Welcome to the Lazy Dog Ranch!

We hope you will find inspiration, information and most of all humor as we share our adventures in advancing a more sustainable lifestyle in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


SNOW!   It is the legendary stuff of songs and the perfect fluffy finish to the Holidays.

We have a White Christmas and what a beauty it is-  the snow was falling Christmas Morn and still continues the day after- coating everything in muffled silence.

Everything is cozy and warm inside and we have made several trips outside to revel in the snow. 

The roads are silent, the animals snug in their little hidey holes - our ladies are not really happy about having snow in their coop and have expressed their outrage with cackles and lack of eggs.

We see little birdy track and bunny hops in the snow and our kitties are too comfy in the garage to even care.  The dogs romp for a few minutes and are ready to return inside for a warm toasty bed.... ahhhh snow!

Karl spent a few hours trying to beat the snow off our cypress trees to avoid the ugly splitting we had last year.  The results of his 40+ tree-whacking tirade are yet to be determined- stay tuned. 

Mom made it home yesterday shortly before they closed I 40 in Mc Dowell County.  Our good bud Bob stopped in on his way today from Knoxville to Fairview- defiant that he will be able to catch a flight out to San Diego tomorrow.  We wish him safe travels but are so happy that we have no where to be but home, enjoying the weather.

Stay warm and cozy- but take some time to walk in this Winter Wonderland!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Too bad dogs can't read

Too bad Dogs can't read!

Ahhhhh the memories.  Our first project as a married couple lo these 7 years ago was to install a huge fenced- in yard for the dogs on the Lazy Dog Ranch.  The pups now boast a big area with trees and an indoor/outdoor run.  Karl electrified the fence a foot off the ground to dissuade digging and thus far- we have yet to have an escapee. 

It was a fine summer day in 2003 when we cranked on the voltage.  The wire had been strung a few days before and we watched the cats - Cletus and Roscoe rub their backs on the wire- like we had purposefully installed a "cat level backscratcher"    Now our cats are twins so one would assume the same level of intellegence- and we have simple found this is not so.  Roscoe immediately noted a hum on the wire and gingerly stepped aside.  Cletus- well he decided to do the ole rub- got a good dose of electric shock thearpy and proceeded to race around the enclosure like a racehorse with every little white hair standing on end.  Karl and I were there to witness this feat only previously seen in cartoons and we laughed until we cried.

That wire has not been necessary for over a year.  Recently, Sammie, the wee little Cocker Spaniel decided that he was going to try and dig out in multiple areas.  So Karl turned on the voltage and poor Sammie proceeded to imitate Cletus today in a yelping, screeching rant around the yard.

 Sammie has recovered and let us pray this will protect him from escape and potential harm.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tis The Season

Our challenge to you this holiday season- find new and creative ways to help those in need.

As my niece Anna asked in her Christmas Letter to Santa ( mailed today)  "Please take care of the poar people"   Hey - at age 7 if she is concerned about others above her toy requests- perhaps we older folks need a wakeup call!

We have contributed to the "routine charities" this season and somehow, this year it did not seem enough.  We are so thankful to still have our health, our jobs and our families - we just felt like we needed to do more.

It does not always have to be money or "things"-  For Example:  I reassured an older gentleman who has no other family that if he should pass ( he just lost his wife) that I promised to care and find homes for his 4 cats.  The promise will stand and the reassurance was free but it meant the world to him to know that his fur kiddies would be cared for.  

Is there someone in your neighborhood or church who may need a little TLC?  Your time and elbow grease are free- but the result may be worth it's weight in gold to those who cannot tend to the heavier tasks.  Does someone plan to spend the holidays alone? Do you have an extra place at the dinner table?

Perhaps you are more comfortable with the furry persuasion?  Karl and I are going to try and help out at our local Horse Rescue- STAR Ranch. http://www.star-ranch-rescue.com/index.htm

Wish us luck- we go out Thursday to see what we can do to help out over the holidays when help is thin and hope to be able to continue to help.  We do not have the facilities for larger animals but the desire is there to offer some love and affection to those in need.  I fear we may come home with goats and a horse :)

Stay Tuned and be creative in your holiday charity this season!  There are many ways to offer love and peace to the citizens of the earth be they human or furry!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Holidays

One of my resolutions is to pick this back up again- I have signed up for a writing class through UNC-A so we will see if perhaps my prose improves:

We try so hard not to write one of those droll letters so here was my attempt at humor :)

Happy hollerdays from the Lazy Dog Ranch!

Daisy here- a quick note to let you know that Karl and shannon are alive and well but too lazy to write a letter- so they allowed me to slobber up the keyboard to wish our friends and family a wonderful christmas and a healthy and happy new year.

This year has been blissfully peaceful. I finally limped and gimped enough to get a new dog bed- and I am allowed indoors when it gets below freezing. However, I cannot seem to convince mamma that wearing cat crap smells good so she bathes me whenever I roll in it ( which is every chance I git)

Jesse, Sonny, Sammie and the kitties are enjoying a new cedar and pine kennel and remain healthy.

We have had a great time continuing our homesteading adventure in the mountains and try to write about our forays into sustainability and they are usually more humorous than productive.

Shannon hopes to resume her blog now things have slowed down- so if you want to see what is up on the farm check us out


This year we are thankful for our friends and family.

The "new Normal" in this economy has brought us closer and increased appreciation for what we do have.

shannon and Karl have enjoyed- sharing crops with neighbors, reusing and repurposing, and discovering new modes of entertainment- like stump burning parties in the neighbors yard and turning the garage into a disco to host the Surgical Services Christmas Party.

We wish you in 2011 the bounties of good health, good friends and an appreciation for what we all have

Monday, October 4, 2010

Where did the time go?

Has it really been 2 months... things are finally slowing down and I must admit- after a banner year of Maters--- I am GLAD we are expecting frost becuase I am SO TIRED OF PICKIN MATERS.  I have dehydrated them, canned, made salsa and given away more maters....

Our pantry is well stocked and we await the fall and winter, the cool is now in the air and the leaves are changing.  Perhaps now the flurry of summer activity is over- I can concentrate on writing again.

