Saturday, April 22, 2017

Treasures: Farm Fresh Eggs at Willow Valley Farm

Oh what a wonderful find! Farm fresh eggs are only a short drive away at a local farm in Baltimore County. If you live in the Baltimore area and are craving eggs straight from the farm you need to know about Willow Valley Farm in Glen Arm, Maryland.

Farm Fresh Brown Eggs

Why bother with driving to a farm when you can buy your eggs at the corner store? TASTE! That's why. Organic eggs that are more healthy for you come straight from farms. 

I've been so disappointed with the eggs from the store lately. They really have less taste. The last dozen I bought promised to remain fresher for a longer time. I swear there was no flavor. And then I was worried that whatever process that makes them have a longer shelf life is probably something I don't want to eat. 

I know that brown farm eggs have a rich taste and are healthier eggs in general. So I did an internet search hoping for eggs somewhere nearby.

Willow Valley Farm in Glen Arm, Maryland

It turns out that this farm is a bit of a drive from my apartment. But I had errands to do this morning and I'd not be too far from Glen Arm. So off I went.

Willow Valley Farm is very easy to locate. Just a few miles "north" of 695 on Harford Road. Actually, I think it is northeast of 695 and northeast of Carney, but the roads here never really run north/south and east/west so it is hard to describe.  Regardless, the farm was very easy to find. And Harford Road, off of Joppa Road, is a gorgeous drive. 

The farm is well-marked with a sign at the road. Turn in to the drive and head toward the barns. There you will find a small chicken coop/shed. That is where the self-serve eggs are located.

I made the mistake of actually going in to the shed.  Don't do that. I stood there for a minute, looking at the chicken boxes thinking "oh wow, this is the ultimate self-serve!"

Silly me. On the front of the shed is a smaller door with a black handle. The door is clearly marked with the egg prices. Behind that door is a small refrigerator. Inside are the eggs in cartons. You pay (honor system) in the container located in the refrigerator (so remember to bring a few dollars).  If you brought an empty carton to donate, you just leave it on top of the fridge. It was easy-peasy and I shouldn't have had any problems with figuring it out. I guess I hadn't had enough coffee yet.

And there I was, the very happy owner of 18 LARGE brown eggs.

Willow Valley Farm Owners

Mr. Jamie happened to be nearby when I entered the wrong door and exited. It was clear I was trying to figure out what I was doing. He greeted me, showed me the ropes, and talked for a minute about their lovely farm. In addition to eggs, they also have a variety of meats available; beef, pork, and of course, whole chicken.  

It was easy to see that their farm is well maintained. As far as farms go, it was very clean. The stock nearby (chickens, hogs, and cows) were all clean, healthy, and clearly well cared for. They were in large pens and they were clean. (Sorry, livestock cleanliness was my father's first rule of farming. And it is the first thing I look for when I am around livestock. Habit.)

I will return for more eggs. And likely make arrangements for some of the cuts of meats.  

Related Sites:

Click the photograph below for the Willow Valley Farm website. On that site you will find hours, directions, products, and a bit of information about the farm and family. Or find them on their Willow Valley Farm facebook page. On their facebook page they seem to update with egg availability (i.e. no eggs due to weather).

photo by Willow Valley Farm, Glen Arm, MD

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Treasures: Soothing Goat's Milk Soap

Rustic bars of goat's milk soap, made by hand locally, is a special treat I look forward to. It is a treasure that I purchase for myself each year. Typically, I buy a bar or two when I go to the local National Apple Harvest Festival and I use it when I'm in the mood to pamper myself. I have a favorite brand and a scent that I always look for at the festival. But more recently, I have discovered Etsy and am thrilled to have more options to purchase soothing bars of goat's milk soap with just a click of a button - any time I am in the mood to pamper myself. 

Stonefield Goat's Milk Soaps

Stonefield Soaps is the brand I always look for at the annual National Apple Harvest Festival. I impulsively bought a bar of Stonefield soap years ago and loved the feel of the lather and my soft skin afterwards.  

During my research to write this, I decided to look for Stonefield Soaps on Etsy. I did not locate them there, but I did find the Stonefield Soaps website. I am able to order these soaps online after all!  What a pleasant surprise.

