My Forest Homestead – Homesteading in the Forest

Peaceful Forest Path
My forest homestead is small, but can be very productive if efficiently run. I see many areas that are open to improvement. We do not raise animals for food. I have not ruled that out completely. Sometime, I may add a small laying flock of hens. Other than that, I do not even want to add others. At our ages, early sixties, my husband and I do not want to increase our work load. Presently we are in the process of lessening it. I am becoming a minimalist homesteader. Getting rid of everything I don’t use or need and living simply. 

Rainbow Over Homestead                                                         
I read quite often, on my favorite forum, Homesteading Today how others recommend new homesteaders should buy large acreages. Many people think that is the only way to homestead. Actually, they are more like farms than homesteads. In the old days, I believe they’d refer to these small farmers as being “gentlemen farmers,” and that is what people called my husband’s grandfather. I would call him a homesteader now. You do not need to go by other people’s rules or conditions to be a homesteader. You can do it anywhere you want, and on however much land you can get. It doesn’t matter one bit what someone on a forum says! 

Resident Snake                                                                                        
Gardening in raised beds is easier. I can work out there without the assistance of  a tractor or rototiller. Our beds only need to be plowed up in the spring and fall with a wheel hoe. A wheel hoe uses no fuel except your own. I can even do it and I have really bad knees and have to use a cane to walk. Intensive gardening is really the key. Filling the beds with as much food as possible. Drown out the weeds with plants for food! Depending on what they are built of, watering is easier and so is the maintenance on the beds themselves. My rock beds hold the warmth from the sun throughout the cool night. 

Hobo
It is good to grow your own food and try to supply all your family’s needs. Sometimes it is easier than others. If you are young and just starting out, talk to the older homesteaders and find out how it will be when you are in their shoes. Time passes quicker than you think! 

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole


Raised Beds Can Be Built Cheaply, Quickly and Easily

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Nutmeg’s Garden


I have written about my raised beds many time on my blogs. They make gardening so much easier. My raised beds are made of a variety of materials. Whatever I find. Nothing fancy. In a previous post I wrote last year, Gardening In Containers And Raised Beds, I gave you an idea of how I have done it. Actually, its fun! I love to find a new container or material for my garden. To me, it is a treasure!

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Made of cinder block and rock.

Using various materials you find around your home or that others may give to you for free, makes the cost of raised beds relatively cheap. I read today a few threads on my favorite homesteading forum and saw members who don’t use them, try to discourage others from doing so. Saying they are too expensive to build or they take too much time to put together. That is rubbish! Those guys must be really lazy to say that. My husband put our wood ones together fairly easy. The rock ones we built together. They were fun putting them together. Some people like to have everything easy and no work at all. 

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Raised Bed Made Of Rocks


The first rock bed I built was from rocks I picked up in the horses’ paddock. I’d be out there with them in the morning and started piling them up. Pretty soon I realized I had enough to build something with. What should I build? Well, gardening is what I do! So it made sense. I loved the way it looked.  But I wish I hadn’t made it quite so big, as it was hard to harvest what ends up in the center. I thought about putting a solar light or fountain in the center, and may do that in the future. It is my favorite bed, since it is closer to the house than any of the others.

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Cement Block Planter


There are many types of containers and materials you can use to put up for a raised bed. The thing I like about cinder blocks and rock is that they stay warm, long after the sun has gone down. So the plants in those beds have that extra heat. The wood beds eventually have to be rebuilt, because we won’t use treated wood in our garden. If you’d like to see some examples, go to my Pinterest Homestead Garden board, where I have re-pinned quite a few of ones I like. These are mostly not mine, but others I have seen and liked.

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Raised Beds Around Trees.

When my husband dug out a room for the batteries for our solar system, he carried the rocks he uncovered out back, and built another raised bed. It was a BIG one! I liked it. He had to include two trees into the design. New York is full of rock. If you are digging for any reason, you will run into a lot of rock. And not just little field stones. But you can find other materials to use if you do not have rock. Just look at things with an open mind!

