A Mountain Way of Life

Good morning from the mountains of Kentucky! It’s a beautiful and finally dry morning in the mountains. Rain has been a part of our daily forecast for the majority of July! With rain comes growth. Growth of garden delicacies and also growth of unwanted weeds. It seems that we’ve been busier than ever pulling weeds, hoeing, and tilling. As a result of our hard work and God’s grace our garden is flourishing, all except our cucumbers. We’re still picking quite a few cucumbers each day, but not as many as we should considering the amount of plants we have. But, I’ll not complain as we’re truly enjoying the harvest!

Early July Garden
Beans are ready for picking!

With the cool spring-like temperatures this morning, I decided to take full advantage of the comfortable morning breeze. It was a perfect morning to trim and prune the herbs. Growing and harvesting fresh herbs is another mountain tradition I thoroughly enjoy. I love the smell of fresh herbs. I enjoy growing them, cooking with them, and most of all the taste of them in home cooked meals. I also love to dry them for spices. Fresh dried basil is so much more fragrant and delicious than store bought basil. There’s no other sage quite like fresh sage! After the cutting and trimming, I spread the beautiful green herbs on a clean cloth and enjoy the aroma of fresh herbs in the kitchen and through most of the house for days. Once the herbs are dry, I grind, crush, and store them in clear glass jars and place them in a dark cabinet for future dishes!

Fresh cut sage
Discerning the Voice of God, a great book written by, Pricilla Shirer.

Rainy days are also a great time to sneak away from all the responsibilities that come with working from home, maintaining a home and the farm to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Simple pleasures such as snuggling up with a hot cup of coffee and a good book. There’s also something about a rainy day that inspires me to cook. I’m excited to share two new recipes I tried this weekend with you. I plan to post both recipes later this week. For now, I’ll give you a visual taste with pictures! The first picture is a new summer squash soup that I created. It’s rich, full of flavor, fiber, and also very satisfying served with rice, a few croutons, or with crusty bread. The second picture is the delicious apple bread that I created this weekend. Both recipes are vegan friendly and also clean. Be sure to check back later this week for both recipes.

Summer Squash Soup
Apple bread… log in tomorrow for full recipe!

However, weekends are not complete for me without attending a church service. The fellowship is much needed in the day we live as is hearing the word. During church last night, I thought about how important it is to know God’s word, but also the importance of the knowledge of how to apply it to our own lives. During the sermon, the thoughts of my own words rang loud and clear in my mind. One of the concepts that I teach students is reading comprehension. I remind them that recalling and summarizing is only part of comprehension. The ultimate goal of comprehension is application. That was the exact thought that I had about God’s word. It’s vital that we know the word, can recall it, but we must also know how to connect it and apply it to our lives to truly receive the full benefits from it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Monday memories for this week. Be sure to come back daily for new posts and for new recipes. I’ll be posting both the summer squash soup and the apple bread recipes later this week! For now, we’re off to the garden to pick beans! God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Hidden Nuggets

Good Evening from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope you’ve had a wonderful day! The sun has been shining bright in the mountains today, which was a welcome change from the chilly morning temperatures we encountered earlier today. Cool nights and cool mornings are to be expected in early May in Kentucky. Early May is what we refer to as, blackberry winter. My grandfather always called it the last cold snap of the season and time to begin planting tomatoes, cucumbers, and the rest of the garden goodies!

A beautiful Kentucky sky!

While working in my herb garden this evening, I discovered that the sage was already in need of pruning. Pruning the sage prevents it from becoming leggy and woody. As I pinched the leaves back, a rich and wonderful aroma filled the air. I began planning what great dish I would create with the fresh sage. Maybe stuffing, dumplings for my husband, or I might dry it for future dishes. Nevertheless, I was excited to have fresh sage so early in the season. As I pruned the already flourishing plant, I thought about how much more it would grow and how healthy it would be as a result of the pruning. In the still of the evening, I felt the Lord dealing with me about my own pruning.

Fresh Sage Leaves

I heard a sermon once that compared cleaning a closet out to that of purging ourselves with prayer and fasting. Pruning a plant is similar to the process of laying down weights that might prevent us from spiritually growing to our fullest potential. Like the sage, without pruning, we too, might become tough, a bit bitter, or even stop growing spiritually. I hadn’t thought of this analogy before. Spiritual pruning, I believe this was one of those hidden nuggets of wisdom that the Lord reveals through the simple things in our every day life to grow us spiritually.

