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Blog

Grab a beverage, find a comfy chair, and catch up with what we have been doing. You can read it all here on our blog page

www.blossomsbarn.com/blog/

My Gluten-Free Journey

Ann Stoll

You’ve heard me talk about my need to eat gluten-free, and how I cut out sugar and dairy, but do you know why? I’m not a “fad” follower — I have real issues. Today, I share my gluten-free journey.

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What a Mess!

Ann Stoll

Is there an area of your life that makes you stop and say, “What a mess!”?

Yeah… we have one, too. Let’s work together to conquer the chaos of clutter!

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Recipes Without

Ann Stoll

So much has happened since I last posted that it would be many posts before I got to this particular writing. In case you don't remember (because it's been, like, forever since I've written anything) , I like to cook using fresh ingredients especially if it's come straight from our homestead. 

This recipe I'm going to share with you, comes from Two Peas &a Their Pod website, but I tweaked it to suit me and my ever shrinking food list. So without further adieu, I give you a a comfort food that is easy on the gut. 

Roasted Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Ingredients: 

1 large head of cauliflower chopped

1 tbl olive oil

3 cloves of garlic

1/4 c unsalted butter

1 onion chopped

2 carrots chopped  

2 celery stalks chopped

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp dried thyme 

1/4 c rice flour

qt. Of homemade chicken stock or two cans of vegetable broth

1 1/4 c almond milk unsweetened

salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place cauliflower and garlic cloves on a large baking sheet and toss in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 29-25 minutes, stirring once. Remove from oven and set aside.  

2. In a large pot, melt the butter and add the onion. Cook for a few minutes. Add the carrots and celery, cook for a few minutes more. 

3. Pour in broth and stir. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in the milk. Salt and pepper to taste.  

In this recipe, I omitted adding 1/2 c cheese and used rice flour in place of Regular flour. I am gluten free, dairy free, and we keep the salt to a low level (for my hubby). This soup was amazingly satisfying and very delicious.   

I Have Reached The End Of 30 Days!

Ann Stoll

Well, the end has finally come to the Blog Your Brand 30 Day Challenge. I made it. Just barely. So many times I wanted to quit, whether it was because I was tired, internet was horrible, no cell service, whatever excuse I could come up with, I over came. I hope you enjoyed a better look behind the scenes of our daily lives here on our homestead. Part of the rules of the Challenge was to not promote our products, at least not very often. So with that, I am shamelessly going to promote something that is new for us.

I'm super excited to tell you about how Blossom's Barn can now be obtained through hosting a Facebook Party. No need to get dressed and put pants on to go to someone's house. Pour a favorite beverage, get the jammies on and fire up your computer. All that is required from the host of the party is to be a cheerleader and invite all of your friends to do what you just did. Slip into something comfortable, pour a drink and let's have some fun! I do all the rest. 

There are always prizes to be won, hostess gifts of free stuff. Ya, who doesn't like free stuff? And I pad everyone's boxes with some extra special goodies, just on the the party night. So if you want to earn free stuff, have some fun, and all without really lifting a finger (okay, I guess you have to type, if you want), then contact me at ann@blossomsbarn.com and let's set up a date. I will then share with you the way to earn free product and extra credits. 

I know it's a bit early to even speak of this, but here it is. Start thinking about (Christmas) and please keep us in mind when picking out the perfect selections for your loved ones. We make great gifts for all occasions.

 

Annie Get Your Gun

Ann Stoll

Do you have any idea how many times I've heard that in my lifetime? Too many to mention. I was raised around firearms, so they are not a scary item to me. Although, when my kids were small, I didn't want any in the home. As my boys grew, it became increasingly evident, that it is ingrained in them to be intrigues with military arms or firearms. Believe me I tried to keep our home "gun free". They weren't allowed to watch any sort of violence on TV. No water guns allowed or anything that looked like a gun. What a joke. So even though my boys really weren't around any sort of guns, they still made them out of Tinker Toys, Legos, and just using their fingers. I gave up.