My niece Anna is now reading and I look forward to sharing life on the farm with her while she is away in Raleighwood!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dawg Days

OK friends and famblie-  you have complained of no recent postings- so I am summoning the energy to write. 

Simply put - it is HOT and DRY and we are dyin'!   I have become soft since moving to the mountains- now when it gets above 85- I want winter back!  We have been less earth friendly and have had to turn on our AC.  The entire area is suffering from the heat and as we learned on the news- our area is in a little pocket with NO RAIN!  We have drained the cistern and had to choose which veggies we want the most and selectively water those.  No matter how hot and dry it is- the darn weeds still manage to thrive.  Wonder which ones of those we can eat?  Why aren't we grafting veggies onto crabgrass roots like we graft roses and trees to stronger rootstock?  Hmmmm 

The poor pups are so hot and we are sad to have to take out one of their shade trees soon-  our beautiful Chestnut is splitting at the base and threatens the house, garage and fencing, not to mention the dogs if they happen to be underneath. 

Daisy tries to convince us that she needs to be inside where it is cool- you see her sulking at the top.  The other pooches have been shaved for the summer.  Jessie has dug himself a nice baby pool sized hole in the dog lot which he curls up in to cool off.  It becomes muddy with our 30 second showers and he comes out looking more like an adobe brick than a lab- but he is happy even if encased in mud.  That is the nice thing about that dog lot- it is their space to be dogs- and they can dig, pee and chew to their hearts content.

This summer I have experienced a malaise much like when I had mono.  We have all had "it" and are unsure if it is an illness, the heat or perhaps some celestial cause - like the sun spots :)

I must rouse myself from the funk and get back to work.

Stay cool ya'll

Monday, July 12, 2010

Views from the Homestead

Tangled Up In Blue- The Challenges of Birdnetting

Anna in the Blueberry Patch

I wonder when Bob Dylan wrote Tangled Up In Blue if he was thinking about the challenges of bird netting?Of course not-  but the song has come to mind over the last few weeks as we harvest GALLONS of the yummy treats from our 6 meager Highbush blueberries. 

Each year- we contrive a netting scenario to keep the birds out and give us ease of picking.  Each year- I find more things I HATE about the darn stuff.  If it is not my buttons getting stuck in the netting it is a hair barette- and let me tell you folks- getting your hair pulled out by the roots is no fun when already sweating under a berry bush!  Two years ago we came home from vacation to find a black snake trapped in the mesh and he was well rotted.... EEEEWWWW!

My niece Anna is up for 2 weeks and could not wait to dive in and eat more than she picked-  It was not long until I heard cries for help as her pants button was stuck in the netting.

I tried to convince myself the netting was not necessary until I viewed the copious amounts of bird poop that have accumulated on the bars holding the netting in place.  Little rascals are just sitting up there waiting for a chance to break in!.

Anna has returned to us this year at age 6 with a whole new set of phobias!  Apparently by age 6 I had also developed a fear of all things buggy.  While she has never been stung, she is deathly afraid of bees.  Any slight buzzing sends her into a running, flailing fit - which I might add is difficult to do when trapped under bird netting but quite humorous to behold.

So, last night, Aunt Shannon convinced her that singing songs would scare the bees away-  what it accomplished- well she could not hear the bees over the melodic stylings of Ole Suzannah, Daisy Daisy and many other childhood favorites.  Since Auntie Shannon used to into fits of catatonia over bugs, I can hardly talk can I?  I have tried to educate her about honeybees and beneficial insects- but right now they are all "gross".  This is the same kid who took great pleasure in mashing tater beetles and squash bugs in her fingers.

Today our drought like conditions have ended with some much needed rain- so I guess it is time to go out and weed.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Summer Solstice!

Today marks the longest day of the year and I still feel like I could not get enough done before daylight waned.  We have been in a real hot spell over the last 10 days and rain is nowhere to be seen.  The 90 degree days make it hard to work with any speed and we find ourselves drained before days end.

Karl and I have put the rain cistern to good use and have watered our crops and berries with over 500 gallons of collected rainwater so far this year.  While gravity watering is slower, it allows me time to weed while giving the plants a good soak.  So far our biggest nemesis is a rash of poison ivy scattered around the farm- we are debating methods to get rid of it and would welcome any suggestions!

However you have chosen to celebrate the longest day of the year we hope it was a good one!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Recovering from Lightnin Strike


We had a freak super storm cell hit 2 weeks ago while at work. Mom thought she heard a crack over at our place- but when we came home - no clocks blinking, power was on-  that is until we tried to use the compter and then the TV. 

When I went out to see the pups, they were prancing about with huge chunks of bark in their mouths and it became evident that the point of impact was a maple tree in our dog yard.  Thank goodness we did not have pup-kabobs!

After hours of sleuthing we deduced the surge ran in on the phone line and fried our computer and DSL modem. Our satellite reciever was also affected

I won't deny the absence of connection the the outside world was not fun, but it is a challenge when one tries to work from home.

Of course life at the ranch has been packed with the impending summer- weeding.  We have had record heat and until today all the major thunderstorms have passed by leaving the land parched.

Just when you think you are fed up with Mother Nature- she brings the much needed water, cool after storm breezes and oh yes!  Art in the form of a huge rainbow.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Treatise on Ironing Sheets

I am very excited this week to prepare for a visit from my Auntie Cheryl and my Meemaw.  Meemaw is my only living grandparent, and I want to make sure this is a comfortable, special visit for her.

The preparations have been full of excited hustle and bustle and a good excuse to do some late spring cleaning.  While many folks find cleaning a drudgery, I find it relaxing to care for our little spot of heaven on this earth.  So I was happily humming, dusting, organizing and leaving behind order out of chaos until the sad realization hit me.  Oh God, the sheets!

Meemaw is very particular about her bedding- her bed was The Crown Jewel of Order in her household.  As kids, we were never allowed on her bed after it was made every morning.  Her bed never had a wrinkle or a seam out of place.  You could dent a quarter on the darn thing.  One of my most fond memories is of my Dad - running in her bedroom to waller and roll around on her bed like a dog rolling in cow shit.  He LOVED  to "mess it up".  She would get so aggravated with him!

