December 5, 2023

Who's that roaming around the woodyard?

It's always a good thing if you can laugh at yourself, or at least shake your head and mutter. 

The weather today left a lot to be desired. Gray skies, dreary. A definite winter bite in the breeze. It was a good day to pull a heavy sweatshirt out of the drawer and layer it with a turtleneck. 

Can you even buy a turtleneck these days? 

If you needed positive proof The Lady of the Manor exists, here it is. I have several trail cams now and it's difficult to walk around the yard and not trip one of them. 

Those windows you see in the background are the windows in my sunroom office. I was peacefully working at the computer when I heard a ruckus over my left shoulder. Of course, it was Loki. He'd chased a squirrel over the woodpile and somehow managed to catch it. I went out and convinced him to let the poor squirrel go. It scurried off, I'm happy to report. 

So there you have it. The fingers that pound on the keyboard are really attached to a person and not to some AI-generated fake. 

And the sweatshirt? Yep. It's an old one from the 1990s. It's got Terry LaBonte's #5 racecar on it. It's warm, too!

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor/The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, Terry LaBonte, rural living, bad cats, country lifestyle, firewood, sunroom, squirrels, trail cams

December 3, 2023

This is not good

Oh, dear...

Having a couple of trail cams scattered about is a lot of fun. You never know what the footage may show. It could be the Lord of the Manor on the John Deere 1023 or the cousin wielding his chainsaw. It could be me and Deuce wandering about so the dog can have a good sniff. He likes that sort of thing. Then there are the things I want to observe: the wildlife. 

THIS was not a welcome sight. I don't like skunks. I really don't like skunks in my yard.  

Eradication could be very, very stinky. I think I need to hope for the best and this critter moves along on his own!

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, skunks, rural living, wildlife, trail cams, country lifestyle, varmints, a writer's life, John Deere 1023, Labrador Retriever

November 27, 2023

The Mad Canner: Southwestern Corn

One of the few vegetables the Lord of the Manor willingly eats is corn. Years ago we discovered a corn from either Green Giant or Del Monte called Mexicorn. I guess it became politically incorrect to call a product "mexi" anything because it went bye-bye and Southwestern Corn took its place. 

Southwestern Corn, from Del Monte, is at this writing $2.09 a can. I'm not paying that for a can of corn with a smidgeon of peppers tossed in. 

I made my own southwestern-style corn, and it was pretty good, good enough that I decided to try canning it. 

Corn is easy to can. Peppers and onions can only be canned in small bits as part of a larger recipe, which is what I did. Because seasonings can turn bitter during the canning process, I used kosher salt only. I'll add a pinch of cumin and chipotle when I open a jar for a meal. 

I processed eighteen half-pints of corn at a cost of $5.50.  And in smaller jars, none will go to waste. That's for the corn, the pepper and onion, and the jar lids. The jars are indefinitely reusable so they aren't part of the cost. They'd all been used before and unless I drop one, they will be again. Eighteen cans of the Del Monte corn would cost $37.62.  

And that is why I'm now The Mad Canner.

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, Del Monte Southern Corn, home food processing, rural living, country lifestyle, canning, food preparation, survival skills, a writer's life, saving money

November 26, 2023

Deer season - it's not what it used to be around here

When I was a girl, deer season was a big deal. My dad wasn't much interested in hunting deer, but he'd traipse along with my grandfather and great-uncles on a "rabbit hunt." Yeah, rabbits. Take a walk through the fields in the middle of the day and then play poker until midnight. But, I digress...

My grandfather was the deer hunter. He was part of a group that went several hours down into the wilds of Virginia every year and set up camp for a week. Pop did pretty well on those outings. His best two bucks got mounted and hung on the wall, much to my grandmother's displeasure. Why did he go hours away to hunt? We didn't have many white-tailed deer around here sixty years ago. We do now.

Deer are everywhere here, so much so the state parks allow hunting. Maryland's white-tailed season stretches from September through January. The schedule is posted online and is six pages long. 

Thirty years ago, when the Lord of the Manor joined me, the first day of rifle season caught him off-guard. It was noisy at daybreak. The gunfire echoed off the mountain and the deer scampered into our woods for safety. 

I suppose laughing at him when he jumped straight out of bed with a "What the fuck?!" wasn't very kind, but I couldn't help it. I hadn't thought to warn him about the locals.

As I write this, it's Sunday morning, and we didn't expect to hear any hunters having at it. I commented that I'd heard two shots yesterday, that having lived here all my life, I knew emanated from the hunting area in the state park. That led to the realization neither of us had heard many shots since deer season had started. 

Things change. It's not because there are less deer. There are more and they are destructive. They can decimate a garden in one night, eating food some people depend on to survive. I no longer have flower beds because it's not worth the hard work required just so the deer can eat everything. My great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and myself all had beautiful flower gardens. As the last in a long line, it pains me to abandon the descendants of plants my great-grandmother grew in her garden. 

Without the hunters, the deer population will increase to the point the animals will starve. There isn't enough wild grazing left for them. They come to populated areas and eat gardens and crops. They cause numerous auto accidents every year, sometimes with fatalities. With the increase in deer, the coyotes are getting bolder. I've seen one in my woods and I don't like it at all. 

My yard is full of lead. Yes, I fire a gun at the ground so the noise scares the deer away. Even then, they are getting used to the sound. I can't actually shoot one of them for more reasons than I don't get a deer permit. I can't bring myself to kill them. They aren't spiders. What I am going to do is get a slingshot and bop a few of them with golf balls. I hope it stings! 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, white-tailed deer, hunting season, rural living, country lifestyle, coyotes, gardening, crop damage, Henry 001, hunters

November 25, 2023

Growing ginger and general grumpiness

Growing ginger is easy, or so the plant gurus on YouTube said. Well, okay. I'll give them that. It was pretty easy to get it growing. I went to the grocery, selected a piece of ginger that had green nubs on it, and stuck it in the dirt. It grew.  

I don't bring a lot of plants inside in the fall, but I brought in the ginger. It now looks sickly. At the same time, it has new shoots coming up. I'm befuddled. I'm also tempted to cut it back and see what happens. 