Instead of trying to keep them away from guns, we decided to allow them to learn about them and go to NRA summer camps, so they could learn to properly use firearms and be able to shoot all sorts of them. They learned to respect them and safely hold, carry and store. They even went small game hunting a couple of times and brought home some squirrel and pheasants. I needn't worry about them starving in their futures. They will be able to provide for their families, if need be in this fashion. It's only been done this way since forever. And it's healthier.

While I have never feared firearms, I also never really learned much about them. Well this weekend changed all of that. This lady here, went through the Conceal Carry course, all 16 hours of it, in order to apply for conceal carry in Illinois, if I should choose to apply for the permit. There is a lot to think about. A lot of responsibility that I never thought of. And let's just say, I'm not running out any time soon to send in my application. I need to pray about this.

As you can see, I'm not a bad shot! Part of the certification requires you to shoot thirty times, ten times each at three different locations. The shots are also not to be trick shots either. No smiley faces or continuing to shoot out the same hole. The teacher is suppose to be able to count all of the shots. I think all 30 of mine made the mark. Not bad for someone who hasn't used a firearm much, ok barely.

I'm not one to live in fear. I have God on my side and when my time comes, then so be it. But also, I believe we have a right to defend ourselves with force if the need arises. It was long days of learning, but I think overall, it was worth it, whether I choose to go through with obtaining the permit or not. Hey, at least I know I'm a decent shot.

Life Balance - For Real?

Ann Stoll

Probably the thing I hear many people, women in particular complain about is trying to balance life and work. I'm going to cut through the chase right now and tell you, it's a myth. A big fat lie that glossy photos and Cosmopolitan magazine-type articles tell you. That you CAN have it all and do it all. Ok, I guess you can. But can you do it well? Are you satisfied with mediocrity?

Being an older woman (here we go again), I can safely say, that I've tried it all. I've lived it all. And I failed much. Actually, I probably fail every day. But there is a difference now. I've learned something along the way. It's okay to fail. It's okay to be happy being a stay at home mom, one of the highest and most important jobs on this planet. But it is also okay to be a working mom, too. I've already alluded to what I believe to be the best of it all, but I'm not talking about this in my blog post. Every woman needs to do what she is called to do. But does that mean she needs to do everything all at once or at the moment? No, I don't think so.

There is a time for everything. A time to bear and raise children. A time to learn and grow and be creative. A time to climb the ladder. A time to be a wife. Actually, this last one is very important. If you are a married woman, your husband needs to be your first priority. One of the goals of raising kids and if you did it well, they should at some point move out and be self-sufficient. You are then left with the husband of your youth. If this relationship is not nurtured and put first in your life from the get go all the way until the empty nest, how can you expect to pick up those pieces? Marriage is hard enough without having to rebuild the relationship from scratch and find that spark again. Fan the flames NOW!

Thinking you can balance all the things of life and be great at all of it will just wear you down and cause you think less of yourself. Instead, try prioritizing what you need to do right now. If you are married and have kids. Start there. Do this well, first. Then add in other things slowly. I know it's hard sometimes to do this, but I did it several years ago.

When my boys were in 2nd and 3rd grade, we pulled them out of school to homeschool. Best thing we ever did. No joke. At the time, I also had a successful landscape/design business that I worked by myself and I liked it that way. I learned very quickly that I couldn't do both well. So what was important? My kids of course. Having a business is not that important to me. While I love doing my own thing and being creative, I found other ways to satisfy these urges while schooling my kids. As the years moved along, Blossom's Barn became alive. For the first four years, it sort of stayed more of a hobby that made a few bucks to pay for supplies. But I was still schooling my kids, so I didn't have the time to pour into this business. Now that they are graduated and moving along with life, this past year has afford me the time to knuckle down and start to make things happen for this business. Now was the time for that, not when I didn't have the time and tried to squish too much into my life. I've been there, done that. 

There is a season in life for the things we want to do. We must learn to be patient in those things. We are better off learning this lesson.

