Tuesday, May 31, 2011

You Grab A Line and I'll Grab a Pole Honey

When Secret Agent Man was growing up he had a lot of free reign. He, and his identical twin brother, went off fishing, frog gigging (gross), camping and a myriad of other things well before they were teenagers. This was back in the day before cell phone, so they were truly left to their own devices many a time. This past weekend he told me we were going fishing at a place he went as a kid. Said I would like it!

At first things looked rather scenic.

Then he parked the vehicle, on the side of the road, and we proceeded down a very steep embankment. To say I wasn't feeling the fishing vibe at this moment would be an understatement. After seeing an old kitchen hand mixer laying by the bridge, I was just hoping no one tossed anything out their car window while we trudged along.

But, once there things looked a bit better.

We started wading down the creek to find a few good fishing spots. If you are the little girl in the household, you get a lift from your dad.

Everyone got their, "fish on", except me. I was the official photographer of the moment. And, that was okay by me.

Toots caught a fish......

and so did the Deerslayer.

Secret Agent Man caught a fish and a little something extra.

All in all a great day.....and not once did I hear a banjo......

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day

This weekend marks the start of the summer season and many people use it to gather with family, cookout, and go shopping.

However, Memorial Day originally began as Decoration Day after the Civil War. The process of decorating soldier's graves became widespread and in 1882 Decoration Day officially became known as Memorial Day. A day in memory and honor of those who gave their lives in war.

Most American celebrate this holiday by visiting cemeteries and memorials. A moment of remembrance takes place, nationally, at 3 pm local time. Typically the U.S. flag is flown at half staff from dawn until noon.

Please remember to take just a moment this Memorial Day to thank a veteran, or current service member, for their service to our country.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Holy Cow Cake

Last week I sought solace in a pan of chocolate chunk brown sugar brownies and they totally cured all of my ills. But, if your house is like mine, those brownies are long gone.

That would be all well and good except Blogger failed me again this week and wouldn't let me comment on some blogs.


This calls for more chocolate.

Holy Cow Cake to the rescue.

You only need:

1 box of German chocolate cake mix

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 jar caramel ice cream topping

1 tub cool whip

1 bag of toffee chips

Mix cake according to directions on the box and bake in a 9x13 inch pan. When cake is done, poke holes through cake and pour sweetened condensed milk on cake. Then pour caramel topping on cake. Let cool. Top with cool whip and toffee chips.

It comes out sweet and very moist. I do store it in the fridge due to the whipped topping.

There might be one piece left at my house....already.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Art in the Alley

This past weekend the annual Art in the Alley festival was held here in Smalltownland. Started several years ago to celebrate artisans far and near, it is held in an alley right behind the historic town square. Once you squeeze through this little bottleneck opening, the whole alley opens up.

This year the alley held a wide variety of items, including handmade jewelry, paintings, pottery, woodworking, and flowers.

I have to admit that I was partial to the painting in the lower left hand corner of this shot. I adore the repetitive details of the second floor of the house.

Refreshments for the body and soul were available to patrons. Different music was scheduled during the day. While I was there my favorite local Bluegrass musicians were playing. *Bonus*

There was also a booth of metal work and sculptures for sale. And yes, I bought this bottle tree. It is now resting in the walkway of my garden. One can never have too many bottle trees.

One gentlemen had a booth full of checkerboards that he handmade. They were stunning pieces of art, but meant for utilitarian purposes. And yes.....I bought one of these as well. Just too perfect to pass up.

And it came with a wheat penny checker set.

I have discovered that just because your checkerboard is a piece of art and looks fabulous in your old house parlor, it doesn't keep your kids from arguing while they play the game.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Straw Bale Sprouts

Thus far my straw bale project seems to be going smoothly. Everything has sprouted, even the tomatoes. They had been lagging behind just a bit and I was starting to get worried.

I will say that I have had a bit of grass try and grow through the straw bale, but it it very simple to just pluck it out. No garden hoe needed!

A special thanks goes out to Bernie who sent me an encouraging e-mail about starting this garden project. He was even kind enough to send a picture of his tomatoes growing in a straw bale. Thanks Bernie, I appreciated it!

On a different note, our baby birds did not make it. We were all sad that it didn't work out, especially my daughter. But, I found a new surprise in the other fern on the front porch.

It looks to be another Chipping Sparrow nest with just one egg this time. We are hopeful for different results this time.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


The thing that really draws me into photography is the way it captures a moment in time. I love looking at historic photographs and seeing the dress, mannerisms, and facial expression of the subjects. This week I was fortunate enough to run across some tintypes at my Smalltownland antique store.

There were quite a few to choose from in a new booth, but I selected just a handful of my favorites. I may have to go back.....

