Friday, December 30, 2011


  My dear friend, who is a founding member of the local herb society, advises that garlic should be planted on the shortest day of the year and harvested on the longest. In this case, maybe planting can be done on a longer shorter day of the year. Maybe bundling up and getting out and poking around in the dirt might just be what a body needs. Could be a good cure for the Winter doldrums and a remedy for the onset of Spring gardening fever that arrives about the same time as the new seed catalogs.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sweet Potato Casserole

This recipe, that belonged to my Grandmother, is such a familiar one to my family that my Neices' refer to it as "the Aunt Cheryl stuff". I think if I were to show up at my Mama's house at Thanksgiving and Christmas without this dish they would make me go back to the house and get it.


3 c mashed, cooked sweet potatoes
1 c sugar
1/2 c butter, softened
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
Mix together and pour into buttered casserole dish.

1 c light brown sugar
1 c chopped pecans
1/4 c butter, softened
1/2 c flour
Mix well and spread over potatoes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes in a preheated oven.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ken Williams, He Called Us The Band Of Champions

  I remember the day Mr. Williams was standing on a stool painting what these days is referred to as "the old tiger" onto the side of our recently acquired instrument truck.

  Mr. Williams had been hired as the band director for the new band program here at Meek School. A kid asked me once, "What was it like when you were in the band?" Did the veterans pick on the rookies?"

"We were all rookies," I replied.

 Mr. Williams was a recent graduate of Florence State University by way of Vietnam. He was a Marine with a Purple Heart. When I saw the movie "Mr. Holland's Opus" about another high school band director that had had a profound influence on his students, I thought it was kind of funny that that band director did not know how to teach his students to march and had to enlist the help of the school's football coach. Mr. William's only problem was when to stop marching us before we passed out. I remember phrases like, "IGNORE THOSE SWEAT BEES! THEY WON'T EAT MUCH!!!"

  He took a band of rookies in homemade uniforms from a poor white county with a tuba case that had been purchased with money the band earned pulling corn and transformed it into one of the most successful band programs of all times to this day.

  What was so special about Mr. Williams? He taught us that with a little hard work and discipline we could be somebody.

  We put him in the ground the other day but he'll live on through us and in us. We really didn't care to much about if the contest judges thought we were the best or not. We just wanted him to think we were.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Happiness Is...Homemade

  "I need to run something by you."  A call from a friend confirmed what I already knew about her. "You know how everybody loves my pancakes?" she asked. (This girl is famous for her mouth watering pancakes and her outstanding culinary skills.) "Yeah," I replied. "Well, I was thinking", she said, "what if I made dry mix and attached a recipe card along with a little bottle of syrup, do you think they would make good Christmas gifts?" "I think that would absolutely be the perfect gift." I told her.

  I thought of the Biblical Principle of giving one evening recently as a piano student sat at my bench as we walked through "The Little Drummer Boy", Holiday sheet music for the season. As we par-rum pum pum pumed along, the words "I played my best for Him" jumped right off the page at me as if I had never read them before-we stopped, and I said, "You know, I have been playing this music here since I was your age and never understood that line until now. The little drummer boy had given the gift of his talent. He laid it before the King just as if it were the most precious and costly of jewels.

  This season, give each other the precious gift of you talents, it's something you already have.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Potato Salad

   According to my youngest Niece this potato salad is the standard to which all other potato salads are measured.

  It's my Mama's.

3 lb potatoes (chopped into about 1/4-1/2 inch chunks)
3 eggs, boiled
3 heaping T's mayonnaise
1 t prepared mustard
1/2 small jar sweet salad pickles
1 T celery, chopped
1 T onion, chopped

Pour chopped potatoes into a small amount of boiling water and cover. Don't overcook. When potatoes are just fork tender pour off water and rinse potatoes with cold water. Toss with wooden spoon and sprinkle with salt. Let cool. Mash boiled eggs with a fork and combine with mayonnaise, mustard, salad pickles, celery and onion and toss with potatoes. Refrigerate and enjoy.

