Saturday, December 30, 2017

Lazy Day Biscuit Eggs Breakfast

Lazy Days Biscuit Eggs
There is a cold snap outside and I woke feeling lazy and hungry. I craved a hot breakfast but what I really wanted was to just stay under the blanket - with the dogs warming my feet. But my stomach was growling. In my extreme laziness, I stirred together some biscuit mix, cracked a couple of eggs on top, and slid it into the oven. Voila, I came up with a filling, easy, hot breakfast.

Lazy Day Biscuit Eggs

I grabbed the Bisquick mix and made about 1/2 of the recipe for the biscuit/dumplings as listed on the box.  I say about 1/2 because I no longer follow the measuring instructions on the box because I use the stuff regularly enough that I just eyeball it.

I put the single large "biscuit" in my copper pan (oven preheated to the 450 listed on the box - pan lightly sprayed with cooking oil).  I spread the dough out forming a well, similar to a thick crust pizza shape, thin layer of dough in the middle and thick ridge around the sides.

I cracked two eggs into the center and placed it into the oven for approximately 10 minutes. If you jiggle the pan and the entire egg jiggles, you know that it needs to bake a bit longer.

Out pops this Bisquick egg biscuit. A bit of salt, pepper, and a dollop of Kerrygold Irish butter on top. Next time, if I'm not feeling too lazy, I'll brown some sausage or bacon to sprinkle on top.

Lazy Day Biscuit Eggs - in the skillet and on the plate
I sure wish I was a better food photographer 

*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

Miscellaneous Bits

Haven't heard of Kerrygold pure Irish butter? I hadn't until recently. A friend recently brought it along on a camping trip and I was sold! I used it in my hobo packs in the woodstove and used it on my smoked meats in my new Char-Griller smoker. This butter has a great flavor!


My Copper Chef skillet comes from the As Seen On TV sales. Technically, I bought mine at Bed Bath & Beyond, but I had initially seen it on an infomercial. On Amazon it has mixed reviews. But I really love my copper pan - almost as much as I love my cast iron skillet. Most of the negative reviews are related to food sticking. I've never had anything stick. However, I seasoned it and continue to use small bit of cooking spray during each use. It is a great option, for me, when I don't feel like using my heavy, over-sized cast iron skillet. The copper pan is nonstick, light, cooks evenly, and is very easy to wash. Perfect for lazy days cooking. 

Copper Chef skillet

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Making My Own Granola

This may be old news to you, but it is wonderful, breaking news to me. I can make my own granola at home! For far less than I can buy it at the grocery. Not only is it inexpensive and easy to make, I can adjust it to my own taste. If you like granola, and don't make it at home, you may want to give it a whirl yourself.

Homemade Granola

I cannot take credit for figuring this out by myself. In fact, I had no idea that making granola was this easy until I saw Patara making granola in one of her Appalachia's Homestead with Patara videos. 

The thought of homemade granola had me so excited and looked so delicious that I went to my cupboard and made my first granola with what I had on hand. It was that easy.


  • 2 c oats  
  • 1 c sunflower seeds (I use unsalted)
  • 1 c shredded coconut
  • 2+ Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • a pinch of salt

Mix the dry ingredients, then add the wet. Stir to coat. Bake on a cookie sheet, turning the granola several times during, at 250 degrees at about 45 - 60 minutes. 

In my second batch of granola, I used more honey than Patara adds, and I added some caramel chips! Not many. Just a few. I've also purchased a bag of sliced almonds for future batches. I also baked my granola a bit longer. 

Previously, I had not normally had shredded coconut or caramel chips on hand. Fortunately, I had purchased both for cookie recipes that I never ended up making. Into the granola they went! Everything else are things that I always have in my kitchen.  

My bedtime snack is yogurt with my homemade granola sprinkled on top.  Someday... I'll be making my own yogurt.

*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.

Related Links:

Appalachia Homestead with Patara video:

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Bernat Pipsqueak Yarn

Wonderful Bernat Pipsqueak yarn
WOW! I have just discovered Bernat Pipsqueak yarn and I'm in love! Okay, that was a little overly dramatic. But just a little.  Bernat Pipsqueak yarn is a soft, fluffy, and snuggly yarn that feels so good to the touch that I can't keep my hands off of it. As soon as I finish this project (a gift for a grandbaby) I am going to use some of this yarn for a throw for myself.

Bernat Pipsqueak Yarn - Pink Swirl

In the photo, you can see the typical worsted weight yarn - the pink and the white stripes. Then, at the crochet hook, you see yarn that appears to be fuzzy or frayed. I chose "pink swirl" to match this baby blanket and to add some more texture.  