Meet the Girls

Ann Stoll

My puppy love, Cassidy

My puppy love, Cassidy

It seems our homestead is overrun with girls. Girls of all sorts, coming in all forms. I never purposely intended for that to happen, but if you are raising your own food and animals, you need the girls. 

First up is my favorite girl, Cassidy. She's our Great Pyrenees and keeps our farm safe from all critters that don't belong here all the way down to not approving of worm farts. She lets us know about all of it.

Hens out for a walk with their rooster

Hens out for a walk with their rooster

We are full of hens, but there is one rooster. These girls and guy, do a great job cleaning up insects and grubs. I really think we have a lower insect population because of their foraging in our yard. They also are terrific and tearing up, er, turning over our flower gardens. They also provide us with the yummies deep orange eggs. Mmmmmm

Summer in the front, Blondie to the left, and Suzy in the back. We also have Peaches. Summer is at a new home now and Peaches is retired.

Summer in the front, Blondie to the left, and Suzy in the back. We also have Peaches. Summer is at a new home now and Peaches is retired.

Then of course, we have our does. I have two right now in milk production. That milk is what you will find in our soaps. Goats are fun and fairly easy to maintain. Plus they don't eat too much and require little land, although brushy land is preferred.

Find the queen, if you can!

Find the queen, if you can!

Then there are these girls. They out number us, but I love them. For the most part, they are gentle and pay you no mind. They are too busy to bother with you. Hoping for a honey harvest this year!

This is Misty. She's our spoiled rotten barn cat.

This is Misty. She's our spoiled rotten barn cat.

And finally, there is Misty. She is a high needs cat. Every day she waits for her special food that the other cats don't get. Why? Because she's Misty and demands special attention. She has her own special cushion and food dishes. Yep. Spoiled. But she is so precious!

We use to also have brood cows, a dairy cow, last year we had three female hogs. But not at the moment. So yes, we tend to be overrun with girls and I'm okay with that. But let me introduce you to one special, smelly guy.

Meet Bucky

Meet Bucky

Right now, this dude is running with the cattle and he's okay with that. But in another month, you'll know by the twitching of your nose, that he's anxious to get with his girls. Starting about September, rutting season begins. He becomes cranky, smelly and well not very pleasant to be around. You definitely don't want to be out in the pasture when he's like this. He sees you as a target of some sorts and you don't want to be there. But come late November, he is allowed to be put with his girls and he becomes his old happy self again. Maybe another reason why we have girls, boys are grumpy and not safe to be around all the time. 

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed meeting most of our critters.

The Therapy of Bees

Ann Stoll

I got stung today. That hurts.

For years I had wanted a few bee hives. My hubby, even though he has a fear of bees (actually wasps, but that's another story), surprised me one Valentine's Day about six years ago with a double date to a bee keeping class and my first hive. It was probably one of the best things he has ever given me. A hive against his own fears. It is probably my favorite thing that I work with on our homestead. Yes, I love my goats, garden and all that, but there is something special about honey bees. 

Cracking into a hive and looking into their world, because that is exactly what it is, is amazing. They all have a job and do it dutifully or there are consequences. The inter-workings of a hive can leave you with no doubt there is a Creator for there is no way evolution in all its millions of years, could pull this off. Anyway, talking about my hives is not what I'm writing about today.

People seek out the honey bee for various reasons. The obvious is their honey, which if sourced very local to you and is raw (not pasteurized) is known to help with certain allergies. It's better than an allergy shot since it contains all the local pollen that one my be allergic to. Plus it tastes amazing.

But there is one practice I will never understand. Well, I understand it, but I sure can't seem to wrap my head around it and that is bee venom therapy.

Bee venom therapy uses live local bees to inject the beneficial compounds directly into the skin. The stinger is just the right length to penetrate many layers of skin without going too deeply. The bees stings are applied to acupuncture points and areas of chronic pain. It is not known exactly why this therapy has success for many people, but the venom seems to reduce inflammation. Patients with auto immune issues such as gout, MS, and rheumatoid arthritis have experience relief from their symptoms that prescription medicine has not been able to achieve. Keep in mind, bee venom therapy is not a cure. It only may help with chronic pain symptoms.