 Choose ingredients that are naturally or organically grown for maximum nutrition.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veteran's Day Uncle Robert. Love, Cheryl

L-R Uncle Robert, Me, My Dad


  When I was a kid during the 1960's and 70's visiting my Grandmothers house in Ensley, Alabama in Birmingham I remember a framed military picture of my Uncle Robert sitting behind a desk. He was a bachelor and worked as an Industrial Engineer at the Fairfield Works of U.S. Steel where his Dad and brother, my Dad, had worked. He would come home at the exact same time every day and my Grandmother would have his dinner prepared for him. He would sit alone at "his" place at the kitchen table and enjoy a meal that usually consisted of meat and potatoes. He didn't like rice. Grandmother said he quit eating rice when he got back from Korea.

  I always thought of my beloved Uncle as a mild mannered "pencil pusher". He took an early retirement from the steel mill, took care of my ailing Grandmother whom he referred to as his "best friend" and went to work in nearby Bessemer as a Tax Advisor at H & R Block. Grandmother passed in 1996 and Uncle Robert continued to live in the Ensley home most of the time by himself. Sometimes my Dad would live there when he worked in the area.

After by beloved Uncle passed on August 27, 2005 at age 71, 5 weeks after being diagnosed with an inoperable "mass" in his lung and enduring weeks of a whirlwind of doctor visits, chemo treatments, radiation, home health care and my cooking he gave up the fight.

My brother Richard and I inherited the Ensley home. I got the treasure of Grandmothers china & Richard got the treasure chest in the form of Grandmothers 1976 Monte Carlo that Uncle Robert drove each and every day up until the day he attempted to drive himself to the hospital after experiencing shortness of breath.

  Boxes and bags of family pictures, memorabilia and papers waited patiently at the foot of my bed at my home in Arley after the sale of the Ensley residence. After 3 years I still did not have the guts enough to go through them until a illness in the family forced me to find solace in busywork.

  Among the faces of my ancestors and the complimentary wildlife portraits given by the Chevy dealer when the Monte Carlo was bought new I found another treasure. The letters Uncle Robert had written home from his military service at the 38th Parallel when he was stationed in Korea for 2 years were bundled with a rubber band and were among grandmothers treasured things. I was to discover that the mild mannered man who worked behind a desk for all of his adult life was as tough as a pine knot.

  He didn't talk much about his military experience other than things like "3 years of college and they sent me around the corner to advanced infantry" or when I questioned him about how he got to Korea, "14 day over there, 14 days back". When he passed I could not find his DD-214 in time to have a flag for him at his service but each day when I raise the flag over my little farm workshop I think of him and all the Americans that have faithfully done their duty by serving our country, most of them in places they would not rather be.

  These letters are dedicated the those people and to those people who are somewhere they do not want to be. May you find comfort and camaraderie in the lines he wrote from "This damn hole"...


Friday, November 4, 2011

Homespun Re-Usable Grocery Store Tote Bag

  I asked my oldest Niece once, "What is the deal with us girls and our purses?" She replied. "It's our security Aunt Cheryl, we carry all of our stuff in it." Wisdom always makes sense.

Here's a quick project for bringing home some of the stuff from the grocery store.

Supply List
Used Grocery Store Tote Bag
Place Mat (if bottom support panel is missing)
Scrap Fabric
Thread to match
Sewing Machine
Pinking edge Scissors or Rotary Cutter

Cut fabric squares and pin to tote bag and stitch in place 1/4 from edge of fabric. Cut place mat to fit bottom if the original support panel is missing

There you have it. A quick and easy tote bag with a homespun touch ready to go the the grocery store.

Tip: I like to designate certain bags for certain stores and hang them by the front door as a reminder to use them on my way out.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins

This is a great time of year to get out and support your local pumpkin patch and have some fun.

This recipe comes from a family friend. Choose ingredients that are produced naturally or organically for maximum nutrition.

Combine in a small bowl:
1 c pumpkin, cooked
3/4 c oil
1 c sugar
2 eggs, beaten
Mix well.

