Reflecting on the Past

Good morning from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope your day is off to a great start! The weather is beautiful here in the mountains this morning. Temperatures were in the mid-fifties when I awoke this morning. Mornings like these transport me back to mornings that I cherish. Cool September mornings reminds me of my childhood in the mountains. I loved early cool mornings and porch sitting with my mom or grandmother. We called our grandmother, Mamaw. She and Papaw were a huge part of all of our lives, and our small community.

Enjoying a good book on a cool September morning.

While porch sitting this morning, I began to think about days of my youth. I thought of how when we were children the days seemed to last forever. Now as an adult days often don’t feel long enough to get everything on out to do list done. Maybe we’re rushing life instead of appreciating it. Have you noticed fall holiday decorations come out in the stores before the hot days of August have passed? What are you supposed to do? Do we enjoy days by the pool, a summer walk, or are we supposed bypass August and begin decorating with pumpkins?

Maybe, it’s that we don’t take time to cherish the moments in the day. Maybe we’re overlooking the smaller things that amazed us as kids. A school of minnows swimming in the creek, a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter, or the amazing web a spider so cleverly wove. Maybe, we spend too much time on social media wishing our lives were like others, or worrying too much about things we can’t fix anyway. Before we know it, we’ve been robbed of precious hours of our day worrying and wondering, instead of appreciating the simple things in our life. Simple things can be a flower bloom, a gentle breeze, a good book, an afternoon of fishing, or spending time with grandkids canning and preserving, and teaching them about family traditions.

Teaching even the youngest grandchildren about gardening.

As a young girl growing up in the mountains, September days were filled with days of canning the final vegetables from the garden. It was a time to can and preserve the final lingering tomatoes and peppers, dry the last of the beans that were left clinging to the fences, and a time of preparation, work, and family. This was and still is a time of a mixed emotions; happy and grateful for the bounty of our hard work, and also sad that the fresh vegetables will soon be gone. It’s always a time of reflection for me. Cool foggy September mornings takes me back to my youth in the mountains of Kentucky when life was simple, hard, yet a life filled with love, family, and respect.

Fog rising above the mountains.

I remember rising early with excitement to sit on the porch of Mamaw’s store with her. The air was cool, fog lingered near the tops of the mountains, and relatives were busy getting their mornings started. Papaw was usually in the garden, mommy would be working in our garden or the flowers. Customers walked to Mamaw’s store to spend a few dollars or sometimes just to share conversations or news they had to share. Neighbors passed always waving or greeting us with a howdy, hello, or good morning. All the while, we worked for hours stringing the last of the garden green beans on heavy quilting thread. The long strings of beans were then hung on the front store porch from old rusty nails near the ceiling of the porch. They hung there to dry during the later days of summer. Once the beans were dry, they were removed from the string and placed in a plastic container and stored in the old deep freeze that stood in the back of the store. They were later rehydrated and cooked as what we referred to as, shuck beans. I remember Mamaw cooking them with a piece of pork and plenty of seasonings. They were delicious served with potatoes and cornbread.

Mamaw, my aunts, and my mom were always planning ahead for cold days of winter when traveling to a grocery store was not as common as it is today. Life in the mountains in the sixties and early seventies was a simple time devoid of social media, television drama, opinionated media, and especially devoid of a lazy society. We were raised hard, but raised with pride, good work ethics, and raised to know about Jesus. Life was simple, but yet life was happy and we knew how to plan ahead for a rainy day.

Mamaw’s pickled green tomato recipe still alive today.

Life in the mountains has changed since I was a little girl, let’s face it life as we all know it has changed a lot in the past three years. However, we still have a choice to enjoy the simple things in life, take time to stop and smell the roses, rise early to greet the day, savor family time, work hard, love deeply, forgive others, help a friend or neighbor, and to plan ahead for our rainy days. With the many recent changes in our world, I am even more determined to hold on to traditions of the past. They were good traditions filled with checking on neighbors, baking a friend a cake, checking on the elderly, taking time to listen to their stories of the past, attending church on Sundays, praying for others, taking pride in our homes, working, and loving others, while also planning ahead through canning and preserving.

Fresh canned tomato juice from our garden tomatoes.

There’s something rewarding about planting seeds, watering them, watching them sprout from tiny sprout into a beautiful plant filled with a rainbow of vegetables. It’s even better to set a table for your family that is spread with a meal that was 90 percent grown on your land with love of your own labor. Yes, planning ahead for a rainy day was a tradition that I enjoy still carrying on. I also enjoy sharing with our elderly neighbors who seem to ever so quickly be leaving this life for their eternal home.

I’ve thought much about that dying generation of elderly grandmothers and grandfathers a lot lately. I miss my grandmother even more when I think of all the memories that we made stringing beans and also canning them. I miss the days of porch sitting in the afternoons, listening to my relatives stories of days gone by, laughing at their funny tales and also quivering a little from the scary stories. I miss star gazing at night with my cousins in the backyard, playing red-light, green-light in the lane beside Mamaw’s store, catching crawdads in the creek, hearing my relatives praying at night before they turned in for the night, and miss those that have passed on.

Yes, cool September mornings brings back a flood of memories. I recall happy memories, sad memories, and memories of a time when the simple things in life, hard work, our neighbors, and self was appreciated. A time when people took time to love deeply, enjoy the fun times and work through the hard times without blaming others. When respect was taught, caring for elderly neighbors was just what we did, and days that families planned and worked together planting, tending, harvesting, preserving, and enjoying the time together listening to stories of days gone by, while carrying on a mountain tradition.