Maybe wanting to cut off the ginger is just part of my general grumpiness this morning. It's a balmy 25F/-4C at the moment. I checked the hourly forecasted temps and it looks like all I can hope for this afternoon is 47F/9C. And of course, I need to bring in a tractor bucket or two of firewood today. I'd like it to be about 57F, but as Mick and the boys say, you can't always get what you want. 

I also need to hop on the John Deere x370 mower and make one last pass over the lawn to chop up the remaining leaves. Then there is the new story I'm working on. I'd like to have time later today to work on it a bit. "They" say write first and then do chores, but I'm living in the real world here. If it is to be it is up to me. I no longer have the luxury of a helpmate. 

So I'm grumpy. I don't expect to get over it any time soon. Spring is 115 days away. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, ginger plants, firewood, leaves, John Deere x370, rural living, country lifestyle, grumpy, a writer's life, 

November 22, 2023

A foggy morning after a day of rain

Yesterday, we had a true soaking rain. It lasted for hours and was a welcome event. We weren't really in a drought, but a good soaker has long-lasting benefits. It not only put nitrogen into the soil and filled up my cistern, but it gave me a mostly restful day. If I hadn't had to meet the pastor for lunch, I doubt I would have gotten out of my PJs. (Lunch was good, by the way.)

This morning I was up before dawn. Deuce decided he needed to go out and go out NOW. I didn't doubt it because I knew he didn't take care of all his outside activities last night. Apparently, the dog can't go in the rain.

Even before I turned the outside lights on, I sensed that it was foggy. Fog has a way of making the world silent. I stoked the fire in the woodstove, and then the dog and I retired to the sunroom and waited for daylight. 

I wish now I'd thrown on some clothes and taken Deuce for a walk. The fog brings a peace to my soul, a stillness. I settled for taking a few pictures so I will remember the morning. It will do for now. 

Perhaps I should make myself a hooded cloak to wear over a warm coat so that next time I can walk in the fog and become one with the mist. I like that idea, so we shall see. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, foggy mornings, walking in the fog, rural living, country lifestyle, black Labrador Retriever, a writer's life, m/m romance

November 20, 2023

The task of the day just got expensive

Being retired, most days I set one task for myself inside the house and one task outside the house. It varies if one task, such as splitting firewood, is on the agenda. Nothing else gets done on those days when a big project takes over. Today I planned to use the leaf blower on a few areas and de-dog the bedroom. 

De-dog the bedroom? Yep. Move every piece of furniture and vacuum beneath them, use the Swiffer to wipe down the walls, take the throw rugs outside for a good shake before vacuuming them, clean the HEPA air filter, and use the steam cleaner on the floor. 

It almost went as planned. 

Everything is done except under the bed. Why is that? The vacuum cleaner quit working, that's why. 

We tried to remember just when we got that vacuum, but I think it's at minimum ten years old. It's a Dyson DC35 and it has been used hard. It's rare for us not to vacuum an area every day. If you've ever had a Labrador Retriever, you know how they shed. It's a year-round proposition with those dogs. We don't have dust bunnies, we have black fur bunnies. 

We're going to get another Dyson based on the service we've gotten out of the DC35. We just need to wade through all the horseshit on Amazon to figure out which one is best for us. I've typed in "Dyson cordless vacuum" in the Amazon search box and I get every other brand out there, too. NOT what I wanted and a waste of my time. 

We'll get it figured out, and we may just take a cruise into town and buy it. We're not happy with the Amazon delivery drivers. They drive on the grass. I do not like this. 

De-dogging the bedroom was a good idea. I just wish it hadn't cost me a couple of hundred bucks. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, Dyson vac, black Labrador Retriever, dog fur, clean house, rural living, country lifestyle, a writer's life, search box 

November 19, 2023

Sunlight on the hillside

I'm in a bit of a funk at the moment. The last several weeks took me away from doing the things I wanted to do and left me doing what I didn't want to do. I retired for a reason and yet I agreed to fill in at the old job. It hasn't left me feeling warm and fuzzy. 

My life has been spent working for others. I got my first part-time job when I was sixteen. I wanted a car and cars cost money, ergo, one works to earn money. I didn't stop working until I turned sixty-five. 

Yes, those years are now paying dividends. I'm not rich, but I have retirement funding. More importantly, I have time to enjoy my home. And what do I do? I say "yes" to filling in while a girl is on maternity leave. Someone should beat me over that. 

Yesterday morning I was reminded of WHY it's important for me to be here tending to my hearth and home. I'm working on a new story and I'm spending a lot of early mornings in my office, which happens to be the sunroom. I glanced out the window in time to see the sunlight hit the hillside. It's in these quick, quiet moments that I know I belong here on the manor. 

I live on the west side of the mountain. To the west of the manor, I can see the pink sky and the small town in the valley. The townies already have full sun, but I'm in the shadow of the mountain. It is on the hillside that I first see bright sunlight. It starts with a sliver of brightness that grows as it makes its way down the hill. It is constant, there in all seasons, present in every day, even on cloudy days when the rays of light slip under the clouds for far too brief a moment. These moments soothe the ache in my soul. 

I did the right thing by agreeing to fill in at the old job. But if they reach out again, the right thing will be to say no. I know this because of the quiet early morning hours and something as simple as the sunlight on the hillside. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

simple country pleasures, sunlight, peaceful mountain, right things, a writer's life, working hard, retirement, sunroom

November 16, 2023

Just when I thought it was safe to be retired again

It was going so well - for thirteen days. I thought I was finished and in the clear. My lovely protégé had given birth to a little girl, enjoyed her maternity leave, and was back at work. I was FREE!!!

Back it up for a moment. The poor girl was back to work for three days and came down with Covid. They called me to ask if I would do this one specific task. Just the one thing. And I said yes. 

The good news is that [probably] unbeknownst to the higher-ups, my protégé had it about fifty-percent finished. I just needed to tie up a few loose ends, correct a few typos, and voilà! It's done. I'll drop off a few printed copies and, please Lord! - I'm retired again. 

I hope it lasts this time!

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, retirement, country lifestyle, rural living, 

November 14, 2023

Frosty morning

We've been busy here at the manor. Work in the woodyard is progressing, albeit slowly. I cut and split a lot of the smaller logs on my own, and now the cousin needs to take care of the bigger logs. Usually, we work together, but our schedules haven't meshed the last two weeks.  

We had our first frost back on November 2. It wasn't a hard frost, though. The only plants I lost were the begonias, but they're pretty tender. The herbs in the Greenstalk are still green. 

