Farm chores.

During the past few months, the weather has certainly been newsworthy, affecting so many lives. Mother Nature has a huge influence on how we go about our day. She not only provides a positive influence ~ hopefully, most of the time ~ but, She is also able to devastate and kill…there is no taming of Her! My heart goes out to all those who are experiencing a loss!

And so we try to work in cooperation with the weather…between the raindrops and swings in temperatures, hot & cold, in an attempt to catch-up with our daily tasks!


 I’ve been ‘pruning’ more lavender (see!!!) in an attempt to rejuvenate old, woody plants. I’m willing to sacrifice bloom this year, for healthier, more productive plants next year. We’ve applied more mulch between the rows to minimize weeds.

Oh, my poor ache hands!

The veggie garden is almost planted. The tomato plants and peppers were last to go in the ground for fear of a late frost. Hubby prefers his own stick trellis to tomato cages. 

I’ve been amending my herb garden raised beds with lots of ‘organic’ compost before planting annual herbs, such as basil, parsley and dill. It will provide nutrients and aerate the soil a bit too.

Next, hubby finally finished building ‘Orthanc’ ~~ our little sheep play platform ~~ which the lambs are particularly enjoying! It’s quite entertaining to watch them frolic in the evenings, or tower over ‘mom’ laying below!

I’d love to add a little ‘dog house’ up top some day, like a little covered bridge…when we’ve accumulated more lumber to salvage/re-purpose?

Hubby also hard-wired the electric fence for the sheep/goats. Yeah! “Look Ma-a-a-a-a-a! No more extension cord!”

…and re-inforced/re-built the rams’ breeding pen(s ) for this Fall…with a real working gate too! Last year we temporarily separated the ram pen ~~ into smaller breeding pens ~~ with a hog panel and T-posts and 2-strands of electric wire between adjoining pens. That’s how we managed our 2 rams. I normally only breed a few ewes. Otherwise you end up with a lot of cute sheep and an overflowing wool room in no time! I like this new pen!

Ram’s can be very destructive (see the corner of the pole barn?)…but, I think this new fencing will hold them? Why is it that the ‘grass’ or perhaps the ewe on the other side of the fence is always ‘more appealing’? Or, we want what we can’t have? Two is better than one? The more the merrier? Crazy rams!

The baby sheep and goats are growing by leaps and bounds! They’re getting fat on grass and ma ma’s milk! I’m sharing goat milk with the kids now and making cheese regularly. Two Alpine bucklings have left the farm, another OBE buckling is sold/reserved. I have another Oberhasli buckling I’d love to sell as a herd sire…somewhere? And, yesterday/Saturday we castrated the two Alpine bucklings (who are now called wethers) – I hope we find them a home where they’ll make a very nice pet or 4H project…rather than meat in someone’s freezer. My sweet little goaties! It’s the part of ‘raising milk goats’ that I do NOT like!

As for my sheepies, two of my ewe lambs are reserved/sold, but won’t leave the farm ’til they’re at least eight weeks old. I have another black ewe lamb for sale; I’m evaluating the two ram lambs and considering selling perhaps a black yearling ewe? I’d like to keep ’em all, but hubby gives me the eeeee-vil eye every time I’m hugging & playing with the little wooly fur balls…UGH!

I’ve been doing a few ‘projects’ too, but I’ll save that for another post!

Happy Day! ♥


sa·chet \sa-‘sha: n 1: a small bag or packet 2: a small bag containing a perfumed powder used to scent clothes and linens

In my opinion, herbs are magical! These modest looking plants have the power to heal and protect against disease, flavor foods, perfume the body and delight the senses.

Scents, aroma, fragrance… evoke memories, especially florals, perhaps of childhood days when there wasn’t a care in the world.  Since everyone’s sense of smell is different, you really must experiment with different plant materials to find your preferences.  Most everyone likes lavender; it’s a nice relaxing base scent and often used in sachets (but you can use a mixture of your favorite scents).