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Plenty of room in these beds!

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole


Cold Weather Makes Chores Tougher

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Cold Temp This Morning!

Cold weather is expected in January and February. This year is no different. Cold weather is here, bringing our temperature down this morning to -9. Then it went down to -12. Now it is up to 10 above. Here in NY we are used to below zero temperatures. That doesn’t mean we like them. We don’t and I am hearing many people telling about having two sources of heat going at the same time. Many have furnaces and are running space heaters or kerosene heaters for the added warmth. Some people have wood stoves and only use them in cases like this. Most of the people I am friends with though, use wood stoves as their main heat source. I say if you want to be warm, you really do need a wood stove. 

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Splitting wood!

For us, winter is always tough. Having to cut, split and carry in firewood. Clean the chimney at least every month. Sometimes more. Prime the water pump, which is not usually a big job, but in these below zero temperatures, it has become a chore. Then pumping and carrying water in the house and to the horses. They drink a lot of water, especially when it is cold. 

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Brrr! Cold!

These are the days when you think back to those hot 90 degree days. I remember my dog and I suffering during the summer in the heat. Next summer, I will remember how cold I was today! I am usually a hot person, always trying to get cool. Even in the winter, I am not one to sit right up beside the wood stove. I even wear summer night gowns during the winter. Not this year! Well, at least not this week. 

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Bundle up!

I have always picked up warm clothes at the thrift stores. Sweat pants, sweat shirts, hunting socks, heavy gloves, boots, heavy robes (especially the ones with zippers), flannel night gowns and pajamas, sweaters, knit hats, etc. I pack them away in a Rubbermaid container for the future. I like flannel sheets, heavy blankets and especially, crocheted or knitted afghans. Warm is better than being cold if you just picked up a few things in the off season. 

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Fire in the wood stove!

Keep Warm!

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole


Creosote Builds Up In The Chimney Pipe

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The elbow is at the back of the stove.

Creosote builds up in the chimney of wood stoves.  That is what you hear fall down your pipe at times. If you are heating your home with a wood stove, cleaning your chimney should be a top priority. Do not put it off! My husband does it often. He does not have a set time frame of doing it. Since we burn a lot of wood and our chimney needs to be changed, he has to do it more than some might. We are burning a really dry hardwood this year. It makes a lot of ash in the stove which has to be emptied out when it builds up. 

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Creosote

Creosote collects in the elbows of the stove pipe. When it is cleaned up, an old feedbag is placed underneath the elbow of the stove. As the elbow is pulled apart the creosote will fall onto the paper bag. Then you have to reach up inside the pipe, and make the rest of it in the pipe, fall down through the pipe. Upstairs my husband drops a chain down into the pipe and moves it around a bit. It knocks more creosote down. It is a messy job!

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Worn out elbow needs replacing.

Our chimney needs to be changed from 6″ pipe to 8″ pipe. Our wood stove is very large and needs a larger stove pipe. That pipe will go straight up and out, through the roof from the first elbow. The second elbow upstairs will then be eliminated. Straight up through the upstairs, and out the roof. It will work much better that way. 

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Brand new elbows

Our rain cap needs to be replaced. Then we will not have rust building up in the elbow. The elbows and pipe are replaced from time to time. Triple wall pipe is in the areas where the stove pipe comes up through the floor and the roof. That way the hot pipe has no contact with the wood of the house. That is VERY important!

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Elbow connection

We buy extra elbows and chimney parts to have on hand, just in case we need to replace a part in an emergency. We once had our whole chimney pipe fall down from upstairs, on a Sunday night (when the hardware store was not open) and it was dark and cold! My husband luckily, had parts in the barn to fix it. The elbow had rusted and just gave out. Our wood cook stove has a straight pipe and hardly ever needs cleaning. A straight pipe with no elbows is the best. But we love our big wood heating stove! So we prepare and have plans to fix the pipe this year. That’ll make our job easier!

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole


Prepare Now! Don’t Let Fear Stop You!

