Thursday, January 31, 2019


It's somehow fitting that this day of the week that we usually post something that inspires us, happens to fall on the day that NASA remembers those it lost.

I'm sure most of us here, depending on our various ages, can remember exactly where we were on the day of any of these tragedies.

The Apollo 1 crew... 01/27/1967


The space shuttle Challenger crew...01/28/1986


The space shuttle Columbia crew...02/01/2003


"We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw they waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God".

Wednesday, January 30, 2019



This is apparently a thing...

A dill pickle...hollowed out...with a Snickers inside.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019


Warning:  Long post, ha!

We have been discussing what we want to do at the farm, what our goals are, etc.  Not with the property/land, we know what we want to do with that and we're working on that part (every weekend, ha).
So we sat down these last few weekends of the new year and started making lists.

We're thinking of what to do about the house.  As we approach our mid 50's, we realize retirement is our goal and it is rapidly coming.  The property is a key part of that.  The house however is not ready for retirement.

Recently, we made a list of what needs to be done at the house and even got a few estimates on some of them. Here they are (in no particular order):  

We absolutely need a new roof

The bathroom needs to be gutted and redone

We need a new water heater 

We need new flooring in the mudroom and foyer since the cheap vinyl we have is coming up

There is no central a/c, just two window units in the Summer and we're finding that they aren't effective in cooling so it's hard to enjoy the house in the heat

A new (larger) septic tank and system to handle washing machine, two (or more) showers a day, etc

Most importantly, there is no heat at all for Winter freezing episodes (which puts the plumbing at risk) and means we can't stay in the Winter because either the water is shut off or it's just too cold

The underside needs to be enclosed and the water pipes protected (see above)

The entire exterior has to be painted and we need new siding in a few spots

We need new doors and screen doors

The house needs to be leveled because cracks are appearing 

The porch ceiling, stairs and railing all need to be redone.

If I could add sound to this post, there would be a cash register ringing after each one of the items above, ha.  Yes, we could do some of the work ourselves, albeit slowly since we are time limited.  But other bigger things are beyond our ability and our pay grade.  New roof?  No.  Installing central a/c and heat?  No.  Leveling the house?  No.  Septic tank replacement?  No.   Gutting and remodeling the bathroom, maybe but more likely, no.  These are the biggies that we would rather have done correctly by professionals. 

As we said, this is our retirement place after all and we want it done correctly so we have less to worry about.  These items add up quickly.  Some of the estimates we have received over the last few months:

New roof - $4500
New bathroom - $8000
Leveling the house - $1800
Siding/doors/paint - $6000
New window units - $1000 or new central a/c system with furnace - $8000

If we just had ONLY these things done, we're closing in on $30,000.  That's a LOT of money to pour into an already old house and that's not everything on that list nor is it factoring in things that could be discovered during the other work.

What we're weighing now is at what point do we start pouring money into an old house that could give us even more problems we don't currently know about a few years down the road versus just starting over with a newly built house that might be reasonably trouble free for another decade or two?  

2nd Man enjoys his cooking, I want to get more into canning and do crafting projects, but the house as it is now is just way too small for that.  It's about 950 square feet.  The kitchen is very small.  Our apartment is actually bigger and has more storage. Another consideration is our comfort of living.  If we did all of this work, there is still only one bathroom (not ideal for having family at the holidays) and there is NO laundry room nor even a place for one (and we have to have a way to do all of our laundry).  It's fine now as a place to go on the weekend for a couple of days but we have to start looking at it as a place to live full time in a few more years. 

SO...we're thinking it might be time to look into what would be involved in getting something new.  We're fully furnished so we have the interior decorating side of things ready.  It would not be anything huge either, not even two story.  In fact, we'd have a house in the same position, at least the rear and the right side.  As for the front and the left side, the yard in those places is empty and so something new could be bigger and move out in both of those directions.  But again, nothing huge, just more livable for the way we live.  1500/1700 square feet.  3 bedroom 2 bath with a large kitchen and a laundry room.  

We'd like a fireplace or wood stove too.

And a big porch.

Granted any house can have problems, even new ones. But nothing so major as sinking thousands of dollars into it and having something else happen right after that.  A new home also has expenses we'll have to do that we don't currently have to worry about.  The biggest would be a new driveway (we share the entrance driveway with 2nd Family and we don't want construction trucks damaging that). 

