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 Organic Vegetable Broth. Mountain Life…Is the Best Life.

Early June morning in the mountains.

I, like most everyone, have spent a lot of time at home since early March. I’m not going to complain about being at home. I love and believe the old cliche, there’s no place like home, especially during the spring, which is planting time for our family.

Our grandson learning to till while planting beans!

During this time of uncertainty I find myself reflecting a lot about days of my youth and also being even more thankful for my heritage. We grew up learning how to plant, harvest, and preserve. We were taught how to be frugal, make a dollar stretch, and also how to enjoy and reap the bounty that our beautiful mountains gift us with.

Our mid-May garden.

Growing up in a low socioeconomic area can be hard, but it can also be a blessing in disguise. Many years ago when the economy was unstable, I watched my family work a farm, harvest crops, reap the delicious bounty, preserve the goodness, and also sell their produce and goods.

Even during my adult years when the economy was thriving, I found it difficult to depart from our way of country living. My family has enjoyed continuing the tradition that was handed down to us from our parents and grandparents. We continue to work the land, plant a large garden, labor lovingly over the many rows of vegetables, enjoy the tasty bounty that our garden produces, and also preserve and put away for the winter and seasons to come. It was a good life the and is still a good way of living. It was and is a lot of sweat and hard work, but well worth it.

Hard work truly pays off! There’s nothing quite as tasty as fresh-picked green beans, freshly dug potatoes, and a crisp ear of golden yellow corn from the garden that you’ve worked, nurtured, and watched grow from a seed to a bounty of deliciousness. As for me and my tastebuds, a meal is not complete without a side of sliced ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, and green onions from our garden to make the dinner complete. Who needs meat? Not me! I love vegetables and fruits of all kind. But, for the meat-eaters in our family, we are blessed to keep a freezer of locally grass-fed beef readily available.

As a little girl, I remember watching my mom create savory dishes from leftovers, re-purpose leftover veggies into tasty soups, create awesome potato cakes from left over mashed potatoes, and also turn stale popcorn into delicious sweet caramel corn. During our quarantine time at home, I too, have learned a few new tricks that has made my life easier, our pantry fuller, and also our stomachs happier. I am excited to share a few ideas that I have tried and also to share a new recipe that I created for an unctuous and delicious apple tea bread. Get ready, that recipe’s coming tomorrow! For today, let’s talk about making homemade vegetable broth!

One of my favorite quarantine discoveries was learning how to make homemade vegetable broth! Let me add, delicious homemade vegetable broth. Have you ever heard the expression, waste not…want not? I grew up with that being repeated often, and have encouraged our children, and grandchildren to do the same.

Are you faced with the dilemma of what to do with leftover vegetables, vegetable peels, and scraps of veggies that’s not big enough to use? So, what do you do with all those vegetables and veggie scraps? We either feed ours to the chickens to ensure they are getting enough protein, or we add them to the compost pile. Either of the above is a great method of useful disposal, but I found myself in need of organic vegetable broth and wasn’t able to find it when many of the store shelves were emptying. So, I figured out a way to turn my veggies scraps into vegetable broth. I’m anxious for you to give this simple recipe a try!

Shopping during a pandemic can be a challenge.
Veggies being prepared for the vegetable broth.

Process: First, you will need to begin saving vegetable scraps such as celery stalks, leaves, herb stems, and bulbs. You can also save onion skins, peppers, herb leaves, leeks, onions, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, turnips, and etc. Basically, the only vegetable that you would not want to include in your broth is tomatoes due to the acidic level. You may not want to add hot peppers, unless you want your vegetable broth to be spicy. Also, do not add decaying or withered vegetables to your bag of scraps. Place your vegetable scraps in a gallon zip lock bag and keep it in the freezer until you have enough vegetables to process. I found that a full gallon bag of vegetable scraps made four full quarts of vegetable broth.

Once you have enough vegetable scraps, thaw them and add them to a stock pot of water, The water should cover the vegetables by at least three to four inches. I prefer to use filtered water or spring water rather than tap water. I used a large deep stock pot to make my broth. Add vegetables to pot, cover with water (water should be three to four inches above vegetables) allow the mixture to come to a rolling boil on medium heat. Once the mixture comes to a boil, cover with a lid, reduce the heat to medium low, and allow it to gently simmer for at least an hour. Uncover and allow it to simmer fifteen more minutes on low heat. You may do a taste-test at this point. If your broth is more bland than you would like, you may add more herbs and allow to simmer for an additional ten to fifteen minutes. I added a pinch of salt to mine to add a little flavor, but this optional.

Adding spring water to the veggie scraps.

Allow the broth to cool. Once the vegetables have settled to the bottom of the pot and the broth is cooled, you may use a colander to strain the vegetable broth into a large pot or bowl. Once you’ve drained the vegetables well, they can be added to the compost pile or used for feed your fowl. Pour the broth into clean canning jars, seal with a lid, and place in the refrigerator. The broth keeps well for up to six weeks. The color of your broth will vary depending on the type and color veggies that you use. I used some red onions in my first batch of broth. It was delicious, but darker than the second batch in which I used pieces of yellow onions. Both broths tasted delicious! I think this recipe for homemade vegetable broth fits the description of, waste not want not, while also satisfying saving money, and reducing waste.

Delicious homemade organic vegetable broth!