Pretty little sachet ‘pillows’ are a beautiful way to add a lovely scent to any room of your home. A sachet ‘pillow’ may be made from any fine cotton, linen, muslin-type fabric. HINT: Recycle old linens and pretty hankies for pretty sachets!  Simply cut 2-fabric squares (mine are approx. 4X4 inches) allowing for a 1/4-inch seam; print side facing inside. Stitch all around, leaving a 2-inch opening at one end. HINT: You may add a piece of twine or yarn for a ‘hanger’. Once the sides are sewn, turn right side out. I tea-stained my sachets for an ‘aged’ prim look.

A Refresher on Tea & Coffee ‘Dyeing’

Tea or instant coffee can be used to create an ‘aged’ look to your handmades. I like to use Lipton tea or Maxwell House instant coffee.  Put a kettle on to boil. Add 5-6 teabags (depending on the appearance/depth you’d like to achieve) or several tablespoons instant coffee into a bowl, add water and allow to steep. You can use the tea bags to blot your item to be ‘aged’ or submerge the entire item into the cooled bath water. Gently squeeze out excess water/towel blot. Pre-heat oven to lowest setting (about 170 degrees F) and place items on a cookie sheet and into the oven with the door slightly cracked. Check your piece often until desired effect is achieved! Viola! Instant heirloom!

My sachets are filled with lavender and a touch of flax-seed (about 1 tablespoon). The flax-seed makes them feel great…nice and squishy! They stack nicely and look pretty tied in a bundle for a gift and look great tossed in a bowl together.  HINT: Save a 1/2 gallon or  smaller plastic jug, cut off the bottom and use the ‘top’ half as a funnel!  

A few more benefits of scented sachets:

They make a great hostess gift
Linens smell fabulous when used in a linen closet
Freshen your car or office
Display near your bed or toss under your pillow to aid in sleep
The scent lasts and lasts, just give a squeeze to release heavenly scent
Toss in your yarn stash as a natural moth repellent
Freshen your closet and clothes or toss in the dryer


Lavender is one of the most treasured herbs. It is loved for its rich aroma and garden beauty.  An effective medicinal herb, it helps relax and revitalize. A favorite herb for bath & laundry since Greek and Roman times. For fiber enthusiasts, a natural moth repellant! English lavender, Lavandula augustifolia, hardiest of the species, is most often used in cooking.


Lavenders want well drained soil, good air circulation, and as much sun as possible to promote flower production. Lavenders prefer neutral to alkaline soil. In humid climates, coarse sand worked-in around the crown will help the plant dry out. Lavenders require no feeding, though an occasional dressing of low-nitrogen organic fertilizer will make your plants happy. 


Lavender can be pruned in the early spring or in the fall (not too late so as to give plants time to harden off before winter). Generally speaking, trim plant by one-third, keeping the typical mound shape of the plant. If you do not plan to harvest the flowers, then a light pruning just after flowering, will be sufficient to promote new growth. Cut each flower stem back to the first or second pair of leaves.


Sweet Valentine Project

I love St. Valentine’s Day! It’s probably one of my favorite ‘holidays’…if you can call every February 14th, ie Valentine’s Day a HOLIDAY. Besides sheep, hearts are my next best ‘motifs’ to play with. Does that make me a hopeless romantic?

So, I whipped up these two lavender/flax-filled sachets today.

They’re both made with my hand-dyed, hand-felted wool on the one side and a green satin print fabric for the back. I hand-stitched rosebud trim around the perimeter, added a green cord for hanging, and added snippets of lace, bead trim, tea-stained tag, vintage button or/valentine charm to sweeten them up.


I have lots more ‘hearts; to make…fun, fun, fun! So, what are you waiting for???


Word for the day…


Garbling is the old-fashioned and technical term used by herbalists to denote the process of stripping dried herb leaves from their stems, removing the ‘impurities’ such as twigs and stems, yellowed and decayed leaves, fauna, etc. to prepare them for storage and/or use.

The word garble has been around for a while—500 years in English and more in other languages. It was first applied not to communications but to trade goods. It was used to describe sorting the good from the bad.  For example, picking the husks out of a shipment of spices was called ‘garbling‘.