In another bowl combine:
1 1/2 c pre-sifted flour
1 t baking powder
1 dash salt
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1/2 c raisins
1/4 nuts

Combine all ingredients, place in muffin tins.
Bake at 350 degrees 20 minutes.

Monday, October 24, 2011

You Might Be A Hippie Chick If...

1) you bring your own re-usable bag to the grocery store.

2) you do hugs not drugs.

3) you know that a GMO is not a classic muscle car.

4) your new pair of hand knit gloves start with a llama and a pair of scissors.

5) you brake for yard sales and thrift stores.

6) your vehicle qualifies for an antique tag, even though you don't just drive it to parades.

7) you have to hold on to your sleeves to keep them out of the salad bar.

8) you recycle plastic, not drink out of it.

9) you think local food is the only food there is.

10) you think there is only Love.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Little Red Wagons Aren't Just For Girls

The little red wagons we got for Christmas those many moons ago needn't be tossed aside or used for flower pots anymore.  What once transported our puppies and baby dolls, or even ourselves, for fun, down a steep hill, can still have useful life around the house for us big girls

I use my little red wagon just about daily around here and even there, where ever there may be. I guess my favorite use would be on Wash Day to carry a basket full of freshly cleaned, wet laundry to the clothes line to be hung out  in the fresh air and sunshine to dry naturally.  It just might be today, unless it rains.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Good Fat, Bad Fat

Not all fat is bad. Our bodies need healthy fats & oils to help maintain proper function and help us enjoy good health and length of days.

Here is a healthy alternative to most commercially processed oil spreads.

Butter & Olive Spread

Melt butter and add an equal amount of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and stir and refrigerate.
It's that easy.

Use this healthful spread on toast or crackers or anything else you like and enjoy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Look At Them Beans

Green beans are a great side dish that can accompany just about any meal.  I have even heard that fresh home-canned green beans will cure what ails you.

Around these parts, a drought weather pattern along with Summertime temperatures in the late Spring  accompanied by an onslaught of Japanese Beetles have left gardeners in this part of the country scratching their heads with nothing to show for their efforts but exercise.  Not to mention, none of those fresh homegrown green beans.

It pays to know your enemy when you are an organic gardener.  A friend of mine once said, "You can't make a crop on air and dirt," and he was right.  Healthy soil and timing is what it's all about. Healthy soil makes healthy plants and healthy plants are more resistance to pests and disease and can provide a greater yield.  In this case the beetles were more prevalent earlier in the season.

The beans shown in the photo were grew for a Fall harvest.  They were planted on dates our local Extention Service recommended for Fall harvests. The variety is Blue Lake Stringless and is the runner version.  I have experimented with the Bush type and had to just about stand on my head to pick them so I have found that the extra work involved in providing some sort of support for the runner version pays back a great reward during harvest time.  Here I have used landscape timbers for posts and cattle panels in between.  Some folks bend the cattle panels into an arch and plant the green beans on either side and make a fun "green been tunnel" that kids like to run through.  Either way, support is great.

The soil was amended with a few inches of fresh mule manure in the Spring and when the beans were planted in the Summer and began their climb up the trellis they were fertilized with llama manure tea.

LLama Manure Tea

Fill a 5 gallon bucket 1/3 full of fresh llama manure (or goat, as it has similar characteristics)
Fill the remainder of the bucket of manure with water, an old rag or cloth can cover the bucket to discourage vermin .

Let steep for about 3 days and then pour this liquid along the green bean row by the side of the plants, no need to strain the manure.

My Grannie began the tradition of planting the Blue Lake variety, a tender, stringless green bean that has a mild flavor many years ago to serve my Dad when he came to Dinner.  His previous experience with green beans had been with the stringy variety. He was not a big fan of green beans, but he was a fan of my Mom, and this variety.    

Monday, September 26, 2011

Skillet Apple Pie

A friend of mine first brought a skillet apple pie to a dinner we had here at the house.  She and her husband had received a Pastorship at Mt Joy Baptist Church, where my Dad carried me and my Brother to church when we were kids.  She got the recipe from a lady there who had brought it to a function.