So when I got stung today, I thought about the people that intentionally have this done to them. It makes me wonder the level of pain they must be in to subject themselves to such a treatment. Bee stings hurt. They hurt for a time and may leave a large swollen, painful area. The person's pain is so great, that the pain of a bee sting is a good alternative to their current condition. 

I do hope it provides real relief because every time a bee stings, it dies. It has a tiny barb on the end of its stinger that will attach itself to the stingee and it will literally rip out of the bee and kill it. I'm very sensitive to the health of bees and try to do my part to raise healthy hives. But, if someone needs bees for relief from a debilitating disease, then so be it.

Of course, if you are allergic to bee stings, then bee venom therapy is not for you. More info on apitherapy can be found at www.apitherapy.org

Our Homestead Evolution

Ann Stoll

When we bought this place eight years ago, we (or really me) had high hopes to not only produce our own organic food in a humane way, but to also make it available to our local neighbors. So we set off by getting our first goats, chickens, cattle and even a dairy calf. Along the way, we occasionally raised turkeys and each year, we do raise our own meat chickens. Our main goal was and still is, to grow and raise our own food as healthy as possible. 

Our cattle and dairy cow are raised on grass only. Chickens run around the homestead and are also fed organic grains. Goats get a mix of both. The meat chickens and turkeys, were also raised on grass. An enormous garden was planted as well as an orchard. I started to set up a little farm store with hopes that I could have a couple of days a week to offer fresh produce, have an honor system for milk and eggs. And always, sanitation and just doing things the right way, were always on my mind. 

Like any business, even though I didn't really think of our homestead as a legit business, I wanted it to earn enough money to have us break even on the cost of hay and feed and if there was extra, then that was a bonus. Unfortunately, being so small and doing things in a small way, is just like any other business when it comes to the cost of doing that business and the amount of work on a small scale. Let me see if I can explain.

The more you can buy in bulk for supplies and feed, the cheaper the price. Since we are small, buying in huge bulk is a gamble. Will it rot, or will something happen to all that feed. We only have so much space with which to store extra feed. We don't have the machinery to move all of these supplies. We do most things by hand and most of the time, it's me doing it. Most people don't realize the amount of work that goes in to raising animals and vegetables. So due to our smallness, we can't buy in huge bulk and it takes just as much time to take care of a few animals vs. many. My time is worth money, too. When it's all said and done, it's difficult to offer really great food at a reasonable cost. Since we don't have the middle man, we can offer it direct and that saves the customer money. 

The biggest problem though, is getting the right amount of customers and to have them come regularly. Too few customers, means a ton of work for little to almost no pay and high waste. Too many customers and we can't serve them all. So what to do? Well the State of Illinois solved one of our problems. As of July 1, raw milk sales must be done under a permit from the farm only. No biggie, right? Just go out and get a permit. Not so fast. Here are the latest regulations:  http://www.ilga.gov/commission/jcar/admincode/077/077007750000550R.html   Just a little bit of light reading. What it boils down to is a permit is needed. The place needs to basically be set up like a Grade A dairy operation and inspected regularly. So long, small time dairy farmer. Since it's important for me to follow the rules, we no longer offer raw milk for sale. Just as well. We lost our dairy cow last year.  The eggs? I've been known to throw away 5 gallon buckets of eggs. So I decreased our flock to just serve us. My vegetable garden is a 1/3 of what it was. Our beef is decreased again, to serve our needs. I still may have fruit available here and there and hopefully honey, when the bees cooperate.

We are still very much raising our own food, it's just not for sale any longer. I can only do so much and with Blossom's Barn growing, it's all I can do to keep up, if you want to call it that. It's a lot of work, work that I love, but I only have so much time to give. Choices need to be made and that's what it has come to. Over these eight years, we have gone through many changes. From learning how to do all of this, to doing all of this, to now down-sizing into something more manageable for our needs. It's good. Real good.

