Author Archives: unconventionalfarmhouse

Bring On 2015

 

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

 

2014-11-26 23.39.28Hello!  We’re back!  With the busy time of year you may not have even noticed we were gone, but we took a “holiday hiatus” so we could celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and get ready to ring in the New Year by focusing on our family.  We breaked from both blogging and blog worthy projects (except food, we created lots of food and we definitely missed some good culinary and libation blogging opportunities.)  However, we’ve had  a relaxed and blessed holiday season.  With that being said we have missed our projects and we have missed our blog and we’re excited to be back.  The project list is long, but we’re excited to jump in and tackle them.  Maybe (just maybe) a few snow days along the way will gift us more time to work on our list.  Regardless, we look forward to creating and sharing in 2015.  In 2014 we launched this blog and for those of you who have been reading all along thanks so much!  For those of you who are new here we look forward to sharing 2015 with you.  We wish you the best in the new year!

We didn’t get Christmas cards created and out this year.  So below is our electronic version of that.  We’re kind of old-fashioned sometimes and love getting and receiving Christmas cards the old-fashioned way.  However, it takes so much time to get them ready, printed, addressed, mailed and it is so expensive.  Not to mention the trees that are sacrificed for the process.  So…in the spirit of simplifying this Christmas to focus more on our family and the real reason for the season we proudly present to you our electronic holiday wishes.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

Aaron, Kelli, Greer & Ella Rose Barnett

 

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See you in 2015!

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The Best of You: Carol’s Hoosier Cabinet Redo

We have always loved Hoosier cabinets at the Unconventional Farmhouse.  Anytime we run across one up for grabs somewhere we always linger over it and covet it, but we never walk away with it.  One day we will grab one up, I’m sure of it. But for now we always seem to have more pressing needs so we will just live vicariously through others.  (For the record you have our permission to go ahead and send us info if you happen to know of one for sale for a great price in our local area- who knows maybe the timing will be just right.)  A Hoosier cabinet is a cupboard that was popular in the first decades of the 20th century.  They are named after the Hoosier Manufacturing Company even though there are other companies who made them as well.  They fell from popularity when built in cabinets became the kitchen norm.

There are many Hoosier cabinets out there that are beautiful in their current condition, and then there are plenty that are in need of a facelift.  Carol Pettijohn sent us this Hoosier cabinet make over and we couldn’t wait to share it with you.  It combines two of our favorite things: (1) A beautiful piece of history dying to be upcycled and (2) Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.

This is what Carol told us about her cabinet:

“This is an antique Hoosier cabinet that I inherited from my aunt years ago. I’ve always wanted to use it, but never knew how I wanted to fix it up to use in my home.  It has been sitting in my garage for about 10 years.  I finally decided to use Annie Sloan chalk paint- old white and duck egg blue. I love the results and it’s something I can always remember her by!”

Carol's Before Photo

Carol’s Before Photo

Carol's Stunning After Photo

Carol’s Stunning After Photo

A little sweat equity sure can go a long way!  Thanks for sharing Carol- we LOVE your project.

-Kelli

P.S. We would love to share your best stuff with our readers.  Check out this post on how to send those wonderful ideas in: https://unconventionalfarmhouse.com/2014/10/20/announcing-the-best-of-you/

Our Obligatory Pumpkin Post

 

 Photo Oct 12, 8 24 30 PM

This post is not about pumpkins. It’s about what to do with the various bits and pieces of pumpkins. We always enjoy creating our jack-o-lanterns each year around the end of October, and the last few years our daughter, Ella Rose, has decided that each of us needed to create our own jack-o-lanterns. You know, just to be fair. Of course this means a big mess and several bowls full of “leftovers.” I actually wasn’t even looking for ideas using our leftovers, but instead I stumbled on a really interesting idea that seemed like it would be worth a shot. The idea came from one of my favorite websites called instructables. This is a great site which is basically a community blog that anyone can contribute to. I have found instructions for difficult tasks such as building outdoor pizza ovens as well as instructions for such mundane tasks as how to clean and shine shoes. It really is a great source for any DIYer. The idea that captured my imagination was when I saw the title of an instructable called “pumpkin liqueur.” Just let those words sink in a bit…..that’s correct, pumpkin flavored booze….I believe no further convincing is required so I will continue. The instructable I used was this one. It has links to instructions for juicing a pumpkin (more on that later) and it covers the bottling of the liqueur as well.

