it, the rubber won't come off and it's not something we should ignore and subsequently ingest. 

The new skillet is on the way. He's paying for it. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

February 21, 2021

Watching the sun-line sweep across the manor

Sometimes the sunrise is more about looking west and watching the line of brighter light hit the trees and creep closer and closer until the sun suddenly peeks over the top of the mountain to the east and the manor turns bright and sunny. 

It's just one of the many ways to enjoy a country morning. We don't notice this much in winter, being at we prefer to stay cozy inside the house. Watch the sun-line creep closer is more of a summertime activity if we're up and on the patio early. 

Whatever the time of year, watching the manor come alive in the morning is a great joy, one I never tire of. I fervently hope that when I'm "retired" I remember to sit quietly and watch it instead of bolting out the door to tend to the garden or some other chore. 

Life is too short to let the little things go unnoticed. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

February 20, 2021

Backing up the photo files

 Let me give you an idea of how old I am. 

I remember film. You know, that stuff you loaded into a camera without allowing bright light to hit it. I remember Kodak's instant developing film, too. I even have a few surviving examples of those. 

My very first camera was a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye. I'm pretty sure it was old and used by the time my grandfather gave it to me. He would load the film for me. Then the camera was held down in front of you at waist level so you could see through this tiny round hole. I thought I was a big dog taking pictures until I'd used all twelve spots on the film. Then Pop would remove the film and take it to be developed. He may or may not bring a fresh roll of film home when he dropped off the exposed roll. Money didn't flow back in those days, not like it does now. 

Pop fostered my interest in a wide variety of activities. Where my parents thought I was "scattered," Pop saw something more. He saw me soaking up information about everything that passed in front of me and everywhere he took me. He was, and still is by far, the most influential person in my life. 

Taking pictures is much easier than it was back in the nineteen sixties. Everyone has a cell phone and digital pictures are easy to store. Just transfer the file to your computer or the cloud. I don't even know if I could find film to purchase for my old Pentax ME Super. 

What precipitated this blog is the newest backup of my photo files. I was using a couple of older jump drives and decided I needed to get one single stick with enough capacity for all of it. 

Holy cow...

I have almost 11,000 files on the hard drive. That translated to about 44 GB of pictures. Apparently, the man of the manor is correct. I really do keep everything. 

But then, so did Pop.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

February 19, 2021

Downed trees supply firewood

In all the years we've lived at Holly Tree Manor, we've only bought firewood once. That was strictly a thing of convenience, not lack of resources. We wanted to allow what we had split from on the manor to season for another year. 

We rarely even need to cut down a living tree just for firewood. Enough large limbs come down to allow us to build our woodpile throughout the year. During the summer, we keep an eye out for trees that have naturally died and those we harvest. 

A couple of summers ago, a large cherry tree uprooted and crashed to the ground in the middle of a dark and windy night. We'd been watching it, thinking perhaps it wasn't in the best of shape and sure enough - BOOM! This year, it will meet with my Stihl 192.

I've mentioned this downed tree before when one of the local bucks used it as a rub. The scars are still on the trunk but it's more difficult to tell what caused them than when the rub was fresh. 

Depending on how dry the wood is, we'll either stack the rounds to continue to dry, or go ahead and split it. Performing this task in the summer, I'd prefer to stack the rounds and wait for cooler weather to do the splitting. The optimal thing would be to leave the tree where it is until next fall, but we really need to be able to do some weed control in that area. The green briars look to be gaining on us. 

And If you think we should simply allow this huge tree to decompose, I have a caution for you. Termites like decaying wood. Would you coax them to come in close to your house? I thought not.

This land has been providing for my family for over one-hundred years now. I'm very blessed to be its steward. I hope those who come after me will do the same. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

There's video of our young buck here.


February 16, 2021

Can you read? KEEP LEFT!

Once again my faith in our education system has been validated. 

I posted a KEEP LEFT sign to help delivery truck drivers keep from sliding into the lower stone fence, or worse sliding OVER the stone fence and down a fifteen-foot drop. And, by the way, there's no driving away if you drop over that ledge. It'll be time to call for a rotator tow truck to lift your ass out of there. 

"Keep Left." The sign even has an arrow pointing to the left for those people confusing their left with their other left. It's not difficult at all. 

So far, ONE delivery driver has gone left. One woman out of all the drivers can actually read. Should I be impressed?

I've done my part. You idiots are on your own.