Thank you for stopping by my blog. Feel free to leave comments. I love to hear from my readers. Click follow to to be notified of new posts. God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

A Walk Through the Garden…

Good evening from the mountains of Kentucky. What a beautiful morning we were blessed with today! Thunderstorms appeared this evening, but has since passed and the sky is clearing! Hopefully, we’ll be blessed with more sunshine in the days ahead. It’s been a busy day of editing, planning, and creating the course shell for the upcoming class that I’m teaching this summer. The day also consisted of finding an unexpected treasure…in an unexpected place. The best kind of treasures!

This crane has become a regular visitor on our farm.

First, let me say that what I consider a treasure…others might consider to just be an object or even still, junk. So what constitutes a treasure to me? An unexpected visitor in the garden like the crane pictured above who makes regular visits to our small farm. Some tribes of Native Americans believed that a crane visiting is a sign of a blessing and good fortune for those it chooses to visit. I also enjoy the silent visit of the deer standing cautiously in the field, or even lingering in the safety of the tree lines. As long as they stay away from the garden…I enjoy their random visits.

An unexpected visitor.

I also find pleasure in finding unusual rocks or an occasional arrow head. Finding an arrow head fills me with wonders and feeling of being a part of another day or era of time, if only in my thoughts. I like to whisper a quiet thank you for the discovery. Finding arrow heads allows me to make a small connection to my Cherokee ancestors. And then… there’s simple objects like the one that I found this morning. Although, I don’t think they’re really that simple. I believe every little unexpected treasure that I find has a story of its own.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bent to pick ripe cucumbers from their vines this year or how many times we’ve hoed between the plants. However today just on a casual stroll in the garden an unusual object caught my attention. How had I missed this mysterious object? Was this a hidden treasure? There it was awaiting me…half-buried in the soil among the cucumber vines. I carefully unearthed the object to discover some sort of an old and unusual key. A skeleton key…maybe.

I carefully removed the mud left behind from the rain to discover my suspicions were correct, it was a very old key. I had found an antique skeleton key! My imagination soared and questions whirled through my mind. What did this old key once unlock? Who had originally owned the old key? I carefully tucked the key in my pocket and finished my stroll through the garden with my imagination running rapid. Words flowed through my thoughts. I felt the words of a poem stirring deep within my being. I couldn’t wait to add this newly inspired poem to the anthology that I am working on.

What a beautiful treasure!

I shared the small treasure with my husband and our grandson. Of course our grandson was as intrigued as I was, my husband’s curiosity was intrigued as well, just not as much as ours. Our grandson has a vivid imagination and also loves to discover hidden treasures, and tell stories… much like his nanny.

It was an eventful day indeed. I also placed our first batch of dried herbs of the season in labeled clear glass jars. Dried herbs are great for the winter season when fresh herbs may not be available. They also make a great addition to dishes while they’re cooking. Fresh herbs are better added during the last minutes of cooking or even after the dish is complete. I was also excited to fill white envelopes with seeds saved from the dried blooms of basil, lavender and chives! Saving seeds ensures that future herb plants are not genetically altered or modified like many that are unknowingly purchased, but rather from organically grown plants that we nurture from the seed to the harvest.

Dried herbs ready for cooking!

I hope you’ve enjoyed stopping by and visiting our small corner of the world. Feel free to follow or leave feedback. I enjoy reading comments from all of my readers. I also look forward to sharing my recipe for vegan lemon bread that is coming soon. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Vegan Lavender Butter: A Sweet Herbal Treat From the Mountains…

A foggy mountain morning in the mountains.

Good morning from the mountains of Kentucky! As I savor the taste of the rich bold coffee and listen to the comforting sounds of our small farm waking up and greeting the world this morning I am filled with a sense of peace and satisfaction. I enjoy the lulling sounds of the soft raindrops gently tapping the lingering puddles yesterday’s showers left behind, and the sounds of Pretty Boy’s boastful good-morning crows from his high-roost. The trees are filled with an anxious zeal for life from the beautiful sounds of music the families of robins, blue jays, and wrens are making, while a blanket of fog still lingers near the mountains tops and over the valleys creating a cocoon of safety in our little corner of the world. I agree with that all-too famous line from one of my childhood favorite movies, “there’s no place like home!”

