Pie. Apple, cherry, pumpkin and pecan. All kinds of pies! I grew up loving pies. My grandma was always making some type of sweet treat and in the fall especially, she would make pies. I remember the sights, sounds and the smells. But I never stayed in the kitchen long enough to learn the process. I was more interested in being outside trying to catch one of the new barn kittens or hoping for a chance to get close to a neighbors horse.
My mum made pies too. She made sure that I took part in it by helping her peel and cut the apples. By then, I had a horse of my own, and the apples kept my attention because I knew that I could take the peelings to him!
As a young adult, I still left pie making to my grandma, mum and aunties. Thankfully my mum had learned Grandma's pie crust recipe by heart.
In recent years, I decided that I wanted to learn to make pies. I needed to. I enjoy looking through cookbooks and watching cooking shows and many of them made pie crust seem like a challenge. I got the impression that some people are scared of making pies. I guess I was a little bit too. It seemed daunting.
My mum was more than willing to come over and lead me through the process and teach me the same way that Grandma had taught her. My grandma had a recipe but didn't need to use it! Mum has an original copy of it. Years before, she had written one out for me. I was finally able to get it out of my recipe box and use it. It doesn't look anything like her copy. Mine is on a crisp white recipe card. All of the ingredients and the instructions can be clearly read. Mum's has the patina of many years of use. It is smooth and the once-white recipe card is brown. It has little spots and splashes on it. The writing is smudged and a corner is torn away.
The kitchen was prepared, the ingredients gathered and I was ready. I followed the recipe and listened to my mum's tips. That and a few baking techniques and I was doing it. What? That was all there was to it? What was so scary about that? Once I had a big ball of dough and I realized how easy it was, I had fun! I kept laughing to myself and at myself. What had I been waiting for?
By the end of my first pie making session, I had pies everywhere! Apple, cherry and a couple pumpkin. Plus some turnovers and pieces of dough with some sugar and cinnamon sprinkled over the top. The crust was flaky and tasted the way pie had always tasted in our family.
Now I enjoy baking pies! I still hear people say that pie crust is hard or that they have never made pies. At a recent church event I offered to make pies and the lady was so glad. She said, "So many people don't like to make pies." If you are someone who is a little afraid, or haven't tried, you should! It is very rewarding and yummy! Talk to someone that you know that does make pies. They will have a tried and true recipe and can help you.
I have even made a "pie drawer" where I store all of my pie baking things. The recipe, pie pans (vintage glass ones from my grandma and mother-in-law!), pastry cutter, pastry brush and rolling pin. Everything is on one place and I don't have to search for items that I only use once in a while. Plus it is fun to open a drawer that holds so many great memories.
As I drove up to the barn, I could hear the gravel crunch under the tires of my car. The tall grasses were waving on both sides of the driveway and a row of shorter grass grew down the middle. At one point in the road, there was a low spot where all I could see was the billowing grass, the lane in front of me and the blue sky above. I stopped my car and savored the moment with a smile on my face, knowing that the barn was just up ahead!
I eased forward and there it was. Standing so tall and stately. Such a bright spot of color against the brown, green and golds of the surrounding area. I began taking pictures before I even got close. The main door had an old fashioned metal latch that protested with a squeek as I turned it. But with a click and a tug, it popped free and allowed me access to the inside. There were some things stored inside, but it still felt spacious. The sun was shining and I could see its light through the windows and pouring through the loft openings upstairs. The sun that was streaming in had a soft, hazy look. It felt like time was moving slower in that moment. In the barn, the air was still. It was quiet except for the birds singing outside. I walked around, seeing the ladder that led straight up to the loft. The feeding trough that was built in and ran almost the whole length of the barn. The old wooden paned windows that were painted white. My footsteps were almost silent on the concrete floor. I walked to the end of the barn to what looked like it had been used as a milking parlor many years ago. Among some of the items stored in that space was a short, sturdy metal stool. The surface was thick with several layers of paint. The most visable being white. The sides of the stool had punch work like what you would have seen on the old pie safe doors. It stood out in contrast to the dim dusty corner that it was sitting in. The sunlight streaming through the window lit up that little stool.