To pursue this dream elixir I needed to get my hands on some fresh pumpkin. Of course this time of year you can’t throw a rock without hitting a pumpkin, but where could I get the best product and still be mindful of the size of my wallet and my environmental impact? The answer to these produce questions is usually the same.

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Just about any local farmers market will have several varieties of pumpkins from early October until after the Halloween holiday.  Not to mention that every time we have bought pumpkins from local farmers the price is about half compared to a big box or grocery store and I’m sure the quality is superior, especially since we were planning to consume a majority of our orange gourds. The great thing about this little project was we were going to use nearly every portion of the pumpkins. We would be creating jack-o-lanterns, roasting seeds, and using the guts and any excess flesh to make our juice and the magical elixir.

This will be my version of how we made our Pumpkin drink and some changes and struggles we had along the way.

For this creation we needed:

Guts and extra flesh from at least 4 pumpkins

1/4 teas ground ginger
1/4 teas ground cloves
1/4 teas ground allspice
pinch ground nutmeg
2-4″cinnamon sticks
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

I’m sure many of you have had the pleasure of gutting pumpkins. There are a million techniques but it all really comes down to elbow grease. We started by pulling all the insides out and separating the flesh and the seeds

Gut em!

Gut ’em!

 

Helpers helping

Helpers helping…

 

Just go for it!

Just go for it!

We always enjoy roasting our seeds. We spray the seeds down with olive oil, pour onto a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil, and then add a sprinkle of salt. Stick them in the oven at 350 for 20-40 mins depending on how roasted you like them. Easy. This year we experimented a bit with our seasoning and did several batches using Old Bay seasoning. We all loved how it turned out!

Yes Please.

Yes, Please.

That's the stuff

That’s the stuff!

Our next step was carving. We purchased a kit from the store for the occasion. It worked out well because the tools are created to be used by children and are much more safe than kitchen knifes. The designs included are also a bonus.

Focus young lantern learner

Focus young lantern learner.

Future artist. No doubt

Future artist. No doubt.

While the young ‘uns carved I began to ponder the best way to wring juice out of a pumpkin. We tried several techniques. I tried stewing the flesh to help break it down and release more moisture, I tried using our 10-year-old veggie juicer and I tried using cheese cloth to drain the guts. My best results came when I added a few cups of water to the guts and then stewed them on low heat for several minutes. This process helped add liquid to the pumpkin and the heating help release even more. After heating the guts I added them to the veggie juicer and let it rip. (I must add that at I did manage to completely destroy the juicer during my second batch, but to be fair it was almost dead before I even started due to age.)  In the future I’ll have to come up with an alternative method. (Or buy another juicer.)

Stew it up

Stew it up.

You like the juice?

You like the juice?

After juicing it was time to start cooking. The measurements I used are for adding to 4 cups of pumpkin juice. I added the spices (not the sugar) and then boiled the juice for several minutes to infuse the spices into the juice and to sanitize the product as well. After cooking I drained the juice through a cheese cloth to eliminate some of the solids left over by the spices. I then added that juice back to the pot again and then added the sugars. Next I heated it until the sugars had dissolved making this a “not so simple syrup.”

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I can almost smell it now.

Witches Pot?

Witches Pot?

 

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The Elixir of Fall!

After dissolving the sugar the result is a very delicious syrup that can be the highlight to many different drink combinations. At this point you could continue to follow the instructions on the original recipe and make proper liqueur but I decided to leave the syrup as is so we could make a variety of drink sensations. Here are some of our favorites.