Three generations picking poke salad.

After a beautiful morning of emotional reflection, quiet time of prayer, finishing a chapter in the book I’m reading… I’m off to work on canning tomatoes today. I hope you have enjoyed my reflective ramblings this morning. Have a safe and wonderful holiday weekend. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky.

Seasons and Traditions in the Mountains

Happy Independence Day from the mountains of Kentucky! Independence Day in the mountains is a big deal! The sounds of fireworks can be heard ringing throughout the night sky. Family picnics are common. Trail riding, music, drag races, boating, fireworks displays are only a few of the events that are happening in the mountains to celebrate our freedom! Holidays are not the only days that are special. Each Season is full of opportunities to be had! Seasons in the mountains are each unique and each filled with blessings and wonders. Spring in the mountains is filled with vibrant blooms, lush green mountains, fishing, fields of corn and beans, majestic wildlife, trails awaiting to be blazed and familiar trails that are well worn by those who love the scenic and serene mountain rides.

Marigolds in full bloom!
A well blazed road! Great ride!

Summer mountain traditions are the best! Summers in the mountains are filled with summer fruits and vegetables, grilling, cookouts, ATV rides through the mountain trails, fishing in the rivers and lakes, family gatherings, and thrifting, which is one of my favorites. We also enjoy traditions that have been handed down generation after generation. Traditions such as cemetery church services, river baptisms, potluck dinners, horseshoe tournaments, church picnics, and homecoming services to celebrate the foundation of churches, honor our Heavenly Father, enjoy family, and the blessing of fellowship.

Reminder of hope…

The tradition of thrifting is and has been a way to find hidden treasures in the mountains of Kentucky generation after generation. When I was growing up it was known as junking. There were junk stores, thrift stores, rag sales, and dime sales to pick from or rotate. One of my favorite childhood memories was going to the junk store early Saturday mornings. My cousin and I would load up in our uncle’s old red and white pickup truck. We’d ride in the back under the old camper top, while mamaw, aunt Doshia, and Roy rode up front. We held tight to our money, which usually consisted of one dollar in silver. We knew that meant ten items…ten treasures! Those days have long gone and most items in “junk stores” today range in various prices, but still it’s always a treasure hunt, a tradition that’s carried on, and a lot fun!

Redbird Community Store

Another favorite mountain tradition is the handing off of family recipes. The tradition is to hand down a recipe that you created to another family member. That family member can tweak the recipe to fit their taste buds, palate preferences, or dietary needs. I find particular joy in cooking following a hand written recipe. My all time favorite as was our kids when they were small was my great aunt Doshia’s peanut butter fudge candy. I’ve made many platters of this unhealthy delicious treat! There’s not much modifying that can be done to make this recipe healthier, so it stays carefully tucked away in my recipe binder. I seem to find more joy in trying new recipes in the winter, but enjoy cooking year around.

Fall in the mountains is a time for bonfires, cookouts, hunting, festivals, harvesting, trail riding, and camping. The mountains in the fall are majestically beautiful and alive with brilliant oranges, yellows, reds, and hints of green still hanging on to the days of summer. People travel from far and wide year around to view our beautiful Kentucky mountains and experience the tranquility of mountain living.

Fall colors in Kentucky.
Beautiful wildlife
Church picnic 2021

Words cannot accurately describe the beauty of the snow covered mountains of Kentucky during the winter. The cold snows of winter transforms the once green mountains into white mountains of tranquility.

Light covering of snow in the mountains.

Thank you for stopping by and spending a little time with me in the mountains of Kentucky. If you feel yourself craving a road trip…I encourage you to come and experience the culture of Kentucky and the beauty the mountains! Feel free to leave a comment. I always enjoy hearing from my readers. For now, God bless and happy Independence Day from the mountains of Kentucky!

Treasures From the Mountains

The house is quiet this morning with the sounds of rain pattering softly outside my windows. There’s something about a rainy morning that inspires me to write, cook, and be creative. I have to admit, rising early to greet the day and working in the early morning hours has always been a treasured time for me. Regardless of the task at hand, morning hours always feel special to me. Somehow I feel a closeness to the time at hand, to the past, and to our Heavenly Father.

I enjoy watching the morning fog lift.

As a little girl growing up in the mountains of Kentucky, I recall waking to hear our mother up working in early morning hours. Some mornings the hum of her sewing machine let me know she was sewing. While I rubbed the sleep from my eyes I would wonder what she was making. Other mornings she would already be out in the garden hoeing, picking, or standing with her coffee cup in hand admiring the fruits of her labor. I was a morning person way back then! I loved the smell of the fresh brewed coffee, the smell of the mountain air, the feel of the dew on my bare feet, and smell of fresh plowed dirt. Even then, I knew there was no place like home in the mountains of Kentucky! There was always an adventure awaiting me… or at least I believed there to be. After all, an adventure was and still is what we make of it!

While most kids enjoyed sleeping in on the weekends and the relaxing days of summer, I enjoyed being up early listening to the sounds of my grandfather plowing behind the old mule, my mom humming as she worked, mamaw tending the store, the creek flowing over the smooth worn rocks, and my favorite thing was scavenging for hidden treasures along the creek bank, in the back yard, or buried in the barn. I loved tromping through the mountains with my side kick, who was either my sister, one of my cousins, or both.