The Power of Elderberries

Ann Stoll

image.jpg

Last year I planted some elderberry bushes (Sambucus nigra). I only planted two, which I felt was probably going to be more than enough for our purpose and for them to be able to pollinate each other. It's a very strange shrub, partially woody, partially soft. It's fragile in storms and tends to break off easily. It does grow fast and fairly tall and this year it bloomed and now has berries on both bushes. I won't say it's a bumper crop. I guess I won't know that until I harvest them.

Harvesting could be interesting. Supposedly, the umbels will just break off and then a fork is used to get them off of the stems. Only the deep purple fruits are picked, not the green or unripened fruits. Elderberry has poisonous parts. The stems and leaves contain cyanide, and the unripened fruit may cause stomach distress. So only the beautiful deep purple fruits are desired.

Why, you might ask, am I bothering to grow a fragile, poisonous plant? Elderberries are known to boost the immune system, provide a burst of vitamins, is higher in vitamin C than oranges, help with colds and flu, are antioxidants, anti-carcinogenic and an all around good thing to help with your health.

Now is the time to start working on your immune system. By being outside and gaining the vitamin D from the sun, something many of us lack, especially if you live in the north or places where the sun hides a good portion of the year or you are stuck inside. Get outside and get some sun. Another thing to do is to eat or drink elderberries. I craft an elderberry syrup for my family to take. I'm also going to try some other recipes, like jam, mead, infused honey, and maybe just keep some frozen. There is also elderberry ice cream. So many uses.

Immune Boost Syrup

1/2 c. dried elderberries

3 c. water

1 c. raw honey

2/3 c. raw apple cider

Fill a pot with the water and elderberries. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and mush the fruit well. Strain liquid into a separate bowl using a cheese cloth, coffee filter or something similar. Add honey to the liquid and stir well, then add the ACV. Pour into a jar and store in fridge for up to six months.

As a tonic: Adults 1 Tbl per day      Children 1 tsp a day

Take every hour for a cold/flu

Bumper Crops and Peach Salsa Recipe

Ann Stoll

Peach season is upon us, here at our homestead. Sounds like we have tons of peaches and maybe we do, but really, we only have two producing trees. Little did I know when I planted them 7 years ago, that they would grow quickly and produce within three years. We don't spray or do any manipulations to cause them to grow well or be insect free. As you can see in the photo, they are not perfect, but they are still delicious and I know they are safe. Nothing like being able to pick right from the tree and eat, which I do every day while I'm out doing chores in the morning.

Last year, I planted two more trees, because when trees grow quickly and begin to produce at a young age, they usually don't live very long. I'm learning that if I don't prune out branches and thin out peaches from branches, they will easily break and snap. As a matter of fact, I have some broken branches right now. The trees I planted last year, which were twigs, were full of blooms this spring, which I enjoyed, but dutifully plucked any peaches forming off of those trees. They are too young and even though they were only about four feet tall when I planted them, both are taller than me this year. Way too young to be producing. I did miss one peach and decided to leave it.

So now I must get busy putting those delicious peaches away by turning them into yummy treats for us. Tomorrow I will be canning peach salsa. I made some fresh today for dinner and I thought it was a winner. So in my classic Ann-style recipe, I shall post it below.

First bring a pot of water to a boil, place peaches in the hot water and blanch for about 30-60 seconds in order to be able to slip off the skins of the peaches. Plunge into ice cold water. Remove skins. Slice in half and twist to remove the pit.

I used about 8 cups chopped peaches

1 red bell pepper chopped

1 red onion chopped

4 seeded jalapeno peppers chopped

about 1/2 c chopped cilantro

about 1/2 c. vinegar

2 tbl honey (I will use a bit more)

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients together and enjoy! This was delicious on the tacos I made and it will be grand with corn chips. I also think it would be the bomb with fish tacos.

I will also working with many apples this year and pears. My poor pear tree is having a tough time of it and it also bending under the severe weight. Problem is, the pears aren't ready. I will have to get crafty and try to help it out. 

Having an orchard is so rewarding, but there is work. Work were you actually see results. Grandpa would be proud.