My plan to use the Pipsqueak yarn is working even better than I had imagined. 

With this pattern, I am crocheting in the "spaces" rather than in the "stitches". In that way, I am able to work easily with the fuzzy Pipsqueak yarn. If I were doing a pattern that involved crocheting in the stitches, I would not be happy about using this yarn. It is so fluffy that it would be too hard (for me - maybe not for  you) to catch the loops on the subsequent rows. Fortunately, the Done In a Day pattern I'm using is loose enough to use a fuzzy yarn easily.

The Bernat Pipsqueak is:
  • machine washable and dryable
  • 100% polyester
  • a "chunky" (size 5) yarn

One more thing I like about this yarn is that even though it has the appearance of being "frayed" or fuzzy, the yarn is easy to work with and does not split while I am crocheting. What I mean is, some yarn strands pull apart easily and my hook constantly passes through a strand of yarn and gets snagged.  I was a bit worried that this yarn would cause that problem. But it does not.

*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.

Bernat Yarn Related Links:

In 2014 I used Bernat brand yarn for the first time. It was a super bulky chenille yarn. I enjoyed the Bernat yarn so much that I had it in mind when shopping for the yarn for the pink blanket. Clearly, Bernat makes a variety of wonderful yarns. You can see my thoughts about my crocheted cowl using Bernat Blanket yarn here.  

After starting my Bernat Pipsqueak blanket for my granddaughter, I found myself already thinking about other easy projects I could make. I went in search of other crochet patterns that would be easy enough for me.  I found this wonderful video tutorial by Yarnspirations. It is an easy Granny Square style pattern for a baby blanket. I think you will be able to see how extremely soft and thick this yarn is. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Plant Journal: Planted in 2017

When I bought my land (two years ago) I had made a goal to keep some sort of detailed journal of the things I plant at The Shack. Here we are, snow on the ground, and I've only documented one planting - my fig.  

I know that it is important to document what you planted and when. For many reasons. My primary reason for tracking my plants (both planted and wish-list plants) is because there are certain plants I love but then cannot recall the variety name. It is very difficult to find a specific variety if you cannot recall the exact name.

2017 is coming to an end. In this post I am going to document at least a bit about each plant I can recall having planted this year. This will likely be a "living document" and change as I find the photos and plant tags that I have scattered hither and yon. I hope to make more detailed individual posts about each plant later.

I did learn a lesson in 2017 - Protect EVERYTHING from the deer. Or try too. They are voracious eaters. They clearly view my yard as a dessert buffet. And what they didn't eat, the bucks are now using as rubs - peeling the bark from my trees. Except for the Pawpaws. Thus far, they continue to leave the Pawpaws alone. Thank goodness for that.

2017 Plantings at The Shack

Dwarf Alberta Spruce - Technically, I planted this in 2016. December 30, 2016 to be exact. This miniature evergreen had been my Christmas tree at the apartment in Baltimore. It survived the holidays and the trip up to The Shack.  I planted it in my "yard" with the plan that when I remodel/rebuild The Shack, this little tree can be my outdoor Christmas tree in the years to come.

Pawpaws - Sunflower

I purchased two Sunflower Pawpaw trees from Sun Nurseries. I bought the smallest plants I could and they lived on my apartment balcony before being moved up to the land.  The moving of them was rough on them - due to my clumsiness in moving such "large" plants in the small Jeep.  However, they are planted, the deer do, in fact, leave them alone, and they have not died where planted.

Pawpaws - Seedlings - Mango and Sunflower

I'm a little bit afraid to mention the seedlings. They are still very young and vulnerable to my non-green thumb. I had been trying to start my own Pawpaws from seed and after several attempts it seemed to be a hopeless adventure. Then suddenly this summer, in the very HOT part of the summer, I noticed that one of the seeds had started to sprout. (Honestly, I noticed when I was dumping the soil from the container back into my big soil bucket. I had given up again!).  Two Mango and one Sunflower pawpaw starts are here in the apartment - hopefully to be planted at The Shack next year.

Persimmon - Nikita's Gift

I planted the persimmon tree from Sun Nurseries the same day I planted the Pawpaws. It's branches were smaller so the actual trip in the Jeep was less traumatic for it. However, the deer stripped it of leaves the first night I planted it. Also, I didn't get this poor little tree into the ground straight. It has a significant lean. And then this fall, the bucks have clearly been using it for a rub. Poor thing. 