We're looking at all options.  Modular, log cabin, bardonminium, even a local company that makes homes out of shipping containers.  

It's still early in the process and there is a LOT to consider.  But before we keep putting sweat equity into the house, we need to decide if the house as it is now will be there when we're ready to retire.  

If we make the decision that new is how we'll go, we can focus more on the property now and not worry about correcting things inside and trying to keep up flowerbeds around the house and do things like an outdoor shower, porch furniture, etc.  

This does NOT impact the garden or the barns or the fruit trees or having bees or anything like that.  In fact, it would just allow us to put more time and effort into THOSE things and not worry about the house right now.  The little house has served us well so far and will continue to serve us as we transition to something new/different at the farm.  We still have a place to go spend the night a few nights a month when the weather is nice, it's a safe space from the rain and the heat when I'm working outside (in front of the window unit, ha).  It's still a place to relax on the porch and plan and daydream.

EDIT:  SO many wonderful and thoughtful responses will start replying to them tonight.  Keep 'em coming!

Sunday, January 27, 2019


Hope you are having a good weekend.  It's been an odd one here.  Cold.  Dry.  Rainy.  Warmer.  Cloudy.  About to be cold again.  Plus we had a millions errands to run all over town.

The camera 2nd Man got me for Christmas has a built in feature that instantly turns a photo that you take into a drawing/painting.  There are apps and programs that do that but this does it right in the camera as you take the picture.  So I was experimenting with it today (as always click on any photo to enlarge).  This should be fun this Spring/Summer in the garden!

  One of our errands was Costco.  2nd Man got a membership at his work and it was our first time in a Costco ever.  Wow.  We didn't go overboard but we did stock up on some things.  It made us realize how much we need to have organized storage space both at the apartment for now and at the farm for the future.  It's a great place to stock up on items at a great price but it's easy to get way more than you can use too, ha.  

Will catch up on comments tonight!

Friday, January 25, 2019


Those of us a certain age will relate to this...

I was TOTALLY this kid.  I remember wanting this pen in the worst way.  And when I got it?  OMG it was THE best thing ever.  I think I was even, albeit briefly, the star of the school.  


Kids today just don't understand what it was like when we were young.  

Damn, now I sound like my Grandfather...

Thursday, January 24, 2019


Every Thursday we like to post a picture of something we've found online that inspires us to do something similar at the farm. Sort of our own blog bulletin board so that we can eventually look back and someday, hopefully anyway, recreate it...enjoy!

Last week, we posted a picture exactly like this...with flowers.  We pondered the idea of the same thing with vegetables.  Look what I found...the same raised bed only done with veggies and herbs.

This makes me want to try this even more now.  There is not a lot of prep I will have to do for the Spring garden this year (if it will ever dry out here) so I am going to do this to one of the square raised beds.  I'm already figuring how much wood I'll need and some more bags of soil.  It will be a fun new twist to our garden.  We would do it like this as well where the higher part is on the fence side, so it's more visually appealing and doesn't block the view of the rest of the garden.

Be inspired!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


It's that time of year, time to start a batch of vanilla extract.  I've posted this before but it's always a popular post and is always enjoyed by new blog readers.

Vodka for vanilla extract
It starts with a bottle of Vodka.  You don't have to use a premium high end brand, just something good.  We've used Smirnoff for years.  This size bottle is $11 at our local liquor store.
We used to order from another website but they have been out for the last year or so and we had to find a new source.  We don't get anything for posting this but people always ask us where to get vanilla beans so we wanted to share.  We get Madagascar "Grade A" for our extract making.  

Now here is a warning: wherever you buy, don't be shocked but vanilla prices have skyrocketed in recent years.  I remember our first batch of 10 beans when we started doing this was about $12.  Not anymore.  It's a worldwide thing, failed crops, weather, the import/export fees, etc, have all combined to drive up the cost of vanilla beans.  

This package of 10 beans was about $36 (and it was even on sale too) but had the best price for the quality that we found.  

Vanilla beans
I pull the beans out of the package and put them on a cutting board.  You always want to use good, plump beans like these above.  They should be moist.  You don't want the beans that come in a test tube like container at the grocery store and have been sitting there for months. 

I slice them in half.  Not necessary but it exposes the beans to the alcohol much quicker.  All the flavor is inside!  It makes for a rich and wonderful extract. 