The creation of Meemaws guest bed has been a labor of love. I had a good excuse to replace our well loved and worn knit sheets with new, crisp white cotton.  Washed in lavender soap and line dried in the sun...   ahhh images of June Cleaver and Martha Stewart danced in my head as I ventured out to retrieve the dry sheets.  

Then the horror of it all dawned....  They weren't billowing beautifully in the fresh mountain air!  The damn things were WRINKLED.   Did I mention Meemaw also IRONS her sheets?

So choking back my inner Erma Bombeck who sagely said 

"No one ever died from sleeping in an unmade bed. I have known mothers who remake the bed after their children do it because there is wrinkle in the spread or the blanket is on crooked. This is sick. "

I withdrew the iron from the back of the laundry cupboard, fished out the mini- ironing board from the depths of the closet, and proceeded to pour myself a large glass of white wine in an attempt to add some glamour to the task of ironing the sheets.  Sheets which looked great for 5 minutes and re-wrinkled because I do not, nor have I ever used- starch.

Now the bed is made, the rooms ready and while I am inclined to agree with Mrs. Bombeck, I feel I have at least made an attempt to make Meemaw's stay a comfortable one- despite my failure of Ironing 101.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Misty Morning Memories

I awakened with a start this morning- "Oh No-  did I remember to turn the crock pot off last night?"  After running downstairs and out to the back porch to confirm I had turned off the chili, I was much too awake to crawl back in bed.   We try to use the crock pot on the back porch in the summer to keep the heat out of the house- but sometimes out of sight is out of mind. 

I went about the morning chores - the dogs giving me sleepy looks as it was 6:30 and they like to sleep in on weekends too.  I made myself a cup of Earl Gray and savored one of Moms Cream Scones to break my fast.  Sunday mornings are my favorite- our community remains quiet- no mowers, trimmers, radios.  I am free to enjoy the sounds of the farm sans electronics and other people.  I will often find my mom doing the same thing on her porch- quietly enjoying nature.  Our inability to sleep in must be genetic.

Today the fog encompasses the landscape, muffling some sounds while accentuating the birdsong.  I can barely make out the outline of my mom's house just a few 100 yards away.

This weekend I have been thinking a lot about my dad, who passed away 3 years ago this very weekend from a sudden heart attack.  He would have been up on a morning like this- having a hot cup of tea or coffee.  In fact, this morning he would have been camping.  Dad would be the first one up, stoking a fire and preparing for breakfast.  First I would hear him pumping vigorously to prime that old Coleman fuel stove, then the hiss of the flame followed by the plunk of the percolator- no instant camping coffee for my dad!

Then we would hear breakfast- he had this really cool toaster ( I still have it) for the stove top.  We would have scrambled eggs, toast and sausages.  I remember our devastation one such morning when we discovered the coons had out foxed my dad by pulling an entire loaf of bread out of the small hand hole in his camping supplies box.  The toast was soooo good and never tastes like that at home!  Plus- camping was the only time we were treated to WHITE bread because everyone knows whole wheat bread makes for crappy camping toast.

Karl and I both have cause to remember this weekend- both losing a parent that same year.  We talk about them now with less sadness and now fondness and laughter as we share the stories.  I find now it is comforting to see some of my dad in myself.  Funny how as we age- it is OK to be more like our parents.  Now I am nearing 40 (ugh), all those traits and beliefs I hated as a teenager and young adult now make sense and I embrace many of them. 

All those years we scoffed at Mom's "hippie whole foods cooking" and Dad's "don't pay someone if you can do it yourself".  I can now cook ( tho not as good as mom) and help Karl tackle most of the repairs and work around the farm. 

On your Sunday Morning- I encourage you to take some time to quietly sit and think.  It does not matter if  you choose to worship in a building or in the great cathedral of nature, but I think it is imporant- even if you can't take the whole day to rest- grasp a few minutes to be thankful and remember.

Monday, May 17, 2010


It is not a good idea to get creative in the garden at dusk-  I had the bright idea this evening to increase my "vertical growth space" for maters, beans and cukes.

Earlier this spring, Karl and I cut 16 foot hogwire panels in half to make them easier to carry.  We had used them for a portable chicken pen.  Hogwire is heavy duty welded wire- wire the size of one's pinky.

So I have these panels laying round and got the bright idea to zip tie two in an arch and put them in my beds- arching over the pathway.  Suffice it to say the wire does not bend so I then got out the heavy duty green fence posts, post pounder and proceeded to pound in supports.  My plan was then to zip tie the panels to the posts in a secure arch.  It was totally gothic and so neat!

I had one zip tie not quite right and proceeded to cut it-  completely forgetting that I had to throw my shoulder into the wire to place the zip tie to the post.  So I cut it and....


It sprang off the post and smacked me at close range right in the face... right over my sore nose which I injured last week moving a step ladder.

Let's just hope I don't sport a fence wire shaped bruise on my face tomorrow- that will be a hard one to explain at work :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Plant Swap 2010 a Sunny Success!

The ladies came from near and far- all driven by a love of plants and a desire to share and acquire new specimens for gardens in Haywood Co, Winston-Salem and as far away as HotLanta!

I had the joy of hosting the annual plant swap this year and after a questionable morning, Saturday turned sunny with LOTS of wind.

The flurry of mulching, planting and weeding in the weeks prior was worth the effort- but I also had plenty of "Don't Plant This Demonstration Spaces" that I did not get around to polishing up prior to the party.... alas- there are only so many hours in a day!

After a wonderful potluck brunch- the girls walked around on a tour of the gardens and I was able to point out many of the plants shared from years past... there are pieces of my friends all over the gardens.   What a great legacy to share - knowlege, plants and lots of ideas!

Now the swap is over and the new tender plants are in the ground- the work of the summer veggie garden looms ahead.  The weather has been cold and rainy this week- hampering much needed work- but after years of drought- we can only afford to complain a wee mite.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Gathering - Merle Fest 2010

The lack of postings as of late reflects not only the pressing work of springtime, but also the need to prepare for our annual "Gathering".  MerleFest!  We have spent daylight hours tending the farm and nights packing and pickin' in preparation for the festivities.
I had some time to think on the drive home from a wonderful long weekend away-  about why Merle Fest is so special to many of us - and also why we are so sad when the event is over.

