Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Cockeyed Christmas Gift Wrapping with Creativity Gene

Before my stroke, gift wrapping was no problem. But gift wrapping post stroke being left with one functioning hand and arm is a nightmare. Thanks Barb, for the topic of this blog and Christmas is upon us once again.

Regular gift wrapping post stroke involves using nose, knee, elbow, or whatever other body part you can use to help hold the paper while you tear tape, position it, and press it down to hold it together. Being a contortionist would help, but I am not one.  It was too much work when dealing with upwards of ten presents to wrap for the holidays birthdays were bad enough.

Now being an extraordinary, creative person, my gifts were a feast for the eyes. Plain and ordinary gift wrapping wouldn't do.You see I did a Japanese gift wrapping technique of folded paper for my gift
Ribbons & bows added later
wrapping. Intricate pleats and folds were made into the wrapping paper for each and every present I gave. No plain ribbons or bows either. Pleats that formed triangles, squares, crosses, and hexagons were all within my realm of talents. Each present had a gift attached to the wrapping as well. Be it a hair clip, a refrigerator magnet, X-stitched or crocheted  ornaments, or something to keep and use...a double gift. Maybe a little hint as to what was inside. A case of my hand crafted beer had a bottle opener on the bow for my brother-in-law. My homemade wine for my stepmother handmade redneck corkscrew (a 4" screw, a screw driver, and a pair of pliers). Hand quilted potholders for the bean pot and bowl set I made for my newlywed nephew and his wife.You see our family does handmade gifts to exchange among ourselves whenever we can. We would go bankrupt buy gifts for each other. I have seven brothers and sisters between natural and adopted siblings, their children and spouses alone equal THIRTY-ONE plus their children is a passel of gifts to swap. Even if I only did my immediate family of my children, spouses, and grandchildren, I'm talking about EIGHTEEN gifts. It's enough to put a serious hurting on anyone's wallet having to buy one present a piece. Let alone wrapping those presents one-handed. Nobody gets only one present, and siblings and parents (grandparents) are always included.

So the first year after my stroke, it was your standard gift bags. None were gorgeous or special. Anyone could stuff a present into a premade box or bag. But what's a one-handed person to do? I've never been a fan of premade boxes. Although colorful, after a while you end up with several presents in the same printed box. Nothing original or creative about them. Totally impersonal. It gnawed at my creative, extraordinary in nature. How could I make these special like my old gift wrapping? I couldn't. Being two weeks out from my second (third) stroke, it was impossible.

The next three years after my first stroke, I tried a different approach. I used rubber stamps to decorate plain gift bags and boxes. It added color, glitter, and decorated them. It was better, but no where near as creative as my Japanese pleated gift wrap. It did have some duplication of designs. How many different rubber stamps and ink can you buy for just one holiday? Every year they came out with four or five new stamps to keep things fresher. There is a limit because you have to store them all for the next year. It turned out to be more expensive than any other option in stamps alone.

For 2017, I sewed fabric gift bags. I was definitely more creative. There are a small ton of holiday fabrics to pick from. I could customize the sizes of the bags too. Each were creative and unique. There isn't a local fabric store in town besides Walmart. So I had to go to a neighboring city to find a Joann's or Michaels to get the variety of fabric, notions, and ribbons to make them unique.

That brings us to this year 2018. I could have done the same as last year, but decided to do something different, but the same...sort of. If you do the same thing every year it's not creative, just repetitious and boring. I'm going back to paper gift bags. The twist, I downloaded a pattern to make the bags myself. I can use store bought Christmas gift wrap and plain paper lining to strengthen the bags. I would create them myself. With the holes at the top, I can thread an assortment of ribbons. The pattern is simple enough with very few cuts and folds. All of the folds are straight. A glue stick to put it all together, and I'm done.

I could even make them out of Christmas fabric, iron-on interfacing, and fabric glue next Christmas. I thought about it too late for this year. I could even change the pattern a bit and add a closure flap. But next year, I'm trying a new crafty/old crafty thing for Christmas too, so fabric bags will be more appropriate. For now this cures my creative, unique, handmade gift wrapping bug.

Maybe by next Christmas, I'll have some use of my nonfunctioning hand and fingers back again to go back to my Japanese folded paper wrapping technique. It's two more days until my neurosurgeon gives the final thumbs up for the rhizotomy and schedules me for surgery. I can only hope and pray.

Y'all have a blessed day.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Cooking with Chef Jo: Cockeyed Christmas Ornaments From the Pantry

For several decades I've made salt dough ornaments for my Christmas trees and wreathes. I happened upon a recipe for cinnamon ornaments this year and thought I'd combine the recipes. These are nonedible, but the combination of these two recipes will make them durable and smell good enough to eat.

For this recipe, I'll shop in my pantry and craft supply shelves to get everything I need. No special trips to the store.

The "Shopping" Trip
  1. From my pantry I'll need: flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, applesauce, and cloves. I'll grab my parchment paper and baking sheet pans, and holiday cookies cutter from the inside pantry.
  2. From my craft supplies I'll need: puff paints, a bottle of glue, a spool of 1/4" ribbon or elastic cording, two rubber bands, and a straw.
  3. From the workshop, a bit of sand paper.