Mystery Japanese Maple

I have a thing about a Japanese Maple. Not all of them. Not even most of them. Just a particular Japanese Maple. I want the one that is in a friend's parent's yard. It is BEAUTIFUL and transitions from greens, to a rainbow of oranges and yellows, to a deep red through the year. I want that one. I have been searching for years to find the name of this particular tree. Do you have any idea how many different Japanese Maple trees there are? TOO MANY! And I forgot to mention that their particular tree doesn't seem to make/drop many (if any) helicopter seeds.

Finally, this year, (at a Wal-Mart of all places) I found a Japanese Maple that is very similar.  I planted it on the land and it seemed to be doing very well. However, the bucks have rubbed it.  

And guess what? I can't find what I did with the tag, so at this moment, I cannot tell you what type of Japanese maple this is. Hopefully, the tag is at The Shack in the pile of plant tags I have there.

Fig - Olympian

I planted a fig plant based on friends who love figs and who told me that I will love figs.  I planted it in the "flower garden" near the lilac and the rose. I did manage to journal about the fig already so I won't talk much about it here.  I will say that the deer have left it alone so far. 


The kind people who know I stalk their Japanese Maple have given me a crooked Seuss-like Holly seedling from their yard. I love it! I have planted it just inside the edge of my woods. Hoping it will someday attract birds that I can watch from my deck.

2015 - 2016 Plantings at The Shack

My very first attempts to plant things at The Shack began with an attempt to start a rustic "flower bed" of sorts. I chose a lilac and a rose to reflect two of my childhood favorites. I immediately learned that gardening at The Shack begins with a pick ax and hard work. But I successfully planted these two plants. And miraculously, they have survived.

rustic flower garden 2016 - lilac on the left and rose on the right


I chose a purple lilac from Sun Nurseries. Lilacs were part of my earliest memories. I caged it as soon as I caged the rose. So far, the Lilac is doing great.

Rose - Granny Grimmetts

Years ago I lived in a home that had an unruly but amazing rose bush in the side yard. The scent was so strong and wonderful that I looked forward to the blooms each year. I had no idea what type of rose that was. As soon as I bought my land, I began looking for that type of rose to plant in my yard. 

It has been impossible to find that particular rose. But I did find a wonderful place to purchase roses. The Antique Rose Emporium provided some patient answers to my questions about that elusive rose from my past. And I ordered this Granny Grimmetts rose from them.

As soon as I planted the rose, without protection, the deer stripped it immediately. I put a cage around it, and insects stripped the new leaves that grew. I was certain that rose had died. But it came up the next year. And it came up this year. I am hoping to find a way to nurture a rose or two on my land.

Assorted bulbs, perennials, and annuals 

I have planted assorted spring bulbs, perennial flowers, and annuals in my "flower bed". None - with the exception of annual marigolds - seem to have fared well. Likely, most of them have become snacks for the deer and squirrels.

This lovely marigold did great in that spot. The marigold showed no sign of pests, diseases, or deer damage.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Treasures: Tied Fleece Blankets for the Dogs

Tiny handmade tied fleece blanket for my tiny dog Daisy
During a recent trip to a local fabric store, I saw some fleece remnants at deep discount prices. I have always wanted to try to make a tied fleece blanket but previously never followed through. I was afraid to spend the money on materials without feeling like I knew what I was doing. But when I saw these remnants, I felt brave and I purchased the two small pieces of fleece and brought them home to try.

I thought if I begin with the plan of making very small blankets for the dog crates, I won't feel badly if this project turns out ugly and the dogs would still have new blankets. This decreased the intimidation factor of trying something new. Besides, the thought of making dog blankets using a paw print on one side and a cat print on the other side just tickled me. I HAD to try.

How to Make Tied Fleece Blankets

There are many video and written tutorials on the internet about making tied fleece blankets. By looking at a variety of these tutorials, I had decided I wanted to tie my knots in a certain way and I wanted to cut the corners off of the blanket in order to make tying at the corners easier.

With those two decisions made, I began.

Good thing this first blanket is teeny tiny, for my little dog Daisy, because I did make some mistakes. I did not account for the "print" at the very edge of the fleece material. And it clearly shows in the finished project. I think it is distracting and ugly. Fortunately, Daisy can't read. And is probably colorblind. So that turns out to be a good learning opportunity for me - instead of disaster. Also, when I measured to cut out my corner squares, I didn't account for the width of the tape measure. As a result, I ended up with some 4" fringe and some 4 1/2" fringe. I had intended on fringe that was 1" x 4" - before the knot.  The 1" x 4" fringe was incredibly difficult for me to tie (with the knot I had chosen) with my bare hands.

I began using a heavy chopstick to help tied the knots. The chopstick helped me to adjust the knots and grip the material - making more uniform knots. In the future, I will make either longer or thinner strips of fringe for easier tying. Maybe both thinner and longer.