Bubbly Punkin’

3 tbsp pumpkin syrup

1 tbsp vodka

3/4 cup sparkling wine

Pumpkin Tea (Greer’s favorite)

Glass of unsweet tea (decaf for our son, but that’s your choice)

2 tbsp pumpkin syrup

Pumpkin Coffee (move over Starbucks)

Make your coffee and add the syrup (Have you seen all the bad stuff on the ingredients list of store bought pumpkin coffee?  Yikes!)

Southern Pumpking

2 fingers of bourbon

a splash of syrup

1 ice cube

We really enjoy our little piece of autumn in a jar, but to create this syrup from scratch did require some effort.  It was worth it and we will be revisiting this creation for many falls to come.

-Aaron

P.S. Tomorrow will be the day after Halloween!  What better day to get a pumpkin on sale??!

 

 

 

 

Mummy Lantern Making Pinterest Success

I wish all Pinterest stories were success stories, but unfortunately they are not. There are lots of awesome Pinterest Fail articles circulating out there.

Like this one from Buzzfeed:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/readcommentbackwards/31-horrendous-pinterest-fail-monstrosities-dmjk

And this one from Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/27/pinterest-food-fails-pictures_n_2199732.html

And here is a whole website called epicpintersetfail.com that has the sole purpose of documenting Pinterest Fails:

http://epicpinterestfail.com/

However, in the interest of spreading good cheer here is a success story!

I recently became a Girl Scout leader (there’s a whole story there that begins with me and a friend declaring we would never sign up for such a time-consuming task that culminated in us both being co-troop leaders a few weeks later, but that is not the point here) and I needed a quick and easy Halloween craft that would make our first meeting of our brand new troop fun. I needed something I could do with 10 girls, that wouldn’t take too long and would result in something cool so they could get excited about becoming a scout. We originally considered painting pumpkins, but decided we wanted something new. So, I did what all of you would do, I consulted Pinterest. I quickly found a pin with an article from babble titled 25 Ghoulishly Easy Halloween Kids Crafts that gave me some fun ideas.

You can check out that babble article here:
http://www.babble.com/crafts-activities/25-ghoulishly-easy-halloween-kids-crafts/

After perusing all of these great ideas I thought mummy lanterns fit the bill. I followed the post and found a great new blog called Crafting a Green World. We like to be as green as possible here at the Unconventional Farmhouse so I can’t wait to go back and read more from this blog. Here is the link to their mummy lantern post and I hope while you’re there you will read other things they have to say:

http://craftingagreenworld.com/2011/09/23/how-to-mummified-glass-jar-candle-holder/

Although this craft idea isn’t original to us we thought we’d give due credit and share it with our readers too. The craft was simple. First Ella Rose and I did a test run the night before and then all the girls went to town in their meeting. They LOVED it and I would definitely recommend it to all those of you looking for a great Halloween craft.

The materials are packed up and ready for the Girl Scout meeting!

The materials are packed up and ready for the Girl Scout meeting.

For the jars we used:

  • Mason Jars (various sizes)
  • Rolled Gauze (From the local pharmacy first aid isle)
  • Flour
  • Water

In individual bowls the girls mixed flour and water and stirred it with spoons until it was a liquidy paste consistency.  Then each girl took a strip of gauze and dunked it in their bowl until it was completely covered.  They then wrapped their jars with gauze.  It made a mess, but they pushed up their sleeves and got over it quickly.  They laughed when they thought about the fact that it’s the same ingredients they use for cookies!  For these reasons keeping our clothes clean wasn’t a concern.  They then put their mummy on a plate and went and washed their hands.  We didn’t give any dry time before completing the next step.

 

Messy, messy, messy!

Messy, messy, messy!

 

For the face we used:

  • Construction Paper (mostly black, but a few wanted to add a twist)
  • Hole Punchers (some wanted to punch out holes to add to their face creations)
  • Elmer’s Glue (squirted onto a plate to share)
  • Small Craft Sticks (to apply glue)
She is getting the face ready.