If you can read this, thank a teacher that you didn't become a driver for Amazon, UPS, FedEx, or a postal worker. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

February 15, 2021

Let there be light!

Our lane is nine hundred seventy-five feet long. I'm not guessing. I know. It was measured by myself and the contractor when he scraped off the topsoil and then brought in truckload after truckload of stone. It was an expensive endeavor, and to his credit, he didn't want to charge me for more than I got. Well, that and he knew my grandfather watched him like a hawk waiting to pounce at the first sign of price gouging. So we measured it. 

In the country, it's dark at night. There are no street lights to illuminate the way, just the moon and stars. Here lately, I've come to need more. Deuce is now five years old, and he's suddenly more adventurous when we go out last thing before bedtime. His fur is black as coal and he vanishes from sight far too often for my liking. The solution is solar-powered, motion-detecting lighting installed along the lane. 

I resisted doing this for a long time, but our thinking changes as we get older. And, of course, the solar-powered option didn't exist forty years ago. 

The first set of lights were easy to install. I screwed the bracket onto a large tree and set the fixture in place. Done! It worked the very first night and has worked perfectly since. I'm up to having four lights along the lane and I'm pretty sure there will be more added. 

As they only stay on for thirty seconds, I don't worry about "light pollution." The world has enough of that. The motion detector senses movement, being myself or Deuce, and the lights come on to illuminate our way and then shut off behind us. I wouldn't have it any other way. 

I'm not sure what the fox thinks about all the light. Maybe it will convince him to move into someone else's woods. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

February 13, 2021

February snow, a winter's peace

 If the truth be told, I don't mind snow at all. Nature has a way of taking care of the earth and snow is just a part of it. Snow is really a marvel. It's been suggested that in the beginning, there was no rain upon the earth, just the firmament that kept everything in balance. I didn't live back then so I can't swear to any of it. 

Snow is one of the perks of living in the country. We've had snow on the ground for about two weeks and it's just as beautiful as the day it blanketed the earth. It hasn't turned gray and dingy from too many cars and buses, and too many people stomping it down to mush. 

On February 7th, we woke to falling snow. I had to wait for daylight to go outside and get pictures, but it was worth it. On what would have been my grandfather's one-hundred-eleventh birthday, the snowfall created a white cathedral here on the land he loved in his honor. I believe his spirit was here to see it. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

February 6, 2021

Holly Tree Manor #100 - Where next?

A little over a year ago I started Holly Tree Manor. I was concerned that too much of my "real" life seeped into the pages of Between the Keys and that perhaps it was of no interest to my readers. I've continued to blog at Holly Tree Manor and find myself at the time to write blog entry number one-hundred.  

Number one-hundred puts me at the point where I decided the decision to open the blog to my readers or keep it as a much-needed journal would be made. 

Journaling is a useful tool. Social workers and other mental health support personnel often suggest journaling as a way to get in touch with your innermost feelings. For me, it's more of a way to remember my feelings at a particular moment in my life. It helps me keep my thoughts organized. 

Holly Tree Manor is about my day-to-day life outside of writing. By that I mean I don't blog about my word count. Who really needs to know I wrote 1017 words in a manuscript before I closed the file and went to Between the Keys, Deuce's Day, or here to relax?  

Not everyone has the need to compartmentalize their life in as much detail as I seem to need to do it. I wonder if the joy I have in my dog, Deuce, my love of living in the country, the satisfaction I feel when I practice the old-time skills my grandmother taught me - are these things that people want to know about? Do they care about my concerns for the future? Do my opinions matter? Will my opinions turn off my readers to the point they will no longer support my books? Can I really lay myself bare to the world? These are questions I don't have the answers to and that is why Holly Tree Manor has been kept separate. And silent. 

There has been a lot of division in the world lately. I'm feeling the brunt of it as there are sweeping changes being made that will impact the quality of my life. My RURAL life. It is as though my entire family no longer matters. Our simple way of life no longer matters. I'm paying taxes to support a government that no longer supports me and my family, but instead is taking from us. I am in distress. 

I know I am not alone in my distress. Those who see a dystopian future are stupidly hell-bent on bringing it to pass. I have maybe twenty years left to live in this natural realm and for the first time in my life, I'm not afraid of dying. I UNDERSTAND why people choose to die when their world collapses around them. I'm more frightened of owning that understanding than actual death. 