Materials Needed to Make Tied Fleece Blankets

  • Two pieces of fleece (I chose contrasting prints)
  • A sharp pair of scissors - I love Fiskars
  • A tape measure or yardstick
  • Optional - chopstick (a crochet hook may have worked)
  • Optional - masking tape (for marking the edges to help ensure measurements)

Caution: I have a very small apartment, so I laid the project out on the floor for cutting. With carpet, that was a risky move. Take great care if you make the same choice or you will likely give your carpet a haircut. I highly recommend doing the cutting on a flat, hard surface.

  1. Lay out the two layers flat and smooth - one on top of the other - "right" sides facing out
  2. Measure for the corners - cutting out the corners (measure twice, cut once! Something I neglected to do)
  3. Carefully measure and moved down each side, cutting for the thickness of each fringe
  4. Begin tying the knots - Beginning with the fringe directly next to each now missing corner. That results in two tied fringe pieces on each side; anchoring the pieces together as they were initially placed together
  5. Continue tying the knots until the blanket is complete
That is all there is to it! As I tied the knots, I used the chopstick to adjust them to make them more uniform. And I frequently checked that the material was still lying flat together and hadn't shifted or puckered much.  Please scroll down for the photographs of the steps.

Daisy's finished blanket is approximately 20" x 20" (fringe included) - a similar size of her dog bed. 

Willy - trying to claim the blanket as his own
while I am trying to tie knots
This was a fun project. I am feeling more confident with making tied blankets. After I make a blanket for Willy (as clearly he wants one of his own!) I plan to move on to those adorable "kits" that are printed with cute patterns and make some blankets for the grandbabies.

If you have been considering trying tied fleece blankets, I encourage you to give it a try. Remember to scroll down for the step-by-step photos.

*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. 

Tied Fleece Blanket Making: Step-by-step in photos


Sunday, November 26, 2017

"Done in a Day" Crocheted Blanket Review

Simply Soft crochet yarn by Caron
I love to crochet. But I usually am only in the mood to crochet during the cooler months. And I'm somewhere between a beginner and an intermediate. Patterns with a variety of stitches or changes in the rows confuse me. These factors often limit the projects I can crochet. However, I've found an easy and pretty crocheted pattern called "Done in a Day" as found on Dabbles & Babbles. I am so excited about this treasure that I have to share it with you (and put it here so I don't loose track of it!).

"Done in a Day" Crochet Baby Blanket

My only criticism is that "Done in a Day" is a misnomer. At least it is for a beginner like me. It certainly is not going to be a project I finish in a day. A weekend. Or even a week. Perhaps advanced crocheters can do this in a day. I can't. Granted, the author is using a bulky weight yarn and I am not (I am using the Caron Simply Soft shown in the photo above). But still. I wouldn't have it done in a day. You might, though.

EVERYTHING else about this pattern is awesome!

I used different yarn and a different gauge hook to suit my needs. Fortunately, the pattern begins with a chain in the amount of stitches divisible by 2. The author's pattern started with 66 stitches. Mine - with a smaller hook and yarn - started with a chain of 122 stitches.

The pattern continues with directions for three rows. Yes, only THREE rows that are repeated until the length of the item is obtained. How easy is that?

Easy enough for me!

Double crochet (dc) is a stitch that comes to me intuitively. It is a stitch that adds length more quickly than some other stitches. This project is row after row of double crochet. And the subtle "pattern" comes from the placement of the stitches. The two double crochet stitches are grouped in the top of the "V" formed by the two double crochet stitches in the row below. Make a "V" and skip a space, make a "V" and skip a space. Easy.

A portion of the pattern directions:
Chain 66 (made in multiples of 2 if you'd like to adjust size)
Row 1: 2dc in the 4th ch from the hook, *skip 1 ch, 2dc in the next ch*, repeat across entire row ending with a dc in the last ch. turn
Row 2: Ch 3. Skip the first dc and dc twice into the space between the next group of 2 dcs. *Go to the next group of 2 dc's and dc twice into the space between*, repeat until the end of the row ending with a dc in the last dc
Row 3: Repeat row 2. Bind off and weave in ends.

The Dabbles & Babbles finished blanket measures 32" x 32". Mine will finish to be a couple of inches longer and wider. 

CLICK HERE - for Done in a Day crochet pattern by Dabbles & Babbles
I am very excited about my progress with this project and can't wait to start more throws in a variety of colors. My next project will be one for myself -- in Bernat Blanket Yarn.

If you are looking for an easy and beautiful pattern, check out this one. Add your personal touch by choosing a variety of colors and/or weights of yarn. 