Raindrops sparkling like diamonds…

One of our favorite places to dig for treasure was in our mamaw’s old store house that was filled with “dime store” clothes. Talk about treasure! That place was truly a treasure trove for a trio of nine and ten year old girls. Picture it! A couple of young bright eyed little girls who each had an overactive imagination digging through clothes that were either left behind or donated from another generation. Old formal prom dresses suddenly became dresses that were worn by a princess, a queen or two, but each of us were suddenly transformed into royalty. Rhinestone buttons became diamonds that were worth more money than we could imagine. Small leather handbags adorned our arms and were filled with pins, buttons, lacy hankies, odd and end jewelry, hairpins, and various other items/treasures we found among the remnants of the past!

After reflecting on fond memories of the past I feel inspired to ask this question; How do you define treasure? Treasure, is one of those words that is often used without giving much thought to its definition. It can be defined differently by each of us. Treasure is defined as much beauty… however the true definition lies within the eye or the heart of the beholder. Some people describe treasure as an object of value. While others may believe treasure to be family, memories, certain objects, special trinkets, while even still others treasure time as a treasured gift.

Regardless of how you define treasure or what you hold dear in your heart as treasure, know that time, family, friends, and memories are all treasures that we should never take for granted. Time passes all too quickly. Often times We idle our time away doing nothing when we could be spending time with family or friends making new memories. We can’t turn back time. Once time has passed… it’s gone.

Sunset in the mountains.

I encourage you today to enjoy this day that we have been blessed with. Build memories, enjoy family and friends, go search for hidden treasures that might be just below the surface of where you at this moment. Maybe treasure is within your view, but you just don’t recognize it. Above all, take time to love deeply, to forgive often, and live for this is the day the Lord has blessed you with. Today will soon pass and tomorrow will be here. What treasure(s) will you find today?

Feel free to leave a comment. I enjoy hearing from my readers. Also, feel free to follow my blog for inspired moments in the mountains, recipes, and much more. From the mountains of Kentucky… have a wonderful and blessed Tuesday!

Memories in the Mountains

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance. A day to pay tribute to those who served and those who gave their lives for ours. A time to reflect and to remember how our service men and women fought for our country and for our freedom. Some of those brave warriors came home while others gave the ultimate sacrifice, their lives.

Memorial Day is a time to celebrate freedom, but also an opportunity to make memories. While we were preparing for a cookout with family and friends Saturday, I found myself reflecting on the past and thinking about the future. I thought of how quickly time passes. Yes, it is true, life is much like the comparison of vapor over water. It appears and then quickly evaporates right before our very eyes.

Today, let us pause and enjoy the blessings of life, family, friends, and our freedom. Take time from the fun of grilling, fishing, swimming, and all of the other festivities that await us on this beautiful day. Let us take time to remember and pay tribute to all of the dedicated, unselfish, and brave warriors who gave their time for our country, and for each of us.

As I reflect on our day with family and friends, my heart swells with love and gratitude for the opportunity to spend this day surrounded by laughter, good food, and those that I love. A bit of sadness stings my heart as I remember those that have passed and are no longer with us. I recall their laughter, stories, guidance, and their love. I also find myself consumed with an unwavering love, and gratitude for the one who truly gave all…our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us love deeply, cherish our freedom, life and our family, and let us never forget our soldiers and always remember our Savior.

God bless and Happy Memorial Day from the mountains of Kentucky.

In The Eye of the Storm

During my lifetime, I have encountered many changes, witnessed a few miracles, seen devastation, had my fair share of surprises, blessed to have more happy times than I can count, encountered more than enough sadness, but I have never encountered a time like our world is facing today. A friend of mine made a recent Facebook post about feeling as if she were living in a dystopian society. After considering this statement for a few minutes, and being well-read in the dystopian genre, I found myself agreeing with her.

As I set here this morning drinking coffee and counting my blessings I also began to reflect on the events that are happening in our state, across the nation, and all over the world. We have entered a time of many unanswered questions, many predictions of which some have proven to be accurate, while others remain just predictions.

This week as I was reassuring my students and trying to alleviate their fear about the massive changes that they have encountered in less than week, I was gently reminded that our hope lies within our heavenly Father. I began to council them that all would be well, and that our school, the state, and all of the professors were working together to make sure this time of uncertainty would not hinder their coursework, or their graduation. I recalled reading a post on face book from one of my favorite children’s authors and began to provide them with examples and a comparison to the novel, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, which we are currently reading in our class. I have to give credit where credit is due. This wonderful children’s novel is one of my favorite Kate DiCamillo books, and was always a favorite of my students when I taught in the public school. In this wonderful children’s novel, the character of Edward travels on a long journey of uncertain events, new adaptations, and meets many new characters along the way. This heart-warming novel is also a novel of self-discovery for Edward, who grows immensely in many ways while traveling on this uncertain, yet miraculous journey.

I began to think about the journey that lies ahead of each of us, our families, and our neighbors. We are not on this journey alone, much like Edward wasn’t. I reassured them during this time, each of us needed to take time to rediscover and maybe even re-evaluate our principles, our religious beliefs, relationships, and our goals for life. I too, took my own advice and did a little soul-searching. I also realized that there will be days of uncertainty ahead of us, unanswered questions, and a menagerie of emotions that I, as well as others, will encounter. I also realized that I would have to be strong for my family, my children, grandchildren, husband, mother, my students, and my neighbors. I know that I cannot carry the load for all, but I can lighten their load a little, without increasing mine.