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Backyard At Peaceful Forest


As you listen to the evening news, read the daily newspapers or study Facebook posts, you are bound to start feeling fear. Fearing a civil war due to the political differences of your fellow citizens is a very realistic feeling. The predictions you hear from others can start anxiety or panic attacks in people. Sometimes other people want to cause you that fear. Sometimes they are just repeating something and don’t even check it out to see if it is real or not. I see a lot of that on Facebook myself. 

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Hobo Sleeping In Our Firewood Pile

The best advice I can give you is to not to worry until you have to worry. Most of the time, those predictions do not come true. Or if they do, it is not actually as a big a catastrophe  as everyone led me to believe. You can listen to them to be polite, but don’t take what they say to heart. Instead of sitting around worrying, like people were when they thought the world was going to end in December of last year, live your life as if nothing was going to happen. As we know, the world did not end!

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Our Storage Shed


Start stockpiling supplies, just in case you need them. You know things like food, cleaning supplies, household items, pet supplies, etc. Then if something did happen you’d be able to fall back on the stocked supplies. 

Put together BOBs (Bug Out Bags) for each family member and your pets. Even your infant babies need their own BOBs!

Learn how to make a first aid kit. Include a first aid kit of holistic remedies. A medicinal plants field guide 
is a must! Know about everything you have growing near you. This is very important in case of not being able to go to a health care provider (holistic or Allopathic). 

Remember the top 5 things you will need in case of any emergency is: Shelter, Water, Food, Fuel and stove for heating and cooking, and Clothing (including shoes or boots). Plan NOW! Before you need it!

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole


Edible And Medicinal Plants On Our Forest Homestead

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Dandelion

Edible and medicinal plants are everywhere. Many plants that are thought of as weeds are actually food. Like dandelions! Not only that, but most of them are not only edible, but also medicinal plants. So they can be eaten for food or used for what ails you. I know the plants around my own homestead the best, because those are the ones I use. It makes sense to learn about the ones that grow the closest to your home. Learning how to harvest them. Then how to prepare or store them, so you can use them for food. Later on, you can learn how to use them for medicine. Most plants have many different medicinal uses. 

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Burdock

Burdock is another plant that is both, edible and medicinal plants. Farmers burn burdock! That is really a sin. Burdock is one of the ingredients in the Essiac tea. It is a blood purifier and is extremely beneficial to the liver. I love my burdock plants growing around our property. This year I am going to make a big effort to get to it early in the spring, and start using the leaves as food. I seem to forget about doing that till the leaves are tougher. Early spring is the best time for most of these plants. Though we eat the dandelions, as long as they are growing.

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Elderberry

Elderberry jam, jelly and pies! Mmmm! Who hasn’t heard of them? I started canning elderberries as unsweetened juice a few years back. That way I can make it into whatever I want. Or just drink it plain. It is another one of the popular edible and medicinal plants. The blossoms are pretty powerful too. Just make them up into a tincture for future uses. Elderberry is famous for its use as preventing the flu. Even Allopathic doctors recommend it now. I am fortunate to have elderberries growing all over the forest land around me. They are everywhere! Of course, I have to fight the birds for the berries!

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Wild Fox Grapes

Fox or wild grapes are another food that grows through out the state forest. The vines wrap themselves around the trees, and choke the life out of the young ones. I have saved more than one from that untimely death. Grapes can be made into juice, jam or jelly. The leaves are also a well known food. The Greek people are known for their dish of stuffed grape leaves. They can be cooked in a little olive oil with some garlic and whatever you want to add. Grape leaves can be canned for future use as cooked greens.

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Mullien

Mullien is a plant that is used for ear problems. I am not real familiar with it since I have never had to use it. Buy a good field guide to the plants around your home. I use this one A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs: Of Eastern and Central North America (Peterson Field Guides) for the medicinal plants. Learn to do this before you need to do it! Once you get started, you may find this is a good way to cut expenses, as well as improve your health! Happy Foraging! 