The garden area is empty. The five-gallon buckets are empty. The grow bags are empty. It would seem a sad end to the season, but it's not. It's a readying for renewal. I've already got some seeds for next year and I'm planning what I want to concentrate on. This year I grew a little of a lot of different veggies. Next year I want to have one large crop with only a few smaller items. 

The mercury has dipped down into the low thirties at night and I've been firing-up the woodstove. Himself is happy because the living room gets toasty in the evening. I close the doors to the back of the house to keep the heat out. I like my bedroom to be cool so I sleep better. Opening the door about half an hour before I turn in warms the room up just enough. 

On the writing front, I finished Sumner's Garden and it's live at the vendors I use. Finishing that story was bittersweet. I've been writing for over twenty years and with the advent of artificial intelligence, I don't know if I want to continue to read, much less write. I was happy to see Amazon asking if the book I was offering for sale used AI in the writing. That's a NO. I don't like the idea of AI at all. I think its hidden dangers will be revealed too late to those who embrace it. 

It's time I got busy with freeze-drying again. I let it go over the summer in favor of canning, but I've laid out a plan to keep that unit working. 

The trees have shed almost all of their leaves so it's time to clean the gutters. Tomorrow looks to be the day with afternoon temps forecasted to be in the low sixties. After that, it'll be time to hop on a mower and chop some leaves. And if there's time, I'll bring over a tractor bucket of firewood and drop it outside the basement door. 

A frost isn't a bad thing. It simply signals it's time for different things to happen. It is a portent of the changes ahead, of the slide into winter sleep. The manor is ready for it. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, country living, rural living, changing seasons, frost, firewood, woodstove, home food preservation, freeze drying, Greenstalk, trees

November 5, 2023


Our planet, the Earth, spins at a particular speed of about 66,660 miles per hour. (We're all doing zoomies, we just don't know it!) It takes the Earth approximately 24 hours to complete a rotation. The hours of daylight versus darkness depend upon the angle of the Earth's axis as it rotates. The number of hours of daylight we have every day is not dependent upon a manmade clock. 

We've "turned back the clocks" again this morning. Yeah, so I'm up and blogging a 5:41 a.m. and I know it's really 6:41 a.m. 

My DOG knows it's really 6:41 a.m., too. He knows when it's time to get up to go outside to do his morning activities. My dog is smarter than the average human. 

I'd prefer we stay on Daylight Saving Time all year, although now that I'm retired it hardly matters. When it's daylight and the outside temperature is conducive to whatever chores need to be done, I go do them. It was different and more difficult when I had to drive to a job five days a week.

I remember my grandfather saying he'd do *whatever* when it was time to do it. After he retired only two times on the clock mattered - what time did the Orioles baseball game come on, and was it time to go bowling? I thought he was crazy back in the day, but I understand it now. 

You can't harvest in the garden until the sun has dried the dew off the plants. You don't mow wet grass, either. You work in the woodyard in the daylight. You feed chickens in the daylight. You go fishing when the bugs are flying. On the homestead, you don't live by the clock but by the sun and moon. 

The clock on my computer now reads 6:02 a.m. It's still dark. That's okay. I can do my computer work before daylight. The time doesn't really matter. And there is time to enjoy a cup of coffee before daylight. 

Deuce has been outside, but when it's daylight we'll go for a stroll and I can keep an eye on him. A black dog disappears at night. The time on the clock won't matter. Later in the morning I'll go out to the woodyard and split another tractor bucket full of wood. The time on the clock won't matter, but the temperature will. 

Changing the time on the clock is a way to manipulate people and control when and how we do things. Is it really necessary? No one breezes through the bi-annual time changes. Everyone gets surly even if they manage not to show it.   

Changing time was likely a good and necessary wartime maneuver back in 1916, but one hundred and seven years later, it feels like government interference. Our modern lives don't need it. Farmers and country folk have never needed it. City dwellers depending on the grid don't actually need it either since their lives are spent more indoors than outdoors. 

Yes, everyone is adjusted to the "new time" within about a week, but I wonder how much longer humans will be able to adjust. On the whole, we're no longer a well-adjusted bunch. Something is sure as hell going on with humans and messing with our sleep patterns doesn't help. 

I have questions and concerns as to whether this time change nonsense is still a good option.

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, Daylight Saving Time, time management, government interference, rural living, country lifestyle, a writer's life, black Labrador Retriever

November 4, 2023

The days go by fast

I'm happy to have completed a six-week stint filling in for the young woman who took my position when I retired. She's been on maternity leave and I was asked to help keep the office afloat. It was a lot more stressful than I thought it would be, but now it's in the past. I posted a bit about it over on my writing blog, Between the Keys. The bottom line is that I'm delighted I can return to my real life here at Holly Tree Manor. 

Even with spending time back on the job, I managed to get a few things accomplished. The gardening season finished and firewood season began. The firewood for the 2024-25 winter got a big boost when I hired a service to take down the leaning maple. That maple had been leaning since 2003 when Hurricane Isabel hit us. 

The Mad Canner was busy, too. I made and canned apple pie filling and curried apple chutney, plus chicken and beef broth for the pantry. 

Autumn is waning and we're drifting toward winter. The nights have really cooled down and I've had the woodstove burning. We get some rather wide temperature swings this time of year so I need to pay attention to the weather forecast to balance using the woodstove with cycling the heat pump. On sunny afternoons, I don't need either one. 

I don't mind the changing of the seasons. There is beauty in each one, and each brings a set of chores to be done. Yesterday, I worked in the woodyard for about an hour and a half, then hopped on the X370 John Deere mower to chop leaves. This time of year the leaves are a never-ending task, but I can't let them smother my poor grass. I estimate I'll need to mow the leaves two, possibly three, more times, and the leaf blower will get a workout, too. I don't mind that job, either. I love being outside. 

Dawn has passed and there is blue sky overhead. It's time to join the Lord of the Manor for morning coffee and to find out if he's feeling up to helping me any today. I'll get more rounds cut if he's on the tractor using the brush crusher to lift and hold them for me. But I can do it by myself if necessary.