For ye Bluegrass Neophytes-  Merlefest is a music festival hosted the last weekend of April in the Brushy Mountains of North Wilkesboro, NC.  Check the link above and you may find it peaks your interest- good music, beautiful surroundings and proceeds go to a good cause.... edu-ma-ka-shun!
Each year a group of friends reunites at the Moravian Falls Campground to attend the music festival.  While the nidus of the group attended college together lo these many years ago, these folks have cast  wide their net and welcomed many others into the fold.  We hosted a few "MV's or Merle Virgins" this year and we hope they had fun and will return again!  We camp, laugh, cook, laugh, relax, laugh, make music, laugh ..... well you get the point.

The entire process is EXHAUSTING yet so uplifting to the spirit.

The concept of a Gathering harkens back to the history of settlement of our mountains by the Scots and Irish.  Many travelled here to the moutains escaping persecution and famine.  "Gatherings" were a chance for far flung people who farmed this rough terrain to reconnect to the homeland.  Highland Games and Scottish Clan Gatherings are still held in Grandfather Mountain and Tryon NC each year.

This year we had folks from CA, RI, OR, FL, PA, TX, NY and all over NC!  New friendships were made and old ones rekindled.  Merlefest provides great music and a chance to reconnect with each other away from TV and the many distractions of life.  We may not come together under the aegis of the same tartan or country- but we join for a love of music.

I encourage you all to find your own Gathering- a place you can go to connect, recharge and have fun.

Stay tuned-  no rest for the weary- next weekend we are hosting a Plant Swap on the farm! 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Power Tools and the Joys of Recycling

Karl and I decided to take a break yesterday from outdoor work to focus on the projects which are currently taking up the car park spaces in the garage. 

Quiz of the day:    How many of you actually PARK your vee-hick-els in your garage?  It is a weekly struggle for us to keep that space open.  For those of you who are familiar with out garage, there is really NO EXCUSE.  And yet... the stuff just accumulates.

Karl's bay is currently hosting the " Chicken Tractor Factory " where he is working on our 3rd generation portable coops. The Ladies have torn up their last flower bed and we have determined that we must modify the "free range" space a little bit.   He is currently working on  A frame sleds- and will create a page with that when done.

My car bay is hosting the "Spring Outdoor Furniture Redo Extravaganza!"  The blue garden bench you see in some posts was one project finished.   I am now working on refinishing my Mom's old Smith and Hawken French Bistro Set.   We searched high and low for one and let me tell you- they don't make them like they used to ( for under $400.00)  So I figured with 8 bucks of paint, some sandpaper and elbow grease.... it can't be that hard.

As you may tell from the photo- sand paper did not cut it and I had to break out the grinder to get layers of paint and rust off. 

As I got into the groove I made an observation.... I was at peace- working with my hands restoring something that belongs to my mother and has been in our family for over 20 years.  Karl then pointed out to me that I was also using my dad's tools- and that made it all the more special.

One of the most important reminders of my father are his tools.  Dad was the quintessential Do- It -Yourselfer.  Before Lowes and Home Depot- there was Ace Harware and Moores.... I can recall many a Saturday he drug us around those stores only to press us into servitude when we got home.  My dad would tackle any project but engine repair.  As much as I HATED being the gopher for his tools, I learned invaluable skills and an appreciation of a good power tool.

So we spent a great evening in the garage, each working on our new projects which were each in their way meaningful to us.

Think about it next time you tend your couch potato garden-  is there something out there you have been meaning to work on?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hard Headed People Learn Lessons the Hard Way

The busy week and spring planting have not given me time to wax poetic on life at the farm.  However,  I have felt a sense of wonder and gratitude to bide my earthly time in this spot despite being too bone tired to pontificate.   Karl and I have spent a busy week - working until sundown caring for not only the spring chores- but all of the fall work we could not do because of the abundant rainfall.

The Canton Community Garden hosted in our lower field  is now 1/2 tilled and we are thrilled to open two more plots for Meals on Wheels!  A third beehive is down by our little plot in the garden and the bees are working hard harvesting the spring nectar.  More on that project another date.

We communed with neighbors Brenda and Cliff - also both in their yards working hard putting in their gardens.  I miss seeing my neighbors in the winter- but spring brings us all out of doors- sharing advice, planning projects and soaking up the springtime.

In addition to catching up with friends and work this  weekend for me was a lesson in humility.   You know those little labels that come with plants?  Well it helps to read them and before you plant!  I have some MAJOR redo work at hand and regret not informing myself ahead of time when planting certain things.

Hard Truth 1   "Ground cover = INVASIVE"


This is the deceptive view of our side hill - from the road it looks awash of spring color.....but lurking behind the tulips and daffodils ----

PERIWINKLE-  it has become my nemesis- invading plantings, mulch, my rock terraces.  My hands are now barely able to type from pulling the stuff.... and I BARELY made a dent.  That jug of Roundup is looking AWFULLY tempting as I nurse a stripe of sunburn on my lower back from bending over pulling the darn stuff. 

Lesson 2-  Snowball bushes get HUGE- so don't plant 2 feet away from your porch!  DUH!

This thing has even been pruned!  And we are looking at taking the tractor and transplanting elsewhere later this spring.

These two bushes were so small and cute when we got them....  now it is going to take some real digging to safely transplant... grab a shovel ya'll.

As much as I reflect upon the disappointments of my ignorant planting errors... we got so much done, edging, mulching, tilling, weeding, planting -  all things where there are tangible results that are pleasing to the eye.  

The dogs look on as we refinish a pathway and spillway leading to dog lot.

Ahhh the smells of spring!  The daffodils, and let's not forget the Thrift.  I have fond memories of mounds of multicolored thrift at my Grandma Pennell's cabin in Moravian Falls, NC.  I have planted it everywhere I have lived - it reminds me of her as she is my genetic link to this crazy gardening obsession.   So as I stand watering my weekends work, the smells of flowers, water and fresh dirt give me a sense of peace and well being that will overcome the agony of sore muscles and raw hands come morning.