Standing there, I could almost see the Farmer bringing the family milk cow in through the big sliding barn door behind me. I could imagine the metal runners sliding smoothly in their time worn tracks. The cow going to her usual spot knowing there would be grain for her. The little stool would be brought up next to her. The person milking her would settle into their familiar routine. Finding comfort and delight in the motion of milking and the sound of the milk streaming into the bucket. A quiet moment during a busy day. I moved back to the ladder and climbed into the loft. As I clambered up, my excitement built! The old wooden floor that was covered with a layer of dust reminded me of the barn that I used to play in as a child. My Grandpa and his brother owned a dairy and when I couldn't hang out with the cows, I would explore the barn. This one felt the same. I was surprised with the feelings that it brought back. It was empty and dusty but there was such a warm and welcoming feeling. Calm and peaceful. I just stood in one spot and looked around. The ceiling was so tall above me. The original pulleys were hanging in the loft openings. I wondered what it would be like to pull hay from the ground level up into the heights of the loft. I looked out a window. The panes were dusty but I could still see the gravel road that I had drove in on. The grasses were blowing softly in the breeze. I thought about hay being stacked in that loft again. The coziness that it would bring. The cushion of the loose hay lining the floor. The cats that would snuggle in its warmth and the kittens that would play on and around the bales. I began to imagine the barn filled with life again. The sounds of animals munching contentedly and the shuffling of their footsteps as they enjoyed the saftey of their barn. I could picture chickens scratching around to look for any lost tidbits of grain or scratch. I could almost smell the sweetness of the hay and grain.
I climbed down the ladder and walked to the side of the barn that looked like it had once been set up for horses. Both ends had dutch doors. I couldn't resist and had to open one. The latch was handmade and looked like it had been put on many years ago. The barn red paint was wore around the edges from being exposed to the weather, used and chewed on! So much history in one little piece. The door opened to an enclosed paddock where an old water trough still sat. An area any horse would love.
Even with the age of the barn and it looking like it hadn't been used in a very long time, everything was still so sturdy and purposeful. My whole time in the barn had me near tears, happy tears! I saw so many things that reminded me of my Grandpa there. He had built things to function and last that were practical and had a purpose. It also made me yearn for simpler times and ways of doing things. That day, I had known that I was going to take pictures of a barn that I had admired for many years. And I knew that I would like it! What I didn't expect was that I would love it and feel so comforted by an old barn!
Our Old Place Farm didn't start out as a farm; it started with one horse and some barn cats! The barn cats had kittens before I could catch them and that is when the growth began. One kitten remained and has grown into a beautiful adult plus the two original farm cats. One day a skinny stray showed up. Then another and another. We were regulars at the Veterinarian for a while! We figured that everyone could stay as long as they were fixed and got along. The last cat to show up was a starving calico. She was so skinny that at first I didn't realize she was pregnant. Despite showing up hungry and scared she was a fantastic mother. Eventually she learned to trust and has remained at the farm with one of her kittens. We never have to worry about mice!
A Once-Skinny-Stray Charlie
Next came chickens! Our flock started with eight Buff Orphingtons. They were the only ones for a while, until a Plymouth Barred Rock showed up as a stray in our neighborhood. When no one claimed her, she joined the flock. At four months old, one of my original Buff's started to lose her eyesight. By the time she was two years old, she was completely blind. Several people told me that she couldn't be blind because she wouldn't survive. Many others asked me why I would keep a blind hen. I always said, "Why not?" I like to give my animals more credit than that! Being blind hasn't bothered her much at all. We had to make a few adjustments for her, but she figures things out and is thriving! She even lays an egg once in a while. Just last week we added another blind hen to the flock! She was advertised on our local Craigslist. A woman had rescued her after being starved and pecked nearly to death. She got her healthy and wanted a safe home for her with other chickens. She is doing fabulous and it looks like my two blind hens will be the best of friends!