That's one of the things living in the country has taught me. It is up to me. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, firewood, John Deere x370, John Deere 1023, autumn, country lifestyle, rural living, empowered women, home food preservation, apple pie filling, a writer's life

October 31, 2023

Don't blink - autumn is over

Just three days ago I was outside taking photos of our lovely, lovely autumn to make a collage to remember 2023. 

And it has been a lovely fall! The colors, the sunlight, the glow in the afternoon - beautiful! I've loved every moment I was able to be outside. 

We all knew it wouldn't last forever, but I lit the first fire in the wood stove in what seemed like the blink of an eye. 

It wasn't a "blink," it was just three days. That's pretty fast for around here. We usually take a long, slow slide out of autumn. Overnight the trees dropped half their remaining leaves. 

I'm reminded of how my grandmother would take me outside as a child and we'd gather up different colored leaves. She'd then iron them between two sheets of wax paper and stick the sealed sheet on the refrigerator to remind us of autumn. I was tempted to do that this year, but I have no one to share it with. 

I'm not particularly sad about getting the wood stove going. I've worked hard over the last eighteen months to "lay in" a supply of firewood. It would have been a complete waste to let those downed trees simply rot away. Yes, if I knew someone with a mill, I could have sold them, but there isn't a sawmill anywhere near here, so they went for firewood. 

I'm not alone in lighting a fire in the stove. The scent of wood smoke is heavy on the breeze this evening. I noted, when Deuce and I were out walking, the cousins have smoke coming from their chimneys, too. 

It may seem like cutting and splitting firewood, and keeping the stove hot is a lot of work, and it is. But it is also one of the simple country pleasures that bless my life. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, woodstove, firewood, simple country pleasures, autumn ending, hard work, sawmill, rural living, country lifestyle, a writer's life

October 29, 2023

The Mad Canner: Beef broth

A few weeks ago, I canned a big batch of chicken broth for the pantry. Checking the shelves, I knew then that I needed to do beef broth as well, but my local grocery didn't have any marrow bones available. I wasn't in a hurry so I waited until they had what I wanted. 

I don't create beef broth the exact same way as I do chicken and turkey. With poultry, I've roasted the bird before I cook the bones. I don't add a lot of salt or anything else because I don't want whatever recipe I use it in to be over-seasoned. Beef broth is different.

I tossed the rinsed marrow bones in my larger crockpot with two ribs of celery, a chunk of yellow onion, three beef bouillon cubes, about a teaspoon of peppercorns, and a couple of bay leaves. I added as much water as the crockpot would hold, turned it on high for ten hours (overnight), and then cut it back to low until I was ready to strain and process the first batch. If you like your broth to be a darker color, save your onion skins and add that when you're cooking the bones. I don't feel the need for a dark broth. 

Meat broth needs to be pressure-canned to be safe. The guidelines for my elevation (above sea level) call for pints to be processed at pressure for twenty minutes. I did two batches for a total of sixteen pints. 

Beef broth comes in handy for more things than soup, although that's our primary usage. If we have a beef dish for dinner, adding some beef broth to mashed potatoes kicks the flavor up a notch. You can cook rice or pasta in beef broth to rev up the flavor. You can also drink broth as a hot beverage although we really don't. 

But back to soup, I've been hungry for beef barley soup. Having the broth and some stew beef chunks in jars makes soup-making easy. I haven't yet read where barley is safe to home can, most grains are not, so until I read a process has been approved, I'll make it from "scratch" each time. 

It's not difficult to make beef broth. The crockpot does the bulk of the work, and the rest of it is simply having a good book to read while the Presto canner does its thing. I'm calling it a lazy day's work well done.

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, home food preservation, beef broth, crockpots, home canning food, rural living, country lifestyle, gardening

October 20, 2023

Work continues in the woodyard

It is that time of year - time to cut, split, and stack firewood. My cousin and I have been hard at it for the last week and we've barely made a dent in the logs harvested from taking down the leaning maple. I suspect we'll be burning firewood from that harvest into the 2025-26 season.  I have wood stacked in places I've never stacked before. 

Working with my cousin is enjoyable but challenging. He's a lot stronger than me so he gets ahead of me. He runs the splitter, and I load the firewood into the John Deere bucket to take and stack. Generally, he's got a pile for me to scoop up by the time I get done stacking and get back to him. 

I have the rack inside the shop full of firewood. That's inside and ready to go. There is a stack just outside the basement door which I will rotate in when there is room. It might get a bit damp, but it'll have time to dry back out before it's burned. After that stack is inside, I may or may not bring over some of the poplar to stack outside the door. It depends on the weather. I may just hold off and drop it directly down the outside basement steps. It's great to have the John Deere! 

It's so easy to move wood with the tractor. I rest the bucket against a woodpile and give the firewood a shove into the bucket. Sure, I have to pick up any pieces that miss, but very few do. Then I simply drop the load down the steps, go inside and open the door, and stack what I dropped in the inside rack. When you have a repetitive task, you find ways to make the job easier. 

Living on the side of a mountain can be a lot of hard work, but I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I was raised by adults who believed work was good for a person, and that it gave a person purpose. They were correct. 

I've been on the receiving end of a few nasty comments over the years. How it must be nice to have been given acreage. Yes, it was. But our grandfather would not have given each of us property if we hadn't proven we were willing to work, both at our jobs and in our personal lives. It's not that difficult to do when you have good examples to emulate, and our grandfather was the best. 

We know the value of having firewood on hand. Our local power grid is about to be overloaded and we know it. We may be in the dark this winter, but we'll be warm. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, firewood, John Deere, country lifestyle, rural living, hard word, autumn rituals, family

October 14, 2023

Stove-top potpie the way my grandmother made it

The times they are a-changin'. 

"What's for dinner?" is the question every woman in her right mind never wants to hear again. I decided to head it off yesterday and fix chicken potpie on the stove. Not baked in pie dough, but cooked in a big pot on the stove. 

The spousal unit likes baked chicken pie. I do not.

The spousal unit made a derogatory sound when I informed him dinner was stove-top chicken potpie. 


I was not pleased with his attitude, and from now on, if he wants a baked chicken pie, he can make it. 

Should I mention I spent the day using a chainsaw to cut firewood rounds, burning a small brush pile, and mowing the grass? Should I mention he did not assist me in any tangible way?  Yeeeeeah. And I should have made pie crust? Noooooo.

I actually did ask him to do two things that, a day later, remain undone. Ask me what he's getting for dinner today and that's correct! Leftover pot pie. 

