Our Maryland Farmhouse

real food recipes, heirloom gardening and farmhouse adventures


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Windows, plaster and cloth wires… oh my

Well, we are covered in snow, much like the rest of the country and trying to keep the house reasonably warm. 60 degrees is _pretty_ reasonable when you have shoddy attic insulation, broken and drafty windows, and a combination of electric baseboard heat, portable electric heaters and an older wood stove. And at some point before we owned this house, possibly while it was vacant, it was not properly winterized, causing the majority of the radiator heaters to become cracked, rendering them useless piles of metal.

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With all of that said, if you follow our Facebook page, you will know we have been dissecting what we’ll call Bedroom #1. Bedroom #1 is one of the two front bedrooms in the “newer” section of the house.  The plaster was not in good shape. Let’s take a wild guess that it *could be* the original plaster. If it is, we’re talking about 100 years. Over time, it had cracked, been repaired, and cracked again. This is kind of plaster’s “thing.” In our original plans, we had not intended to rip all of the old plaster off the walls and ceilings and replace it with drywall, but we were concerned about insulation, drafts and mouse-chewed wires in the walls.

Cloth covered ceiling fixture. Controlled by a pull chain, NOT a switch.

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We would also have to sand the wonderful paint splatter “design” off of the walls as well as wonder how much plaster would crumble and break off if we took the well painted window trim and baseboards off the walls.

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The answer: A LOT.

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Off with the plaster, then.

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Little by little.

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Pretty wallpaper was hiding underneath a piece of trim…

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And then the lathe had to come off.

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Sweet vintage bottle hiding in between plaster/lathe and the attic floor.

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Nails. So many nails to remove.

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Getting the plaster off the chimney was the absolute worst. Why did I leave it for last?  

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The other thing we had not intended on doing in our original plan was replacing the windows. After removing one of the old windows, cleaning the glazing off and purchasing new glass for the broken panes, Mike watched me use a non-toxic citrus stripper to try and get the paint off. It was going to take SEVERAL coats of this stuff and after every coat, I had to scrape the paint.  We hadn’t even gotten to the point of repairing the first window,  reglazing or painting, before we had to have a serious heart to heart about what the smart vs the stoopid decision was regarding the window situation.

Is it worth ALL of the work these windows require, when in the end, you still have old, wood windows with single panes? Would they still be drafty when you are trying to sleep, the wind’s howling and the temperature is somewhere in the single digits? Sure, the old windows maintain a certain “look” and truthfully, we prefer the look of wood over vinyl, but how important was that look?

Did I also mention the separate storm windows need work, too, if we keep the old wooden windows in place?

Something about the more you dig into a project, the more you end up finding. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we’re finding everything now, before our little bean arrives. We’ll definitely know what to expect when we get to Bedroom #2, but we weren’t _quite_ budgeting to replace the plaster and the windows.

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A rental house, a mooncup and a Christmas surprise

What happens when you buy an old farmhouse, finally sell your current house, find an amazing 1950s wool, plaid skirt from one of your favorite vintage shops in a perfect 24″ waist, and finally invest in a mooncup?

You miss your period.

True story.

And a month after you pee on a stick and you’re just plain exhausted, you and your husband have to kick your unpaying tenants out of your rental house an hour away and spend two months repairing damages, painting and cleaning the rental house instead of getting settled in the farmhouse and beginning to work on your own, personal projects.

This is where we’ve been, folks. And it hasn’t been a lot of fun. Stressful. Unmotivated. But that’s not why we’re here.

Did I mention we were blessed with a darling little plus sign at the end of September?!?

So I, like any natural-minded person, dove into my Pinterest boards and research-land to make sure I was getting all of my important nutrients through food. I immediately ordered Beautiful Babies  from Food Renegade’s Kristen Michaelis and printed out the Diet for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers from the Weston A. Price website. I also found a birth center with five amazing midwives a little over an hour away, who did not schedule to see me until around 9 weeks.

Y’all, we kept this a secret for almost three MONTHS. Mike’s parents live in upstate NY, mine in SC. Guess what they got for Christmas??? Something I think they were all hoping for. It was an incredibly special Christmas, even if we did drive 1700 miles to see everyone.

The rental house is almost clean. Mike’s been working on one of the outbuildings here at the farmhouse, and we’re covered in another few inches of cold snow. AND… we’re expecting a little one in early June.

Can I just mention how excited I am to be able to finally start some of our projects around here? SO EXCITED.

~Katie


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Canning Eggplant?

We’ve been busy around the farmhouse. So busy, we sometimes forget about sitting down to write an entry here.  The seven days since our last visit have flown by. We somehow managed to pass our home insurance inspection, we had to break down and buy an inexpensive washer when Mike couldn’t make a good one out of the _two_ that were left here, the clothesline was restrung and used for the first time on a beautiful sunny day

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AND I was finally able to do a little bit of canning. Eggplant. Beautiful, delicious eggplant from our local farmer’s market.

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Canning eggplant? Don’t worry, the lady at the farmer’s market asked me the same thing after I purchased NINE of these babies. Eggplant caponata, anyone? Or eggplant pickles?