So where do I go from here? Do I open Holly Tree Manor blog up and in turn open myself and my country life to the ridicule of city dwellers and urbanites? Do I force myself to cease worrying and share the blog in the hope that it will resonate with some people? Are one-hundred blog entries enough and should I say goodbye? 

It appears I have no answers at all.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

February 3, 2021

How to measure a snowfall using a milk can

Two of my most prized possessions are the old metal milk cans that sit on the porch outside my sunroom office. They belonged to my grandparents and when Pop said he needed to get them "out of the way," I jumped. I brought them home, cleaned and scraped the rust off with a wire brush, and shot them with a couple of coats of Rustoleum spray paint. That was forty years ago now. 

They're different in that one is short and squatty and the other taller - more like antique lovers would expect to see in a milk can. They aren't placed with any great care. I move them around all the time but I always make sure one of them is out from under the eaves. For decades, when it snows, I open the door and stick a ruler down to see how much snow has fallen. 

The man of the manor used to scoff at this. He didn't believe the milk can could be accurate, but winter after winter my measurement has matched his, and I didn't need to put on boots to trudge outside to take mine. Yesterday, when the snow finally ceased falling, I measured a firm nine inches of snow. The man of the manor got the same number on the walk that leads to the patio on the other corner of the house.

The milk cans are more than a country porch decoration and occasional snow gauge. They are a daily visual reminder of my grandparents and because of that I will never part with them. They remind me of a sunlit fall day when my Pop settled his Orioles ballcap tighter on his head and said he'd better start the tractor and get them up the lane to my new house before I changed my mind. 

As if I would, Pop. 

The Lady of the Manor

February 2, 2021

And it snowed!

It's February and it's snowing. That's nothing new. The February full moon isn't known as the Snow Moon just on a whim. I stepped out onto my patio this morning at six o'clock and this was my view - a study in darkness and light.

The world was completely still, save for the falling snow. There was no wind, no sound. It was truly a visual delight. 

The snow is beautiful as it falls and as it covers the manor in a pristine white. This is the first time in several years we've had a snowfall last three days. Luckily, the flakes are powdery and accumulation a fraction of what it could be for a three-day event. The last time I measured we were at about eight inches. It does appear to be slowing and the radar shows it is about past us. Now the fun begins.

It's drawing close to high noon as I write this, and that is the time I've set for myself to put on my winter gear and fire up the John Deere 1023 and snowblow the lane clear. It won't take too long. One pass out and back in does the job. I only need to clear off enough snow to help it melt and to walk to the mailbox and back. The Silverado doesn't really need the snow cleared to drive it, but a faster melt is important for my Charger, which I won't even bother to clean off at this point. I will not drive it until the roads are completely bare. 

Having the John Deere has made life a lot easier. In years past, even with a four-wheel drive, I parked at the end of the lane and walked in and out. I wish we'd gotten a tractor two-decades ago, but everything happens in its own best time. Living in the country teaches that lesson, and it's one we on the manor willingly embrace. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

January 31, 2021

Vegetable soup ala the Ball Book

Vegetable soup is a staple in the country pantry. In my grandmother's house, leftover veggies were never discarded. Dropped into the massive chest freezer in the "old kitchen" and forgotten, yes. But tossed out - never. Every fall Mam would dig all the leftover bits of vegetables out of the freezer and make a huge vat of vegetable soup to can. I can't speak for other family members, but I always thought it was pretty cool to come from work and open my mailbox to find a quart of home-canned soup waiting for me. 

I've made a lot of vegetable soup in my life but I've always frozen it. Until recently, I didn't own a pressure canner. Having worked outside the home since I was sixteen, I needed to take the quick route to get food into the pantry and that's freezing it. My time is spent differently now and my priorities have settled more on a home-based lifestyle. 

The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and Canning is an invaluable resource. I do wish I'd gotten the spiral-bound version, though. I'm not in the affiliate program so don't be afraid to click the link to Amazon and check it out. It has recipes and canning times for a lot of foods. If one is going to can, one should READ the book and learn. 

Yesterday was the day I decided to make vegetable soup. I used the Ball Book recipe as my guide, but I did add a few extras. I had a beef shoulder that I cooked in the Instant Pot and shredded to add to the soup. I also dumped in a twelve-ounce can of V8 juice to pump up the flavor. Same with the four cubes of beef bouillon I tossed into the mix. The soup was a great way to use up quite a few little baggies of leftover veggies. 