Each chunky, little bar of soap comes wrapped in a thick paper, tied with a ribbon, and complete with a label to denote the fragrance. My favorite is the Lavender. 

Stonefield Soaps

Chickens In The Road Goat's Milk Soaps

There is a homesteading blog that I have followed for years.  Over those years I have read Suzanne McMinn's adventures after moving to a "slanted little house" and small farm in West Virginia. They eventually moved on to Sassafras Farm. At this farm she continues writing her blog but also gives workshops on things related to country/farm living. The workshops include soap-making. Someday I will attend one of the workshops and learn how to make my own soap - in preparation for retirement on my own homestead. In the meantime, I am super excited that Suzanne is offering her own goat's milk soap in her Etsy store.  

I want a sampler pack because I know I will enjoy all of Suzanne's soap recipes, but I am MOST excited about the Beer Me Babe recipe. I can only imagine how soft my skin would feel after the beer, shea butter, and coconut oil. And the orange and patchouli essential oils are a scent combination I enjoy (please refer to the listing for the complete list of ingredients). The Chickens In The Road bars of soap are large, unique, and rustic bars of soothing soap.

Chickens In The Road Goat's Milk Soap - Beer Me Babe

 Related Links:

The National Apple Harvest Festival is held in Pennsylvania each year. If you love apples, crafts, handmade items, bluegrass music, antique tractors and a car show (when it doesn't rain so much that the cars can't safely drive onto the field) and so much more, you would enjoy this festival.

Chickens In The Road is Suzanne's blog. There you will find all of the information about her farm, her book, recipes, the workshops, and her Etsy store. There are also forums for her followers to chat about their farms, gardens, and lives.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Camping Coffee Dilemma Solved

I am not a coffee snob nor am I considered by some as a "real" coffee drinker since I only drink iced coffee.  But I like my morning coffee. Oh who am I kidding? I MUST have my morning coffee.  I have developed a way to ensure I have iced coffee at home daily. However, making sure I have a morning coffee while camping at The Shack has been a problem.  Fortunately, I am reminded that a Moka coffee pot is the solution to most of my camping coffee problems!

My Process for Making Iced Coffee at Home Does Not Work Well for Camping

Some time ago, I had been buying coffee (and usually donuts) at a local coffee shop every day.  Determined to save money (around $1,800 a year!) and to get my iced coffee made how I like it (closer to black than the splash-of-coffee-over-creamer I often received at the coffee shop) I learned how to make my own iced coffee. The very summarized version is:

  • using a typical 12 cup drip coffee maker, I brew my coffee
  • I let it cool down sufficiently to avoid melting a plastic/lidded pitcher (I learned my lesson - pouring hot coffee into a glass pitcher is not a good idea)
  • I place it in the fridge over night
  • in the morning, I pour the cold coffee over ice and add my tiny splash of creamer

This method keeps the coffee from becoming diluted when poured over the ice. Then I use my AWESOME Bubba Tumbler to keep it cold and carry it safely with me to work or prevent nasty spills if I'm just hanging out at home.

Making Iced Coffee at The Shack

When camping at The Shack in cold weather, having cold coffee should be easy, right? I make the coffee as usual and take the coffee jug with me when I drive up there. Easy, right? Nope.  I tend to forget the coffee jug in the fridge. And once, I remembered the jug but I spilled a good portion of it in the Jeep because the lid wasn't tight enough. Maddening.

stove top percolating coffee pot
In cold weather, I can brew it in an old fashioned percolating pot. Easy, right?  Well, no.  My wood stove doesn't seem to get hot enough to cause it to percolate. 

I could use my BBQ grill. It doesn't have a side burner, so I have to sit the pot on the grill.  The fire of the grill gets plenty hot enough, but how clumsy sitting a little coffee pot over one of those large grill burners. Seems like a too much flame and propane for one tiny pot.  Not to mention that I can't seem to add the right amounts of coffee to water in my little percolating pot.  

However, I have had some successes with the grill and the stove top percolating pot method. Then, if it is cold enough, I leave the pot outside to cool. Not quite iced coffee, but close enough. 