Homemade vanilla extract
I pour off a bit of vodka into a cup so I can see how much the beans displace.  Then when they are all in, I pour as much of the vodka back in as will fit.  

Screw the top on and that's it!  You're done!

It will be ready in about 3 months but we like to let it age and so we don't use it until at least six months or later if we haven't run out of the previous bottle yet.  That's why we are always starting one while still using another one.

EDIT:  Keep it in a dark place out of sunlight, like a pantry or cabinet and every few days or once a week, just take the bottle and gently turn it from end to end a few times just to mix things up.  It will get darker and richer as time goes by.

People have asked do you filter it when it's done?  You can, absolutely.  One year we gave smaller bottles away as gifts at a party and I used one of those gold mesh coffee filters to filter it.  When we use it for our baking however, we just pour it out as we need it.  As it gets to the lower part of the bottle, we will filter of course. 

How easy is that?

DIY vanilla extract
On the left is the full new bottle, on the right is our current bottle, beautiful, dark and already half gone (2nd Man loves his homemade vanilla extract). 

So our total cost (this year) is $47.  Sounds like a lot (and it is, ha) but we end up with about 25 ounces of wonderful, quality vanilla extract.  Nielsen-Massey (a top end extract) has an 8 ounce bottle for sale for $36.  We have three times that much for just a little more.  That's a win.

Monday, January 21, 2019


Well, we all survived the SUPER BLOOD WOLF MOON last night.  Now don't give up looking after the first photo...they get much better, ha.

I was using my new camera (Christmas present) to take some pictures.

The first few were blurry...

I changed a few settings and got rid of the blur but then it was just a white disc.  So I came back to the apartment, looked online and found an article on how to take photos of the moon...

I changed some settings (from auto to manual and then the F-stop, shutter speed, etc) and behold...

Much better and you can see the moon pretty clearly!

It was rapidly going away so I kept taking pics.  When it was fully eclipsed, I couldn't get any setting that picked up enough light to get a good photo (I think that's when you need photography with a telescope).

But then the orange glow appeared...

Super Blood Wolf Moon
Here's the one that shows the "blood" part of the process.  Loved seeing this in real time, we can only imagine what it must have been like hundreds or thousands of years ago when our ancestors looked into the night sky and saw this.  It must have seemed like the end of the world was upon them. 

Wished we had been at the farm to see it but work came early this morning.

Sunday, January 20, 2019


It's been a COLD weekend.  We had a lot of rain Thursday/Friday, about 2 inches at the farm.  It was 70's Friday and 30's Saturday.  There was also a VERY strong wind and a windchill in the 20's.

The morning was rainy but by the afternoon it had cleared up.

Garlic doing nicely...

Napa cabbage is aaaaalmost getting there.  Hopefully a couple more weeks...

Harvested more collards...

With a low predicted of 31, I put this box around the bananas, pineapples and a couple of other freeze sensitive plants.  2nd Family will remove it for us when the threat is over.

Not worried about the citrus, it's hardy down to mid 20's and that was not in the forecast.

Today we are traffic locked in town.  It's the annual Chevron Houston Marathon and since our apartment is nearby, the streets all over downtown Houston are closed or restricted.  It's easier to just stay inside where it's warm.

I did go out and take some photos.  Wind chills in the 20's, start time temp of 31, high of only the upper 40's...some were dressed in only running shorts (the men ha).  My hands got numb while I was taking pictures, I can't even imagine what the runners went through.  These marathon runners are definitely athletes and committed to the run.

Much of the United States is waaaay colder than this and they have blizzards and ice so we are blessed that's just cold (for us).  Stay warm and safe wherever you are!

Friday, January 18, 2019


OK, so we're curious.  How many people have "breakfast for dinner"?

Breakfast for dinner
This is our dinner the other night.  2nd Man asked "what do you want for dinner" and I said "how about breakfast"?  So we had eggs, bacon and toast.

I remember when growing up we'd frequently have breakfast in the evening.  Sometimes it was pancakes, other times bacon and eggs, and we even had oatmeal and toast for dinner from time to time.  I remember a few friends thought that was weird but it was normal for us.  Maybe it's a Southern thing?  Who knows.  To us it's just GOOD EATS, then & now.

What about you?
Weird or Yummy?