The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that it had different forms within Arabic and that this likely means it wasn’t originally from Arabic. Instead, it might be related to the Latin word for “sieve.”

This meaning was used in English also to apply to people, so that if you were going to decide on membership in a club you would ‘garble’ the applicants so that you would accept your favorites, but not allow people you didn’t like.

The word changed its meaning in English.  Originally sorting good from bad, it soon came to mean mixing bad in to fake more of the good. In other words, traders were evidently trying to pad their shipments.  This intentional contamination of commodities was what lead to the word being used to mean intentionally misrepresenting messages. From there a logical progression would seem to be that unclear messages were called by the same term, garbled, even when the loss of message clarity was unintentional.

Origin of GARBLE

Middle English garbelen, from Old Italian garbellare to sift, from Arabic gharbala, from Late Latin cribellare, from cribellum sieve; akin to Latin cernere to sift. First Known Use: 15th century

Moon Garden

Many of my gardens are centered around themes. Today, I thought I’d share one of them…my ‘Moon’ (or white) Garden. Moon gardens are particularly enjoyable at night. It was created to disguise our well head (see the pipe that’s pictured in the center). Yes, in the ‘country’ we have well water – NO access to a municipal water supply.

My Moon Garden consists of an inner and outer circle; most plants have star-shaped or white flowers or foliage to best reflect the moonlight, fragrant – great for evening entertaining? The iron piece in the center is a folk-y half-moon and stars constructed of steel plate and rods…virtually indistructable!

The ‘path’ is lined with crushed oyster shells – also white. HINT: It’s a calcium supplement for chickens available at the feed supply. We borrowed the idea of using oyster shell when we visited Colonial Williamsburg many years ago. Since oysters (along with other shellfish) was a dietary staple and in large supply on the east coast, frugal colonists used crushed shells as a sort of ‘paving’ material. Pretty nifty!

Also important in a garden – seating – a bench of some sort? You don’t think I actually ever SIT in it???

A few plants in my moon garden are: lamb’s ears, lavender, cone flower, artemisia silver king (which I’m in the process of replacing), snow in summer, germander, lychnis or rose campion, baby’s breath, globe amaranth, monarda. The silver king is a very nice perennial, drought tolerant, fragrant, dries well for wreath-making, but, weeds infiltrated it’s ‘bed’ (after 20-years) and it was simply easier to ‘re-do’ that section than to pull weeds! EEK!

I’ll probably replace it with rose campion/lychnis, an old-tyme cottage garden favorite.

Plants must meet several criteria to ‘reside’ in my garden: If I can’t EAT it, then it must be drought tolerant (since I don’t spend ANY time watering), heirloom, self-seed or perennial, native or hardy.

BTW, wanted to mention that it’s time to harvest lavender. The lavender buds have swelled and a bloom or two is evident. If you wait ’til all the buds bloom, it will fall off the stems as the lavender is drying. Harvest in the a.m. after the dew has dried. Air dry lavender in small bundles secured with a rubber band hanging from a peg, drying rack, etc (or the back of a chair) or lay fresh-cut stems on an old screen – out of direct sunlight – where there’s good air circulation.

Here’s a few of my volunteer clean-up crew…anxiously awaiting a hand-out of their morning ‘greens’. Never enough comfry, mint, lady’s mantle, rosemary and such. YUM! Don’t worry, the goats share the goodies with the sheepies too!

On a happy note (I guess), my bucklings and Tinkerbell’s twin ewe lambs will be moving to their new home this weekend at The Lamb’s Tail. More on that later…

WOW…where did the time go?!!!!

Lavender: Is it Dead or Alive?

Upon first inspection, the grayish dry foliage of lavender may be mistaken for dead.

While everything else in the garden is ‘greening’, lavender appears seemingly lifeless.

But wait, a closer look reveals green leaves emerging near the center of the plant and upward to the branch-tips. The warmth of Spring slowly awakens lavender from its winter slumber.

