Thursday, April 25, 2019

Morel Season is in Full Swing in the Blue Ridge!

 Seems that Easter weekend was a BIG weekend for morel hunting in Floyd County and i wasn't at home to hunt. 😭  We went away for the weekend, and when i checked into facebook my feed was FULL of morel pictures.
We got home  Sunday night and had just enough daylight left to check my spot.

Only found one lonely little mushroom. Went back out to look for them a few more times this week, but didn't find any. i was starting to feel a little discouraged, worried that my spot has dried up and we've never found them anywhere else on the property.  We had another good rain during the week, so i went back out hunting yesterday.

i was thrilled to find a couple more. Still not the big morel flush i've been hoping for, but it's something. i'm going to keep checking my spots and keep looking for spots. i KNOW they have to be out there.

We've had two different 'honey holes' on our property, the first we stumbled upon the first year we moved here. It produced well for almost 10 years and then stopped. The second spot i found after the first one dried up, and it's been producing ever since although the yield has definitely been going down each year.  i'll be back out hunting them again today, hoping i stumble upon a new 'honey hole'.

Springtime Baking

So all winter i've been on a pretty big baking kick.  i've really enjoyed the process of making (and eating) homemade bread.  When it was cold outside it was nice working in a warm kitchen with the oven. Now that the temperatures are getting warmer during the days i haven't been baking near as much.   The house just gets too warm, and i want to be outside, not sitting around waiting for my bread to rise.  So i still haven't gotten around to attempting sour dough.

On cooler, rainy days i've still been playing around with a few recipes. Tried something a little different and made a honey wheat seeded loaf. It's half wheat/half white flour with hemp, flax and chia seeds. It was pretty good, but a little too dense and heavy for my liking.

i recently learned to 'rest' the dough when braiding. Usually when i braid the dough pulls back making it difficult to get a long braid. This time i let it rest (maybe a little too much) and ended up with a braid that was longer than my pan so i spiraled it around.  i really love braiding bread.

This was my attempt at some decorative braiding on top of a loaf.  It was actually a bit of a failure since the heating element in my oven went out in the middle of the bake! i had to finish it off with the broiler. The bread was pretty flat, but actually still tasted really good and had a nice texture.

So now that garden season is in full swing. i've been looking into getting a bread machine. i really don't know too much about them,  but like the idea of baking bread all summer without heating up the house.  Also most bread machines have a timer function which you can set to bake bread at a certain time. So i can prepare the ingredients in the morning and let the machine do its work while i'm working on something else and not have to worry about over proofing. 

This was my last baking attempt before Easter. i wanted to try and make a pretty Italian Easter Bread.  i think i may have over proofed it, it doubled insize once in the oven and tried to push all the eggs out.  i'm been wanting to try making it again, but it's just been too warn to turn the oven on.

Since i was thinking about bread machines to cut down the heat in the kitchen, i checked out some Bread Machine reviews at The Village Bakery  They list the top 20 bread machines and include advantages and disadvantages of each one.  They also have the links to each machine so after reading their review you can check it out on amazon to see the price and what others think of the product.  It makes shopping for a bread machine (when you really don't know what you are looking for) very easy! 

 While at The Village Bakery, be sure and check out their 20 best whole wheat recipes!  i have several recipes bookmarked that i'm eager to try.  You can find other tips and resources for all your cooking needs! 

disclaimer. This is a sponsored post. It contains affiliate links and i do receive a small compensation for posting.

Drama in the hive- Our first swarm!

Kenan had checked the bees yesterday and noticed some swarm cells in a couple of the nucs. They had just been split a couple weeks ago, but their population was exploding and they were crowded.
He had just gone up there to split the nucs again when he noticed the bees in one of the nuc boxes was beginning to swarm.  

 There was a HUGE cloud of bees in the air in front of the hive and the buzzing sound was deafening.  Thankfully they didn't go far, they landed on the fence post a few feet away.

This cluster of bees is protecting their queen who is somewhere in the middle of all this. i didn't get a lot of pictures because Kenan was yelling at me to help. lol. i used a bee brush to brush them into an empty nuc box while Kenan held it under them. 

We brushed in as many bees as we could. Once i spotted the queen inside the box we put the lid on it.  The other bees will follow the scent of the queen and make their way into the nuc box which is now there new home until we can move them into a larger hive. Exciting stuff!

The bees are actually quite docile when they are in a swarm state. We could literally use our hands and scoop them into the box. 

We had just gotten the first swarm caught and in a new nuc box, so i came back to the house and took off my bee gear.  Kenan went back up to split the other nuc that needed splitting.