Single Burner Camp Stove
I did finally figure out how to use a small propane single burner camping stove with the stove top percolator coffee pot. Propane camping stoves are awesome and work well for a variety of things. And they work well in all seasons. But that didn't solve the ratio of water to coffee problem I have. And the fact that the pot is so tall makes me a bit nervous on top of the propane bottle/stove set-up.

Moka Coffee Pot - The camping coffee solution

Just yesterday I found a Moka Coffee Pot review. Voila! My solution for making good coffee while at The Shack. I had already known about the Moka coffee pots but I had forgotten. Years ago I went camping with a friend who brought one on our camping trips. The measuring of the coffee and the water was almost fool-proof. The water heated quickly and the coffee "brewed" quickly.  

The only drawback is that it doesn't hold enough water for multiple large mugs of coffee. But that's okay.  I'm typically camping at The Shack with just the dogs and I. And thus far, they haven't asked for a cup of coffee. 

The Moka expresso coffee pot my friend used

Thank you Brenda at Culinary Favorites from A - Z for the Moka coffee pot review and reminder of the perfect coffee solution for making coffee while camping at The Shack. 

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Bag Balm Soothes Dry and Cracked Hands

Even though I've known for many years that Bag Balm is the best way to soothe sore, dry, and cracked hands I had allowed myself to run out. In December, when I spent some cold days up at The Shack, my hands turned from dry and cracked to bleeding and painful. I drove down to the local pharmacy and bought a tub of Bag Balm. I felt immediate relief as soon as I applied it. 

Bag Balm - the Legend

I spent a portion of my childhood on the farm. Bag Balm was an ordinary part of farming and barn life.  My parents kept a tin of the stuff in the barn for the animals. It was then I learned to use it on my hands. But I had no idea the origins of this soothing balm. I just knew we always used it.

Please note - as far as I know, Bag Balm is not currently approved for use on humans by the FDA. Please be very clear about this and do  your own research as I am not a medical or dermatology expert. However, I do believe that because it is safe for use on cow udders, it is safe for my use. Besides, there are no warnings that the farmers should use gloves while applying this balm to the cow udders.

In preparation for this article, I did a bit of research about the origin of Bag Balm and how it came to be used on our farm.  The Legend of Vermont's Original Bag Balm is a fun and quick read. The very summarized version is that in 1899, in the "Northeast Kingdom" a pharmacist had created a soothing potion for cow udders. A farmer, John Norris, tried some on his cows and was an immediate fan. He bought the formula and the rights, and began marketing this healing balm.

Bag Balm Uses

I used the balm on my hands and feet. I've used it to soothe my dog's sensitive skin and on the pads of his feet. As a child, we used it on skin abrasions on the livestock. 

I buy a larger tin and store it either near my bed or take it along to The Shack in my supply tote. At night, I just spread some on my hands and go to sleep. In my opinion, it has a slightly creamier consistency than "Vaseline".  During those painful days at The Shack, I applied some to the cracked areas around my fingernails each time I was indoors for a bit. The balm soothed the pain and softened the skin.

My tin of Bag Balm
Uses reported by others include:

  • the care of the pads of the search and rescue dogs after 911
  • cow udders
  • livestock skin and wound care
  • tattoo care
  • athletes use it to prevent chafing

For more information, customers describe other uses in their reviews on Amazon and in the "tried and true uses" tab of the Bag Balm site. You will find a variety of packaging to choose from; tins,  a pail, and a travel tube size. I prefer the 8 oz tin size

Bag Balm - 8 oz Tin

Related Link:

While at The Shack, only my hands suffered during that cold December visit. My hands were already dry and cracked from frequent hand-washing at work and then I did one too many outdoor activities during my camping visit. Fortunately, I had sufficient firewood, sleeping bags, insulated coveralls, and a new Free Country jacket that kept me warm otherwise. 

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Comfortable and Organic Buckwheat Pillows

My roommate had been hinting, and finally point-blank stating, that he wanted one of those weird little "as seen on tv" buckwheat pillows. I finally purchased one for him, boxed it up, and put it under the Christmas tree.  He was more excited about that pillow than the other, bigger ticket items. A natural Sobakawa Buckwheat Pillow is an excellent choice for those looking for organic, comfortable, and affordable pillow options.