Happy Planting!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I got the Keys!

Poor Karl gets pulled in 100 different directions this time of year.  The warm weather this week has seen us coming home from work- scarfing what mom has been kind enough to cook for us - and then venturing outside to attend to the numerous tasks we have to tackle. 

I am working to tidy up long neglected beds and can spread mulch and chips like a banshee- which kept Karl interrupted getting loads of mulch.

FINALLY - with a little refresher lesson, I was able to pry the keys from his hands and use the tractor myself!  While I am not as gifted with the scoop- I am getting by and we are much more productive.

The long neglected rock garden gets a fresh coat of mulch, and the garden bench a fresh coat of bright paint.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Return of the SUGAR ANTS

Why o Why did I not rinse out that wine glass last night!   I found a nice little caravan of black ants this morning in the kitchen- another sign at our home spring is here!

You can be lazy and buy Terro ant bait ( non toxic) or build your own!  I found this on the net awhile back and it works great if you are in the DIY mood.

Sugar Ant Trap

•1 cup borax

•1 cup sugar


•4 shallow lidded jars
•4 loose wads of toilet paper

In a bowl, mix the borax and sugar. Place a loose wad of toilet paper into each of four different screw-top jars. Pour a quarter of the sugar and borax mixture into each of the four jars, over the toilet paper. Fill each jar with water to one inch of the top. Screw the lids on the jars, and with a hammer and nail, make four to eight holes in the lid. Place the jars in areas where you have ants (but keep away from pets and children).

This ant trap will catch the workers but not the queen. A more comprehensive solution is to blend 1/4 cup of confectioner’s sugar and one tablespoon of borax and sprinkle it in ant traffic areas. There is not enough borax with this method to kill the worker ants immediately, so they take it back to the nest, ultimately eradicating it. (If the worker ants do die at the powder, cut back on the borax.)

Caution: Keep borax products away from pets and other animals. It is non toxic but an irritant!

There are also a number of herbs such as mint and pennyroyal, and spices such as cayenne pepper, that repel ants.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Spring Slaughter Begins

Roscoe P. Cole- Kitty gazing intently at bird feeder

Each spring brings new life and unintended carnage.  The return of the birds and birth of baby bunnies heralds the change of seasons and also means supplemental nutrition for Cletus and Roscoe.  While most domestic kitties kill and toy with their intended prey- our boys actually consume some of what they slaughter. 

The remaning parts are left as gifts of love.  It is amazing that a whole rabbit can be drug through the cat door and into the garage where it is then dissected with care and spread about.  One must also be careful when weeding the flower beds as it is not uncommon to find wings, intestines and varied heads of the dearly departed under flowers.

Despite our efforts, the carnage continues and we console ourselves that at least our cat food bills go down!  We have managed to protect the bluebird house by covering the pole with flashing but that does not stop the efforts.

A favorite kitty story we love to share dates back a few years ago.  My mother was recovering with us from a badly broken ankle.  Her rehab included walking laps around the wraparound porch.  After one exercise session, she was resting and birdwatching on the front bench.  Mom trained her binoculars on the flowering pear trees to identify a bird and WHAM-  she still marvels at the flash of white ( kitty ) that grabbed a bird in mid air! 

So much for a peaceful rest

Stay tuned! This week ( If I have energy to write)  -

Focal points for the garden-
The adventures of salvaging telephone poles-
and the question since Fall-  Will it be dry enough to till and plant?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Dogs are a Barkin' on Easter! The Spring Over-do!

Dogs in this case would be my feet!  Today was beau-tee-full at the farm and we could not resist the "Spring Overdo" so Karl and I are both nursing aches and pains that come from planting, dividing plants and spreading way too much mulch.

I can say that the new Neutrogena SPF 70 does work!  Our pale withered winter skins emerged this evening unscalded from a full day outside.

Anyone else out there as stressed as I am over the late planting?  We have been unable to put in onions or other crops due to the constant rain-  I think even my asparagus crowns rotted in the ground-so far no shoots!

Well folks- these hands are sore from weedin'  Happy Planting

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Making of a Farmgirl

Today was about the joys of rebellious shopping.  My niece Anna is spending her spring break on the farm- a place where she is just as much at home as the soil.  Unfortunately our first task was a miserable one-  Grandma wanted us to go out and get an Easter Dress, tights and new sandals... EEEWWWWWW!!  Now Anna is a lot more "girly" than her Aunt Shannon. She has her opinons and very quickly picked out a tasteful cotton dress, sweater, tights and shoes.  Her goal was not to have a frilly dress, but go get the Easter shopping out of the way so she could go to Tractor Supply Chick Days and play with the baby animals.  ATTTA GAL!

Now I simply could not help but to outfit her in a new set of Overalls and she also picked ( a very stylish  I might add ) Pink Tractor Supply Hat and Pink John Deere childrens work gloves.  I felt vindicated knowing she was more excited about her new "farmgirl" clothing than the frilly dressy stuff.  Somehow, I can't seem to get it across to my "city slicker brother" that pink dress shoes and dresses do not constitute "playclothes".   So between Tractor Supply and past visits to Goodwill - we now have her covered.  Our only disappointment today is we could not find her "work boots" like mine.

So after adequate chick time, we headed home to do chores.   All I can say is that kid can work.  In the space of an hour we fed dogs, cats, horses, chickens, cleaned the coop, picked up limbs from the yard - whew!  No wonder I am so tired! 

Anna exhibits such joy when visting.  She finds the Magic in our mundane...all the daily tasks we don't even consider- she enjoys and approaches with such excitement. 

All I can say is Poor Chuck!  You thought you got away from your sister only to have a daughter just like her! 

Of course unlike Great Auntie Erna did for us-  I will not teach her to cuss.... but if she gets a note home from her Spanish teacher-  She did not learn

"Dos cervezas, por favor."   from me!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chickn' Tractor - Phase Three

We have had chickens now for 4 years and each Spring leaves us wanting to improve upon our current "Chicken Tractor". Karl took advantage of this very windy, rainy day to work on "Phase 3" in the garage.