Then came a second horse. He has some special needs and needed a lot of time to be rehabilitated. Thankfully I have a stoic senior Quarter Horse gelding who has done the majority of the work, just by being calm and being a horse. The new guy had lived a high pressure lifestyle full of stress. He was nervous and didn't know how to relax or be a horse. They are now buddies and can spend time napping side by side. These days, the younger one is a comfort to his friend as he gets older and doesn't hear or see as well.
Two years ago we added goats to the farm. Pure joy! They really do seem to enjoy everything that they do, especially when they happen to escape from an area. Then you can see the joy as they are running away with their tails flashing. You can also hear the excitement as they baaah the whole way! The fun thing is that if you turn around and act uninterested in their antics, they turn to follow you back to where they are supposed to be!
This year, we brought a Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD) to the farm. We learned about the breed and this dog from a Russian friend. She had been raised in the city and had never seen livestock. When we brought her home, she took everything in stride and has been working ever since. She loves when the chickens follow her in from the field and her favorites are the goats! Surprisingly, they accepted her quickly and look to her for comfort and guidance if something scares them.
Our Livestock Guardian Dog
As the number of animals grew, so did the times that I referenced it as a farm! The farm term stuck and I thought that it should have a name. One day my husband sent me a text as he was driving past our first house. He said, "Just went by our old place." I really liked the sound of that. Then one day, I applied the term to the farm and it worked - Our Old Place Farm! We love things with a history and that are classic and vintage and that have a story. Just like our critters. Many of them are rescues and have quite the stories. I share about them on Facebook at Our Old Place Farm.
My name is Lisa. I have loved horses for as long as I can remember and learned to love animals early in my childhood. I grew up in the country. My first horse was the best gift that a girl could ever ask for! I have been married for almost twenty years to the love of my life! In recent years, we have been trying to simplify our lives and get back to the way our grandparent's used to do things. We want to know where our food comes from and how it was grown. We cook more and more from scratch and eat our meals together at the table. We are making changes all the time and are loving the results! Thanks for joining us on the journey!
I was raised around homegrown food! My Grandparents loved to grow things. Grandma grew flowers and fruit. Grandpa loved to grew vegetables, fields and fields of alfalfa hay and sunflowers! He was always happy to dig up potatoes, so excited at how many there were. He would grin from ear to ear when he unearthed the onions and they were bigger than his fist! His favorite were Walla Walla onions. Then there was the year that his sunflowers grew taller than he could reach on tippy toes with his hands stretched to the sky. He was so proud of those happy, yellow seed bearing plants!
Sometimes I was around during harvest time, but I was never a lot of help. If the raspberries were ready, I ate them as fast as I could, same with the peas. I can still remember sitting in the cool dirt of the garden next to a long bushy row of sweet smelling peas. Now that I am older, I look back on those memories. The glass bottles in the fridge with the fresh milk from Grandpa's Dairy. One bottle always held the heavy cream that Grandma used for one of her many sweet creations! The cellar full of root vegetables and jewel colored jars of canning. The kitchen alive with the bustle of getting a meal ready. The table set, always with room for more in case friends showed up, and they usually did! This was common during that time. People worked hard and gathered together at the end of the day to share in their bounty.
It was also a time when convenience was becoming, well, convenient! I remember that it was somewhat of a novelty for my Mom to open a can of soup or a boxed dinner. It was quick and didn't require a lot of extra ingredients as that part was done for you. I grew up loving cereal and Stove Top Stuffing! That was when those types of foods still had quality ingredients. In recent years, one has to wonder what we are really eating when we grab a box of cereal, a can of soup or a boxed dinner off the shelf at our grocery stores. I read about the soil of our farmlands being depleted of nutrients and topped with chemicals. Foods being created in a lab rather than in nature. There is a lot of information available and trying to learn more can be frustrating as it is almost overwhelming.