What is a Sobakawa Buckwheat Pillow

The Sobakawa Buckwheat pillow is a small pillow filled with buckwheat hulls. It is listed with the following features:

  • 100% cotton cover
  • filled with natural buckwheat hulls
  • used in the Orient for centuries
  • the hulls have unique properties when used as a pillow that make them more comfortable, supportive, and therapeutic
  • it measures a bit over 12" x 18"
  • it is made in the US
  • In Oriental medicine, it is thought to assist with "ZU-KAN-SOKU-NETSU" meaning cool head and warm feet. Which is thought to be an important part of maintaining good health

Natures Pillows - Sobakawa Buckwheat Pillow

Why My Roommate Loves His Buckwheat Pillow

My roommate has significant back, hip, and leg pain due to an old, severe injury to his back. Finding a good position to sleep in is a nightly journey for him. He has used full length body pillows, feather pillows, foam pillows, and so on. A combination of pillows work the best for him. This buckwheat hull pillow is very helpful to him in this search for comfortable sleep.  

He reports that it is heavier than most pillows.  It stays propped where he puts it. I have "borrowed" it a few times when I'm reading in bed. I fold it and prop it under my head so that I can read and it does a fantastic job of staying in the position I placed it in. I always finished reading before the pillow flattens out.  

When I asked him to describe what makes him like that pillow so much, he said in his typically super succinct fashion "it does what people say they want pillows to do".  After asking him to clarify, he said:

  • it stays in shape
  • it supports you
  • it's a good size

What Other Reviewers Have to Say About this Buckwheat Pillow

At the time of this writing, the Sobakawa Buckwheat pillow had 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Many of the five star reviews are lengthy and detailed. you will have to read those for yourself. In general, they also report a high level of comfort and support, relief of pain, ability to form the pillow into the position you want, and that they pillow remains cool.

The low reviews complain about the pillow size (too small), the pillow firmness (too hard), and the pillow noise (the hulls make a crinkling sound, a bit like an old-fashioned bean bag chair).  Some people fear bugs or hygiene issues because the pillow itself can't be thrown into the washer or dryer. One person said that the lack of aesthetic shape of full sized pillows at the top of the bed was bothersome.


This is a wonderful, little pillow that provides a cool, supported nights sleep. It is small in size (about half the size of a large standard pillow) but heavy for it's size. The buckwheat hulls do make a crinkling sound (in my opinion) but only ever so slightly.  It is great for propping up on your regular pillow for reading in bed. Put it in a small, washable, 100% cotton pillow case to eliminate hygiene problem.

When I ordered this pillow, I expected it to come in a "as seen on tv" box. It did not. But that did not concern me. I placed it in one of those inexpensive gift boxes and gift wrapped it. And for years, it has been a gift that has given the gift of a comfortable sleep night after night.

Related Link:

Are you concerned about chemicals in your home and environment?  I have recently learned more about the chemicals in our textiles and have reviewed some of the reasons Organic Pillows are Healthier for You and the Environment.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Homestead Themed Address Labels by Colorful Images

The Country Lodge Classic address labels
I have recently ordered new address labels from Colorful Images and I was beyond thrilled to have several homestead themed designs to choose from. The variety of designs is one of the things that keeps me coming back to Colorful Images - there is a design for nearly every mood, season, holiday, and interest.  

As you may know from a recent post, I have recently discovered that not only are bears in the general area near The Shack, I caught photographs of a bear in the yard!  I am both thrilled and afraid with this new information. I love bears. But to have them in your back yard... that is a bit intimidating.  The good news is, it will take awhile before I can live on my land so I have some time to get accustomed to the idea of having bears in the yard.

When shopping for new address labels a few days later, I chuckled when I saw the Country Lodge Classic design. Perfect to represent my life at the moment - and my fervent desire to live in my "country lodge" with the wildlife just outside the door. The "rustic" artwork, full moon, bear, and small lodge art caused me to purchase without looking any further.