Our domer rooster. Pretty Boy.

Today will be another busy day as the life of a professor, nanny, writer, and farm-wife never gets boring. There’s always something to keep me busy, but I can’t complain I can’t imagine my life any other way. Today’s agenda consists of editor deadlines, working on syllabi for my summer II courses, light housework, preparing a big kettle of homemade soup, and hopefully a little garden time, if the weather cooperates. But for now, I promised my readers last night that I’d post my recipe for Vegan Lavender Butter.

Have you ever wondered what to do with all those beautiful lavender blooms? Well wonder no more…I hope you enjoy this delicious herbal treat.

Lavender blooming near the basil.

Rich and delicious lavender butter

First, let me say that the picture does not do this delicious treat justice! But without further delay…here you go! I hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons of your favorite organic plant butter (my favorite is coconut plant butter…see photo below) plain butter for a non-vegan option
  • 1 teaspoon of pure organic maple syrup for a vegan option, honey for non-vegan
  • 3 teaspoons of dried lavender blooms

My favorite plant butter

Dried lavender blooms

Process:

Mix the plant butter, syrup, and dried lavender blooms in a small bowl and set aside in the refrigerator to allow it to chill for at least two hours before serving. As the butter chills the delicate dried blooms rehydrate and soften within the butter to create a smooth and delicious texture. The taste of this delicate and silky sweet treat can be enjoyed on toast, rolls, biscuits or even on a baked sweet potato. Our son-in-law enjoyed it on his steak a few nights ago! He described it as a savory taste that lingers on the back of the tongue.

I look forward to hearing from you and reading your comments and thoughts about this tasty herbal treat. Well, the day beckons me with a to-do list that can’t wait! God bless from my Kentucky mountain kitchen to yours!

Butterflies love our lavender blooms…

Drying Stevia

I love fall, but I’m saddened about not being able to step outside my backdoor and clip fresh herbs. My summer herbs are still green, perky, and plentiful…but their days are numbered! Even though I love fall, and will miss fresh herbs, it’s time to focus on the chore of harvesting herbs. To harvest tasty herbs, the herbs must be green and still full of life. Fresh herbs make any dish taste better. I cut fresh basil this morning for an omelet…delicious to say the least! As tasty as summer herbs are during the hot months…they still kick your dishes up a notch when they are dried. Dried herbs can be used year around, but are especially a treat during the cold winter months. Drying herbs can be a bit of a slow process, depending on the method that you choose. Drying herbs is the process that I thoroughly enjoy the most!

My backdoor herb box

My backdoor herb box

When I made the choice to eat clean, I also made the choice to grow my own herbs. What better way to know that your herbs are truly organically grown! I was also eager to try different types of sweeteners. I found that I love using agave nectar and honey, but sometimes a dry sweetener is necessary. After researching, and speaking with some wise old farmers about stevia, my mind was made up. I would grow and harvest my own sweetener!

Stevia is a beautiful green plant that is very easy to grow. It takes very little maintenance, other than water, regular pruning, and a lots of sunshine! I decided to start small, since it was a new herb in my garden. I planted a very large pot of the beautiful green plant. One pot of the sweet herb has provided through the spring and summer months, and is now ready to be harvested for the fall and winter months ahead.

Sweet Herb/Stevia growing outside my back door!

Sweet Herb/Stevia growing outside my back door!

The process is fairly simple. There are a variety of methods of drying herbs. You may air dry them by placing in them in shallow pans, dehydrate them, hang them to dry, or oven dry them. If you plan to dehydrate your herbs, or in a flat pan, simply clip the desired amount of shoots of the sweet herb, and then clip off the leaves. If you dry them by hanging them, you will not need to clip the leaves.

I prefer to dry stevia in a pan in a dark room near filtered window light. No matter the method discard leaves that may be bruised, or have brown spots on them. Rinse the leaves to remove any pests, or dust and allow to air dry. Once the leaves are dry place them in a dry shallow pan near filtered window light in a dark room. Be patient, and check the herbs in a couple of days. You may occasionally manipulate the leaves to allow even drying. After about two weeks, your leaves should be dry enough to pass the crunch test. The crunch test, is simply hearing the crisp and crunchy sound when you crumble the leaves. If they pass the test, you are ready. If they do not pass the crunch test, allow a few more days and check them again.

