December 13, 2010



The heat of a wood stove is the best heat ever, but there is a down side to having one.  The ash floats in the air and covers everything.  I believe the biggest culprit of the Mount St. Helen ash clouds is the action of scooping out the ashes from the stove.

Every morning I scoop ashes from the stove and diligently try to keep the dust eruptions to a minimum.  I have found that using a spray bottle to spray the ash while its on your shovel and keeping it held in the stove reduces some puffs from emerging.  Then I very carefully crack the lid of the ash can and slide the shovel of ashes inside.  It’s not a perfect solution but seems to help.

Now I know they have vacuums that you can use to suck out the ash but I think your ashes have to be completely cool.  Our wood stove runs non-stop in winter and letting the coals completely go out would result in a very cold house.  I’m a pansy and like my heat in winter.  I can go outside in the cold and not be too bothered but when I come in I expect to be able to say, “Ahh, it’s nice and warm in here.”

Hot dog by the fire.

Using a damp rag to dust furniture works well too.  A Swiffer duster wouldn’t be able to keep up.  I like to use a piece of flannel cut from some old PJ’s. Having a broom and dust pan handy is another must.  Carrying wood into the house drags in dirt and pieces of bark and twigs always fall onto the floor.  If your not living off grid and can keep a hand vacuum plugged in it works better than a broom.

There are inconveniences to having a wood stove, but most of it is just my time keeping things tidy and also Sonny’s hard work cutting wood in the fall.  On the bright side we stay toasty warm and don’t have to pay those high fuel or electric bills.  Ahh, it’s nice and warm in here.


Fort New Salem Christmas

December 11, 2010



The spirit of Christmas is alive and well in the mountains of WV.  Carol and I  took a trip to Fort New Salem and enjoyed a glimpse of Christmas past.

Fort New Salem is a reproduction log house settlement of the nineteenth century.  The log buildings in the community are from the surrounding area and were dismantled and reassembled at the fort.  Years ago the Fort was open daily but a fire destroyed some of the buildings.  The New Fort Salem Foundation is currently trying to renovate the buildings which takes time since the project runs on donations.

Log Cabin

When the Irish, Scottish and German settlers came to this area they brought with them the folklore and traditions of their home countries.  They also brought their ideas, dreams, strong work ethics and fortitude it would take to carve out a life in this new and rugged world that would give them the freedom and independence they sought.

Carol and I  enjoyed walking through the fort even though the cold air nipped at our toes and fingers.  Snow blanketed the ground and rooftops of the log buildings adding to the Yuletide spirit and created an authentic winter atmosphere.  It was easy to imagine the frontier people ducking in and out of fireplace warm buildings carrying paper wrapped parcels or enjoying a hot meal at the tavern.

A large Christmas tree trimmed with real candles stood in the center of the common area.  At dusk they lit the candles with other lit candles on the end of long sticks.

We visited the Weaving Room and admired the hand woven Christmas ornaments, chair seats and foot stools.  The blacksmith was busy at his shop hammering out useful items that would be used in daily frontier life.

We stopped by the Apothecary shop and picked up some sassafras and herbal tea that came from a local herbalist.  We even visited with an Irish servant who told us the story of why candles are placed in a window.

Irish servant

When England changed to Protestantism and the Irish Catholics were persecuted they put candles in their windows to let Catholic priests know that this house was a safe haven.








We encountered the Der Belsnickel who in German folklore would wear rags and go around the town giving children switches if they were bad and candy if they were good.

Der Belsnickel will give you switches if your bad.

It got colder as the evening progressed so we found a vender selling hot chocolate and wassail.  We each got a cup and went to the old meeting house which was a church.  In the old days a church was used for Sunday service as well as town meetings.  A warm fire crackled in the fireplace and Carol and I relaxed on the front pew thawing out until the tree lighting.

Tree lighting

Carolers sang Christmas songs as the Der Belsnickel led a procession of people to light the tree and thus end the evening.  Hopefully the Fort New Salem will be brought back to its original glory before the fire and financial difficulty.  It would be a shame to see such a treasure disappear.


December 9, 2010



Yesterday the forty pound propane bottle connected to the generator ran out and I had to turn on our second bottle.  I was going to wait until tomorrow to take it to Tractor Supply to swap it out for a filled one, but John and Carol asked if I wanted to go with them to Fosters Feed Store in Weston today.  We would also make a pitstop by Tractor Supply.  Sounded like a good deal to me and it would be fun to have someone to talk to on the trip.

The propane bottles are not too heavy when they are empty so I was able to disconnect it and carry it to the back of the Jeep.  We have a square plastic container that the bottle sits in to keep it stable during transport.  I then hook a ratchet strap to the eyelets on the back of the seat and tighten it down.