A tintype is a photographic process that involves a very underexposed negative image that is produced on an emulsion and mounted against a dark metal backing. This gives it the appearance of a positive image. Tintypes are also known as ferrotypes. Tintypes are not actually made of tin, but of iron. They were simple and fast to prepare and were offered by photographers at carnivals and street fairs. Patented in 1856, they remained popular until the end of the 19th century.

Here are two that I selected and I adore the expressions on the men's faces. The one on the left is a young man, perhaps maybe even The Deerslayer's age.

This woman is dresses to the, "nines", with earrings, a lace collar, and a waist so small I cannot even imagine wearing the corset that must have contained her.

However, this tiny photograph is my favorite find. It is a gem miniature tintype and these were made for lockets and other pieces of jewelry. It is of a young boy in a suit with some severe, slicked-back hair. The original label is on the back showing the photo being taken in Utica, New York, by a J.E. James. Noted on the label as being taken with the new invented camera and finished in only ten minutes.

Although I am fortunate to have old photographs that have been preserved in my family, there are no tintypes. I find them to be a rather romantic look at life portrayed years ago.

How about you? Any tintypes in your family treasures?

Thoughtless Thursday

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chocolate Chunk Brown Sugar Brownies

So I survived the Blogger blackout a few days ago, but just barely. Going cold turkey for 24 hours was just so harsh and I consoled myself with a batch of these brownies. They have become a staple around my house for awhile now. Especially since I found the true secret to making them.....chocolate chunks. Since I found these dudes in the baking aisle, mere chocolate chips will just not do anymore.

Here they are in all of their glory. Shield your eyes if you must, as their beauty might just be too much to take in all at once.

Here is the finished product. Two delicious center cuts right out of the pan. My son prefers the righteous corner cuts, but not me. I like the gooey center pieces with all of the chocolaty, caramel flavor. A tall glass of milk is a must when consuming these.

Chocolate Chunk Brown Sugar Brownies

2 2/3 cups self rising flour

2 cups packed brown sugar

1 cup real butter, softened (not margarine...yuck)

2 eggs (from your own backyard...or your neighbor's)

2 teaspoons vanilla (make your own...it's better that way)

1 cup chopped walnuts (totally optional....I never use them)

1 regular sized package of chocolate chunks (located right next to the wimpy chocolate chips)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9x13 inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. I use a glass baking dish for this (Pyrex) with good results. Cream the butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, beat until smooth. Add the flour until well combined and then stir in the chocolate chunks.

*You will need to sample a few of the chunks to test for freshness.*

When all is well blended, spread the mixture into the coated pan. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. My magic number is 28 minutes. The key is not to over bake and allow the center to remain a bit soft. Take out of the oven and allow it to cool completely. Yes, that means no sneaking a bite until it cools and, "sets". When it comes out of the oven it will be fluffy and puffy. As it cools it will deflate a bit and settle into the pan.

Serve with copious amounts of milk and do enjoy.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Here on the farmette there seems to be an Iris everywhere I look lately.

I am certainly not complaining.

I didn't plant a one of them, yet each year they reemerge providing us with great beauty.

With little to no work from the human farm inhabitants.

"The earth laughs in flowers."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, May 13, 2011

Baby Birds

Several days ago I posted about a Chipping Sparrow nest located in a fern on our front porch. The lovely mother had four eggs in the nest and then.....two of them mysteriously disappeared. I say mysteriously because it looked as if the nest, and fern, had not been disturbed whatsoever. Thus, we were left with two very tiny eggs to watch over.

And then this week one of the eggs hatched. I do think I could have fit that baby bird into a thimble. It truly was that small.

The sibling made its appearance the very next day.

We are hoping they make it as the mother seems a bit sporadic in her visits.

~Nature can be a harsh thing.~

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Straw Bale Gardening

The following picture conjures up the excitement level of watching paint dry, but this photo marks the true beginning of my straw bale garden project. Quite a few weeks ago Secret Agent man secured eighteen bales of straw, (not hay), from a farmer friend for an extremely good price. He organized them in the garden plot for me and then it was time to soak them. Due to all of the rain we had they received more of a soaking than I had anticipated, but that was really not a problem. Soaking allows the bales to heat up and then they need to cool down for at least a couple of weeks.

This weekend our weather was dry enough, finally, so that I could get my dirt/manure mixture onto the bales and sow some seeds.

Secret Agent Man had been saving manure for me in a special spot in the barn. That's love people...I don't care who you are.

I applied a compost tea mixture to the bales and then spread my manure/topsoil mixture onto the bales. Then, I sowed the seeds of my choice. I have tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, cantaloupes, peppers, and a couple of things that I don't remember.

Some people place small plants into the bale, but I had a plethora of leftover seeds, so that is what I am working with right now. Straw bale gardening has a few advantages over typical gardening. Here we have a clay based soil. Not optimal, but workable. These bales allow me to use the soil mixture of my choice and there is virtually no weeding. *Dancing and Cheering* Bales can be placed anywhere you may have a sunny spot and are said to grow most any crop except for carrots and potatoes, as the straw impedes their deep growth.