He immediately came running back to the house and said 'you're not going to believe this, but i think the other nuc is swarming!' So i got my bee gear back on and headed back outside. The second swarm made it into a tree on the edge of the goat field. We had to bend the branch down and cut it, and then shake/brush all the bees into the new nuc box.

 i held the branch while kenan cut it about 99% of the way through and then we switched places so he could support the branch while i finished the cut.

 We held the branch over the box and gave it a good shake, then brushed the remaining bees into the new box.  i again, spotted the queen in the box, so we put the lid on and are hoping the remaining bees make it into the box with her.  Phheeewww! That was some serious excitement!  i've never seen anything quite like it, and to be in the middle of all those bees was a bit nerve racking. We were already planning to split the hives, so they just did the work for us. We are currently at 4 hives and 10 nucs. We've ordered more hive boxes and will get them prepped and ready.

The term “nuc” is short for nucleus colony. A nucleus colony is just a very small colony of bees. It's not intended for honey production like the full size hives, it's more for bee production in case your hive fails. It's good to keep a couple nucs around so that If one of your hives goes queenless, you have another queen ready to go. If you wait for your colony to re-queen itself, the population will drop such that you won’t get any surplus honey for that year. You can also use the bees in a nuc to boost populations of a weak hive. Which we may have to do with one of our hives that is having issues. We will eventually be moving some of these nucs into Hive boxes to try and establish a few more full size hives.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Rock Painting with Triton Paint Pens -The Kindness Project (sponsored)

My girl and i had some fun with paint pens yesterday.   We are painting rocks for the Kindness Project again this year. These #Triton paint pens are great for Rock Painting - Ceramic, Wood, Metal and Glass. They come in a set of 12 vibrant colors and are easy to use. They have a .7 mm fine tips for details and are fast drying. The super fine tip is good for dotwork. They are waterbased and non-toxic.

 They have a .7 mm fine tips for details and are fast drying. The super fine tip is good for dotwork. They are waterbased and non-toxic.  We decorated quite a few rocks, but my rocks are a bit rough and it was hard to make nice lines.

So i had the idea to try applying vinyl decals, and then using the paint pens to color them in. i pained a base coat over the rock first, but i'm not sure if that's necessary.  i cut out my vinyl decal using my Silhouette cameo 3 and weeded it so it was ready to transfer.

Then i used transfer tape to lift the decal off the carrier paper and transfer it to the rock.  It stuck really well.  i rubbed it good before removing the transfer tape. 

Once the design is transferred to the rock, you can begin painting it.  

The paint pens work great with the vinyl, and if you accidentally get a little paint on the vinyl it's easy to wipe off without effecting the design.  We really loved working with these paint pens, the fine tip is really good for writing and for the details. i just need to find some smoother rocks.  Once we have these finished we'll put a layer of  Mod Podge Outdoors over them to seal them. We are looking forward to hiding a few rocks around town this summer. 

You can find more info about the paint pens we used here .

disclaimer. i did not receive compensation for this post, however i did receive a free product to review in exchange for my opinion. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way. This post may contain affiliate links

Spring Harvest- Garden to Table Meals

Garden season is here!  Although it' still too early to plant much more than seeds, we are still starting to harvest fresh food.  Our hens have been laying well, so there is no shortage to fresh eggs.  My asparagus is starting to come up, and besides the asparagus is also full of chickweed.

Although chickeweed is considered a weed by many, it's a tasty edible that can be used in place of spinach both fresh or cooked.

Our shiitakes have been producing all winter, but are really popping now. i have about lbs in the fridge at all times and we've been cooking with them almost daily. They are a thick hearty mushroom and really make a fabulous meal.  We are also starting to get oyster mushrooms again, and morels should be popping soon. Our freezer is still stocked with chanterelles from last year's mushroom season.

New asparagus just coming up. Although i have an established asparagus bed, we put in about 50 new crowns last year.  So we are expecting a fabulous harvest this year.

My first Harvest meal, from garden to table was an amazing omelette stuffed with fresh picked mushrooms, asparagus and chickweed. Everything was homegrown except the cheese and seasoning. Everything was picked fresh / collected that day.

Then for dinner i made a creaky mushroom fettucine using shiitake, chanterelle (frozen from last year) and Oyster mushrooms, chickweed, garlic and asparagus.  The butter and cream came from our cow share. The only thing store bought was the pasta noodles, Parmesan cheese and seasonings.

Garden to Table Mushroom Fettucine.