She is getting the face ready.

Adding her own design.

Adding her own design.

The girls chose whether they wanted creepy, silly, scary, funny or whatever their heart’s desired and they started cutting out faces accordingly. They glued them on with Elmer’s glue. We let them dry overnight and by the end of school the next day they came running at me like a herd of excited Girl Scouts to pick up their mummy lanterns.

Happy girl!

Happy girl!

When they got home they got to have their parents light the tea candle I put inside each one for a mummy lantern effect.  Isn’t it nice when success can be simple?

They look great in a group!

They look great in a group!

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Our unconventional mummy lanterns on display.

Our unconventional mummy lanterns on display.

Have a safe and fun Halloween,

Kelli

Building a Row Cover (aka Mini Greenhouse)

We consider ourselves avid gardeners but throughout the years we came to a realization that even though we enjoyed our dirt from April to August there were many more ways to utilize our little piece of the third rock. We started by expanding our options and squeezing raised beds into almost every nook and cranny we could find. A strawberry bed here and a whiskey barrel there and we had just about gone as far as we could go and still remain within our garden fenced boarders.

Bursting at the seams.

Bursting at the seams.

Next we started utilizing more of the growing season, instead of putting in tomatoes and peppers some time at the beginning of May we were planting carrot, lettuce, greens and pea seeds in mid March. These were all foods we loved so making a little extra effort was a no brainer. After we figured out the beginning of the growing season we began to realize there was still plenty of good sunshine left after the tomatoes had given up their last red balls of summer time joy. We started slow by adding a few additional collards or kale plants. This year we had a couple of beds go though 3 different plantings. One bed started the year with lettuce, then came the beans, now its home to some happy spinach. There are several varieties of greens and plants in the cabbage family that will continue to grow well after the frost starts to show up, but one of our favorite treats (home grown lettuce) will turn a lovely shade of “NO!” as soon as that first bit of frost starts to settle on the ground. Obviously someone needed to figure out a way to keep the crunchy goodness growing well into the holiday season. If only there was some tool that allowed people to access information they previously had limited knowledge of. Maybe a data base that was transmitted through the air directly to some kind of control device which is operated by entering queries into a system designed to locate said information that is only applicable to the specific needs of the searcher. Oh well, maybe sometime in the future when cars drive themselves and everyone has phones that can talk. For now all we have to work with is Google and Pinterest.

I am motivated in many ways. I enjoy things that taste good, I like creating with my hands, and I enjoy a challenge, but one of my most potent motivations is the desire to make the wifey happy. So it was very important to me to try and figure out a way to extend our growing season even further into the frosty months. We had successfully stretched out our growing opportunities but the next step would require a little help that Mother Nature could not provide. We needed a way to protect our fresh little greens from the elements but at the same time still provide them with all the tools they needed to continue to flourish well past the time other plants wilted and went to see the big lettuce head in the sky. We needed row covers. Similar to a mini greenhouse, row covers are meant to protect plants but still provide them with space, light and water that they need to flourish. Think ‘greenhouse that only goes waist high’. Because we had raised beds the process of installing a row cover would be much less difficult. The sides of the beds provide a distinct edge that acts not only as a measuring point but also an anchoring point that should give the cover more stability. After scouring the web (my favorite!!!) we decided that for our first attempt we should go with a PVC frame and a cover made of simple, white, plastic. There are many positive aspects about working with PVC as a frame material. PVC is very inexpensive and can be found at most home improvement and hardware stores, and even Walmart. PVC is also easy to manipulate, it cuts easily with a hand saw and is very flexible. We decided to try an arched design that uses larger PVC pipes driven into the ground as foundations, or anchors, and smaller diameter pipes that would slide into the foundation pieces then bend over and slide into the opposite side. The idea is to create an arch that the plastic can then simply lay on top of.