Lavender is actually a shrub. In my Michigan garden, I plant the hardiest of the species, English lavender, Lavandula augustifolia ~ the two most common varieties ‘Munstead’ and Hidcote’. Note: I have also planted several other varieties with major losses due to our erratic winters! Much of my lavender is planted within my gardens as a border or loosely formed hedge.

Lavender lives on for ages, its flowers becoming more sparse as the woody growth increases. The secret of keeping a lavender ‘bush’ in good shape is to prune it to shape in Spring…about one third of its growth, but try not to cut back to old wood. Lavender is ‘evergreen’ and needs its leaves to survive (the winter). Lavender prefers full sun, plenty of air around it, alkaline soil and good drainage.

Lavender usually blooms in early July (and if harvested) blooms again ~ to a lesser extent ~ in September. We know that the Romans added it to their baths ~ naming it “Lavandula” from lavare “to wash”. The flower buds and essential oil are primarily used for their scent (aromatherapy) in sachets, potpourri, wreaths, soaps and lotions. Did you know it’s a natural moth repellant (good for the woolies) and helps relieve pain from insect bites? I apply the e.o. directly to wasp stings to reduce the swelling! Lavender buds can also be used as a culinary herb to flavor desserts, vinegars, etc of adventurous cooks. Careful, a little goes a long way!

So, be patient and wait before you pull out your lavender!

A Working Weekend

Matt was home over an extended 4-day weekend (mid-terms) so I spent lots of time rattling the pots and pans in the kitchen preparing his ‘favorites’. Used up the last of my goat’s milk cheese with baked manicotti…YUM! I made meatloaf –  it’s always a family fav – for another supper, and last, stuffed green peppers with a basil/tomato sauce with pick’ns from the garden just before the hard frost.

For dessert, I had to bake an apple strudel…but not the type you’re probably most familiar with…light airy filo-type crust? This ‘apfel’ strudel is my mom’s recipe from the ‘old country’, Nieder Osterreich (Northern Austria) from a little farming village called Rastenfeld where my mom was born and raised. It’s a simple-folk farmer’s hearty-type dough, made with flour, sugar, butter, sour cream, milk and egg yolks. It rolls out easily and is then filled with fresh sliced apples, sprinkled with sugar and dotted with butter (I toss in a few raisins and a little cinnamon). Another BIG Y-U-M!


Here’s the recipe, made the old-fashioned way – BY HAND. NOTE: MAKES TWO APFEL STRUDELS: In a large bowl, add 4 1/2 cups flour, 2/3 cup sugar, pinch salt. Stir with whisk. Now, make a hole in the center of the flour and add: cut in 2 sticks butter, 4 tablespoons sour cream, 4  tablespoons milk, 4 egg yolks (reserve the whites to brush on top of the strudel if desired). Now comes the fun part! Push up your sleeves and with your hands, begin to pull in flour from sides and incorporate into the ‘wet’ ingredients. Once you have formed a ball of dough – of sorts – turn out onto a floured dough board and work gently adding a bit more flour if needed until ingredients are all incorporated and smooth. Put finished dough aside under the bowl while you prepare your apples. Peel, core ‘n slice 7-8 large apples (I use Northern Spy but any good baking apple will do. Now, back to the dough…cut the dough in half (makes 2). Roll out half the dough to fit lengthwise on a parchment paper lined 11 X 17 baking sheet, approx 1/4 inch thick. Arrange sliced apples down the center of dough. sprinkle on sugar to taste, add cinnamon & raisens if desired, and dot with a few bits of butter. Gently fold over dough to center and pinch ‘n tuck ends closed. Brush on egg whites and sprinkle with sugar if desired – OR – when baked, just dust strudel with powder sugar. Repeat process with second half of remaining dough (for second strudel). Transfer from wood board to baking sheet, next to first strudel (see pic). Bake at preheated 350 degrees F until golden brown, juices should be flowing, approx 45 minutes – 1 hour. Remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing. Enjoy!  