For me and my family, we started making small changes. Our first big step was to get chickens! That is what really started it all, that and the desire to get back to the basics. Some of the changes are hard to make. We get busy and it is quick and easy to make something pre-packaged. I am trying to learn how to make my own "ready to prepare" meals from ingredients that I know the origins of. The biggest challenge I've found is to replicate some of those familiar tastes. But in this process, I have discovered that simple really is better. Butter for example. Who knew that real butter could make toast and eggs taste just like they did when Grandma used to make them? I didn't. Not until I switched and brought home real butter with only two ingredients rather than fat free margarine.
Recently, I discovered carrots, again. I am working on getting a good garden growing and carrots are on my must plant list. Until the day that I grow and harvest my own, I have been buying them in the store. It wasn't until I picked up some fresh from the garden carrots at the local Farmer's Market that I remembered how good they could taste. And they smelled like carrots!! Over the years as I brought them home from the store, they had no smell. The skin was thick and dry when I peeled them and they didn't have much of a taste cooked and certainly not fresh. Well the other day when I brought the Farmer Market carrots into the house, I could smell them. I actually took them out of the bag and just breathed in the rich smell of carrots, real carrots! The peel was thin and moist. I sat and ate carrots like I used to do when I was a child. No dressing, nothing, and I loved them! Simple? Actually, yes! When you get back to the basics, things do get better. For us it's a choice, step by step and day by day. It can be daunting to change habits, but what fun to discover things that have been forgotten.
A Vintage Carrot Seed Packet
I had never really thought of myself as a homesteader. That term had always been used for my great-grandparents, my grandparents and my uncle. They moved from one area and into a new part of the country where they homesteaded. They all made their homes near one another and lived there for the rest of their lives. They didn't just build their homes, they made a community that sustained several generations.
Several years ago my husband and I were watching TV. We watched a story about commercial, factory eggs being recalled. The footage showed how the chickens were caged and their living conditions. Seeing that opened our eyes to something that I knew we could do. My mom had raised chickens when I was a kid. I had even taken a family of Silkie chickens to the fair, where they brought home a Grand Champion ribbon! I was raised in the country and grew up around all kinds of farm animals. My husband was raised in the city and loves dogs and cats. We could learn how to raise chickens and give them a happy, healthy life while in return they give us eggs! That is where it started.
Chickens led to gardening. It was because of their fertilizer that I was finally able to grow things in a garden. The soil in our area is dense, heavy clay. We had tried to amend the soil. But individual bags of dirt and manure got expensive and didn't go very far. As the soil was improved, raspberries plants flourished. Rhubarb plants that had been babied for a couple years and still only had two stems began to thrive. They now take over their once barren area! Having an abundance of fruit led to learning how to preserve it. Grandma was the one who made raspberry jam for our family every year. After she passed away, I remember doing something that none of us had ever done – buy raspberry jam at the store. It was a sad day. I cried over my toast because the jam was awful in comparison to hers. It made me realize how special her gifts had always been. The year our garden started to really grow, my mom helped me make my very own jam. What a treasure those ruby colored jars of raspberry preserves were!
We were beginning to discover that in living a life of convenience, grabbing a bag, box or can of food, we were missing out on the tastes of a true home! Slowly we started making changes. Fresh eggs tasted fantastic, but never like Grandma's – until we switched from margarine to real butter. We had been having fresh eggs for a while, so we were used to how much better they tasted. But we hadn't thought about butter. I used it one day on our toast to dip into our eggs and voila' - just like Grandma made! The things that we started doing differently have been simple and yet life changing at the same time.
This led to cooking more and more things from scratch. Now we have goats and are looking forward to having a homegrown source of milk! We are taking little steps that are leading us to do things the way our grandparents did. Our lives are becoming better because of it. We are learning that homesteading isn't just building a home in a new land. It is about making our house a home and about sharing that goodness with others and making where we live a community.
Rhubarb before Chickens!
Chickens in the Garden - How many do you see?
Rhubarb after Chickens!