Now the bottle won’t be rolling around the back of the Jeep as we traverse the five mile pot hole infested road to the smoother blacktop one.  I would only have to take it as far as my cousin’s house because we were going to take his flatbed truck to pick up dog food and feed.

With the bottle all strapped in nice and tight my job was done and I closed the back hatch of the Jeep.  I happened to look down and noticed something had spilled down the side of my clean jeans.  Man, now I was going to have to change my clothes before I went to John and Carols and out to town.  I thought it must have been from the propane bottle when I picked it up.

There was a little splotch of the substance on the right pocket of my Carhart coat and I wiped it off with a wet paper towel.  I hung my coat on the peg in the mud room.  I wasn’t going to wear it to town.  That’s my work coat.

With a fresh pair of jeans and my going to town coat on I was just about to go out the door when a thought occurred to me….”EGG!”  I forgot that when I went to the chicken coop that morning I had put an egg in my right pocket.  When I lifted the propane bottle and slammed it against my hip to steady it, it must have exploded the egg like a bullet through a watermelon.  It was one of the large eggs too.

I hesitantly reached my hand toward the coat pocket knowing that what was inside was going to feel totally disgusting.  I thought it best to just dig right in and get it over with. I pulled out a handful of cold slimy goo and broken shell, then tried to wipe out the residue with a paper towel.  Looks like my new coat was going to get its first whirl in a washer.

I put that episode behind me and looked forward to going to Fosters Feed store. I had never been there before and wanted to compare their prices on chicken feed and dog food.  I also looked forward to an enjoyable lunch with John and Carol at The Hickory House.  They have a great BBQ pulled pork sandwich.

John transferred the propane bottle to the back of Festus their white flatbed truck. It used to be called Whitie until they put the chrome donkey hood ornament on the front.

We made our first stop at Tractor Supply and when John took the bottle off the back of the truck I noticed he had yellow egg yolk dripped down his pant leg and the propane bottle was splattered with it.  That egg was starting to spread itself around like an alien life form.  The only person who wasn’t infected with it was Carol.

Now the propane bottle is sitting in a cage nestled against other bottles.  Soon it will be loaded onto another truck where it will smear itself on some other unsuspecting driver and be transported to the main distribution center where it can infect others.  So, be careful.  Very careful, your next bottle of propane may have a splotch of alien goo just waiting to smear itself on your pant leg.


December 8, 2010



We have had some sporadic sunshine today which lifted the spirits of all. Even though it was only about twenty degrees outside it felt warmer because the air was dry. It wasn’t that bone chilling cold you sometimes have to endure this time of year.

Since the sun was shining I thought the chickens might like a reprieve from the confines of the coop.  The rooster this morning sounded like he was crowing, “let us out!”  So, to appease my feathered friends I cleared a small section of snow in front of the coop hatch and put out some scratch.  I’m sure they get bored in the coop.  I must have pansy chickens, because they came out only long enough to eat the scratch and then quickly retreated back into the coop.

Burrr! My tootsies are freezing!

I left the hatch door open just in case they decided to step outside some more for a stretch and wing flap, but I don’t believe they did.  I guess I will have to get them some chicken snow boots.  I don’t hear the the chickens in Alaska crying.  They go out in colder weather than this.

On second thought maybe my chickens are geniuses.  Why go out when its cold if the lady wearing the goofy Elmer Fudd hat is stupid enough to come out and take care of you.  Fresh straw underfoot feels better than snow and that cooked oatmeal still warm from the pan….delicious.  That warm water is great to drink too.  Who needs a frozen beak.

Yea, whose the pansy here and whose the sucker.


December 7, 2010



Every December my Mother would bring out sacks of flour, sugar, butter, and bottles of vanilla and almond flavorings.  There would be zests of lemon and orange and squatty plastic containers filled with colored sugars and confectioners candies.  Candied cherries and walnuts would be set aside for garnishments for cookies and date nut cakes.  She would fill numerous Christmas tins with cookies and wrap date nut cakes in foil tied with ribbon to give as gifts to family and friends.

Our 1960’s dinette table with its green and yellow flowered vinyl chairs would be covered with cookie sheets and mixing bowls and spilt flour.  Her old Mirro cookie press stood ready for service as it had been for countless Christmases past.  It could fill eclairs and cream puffs with custard filling and squeeze out lady fingers, but our favorites were the spritz cookies, Christmas trees, and cream cheese cookies that Mom made every year.