When my students began to think about the situation that we are facing and comparing the situations that the character of Edward faced, they began to delve deeper into the text, their fears subsided, and they were inspired that they would be okay at the end of this difficult journey, just like Edward was. I know, and they know, that life is not a fictional fairytale where a happy ending is commonly found. However, as a result of our comparison, our analyzation, and our discussion my students, as well as myself felt a sense of relief, accomplishment, and were inspired to take our newly found message out to others that God is still in control.

I encourage each of you to take the time that you have been given at home to love your family, yourself, and to dig deep into your own self-discovery. Re-evaluate your relationship with your family, yourself, and with your creator. Make this a time of self-discovery, new discoveries, and a time to love your family. Be strong and be there for them. Take time to read, study the word, and pray. This is a time more than any other time in my lifetime where prayer is warranted. Be the prayer warrior that others can rely on. Be the neighbor that can take a covered dish and leave it at the doorstep of your elderly neighbor, check on friends through social media, phone calls, or even FaceTime them, which gives allows them to realize that you are there for them.

Through all of the unanswered questions, uncertainty’s, and all of the worrying, I am reminded of a prophetic word that our church received quite some time ago. The words that were revealed to our church were simply, “preparation time.”

Members, as well as our Pastor, wondered if this meant a great revival, souls dedicating their lives to the Lord, preparing for the unexpected, or even still…all of the above. We, as a church, prayed for answers and prepared in a variety of ways. We have seen a spiritual revival break out within the hearts of our congregation and in our church, souls have been added to our church, and now we are facing uncertain days with many unexpected changes and unanswered questions looming over all of us, but we feel better prepared than we would have a year ago. We have been reminded that the Lord has been and continues to be with us, even in the eye of the storm.

I hope you enjoy this post. Feel free to comment and or follow. Wishing you a safe and wonderful Memorial weekend and day. God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Finding What Works

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky. I hope your week is off to a great start! A memory popped up on Facebook this morning reminding me of the changes that have happened in my life the past ten years. Weight loss changes, dietary choices, and health changes that have had me worried and also celebrating! I hope you enjoy learning a little more about my journey with food, weight loss, and health.

For me, weight loss was like a roller coaster ride! Many ups, many downs, unsure of what was around the next curve, and occasionally the feeling of accomplishment. Diets, like a roller coaster ride, left me with the feeling of accomplishment, but both were usually short-lived.

My journey with roller coaster diets began a long time ago, I mean a long time ago. I, like many others, would find something that worked but it always seemed to be temporary. I was always changing my diet up to try a new diet, fad, or what worked for someone else. My countless endeavors include low fat, low calorie, low carb, no bread, multiple tracking apps, multiple prepackaged diet foods, diets that famous people recommended, liquid diets, protein diets, and the list could go on and on. Were they successful? Some were and some were not. Did I lose weight? Sometimes I did and sometimes I didn’t. Did I gain the weight back? Sometimes I did and a few more pounds to boot! So when did this viscous cycle end? It stopped for me when I found what worked for me. When I found what I believed in, was passionate about, and most of all what I enjoyed!

First of all, I stopped dieting. Yes, you heard me right. I stopped dieting! I adopted a new lifestyle. My journey with fad diets and dieting period took on a new perspective and seriousness when my doctor asked me what I wanted to do. Did I want to live or did I want to die? I chose life! I prayed seriously about what I should do.

After much prayer, my journey began with clean eating. I soon learned that I could eat a wide-variety of good foods, but the food needed to be organic and with the least amount of processing and packaging as possible. I also discovered a new way to cook, new foods to try and new food foods I enjoyed. I also discovered that I could still eat, enjoy my food, and not be hungry. I could actually have dessert too! Clean dessert that is!

My journey evolved into my becoming a flexitarian, which meant the only meat I ate at that time was organic poultry, game meat, and seafood. That lifestyle eventually evolved into my becoming a vegetarian, which removed all meats from my diet. What I realized from this drastic change was that my joints slowly began to feel normal. I had less inflammation. My health was drastically improving and I felt energetic again. Did the change stop there? I was determined to regain all of my health and live a lifestyle that promotes life, not encouraged disease. No! I researched vegan lifestyles and learned that I could live happily, and even more healthy, without eggs and dairy products. My stomach felt better, my digestion was at its peak and I felt more energetic. I began to lose pounds slowly but happily.

My journey with eating vegan has evolved into whole food plant-based eating, which has really changed my life and my health. I feel that I have come full circle with my dietary choices as the whole food plant-based vegan lifestyle is truly one of the cleanest diets possible. The benefits have been tremendous! I no longer take any prescribed meds, other than the smallest dose of blood pressure meds available and expect that to be taken away at my next dr appointment. My blood panel is always good, and contrary to what many believe, my iron and protein levels are fine! Yes, you can get sufficient protein from plants! One of the most notable things that changed with this final change of roller coaster diets, is the positive impact that a plant based diet has made on my joints and gut health! I believe that good gut health is key to living a happy and healthy life! I said all of that to say this, find what works for you and what you are passionate about, not what’s popular.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about my journey with food, diets, and lifestyle choices! I’m happy to say the roller coaster of eating has come to a permanent stop. I’ve been vegan for two years and can’t imagine turning back. The benefits of plant based eating are far too beneficial! I enjoy eating again, I can maintain my weight, lose a little weight and also feel happy about what I’m eating while not feeling deprived. Feel free to leave comments. I enjoy hearing from my readers. Click follow to be notified of new posts. From the mountains of Kentucky, God bless and have a wonderful week!