With so much going on in our world today, from riots, protesting, people dying from COVID-19, and many losing their jobs, life can feel very unsettling. Think about it, life as we know it has literally been turned upside down. Social distancing has created a sad year for our seniors from high-school to college. Prom dresses that were carefully chosen remain in their zippered bags, and services inside the church looks much different than before. Even the process of laying loved ones to rest changed. Through it all, We are still blessed! We had the opportunity to attend church via the zoom app until we were once again able to attend church services. We had food for our family prepared from food we preserved in recent years. We’ve had time to complete some home improvement projects, while also planting our garden. I’ve also been able to teach my courses from home.

During this crazy time, I decided that life does not have to be a doom and gloom situation amidst this horrible pandemic. Also, instead of complaining and worrying, I was determined that I would search for the positive and quit watching the number of people affected by the virus, quit worrying about the economy, and watching the news so much. I decided it was time to set social media aside and dust off that book that I’ve had shelved for too long. I made time to work and improve my herb garden, expand our vegetable garden, do some deep down spring cleaning, enjoy my family, and also make sure to take time to be thankful for the wonderful things that we’re blessed with, and share our blessings with neighbors and friends. But, most of all…it was time to quit living in fear, but time to live and enjoy life!

A glimpse at my herb garden!

It feels good to be posting again. I am pumped about sharing my Apple Tea Bread recipe with you tomorrow. In upcoming posts I’ll share my crouton recipe, new pickle recipe, a ew strawberry vinaigrette dressing, and a garden tip or two. Through it all, we’ll carry on and be thankful for our blessings, health, and family…all the while finding new ways to recreate and re-purpose wonderful dishes from leftovers and what once would have gone straight to the compost pile.

Feel free to leave feedback or ask a question. New followers are welcome. I love to share ideas of organic clean eating, vegan recipes, whole food plant based ideas, and also some vegetarian recipes. I also love to share our story from the mountains of Kentucky, the mountains we call home. God bless and happy Friday.

I love to take a walk in the morning after it rains. God’s beauty is everywhere!

 

Vegan Chocolate Chip Coconut Protein Bites

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! Has your week been as busy as mine? It’s that time of year again! Time to can, preserve, dehydrate, and freeze all the wonderful veggies, fruit, and herbs that the Lord has so graciously blessed us with. As busy as it can get, I still love this time of year!

Canning in the last days of summer reminds me of the hot summer days of my youth when helped with the canning each year. It also reminds me that summer vacation is quickly coming to an end and a new academic year is about to begin. Where did summer vacation go? Seems we were planting our garden only a few weeks ago and now we’re harvesting and the fall semester begins next week!

Eight of the 21 quarts of tomato juice we’ve canned so far this year. 

Eight of the forty-two jars of green beans we canned this week.

With all that being said, even with all of of the hard work picking and canning, I did have a little time to work on a new recipe that I think you’re going to enjoy! My family is in agreement…this recipe is a keeper! It’s easy to make, requires no cooking, very versatile, sweet, satisfying and really tasty! But, best of all, it’s clean, healthy, and vegan! I hope you enjoy my vegan chocolate chip coconut protein bites as much as we do!

Ingredients;

10 Whole pitted dates (I prefer medjool dates)

2 tablespoons of Organic or non GMO peanut butter

1 scoop preferred plant protein powder (this ingredient is optional)

1 cup organic gluten free oats

1 tablespoon organic chia seeds

1 teaspoon ground flax seed (optional)

1/2 cup organic vegan dark chocolate chips

1cup organic shredded unsweetened coconut

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (I have substituted Walden’s Chocolate syrup for a more of a chocolate taste and also less sugar)

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Process:

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor or a ninja reserving the chocolate chips and half of the shredded coconut. Process until blended well and forms a dough. Add chocolate chips and pulse a few times until chips are incorporated but not completely ground up.

Roll dough mixture into preferred size balls or you may press the mixture in a pan lined with parchment paper for protein bars. Roll the protein balls in shredded coconut and chill for at least an hour or place in the freezer for thirty minutes to eat sooner. The longer these bites chill the better they are!

My choice of preferred dates! They’re delicious right out of the box!

You can change these delicious bites up by melting a few of the vegan chocolate chips and drizzling the melted chocolate over the protein balls. You can also substitute almond butter for the peanut butter. They’re delicious either way! They keep in the fridge in a sealed plastic container or zip lock bag. I have found that they keep their shape in my lunchbox chilled with blue ice and they make a great midday snack!

Delicious peanut butte coconut protein balls!

I have modified this recipe a few times and added coco powder for a deep chocolate taste. I’ve added cinnamon, different flavored protein powders, added craisins, and different flavored Walden’s syrups. Either way, they’re delicious and powerful protein snack. I have to say the recipe above is my favorites as well as my family’s favorite! FYI: If your dough feels sticky you can add a few more oats to make the consistency more dry and easier to handle.

Protein balls with drizzled melted chocolate.

For now, I’m off to grade a few more assignments for the students in my summer course…yes, I even teach during summer vacation, but just one or two classes. I hope you enjoy these delicious protein balls. I’d love to hear from you and maybe your modified version.

If you’re interested in my canning recipes for homemade tomato juice or canning green beans, check out the following links to the recipes that I have used year after year.

Canning Green Beans the Time-Tested Way

Canning Tomato Juice the Easy Way!

God bless from the mountains of Kentucky! Remember, it’s never too late to begin your journey to a healthier and happier you!

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!

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!