The bales can be used for more than one season and when their life is over they can help out in the compost heap. Bales can be arranged in any sort of fashion, but make sure you have them where you want them before soaking them. After they become wet, they are almost impossible to move.

Some folks prefer to use chemical fertilizers with this technique and some prefer to keep it as organic as possible. I am working toward the organic goal.

You can place tomato cages, or any type of stakes, right on top of the bales. They do require a good bit of watering so that the bales do not dry out. The bales will hold both heat and moisture allowing the plants to grow.

~I am really hoping my plants grow.~

This has been a bit of a rambling post, so I am providing a couple of links that I found helpful if you are thinking about a project like this. This lady gives some good information about the basics and this video shows a smaller, yet productive, straw bale garden in progress.

So how about you? Any of you have a garden in progress?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Wishing a Happy Mother's Day to three wonderful women in my life. My grandmother Lucy who, while in her eighties, still provides me with inspiration. She made clothes for me when I was little, and used the scraps of fabric to make matching clothes for my dolls. She used to make the best ever pickled beets and country ham.

My maternal grandmother, Bird, just turned ninety-five years young. It was in her home, as a child, that I came to love the sound of rain falling on a tin roof. I have watched her, countless times, make biscuits by simply placing milk and lard into flour.....no measuring. And then kneading out a perfect dough. That still amazes me.

And let us not forget my own dear mom, The Babs. Provider of love and support while growing up and still a mere phone call away when I need her.

I love you mom.

She is really going to love me for posting this picture :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Home of Lincoln's Educator

Tough Smalltownland is very small, it is large on history. In every nook and cranny history shines in old buildings, window panes, and street corners. I had the pleasure of walking through the academy where Abraham Lincoln's educator lived and taught between 1818 and 1823, when he left the area for Illinois. It was there that he met Lincoln.

Mentor Graham is known as the man who gave Lincoln the only formal education that he had in life. Mr. Graham used this facility as a school and the sleeping quarters still remain on the second floor.

Locally it is simply known as, "The Academy". It sits on a steep hillside that is located just behind the town square. The property is terraced with limestone walls.

The mantels in the home are original as are the second story floors.

The Academy has undergone a painstaking renovation in just the past few years. If you look carefully at this picture, you can just see the faint outline of a heart in the center of this mantel.

It is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.

Both the front and back of the property contain the terraced limestone.

I could have just wandered around here for hours, but other people in my party were not so relaxed.

Toots was outside dancing and ready to go.

*It is also worth mentioning that Lincoln's law partner, William H. Herndon, was born in this house, located in Smalltownland, which I discussed in an earlier post.....and it is still for sale....anyone, anyone......

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Historic Home Tour Part I

This past weekend I had the great fortune to participate in an historic home tour sponsored by our Smalltownland Arts Council. A lovely group of people who promote historic and artistic endeavors in our small, and incredibly historic, small town.

I have a few homes to share with you and will disperse them over several posts. But, I am going to start with my most favorite. It is the home I find to be the most, "real", of them all. Possibly the most loved by its owners and true in the sense that they work on the house themselves and take great pride in it. They have opened up their home countless time to share its history and architecture.

This house was built sometime between 1840-1850. To give that decade some perspective think about this.....during that time span Abraham Lincoln married Mary Todd. Edgar Allen Poe first published, "The Raven". Florida became the 27th state and rubber bands were patented. Queen Victoria married Prince Albert and Henry David Thoreau moved into his shack on Walden Pond.

Originally this farm was owned by Samuel Brents, who served as a state representative in 1803 and in some years after. He died in 1833 and was buried on this property. Mr. Thomas Waller Lisle was the executor of Mr. Brents' will and came into possesion of the home and farm. Lisle was an attorney and admitted to the bar in 1826. He was also the husband of Brents' daughter.

This structure is known as one of the best Greek Revival houses in the Smalltownland area. The house sits upon a hill overlooking a main road into Smalltownland from the south. It is incredibly striking and even as a small child I would gaze at it in awe as I passed it by on the road.

The interior trim is of a large scale and has been lovingly restored by its current owners, who inherited this house. Yes, it has been passed down through the family all of these years.

The windows are considered to be unusually expansive and have twelve-pane sashes.

Even the furniture in the house are family pieces that have been passed down. This platform rocker is one piece of a set that had been in the family for generations.

The truly favorite part of this house for me was the fact that it is still a work in progress. The upstairs central hallway is under some renovation and you can see a bit of wallpaper on the original plaster.

Not only do the owners take pride in the interior of the house, the grounds are just as lovely. This is a side view of the home with the sidewalk taking you to the front door.

It made me sad to leave, but oh the view...while I walked away with my head craned around to see it.....