My first course of action was to measure the distance between the sides of each garden bed and then I needed to guesitmate the correct length of pipe to arch over the beds. Luckily I decided that the standard 5 foot length found in most stores would be perfect for our situation. We also determined that 4 mil thick plastic row cover would be perfect for our needs.

The victim...I mean the patient.

The victim…I mean the patient.

Inexpensive materials makes the wallet happy.

Inexpensive materials makes the wallet happy.

 

Next up was cutting the pieces that would be anchored into the ground as well as into the sides of the wooden bed frames. These pieces needed to be big enough so that the arched section would easily slide down into them. We used 1″ diamater pipes for the anchor points and 1/2″ for the arched section.

 

Measure 27 times cut once. Hopefully!

Measure 27 times cut once. Hopefully!

The anchors were cut to about 1 foot then driven into the ground 6 inches leaving 6 inches sticking out

The anchors were cut to about 1 foot in length then driven into the ground 6 inches leaving 6 inches sticking out.

After securing the 8 anchor points by driving them into the ground and putting a screw through them into the bed frame I began making the arches.

Bendy!

Bendy!

Very Bendy!!!

Very Bendy!!!

Building arches, piece of cake. What's the big deal Roman Empire!!?

Building arches, piece of cake. What’s the big deal Roman Empire!!?

Once the arches were set all that needed to be done was to measure, cut, and attach the plastic cover.

We applied the whole piece of plastic then just cut it to our needs.

We applied the whole piece of plastic then just cut it to our needs.

 

We doubled over the plastic to give it more strength, then use wood staple to secure one side

We doubled over the plastic to give it more strength, then used wood staples to secure one side

We used an 8' long extra piece of PVC on the other side as a "handle"

We used an 8′ long extra piece of PVC on the other side as a “handle”

 

Again we doubled this over and secured it with duck tape.

Again we doubled this over and secured it with duck tape.

The design we came up with made it very easy for us to cover and uncover the bed. The long PVC “handle” allows us to simply grab one side and easily take the entire cover off the frame in one easy motion.

uncovering:

…and covering is just as easy…

 

 

Overall I would rate this project as very worthwhile and easy to complete. It may take us a few seasons to figure out all of the ways to use our new beds with their new fancy covers but I’m sure it will lengthen our gardening season.

 

-Aaron

Announcing The Best Of You

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We get messages and emails all the time sharing the awesome things you guys are doing! Because we know you have many great ideas and projects that are worth sharing we have decided to start a new “The Best of You” Section! We want you to send us your projects…big and small that we can share. Don’t be afraid to put it out there! Sometimes the simplest projects are the most rewarding because anyone can do them and they plant the seed of inspiration. The big projects can be great because they make us all go “WOW”, and even though we might not be able to recreate it, we can certainly glean inspiration from it. We want them both, big or small! We would love to see what you’re doing in a variety of categories…home décor, diy, construction, gardening, arts and crafts, kiddo ideas, cooking, canning, handy fix it tips, anything, everything, all those things! Please share and help us build a community of idea sharing! Your ideas can be original or borrowed (the best ones usually are) and both are acceptable!

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Here’s how you contribute:

*Email us at unconventionalfarmhouse@gmail.com

*Attach photo(s) that are good quality (email the highest resolution you can even if you need to send multiple emails). Don’t stress if the photos are not perfect, ours certainly are not and we know this is a weakness of our blog right now. (It actually held us back from starting for a long while until we changed our mindset to just jump in and figure things out as we go.)

*Answer the following questions: Where did your idea come from? How did you do it? Why do you love it? Are there any websites or people out there we need to link to your post for original idea credit? Tell us a quick blurb about you and where you live. What else do you want to share about it? Don’t feel pressured to fit any kind of format, you can keep it short and sweet or you can be long winded it’s up to you!

*Optional: send us your photo (or one of you and your family) to personalize it.

*Send it in any format you wish and we can tweak it. Don’t be afraid!

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Thanks for helping us meet our goal (sharing the creation of….stuff!)

Happy projecting,
Kelli & Aaron

Dilly Beans…A Family Favorite!