*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. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Shack Tour: Before

Welcome to The Shack. I have decided to challenge myself and learn how to take videos of my land and upload them to platforms such as YouTube. I realize that most 8 year olds would ask, "What's there to learn?" But the technological advances beyond the most very basic photograph editing do not come easy to me. 

Currently, I don't have any particular homesteading skills or talents to video and share. But I do have my country-living, retirement dream in progress and I would like to document the before, during, and after. 

My Off-Grid and Debt-Free Retirement Dream

In 2015 I had quite a year. Too many things were going on to list here. But one of those things is important for this post - I bought 4 acres in West Virginia and started dreaming of retiring there as soon as possible. Preferably, debt-free and self-sufficient.

Two years later, I'm moving slightly away from the idea of replacing the existing rickety hunting cabin with an completely off-grid small home. But that is still to be determined.

Currently, The Shack (that rickety hunting cabin) is off-grid. And I go camping there as often as possible in order to escape the hustle and bustle of living near Baltimore and to plan for life on that West Virginia Ridge.

I do know that I plan to build a small home. Use solar for power and passive solar for heating. And I hope to grow as much of my own food as possible.

Two weekends past, I spent the weekend there. I like cool weather camping. I love keeping warm with that wonderful wood stove.

This is a partial and brief tour of the inside:

This is a tour of the "yard" portion of the land. 

The previous owners left behind the old shed (it is not an outhouse - although it looks like it) along with probably two truckloads of things that need to go to the dump. I have been slowly but surely trying to do some removal of poison ivy and invasive weeds. While planting a few fruit trees, and starting a "flower garden".  

There is much to do. And even more to learn. Thank you for coming along on this journey with me.

*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, October 28, 2017

Naturally Made Soaps by Angela

I have found a new treasure - a bar of handmade soap by Angela. Good soaps are important to me. I look forward to long, relaxing soaks in the tub and handmade soaps are a splurge item for me. I search for soaps that moisturize my skin and smell great. I am thrilled with my Orange Spice soap from Naturally Made by Angela. I have to spread the word about these wonderful bars of soaps made by a woman on her homestead.

Naturally Made by Angela

I became aware of Angela through some online homesteading groups. People in those groups share their stories about gardening, chickens, cooking, canning, and living a more natural life. There is much to share with Angela's story. One part of her story is that she makes natural soaps. 

I ordered the Orange Spice bar based on the knowledge that she uses pure essential oils. When the soap arrived in the mail, in an envelope with a simple brown paper label around the bar of soap, I immediately fell in love with the scent. I couldn't stop sniffing it. I wanted to immediately go take a long soak in the tub but I waited so that I could take photos of this simple, pretty bar of soap.

A beautiful bar of Orange Spice soap

Yesterday, I took a long soak and used this bar of soap. I loved it while using it in the tub - it was so creamy and smelled so good. Then I woke up still feeling the moisturizing effects this morning! You see, I judge the moisturizing ability of soaps with my elbows.  If I get out of the tub and my elbows are immediately rough again, the soap is no good. I had this disappointing experience with a bar of soap I purchased recently. No good. A good bar of soap, in my opinion, is one that makes my elbows softer for at least a few hours after my bath. This Orange Spice soap by Angela has my elbows still feeling softer the next day! 

To find her soaps online, check out her facebook page Naturally Made by Angela.

UPDATED 1/17/2018:  I am happy to be able to provide an update and announcement of Angela's Etsy store. You can find and order her items from NaturallyMadebyAng on Etsy. Etsy makes ordering these handmade soaps even easier. 

Angela - An Inspiration

Angela inspires me. She lives with her family in the country. They garden, raise chickens, and share that part of their lives on videos (youtube and patreon). People who know me are aware that my goal is to move to my land and  retire with a garden and chickens - living a simple life. Angela inspires me to keep moving toward my country living dreams. 

Angela's country living abilities are not the only things about her that inspire me. Or that her children appear happy, confident, and excited to show-and-tell their favorite chicken. That inspires me too, but that's not all. You see, Angela has survived multiple brain aneurysms and surgeries to repair those aneurysms. Despite these terrifying (to me, if not to her) health emergencies, Angela continues on. I don't know how. I'd ball up into a wimpy, complaining puddle of worthlessness if I was faced with what she's been faced with. But not Angela. 

On Angela's facebook, you can read that her health slowed her soap production at one point. In some of her videos, she gives information about her health and updates about her surgeries. But outside of that, I would not know that she has had these experiences. I've experienced Angela as a kind and gentle person who encourages others. I can't recall a time I've seen her complain or be mean. And, as a person who suffers migraines and struggles to get out of bed many days, she inspires me most by facing the health challenges she's faced with such a good attitude.