Mirro cookie press

When I was a little girl I would watch wide eyed as she turned the knob on the cookie press and the dough came out forming holiday shapes of snowflakes, Christmas trees and wreaths.  I would be allowed to decorate them with the colored sugars and candies.  My Mom, my sister and I would roll dough for mounds of sugar cookies and then cut them out with the antique tin cookie cutters that belonged to my grandmother.  The sounds of Bing and Sinatra crooning Christmas carols from vinyl records would fill the house.  It was a happy time and a tradition that has been carried on through the years.

When I was a young wife and we were far from home moving place to place with the Navy I tried to keep that same happy tradition alive.  Mom handed down the cookie press to me.  Instead of me watching wide eyed at the dough squeezing out it was my son with his knees on the chair and elbows on the table, eyes wide with anticipation . To this day his wife has to make him cream cheese cookie wreaths and I hope the tradition lives on for my grandson.

Have a cookie.

Unfortunately I can’t pass down the old cookie press.  The knob stripped out a few years ago.  I couldn’t throw it away, instead it is packed away with other keepsakes.  I did find another one at a flea market still in the original box.  My mother’s was from the 40’s or 50’s and the one I found is a little newer version, but still the same style.  I found one for my daughter-in-law too so the tradition would live on.

I don’t think my mom knows what she started by making those cookies.  My cousin remembers her making them when he was a little boy.  Twelve years before I ever came on the scene.  She would give a hand full to him and my brother and tell them to go play.  It is a good memory for him and he still gets excited like a kid when I give him a tin full.

Today I decided to bake a few of those cookies.  Bing and Sinatra were crooning in the background as I turned the knob on the cookie press.  Warm memories filled the house and just for a second I was that little girl making cookies with my mom and sister.

Handing down traditions is what keeps families connected through the generations.  They may change slightly but the memories created are still there generation to generation.  What traditions are special to you?

Note: Today is Pearl Harbor Day.  Take time to remember our military men who perished and what that day meant to the United States.


December 6, 2010



The hectic days of Spring planting and Fall harvest are behind us, but that doesn’t mean we get to hibernate through Winter here at POF.  Cold nights mean a wake up call at 3:00a.m. to put more wood in the stove.  I’m talking about on nights that are 20 degrees and below.  It’s supposed to get down in the teens tonight.   We insulated the house very well so it would stay fairly warm if we didn’t stoke the fire but it wouldn’t be that toasty warmth you enjoy waking up to.  We do have propane wall heaters as backup if needed.

The first chore of the day is usually to scoop out some of the ash from the stove and get the fire going again.  In cold weather the stove is your lifeline to cozy comfort. That and a cup of coffee which I didn’t get till much later this morning.

Snowy solar panels

No sun today and more light snow means minimal power being absorbed by the solar panels.  It is imperative to keep the panels clear of snow even on an overcast day.  Although there was no direct sun the panels still absorb whatever light there is during the day.  Even the light reflected from the white snow can be utilized as power for the panels. So, second chore of the day….Turn on the generator for a charge and sweep the snow off the panels. Which I did about four times today.

Cool squeegy gadget

Luckily the snow was light and fluffy like packing peanuts.  Sonny bought me a long handled squeegee that works great for dragging the snow off. Last year we only had a broom which wasn’t even close to being long enough to reach the top of the PV Array.  The right tools make all the difference.

Next stop, the chicken coop.  I turned on the solar lamps that Sonny installed to give them some artificial light on this grey day.  I wasn’t sure if the battery would be charged enough from the solar panels on top of the chicken coop since we haven’t had sunlight for days.  A flick of the switch and the coop went from dreary to cheery.  I switched out the water container and replaced it with one that wasn’t frozen.  I know they have heated waterers but I think they use electric.  That would not be an option for us.  So my job will be to switch out the water containers frequently throughout the day.  Chickens need plenty of water even when temperatures are freezing.  I only collected two eggs today, but that is to be expected in this weather.  The chickens didn’t want to go out in the snow today and I don’t blame them.  I added some more straw on the floor and I think that will give the coop some more warmth.

A quick stop by the woodshed to grab a load of wood and finally back inside the house for a cup of joe.  With the snow continually coming down this circle was completed numerous times throughout the day.

I did get a chance to finish filling out my Christmas cards except for a few of Sonny’s friends of which I can’t find the addresses for.  I will have to get them from him later.