Country Lodge Classic address labels (4 designs)

However, if you prefer a homesteading style address label with a different size or design, there are still plenty to choose from. 

So many homesteads have chickens. And with chickens often comes colorful Roosters.  The Year of the Roosters labels are large labels of 12 different artistic illustrations of gorgeous roosters. 

A Year of Roosters Select address labels (12 designs)

Another great option is the 12 different designs of the Farmscapes Select.  These designs are seasonal portraits of farming landscapes that includes cows, round hay bales, autumn leaves, snow, and of course a green and yellow tractor. I enjoy having the ability to change my labels with the changing season.

Farmscapes Select address labels  (12 designs)

This is a very small sample of the homesteading address label designs offered by Colorful Images.  I have had nothing but good experiences when ordering from Colorful Image and am glad to have address labels that express me so perfectly.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

My NEW Favorite Bread Recipe

You may have already heard of this ultimate bread recipe shared from Patara's homestead. After all, it appears to be a trending topic in the homesteading world. At least it is on the homesteading social media sites that I've been lucky enough to become a member of. But just in case you haven't heard of it, I wanted to share my success with this awesome recipe. This is an incredibly delicious and easy bread recipe and I'm very excited about it.

Pullman Loaf Pan

Have you ever heard of a "Pullman Loaf Pan"? I had not. Not until I read about this recipe. Skeptically, I ordered one from Amazon and I baked my first attempt of this bread recipe in it just days after receiving the pan.

I think this pan is the greatest thing since sliced bread! (sorry, I couldn't stop myself). A Pullman loaf pan is rectangular and has a lid that closes. This results in those square sandwich bread loaves.  I was skeptical because, as I believe I've mentioned about a million times, I'm not so good in the kitchen. I couldn't imagine how a bread pan with a lid could possibly work and I expected disaster. Instead, this pan worked out great and I'm going to order a second one.

Pullman Loaf Pan

The Ultimate Bread Receipe from Patara at Appalachia's Homestead

I don't recall how I first came to hear about Appalachia's homestead. I believe I pinned one of her articles. Then I started to follow her on different social media sites - as I do many homestead bloggers.

I also joined her Homestead with Patara of Appalachia's Homestead facebook group.  Those members (a great group of folks, I have to add) started posting photo after photo of their successes with this bread recipe.  So I jumped on that hay wagon and ordered my Pullman pan, honey, and SAF yeast.  I already had the salt, flour, warm water, and oil.

After all, I was feeling slightly more confident after my success with the Peasant Bread recipe. I felt like maybe I could branch out with another bread recipe. But I still wasn't very optimistic.

These are a few of the many reasons I recommend this recipe to you:

  • only 6 ingredients
  • you can bake this bread in Pullman pan, a flat sheet, regular bread loaf pan, or probably just about any pan you have handy 
  • the recipe made two large loaves - plenty of bread for me for a week or more
  • quick prep time - knead for about ten minutes, let it rest 10 minutes, divide, and let it rise for 10-45 minutes, bake.
  • forgiving recipe - substitute the SAF yeast with the yeast of choice, use wheat flour instead of bread flour, and so on.

SAF Yeast

As proof of my success with Patara's Ultimate Bread Recipe, I'll just post my photos.  And following the photos, I'll add the links to finding Patara's sites.  If you are at all interested in a bread that is easy enough for even me to bake successfully on the first attempt, or if you are at all interested in homesteading, be sure to check out some of the links below. 

The Pullman Loaf Pan loaf

The loaf I baked in a cake pan

The sandwich I took to work today

Related Links:

Appalachia's Homestead youtube channel. You will find the bread recipe on video as well as many videos about chickens, eggs, gardening, recipes, homeschooling, and virtually all things homestead.

Appalachia's Homestead with Patara facebook page. Here you will find Patara's photographs, give-aways, links to her other pages, links to the annual homesteading conference, and more.

Homesteading with Patara of Appalachia's Homestead is a closed group facebook homesteading page. Homesteaders (and those of us who have homestead dreams and plans) everywhere are sharing homestead joys and woes. This is a "G" rated group of supportive folks who are willing to share and support.

Intro photo design created courtesy of  FotoJet

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.