Monthly Archives: April 2012

Let the Arena Construction Begin!!!

The excavators showed up today.  Some of those tree stumps (like the one in the photo) are absolutely huge!  It’s fun to watch them tear up the earth and pull those things out as easy as me weeding in the garden.  Those operators are skilled!

We have certainly put a lot of work into cutting down trees, sawing up firewood from them, burning and chipping the brush.  It has taken weeks and weeks of work from the whole family.

Although I would have put it off even longer for lack of finding the ideal fencing material, we have made our fencing decision.  I will like it, but it isn’t 100% right on.  We are going with board rail fencing with an electric strand across the top and another on the bottom (outside of posts).  As the fence will be 54″ high, I am hoping that the hot wire will be high enough that, although it will discourage their leaning and chewing, it won’t freak them out too much when they have to get their noses into the rail. We shall see.  I don’t care for the somewhat high maintenance of having to put preservative on the fencing every couple years, but as there is no “perfect” fencing for my dual application, we will just enjoy the beauty of the fencing and hope for the best!

So for this week the horses are all boarding at my friend Wendy’s farm.  I know she will have fun having seven horses around her place instead of the usual three!  Wednesday the fencing contractor will come and set the posts and later in the week the board rails and gates will go up.

After making two trips to get the four horses over to Wendy’s farm, Cecily, Betsy, and I spent some time after dinner taking down all the braided electric fencing we’ve used since 2008, then emptying the existing paddocks/arena of their watering troughs, the cavaletti poles and various miscellaneous buckets, feed troughs, and other things.

This is an exciting week at Aspendale Farm!


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Summertime Drinks: Masonades!

Here are some fun drinks to make this summer to stock your fridge!  The name “Masonades” was coined, as far as I know, by Jenna Woginrich, author of the book Barnheart, on her blog Cold Antler Farm.  The link will take you right to her version of Masonades, and hopefully, give her credit for coining the term and popularizing the drink with a whole new generation.

But my Daddy used to drink icy drinks right out of a mason jar when I was growing up.  Probably still does for all I know.  He’d use a quart jar, not a pint jar, and we didn’t have a name for them.  We just grabbed a big jar and filled it with tons of ice and an ice cold drink on a hot day.  Then we’d stir it with a butter knife.  I don’t know why that made a difference … it was just part of the ritual!  LOL!

At Aspendale Farm, our favorite masonades are lemonade, limeade, and iced tea.  The idea is to make a batch of them up ahead of time and stick them in the fridge so they’ll be cold and ready to go at a moment’s notice.   Depending on how you make them (sans sugar), they are delicious, and a healthful alternative to sodas.  Diet Pepsi and Diet Dr. Pepper have been my go-to drinks.  If you’ve been following the blog for very long, I mentioned that, for my annual detox, instead of the usual juice fast I’ve been eating clean for a few weeks.  So recently I’ve gone back to making healthful drinks so I can stay away from the chemicals and unnatural food agents in the sodas.  If I feel the need for bubbles I just pour a club soda over ice and squeeze a slice of lime into it.  But honestly, I haven’t even missed my bubbles since I’ve been drinking so many masonades lately!

In addition to being healthful, I love that they’re as easy as popping open a can of soda (since they’re made up ahead of time), yet the jars are reusable for years!  Reusing beats recycling or tossing in the trash in my opinion.

They’re pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll tell you how I make them.  You can substitute whatever ingredients you want.  If you like plain ol’ sugar instead of stevia, knock yourself out!  If you don’t want lemon in your iced tea, skip it!  Your masonades, you decide!  Have fun!


Lemons and/or limes

Stevia (I like Sun Crystals, but I’m using Truvia while I’m on my annual detox)



Pint jars, lids, and rings

Directions: Fill clean pint jars halfway to the top with ice.  Add water just to the top of the ice.  For each jar, cut a wedge equal to 1/5 of a medium to large lemon/lime.  Squeeze the juice from the wedge over the ice, add 1 1/2 packets of stevia (or about a tablespoon of sugar – more or less to your taste), then fill the rest of the way with water, leaving about 1/2″ of headspace open at the top of the jar.  Put the lid and ring on, screw shut, and shake the dickens out of it!  Now pop it in the fridge for later, or drink one now!

Iced Tea

Iced Tea Bags (black tea or herbal tea.  Try mint tea sometime!)


Ice Water

Lemon slices

Pint jars, lids, and rings

Brew a pot of iced tea and let cool.  Fill as many clean pint jars as you’d like, halfway, with ice.  Take one slice of lemon per jar and drop it into each container, on top of the ice.  Add 1 1/2 packets of stevia (or sugar to taste) to the jar.  Pour cooled iced tea over top, leaving 1/2″ headspace at the top of the jar.  Shake, rattle, and roll those jars like crazy for about ten seconds, then pop them into the fridge.  If you have sugar instead of stevia, you may need to shake longer to dissolve the sugar, and you’ll probably want to shake them again before drinking.