1 lbs fettucine noodles
1 lbs fresh mushrooms sliced ( i used shiitake, oyster and  thawed Chanterelle)
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup heavy cream 
1/4- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese 
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch chickweed or spinach (washed and chopped)
1/2 lbs asparagus
salt and pepper

Cook pasta according to directions and set aside.
While Pasta cooks. Melt the butter in a deep sauté pan over medium heat. 
Add garlic and cook until fragrant about 2 minutes. 
Add the mushrooms and cook for 6 to 8 minutes until they have released their liquid and become tender. 
Add chickweed/spinach and Asparagus and saute a few more minutes until asparagusis tender crisp.
Add the cream and most of the parmesan cheese and cook until mixture thickens.  Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss well until pasta is well coated. transfer to your serving dish and top with addition Parmesan cheese.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

STOMP at the National Theatre (Flash Giveaway!)

STOMP is hitting the stage April 23rd through April 28th at the National Theatre! It is explosive, provocative, sophisticated, utterly unique and appeals to audiences of all ages. With an eight-member troupe, they use everything but conventional percussion instruments – matchboxes, wooden poles, brooms, garbage cans, Zippo lighters, hubcaps – to fill the stage with magnificent rhythms.

The return of the percussive hit also brings some new surprises, with some sections of the show now updated and restructured, utilizing props like tractor tire inner tubes and paint cans. As USA Today says, “STOMP finds beautiful noises in the strangest places.” STOMP. See what all the noise is about.

Plan on a run time of approximately 95 minutes with no intermission.  Children under the age of four are not permitted to attend the show.

STOMP at The National Theatre Giveaway
Enter to win two tickets for Tuesday, April 23rd at 7:30pm!
Rafflecopter form may take a minute to load. 

Giveaway ends on April 20th, and winner will have 24 hours to reply or a new winner may be chosen.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Spring is Springing!

i hate to get to ahead of myself, especially when it comes to Spring. Our frost free date isn't until around May 15th, but when it's 70 degrees and everything is blooming in April i get a bad case of Spring fever!!

i have 6 peach trees in full bloom! Last year we didn't get any peaches because of a late freeze, so i am really hoping they make it this year. It's been a few years since we've had a good peach harvest.  Our main peach tree died a few years back, and all the ones we have now were grown from seed from that original tree. So it's taken a few years for them to be producing peaches.

Blossoms bring butterflies.  i spotted a couple Comma butterflies over the last few weeks, but this week i spotted my first swallowtails. 

They are loving the peach blossoms.  This time of year when i step outside i can hear the peach trees buzzing from all the bees and pollinators that are covering it. 

Our shiitakes have been producing all winter, but now that spring is here they are really starting to pop. We plugged more logs last year, so i'm eager to see what we get this year.  We plugged more shiitake, but also pink and yellow oysters, lions mane, and chicken of the woods.

These are wild oyster mushrooms that come up every year on a Poplar stump near the goat fence. 

Blue oyster buttons, just coming up.  i don't like the taste of these as much as i like the shiitake and chanterelles, but they sure are pretty when they come up in a big cluster.

Spring means so many eggs!!  Pretty happy with my egg colors this year. i have a 3rd generation Olive egger, and several that lay pinkish/lavender colored eggs.  i have about 5 hens trying to set, but we are trying not to hatch out anymore babies this year. Especially no more of the wild ones that lay the boring cream eggs. i'm really trying to thin down my flock and focus on the pretty egg colors.

We should be finding morel mushrooms soon, but i haven't spotted any yet. i've been out hunting every day, checking all of our regular spots. i thought perhaps with the temps being warmer this year, we might see some popping early, but so far that hasn't been the case.  i think we probably have another week or so before we start to see them.

i'm loving the warmer temps, have my spring garden mostly planted. Spring fever has me wanting to be outside all the time though, and i really need to get myself back in the glass shop!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

God Save the Queen! Honey Bee update.

Earlier this week we did a full inspection in the bee yard.  All of our hives survived the winter. We have 4 full size hives and 3 nucs.

 All hives are looking great except the Hufflepuff. They are getting ready to overthrow their queen (supersede). About a week and half ago the hive was full of capped brood and larva, but when we check them yesterday there was no capped brood and only a few larva. We spotted the queen, so she is still there...but she's not doing her job. So they are attempting to raise a new queen to supersede her.

We have a few different options that we could do. We could cull the queen (kill her) and introduce a new queen, or let nature take it's course and hope that they are able to successfully raise a new queen on their own.

We decided to allow them to raise their own queen.  We gave them some frames of eggs and larvae from another hive, and are hoping for the best.  This photo is a supercedure cell, and it's where they will raise their queen. Once the queen hatches, she'll most likely kill the old queen and go on a maiden mating flight to seek out drones from a different hive to mate with.  She will then return to lay eggs and act as the ruling queen.  It's all a little risky, but we are hoping it all works out other wise we could lose this hive.