It's going to be a fucking...long...winter. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Mam's Chicken Pot Pie

1 quart jar of home canned chicken broth
2 cups diced, cooked chicken
4 small potatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced
Pot Pie bows
Rivels (very small flour & egg dumplings)
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder (or two cloves of garlic, smashed)
Parsley, salt, and pepper to your taste preferences 
My addition: a bit of dried rosemary to taste

Heat the broth in a big stock pot. Add potatoes, chicken, onion, seasonings. Heat medium low until the potatoes are about half cooked, then all the pot pit bows. Continue cooking until the pot pie bows are tender. Add the rivels and simmer for ten minutes. Let stand five minutes, then serve. 

Rivels: 3/4 cup AP flour and one egg. Whisk together until all the egg is incorporated and the mix is clumpy

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, Chicken Pot Pie, grandma's cooking, dinner, country cooking, rural living, country lifestyle, a writer's life, Milwaukee chainsaw, John Deere x370 mower

October 9, 2023

The Mad Canner: Apple Pie Filling and Curried Apple Chutney

It's apple season! 

Forget those western Red Delicious apples you get at the supermarket. You know the ones - mealy and mushy and no crunch. Give me local apples from a fifth-generation orchard! Fresh, crisp, crunchy and delicious! It's worth the thirty minute drive to get there. 

This was the year I needed to make apple pie filling and curried apple chutney. There is enough applesauce, apple jelly, and apple butter in the pantry to see us through to next season, so I could concentrate on what we were out of. 

One half bushel of Cinnamon Crisp apples produced thirteen quart jars of apple pie filling and twelve half-pint jars of chutney. The peels and cores made the local deer pretty happy, too. 

Working with apples is labor-intensive. Apples need to be peeled and cored, sliced and diced, and blanched and/or cooked before being water-bath canned. I much prefer pressure canning because I believe it produces a more reliable, long-term seal, but it is what it is. I like to hear that instant "pop" of the seal setting when I lift a jar from the Presto canner, and it takes a bit longer when water-bath canning. All of the jars pictured did seal.

To make the job of peeling easier, I have a spiralizer attachment for the KitchenAid mixer. I can't say it does a perfect job, but man does it cut down on the time. A simple manual chopper diced up the peeled apples for the chutney. 

Both recipes are in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, which is pretty much the canning bible. The National Center for Home Food Preservation uses pretty much the same recipes

I won't need to make the chutney again for probably three years. Yes, if the seals are intact, the product can last more than the eighteen months Ball states. You need to be more diligent in listening for the seal break when opening,  and remember - when in doubt, throw it out. Never consume anything you're not one hundred percent sure about. Unlike me, Himself isn't a lover of the chutney so it doesn't get served frequently so it's in the pantry for a longer time. Now that I'm retired, the apple pie filling may or may not be enough for an entire year. We'll see. 

I've been reading more apple recipes in the Ball book. Apple season isn't over here, and the Cinnamon Crisp apples have become my new favorite. Yum! Himself has requested apple dumplings (a freezer item) and I think I'd like to make some apple jam for on pancakes. We need to be out and about later this afternoon, so maybe we can take a bit of an extra drive for another peck of apples. Probably for sure. 

Canning may seem like an old-fashioned activity, but it's really food science. And it's time management. An afternoon spent canning apples netted twelve side dishes for twelve dinners, and made baking pies quick and easy. And you know what? When I walk into my pantry, all the pretty jars put a smile on my face. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, apples, home food preservation, canning food, pantry preparedness, time management, rural living, country lifestyle orchards, Ball book, Presto canners, pressure canning, water bath canning, chutney, a writer's life

October 5, 2023

Tree carnage (the tree service was here)

Our number finally rolled up to the top. The tree service rolled in yesterday at about 2:00 PM. By 4:30 PM, their job was done, I'd paid the man, and they rolled out of here. I'm a couple thousand dollars poorer, but it was worth every penny not having to clean up the brush. 

We sat on the sunroom porch and watched the action. The owner of the company and a certified arborist did the chainsaw work, and three Spanish-speaking men chipped the brush and other chores. 

I'd hired them to take down the leaning maple. That tree has been leaning since Hurricane Isabel in September 2003, but the situation deteriorated recently. The tree it was leaning on began to show signs of stress, so it was time. Then to complicate it more, a week or so ago, the top broke out of a neighboring tree and landed on the leaner. 

We expected them to work from the top of the leaner down, cutting off branches until they'd untangled the intertwined branches and limbs of both trees. They did not. 

The arborist went up in the bucket and did some cutting, dropping several large branches before securing two ropes, the precise location we couldn't pinpoint. He then came down and he and the owner had a conference before the owner set to work with his chainsaw. 

He notched the supporting tree, and then the leaner. When he moved behind the leaner to make his cut, we realized their plan was to drop both trees at once. It worked and once the trees were on the ground, the chipping began. 

They cut firewood poles and moved them to an out-of-the-way spot. The resulting mulch from the chipping was dumped on a pile to cure. I'll use that next year to mulch weedy areas along the stone fence. They even raked up the leaves. The only job left for the cousins and me to do now is work the pile of firewood poles at our leisure. 

It was worth every penny. I think I'll have them come back in a few months and take down another maple that could become a hazard. 

We generally like to do things ourselves, but 1)we're not getting any younger, and 2) we're smart enough to know when to call in the professionals. 

The view from my desk is different this morning, but it's a change I feel good about. I can't say that about much. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, tree trimming, rural living, country lifestyle, arborist, woods, maple trees, Hurricane Isabel 2003, a writer's life, tree service, new views, firewood

September 27, 2023

Moving from garden to firewood

My gardening season is over. There is one lone basil plant in the garden and I'm toying with the idea of putting it in the greenhouse to see how long it will go. The begonias will stay in their planters until a hard frost gets them. I'm content to let them go because the mother plants will tucked away all nice and cozy in the den this winter with a grow light. 

The Greenstalk has been moved to its new location by the patio. The daylilies have been repotted and the big pots are ready for next year. The year #1 buckets have new soil and are in the greenhouse waiting for spring. 

My best tip for anyone planning a container garden - woven ground cover from Grower's Solutions. It held up to foot traffic, stopped the grass and weeds, and is easy to keep tidy. I used the leaf blower to keep it free of debris. 