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole


Aging and Homesteading Can Be Hard

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Peaceful Forest Homestead

The homesteading life can be hard as you get older. No doubt about that. Aging is a part of life. If you don’t age,you are dead. Aging and homestead can be hard! It is something everyone will have to face sooner or later. Unless you give up on it. People tell me don’t stop living this homestead life. But they don’t know how hard it is when you can not stand up  for long. I can no longer help my husband with any chores, such as feeding the horses, carrying in water, or bringing in firewood. I used to go out and gather kindling in the forest. Now I am lucky if I can walk to the mailbox.

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Gardening takes some work!

Gardening is something I am trying to make easier. The last couple of years, I have been taking a stool or chair out to the garden and just move it around and work from it sitting down. Using my electric garden cart makes it easy to move the chair or stool around the garden beds. I am planning on planting some of my plants in containers this year and maybe keep them near or on my deck. That way I can handle them easier. But I will still fill all our raised beds. Need as much food as possible this year! Groceries are outrageous at the stores now.

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Low Carb Supper

This year my husband has started eating low carbs with me. That makes it easier not to have to fix extra foods that aren’t low carbs. Low carb is easier to make and clean up after. Besides the low carb food is helping me feel better and that will help in the long run. Low carb food is perfect for people growing their own foods such as homesteaders do. Most of the food is cooked from scratch. So I find it easy to combine my lifestyle with eating low carbs which are also very healthy! Since aging and homesteading is a fact of live, eating healthy can’t hurt, now can it?

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole


Our Forest Homestead In New York State

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Forest makes up much of NY state

Most people who have never been to New York state associate the rest of the state with New York City. Many times they think we haven’t even seen a cow or a tree! New York state is a big dairy state and has lots of farmland all over the whole state. New York City actually makes up a very small part of the state as a whole. New York state also has acres and acres of state forest and state parks. Trees and mountains make up much of our Empire state. I always thought we should have been called the Forest State! I have traveled all over the whole country, and believe me, have not seen such a welcoming sight as the green mountains of Pennsylvania and New York! Taxes may be high, but we get plenty of rain and our beautiful forests in return.

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New York farm land!

Our Peaceful Forest Homestead is in the middle of the state forest in upstate New York. Our only neighbors, besides the wild kind are hunting camps. Our home was originally a farm and in 1924 became a hunting camp, until we purchased it in 1999. The house is what is called a Greek Revival style house and was built in 1850. In fact, when my husband was working on digging out a room connected to our cellar, he found a 1848 penny! My treasure! It may have belonged to the smart man who built our home. I have wondered about him many times through out our years here.

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In 1999

Our small piece of land is totally surrounded by the state forest. That means there are many large trees around us. The forest is very thick, and every now and then it is logged to thin it out. At first we didn’t like it when they did that, but now we see the value of it. We have done that on our land ourselves. The woods came right up to our house and had to be cleared for gardens. All the roads leading to our house are dirt but are well taken care of. Our road looks like a trail through the woods. Sometimes the grass grows in the middle of it and I like that. The forest keeps it cool out here, so when everyone else is sweating the summer weather, our home is usually about 10 degrees cooler.

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Over the bridge and through the woods…….

We had searched for over four years for our place. Both of us loved the forest, and used to drive through state forests in both New York and Pennsylvania. We would see homes in the middle of the state forest, and say, “How did they get a house in the middle of the state forest?” Now people ask me that question! My answer is “Keep searching!” They are out there.

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Nikita in front yard and paddock in 1999.

At first, I did not realize that the house was off the grid. Then I did not realize from looking at the listing that it did not have plumbing. No running water! No bathroom! It had an outhouse quite a distance from the house though. Before we moved here we purchased a claw foot bath tub. Then a Sun-Mar composting toilet. The bath tub, my husband found at an antique store when he was out driving a truck for his company making deliveries. He stopped and put a deposit on it. Exactly what we wanted! The Sun-Mar I found in our local Pennysaver for sale, used for $200. I called about it and they said someone else had called, and whoever got there first with the money could have it. We drove right there and came home with our new composting toilet.