Vegan Strawberry Salad Dressing

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! We had a beautiful morning filled with a mix of rain and sunshine in the mountains today. I don’t mind the rain. I love an occasional rainy day, especially a rainy summer morning. For me, rainy days are a time to catch up on chores inside the house. Chores that I pushed aside to allow for time to maintain the outside can now be completed. Rainy days are also a welcomed change as they allow me extra time to do a little baking, grade student’s assignments, and try to squeeze in some time to read. I always appreciate and enjoy my quiet morning devotional reading and time spent meditating and talking to our Heavenly Father. My day always seems to be better, less stressful, and more appreciative after bible study and prayer.

I am an avid reader and enjoy the pages of a good novel anytime, but especially on rainy days like today. I am currently reading the fourth book in the Hunger Games series. It is truly a book worthy of reading! I may post a review of it when I finish it. If you’re a fan of this series, now is the time to delve deep into the pages and enjoy the continuing saga of the Hunger Games. As much as I enjoy spending time indoors catching up on work, household chores, reading and cooking…my love for the great outdoors always seems to lure me outside.

Before enjoying a brisk morning walk this morning, I enjoyed a small bowl of Silk non-Dairy vanilla yogurt with a mix of berries and walnuts with a slice of sprouted non-flour organic sprouted Ezekiel bread with a teaspoon of avocado plant butter. It was quite tasty with a sprinkle of ground flax seed and a drizzle of agave. Eating vegan doesn’t have to be boring or tasteless.

As I enjoyed my walk after breakfast this morning, I was reminded of how much I love early summer mornings outside! Our view of the mountains never grows old. The sounds of the creek flowing and the morning farm sounds are always a soothing and welcoming sound to my ears. The gentle cooing of the doves, the low rumble of thunder, birds singing from high in the trees, and the sounds of the farm are always satisfying, soothing, and comforting and a time of peace.

I always feel abundantly blessed on quiet morning walks. I feel especially blessed when walking after a morning rain. The earth is damp, the leaves glisten with drops of rain, and our small farm seems to come alive. I love to walk, meditate, and count my blessings, while also enjoy the sounds of life in the mountains, reminiscing, and enjoying the view.

The sounds of the hens cackling from their nests assures me that there will be at least a dozen or more fresh eggs by midday. Our latest addition to our farm are guinea’s. Our son gave them to us and they’ve earned their keep through their loud alerts of arriving guests and strangers. They’re a security system who also provides tiny eggs for our family and friends. This morning their calls let me know they were awake and on guard, while the roosters chimed in with their good-morning crows.

Two of our guinea’s enjoying picking a little green

There’s something about the sound of roosters crowing that take me back to my childhood growing up in the mountains. I found myself a bit teary eyed as I thought of my grandparents who have gone home, and of all the wonderful times we enjoyed with family while growing up. Times were simple then. Evenings were spent with family and friends porch sitting laughing, talking, and sharing the events of the day. I recall early summer mornings where we spent many happy hours wading in the creek, and warm summer nights that were filled with star-gazing and dreaming of our tomorrows. Those are memories that I will forever cherish and hold close to my heart. Walking this morning was one of those mornings. One flooded with a mix of emotions, memories, and also filled with gratitude.

Our garden in mid May.

The view of our garden was a satisfying sight this morning. Hard work pays off! We worked several long hours yesterday in the garden. It was a long evening of plowing, hoeing, planting, and also picking with family. Hard work, but also a time of making memories. The smell of the freshly plowed earth still lingered heavy in the air this morning. The scent of fresh plowed sod is one of my favorite scents in the morning along with the fragrance of the honey suckle blooms. Both of these fragrances transports me back to my childhood in the mountains. Yes, mountain life is the best life.

I hope your gardens are flourishing this year! Our labor is paying off with an abundance of cabbage, kale, lettuce, onions, zucchini, squash, and cucumbers so far. I am super excited to begin picking tomatoes, digging potatoes, and also picking beans and corn in upcoming weeks.

Even though our garden is doing well right now, gardening has been an unusual journey this year. First, with the bitter cold freezes that came in the early spring also came several evenings of covering each plant in hopes of preventing freezing, and uncovering the next morning. Then came the rain…boy, did it rain…a lot! The rain didn’t harm all of our garden, but wreaked havoc on our beans, which rotted in the ground. This resulted in plowing the beans under and replanting. I am happy to report that our second planting of beans are flourishing! We fenced the long rows of beans this week and the beautiful green bean vines are already climbing the tall fence lines. Our corn has been a challenge as well this year. We are are tending our third planting, which is finally doing well.