The soup made and into the jars, the canning process took a couple of hours. The canner has to come up to pressure in a particular order, then process at the correct pressure for ninety minutes (for this soup), and then bleed off pressure slowly. I ended up with seven quarts of soup, which is what my canner holds for one processing. I used one wide-mouth jar with a Tattler lid and six regular jars with the standard Ball lids. All six of the Ball lids have sealed and I'll find out about the Tattler lid after twenty-four hours are up and I can remove the ring. The was no siphoning from any of the jars so I'm pretty sure the Tattler sealed, too. 

It was a good day's work. I had time to take Deuce on a walk while the soup simmered. I also finished the powdered spinach and tossed a load of laundry in the washer, not to mention composing three blogs. Yes, there is always something to do here at the manor, and I love it. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

January 30, 2021

Yes, he's going to eat spinach


The spousal unit hates spinach. To him, it's nothing more than a slimy mess. His aversion to cooked spinach carries over to fresh spinach in salads, too. There is no accounting for personal tastes in food, so instead of arguing with him about it, I've generally just not served spinach to him. It's not difficult to add spinach to only one salad, but I confess I've been annoyed when doing it. But I may have it upon a solution. 

Transitioning into a home-based lifestyle means learning some new things. YouTube is a wealth of information. We've enjoyed watching Living Traditions Homestead for a little over a year, and it's led to finding and watching a raft of homesteading, gardening, and food preserving channels. One that crossed my path is The Purposeful Pantry. The host is keen on dehydrating and she does some interesting things. When she dehydrated spinach down to a powder, I took notes. 

Spinach powder. How interesting. I bet a tablespoon of spinach powder in soups and stews will go totally unnoticed by Himself. Same for in a quiche. I deemed it worth a try and got two pounds of organic spinach at Sam's Club for under $5 and set to work. Last evening I washed and drained all of it, and then spread it out on my dehydrator trays, set the machine on high, and went to bed. This morning I had five trays of really crunchy spinach leaves. 

Next step - I put the leaves in a bowl and manually crushed them until they were a bit finer. Then I used my coffee grinder to make a powder. The net result is about three-quarters of a half-pint jar of powder. I added one moisture removing packet and set the jar in the pantry. I'll need to give the jar a shake every day for the next week or so to make sure the packet is doing its job, but that's it. A simple way to get the vitamins and minerals in spinach into our diet. Bonus fact - it takes up virtually no room on the shelf and none in the freezer. 

I'm calling this adventure a success!

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

January 24, 2021

The sap is rising

January is historically our coldest month here on the manor. Being in the Mid-Atlantic region, you could say our "cold" is relative. We rarely dip below 0F, but the low 20sF is not uncommon in January. With that said I do remember January of 1994 with no fondness. It got to -22F (yes, minus) and I had to walk in and out my lane due to the ice. To drive it risked an unfortunate encounter with the creek, as in it's difficult to stop on ice especially if your Blazer is pointed downhill! But anyway...

It's the third Sunday in January and the temperatures are hovering exactly where they should, dipping into the upper teens overnight and rising to the thirties or forties during the day. Today it's right around the freezing mark, but we have a front moving in that could bring us snow later tomorrow. Cold or not, Deuce and I went out to do a perimeter check of the property and we found good news! The tips of the maple trees are starting to show red. And not just one or two maples - all of them.

While that's definitely good - and appreciated - news, we still have the rest of January, February, and March to slog through. February is a wet month, and March is wet and windy. I could spend the afternoon going around picking up downed sticks and building a brush pile to burn, but it's still too early and too cold for that. 

And so I sit in my warm sunroom office and write. From my vantage point, the far hillside has taken on a pink blush. I even used the binoculars for a closer look. Spring is coming. Now we wait to see how fast she will arrive. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

January 20, 2021

Lemon Drop Jelly -this is getting out of hand

 Today was another one of those days when I "worked at home" for the day job. I actually did get a few things done and I kept up on emails, so that was all to the good. I also did a load of laundry, took the dog for a windy - and short - walk, and I made a small batch of Lemon Drop Jelly. (Page 77 in one of the Ball books.) I also used the Tattler lids again. I think they're perfect for these types of projects. 

I like lemon, but Himself does not, so I halved everything but the pectin in the recipe. I'm quite sure that jelly is well set. 