Thank you Angela for the amazing Orange Spice soap and for the inspiration to keep moving forward. 

*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. 

Related Links:

In case you missed the link above, you can order Naturally Made by Angela soaps by messaging her through her facebook page.

I follow several homesteading groups. My favorite by far are Appalachia's Homestead with Patara groups. These groups are where I came to know about Angela as well as many others who share their skills and knowledge. This is the link to the free group but there is also a premium members group. 

My regular readers are aware that I love soaps. I've previously written about two of my favorite goat's milk soaps.  I have also written about the reasons I rely on Dr. Bronner's castile peppermint soap - which includes some migraine relief. 

And here is a peek at one of my favorite video personalities! Angela has wisely chosen to share the majority of videos with her children on her patreon page - of which I am not yet a member. However, I've seen her children in videos and live streams. Their happiness is infectious and they always make me smile. In this video, Winston is helping with the chicken chores. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Carroll County Farm Fresh Store

Visiting Carroll County Farm Fresh.
I recently found a local fresh food treasure that is worth writing about. In my search for Pawpaws, I received information about a store that carried them. I immediately entered the address into my phone's map app and high-tailed it to Carroll County Farm Fresh. Not only did I find Pawpaws, I found a treasure trove of organic vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs, and milk. I also found the best customer service I've experienced in a very long time. It is refreshing to find someone who is working with passion about their product.

Carroll County Farm Fresh, Baltimore County, Maryland

I cannot confirm if the store is located in Eldersburg or Sykesville, Maryland. My map app, road signs, and subsequently the internet seemed to use the town names almost interchangeably. And I'm not familiar enough with the area to know where one town ends and the other begins. Despite not being very familiar with the area, the store was incredibly easy to find.

I do know that the address is clearly: 2808 Liberty Road. The store was easy to access at the corner of Oakland Mills Road and Liberty Road. A turn at the light from Liberty onto Oakland Mills and an immediate turn into the roomy parking lot. 

Andrew greeted me with happy helpfulness and without hovering or high-pressure sales techniques. He did offer a complimentary fresh-squeezed orange juice. The orange juice was delicious.

I was thrilled to find that they did indeed have pawpaws. HUGE Shenandoah pawpaws from Deep Run Orchard. Woohoo! That made my day. After all, I've become a huge pawpaw fan since my first pawpaw taste test.

Pawpaws and fresh-baked Pawpaw Bread

Other customers came and went as I decided I had to take some photos to share with my readers. 

Andrew explained that this is their family business. And many of their items come from small local farms and businesses. For more information you can find Carroll County Farm Fresh on their website and on their facebook page.

I wish I had taken notes on the variety of products and farm names. Just a few of the other farm names and items I noted were:

  • Baugher's (apple cider)
  • [be] essential (goatsmilk and vegan soaps)
  • Cherry Glen (goat cheese)
  • Deep Run Farms (pawpaws and tomatoes)
  • Serene Lavender Farms (jams and teas)
  • Thelma's Homestead (goatsmilk soaps)
  • Whispering Breeze Farm (cow cheese)

Once Upon A Crumb

There are also baked goods available. If you know me, you can imagine how ecstatic I was to find loaves of fresh-baked Pawpaw bread. Of course I bought one. It was divine! It was a fresh, rich, cinnamon bread (reminded me of a coffee cake) full of pawpaw flavor. 

The breads were baked by Once Upon A Crumb. If you liked fresh baked goods, you MUST try one of their items. 

If you want fresh organic fruits and vegetables, meats raised on small local farms, fresh milk and eggs without the increased preservatives the stores are boasting about ("fresher longer" ads), and variety of other products and customer service, you would be glad to visit Carroll County Farm Fresh.  The store was clean, fresh, and I really wanted to purchase one of each item. 

Words are not adequate so I will just end with a few of the photos I snapped. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Reviewing the Anker Portable Solar Power Charger

The ease of portability with the Anker PowerPort.
I have found a treasure that is not so very expensive but is worth it's weight in gold if you need to charge your cell phone and have no way of doing so. The Anker 21 watt PowerPort is portable, small, and powerful.  If you go camping, hiking, or if you want to be prepared for power outages at home, you may like this solar charger as much as I do.

The Anker 21 watt PowerPort Solar Charger

This little charger can be kept in the seat pocket of your car, in a hiking backpack, your bug out bag, or many other small storage spaces. The four sections of the gadget fold up like a pamphlet. The velcro holds it closed.  When folded it measures only 11" x 6".  When fully opened it measures only 26" x 11".