I was wooed by an edition of Southern Living to consider free range chickens. An article showed a nice little chicken advertised as "bug control" in a perfectly manicured garden. HAH ! In retrospect, the lady obviously had a landscaper and her little floofy dog had been groomed and did not "wear the colors" of country dogs who just love to eat and roll in chicken poo. While I love my "Ladies" they are not kind to my landscape or garden beds and have unfortunately this year destroyed my entire winter crop of kale and collards.

So after much research - on to Phase 3!
We are constructing A Frame style coops with attached runs which we can scoot across the lawn- similar models online sell for boutique prices- but we figure we can use salvaged cedar and other materials to find a situation which will protect the birds, the gardens and my sanity.  Dreams of poo free shoes are not far away!

If you would like to learn from our mistakes- check out our Chicken Page!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My struggles with death in this time of springing

Oh heart, if one should say to you that the soul perishes like the body, answer that the flower withers, but the seed remains. ~Kahlil Gibran

Last night a friend and colleague from work was killed in an automobile accident.  Today I have spent my time divided between tears and anger.  Since death is such a large part of medicine (my real job) I find I like to cram those "stages of grieving" into one large emotional package. Today was not a day I could channel my inner emotional detatchment.

It was a struggle to stem the tears at work and while running errands afterwards. I just wanted to go home and cry.  When I got home, I called my Mom who invited me over to talk and have a cup of tea.  She allowed me share things about Lauren and how sad I was that this beautiful mother was taken so young.  We talked about her daughter, how happy she was with her recent engagement and how cruel fate can be to rob someone so deserving of new found love and happiness.

Mom then announced she was going to the store and asked me to please plant a climbing rose for her that had just come in the mail.  She put Rupert ( her puppy ) and myself out into the courtyard of the walled garden and took off- knowing nature would begin the healing process.

My Grandma Pennell- her mother knew one very important secret of life- 

The balm for sadness and grief lies in a garden.

Grandma was the most peaceful person I have evern known and I imagine she literally worked out her cares growing her own food.  When I was young, I remember my mom watering her gardens late in the evening after a stressful day as a social worker.  It seems to be a genetic link that we find comfort in working the soil.

I spent this afternoon planting Mom's rose, sweet alyssum, creeping jenny, dianthus and pansies.  I found laughter through my tears as little Rupert "helped" by pulling up what I had just planted and running around the courtyard like he had won the doggie lottery.  Why are puppies so proud when they destroy things?

While I cannot make sense today of this horrible and unfair loss, I found some peace and time to reflect with busy hands.  The raw wound is still there- but somehow, covered in dirt, the hurt wanes.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Passing of the Seasons- How do you celebrate Spring?

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. ~Charles Dickens

Today is the first day of Spring!  The Vernal Equinox

Translated literally, equinox means "equal night." Because the Sun is positioned above the equator, day and night are about equal in length all over the world during the equinoxes.

I was awakened from a deep slumber this morning by a sound not heard in months- that of Robin-song.  Robins are often called the "First Sign of Spring".  Anyone who is familiar with their song knows that when they return home for the warmer weather- they think EVERYONE should get up with them each morning.  This particular Robin was perched on our porch rail outside the bedroom singing to his heart's content.    Karl didn't crack an eyelid.  Wish I could sleep like that.

So here I am - cup of coffee, little Rupert (mom's puppy we are watching for her)  snuggling by my side thinking about our family's special Rite of Spring.

When one thinks of Spring Traditions-  cleaning, planting, starting seeds, the first Robin- all signs of rebirth and reawakening.  Routines and things that put a "spring in your step", efforts that will be worthwhile in the months to come with a lush garden, pretty flowers, a clean home.

Unfortunately our Spring Rite is not something we look forward to- 

It is time to take the cats-  Cletus and Roscoe - to the vet.  DOM DOM DOM DOOOOMM!

Anyone who has met our twin kitties knows- they are loving, curious and usually very laid back specimens of the feline persuasion.   They are transformed into little lions when crammed in a carrier and taken to our sainted vets Diane and David McCracken.  Each year brings the dread of yowling, drooling, copious amounts of white shedded hair and battle scars on ourselves and the vet from simply trying to worm the kitties with a Drontal pill.   

Our wish for your first day of spring is to enjoy the sunshine, reflect on your blessings and pray for our safe return from the vet.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ya'll asked for it- Mama Kathy's Cream Scones!

What a perfect way to spend a dreary afternoon- warm up the oven and fill your home with the scent of cream scones!  Then make yourself a cup of tea, cocoa or coffee and enjoy the rain.


(Simple, Delicious and Surprisingly Light)


400 Oven (make sure oven rack is centered)

Baking Pan (Lined w/parchment or greased)

2 T. Melted Butter (for brushing tops)

Measure and Whisk together in large bowl:

- 2 C Whole wheat PASTRY Flour (or All Purpose flour if you cant find pastry flour.)

- 2 1/2 t. Baking Powder

- 1/2 t. Salt

- 1/4 C Sugar

(whisk in dried currents, raisins, cranberries, etc., if desired)

Add 1 1/3 C Cream, stirring just until dough begins to come together and cream has absorbed - it will be sticky. DO NOT try and cut calories by using Half and Half or milk – the scones will be dry and hard

Turn onto lightly flowered surface and knead a few times being careful not to overwork dough.

Pat and Shape gently into 8" circle with even thickness and smooth edges.

Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.

Cut into 8 or 12 wedges and transfer to baking sheet. You may also cut with biscuit cutter or other shapes.

Bake for 17 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from pan and gently transfer to cooling rack.

You may add glaze if you wish after scones have cooled for a couple of minutes. I just make a glaze from juice of a lemon and confectioners sugar, adding sugar and whisking until I get a mixture that is thick but will still pour. I pour a dollop on each scone and spread with fingers. It will harden as scones finish cooling.

ENJOY and feel free to share any of your favorite recipes - email  haywoodhomestead@gmail.com

-  Shannon

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Our First Ceilidh- Fun Irish Style!

Bobby Beer Goggles

Thanks to all of you who ventured out in Irish Weather to celebrate St Pattys with us!

Karl and I wanted to shake off the blahs after a long winter and we could not have done it without our friends!   We hosted our first Ceilidh- (thats Gaelic for house party)- and while the music tended more towards Bluegrass- the spirit of fun and fellowship made for a great time.