I don't plan to make an abundance of jelly. Jellies and jams are high in sugar, ergo carbs, and we're trying to limit our carb consumption. I did invest in a jelly bag, something they didn't have when I was a girl first learning how to make jelly. My great-grandmother used a clean feed sack as a jelly bag. Of course, when she was making jelly it was a large batch requiring more than two cups of juice.

Seeing my pantry shelves filled with jars of homemade food is very satisfying. It feels proactive and productive to know we can weather a few storms. Not that we've had enough snow this winter to worry us, but you never know.

Some dark, snowy night Himself might decide the only thing between him and total starvation is an English muffin with cream cheese and lemon jelly. 

Nope. Never happen. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

January 17, 2021

Caramel Apple Jam

 Now more than ever before I'm excited to try new things within the scope of a home-based lifestyle. Making jams and jelly, canning, dehydrating, making powders - none of it is anything new, but I've not had the time to practice such arts. Now I do. 

Yesterday, I made Caramel Apple Jam. I saw the recipe on YouTube and it looked both easy and delicious. I should have taken photos of each step, but suffice it to say our house was in disarray. Himself chose the same time I did for a project, that being cleaning out the cabinet dedicated to his "stuff."

I found this to be a simple recipe.

6 cups diced apples (I shredded mine and so doubled the pectin)
1/2 cup water
1 package of powdered pectin
2.5 cups white sugar
2.5 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Prepare jars. (Ask Google if you don't know how to do this.)
Prepare the apples, add to a large pot, add the water. 
Bring to a hard boil, then add the pectin. Stir until well incorporated.
Add sugar and spices, and bring to a hard rolling boil.
Maintain the hard rolling boil for a full minute. 
Remove from heat and jar. 
Process jars in a water bath for ten minutes.

This is not a how-to. I'm not going into the specifics of canning. You can find instructions everywhere, although I suggest the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  

The major new thing with this batch of jam was that I used Tattler canning lids for the first time. They've been around for decades, but I only recently learned about them. I like the idea they can be used up to ten times, unlike the standard Ball lids which are to be used once and discarded. Also, using them for jams and jellies isn't much of a risk. If a seal would happen to fail, I wouldn't lose much product. I will stick with Ball for soups, pickles, tomato products - anything in a large jar. 

So now I have twelve little four-ounce jars of jam good for on toast, pancakes, or even vanilla ice cream. It was a good morning's work!

I may try Lemon Drop Jelly next even though Himself gives anything lemon a thumbs down. It sounds good to me.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor


January 15, 2021

Red sky at morning, January 15, 2021

A few weeks ago I commented on a lovely sunrise. This morning's puts that one to shame. I happened to glance out a north-facing window and noted how red the clouds looked, then grabbed my phone and stepped out on the office porch, which is on the south side of the house. It was spectacular! I even managed to shoot a very short video of it. 

Questioning Himself provided a bit more information. He tuned in to the Weather Channel, and sure enough, we have precipitation headed our way. It could be rain or it could be snow. It's the middle of January so it could go either way in our local climate. 

The lovely sky faded to shades of gray, and it's been windy all day, so much so the dog is not going to get much of a walk. Even he doesn't need to be outside in the wind. 

And so I sip coffee laced with my homemade coffee liquor and write and wait to see what may come. It's a good way to spend the afternoon. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

January 14, 2021

A photo worthy dinner

Himself is a good cook when he applies himself to the task. He'd rather I did everything, but that won't fly, not with me. One of his "specialties" is chicken parmesan. He does a great job with chicken parm. 

Pictures do not lie. This chicken parm was as good as it looks. 

I must confess that while I enjoy some of the YouTube channels, a lot of them are lacking. I'm fond of Living Traditions Homestead, This Farm Wife, The Purposeful Pantry, Sutton's Daze, and a few others. The spousal unit's taste runs to cooking and baking channels. He delights in showing me something new and saying, and I quote, "WE should make that."

We. Right. WE all know what WE means.

Suffice it to say, the lady of the house didn't fall for that old ploy. He fixed the chicken parm based on a YouTube video by "Chef John" and it was delicious. 

I'll get chicken out of the freezer any time he says he'll fix this dish. Better yet, I'll see if I can convince him to make enough for three dinners and freeze two. 

Good plan.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor 

January 11, 2021

A last kiss of sun

When I first moved to Holly Tree Manor, my father was alive. I worked side-by-side with him and my grandfather to clear enough trees to build a house. One evening, as Dad and I were still on the property tending to a burn, he said we should cut down a swath just wide enough so that I could enjoy the sunsets. 