We are accustomed to battling and discouraging deer every year from getting in our garden. We won the battle with groundhogs eating our beans a few years ago, and crows pulling our corn up last year. However, this year we were faced with a new unexpected force that destroyed two entire crops of seed corn. Just as the corn reached two or three inches tall it would disappear. Chipmunks were the culprits this year. Who knew that those cute little creatures could destroy row after row after row of corn. They maybe cute, but they can be deadly on a corn crop. Through many creative efforts of soap, peppermint essential oils, moth balls, and many other creative methods…it appears we may have finally won the war with the furry little burrowers.

I am overjoyed with our herbs this year! They are flourishing as well. I’ve enjoyed harvesting basil, and peppermint several times already this year. I am currently drying both to add to the pantry. I plan to make peppermint tea from the medley of mints that are hanging in the drying room. I love the taste and the smell of all mints. My favorite has to be chocolate mint, which is a great addition to brownies, cookies, and makes a great tea all by itself. I purchased a new mint this year, which seems to be doing great. I’ve haven’t harvested any of it yet, in effort to let it get well-established first. I found strawberry mint! I am overly excited about the possibilities that this mint has. I admit, the leaves of the plant are quite tasty and very aromatic. Yes, I’m guilty. I nibble on my herb plants sometimes as I’m watering or pruning. My plans for this mint consist of tea, cookies, bread, and also a fresh berry salad with homemade strawberry salad dressing. It’s the simple things in life that makes me happy.

Speaking of fresh veggie and berry salad, I hope you’ll enjoy my new recipe for strawberry salad dressing. I apologize for neglecting to post my recipe for this refreshing and tasty salad dressing earlier. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks with the garden, grading, and teaching this summer. I hope you and your family enjoy this simple recipe as much as we do.

With warm weather, regardless if it’s raining or the sun is shining…also comes my usual craving for crisp summer salads. I love to experiment with the veggies and herbs from our garden, and also with fresh fruit. While cleaning the refrigerator out the other day, I realized it was time to do a refrigerator cleanup in my produce drawers. What better time to create a summer salad! While foraging through the crisper drawers, I discovered an abundance of fruits and veggies that were perfect for a tasty summer salad. I found a honey crisp apple, a few ripe strawberries, a few leftover blueberries, and score…blackberries that were more than ready to be used. I added a little bib lettuce from our garden, bits of baby kale, and some baby spinach, romaine, and iceberg lettuce. I included chopped cucumbers, green onions, tomatoes, cauliflower and purple broccoli.

Now, the veggies were ready to toss, but I wanted a crunch factor for the salad, so I tossed in a few toasted walnuts. I clipped some fresh basil, peppermint, spearmint, and a few chives and tossed them in the veggies. I can’t wait to include leaves from the strawberry mint plant in my next salad. I like to use a small pair of scissors to cut the fresh herbs into small strips, which prevents a lot of bruising on the tender leaves. I once again gently tossed the fruit, herbs, and veggies to ensure a bit of everything with each bite. What a visual and colorful bounty of beautiful deliciousness!

Crisp summer berry salad with homemade strawberry dressing. 

Finally, if you’re like me, a summer berry salad is not complete without a sweet dressing. So, I decided to create my own dressing. I hope you enjoy this sweet and savory dressing on your summer salads. It’s quick, easy, and takes only a few ingredients.

Ingredients:

1 cup organic chopped strawberries
3 tablespoons of organic extra virgin olive oil 
2 tablespoons of organic balsamic vinegar 
1 teaspoon organic strawberry jam (I prefer homemade)
1 teaspoon of organic agave
1 pinch of course black pepper

Process:

Wash, drain, and chop strawberries and add to the blender. Add the remaining ingredients and blend on medium-low until smooth. Pour into a container with a lid, and chill for about thirty minutes before drizzling over your salad.

How easy was that? I added this beautiful dressing to our summer salad last week, and it was a huge hit! With the addition of a few plant-based homemade croutons, the salad was complete and absolutely delicious.

Hint: Don’t neglect toasting the walnuts before adding them to the salad. It’s amazing how much the flavor is enhanced when toasting nuts of all kinds before adding them to your favorite recipes.

Finished product…a pint of delicious vegan strawberry salad dressing!

Garden tip: If your herbs are not as green, vibrant, or bushy as you would like for them to be, don’t neglect clipping and pruning your herbs. Clipping promotes new growth. Without regular clipping and pruning your herbs will become leggy and less bushy. 

For now, I’m off to enjoy a cup of camomile herbal tea and delve deep into the next chapter of my book!

God bless from the mountains of Kentucky. Stay safe, stay close to home, and stay positive during this time of uncertainty. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions. I always enjoy reading your comments.

Making Memories in the Mountains…

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! We’ve had a couple of beautiful fall-like days in Appalachia. It almost feels like fall with temperatures in the upper seventies! I’m not complaining, this is perfect weather for outdoor activities, porch sitting, and for picking and canning beans.

Fourteen quarts of green beans picked and canned this morning!

I enjoyed the morning yesterday with our oldest granddaughter working up beans that we had picked from the garden. It was a memorable morning for both of us. We enjoyed small talk, reflecting on different things going on our lives, sharing fun-filled memories, and also our dreams and some of our future plans. I love days like this. It reminds me of my days as a young girl sitting on the front porch of my mamaw’s little grocery store. We would string green beans to hang dry for shuck beans, or as some prefer to call them, leather britches. We also sat countless hours breaking freshly picked beans for canning. These were experiences that helped mold me into who I am today and memories that I will forever cherish.

Rows of vining beans on fence from our garden last year.