I feel really good about the 2023 season. I not only enjoyed having the garden and watching it grow and produce, but I gained more knowledge. My garden will never feed us for an entire year, but it puts a few fresh things on the table with some left over to preserve.  

Now it is time to move from gardening season to firewood season. I have a good supply of firewood for this year, and what we split now will be for the 2024-25 winter, and possibly beyond. I have a large maple that I've contracted with a service to take down, and an equally large cherry that I could drop but my cousin says he will do the honors. 

Before we get really into it, there is a small pile of cherry and oak to split and stacked that can be burned toward the end of this year if needed. Using the bucket on the John Deere, I'll bring some poplar up to the house and clear a spot to begin stacking for next year. We worked a lot harder before we got the tractor. 

Life in the country moves with the seasons. There's comfort in being in tune with nature. I may not have the biggest house or drive a brand-new car (by choice, mind you), but I am content to be where I am with what I have. And not only am I content, I am generally happy with my life and my country lifestyle. 

Yes, there is work to do. Daylight, I'm waiting on you!

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, firewood, gardening, rural living, being content, John Deere, country lifestyle, a writer's life, nature, cherry trees, grow bags, tomatoes, peppers, tree service

September 25, 2023

Do it to enjoy now and to build for next season

Very little happens here on the Manor that doesn't take the next season into consideration. Sometimes - most of the time - a current project is all about the future returns. Revamping the area at the gable end of the house was a project like that. I know how I'd like it to look next year, with pots of daylilies and annuals and herbs among the stepping stones, and the Greenstalk at the end full of growing things. 

The last week of August, I scraped back the pea gravel and pulled up the old, rotting landscape cloth, and put down a woven ground cover from Grower's Solutions. It was a lot of hot, sweaty work, but I was very pleased with the results. 

More dirty work was ahead. I repotted all the daylilies. Thank heavens for the John Deere 1023! Carry heavy pots? Not me. I slid them into the bucket and let the tractor do the heavy carrying. And I didn't just repot the plants, I amended the soil to ensure it will be many years before I need to disturb the roots again.

Now that the bigger pots are in place, I can fill in around them with smaller pots that will hold colorful annuals and herbs. Except for the blueberry bush in the center and the Greenstalk by the walk to the patio (just out of the frame), none of the placements were planned. I grabbed a pot from the tractor bucket and plunked it down in an empty hole. It could not have worked out better! I wanted it to be an eclectic mix and it will be. 

I need to spend some time investigating what herbs have the best chance to grow in this location. It gets a lot of sun and the house keeps that area hot. As for annuals, I'll stick with marigolds, zinnias, and begonias. Those are about as maintenance-free as it gets. It's another project that I can strike off my To Do List for this year. Next year, I hope to be able to stand back and enjoy the flowers and herbs. 

Hard work, yes, but well worth it. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, To Do Lists, gardens, daylily, seasonal work, John Deere 1023 tractor, herbs, annuals, rural living, simple country pleasures, a writer's life, looking ahead, Greenstalk, Grower's Solutions

September 23, 2023

Throw those plans out

My plan for today didn't include rain, so of course it's raining. It's not that I don't have myriad things I can do, because I do. They just weren't what I wanted to do.  

Gardening season is effectively over. I sliced the last of the green Bell peppers and put them in the freezer yesterday. The butternut squash is harvested and resting on the counter on the patio. The only things left to do is to freeze-dry the basil and collect a few seeds for next year. 

With the garden over, it is now firewood season, and I wanted to start on that today. I have a rank of poplar that needs to be brought over to the house to begin with this year. Poplar burns fast and is sort of a pain in the ass when it's really cold, but it's great for smaller burns to warm up the house to take the chill off. I'll burn maple, oak, and cherry when it's really cold outside. 

There are a few of the large maple rounds from last year that still need to be split, and a pile of oak and cherry from last year to finish and stack. The log splitter is not sitting where I want it, but it's out of the way of the tree trimmer for when he shows up to take down the leaning maple. It's all about prioritizing the work so it can be done in an order that doesn't make more work for yourself. 

But it will have to wait for another day. I tell myself that on a rainy day, I need to relax. Maybe I should bake cookies or work on a book. Sumner's Garden is the current work-in-progress. I know how it ends so I should get there and finish everything up so I can publish it. No, I don't lack for things to fill my day even if I didn't plan to do them today. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, rainy day, firewood, rural living, country lifestyle, time management, homestead living, end of season, gardening, a writer's life

September 20, 2023

Sitting by the fire on a rainy day

Living in the country as I do, I constantly find joy in the simple chores around our little homestead. And a lot of those chores are cyclic. By that, I mean they need to be done at about the same time every year. Burning brush isn't cyclic. No matter if it NEEDS to be, it can't be done until certain criteria are met. 

Having acres of woodland we end up with a lot of brush. Branches and limbs fall to the ground on a regular basis. There is pruning to be done along the lane and along the edges of the yard. Getting whacked in the face while mowing isn't much fun! It can hurt! 

Rose bushes get trimmed, the garden gets weeded, shrubs and bushes die and need cut back in the hope of new growth, and yes, sometimes we help out our city-bound family members and bring branches from their yards to burn. 

I won't light a fire unless it is raining or rained in the night enough to make the ground wet, or unless there is a cover of snow on the ground. This is the way I stay out of trouble. This is how my grandfather taught me to burn, and it makes good sense. 

This past Sunday, we got a wonderful soaking rain. We don't typically do a lot of chores on a Sunday, but I didn't think sitting in my pickup watching the fire would be much work, and it was not. It was actually rather pleasant. 

I took my Kindle and a travel cup full of coffee with me. I stuck a stick in the USB port and cued up my playlist. I left poor Deuce inside with the Lord of the Manor and I had some quality alone-time. 

After a bit, Himself sent a text asking if the fire was burning. I took a picture and sent it to him. It wasn't until I took the picture off my phone that I noticed the Universe had had a little fun with me. Take a look at the photo. The song that played when I took the picture was Fool in the Rain by Led Zeppelin. 

Funny, Universe. Funny.