I have always LOVED pickles! When I was a kid my sister made me drink pickle juice blindfolded (I have friends who can vouch for this) and I LOVED it! I come from a long line of pickle lovers too. However, I had never had “dilly beans” until I visited Aaron’s Granny & Papaw Barnett’s house in Roan Mountain, Tennessee (almost 20 years ago now) when we were dating. It only took one sample to fall in LOVE with this family favorite…and this family! I was hooked! Aaron’s sweet Granny and his sweet Mom have been feeding my addiction ever since. I’ve made these “blessings in a jar” a few times before in small quantities, but this year my son Greer wanted to make our own 10 pint batch so we could have LOTS of dilly beans on hand. Who was I to argue with that logic? After looking at various recipes from family members, Greer and I decided on a version that is mostly Aaron’s mom’s recipe, but slightly “kicked up a notch” meaning this would be an extra spicy batch. If you are interested in a more tame dilly bean experience just don’t use as much jalapeno.

So by request here is our 10 pint recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 lbs green beans
  • 9 cups of white distilled vinegar
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 1/2 cup of salt (we use kosher salt)
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper cut into long slices
  • 13 tsp of dill seed
  • 10 whole garlic cloves
  • 5 diced garlic cloves
  • 5 diced jalepeno peppers
  • 10 pint jars and 10 lids
Don't you love eating things that you know began with fresh ingredients in your kitchen?

Don’t you love eating things that you know began with fresh ingredients in your kitchen?

Directions:

Wash the jars in hot water and set aside.

Blanch the green beans by boiling a pot of water, dumping the beans in, covering for 3 minutes, taking the beans out and then submerging in a big bowl of ice water for 3 minutes.  (I don’t cut them or trim the tips- just leave them whole.)

Don't get burned when you remove them from heat!

Don’t get burned when you remove them from heat!

The ice water stops them from over cooking.

The ice water stops them from over cooking.

Stuff the empty washed jars with blanched green beans.  Put a couple of slices of the red bell pepper in each jar.  Also put 1 whole, peeled garlic clove and 1 tsp of dill seed in each jar.

A good helper always makes this more fun!

A good helper always makes this more fun!

Chop it into long strips.

Chop it into long strips.

Getting close!

Getting close!

In a pot combine the vinegar, water and salt and bring to a boil while stirring until the salt is dissolved.

Greer is stirring our salt until it dissolves.

Greer is stirring our salt until it dissolves.

Remove from heat and stir in the 5 diced garlic cloves, 5 diced jalepeno peppers, and the remaining 3 tsp of dill seed.  Using a funnel poor this mixture into each jar stopping just below the bottom of the jar’s neck.

Careful!  It's hot!

Careful! It’s hot!

Next boil the lids of the jars in a separate pot.

In your hot water canner (or a giant pot) put water on high heat.  You will need enough water to cover the cans by a couple of inches.  You can guess to start off with and add more water after you get the cans in.

Remove the lids from the boiling water and put them on the jars and attach the screw on rings.  Lightly shake up the contents and place in the hot water canner before the water inside begins to boil.  If you need to add a little more water to cover the cans go for it.

Bring it to a boil.

Bring it to a boil.

Put the lid on the canner (or big pot) and bring to a boil.  Allow cans to boil for 10 minutes then remove from heat and let cool.

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Remove carefully!

You should hear the lids “pop” as they seal.

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Wowie, Wow, Wow, Wow!

And finally…by far the most difficult step….wait at least two weeks to enjoy the full flavored effect!

After you devour a jar of dilly beans don’t throw it out!  We slice up a cucumber and add to the beanless jar to make what we call “quick pickles”…after a few days in the fridge they are yummy.  We actually reuse our brine several times this way…they will be a little more weak each round so when they begin to lose their flavor and/or the brine turns cloudy then its time to toss it. Now hurry up and can those dilly beans before it is too late!

Quick Pickle Yumminess

Quick Pickle Yumminess

-Kelli

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