As we sat working up the beans yesterday, i couldn’t help but allow my mind to drift back to a much simpler time…a time when days seemed to be forever long, summer vacations were the best, hard work was appreciated, porch sitting was welcomed, and families actually talked to each other… face to face! Those were the days prior to personal technology (AKA cell phones) and also days that make me long for those simpler times! I recall sitting for hours on the old bus seat or wooden ladder-back chairs helping my mamaw work up her beans. I never remember saying I was bored or complaining about helping. I enjoyed helping and also working the produce from our garden, even as a kid.

I loved spending time with my mamaw, and also hearing the stories of her youth, and when her kids were growing up. She would talk about the importance of putting away/canning enough food for winter and for what she called, hard-times.

I also thought about the days we spent on our back porch with our mom working in freshly picked cabbage. She would divide the big heads of white cabbage and place a half in a large bowl for me to chop. I loved having the job of chopping cabbage with the sterilized open ring of the empty cream can, and then gradually graduating to using a grater, only after she was sure I wouldn’t lose a knuckle.

I worked along side my mom as she would fill the sterilized jars with beautiful white shredded cabbage to be pickled into delicious sour kraut. We enjoyed the fresh kraut immensely with soup beans, AkA pinto beans. The heat from working outside didn’t bother us or deter us from our mission whether it was work or play. We were not accustomed to air conditioning and often went outside to seek refuge from the heat inside our house. Some of my fondest memories of summer and summer vacation are playing outside, playing hide and seek in our papaw’s corn field, making club houses in the barn, and playing in the creek. Regardless the heat index or what the thermometer read, we enjoyed playing and having fun outside!

Our youngest grandson running through the rows of young corn.

I can also remember as a kid pondering on the words that I had heard my mom and both grandparents speak of. Hard-times, I wondered what they were, when they would arrive, and why would canning hundreds of jars of beans, cabbage, and corn help us when hard-times arrived. I thought canning, drying, and preserving was just something that everyone did, what we were supposed to do.

I didn’t realize that many times in my youth we were actually living in those hard-times that my mamaw and papaw spoke about. We always had plenty to eat, a full root cellar or pantry of canned goods, which included fried apples, peaches, beans, corn, jams, apple butter and more. Today, I am thankful that I learned from my mom and grandparents how to garden, can, preserve, and how to plan for and also to survive and make it through real-life hard-times.

I recall in our youth, and in our own children’s youth relying on our pantry of dried beans, canned beans, baskets of potatoes we dug from our garden, corn from the freezer, and many other goodies we put away. I learned early on in our marriage that when the primary source of income comes from coal mining, pink slips and lay offs were inevitable. Unfortunately, we also learned that unemployment insurance barely met the bills. This was when I truly learned that having a well-stocked pantry of preserved and canned food helped families to survive those real-life hard-times.

Our garden early in early spring.

But, more than anything, I learned from my mom, grandparents, and experience that God will always provide, and He honors hard work. I’ve also learned that planting and working the garden as a family creates many cherished memories, provides nourishing healthy food for our entire family, supplements the weekly grocery bill, and also ensures that an Appalachian tradition of gardening and preserving is still handed down from generation to generation and remains a way of life.

Our oldest grandson hoeing young tomatoes in late spring.

I hope you have enjoyed my Appalachian memory and a small part of my heritage. Feel free to leave feedback. I enjoy hearing from my readers. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Moments in Time…

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope you’re having a wonderful summer wherever you may be. Summer time should be a time for relaxation, reading, and also for road trip adventures! I feel inspired to share an adventure that my sister and I encountered several years ago. Grab yourself a cup of coffee or a cold beverage and relax while you read about a moment in time that forever changed my life.

Morning in the mountains of Kentucky!

First, let me say that I am a firm believer that the Lord places people in our lives when we need them the most. I like to refer to them as divine appointments. Just like the divine appointment my sister and I encountered while we were on our weekend get away. I’m excited to share our unforgettable weekend with you!

Summer vacation had arrived, and it was truly a much needed one for both my sister and myself. At the time I was an elementary school teacher who had been under a tremendous amount of stress due to state tests, overcrowded classrooms, and stress from dealing with the 157 students that passed through my classroom on a daily basis! My sister also needed a break as much as I did for other reasons…so, we did what any sisters would do! We hit the road for a weekend trip for just the two of us.

After much deliberation, we decided that we would spend the weekend at Mammoth Cave National Park. We enjoyed spending time at Gun Town Mountain, an old western town that required us to ride a sky lift up the mountain, which was a blast, especially considering that my sister is afraid of heights. We enjoyed many of the sights in Cave City, which consisted of Dinosaur World, nature walks on beautiful trails, museums, and a fun house. I was super excited to stop at a local tourist attraction called, Big Mike’s Rock Shop. I have been an avid rock collector for many years and was looking forward to adding to my collection. Of all of the gift shops we browsed, this was my favorite shop.

Gun Town Mountain

The store was buzzing with tourists, small talk, and anxious kids awaiting an arrow head or a different rare stone. After browsing the many shelves of different stones I carefully selected my treasures. The checkout line was a bit crowded, but we finally made our purchases and exited the store.

Big Mike’s Rock Shop

The remainder of our evening consisted of more shopping, browsing, scenic walks, and dinner, then we returned to our room to relax our tired feet. While I enjoyed a cup of coffee and browsing my small bags of treasures, I discovered my purchase from the rock shop was missing.