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State Forest

The day we moved in we found out that the previous owners had left all their furniture in the house. We had a moving van full of our stuff which would not fit with their stuff. We were trying to move in during a downpour, because we had to get the rental moving truck back. My son, Jeffrey helped us and stayed with us for a few weeks which was a big help. We had to unload the van and take it back the next day. So we had to put our things in the house with all that extra stuff. Not an easy job! So the first thing after returning the truck was to haul things to the landfill, that we had to pay for! Not what we were expecting to do. We managed to get all moved in and were happy to be in our new off-the-grid homestead!

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole


The Beauty Of Fresh Snow

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Fresh Snow Today!

More snow this morning. Not too bad though, since we are all set for the day. It is when you have to go out and do something that the snow hinders us. I hate to drive in snow and I don’t very often. My husband can drive anywhere, even if the road is not plowed. We can always get out of here. 

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Logs covered with snow!

Cutting firewood can be done in the other seasons when you don’t need it. That will build your piles up and in the winter you can just take from that. We don’t do that. My husband does not like to do firewood then and he has his own ways of doing things. I don’t interfere in what he does or how he does it. We are always warm in the winter and that is all that matters.

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My son on the forest path

Keeping paths shoveled to the various places we need to get to is essential. That way we can move around easily regardless of the snow. Our animals like to use the paths and it isn’t often we will see our cats or dog not using a shoveled path. They like it easy. Our dog though, uses the path as her bathroom and so I try to avoid those paths.

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Trees across the road.

 The beauty of the fresh snowfall is something I always looks forward to. No matter how tough the winter is, God gives us something to enjoy along with that. In fact, the work is something we humans have made for ourselves. If we could live without shoveling, driving somewhere in the snow or at the least, having a load of firewood and hay stored for the winter, then I don’t think the winter would be half bad. 

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole


Fill The Pantry With Home-Canned Foods You Like

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Canned Chicken Breast

This year I am making some big plans on our food supply. I have a lot more canning jars empty at the moment, rather than full. So I need to get them filled up and put away. I am hoping we get some major changes done on our house. Then I will have the space for the jars. Ever since my root cellar has been torn apart, I have not been able to use it the way it is meant to be used. Between the root cellar and the pantry, the food supply should be easy to get to, and the right climate for the stored food.

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Canned Pumpkin

This year I am concentrating on low carb vegetables, since now my husband has embraced this food plan gladly. That is no problem, as there are many low carb vegetables to choose from! I will also be canning a lot of different meats, cheeses, butter and bacon. The more food I have in jars, then I can rest easy, that none of it will go to waste. Living without a refrigerator means you have to make sure you can store whatever food you grow or buy. Canning and dehydrating assures me of that fact. 

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Canned Cheese

Canning cheese, bacon and butter is a controversial subject. I had backed off it for awhile. But I have read new information on it. Jackie Clay, my favorite author from Backwoods Home Magazine has done it. If she can do it, so can I. I do it safely and if I suspect anything is amiss……..in the garbage it goes! I have found new guidelines on canning bacon and will try it first. If I like it, I will tell my readers here all about it. After all, they sell canned bacon in the stores, so it means it can be canned.

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Home-Canned Hot Peppers

Figure out what you eat based on whatever diet you eat, and make your list from that. Grow or buy those foods. Make your main dishes that you eat often, the mainstay of your pantry. It is not hard to do. Don’t grow anything you don’t eat or like. If it is something you want to try, just plant a short row of that plant to see if you like it or not. 

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Last Corn From Daddy’s Garden

Eating low carbs means we don’t eat corn, potatoes or beets. After we have been on our plan awhile, we can have one or two of those vegetables a week. Not a huge helping of mashed potatoes and gravy though! The corn  I have left in my pantry is the last from my father’s garden. The last I will ever have of anything from his garden. I am not sad though! He instilled in me the need to garden. Then he taught me how to can food. So that knowledge will always live with me. Thanks, Daddy! 

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole