It’s Maple Syrup Time on the Hobby Farm

Join Tracy, David and the kids in this webisode as they tap maple trees, collect sap, and prepare for processing sap into maple syrup.

Preparing Horseradish

Back in the kitchen, Tracy prepares horseradish and demonstrates that this is no job for the faint of heart.

Sauerkraut Making – Webisode 2

Tracy completes her method of preparing homemade sauerkraut. We started the recipe in installment one of this two-part webisode. Click this link to see part one.

A Thought About Thanksgiving

“Now, I don’t want you to bring anything….”

What to bring?

That’s what mom said this morning when we were discussing what I would bring to Virginia for Thanksgiving. Now, we both know I’m going to bring something. I can’t not bring anything. It’s not how I was raised. You never come empty-handed – anywhere – especially to a family gathering. And not because you’d be looked down upon, made fun of, or, goodness forbid, not invited back, but because it’s an extension of your heart.


It’s such a good feeling showing up with an armload of covered dishes that you’ve created – be it casseroles (done that) desserts (had to make three trips back to the car one year) or a fresh turkey (you don’t even want to know what the bird last year dressed out at). This year, I didn’t have much time in the kitchen in the days leading up to Turkey Day, so I was afraid I wouldn’t have much to give.

“Don’t bring anything” (i.e. – ‘I’m your mother and I know you’ve been terribly busy lately so please don’t go to any trouble. I’ve got everything covered this year’). Okay, Momma….

To all on this happy occasion: Have a loving and lovely Thanksgiving!

Blog Post About Our Apple Butter Webisode

I hadn’t made apple butter for years before this Fall (and I LOVE apple butter!).

I remember slaving over my first batch when the children were very little. The hours at the stove…the slow, slow simmer…the aroma that filled the house…the toddlers who turned their noses up at the texture! That’s right: neither of them liked it. At all. Of course, I found this out AFTER the batch was finished. Needless to say,  the apple butter page in the Ball Blue Book went unused for years (I can tell because that particular page is clean—as in no stains/spills/rings or other  canning “footprints” that divulge years of use).

This was the year I broke out the cinnamon and gave it another shot—for the kids!  I am sure in years past, I made a small batch here or there but can’t really recall. I’m happy to report: they both love it. Well, now they love it.

Maybe a few more years down the road when that apple butter page has earned its stains, spills, and rings, I’ll forget about the years I didn’t turn to it. On second thought, I probably won’t. It’s a sweet memory, nonetheless.

Making Apple Butter

Pull up a chair in Tracy’s kitchen as she shares her recipe for preparing and preserving apple butter.

Blog Post About Our Cider-making Webisode

I mentioned in an earlier post that I took the kids to an antique tractor show. One of the displays was an antique cider press…a LARGE, antique cider press. I spoke with the woman handing out the samples of cider. She said her husband came home telling her he thought the dusty old machine he spied at a farm, where he occasionally works, was a press and asked the owners if he could clean it up and bring it to the show.

It was really something to behold. Buckets of apples were dumped and washed on the tray, then gently guided into one of the holders which made its way up the conveyor. They were milled at the top and the scratting collected until a handle released it onto the thick cloth lining a wood tray. Each tray’s cloth was folded over before another tray was placed on top. When a handful of trays had been stacked, the apples were pressed and the cider flowed!

People (as well as bees) gathered to watch the process and, of course, have a taste.  Imagine what this would have meant to a community hundreds of years ago…celebrating a summer’s worth of hard work, welcoming fall, and a delicious reason to gather.

Making Sweet Apple Cider – The Traditional Way

Join Tracy Toth and her son Nathaniel as they make apple cider using a traditional cider press.

Visiting a Community Fair – Webisode 2

Tracy Toth, our host, continues our day at the fair. We learn more of “all things Ag” at the Oley Valley Community Fair in part two of our two-part webisode.

Blog Post About Our ‘Visiting a Community Fair’ Webisode

Six years ago we were hurriedly looking at properties in the area and happened to be with a real estate agent driving right by the Oley Community Fair, which was in full swing.

Parked cars filled every available street spot while large fields and temporary lots accommodated the overflow.

I said something to the agent like, ‘wow, look; a county fair!’  She said that it wasn’t—that it was the “community fair.” That, although it’s open for the public to attend, only residents whose townships join the ag-rich Oley Valley could participate in the contests/judging.

Canning Competition Entries

And, oh, what a level of participation! From the numerous volunteer committee heads and organizers who work year-round for the three-day culmination, to the local fire department, to the thousands who turn out, the excitement and anticipation seems to increase with each year’s festivities.

My friends and I will joke with one another about the “blue ribbons” but, kidding aside, it’s not about that at all. It’s about the celebration of a lifestyle and a heritage that we strive to keep alive. It’s a  three-day celebration of a well-connected community… connected with each other and connected to this valley.

Best Display of Jellies

Best Display of Pickles

This is probably a good time to thank Evelyn (again); she was our real estate agent who suggested we might be happy here.

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