Easy Skillet Apple Pie

4 lb tart apples
1 t ground cinnamon
3/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 c butter
1 c firmly packed light brown sugar
1 (14.1 oz) package refrigerated pie crusts
1 egg white
2 T granulated sugar

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Peel apples, and cut into 1/2 inch thick wedges.  Toss apples with cinnamon and 3/4 c granulated sugar.

2) Melt butter in a 10 inch cast iron skillet over med heat: add brown sugar and cook, stirring constantly 1-2 min or until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat, and place 1 pie crust in skillet over brown sugar mixture, spoon apple mixture over pie crust, and top with remaining pie crust.  Whisk egg white until foamy.  Brush top of pie crust with egg white: sprinkle with 2 T granulated sugar.  Cut 4 or 5 slits in top for steam to escape.

3) Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly, shielding with aluminum foil during last 10 min to prevent excessive browning, if necessary.  Cool on a wire rack 30 minutes before serving.

Serve with Butter-Pecan ice cream.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

They make life much easier:  left to right

1.  Garden utility cart.  Handy for transporting heavy loads with ease, or small children.

2.  Straw hat with 3" or greater brim with vent holes above inner sweat band and bolo tie to keep it stay put  for Summertime wear.

3.  2 lb sledge hammer.  Makes driving light duty fence posts a snap.

4.  Army issue rain poncho.  This is just about my most favorite thing.  Keeps you nice and dry and you can still use both hands to do chores, or stay alive.

5.  LED headlight.  Same principle, hands free light for work after dark.

6.  Boonie hat with string tie for Springtime and Fall wear.

7. Rubber boots.  Gotta have 'em.

8.  Padded coveralls.  These are lightweight and provide a lot of warmth.  Add stretchy belt to keep them in place.

9.  Grabber.  Handy around the house and yard to extend your reach, or pick a burr out of a llama's tail.

10.  Boggin with ear flaps and neck tie.  Helps keep 'ya warm in the Wintertime, and it's coming.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Summertime Equine Oil

"Happy Jack Frost", a sensitive mule, finds this combination of a popular bath oil, reputed to have insect repellent properties, to his liking.  Add about 12 drops per ounce of Eucalyptus Essential Oil to this product for an effective rub.  No need to spray.  Just pour a little into the palm of your hand and apply. About one-fourth cup should be adequate and can increase or decrease according to size and location.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Smile Yourself Happy

It has been said that "The eyes are the Windows of the Soul".

I have looked into the sad little eyes of the little girls who have lost their Daddy, who had taken his own life.

I've looked into the empty eyes of the man that I loved when he told me he was leaving.

I've looked into the eyes of beloved pets that have begged me to end their suffering.

And I have looked into the Eyes of Love.

I also have looked into the eyes of love through my family and friends and my little canine companion gazing at me sleepily from the corner of my couch.  Those big brown eyes whose love cannot be fathomed.

Smile.  It may seem impossible sometimes.  Some might say it denies the cold, hard facts of life.  It might be so.  But one thing I do know is that we cannot live without joy.  No, we aren't going to sit around on a cloud for all of our life but we can't live under one.

Our souls aren't equipped to live in sadness all of the time.  We must hold on to any rescue attempts like a drowning man who holds on to a life preserver attached to someone who can haul you in to shore and maybe that "Easy Bake Oven" or "Cabbage Patch Doll" or "Furbee" didn't get there until after Christmas, but hey, It still got there.  So smile yourself happy, pretty soon your feelings will catch up with your face.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Easy Street Is A Rough Road

  When people ask me how I got started with this "Simple Life", I often relate to them the story of a sweltering  day in Louisiana.

  I was on "Easy Street" financially.  I was working as an Operations Supervisor for a major freight company.  The job had many long hours and high stress.