The Lady of the Hideaway

The Hideaway, Holly Tree Manor, homesteads, simple country pleasures, rural living, burning brush, soaking rain, Chevy trucks, common sense, country traditions, coffee

September 18, 2023

The Mad Canner: broth and beans

A few days ago as I readied ingredients to prepare dinner, I was surprised to find only two pints of chicken broth in the pantry. Yes, it's wonderful that I actually use the foods I've canned, but not keeping a closer eye on a cooking staple like chicken broth is... not a good thing. 

In an attempt to be frugal, I purchased a roasting chicken and we had a proper Sunday dinner for a change. I put the roasted meat in the fridge for another meal, and the carcass in the crock pot to simmer on low overnight. The result was fifteen pints of chicken broth. Winter means soups and now I'm ready.

After setting the pints on the pantry shelf, I took a quick inventory and decided I needed to get busy. The only thing I had on my agenda to can was apple pie filling when the Stayman apples are available, but I also was out of molasses beans. Molasses beans have become a summer staple when we grill burgers. They're sort of a cross between pork 'n beans and baked beans having less sugar than baked and no tomato flavor like pork 'n beans. Eleven pints now reside in the pantry. 

I've been thinking that I need to up my canning game this winter. I have purchased a new-to-me book of recipes and I'm going to try a few. Home canning looks like a lot of work until you open a jar and have dinner ready in five minutes - and you do it repeatedly. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, home food preservation, rural living, country lifestyle, canning, cooking, time savings, a writer's life, chicken broth, molasses beans,

September 17, 2023

Monterey Pass road trip

The Lord of the Manor is a Civil War buff. It could be a little boy's fascination with toy soldiers or it could be that we live within easy driving distance of both Antietam and Gettysburg. Our area is steeped in Civil War history. The movie Gods and Generals had scenes filmed in a town and on a farm we are familiar with. He has studied the history of the conflict in and around our area which means I've learned a bit along the way. We were both surprised when he stumbled across a video about the Monterey Pass, or Monterey Gap.

The fight at Monterey Pass began on the evening of July 4, 1863, as a Confederate wagon train retreated from Gettysburg. Why had we never heard of this engagement? Heck, we'd never even heard of Monterey and we've both lived here all our lives. A road trip was in order. 

It's often said the joy is in the journey. Well, if Himself had used the GPS on his phone, we'd have gotten there quicker. He said, "turn right." She said, "I think we should go left."  So we went right just to shut the man up. It was the WRONG WAY. 

But I will admit the Victorian houses in what I now know is called Monterey were gorgeous. And I got to see them twice! Once going the wrong way and then again on the way back. 

The visitor's center at the park was closed. It's only open on the weekends according to the sign on the door. The trail to the overlook wasn't something Himself could risk doing. If his powerchair batteries gave out, he'd be stuck in the wilderness. Perhaps, if he wants to go back, we could call ahead and see if a ranger or volunteer can take us up in some sort of vehicle. 

It was a nice drive on a lovely day, but there really are spots where one does not want to run off the road. It was easy to picture troops pushing wagons over the edges to fall into the deep ravines to keep them from falling into Union hands.

We enjoyed getting out even though we both felt guilty about leaving Deuce home alone. He likes to ride but we didn't know if he'd be allowed in the visitor's center, and we didn't know where we might stop on the way home, so the dog couldn't go. We're careful where we take him for his own good. 

We didn't take enough road trips during this summer now ending. Now that cooler weather is here, we hope to remedy that. And next time, the man will program in addresses so the GPS can agree with me on which way to turn. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, Battle of Monterey Pass, Civil War, day trips, rural living, country lifestyle, black Labrador Retriever, a writer's life

September 10, 2023

A dark ending to a great day

Yesterday, my cousin and I had a very successful yard sale. Many no longer needed items went to new homes and my cousin and I caught up with each other. It was a lot of work to pack up everything and haul it to my uncle's driveway, but the trip home was a lot lighter, ergo, easier. 

I had a great time with Linda, but I was happy to get home. The temps were in the upper 80sF, and there was barely a breeze. It was hot. I unloaded the pickup and then flopped on the bed for a quick rest. A line of thunderstorms was approaching so I didn't want to try to do anything outside. I didn't have time, so a flop-down was my best option. The wind ahead of the front was scary strong and I re-joined the Lord of the Manor to keep an eye on the blowing trees. At about 4:00 pm, we heard BOOM!! BOOMBOOMBOOM!!!

And the house went completely still. The electric power was out. I made the call to report the outage, and so did everyone else in our little enclave. We watched it rain and speculated how long it would take until the power was restored. Longer than we thought.

One of the cousins, being the curious sort, hopped into his truck and drove out to see if he could figure out where the BOOM! occurred and reported in to everyone else.

Just to the right of our bridge, the wind snapped the top out of a tree which fell across the power lines which snapped off the top of a pole that just happened to house a transformer. No wonder there was a big BOOM! 

The word from the power company was grim. We could expect power to be restored no later than 4 PM the next day. Well, crap. 

But country folk are generally prepared for these things. We went out and readied our old generator. I don't even remember what brand it is or the specs on it. All I know is it started and ran like the champ it is. And we heard the humming of other generators as other neighbors settled in for the siege and a few hours lived mostly in the dark.

Happily, the power was restored to us around 7:30 am, or thereabouts. The generator had done it jobs and kept the refrigerator and freezer running. We had water and Internet (sort of), and if it had rained to the point the sump pump was needed, we'd have power to it. 

It's the stormy time of the year. I think I'll leave the generator at the ready for a few more days, just in case. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, power outages, generators, rural living, country lifestyle, preparedness, a writer's life, family, storm damage, trees

September 8, 2023

Getting ready for a Yard Sale

Several years ago, quite a few in reality, my cousin Linda and I joined forces and had a Yard Sale in my Uncle Dick's driveway. His house is just off a major state road that is well traveled, so a sign with Yard Sale and an arrow brings the people to us. 

We enjoyed the day and spoke of doing it again. Well, there was life and there was COVID. Mainly COVID. We didn't want to draw in people in the middle of a pandemic even if others in our larger community did it. We decided to wait a year or two. More like five or six at this point. Tomorrow the waiting is over and we're spending the day together! 

And that's what it's all about - spending time together. It's not about how much money we may or may not make. It's about a lazy day sitting under an umbrella for shade and chatting. I have no doubt we'll talk about growing up together and those we loved so much who have departed this life. Linda is one of the few people remaining who knew my father. Her memories of him are precious to me. 