 All other hives look good, we'll be doing some splits soon to hopefully prevent swarming. The bees are bringing in all kinds of different colored pollen. Red, orange, yellow and green!

They love the Dead nettle, this guy is covered in pollen.

i had no idea there were so many different colors of pollen.   You can see red, orange, yellow and green in the hive! 

i found this chart online to help identify some of the pollen colors. Right now our peach trees are in full bloom, but the bees can travel up to 2 miles radius looking for pollen. So i'm not sure what all they are bringing in.

We are hoping to pull honey after the next big honey flow. A bit disappointed that we probably won't be getting any from Hufflepuff while they are busy trying to raise a new queen instead of focusing on honey production.  i'm just really hoping that the new queen survives and can save the hive before it's too late. God save the queen!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Help Grow The Rebellion! Another Rebel Gardens Giveaway!

A few weeks ago i hosted a giveaway for Rebel Gardens.  It was so much fun, we decided to do it again!  Rebel Gardens is growing company out of Canby, OR that offers organic, Non GMO, Heirloom Seeds.  On the surface Rebel Gardens is just a seed company. But under the surface they are actually something a little different.  Their real goal isn't just selling seeds, the real goal is undermining the industrial food system. In a nutshell they believe that our modern food system is not healthy for our bodies, for our planet, for anything really and they we want to be a part of the solution.

"Rebel Gardens is about invoking the spirit of WW2 Victory Gardens. But this time we grow not to support a war but to support a Rebellion. The industrial food system is slowly destroying our health and we are not going to take it anymore. Plant a seed with us and grow the rebellion! "

Rebel Gardens offers several different seed collections. They have a Culinary Variety pack that contains 10 packages of  organic herb seeds.  An Heirloom tomato collection (my personal favorite) with 8 different heirloom varieties, the Survival seed collection which is the best value 28 seed packs for $19.99 and many others! All of their seeds are certified organic, non-gmo, heirloom and USA grown and packed!

So are you ready to help grow the rebellion?

The Generous folks at Rebel Gardens have offered an Heirloom Vegetable Garden seed Collection and a set of Gardening tools

Can't wait for the giveaway? You can purchase them here.  

Now for the giveaway!

 One lucky reader will win the Vegetable Garden Collection and a set of Gardening tools!

Enter below using the rafflecopter form (it might take a minute to load). One entry per person/IP address. US only. The winner will have 48 hours to respond by email or another winner may be chosen

Connect with Rebel Gardens

You can find them on Facebook at 
Also you can add Rebel Gardens on messenger chat to be kept up to date about future contests and coupons. 

disclaimer. i did not receive compensation for this post, however i did receive a free product to review in exchange for my opinion. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way. This post may contain affiliate links.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Hanging Rock State Park- Hiking Season is here!

We finally had a beautiful weekend and decided to spend a day hiking. It was much needed after what felt like the longest winter ever!  We decided to go back to Hanging Rock, which we hiked a couple years ago. Besides the hike up to the top of Hanging Rock there are several other trails and 5 waterfalls in the park.  The last time we came we only saw three of the waterfalls, so i wanted to come back and see the other two.

First we did the short hike to Hidden and Window Falls. There were actually a ton of people hiking, and hanging out at the falls so we didn't stay long at either fall.  This is Window falls.

This one is Hidden Falls.  Both are nice, small falls that you can walk right up to them and climb the rocks near them.  They are both on the same trail right off from the visitors center. After we hiked back to the parking lot, we decided to hike up Hanging Rock.

This is the view of Hanging Rock from the visitor center parking lot. We hiked all the way to the top! 

Just to give you an idea of where we hiked up to, you can see folks sitting on the 'hanging rock'  here.

My husband and daughter were the only ones brave enough to walk all the way to the edge. My son and i made it about half way out before deciding our knees would turn to jelly if we walked out any further.

We found a spot not quite as scary to sit and relax on.  Directly across from us is Buffalo Mountain in Floyd, Virginia (home).  It's hard to see in the photo, but you can see it in the one below.  We could also see Pilot Mountain to our Left, although i didn't get a photo of it.

That mountain hump right in the center of the photo is Buffalo Mountain, which is just down the road from us.  It's pretty neat to be so far from home, and still be able to see the Buffalo.  It's the highest point in Floyd County and can be seen almost anywhere in the county.   If you take route 8 out of Floyd toward NC, it will take you right to Hanging Rock.

After we hiked back to the parking lot, my kids were tired and of course didn't want to see the other water falls. We did hike out to see the Upper Cascades, which is a super quick kick...but still didn't get to see Tory's waterfall or the Lower cascade which is the whole reason i wanted to come back to Hanging Rock. Looks like we'll just have to come back again next year. :)