One extremely hot afternoon at that job, I had a few moments to walk around on the dock. As I was waiting for my drivers to return with their outbound freight so I could work towards getting to the end of that miserably hot day, a young lady in an old car pulled up to where I was standing.  She got out of a 4-door car and asked me if I wanted to buy some homemade ice cream for $1 a cup.  "Sure", I said to her, and I thought to myself , "who wouldn't want a cup of homemade ice cream on a day like today?"  When I returned from my office with her dollar, she neatly prepared a styro-foam cup along with a plastic spoon and paper napkin, opened the back door of that old car and scooped out a ladle of the sweet, creamy concoction from an old ice cream freezer that was sat on the back seat.  No, I did not care if there was a kitchen permit. That lady had taken what she had and made something out of it.

  Who knows what the financial need was that would have prompted such bravery on her behalf?  A financial reward for her efforts was to be harvested along Industrial Drive that day and I admired her for it.  Nothing I had learned in GBA 490 had prepared me for what the Ice Cream Lady had taught me that day.

What do you have in your house?  Are you going to do something with it?  Each one of us has been given unique talents and giftings that can be used to meet financial need. Whatever it may be.  Look around you, there is a good chance that you might just be brave enough to find it and use it.


Friday, August 26, 2011

How Is A Mule Like A Man?

1.)  Mules think about themselves a lot.

2.) Mules can be coaxed into confinement with good food.

3.) Mules will act like mules because they are mules.

4.)  Mules like a lot of affection.

5.)  Mules cannot be coerced into doing what they don't want to do but can be petted into anything.

6.)  Mules like to be the boss of other mules.

7.)  Mules like to get attention by honking loudly.

8.)  Mules like to stand in the shade but will work if trained to do so.

9.)  Mules like to wallow around in the dirt.

10.)  Mules are tough can carry heavy loads.

11.)  If you beat your mule he will not like you.

12.)  If you treat your mule with kindness and understanding, a good mule can be your best friend.  :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Don't Start Today With Yesterday's Poo

Organic material is highly useful and beneficial for plant nutrition.  The process of composting allows for the decomposition of this organic matter and allows it to break down into a usable form in the home vegetable garden.

Daily life here on Simple Life Farm starts out with basic animal care.  Food and clean water are provided for the animals every morning and those creatures that have been confined overnight for their protection have waste products to be removed.  This task is very small if accomplished each day.  Very few minutes and physical effort are needed on a daily basis to remove this waste or it breeds a mountain of poo that harbors files, stink and all sorts of vermin.  This waste is added to the compost heap at the edge of our home vegetable garden and provides future organic material useful for plant nutrition.

Much like the garden of our lives, the poo that accumulates in daily living must be brought to the compost heap each day in order to be broken down into something useful, a victorious life filled with the fruit of days  and a life well spent.  Don't allow anger, bitterness & regrets to heap up where you live. It must be dedicated to the poop pile every day or the task of removal is tough and tiresome and sometimes even impossible without help.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life, don't start it out with old poop.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Herbal Lemonade

A fellow Herb Society member acquired this recipe on a trip to Herb Day in Montgomery, Alabama.

This is quick and super easy and makes for a pretty presentation on special occasions.

Easy Herbal Lemonade

1 Pkg Lemonade Drink Mix
Handful Fresh Apple Mint

Prepare Lemonade Drink Mix according to package directions.  Rinse and gently twist to bruise Apple Mint.
Add to prepared lemonade and chill or serve over ice.  (and it's okay to drink the Apple Mint if it ends up in a cup!)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Up-Cycled T-Shirt Tote Bag

This is a fun craft with instant gratification.

Up-Cycled T-Shirt Tote Bag

Supply List:

Sewing Machine
Decorative Trim (Optional)

Prepare T-shirt:

Step 1:
Turn t-shirt wrong side out and hem bottom with straight stitch about 10-12 stitches per inch near existing t-shirt hem.  Sew an additional row of stitches about 1/8-1/4 from the beginning row to reinforce.

Note: If tank top style t-shirt is use simply turn the shirt right side out and sew optional trim on about 1/2 inch from the bottom edge with a straight stitch.

Step 2:
If sleeved type t-shirt is used, use a dinner plate as a template to draw a semi-circle at the neckline and arm holes.  Cut along the line.  Reinforce the remaining shoulder seams with a double row of stitching.  Back-stitch at the beginning and ending of all seams. Proceed with Step 1.  (The cut out sleeves can be used for a head bands.)