*If you have a recipe for a masonade we might like to try, please post it in a comment.  I love trying new recipes!!!

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The Lazy … Er, Uhm, “Efficient” Gardener

The strawberry bed is a veritable jungle for Jack to hide in! He thinks he's really a black panther. Sshhh... don't let on that we know otherwise!

Okay.  Here’s my thing.  I love to garden.  Really.  And I get all these great ideas for projects I want to do, and when a bee gets in my bonnet, boy am I all about gettin’ her done!  But the routine planting and maintenance things, well, not so much.  They’re fun and satisfying, sure.  But there just isn’t that “oomph” factor giving me gusto to actually get out there and do them.  But, surely, you realize (as I do) that you can’t just do nothing in your garden.  The weeds overtake, things don’t get planted until too late … you know the drill.  So here’s what I do.  I promise myself that I am just going out to do one thing.  I’m going to prepare just one bed, or hoe just one ten-foot section, or only plant one section of spinach, peas, or whatever.

And you know what?  It works.  I don’t mind, somehow, doing something that’s only going to take 10-15 minutes.  And after a few times of getting out into the garden to do these things I’ve actually made some really nice progress!  Don’t get me wrong.  I really do enjoy most of the tasks associated with producing my own food.  But for me, inertia can be hard to overcome without a few tricks to get me going!

Two of my new strawberry varieties arrived from Johnny’s Selected Seeds Wednesday, but I was already planning to be gone all day and wasn’t going to get out to plant them.  But I sure didn’t want to wait to get them in the ground because they can start to mold sitting there, moist, wrapped in plastic bags.  So yesterday I told Cecily we’d just run out there and plant one variety, unless we ended up with time and gumption for the second variety.  We figured it would take 15 minutes.  It was actually only a little longer than that when you include getting things out and putting them away.  I store the tools conveniently next to the garden so it’s no chore to put them away.  (Another “Lazy Gardener” trick … make it easy to put your tools away and you’ll put them away!)  We got one variety in and we’ll go out and do the second later today when it stops raining.

Happy Home Farming!


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Dreaming of Summer …

Feeling the need for some flowers today…

This was Betsy when she was about three years old ... we had a great back yard then with lots of big trees and lilac bushes for the kids to make "houses" out of! LOL! Kids are great! If you don't have any, rent some!

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Fencing Dilemma

Well, for installment two of the horse fencing dilemma, you’ve come to the right place.  Push came to shove and I decided to go with my idea of installing the Centaur Flex-rail fencing on wooden posts.  The wooden posts have been a given.

We’ve worked steadily for a good month now clearing the 3/4 of an acre surrounding the existing paddock/arena to expand from 70×110 to 100×200.  And if you’ve followed my journey this far, you know that my fencing requires an application where there is no electric anywhere inside the paddock/arena, but that I was hoping to string some along the outside so predators would get zapped if they tried to push under the fence, and the horses would quickly learn not to push through the fencing to get to grass or whatever else looks good out there.  I don’t want electric inside the fencing because the horses are afraid to get their noses near the fence during training exercises for fear of touching it accidently.  <Sigh>

So I had a farm fencing contractor out here this morning to give me estimates for installing the corner, gate, and termination posts that need to be concreted and braced.  I asked him to quote me also on installing line posts, and thirdly, to quote on installing the Centaur.  In short, in his 30 years of installing fencing he’s finally refused to install flex-rail fencing for clients anymore.  He’s never had an installation where the people were happy with it.  The weather, in his experience, causes the rails to get wavy and it never looks good, and the plastic brackets that are used to secure it to the posts break too easily.  To be honest, I had wondered why in the dickens any fence company would manufacture plastic brackets to secure any type of horse fencing to the posts.  I pressed him but he pushed back and guaranteed me I wouldn’t be happy with it.

This left us with four possibilities: 1.) Board rail fencing.  I fear this will be too expensive, and he highly recommends a hotwire inside the fencing, not along the outside as I had planned.  2.) PVC fencing.  Gorgeous stuff.  Even more expensive than board rail, also requires a hot rail on the inside, and I know this to be fact.  If you don’t they’ll pop the rails out of its posts. 3.) Finish-line fencing.  I discussed this in an earlier post.  It’s like electric braid fencing, but non-electric, and with a high degree of flexibility that allows it to stretch and bounce back perfectly.  Also recommended to be installed in conjunction with hotwire, but I bet my plan to install the hotwire on the outside would work fine with this (as it probably would with the board rail fencing as long as we used red oak boards.)  4.) Stick with the Premier 1 electric braid we already have, using the new wood posts.  I hate that option because it is entirely electrified.

I’m guessing I’ll go with option 1 or option 3, with the hotwire strung on the outside of the posts.  In all my research I have never come across anything online by serious equestrians who have the same issue I have of trying to multi-task in one pen.  Most have a separate arena and paddock, and it is quite clear why this is an advantage.  But… at Aspendale Farm we will make do with what space we have.