When someone asks me, "What was the best day of your life?", the only one that comes to mind is a day I spent with Linda and my mom. We visited a local state park and walked up a stream, hopping from rock to rock for several miles. It was a beautiful summer day. We were so relaxed, so happy, and we laughed and laughed. Only the three of us have that memory, and now it is lost to my mother. Yes, time with Linda is precious.

Getting ready for the Yard Sale was pretty easy. I did a bit every day, deciding what could go and what items were simply ready for the landfill. Not everything can be salvaged or up-cycled. I cleaned the card tables one day, and put price tags on items another. One day was reserved for getting a few things down from the attic and wiping them down. I took my time over the course of the last two weeks and picked at the job until today. Everything is loaded in the Colorado and ready to go in the morning. 

I sure hope it doesn't rain! 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, rural living, yard sale, family, country lifestyle, working together, memories, growing up country, up-cycle, a writer's life, Alzheimer's Disease, state parks

September 1, 2023

It was a long time coming, but it's done

One of the items on my To-Do List never seemed to get done - until yesterday. I've long wanted to redo the hardscape at the gable end of the house, beside where I park.  The old underlayment had dissolved over the last thirty or so years, and the space had turned into a weed garden. Try as I did, I couldn't keep up with it. It had to go! 

Yesterday, I moved six big flower pots, lifted out sixteen pavers using the John Deere, and gathered up all the other loose pavers I had scattered about. Then I used the tractor to rake the pea gravel out and away from the area. 

Today, I put down the new underlayment - woven weed ground cover from Grower's Solution - laid out the pavers for stepping stones and shoveled the pea gravel back in.

Yes, I shoveled it by hand. With a shovel. I have a blister, too. I asked the Lord of the Manor for help, and oh, yeah. He fucking helped, all right. 

I asked him to scoop up the pea gravel and then drop it in close to the house. He dug down and got dirt, the very thing I told him needed to be avoided. 

I didn't want any dirt going on top of the woven weed cloth that could harbor seeds and grow new weeds. I thought I was very concise. He just didn't want to help me, just like with the knee wall I built

Well, guess what? I got it done. I worked three hours yesterday until I lost the shade, and about four hours today. The hard work was finished by the time I lost the shade today, but finishing up was done with the John Deere, so working in the sun didn't affect me too badly. 

I'm going to spend the winter haunting the dollar stores for suitable pots, and next year, put the flower and herb-filled pots between the stepping stones. I want the plantings to look unplanned even though some planning has gone into it. 

It feels great to have the project finished and even better to have done it myself. Did I get angry with the spousal unit? Yes. I hate it when he looks at a project based on what he can't do instead of what he can do. You might think that's sad, but after thirty years, I'm out of patience with that mindset. 

Don't avoid a difficult project based on what you think you CAN'T do. You CAN do it, even if you need to break it down into stages and take several days to get it done.  YOU CAN!!

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, John Deere 1023, gardening, home projects, do it yourself, DIY, pavers, empowerment, rural living, country lifestyle, a writer's life, hardscapes, flowers

August 30, 2023

It's at the end for 2023

As much as I enjoy having a garden, I'm not sad that the 2023 garden is all but finished. By this time of the season, it's more work than fun, but even then it's not hard work. It's merely persistent work. 

All things considered, such as heat, smoke, and not a lot of rain, the plants produced. I was extremely disappointed in the tomatoes due to a screwing I got from Ferry Morse seeds - read about that here - but even cherry tomatoes can be used for sauce.  Any tomato can be used for sauce. The variant is in how long you need to simmer the fruit to cook the water out. The plan was to make ketchup, but I made pizza sauce instead. I think with this last harvest and what is in the freezer, I can make another batch of pizza sauce and be good on that for a few years. 

The cucumbers produced well. I ran a couple of batches through the Harvest Right freeze dryer to preserve them, and I canned one batch of cucumber-pepper relish. 

Cucumber pepper relish
This year, I planted green beans for the first time ever. My grandfather always planted a type of pole bean, or climbing runner bean, but I chose the Contender bush variety. They did well and we had fresh beans for our table. Next year, I hope to expand a bit.

Sugar snap peas. I love 'em! He hates them. I've used up all the seed so they're off the 2024 garden plan. So are watermelon and cantaloupe. The melons were a bust. The ONE watermelon that formed wasn't edible. 

I am, apparently, a good grower of cabbage. We love fresh coleslaw, so cabbage is on the list for 2024. I'll stagger starting the seeds so I hopefully get a staggered harvest, and I'll go for a smaller number of heads. Coleslaw is great, but not every day for a month. 

The green bell peppers were an afterthought. I found a few seeds and planted them late, but there are pepper strips in the freezer again. I'm not sure the Great Stuff variety is the one for my garden. 

The Brussels sprouts were about 80% bust. Sprouts formed on two out of seven plants. I do have some seeds left so I'll give it one last try in 2024. Brussels, and cauliflower which died at transplant, are likely going to end up being off the plan for good after 2024, but we'll see.

Only one thing remains - butternut squash. This is the first time I tried this one and the results surprised me. There are ten butternuts growing but not yet ready to harvest. I'm watching for the stems to turn brown to pick them. Once they're all in, I'll process them to use for soup and pie filling. Butternut squash makes a sweet "pumpkin" pie. Just puree it and use the same as pumpkin puree. The flavor isn't that different.

Over the course of the next week, all the tomato plants will come out except for an experiment I'm trying that I saw on a Living Traditions video. The basil needs to be harvested and dried, and the calendula seeds will be ready to store. 

The bees are still prolifically working the tall Cracker Jack marigolds which has made me reconsider them for next year. I'm gathering those seeds and will cast them about the property. What grows in 2024 will grow, and I'll harvest those seeds to spread again. Doing this should develop a strain of plant that thrives in my micro-climate to keep the bees happy. The more bees the merrier! I'll plant a much shorter variety of marigolds in the garden. 

The year 2024 will bring its own successes and failures. I can dream, plan, and implement, but in the end, the garden does what the garden does. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, gardening, bees, pollinators, vegetables, flowers, herbs, cabbage, butternut squash, saving seeds Great Stuff peppers, Straight Eight cucumbers, rural living, country lifestyle, a writer's life, home food preservation, freeze dryer