After searching our room and the Jeep, we found the receipt but the bag was no where to be found. I hoped that maybe I had left them at the shop and not the restaurant. We had planned to leave the next morning after breakfast, but decided to stop by the rock shop first. I decided if the bag of rocks from yesterday hadn’t been left behind, I would just purchase more rocks!

Things got really interesting upon entering the rock shop! The same lady who was behind the counter the day before was working the register again, and was bold in praising the Lord as we entered the small crowded shop. We waited anxiously in line to speak with her. We slowly made our way to the counter with several people lined up behind us anxious to checkout and leave with their newfound treasures. I explained my situation to the kind lady. I was eager to learn the whereabouts of the bag of stones that I had so carefully selected the day before.

As she retrieved my bag of stones from beneath the counter she asked us if we were Christians. After answering her she explained with tears in her eyes that she had felt the need to pray for my sister and I the day before. But she wasn’t sure how to approach us or how we would perceive her request to pray for us. She also explained how she questioned her feelings yesterday evening after we had left. She asked the Lord for a sign. She said she prayed we would come back to the shop. If we returned, it would prove to her that it had been meant for her to pray for us. She also said she had no idea that the rocks that had been left behind were mine.

With tears in our eyes we assured her that we would be happy for her to pray for us. Quickly she asked for my hand and began praying for me. She gave me prophetic words of wisdom and handed me a small smooth stone that she told me to carry with me. She added that when I felt alone, unsure of a situation, or had a need to rub the smooth prayer stone and remember the words she spoke. She said it would also remind me that the Lord heard my prayers. She did the same for my sister, only with different prophetic words.

I have recalled that day in the rock shop many times since then. I have also wondered what would have happened if I hadn’t gone back to the small shop, and also been very thankful that I did. As I stated earlier, I am a firm believer that God uses people in the places and at the time that we need them the most to lift us up, encourage, and also to pray for us. My prayer stone is never far from me as is the memories of the elderly lady who gave me the stone and words of wisdom that helped me in a very difficult time in both my life and my sisters’ life.

I hope my encounter with one of God’s divine appointments brings you encouragement and inspires you to believe, or to be that person that helps someone else in their time of need. Will you be the voice in the wilderness that encourages others?

I hope you enjoyed my special moment in time. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky! Feel free to leave comments…your feedback is always welcome!

Rainy Days in the Mountains…

Happy Independence weekend from the mountains of Kentucky! The rainy season has made its way to our small corner of the world and continues to linger over the mountains. Without a doubt this is the rainiest spring and summer that I can remember. I love an occasional slow summer rain, frogs peeping from the trees, and the peace and tranquility of reading and relaxing with a hot cup of coffee while the rain falls softly. However, too much rain for a farmer means a lot of extra work, some disappointments, and making changes when necessary.

Rain clouds gathering over the mountains…

With all the rain also comes lots of weeds in the garden that have to be hoed, tilled, and pulled. We’ve definitely had our fair share of weeds this summer but limited dry time to remove them. All hands were on deck this week as we used the one evening without rain to till our corn, and hoe between and around all the veggies. Talk about a great workout for the upper body and a great workout for the garden. It looked renewed and revived after the working was complete. The rain has actually proven to be a blessing for our cucumbers, squash, and zucchini.

Squash is one our favorite summer veggies!

We’ve been able to pick an abundance of zucchini, squash and cucumbers between the random showers of rain. We’re not complaining…we’ve enjoyed baked, fried, and sautéed zucchini and squash, and delicious vegan zucchini bread. Eating what we’ve grown brings a sense of completion, but sharing the fruits of our labor with neighbors, friends, and family is one of the most satisfying and fulfilling labors a farmer can experience.

Despite the weather and rescuing and reviving and re-staking our forty-five tomato plants that were riddled due to high winds and heavy rains…our tomato plants are still standing with lots of green tomatoes and some that are slowly ripening. Our entire family loves tomatoes ripe or fried green! Fried green tomatoes is a dish that never gets old! Its also healthy, clean, and vegan!

I was also able to check an item off of my ever-growing to do list this week, which always makes me happy! However, happy does not quite describe the emotion I felt as I clicked send on the email containing the attachment of the final revisions and edits of edition II of the textbook that I wrote. It has been long tiring journey, but a rewarding one that I’m glad I embarked on! I’m super excited to teach with and for my students to use the new textbook in the fall!

Summer II classes began Wednesday, which means the fall term is only a few weeks away and also lots of early morning grading and planning. I fully intend to make time for my favorite early morning walks where I love to take pictures capturing the beauty of our mountains. I also look forward to reading on the porch for a few more weeks before the fall term begins when things get a bit crazy…but it’s a good kind of crazy!

Random picture I took on an early morning walk after the rain!

I’ve also enjoyed time in the kitchen this week and working to perfect my vegan lemon bread recipe. No worries…that tasty recipe is coming soon! I must say it is delicious, but I want to try one more tweak before posting the recipe! I’m loving the use of tofu in vegan recipes and am anxious to share new ideas and recipes with you soon.

My first attempt at clean vegan lemon bread!

Despite all of the rain…it’s been a blessed week. Feel free to follow my blog and also leave comments. I enjoy hearing from each of you. God bless for now from the mountains of Kentucky!