Even though it was cold out and the snow wasn’t blowing Ruby and I decided to walk the mile down to the mailbox to post the cards.  It was actually an enjoyable walk.  I made sure I dressed warm in the Carhart coat Sonny bought me, a wool scarf, mittens and my brown plaid Elmer Fudd hat with ear flaps down. Just like the right tools make a job easier the right winter gear will keep you warm.  I’m sure I looked very enticing in my ensemble that included L.L. Bean boots and an orange grocery bag left over from Halloween to tote the cards in.  It was a colorful accessory that complimented my brown color scheme and it could double as a beacon for hunters not to mistake me for a deer.  In my case that would probably be a moose.

It looks like the next two days will be the same.  More snow, more grey skies and cold.  It’s been a busy day and I think I hear the bed calling my name, or could it be that pesky 3a.m. alarm I hear.


December 5, 2010



It’s that time of year again when we pull out the tattered address book, its many scraps of paper with jotted down addresses falling out like confetti.  They never seem to get permanently written on the pages of the book that was designed for them. Either that or there are several addresses for one person, some scratched out some not.  Which one is the correct one?

People don’t seem to stay in one place anymore.  Of course we are guilty of that as well so I can’t say anything. My mother has had the same address book since 1979 and she can tell you every address Sonny and I have had since then.  Her book has so many scratched out addresses for us it looks like a hit list.

Most people keep their addresses in their iPad or phone or some other electronic gadget.  Stamps have gotten so expensive that I think most people will just email or text a Merry Christmas Greeting, but I think there is something special about getting a card in the mail with a personal note or signature. Especially at Christmas.  There is always an excitement when going to the mailbox to see if a card might be hiding between the pages of junk mail.

What fun it is to open the envelope and admire the many Christmas scenes on the front of the card. They can be glittery or plain, it doesn’t matter.  They are all beautiful.  There may be pictures of loved ones tucked inside, or a note from someone you haven’t heard from in a while. Of course as a kid you always hoped it contained money.

We have had a light snow falling all day.  It may be cold outside but its warm inside where Christmas tunes fill the house.  Moby and Ruby are curled up together in front of the wood stove happily lost in dreamland.  It’s a perfect time to fill out my Christmas cards.  Its not a chore but a joy.  Warm house, music and a cup of hot chocolate are the perfect accompaniments.

Soon the envelopes will all be addressed (hopefully with the correct one) and ready to be delivered to family and friends.  Hopefully it will bring a smile when they see it in the mailbox and feel special because they were thought of.    Sometimes you don’t even have to send it through the mail.  You can hand deliver it if you live close by and have a visit too.

We have a dozen different ways to communicate today and they serve their purpose in daily life.  Christmas is a special time and hand written cards seem warmer and more personal.  You may not realize how something as simple as a card in the mail can lighten someones day just because you thought of them.  So put away the gadgets for a little while.  Get into the spirit with some music (without earphones), pour a cup of hot chocolate, and sign your name on a card with a pen.  Let’s become human again.

Remember, no one can admire emails and text messages sitting on a mantel, or put them away in a keepsake box.  Well, technically you can if you print them out, but they certainly aren’t as pretty.  Here’s hoping YOUR mailbox is stuffed with Christmas cards!


December 5, 2010



Lets play ball.


December 4, 2010


It’s good to be back home! I know it has been almost three weeks since I have posted a blog, but I’ve been enjoying some time in Texas with my son, daughter-in-law and new grandson. He’s a handsome boy and already recognizes his Mimzy. Yea, that’s me. At least I’ll know he’s calling for me when he gets lost in a store full of Nana’s, Grannies, Mamaws, Grandmas and Mom Moms. I would post a picture of him, but his Mom and Dad prefer to post them on their face book page. You’ll just have to take my word for it. He’s a cutie and already knows how to wrap us all around his little finger.

I tried to sneak him in my luggage when I left, unfortunately his Mom caught me before I could leave the house. If I had my way I would have brought them all home, but I don’t think the Air Force would allow that.

I believe it’s considered a sacrilege if you leave the great state of Texas without having BBQ, so the kids took me to a local restaurant called Packsaddle BBQ. The pulled pork sandwich was superb. If your ever in San Angelo check it out.

After warm days that were in the sixties and seventies coming home to temps in the twenties was a shock. On the flight home, our plane hit some rough turbulence when we flew over Charleston, WV. That’s where we hit the cold front. A bouncing plane in the pitch black of night is not a fun experience.

The skies have been grey and Pot Hole Farm had a light dusting of snow when I came home. It felt good to pull into the driveway and see our little homestead nestled in the hills. Coming home is like a sigh of relief or a cold drink of water after being in the desert. No matter where you’ve been or how much fun you’ve had it always feels good to kick your shoes off in your own nest. It’s a bit bittersweet though. I miss the kids already. After being gone so long there will be a lot to catch up on especially since Christmas is right around the corner. I better get busy.

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