Since I had man-power available, we managed to perform necessary flock management, worming, feet trimming, etc. getting everyone prepared for the winter and breeding(?). I also managed to skirt, wash and pick Reeces’ fleece, my ewe lamb – whom I sheared this past September. I was hoping beyond hope for a nice warm day to perform this ‘chore’ when it turned so unseasonably cold! Nevertheless, I accomplished the task in two days…well, I had to let the fleece dry overnight in my drying barn before I could ‘pick- it’. That’s kind of like teasing the wool apart – in preparation for spinning. But first…

drying fleece

Before I could USE the drying barn (I forgot to mention sequencing) – remember ALL that lavender drying all over screens and racks in the drying barn??? Well, it took me two days, but I finally ‘garbled’ (that is, removed all the leaves/buds from the stems) every bit of lavender I had harvested this past summer and temporarily stockpiled in the barn. YEAH – well done! Smells heavenly. I saved some of the longer lavender stems to bundle and use as scented ‘faggots’ for the fireplace.

And, I also made another batch of goat milk soap – this time I used peppermint and rosemary essential oils and some of my farm-raised organic peppermint for color. TIP: I use a ‘dedicated’ electric coffee grinder for grinding herbs and other botanicals for creating various herbal sundries. I always look forward to soapmaking day – the kitchen is usually filled with wonderful scents. After the soap is allowed to “set” for approx. 24 hours, I remove the soap (in this particular batch, a 10 pound loaf) from the mold. TIP: Use freezer paper to line your mold for easy release. I immediately cut the soap ‘loaf’ into individual bars. TIP: A non-serrated knife/blade makes a clean cut and/or a cheese-cutter (straight or curly/fancy blade cuts the soap nicely. Sometimes you can find them at the dollar store. I usually get anywhere from 24 – 30 bars depending how I cut the loaf. TIP: A small old wood drawer makes a nice soap mold! The bars of soap are placed on wire racks where they’re allowed to cure/harden for another 3-4 weeks before the soap is used/sold.


Last, but not least, hubby also mulched our veggie garden compost with his chipper/shredder that operates off the tractor PTO. We have a 3-stage compost system. One bin accumulates, one bin is in-process/cooking and one bin is the final ‘product’ …which is usually always empty because we put it right back into the garden beds in the Spring.  Since we already got hit hard with frost several times, I’ve been cleaning-up the garden beds and accumulating lots of garden debris. You increase the rate of decomposition by increasing the surface area…that is, chop up your veggie waste. Here’s the final product – it looks almost ready to place back into the garden – full of nutrients for next growing season!


That’s flat leaf parsley in the foreground – normally lasts in the garden ’til Thanksgiving. I’ll pick lots and share with family. I’ll use some to make a parsley pesto and prefer to freeze the rest since ‘dried’ parsley begins to loose its flavor quickly. 

3-Stage Compost Bins
3-Stage Compost Bins

A busy, blessed weekend!

Fall garden ‘to-do’ list!


You never realize how creative you are until it comes time to figure out what to do with all the L A V E N D E R in your garden!?!!


Most of the lavender seen here (in my drying barn) will be ‘garbled’, that is, the buds and leaves will be removed from the stems and stored for use in sachets, sweet bags, natural moth chasers, herb soaps, various herbal sundries and culinary creations. The woody stems and other herbal clippings may be saved and gathered together with twine or raffia for scented ‘ faggots’ for the fireplace. Toss them on the embers to release their sweet scents!

Other garden chores on my ‘to-do’ list are: plant bulbs, clean-up beds, empty pots & containers for winter storage, bring in ‘vacationing’ plants such as bay, scented geraniums, French lavender and rosemary; harvest herbs, make wreaths, gather pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn for Thanksgiving decorations, rake leaves, sow grass, mulch compost pile, gather rose hips…that’s enough for starters! It seems like mid-November rather than October since the weather has turned prematurely COLD (mid 40’s for high temps?) and the days are already growing shorter. You know it’s cold when you start skimming the ice off the critters water buckets. I’m sooooo not ready for winter!

Better break out the woolies!