When opened, you access the pocket with the USB port. The PowerPort has two ports so you can charge two items at a time. The PowerPort comes with one charging cord. I could charge my Kindle and my cell phone at the same time.

As soon as you open the Anker PowerPort Charger, you can immediately see if the item is collecting sun via the indicator light. 

Anker PowerPort with 2 USB ports, indicator light, and cord included

As soon as I received my Anker, I took it out to the balcony to give it a try.  It was an extremely sunny day. Even so, the charger charged my phone far more quickly than I expected. I've never timed it, but I believe it takes longer to charge when it's charging in the Jeep up at the Shack! I know it seems like forever when I am waiting to bed but I want a full charge on the phone for overnight.

4:54 pm - Charging at 62%

6:02 pm  - Charging at 81%

The Many Uses of the Anker PowerPort Solar Charger

I bought this on the recommendation by a friend who has owned his for a year or more.  He uses his for camping, hunting, and traveling. He charges his items while in the woods or while in the truck without putting strain on the truck battery. He has not had a single complaint with his Anker. 

I bought mine for hiking and camping purposes as well as power outages that occur in the neighborhood where my metro apartment is located. I will also take mine with me when I travel to the Shack. Even though I have a large solar panel and inverter there, I need to replace the donated batteries (which are expensive). So in the meantime, I can use the Anker to charge my phone (rather than take my phone out to the Jeep in the dark and the wilderness and charge it there). 

I did see some questions on Amazon and I want to make it clear... this is not an inverter. You cannot charge items with "plugs" with this. You can only charge things that can charge with a USB cord. That includes phones, kindles, and tablets. Maybe some cameras. If you item plugs in with the cord that fits into the hole shown in the photo above, you can use this mini-solar panel to charge your items. 

I occasionally lose power in my apartment for most of day due to things such as traffic accidents hitting power poles and those big power boxes. We have also lost power here due to ice storms and blizzards. Finally, with the recent news of the damage caused by hurricanes, I made sure I am more prepared with the Anker PowerPort Solar charger. 

UPDATE: After using this item a handful of times, I highly recommend it. It is a very helpful item when either off-grid or experiencing power loss. I do want to add that there is one thing to be aware of. It does NOT have a diode. Which means that if you leave your phone plugged in to the charger and it becomes too cloudy or dark, the power from your phone drains back into the solar charger. I would not expect an item this inexpensive/portable to have a diode. But it was interesting to watch just how quickly the power drains in the opposite direction in the dark.

*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. 

Related Link:

I also depend on headlamps for lighting at the Shack, while camping, hiking, and during emergencies. You can read my review of headlamps here. If you've ever suddenly been in the dark and needed lighting you are aware of the importance of light. Read about my choice for hands-free lighting.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Chesapeake Cozy Cat Trees and Condos

Chesapeake Cozy Cat - Baltimore Co., Maryland
If you are a cat lover and would like to supply your cat with a quality cat tree or cat condo and you are in the Baltimore County area, I have some good information for you.  Both Mittens and I are thrilled about the treasure I acquired yesterday from Chesapeake Cozy Cat.

Buying Local - in Baltimore County, Maryland

I prefer to buy things that are made and sold locally, but it is not always easy to find what you are looking for. It often becomes much easier to mail order items. It is also often less expensive to buy from the big box stores.

One item that I have put off purchasing is a large cat condo. I didn't care for the quality and the prices at the local stores. And I didn't feel like spending that much money on Mittens the Maleficent. Frankly, she is constantly in the top of closets, on top of my kayak (that I store across the top of closet doors - next to the ceiling), and in every other nook and cranny she can find. While I really wanted a large cat tree for her, it wasn't a priority.

However, her knocking things from this shelves and spaces to make room for her napping has grown old. I definitely wanted to have a "high" space dedicated to Mittens.

Years ago I had seen a variety of cat trees and condos being sold yard sale style at the park-and-ride across from Martin State airport. But I hadn't seen this set-up for quite awhile and had given up on being able to shop those items - UNTIL YESTERDAY!

Chesapeake Cozy Cat

The Chesapeake Cozy Cat tent was in front of the park-and-ride in front of Martin State Airport yesterday. I pulled a U-turn and stopped to shop.  I grabbed a card so I could remember to provide the contact information to you.

The gentleman (I forgot to ask him name in my excitement) said that he doesn't do mail order business yet. He attends local shows and continues to sometimes set up at the location I found him. He builds all of the items himself.

I found that his prices were less expensive than the items at a local pet store I had been window-shopping. And in my opinion, the item I purchased is a higher quality.