The gang was treated by  Karl and Andy doing their renditions of Lord of the Dance.  Andy's performance was a spirited, uninhibited example of how flexible and energetic youth can be.   Karls dance- well it can best be described as a beer -induced -mockery of Irish Step Dancing.  Both performances were appreciated as well as lending artistic authenticity to the Irish theme of the evening.  We are also so lucky to have so many folks who love to play and who tolerated my 3 chord Mandolin playing. 

I am proud to say everyone was responsible and had fun-  no grabbing the electric fence while bending over to puke- (you know who you are).   The only real chaos encountered was when Daisy got out of the dog lot.  You might imagine the havoc her happily wagging Great Dane tail caused on all of the beverage bottles in the pickin' circle.  Her doggie brain does not register that the whip at the other end of her body is responsible for such destruction.  Good thing we had the pickin' in the garage where the floor can be hosed down!

I must also celebrate the creative way our guests took the Irish theme for the potluck.  Man- what a way to eat!  We had the expected and yummy traditionals- sausages, potato soup, corned beef.   Judy brought an amazing Baileys Irish Creme pudding.  Marty got very creative and brought a box of Lucky Charms Cereal.

In keeping with our efforts to support local business-  John and Michelle contributed local Ale from Heinzelmännchen Brewery in Sylva.  Walter and Wendy brought some AMAZING ice cream from Ultimate Ice Cream Co in Asheville- who used their berries from Imladris.  Blackberry Ice Cream and Fresh Beer are the perfect pairing to cure the winter blahs!  We also enjoyed other home brews but the donators will not be mentioned to shield their identity in hopes they will continue to contribute quart jars of shine to the cause.

Reflecting back on our evening it makes me think-  before TV, facebook and internet- friends and family kept up by face -to -face contact.  No matter how technology propels us forward (some may argue backwards), it cannot replace the gratification one has in sharing a meal, catching up with old friends and making new ones, and enjoying music. 

We are truly blessed for our friends and family and feel grateful that so many would travel out in dreary weather to spend some time with us.

STAY TUNED !  I hope to soon publish my moms much requested Lemon Iced Currant Cream Tea Scone Recipe.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dreams of the Mystery Machine..... Can a modern car fit a Great Dane?

Why in the world can't we build a vee-hick-el that can sip gas, last more than 5 years and oh yes- be large enough to fit a Great Dane?

As the dog pack and the 4 Runner both age, we are thinking ahead to a reliable, durable ride and let me tell you folks-  DE-PRESSING, though you can get great deals on Toyotas right now...  we have looked and researched and looked some more and what a hard pill to swallow- spending a lot of money on something that will ultimately be coated in mud and cat prints on the outside and dog hair and slobber on the inside.  

Then there is "The Hobby"

An automotive vice so evil and potentially damaging that purchasing a new car is out of the question.

You imagine off roading adventures or crazed hyper-milers- no folks- it is much, much more sinister.  PETA members stop reading now.

Let me paint a picture for you.  Anyone who has ever been to our home knows that our twin kitties - Cletus and Roscoe just love to crawl on and in any car to investigate. When we arrive home on cool days the kitties waste no time crawling on the hood to nap on the warm engine.  This has left hair, dirt and the occasional bloody animal part on the hood. 

Karl and I have discovered that if  you let the kitties get nice and comfy, when you hit the panic button on your remote keys that the resultant alarm scares the hell out of said kitties-  every time.  It is like watching a cartoon as they shoot straight in the air running....
we get good laughs but it is hell on a paint job.

I have contemplated tacking some carpet on the hood like I have seen my bear huntin' buddies do so their dawgs can find purchase. 

So if anyone has my dream vehickel out there - let me know!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oh lordy Karl is going to build an Ornithopter!

Anyone who ever doubted that TV is evil- I now have proof.  Karl has just been inspired by a TV commercial to build an Ornithopter-  alas not inspired by DaVinci- the man with the vision- but a COMMERCIAL!  Even worse- he is not motivated to fly- but has hopes our neighbors will think he is crazy and keep their distance.

I had hopes today to wax poetic on the virtues of hard work- Spring is nearing and the snow is melting.  Karl and I spent the day cleaning the flower beds, mulching and doing a general cleanup of the garage.  The weather was beautiful and the honey bees were flying about looking for early blossoms.  We rest this evening with realization that we will definitely feel this tomorrow.  Somehow - I just don't think we will be able to stomach the Academy Awards.  Thirty minutes of "Karl-Mentary" on the events of the red carpet has ruint it fer me.  I guess I am off to work on my planting schedule and a cup of tea.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Searching for Signs of Spring

FINALLY!   the sun is out, the sky is blue, the snow is melting and I found a much needed sign of Spring!

Today I awakened in a despondant mood.  Stressed about the ongoing human drama amongst employees during a rough work week- I found it difficult to force myself into "weekend mode".  My cantankerous attitude drove my poor husband into the garage for solace.  While moping inside I had an epiphany- " It is only my own self that is allowing worries in the workplace to rob my happiness of this day.  I can't do anything until Monday so why am I worrying? " 

So I reached deep, found my inner Scarlett O'Hara, and decided  "I'll think about that tomorrow" .  I  grabbed the camera and forced myself outside, away from the looming paperwork, politics and crap we all have to deal with from time to time.

What did I find?  CROCUSES!  An tiny but to me a very monumental sign of spring after a very rough winter here in Haywood County.

So now I find myself thinking- "Work crap be damned- this is my weekend off and why am I allowing myself to be miserable?"

Nature has a way of helping me gain perspective.  In that little crocus is the hope that I planted last fall- the reminder that time marches on, that in spite of adversity (be it weather or difficult people) that the sun will shine again, things will warm, and flowers will bloom.

Perhaps it is why so many of us garden?  Nature does not grant us constancy in that everything we plant will grow- but allows us to hope that at least something will rise to bloom.  Each Spring will bring the promise of new life- in every faith, in every religion literally springs hope at this transition of seasons.

So with that nature reality check I lift my  face to the sun and give thanks that the cold winter is nearing an end and that no matter what the adversity that " this too shall pass"  

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Thou shalt not question the Almanac!