Thursday, January 17, 2019


Every Thursday we like to post a picture of something we've found online that inspires us to do something similar at the farm. Sort of our own blog bulletin board so that we can eventually look back and someday, hopefully anyway, recreate it...enjoy!

This is something I found while looking at pictures of flower bed ideas.  When I saw this it struck me...I could do this to our garden beds.  I could easily add a second tier to a couple of raised beds to create a different planting depth.  Another plus is that visually it looks nice too!  

I could just build another "half size" box and sit it on top of the existing bed.  Then just add soil to even out the lower tier and fill the higher tier up to its top.  I'm not sure if there are veggies that might benefit from a deeper soil, or maybe something like strawberries up and herbs down?  Onions up and garlic down?  Carrots and beets up and salad greens down?  Maybe it would just be for the aesthetics?    Whatever the reason, we like it.  

Be inspired!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


When it's rainy and/or muddy and too wet to do much outside, there is always something we can do inside.  One of the things I wanted to do was take care of some of the clutter in the mudroom.  We had things stacked on the shelves that needed to be a bit more organized.  Rolls of foil and parchment and cups and plastic utensils and things like that.  

You know, the little things that never seem to stay stacked up neatly and end up every which direction falling off the shelves and to the back of the shelves.

We had these white IKEA storage boxes that were part of another piece of furniture (they fit into little cubby holes).  I moved them out to the mudroom and put them on top of the shelves.  They fit perfectly.  We have eight of them (one is on the other set of shelves just out of picture view) and they worked great for what we wanted to use them for.

For example in this one we are storing our plastic wrap, foil, wax paper, ziplock bags, parchment, etc. 

Another one we used for plastic cups, ice cube trays, paper plates, insulated reusable coffee cups, etc.

I didn't take pictures of all of them but another has seasonal items (egg dying supplies, pumpkin carving tools, ice cream sandwich makers, etc), another has plastic plate holders, napkins, retro condiment bottles, corn on the cob holders, etc).  

The good thing is there are still three that are empty!  Whatever will be put in them?  HA!

Anyone else ever get inspired to organize on a rainy or cold day?

Sunday, January 13, 2019


It's been a gorgeous weekend.  Wet though.  Friday night we got about 2 inches of rain.  Good for the plants but bad for working in the yard.  With the cold temps and standing water from last week, it was wet and muddy.

But the skies were blue and clear.  Took this picture in color and it looks clear and bright and nice.

And then I took the same photo in black and white.  It's funny how this makes it look cold and wintry.

Peach blossoms
I took this closeup of the peach blossoms, so pretty in the middle of all the mostly dormant Winter plants.  Harvested some more collard greens.  Cabbage looks like it's getting closer now.  Fingers crossed.

Pork chop dinner
We had some pan seared pork chops, green beans and dressing for dinner, always filling and yummy, and then...

Chocolate cake
2nd Man decided to make a cake... 

A chocolate cake...

Triple layer chocolate cake
A triple layer chocolate cake...

Hope you are having a great weekend!

Friday, January 11, 2019


Regular readers know that I have a favorite place to look for bargains...our downstairs trash area!  Our building has trash chutes on every floor and they feed into a separate room, but for boxes and other things that people can't put in the chute, there is an area (indoor) near the loading dock, where people can put the things they don't want.  

I've found quite a few cool items so far.
Here are the latest!

I found these the other day.  Someone decided they were ready to be discarded. They are wonderfully sized trays, with a seagrass type of wicker on the outside.

The bottoms are sturdy with a piece of wood to reinforce them.  Nice handle openings on each side and are in great condition. 

I'll clean them up of course but was thinking of lining the bottoms with fabric?  Or maybe decoupage and then put a piece of glass over that?

Thursday, January 10, 2019


Every Thursday we like to post a picture of something we've found online that inspires us to do something similar at the farm. Sort of our own blog bulletin board so that we can eventually look back and someday, hopefully anyway, recreate it...enjoy!

We love these old manual well pumps.  I'm not sure if they have some sort of 'official name' but we always thought one would look cool in a flower bed or next to the house like the one above.  Non functioning of course but they still look nice.  There probably aren't many around anymore that are used but you never know.  

My Grandmother used to tell me about getting water from one of these when it had a cup hanging on it and she always said it was the coldest and best water ever on a hot Summer day.  

Be inspired!