I tend to stick with one shape a year. This year it's gingerbread men. If I still had children and grandchildren around, it would be multiple shapes to allow for more creative expression. Since I keep one and distribute the rest among other family members two dozen will be plenty. So that how much the dough I'm making.

The Recipe
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup ground cinnamon
1/2 tbs ground cloves nutmeg
1/2 tbs ground cloves
1/2 cup applesauce
1/8 cup all purpose glue (Elmers)
1//2 to 3/4 cup water

The How-to
  • Add all ingredients in a bowl and combine until a thick dough forms. Similar to cookie dough consistency, but drier. Add or subtract water to achieve this.
  • Place a rubber band around the ends of your rolling pin. You want your dough to be rolled out to 1/8" to 1/4".
  • The rubber band thickness should give you this thickness when doubled or tripled on the ends of your rolling pin.
  • Roll out your dough to 1/8" to 1/4" thick. A dusting of cinnamon on your rolling space will help your dough from sticking to the surface. Or you can roll between two sheets of parchment paper. Remember, the thicker you roll the dough, the longer it takes to dry.
  • Cut out the shapes and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet about 1" apart. Unlike regular cookies, these will not rise and spread. They will shrink.
  • Now take the straw and punch a hole in the top of each ornament. Don't worry if the hole looks too big. This is where you will thread the ribbon through during the decorating stage.
  • Bake 200 degrees for two hours, or leave them on the sheet and let them air dry for 4-5 days. I have an older gas stove so I leave the ornaments overnight to dry by the pilot light heat within my oven. After the time has elapsed, you will notice the ornaments gave shrunk a bit because the liquid has dried.
The Finishing Touches
Once the ornaments have dried and thoroughly cooled, you can decorate them as much or as little as you want. I always put my initials and the year it was made on the back of each ornament with a sharpie pen. Every artist signs their
work, don't they?

If you end up with sharp rough edges, just take a bit of sand paper to smooth it out.

Oh that ribbon you pulled from your craft supplies, cut it into 8" pieces. One for each ornament. Thread the ribbon through each hole and knot to form the hanging loop.

Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

We're Still at it- Putting the Orchard to Bed

We're down in the orchard this week again. We're a few weeks late with this project. The outside temperatures during the day are a brisk 40 ish degrees. The on and off again cold rains have put us behind. We're putting the orchard to bed for the winter. I bought two rounds of straw. They were cheap enough at $40 a round. That's a lot of straw and we're spreading it by hand! If we could just snap the twine and netting holding it all together and simply roll it out on the tiers it would be easier, but they are so blasted big and heavy, we can't.

We dumped one round on one side of the orchard and the other on the other side. About midway down on the five tier levels. We were thinking smarter than harder. We each grab a cart and wheel barrel full and spread it along each tier. Once we reach the other side, we do it again. This time with the other bale. It would go faster with many hands, but we've only got three so we keep plugging away at it. Between the two of us, we can cover a 4'x75' tier in a day laying the straw 12" deep. This is on top of the wheat, barley, oats, and wheat orchard grass we planted in the spring.

On top of the straw we are broadcasting bone meal, blood meal, and sifted manure and straw from the bunny barn and chicken coop to speed the composting process faster. The larger chunks have been broken down to where they are in usable 1/4" size. Mel built a compost/manure screen to do this. Then, we spread another 6" or so of straw on top.

Fresh chicken manure is nitrogen rich, but it will break down with the straw and rains so it will be plantable by spring.While most compost mixtures are 2:1 carbon to nitrogen our orchard leans more the 4:1 carbon to nitrogen using half aged to fresh chicken manure. Yes, chicken manure has that much nitrogen. The late fall/early winter rains will water it in.  Eventually, snowfall, will do their part in keeping the mixture moistened during winter.Thank you Mother Nature. Again, we are working smarter not harder.

How do I know this about fresh or half aged chicken manure? The straw bales that we seasoned and planted in last spring, we broke apart this fall. We seasoned them with hot chicken manure. They were cooking and fertilizing our Roma tomatoes all growing season. When we pulled the last of our tomatoes up, the bales fell apart. Other than a very thin outside layer of wheat straw, it was all compost inside. All I had to do was pull off the baling twine. Neat, huh! I figured to get two years use out of the bales, but that didn't happen.  Each of the bales were also full of earth worms, a double whammy of benefits. The same will be true with the orchard.

This should be the last time we have to do so much in the orchard to build up the heavy clay soil. They say, the third time is the charm, I'm hoping so. All will be tilled in to lighten the clay even more in the spring. The whole area will be sown with orchard grass and wheat to keep weed seeds from coming up in the orchard. We had fewer and fewer sprout the last two years. The whole area besides where the apple trees, fruiting bushes, and grapes are. We can now dig down a foot and not hit any hard, compacted clay or granite. That's been the whole point of doing this. It will only get better from here.

The year after, spring 2020, we'll be sowing dye source, wild flowers on the lower tier under the pecans and black walnut trees to hold unwanted weeds to get a foothold. They'll self sow themselves while the two-year old trees mature. I've read that there is concern that black walnut trees can poison and area for edible crops, but dye source flowers should do well. At least until the canopies of the trees block the sun. Then, we'll sow orchard grass back into that area and plant the wild flowers for dyes one tier up. But that's a job for four years from now.

Y'all have a blessed day!