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Recipe: Dandelion Jelly

One of the best lifeschooling experiments we’ve done here on our Small Home Farm has been making dandelion jelly.  You don’t have to have acres and acres to do it – any city slicker with access to a yard or field full of dandelions can do it!  It’s not difficult, though it is a little time-consuming in parts.  It will go faster and be more pleasant if you engage family or friends in a work bee to help you.

Dandelion Jelly

  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups dandelion blossoms (yellow and white parts only)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons ( 1/2 package) powdered pectin
  • 4 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 pint jars or 8 1/2-pint jars, lids and rings

It shouldn’t take too long to pick 4 c. dandelion blossoms from your yard or a field, but be sure you are picking where it hasn’t been sprayed with lawn chemicals.  In fact, you might want to pick twice as many and make two batches.  They’ll make great gifts … if you can keep from eating the jelly yourself!  The time-consuming part is removing the green outer part from the dandelion heads.  You want the yellow inside part only.  The green petals make it bitter.

You do not have to can the jelly.  You can pour it into small freezer containers and freeze it instead,or if you think you’ll give away/eat a whole batch in just a few weeks, keep it in the fridge.  I don’t care for “freezer jelly” as I think it tastes a little different, so I can mine.

Prepare your canning jars (wash jars in hot soapy water, simmer lids in a pan of hot water) and fill your hot water bath canner – or even a large stockpot if you don’t have a canner.

Put your 4 c. flower heads into the 4 c. water and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and simmer 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand 10 mins., then strain through a sieve into a 2 qt. pan, pressing the dandelions to get all the liquid out.  You should have around 3 c. of liquid left.  Add water if needed to make 3 cups.

In a small bowl, mix pectin and 1/2 c. sugar and set aside.  Add 4 c. sugar to liquid in saucepan and bring it to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved.  Add pectin/sugar mixture, again stirring constantly until dissolved.  Add lemon juice and boil 1 min.

Skim foam off the top of the pan and allow to cool a little bit.  Next, pour jelly mixture into washed, hot 1/2 pint or pint jars (you’ll get 3-4 pints of jelly from one batch).  Leave 1/2″ space from top of jelly to top of jar.  Wipe jar rims thoroughly to make sure no jelly is left around the edges or it could prevent a proper seal on the jar lids.

Don’t freak out if your jelly doesn’t “jell”.  If memory serves me right, it takes about three weeks after making a batch before it actually gels into the consistency of jelly.  Don’t ask me why!

Place lids on jars, and screw rings onto jars “finger tight” (meaning, don’t force those rings hard, but they shouldn’t be loose, either).  Lift jars into boiling water in canner (or in your stock pot) making sure there is at least 1/2-1″ water over top of the jars.  Boil slowly 10 minutes.  Remove jars from canner/pot and set on a clean towel on the counter to cool.  You should hear that gratifying “POP!” of the canning lid that means the jars have sealed.  Let cool completely before checking to be sure they sealed properly (the middle of the lid should not give when you push on it.  You can also lightly pull up on the edge of the lid and it should not come off.)  You can remove the jar rings at this time if you wish, or leave them on, or add fabric squares to dress them up for gifts, or whatever you like to do.

Happy Home Farming!

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Grasping A Dream

Have you noticed that, sometimes, life kicks us in the dreams?  Particularly when we were young many of us held dreams of the things we loved and wanted to be part of our lives, our goals.  Pro ball player.  Concert pianist.  Inventor.  Poet.  Cowboy.  And as time marches on, chances pass us by, or maybe the chances never come close enough to have passed us by.  And one by one a lot of those dreams, for a lot of us, fade away.

At some point we may even lament that we are too old now to be that author or inventor.  We may mourn the dream and it becomes a bittersweet memory.  But why?  Because you are too old?  Because you didn’t start when you were young enough?

I was inspired, indirectly, by Grandma Moses who began to paint in her 70’s.  She became a cultural phenomenon whose exhibits broke attendance records all across the globe.  She didn’t mourn that she would never be able to paint because, at 70-odd years old, she probably didn’t have that much life left in her and, after all, she hadn’t started when she was young.

When I saw a print of one of her works several years back, it stirred memories of the familiar and exhilerating story I’d learned about Grandma Moses as a youngster.  I thought to myself, why not?  What had I wished for in those long ago days?  What dreams had I never chased because I thought the window of opportunity had shut?  To play the violin.

At 37 years of age (thirty years too late by my own previous accounting), I began taking violin lessons.  It was a dream inspired so many years ago by a very dear, elderly violinist gentleman who used to come to our house to play. My mother would accompany him on the piano.  He had given to my mother’s trust two child-sized violins with the expectation that I would have lessons and be able to play the violin I loved so much.  The years passed and the lessons never materialized.

Fast forward to 2010.  Why not?  And so I did.  And so I do.  And it is a source of pleasure, challenge, and beauty constantly.  I have no regrets.

What dreams have passed you by?


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