Mittens and Her New Tree

Some of my readers occasionally ask about Mittens. She is the cat that I adopted from a local shelter in 2015 and we had adventures before I ever brought her home. In fact, I was a bit worried about whether or not Mittens the Maleficent Kitten would be allowed to come live with me. 

Mittens continues to do well with me. Rather, I continue to do well with her. She is clearly in charge of both myself and the dogs, and the apartment is her apartment. 

As soon as I brought this 42" tall tree into the door, she claimed it. She wasn't quite sure what it was, but she claimed it by laying on the base. 

Later she hopped up into the 1/2 tube beds. When I was making my purchase, I initially thought I should buy the enclosed cat houses, but I am glad I bought the tree with the two 1/2 tube beds. She loves them. Some day, I'd love to buy her one of those HUGE cat trees (on the far left in the intro photograph) but for now, this tree is perfect for Her Highness and a good size for my apartment. 

Maybe you do not live locally. In that case Amazon may be a really good option for you to find a cat tower or condo in the shape and size that you want. Simply click the banner below and shop the pet section for cat towers.

But if you are lucky enough to live local to Baltimore County, and are looking for a quality cat tree, you definitely should contact Chesapeake Cozy Cat. Mittens certainly has given her stamp of approval.

*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, August 20, 2017

Bent River Woodworks in Capon Bridge, West Virginia

I found a treasure during my travels just the other day. During this most recent camping trip I finally visited a wonderful little store that I've been eyeing in Capon Bridge, West Virginia. I have driven past this store every time I make the drive up to my land but I have never stopped because I am on the road well before or after normal business hours. This most recent trip was cut short. I was sad to leave early, but that meant I was finally driving past during normal shop hours. Let me introduce you to Bent River Woodworks in Capon Bridge, West Virginia.

Bent River Woodworks - Capon Bridge, West Virginia

Capon Bridge is a small town in West Virginia on highway 50.  As I am driving to my West Virginia land (from Baltimore) I find myself on this beautiful two-lane highway. At one point, after climbing in elevation, I begin the curving descent before suddenly entering a small town called Capon Bridge. There is a bridge and it crosses a river and lush valley just before the road begins it's ascent out of town. 

There on the right, I have always admired a large brick building with handmade rustic wooden furniture in the front. Even though my new home will be small (well under 800 square feet) I have always wanted to stop and take a better look at this beautiful furniture made of logs and branches. Although, I did not expect to find anything that I'd be able to incorporate into my small home after it is built.

Bent River Woodworks Furniture

This log furniture is rustic and elegant at the same time. I'm not at all sure how they do it, but they do. Perhaps it is how they finish the furniture. There is a ginormous "throne" outside, large enough to seat two people comfortably (sorry, I did not remember to take a photo of it). When I went inside, I found gorgeous tables, chairs, and benches. 

This light-colored bench was one of my favorite pieces of furniture. The size is perfect for a smaller home or deck. I am not a woodworking expert so I'll likely use the wrong terminology, but I love the "chunkiness" and how solid the piece is. The color of the wood and the shine of the finish is gorgeous.

This table was AMAZING. I love the tree trunk legs and the varying colors of the table. If the photo enlarges sufficiently, maybe you will be able to see the carve dips of the table edge and chair backs.  I loved that little addition. A smaller version of this is exactly what I've been imagining for my tiny dining area.

a cropped photo of a chair back for detail

Bent River Woodworks Chainsaw Carvings

Each trip past the store, I have noticed more chainsaw carved critters. I have always been drawn to things such as totems (they have one inside) and chainsaw carvings. So I was thrilled to stop and take a closer look at what they create.  

Ken, one of the chainsaw artists, was there and was very helpful and pleasant. He explained that this bear cub is part of different sections of an item. I adore this baby cub and as I mentioned, I want one lounging on my deck at some point. 

The details and finish are visually pleasing. Ken said that they do quite a bit of custom work.  Rather than ramble on, trying to explain how wonderful these carvings are, I'll just add some photographs.

Even though I did not think this store would have suitable furniture for my new place, I find that I was wrong. Not only could they (and would they) custom make something sized to fit my needs, they also make the exact type of chainsaw carvings that I've admired and added to my wish list years ago. Yes, at the risk of being redundant, I really want one of those baby bear statues lounging on my deck. And am happy to find ones that are carved in the more realistic style that I prefer. 

Related Bent River Woodworks and Capon Bridge Links:

For more photos and information, be sure to check out their Bent River Woodworks facebook page

They also have a website and on that website you'll find a photo of the store (pre-awning days) and that beautiful, ginormous, wooden throne.  Check it out here

*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.