This is a great little bag that can be easily rolled up and carried in a purse for use at the store checkout or market.  I carry mine all the time and have even used it as a wash cloth and even a towel in a pinch.  Can be tossed into the washer with the regular laundry on wash day.  Make a bunch as gifts for friends and save the Planet.


Friday, July 15, 2011

It's High Time for Pie Time

This Blackberry Pie recipe comes from my bestest friend and blackberry picker.

This recipe was her mother's.

Blackberry Pie

3-4 Cups Blackberries
2/3-3/4 Cups Sugar
3 T Plain Flour
Pinch salt
2 Pie Crusts (I use the frozen deep dish variety, using 1 crust for the topper.

Combine sugar, flour and salt in a medium bowl.  Add blackberries and toss to coat.
Put mixture into uncooked pie crust and top with additional crust.  Place into 425 degree pre-heated oven on center rack and bake for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on rack.  Pie filling will become firm after 7 or 8 hours or till chilled.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Peanut Butter Drop Cookies

It was said of a certain Volunteer Regiment during the War Between The States that "lack of sweets" was one of the the leading causes of desertion during boot camp.  Never let that be said of this camp.

This recipe is fast, easy and delicious and all the ingredients are usually common in the kitchen pantry.

Oatmeal is a perfect food and Peanut Butter is great source of protein.

Peanut Butter Drop Cookies

2 c. Sugar
1/2 c. Milk
1 Stick Butter
1/3 c. Cocoa (opt.)
1/2 c. Peanut Butter
3 c. Oatmeal
1 t. Vanilla

Heat sugar, milk, butter and cocoa on medium-high heat until boiling.  Boil 1 minute.  Remove from heat. Add peanut butter & vanilla. Stir in oatmeal and drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper and let cool.  Yields 24. ( I like to use a wooden spoon for this recipe.)

This recipe is also known as Mud Pie or No-Bake Cookies. Our Moms made a lot of these type cookies back in the 70's when we were growing up.  Good for a fund-raiser type cookie also.


God bless,

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ode To Dixie

Dixie was a little dog that was the only blond, short-haired pup in a mixed litter of fuzzy, black puppies.

My Grandpa's "Squirrel" Dog, probably a Fiest mix, had given birth and the pups were ready to be weaned.  I was fresh out of college and had stopped for a quick visit home on my way to a new assignment on a corporate job. Grandpa asked me if I wanted to have a pick from the litter. I couldn't resist this little odd puppy with her shy, independent manner, a complete contrast to her gregarious litter mates. I named her "Dixie" and boy did she love to travel. This was a good thing because my new job took us to many different towns across the Southeast.

Dixie and me were constant companions.  She was there for me after I had put in long, hard days at work and there with me changing planes on a Holiday visit home. I was more concerned about my little dog making it into the cargo hold of the plane than I was my own luggage.  I got out of my assigned seat and stared out of the aircraft window until I saw her in the carrier I had purchased for her at the flight counter. She rode along the loading ramp and when she was safely inside the airplane I finally relaxed and sat down.

In one town where we lived I would even take my furry little companion to the laundry mat with me on wash day. We would share a hamburger from the little deli next door and have ice cream for desert.

I was a stranger everywhere I went, but Dixie, who never met a stranger, introduced me to people everywhere.

Dixie lived a full life. She enjoyed life here on the farm after we returned home to make a living. She did like to "go".  There was a time when I had not gone to the store for a few day and she went over to my brother's house and rode with him.  Squirrels had to head for the branches when she was around and an unsuspecting field mouse would not stand a chance with her.

I wasn't there when Dixie came into the world but I was there when she went out.  Saying "goodby" to my little friend was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life up to that time.  Dixie was the first creature I had ever been responsible for besides myself.  I did not know I had that many tears in my head.  I would not have traded one of those tears for the joy that this little canine companion had brought to me in her 12 years on the earth.

Pain is the payment for joy. Tears are the currency for which this debt is paid. Will our pets be with us in heaven?

How can they not be there?...