Process:

Dry leaves in a shallow pan in a dark room with filtered light

When leaves pass the crunch test, crumble the leaves by hand onto a clean white paper towel or large pan.

Place crumbled leaves in a coffee grinder.

Pulse until you’ve reached the desired consistency.

Place fresh ground herbs in a clear glass jar with a lid. (I prefer glass jars to preserve the freshness of the plant.)

Label the Lid or Jar to identify the herb.

Growing & drying stevia

Growing & drying stevia

Enjoy your organically grown stevia in teas, desserts, canning, and more. If you have enjoyed learning about growing and drying stevia, be sure to check out Drying Fresh Basil. I look forward to hearing from you! I would love to know how you incorporate fresh stevia in your favorite dishes.

Drying Fresh Basil

Clean eating has changed my life in many different ways. I feel better physically, I have more energy and stamina than I’ve had in twenty years, and I’ve lost sixty-eight pounds during this three-year journey. Clean eating has changed the way I see food, and how I see my life. I am enjoying my life, my career, my Christianity, and my family more than I have in a number of years, simply because I feel better! I have learned that clean eating is not a diet, but a lifestyle. So, what does drying herbs have to do with clean eating? Everything! Herbs can enhance the flavor of an ordinary meal…turning it into an extraordinary meal! Herbs grown at home are also organic, and free of pesticides. Growing herbs can also be therapeutic and a source of relaxation.

I have always dabbled a little with small pots of herbs in my kitchen. I enjoyed the convenience of having fresh parsley and chives at my fingertips. But, I wanted more. I wanted a wider variety of fresh unprocessed herbs that were organically grown and free of pesticides. During the winter I planned a herb garden that included fresh basil, dill, a variety of mint, sweet herb, chives, thyme, oregano, and more. A few months later, my herb garden was a reality, and a success! Believe it or not, I raised enough dill to can and process several dozen quart jars of kosher dill pickles, fill my pantry with dried herbs for the winter, and also give an abundance of herbs to family and friends. We’ve enjoyed fresh, oregano, and chives all summer and still reaping the rewards from my small herb garden. I will probably harvest herbs at least two more times before fall at which time I will transplant most of the herbs inside. Transplanting the herbs will allow my family to enjoy fresh-cut herbs all winter, and start a fresh garden outdoors in early spring.

nanny's herbs

My herb box in early spring

basil

One of my pots of basil, oregano, and sweet herb

There are several easy methods for dying basil. I often cut basil, tie it in small bundles, and hang it to dry, I also clip the leaves and dry in flat containers, and occasionally I like to use the dehydrator. My favorite method is hanging basil in bundles in my kitchen. The aroma of the fresh-cut basil fills the kitchen for days. I also prefer the intensified flavor of air-dried basil. Today, I’m going to share step by step instructions of how to air-dry basil in flat containers.

You will need:

Fresh basil
cookie sheets or paper plates
coffee grinder
small glass jar

1.) Cut fresh leaves from basil just before it flowers as the flavor will be at its peak. Discard leaves that have blemishes or bruises.

fresh basil two

Fresh basil mid-summer

2.) Rinse with clear water. Spin dry, or pat dry with a clean paper towel

3.) Lay basil leaves on a flat container such as a lined cookie sheet, or paper plate. I prefer using paper plates.

4.) Place in indirect sunlight. Herbs retain a better flavor if slowly air-dried, rather than drying quickly by sunlight.

5.) Check the herbs weekly until they are dry and crispy.

dried flat

basil leaves air-dried in indirect sunlight for approximately three weeks

6.) Place dried basil leaves in a coffee grinder and pulse until the desired consistency is achieved.

coffee grinder

A great little inexpensive coffee grinder!

7.) Check basil after a couple of pulses to prevent over grinding. Repeat this step until all of the basil is ground.

fine basil

Fresh ground basil

8.) Place ground basil in a clean glass jar. I prefer using glass jars as it helps maintain the herbs freshness.

9.) Don’t forget to label your herbs to prevent any possible mix ups.

glass jar label your basil

I’m anxious for you to grow and dry your own herbs! But, be warned…once you’ve tried both fresh and dried herbs, you’ll be hooked! There’s a distinct difference in the taste, quality, and cooking results. There’s no turning back to store-bought herbs!