March 2nd dawns with a thin skin of snow on the driveway.  We get the morning chores done, watch the weather and head into work as we never get what they are predicting- this morning "2-4 inches and the snow will wrap up mid morning"

HAH!  By noon offices are closed down as the snow continues to dump - it is possibly the Big Snow the Old Timers have been predicting- according to their almanacs.  I get home and check my Almanac- sure enough- we are off by a day- Snow.  It is a sobering  fact when you can now relate to how weather predictions are made by the rheumatism....

Karl trudges off across our neighbors pasture to hay the horses and I take Daisy down to chicken coop to gather eggs and supplement the feed.  Anyone who does not understand the colorful term "Mad as an ole wet hen" needs to come visit my girls when they are cold and wet from snow.  If a chicken can look pissed - they fit the bill.  All the veggie and fruit scraps will not make up for their discomfort.  They peck a litttle, fluff their wet feathers and huff back into the chicken coop- full of commentary on the weather.

Mom, who lives next door-  bade me over to take her little dog Rupert out for a run and I was rewarded with a cup of home-made hot cocoa! MMMMM.  It brought back memories of the snow days of yore.  However I am no longer motivated to stay out and play until frostbitten.

Daisy and I trudge back home and fill the bird feeders. The Robins are back in flocks - apparently, THEY did not read the almanac and have come back too soon as spring is not ready.

I have to have to check myself from grumbling about more snow.  It was just last winter we were in terrible drought.  While the pendulum has swung to oversaturation, the earth is now replenished and perhaps we will have some nice crops this year. 

The snow causes me to slow down- I put Daisy inside to nap by the fire.  I make a hot cup of tea, sprinkle some birdseed on the porch rails and settle in my rocker in the cold to watch the chickadees and listen .....
Soft chirps and quiet snowfall are a balm to the soul.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chick-n-Vaseline and Dogs-r-Disgustin 1/3/2010

The day dawned COLD 12 degrees F. Apparently, we are in a cold snap and will not go above freezing before Tuesday – worst cold snap here in 70 years. It is so nice to have a heat pump! (haha) Can’t get the inside temperature over 63 degrees.

This morning Karl and I bundled up in our Carharrt Onesies, coats and headed out to GREASE THE LADIES. For you Chicken Neophytes- Heavy Breeds actually do well in the cold- but their combs, waddles and sometimes feet can be prone to frostbite. Coating the combs in Vaseline helps conserve heat and so this morning the ladies were greeted with a tag team- Karl- Grasp -Shannon- Grease routine until all combs, waddles and feet were coated. The ladies strutted around with gooey, shiny combs with feathers and straw stuck to their sticky feet in the morning cold.

After morning chores, the day was spent inside in warm clothing as the heat pump don’t work too well below 32 degrees.

For those of you who have dogs- I am sure you too are continually amazed at their disgusting habits. The constant licking of nether regions, poop eating...

Those of you who have Great Danes – or other floppy - lipped varietes can also identify with their ability to HIDE disgusting items in the mouth UNTIL they can come in the house and enjoy the fruits of their forays.

Daisy- our Dane – stays inside if the temps drop below 32 degrees –she has managed to convince us she will freeze to death inside the insulated dog run. After our evening walk to close the coop, she pranced in the house and to the rug where she proceeded to play. I thought with her new Christmas rope bone. When I went to sit and watch the news- imagine my horror when I found out her new ‘’toy” was a frozen RABBIT HEAD.

Coop Fortification 1/2/10


We have deemed 2010 The Year of the Red-Tail Hawk. (not sure what the Chinese restaurant placemats say) Today mom called and said “that hawk is back out there perched on the big plastic owl !” “Do you mean the plastic owl that we put out there to scare the hawks away?” Sure enough there he was! Luckily we had not let the ladies out – and he stayed there long enough for us to shoot a few grainy photos through the upstairs window.

So on this cold, windy, first day of the New Year, out goes Karl (my husband and resident Appalachian engineer) to further fortify our ‘fowl fort’.. Tomorrow will tell if the reinforcements and pie tins fluttering in the wind will work.

Carnage at the Chicken Coop! 12/31/09

Our ladies have enjoyed 4 years of relative ease at the Lazy Dog Ranch. We have lost a few to mysterious means and one to an errant dog- but none so graphic as what awaited me at the coop today.

I arrived home early this afternoon and noted when walking in the door that the chickens were not clamoring at the chicken yard door to get out and run. I peered down the hill into the orchard to confirm that Karl had opened the coop – door was open.

As I made my way down to the orchard to let the ladies out- it was apparent something was very, very wrong. I called the girls and they ran en masse with Peggy quacking in fear. I let the ladies out – well some of them and then in the far corner of the run encountered the source of their fear. Trapped in bird netting we use to cover the run was a HUGE red tail hawk.

After muttering some loud explicative I let the ladies out did a count- and saw no carcasses in the run. Damn! Two hens down. I went around to the coop and shut the run hatch- trapping the hawk outside in the run and then went around and opened the coop door.

It looked like a chicken exploded inside the coop. One of my Barred Rocks was no more, Another Comet was plastered in the back of her nest box keeping a low profile and not moving. The hawk had come into the coop to eat his meal.

I went back to the yard- by this time the hawk was out of the netting and hopping around the enclosure. He appeared trapped and I marveled at his size and beauty

Welcome to our Blog

I FINALLY took the time to sit down on this dreary last day of Feb. 2010 to make our blog page. It seems we have been "blogging" a long time- sharing our stories with friends around the dinner table, the pickin' circle and by all the digital media we use today.

Many of our friends and family think we are a little nuts for our efforts to "homestead" . While we are far from the complete sustanability that was possible in my Grandma Pennell's time ( she is my muse ), there is a certain amout of pride in collecting our own eggs, raising our own maters and enjoying the sunset around a campfire with dear friends.

In our 6 1/2 years in Haywood County, we have met more like-minded folk who have been inspirations, mentors and most importantly - friends.

While we have failed at many of our efforts- there is satisfaction in knowing that we have tried in some small way to lessen our impact on the environment.