I Have this Dream

If I had unlimited funds or even close to enough funds to do it, I’d start a school.  When I think about the field to the north, I envision heading down a road in that direction where there are trees, gardens of herbs and vegetables, fruit bushes, and of course various animals.   Chickens, goats, cows, guinea fowl, cats, dogs, and whatever else comes our way would be present.

Beyond the plantings and animals, I see various buildings – barns of course, but also large cabins with flower boxes at the windows and rocking chairs on the porches, buildings that would house classrooms, workshops, offices, and a small shop where we can sell some of the products that we would make here year around.

What would we teach here at the school?  The traditional arts that are so rare to find these days.  I would bring in artisans and craftsmen to teach the lost skills of chair caning, blacksmithing, quilting, candlemaking, soapmaking, herbalism, distilling and brewing, weaving, furniture making,  how to bake breads and make cheeses, and much, much more.  All of those skills that used to be part of the lives of our ancestors would come to life again at the hands of masters and students.   I would love to go to “camp” at a place like this and surely there are others.  I know.  I know if I build it they will come.

It sounds like a huge undertaking but I’ve had this dream in my heart and my brain for so long now that I see it clearly.  And the truth of the matter is, I already know the people who could teach most of the classes and those people know other people.   I would set up a schedule of classes and bring in people to teach those I, or members of my family, can’t teach.  Our students would come to stay for varying periods of time – 2-3 days or perhaps even a couple of weeks.  Those who wanted a reduced rate on their stay could work in the gardens or help with some sort of maintenance to help pay for their tuition.

Who are those students?  Ahh, they are a varied bunch:  business people who want to have a few days at a slower pace, families who want to get a taste of some of the skills needed for homesteading, retirees who are looking for a new hobby or talent to keep busy, and people like me who just love to learn and learn about the traditional skills.

I have heard of a place such as this and I would love to attend some time but what I really want is to have it all here.  Where I can look out and know I’m part of a revival and that I’m making a difference in the way people live their lives, if only for a day.  Here.  Where I could look out over Swisher Hill School of Traditional Arts  and smile.

Oh yes, I have this dream…


Easy Tomato-Cucumber Salad

I’m joining some of my friends in a Cucumber Blog Party and my first submission is my lazy version of Tomato-Cucumber Salad.  I don’t usually measure anything when I cook so adjust the recipe to suit your taste.

Lazy Tomato-Cucumber Salad

2 large tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, diced
1/2 – 1 tsp dillweed
10 Tbsp dressing – I prefer buttermilk ranch or homemade blue cheese dressing
a good handful of roasted sunflower seed kernels

Mix it all together and put in the fridge to chill and meld the flavors.  Or just eat it immediately, like I usually do.  That’s why the photo above doesn’t have any sunflower kernels in the salad – I made some this morning but ate it all before I took a photo!

It looks prettier if you use a lemon zester and don’t take all of the peel off of the cucumber before you dice it but that’s entirely up to you.  Enjoy!

Want to see more of the fabulous Cucumber Blog Party recipes?  Check these out!
Creamy Cucumber Salad from Maryanne
Refreshing Cucumber Cocktails from Becky
Tzatziki Cucumber Spread from Cindy
Cucumber Lime Salsa from Tina

A Great Weekend!

Blackberry Cordial blooming among the vines

The weekend’s not over yet, but already I’m considering this a great one.

Yesterday I met my mom at the Clinton Farmer’s Market and then we headed to the Urbana Farmer’s Market.  I wanted to get some blackberries from Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery but was afraid they’d all be gone by the time we got there… Laurel to the rescue!  My friend Laurel, who is also a soapmaker, sells her soap at the market so she picked up 4 pints of blackberries for me.  Yum!  Thank you Laurel!

I visited with Laurel and her hubby for about an hour while mom was at the fabric store keeping them from economic hard times.   I didn’t buy anything but the blackberries but that wasn’t for lack of wanting!  I did intend to get some pupcakes for my 4-legged babies but I forgot.  (It’s that Etch-A-Sketch memory again!)  I wanted to get some of the gorgeous flowers that were all around, and some cheese but I will get some the next time I’m there.  I was watching my pennies this weekend and the real reason for the trip was to see Laurel.  I hadn’t seen her in a very long time and I missed her.

From the market mom and I went to an estate sale in Decatur where everything was marked 1/2 off by the time we arrived.  Got some good stuff – simple items but they made me happy.    I got a couple of small paperback booklets on identifying wildflowers and plants, a side rail off of a doll bed that I will hang from the wall as a drying rack for herbs and garlic, a picture that is the same as one Grandma Olive had in her kitchen, and a pair of Snowflake Obsidian bookends.  The bookends are very large and heavy and I almost didn’t buy them.  My love of rocks, geology, and nature in general won out and I’m glad I brought them home.  Some areas of the bookends are very smooth and glass-like, some are duller, and some is left in the natural uncut/unpolished rock.  Here’s a bad photo of them.  Maybe when I get them set up with books I’ll take another one.

Snowflake Obsidian Bookends

So, at the end of Saturday:  New treasures found, blackberries made into Blackberry Cordial (now 6 weeks of anticipation), time spent visiting with friends, and a wonderful day out with my mom which ended with a ride through the country and around the lake.  How can it not be counted as a great weekend?  I hope you’re having a great weekend too!

Oh, Lazy Day

I firmly believe that we all need a truly lazy day now and then.  Okay, I know I do, so I think everyone else needs them too.  Makes me feel much less guilty that way.   Since it is a rainy sort of day today I’m feeling very lazy.

Yes, I’m sitting (okay mostly lying here) thinking about making soap and I’m firmly decided on which soaps it is I’m putting off making.  Definitely Goatmilk Lavender and something different… Omm which is oatmeal, milk, and maple.  It’s a twist on the old favorite oatmeal, milk, and honey.  But I really wanted to use some of my maple syrup from Funk’s Grove in soap and this simple wholesome soap seems like the perfect match.   And because today is my cousin Amy’s birthday, I’ll be thinking of her while I make soap and she’ll get a bar when it’s cured out and ready to be used.   She’s very sweet and wholesome so the Omm seems like a perfect fit for her.

I really want to get some violet jelly and some dandelion jelly made.  I need to get at the violet before the blooms are all gone.  But, as I said, I am lazy today.  I think I might watch a movie and then I’ll weigh out my oils.  I’m having some arm pain today so I may not get two large batches done today but I will get at least one done.

I must admit that I don’t mind the rainy day because it’s helping my garden grow.  Heh, I really must post a photo of my garden – it’s uhm, amazing.  Yes, that’s the word I’ll use: amazing.  It must be seen to be believed.   Hope you are having a fabulous day where you are and remember to take time out for the simple pleasures.

I’m looking forward to making soap this weekend but I have so many different soaps to make that I don’t know which one I want to make first!  Because this will be my first time making a large batch with the bionic bicep I need to make only one or two batches.  So, what will they be?  Decisions, decisions…

Lavender goatsmilk soap is a classic and definitely one of our best sellers so I think the first batch will be LGM.   If I make a second batch it might be something different I have been meaning to make – a new twist on an old classic…  I think maybe I’ll keep that a surprise.  But next week I hope to have something on the curing rack and some photos up.

Thanks for stopping by!

Coming Soon!

Swisher Hill Soapworks’ blog will be up and running soon.  The well here at the farm is fixed and I’m nearly recovered from my shoulder surgery so we’ll be making soap soon and will be back online selling our soaps, balms, and other products soon. 

Thanks for your patience, and if you’re new here, welcome to the family!