It kind of hurt my heart to cut them and put them in jars, but I know how we love our eggplant caponata. The pickled eggplant is a new recipe for 2013, so keep your fingers crossed that it’s everything we would like it to be. If you are wondering what eggplant caponata is exactly, it can be described in one word: Deliciousness. A bit strong with the onions and garlic, but it’s a perfect spread on homemade crusty bread or in the place of tomato sauce on a pizza. The recipe I use is adapted from this one.

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Eggplant Caponata

2 T olive oil

3-4 large cloves garlic, minced or crushed (I use a garlic press)

1 large eggplant, sliced and cut in small cubes (it’s about 3 cups and I prefer using the long Chinese eggplant)

½ C red bell pepper, chopped (I prefer the taste of the red bell pepper)

½ C sweet onion, chopped

¼ C chopped parsley (you don’t have to use fresh, but be sure to convert the fresh to the dry – you won’t need to use as much)

1 T sugar (I use organic, evaporated cane juice)

½ tsp crushed oregano

¼ tsp crushed basil

½ tsp crushed red pepper

1 tsp sea salt

Fresh ground black pepper

1 C canned tomato paste

¼ C water

1 C red wine vinegar (5% acidity)

First step: Clean your kitchen and countertops. (And make sure your dear husband will be gone for the day…)

Prepare your jars, lids rings and water bath canner. Make sure you have enough lids. And rings. And towels.

Heat the oil and garlic in a large saucepan on low until fragrant (oh, I love this part!) Add bell pepper, onion and parsley.

Cook on low until soft. Add eggplant and continue to cook on low heat for 5-10 minutes – you want to basically sauté the eggplant in the yummy oil you’ve made. In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, herbs, salt and pepper, then add the water, vinegar and tomato paste. Whisk the tomato paste into this mixture so it’s ready to go into your saucepan. Add mixture to saucepan and cook until eggplant is tender. There is no reason to cook this on high heat.

Once the mixture is tender, ladle into the hot jars and fill to about ½ inch of headspace, removing any air bubbles. Wipe rims and add hot lids/rings. Process in hot water bath for 15 minutes (half pints) or 20 minutes for pints, and then listen for my favorite Pop! Pop! Popping! noise.

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This recipe makes approximately 5 cups. Usually, I double this recipe – when I do this, I end up with around 9 half pint jars.

Enjoy!

~Katie

 


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Welcome!

Well, we made it. We officially own a house in Maryland. It only took us ten months to find and settle on the right house after Mike started his new job in Baltimore. Ten months. Ten months that felt like an eternity. Especially while we were living in two different states for five of those months, ten hours apart.

But this is not just any house. It’s an old farmhouse. The kind of farmhouse we all dream about one day owning. Layers of odd colored paint and too large of trim pieces previous owners have tacked onto the walls,

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creaky stairs with awful carpet _glued_ to the treads, crayon and marker marks here and there, radiator heaters, a layer of dead bugs in the window sills,

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a lack of closet space and kitchen cabinets / pantry, an overgrown property stocked full of poison ivy… wait, isn’t that what you imagined when I said we own an old farmhouse?

I guess I *forgot* to mention we acquired this home through a short sale and that it had been sitting vacant for over 12 months. Yes, I said it. 12 months. That means any kind of spills on the stovetop or in the fridge or a juice box drizzled down the fronts of the lower cabinets while the previous owner was here were now super crusty and covered with a nice layer of… fuzzy stuff. The bathrooms were kind of _very_ gross as well. Did I mention dead bugs in the window sills? And on the floors. And in the basement.

So now that you’re wondering WHY anyone would ever purchase a house like this, let me tell you the charming details of why we love this house and how much potential it truly has. It is quite a gem – it just needs some love, new trim, a few nice coats of lighter-not so bright-colored paint (after the spackle attempt at recreating the look of plaster is sanded down…) and someone to clean it. It’s amazing what a bucket of Murphy’s Oil Soap and a spray bottle of white vinegar can do. Let me start with three wonderful words:

white farmhouse sink (::swoon::)

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followed by two more loverly words: wood floors. They don’t all match and some rooms are in worse shape than others, but all wood floors. Throughout. And now that I sound shallow… we also have an old summer kitchen/garden shed for my upcycled glass studio (you can also find me at www.gardendaisiesstudio.etsy.com), barns for Mike’s old car stash (read: hobby), a clothesline (it doesn’t take much to make me happy…) and a run-in shed that will be perfect for our future laying hens. A basement with a cellar area for all of our home-canned goodies (and wine!), an attic, three bedrooms, two commodes and a decent amount of space for entertaining when we have company or for just the two of us and our _almost_ 4 year old pup, Sadie.

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Wow, time flies when you are having fun.

Speaking of home-canned goodies, it’s September! We’ve got a lot of cleaning to do, projects to start on and my canning shelves are not as full as they should be because of our crazy move from South Carolina. I guess I should start working on that before the local produce is gone.

~Katie