I didn't like that idea at the time and have since regretted it. My view of the sunset is through the trees and not a wide-open vista. But I see enough to appreciate the beautiful colors especially as it becomes dark enough to see stars above the bands of color. 

But there is beauty before the actual sunset. I get to observe my world as the sun dips below the tree line and then the mountain. I see the precursor of what is to come. 

Dad, we were both right. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

January 10, 2021

So I'm obsessing over it


I'm obsessing a bit over how healthy the celery and green onions are in the greenhouse. We've had night after night after night of temps down to 20F, and even one night that dipped into the teens. We've had three frost-covered mornings in a row, and yet the celery and onions are doing fine. 

The celery actually needs to be harvested at this point. That may be the end of it, but I plan to cut it and dehydrate it. I've found The Purposeful Pantry on YouTube and the content creator has a lot, and I mean A LOT, of dehydrating tips.  I need to dehydrate the green onions, too, and I'm very sure that will end them and I'll have to start over. That's all part of gardening, though. It will give me the opportunity to restore the soil in that grow bag so it's not a bad thing. 

We made a quick trip to Lowe's earlier today so I could get potting soil, vermiculite, and cow manure. I already have a scoop of screened garden soil that was purchased last summer. The weatherman says tomorrow will be about 50F and if it happens, I'm going to mix up enough of the elements to get a few of the grow bags filled. I might even sow some radish seeds in one

The season is coming. I can feel it. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

January 9, 2021

Christmas cards, a lovely tradition

In early December, I bemoaned the lack of Christmas card greetings. Himself, ever sanguine about life, opined that 2020 was perhaps not a good year for so many people. I certainly understand that, but 2020 showed us exactly why the sending and receiving of Christmas cards is more than an empty tradition. 

I frequently refer to my family by generation. My grandparents were Gen1, and my parents part of Gen2. I and my cousins are Gen3. By the end of 2020, we've reached into Gen6. I've got to keep track of them somehow! 

Beyond family are scattered friends. We stay in touch via email and text, but a Christmas card from them touches me in a deeper way. It confirms I'm not alone in remembering tradition, and people. 

The year 2020 was difficult on relationships. Yes, some deepened due to the sheer determination of those involved, but other relationships suffered. Absence does not always make the heart grow fonder. With that in mind, I sent out cards to the far reaches to tell people I remembered them, that I think of them even if an email doesn't get sent. It also made me aware of how remiss I've been in calling some of them. 

Today is January 9th, and the Christmas cards are still arriving. I consider each one a blessing from someone I treasure. Long live the Christmas card tradition. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

January 2, 2021

The bathroom closet

Everyone has that one closet they’d like to throw a grenade into. Well, maybe not a grenade, but you get the idea. It’s that one space in the house you can’t seem to control. In our little house, it’s the bathroom closet.

I think it was intended to be a linen closet, but our little house is a little house. Storage is at a premium so it doesn’t matter what some architect designed it to be. It is what it is and that’s the bathroom closet. Over the course of the last years, it has accumulated all matter of non-essential *stuff*. For whatever reason, I took a fit and started to organize the plastic bin that holds my razors, facial wipes, Q-tips, and other small, loose things. That led to pulling everything off the shelf to wipe it down, which in turn led to re-stacking the sheets, towels, and kitchen cloths.

No, I don’t have room for kitchen cloths in my kitchen. I have too many because I like to have a full washer load of things when I run the washer. When I wash the kitchen towels, that’s all that goes in the washer with hot water and a bit of bleach. But I digress…

Himself came to see what the commotion in the bathroom was all about and we ended up sorting out our first aid shelf. All-in-all we went from having so little room on the shelves that things fell off to having empty space.

We’re taking bets on how long it will last.

We agreed we need to get busy on a couple of other closets, and not so we can buy new things and fill up the empty space again. We’ve reached the age where we know life needs to be simpler. It’s one of the things living debt-free has taught us. We have come to understand the difference between an actual need and a mere want. It’s an important distinction.

 Here at Holly Tree Manor, we’ve been blessed with an abundance of many things. As we discarded expired cough meds, pain relievers, and various lotions and potions, our discussion centered around our need to be more intentional in our purchases and the recognition we sometimes fall short. Sometimes we forget to ask ourselves what do we truly need before we open our wallets.

What do we truly need? That’s a question that needs to be asked and answered every day.

  The Lady of Holly Tree Manor