Five Tips To Smooth Spring Cleaning

Right now, I’m handling Country Life from our southern bastion in North Carolina. My husband works for a Really Big Company That’s Based In Ohio, but they have facilities here. My sense of the seasons is a little bit earlier than that of my co-workers up north at Lehman’s in Kidron, and I’m ready to start spring cleaning!

Some of my best cleaning tips came from my grandfather. Geezer was a school custodian. Talk about an efficient worker–he never wasted a minute. And when he cleaned things, even using ‘natural’ solutions, he always wore rubber gloves. You should too.

  1. 20 Mule Team Borax

    Laundry booster, all-around cleaner. Can’t live without my Mule Team to help me clean. At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, and at Lehmans.com.

    Lemons and borax: Cleans stainless steel, tile, shower surrounds, grout. Make a paste with lemon juice and borax, smear on the trouble spots. Let set a few moments, while you clean something else. Rinse with water, and dry with a lint-free towel. (My favorite is our Flour Sack Towel.)

  2. Keep household metals shiny: Once polished, be sure to buff well–you want shiny, not sticky. (Try Met-All Aluminum and Stainless, Met-All Brass and Copper Cleaner, or Flitz Metal Polish.) Next time you clean, you can wipe fingerprints right off with a Flour Sack Towel dampened in warm water. If you do this weekly, even your doorknobs will gleam. Renew the polish every few months. Continue reading

Sugaring With Black Walnuts And Farmer Hannah

Just one more article on sap collection and syrup making–from Hannah Breckbill, our Minnesota off-grid farmer. She’s got access to black walnut trees, and she tells us about tapping them last week.                                                    –Editor

French Breakfast Radishes

Certified organic, GMO free! French Breakfast Radish and other heirloom seeds are in stock at Lehmans.com.

As a farmer, making a living from the land, I experience the end of winter as a very antsy time.  I’ve been sedentary all winter, living off of my harvest from the previous season.  I’ve been keeping my livestock fed, and I may have started planting seedlings in the greenhouse, but really all my mind is on is getting into the field and getting moving, always looking toward that first harvest of spinach and radishes and herbs.

But, there is something that I can do now that isn’t just biding my time for the real deal.  This late winter/early spring time is the time of sap flow in deciduous trees, as they wake up from winter and start thinking about making buds and leaves again.  Freezing nights alternating with sunny, thawing days are the ideal time to capture flowing sap, amid the mud and slush and anticipation of abundant life. Continue reading

Maple Sugaring In Western Massachusetts

Sap Bags for gathering maple sap for syrup

Want replace your old bucket? Try an affordable Set of 10 Sap Bags from Lehmans.com

There are really no words for just how loathsome it is outside right now. Snow, then freezing rain, then more snow and more rain. Gushing torrents of rain and it’s 40 degrees so the snow has turned to a foot of sloppy mush. Tonight will drop back in the 20’s so tomorrow morning the yard will be a rock-hard skating rink that will turn to slush by mid-day. Yep. You gotta love spring in Western Massachusetts

The only redeeming feature I can come with right now is the appearance of buckets on the sides of the maple trees that line the back roads where I live. True. A lot of the metal buckets have been replaced with plastic tubing and large plastic holding tanks but there are enough old timers like us who boil maple sap down to syrup, not for a living but to provide syrup for our families and maybe a bit extra to sell at roadside stands. Continue reading

American Gardens: Location, Location, Location!

Our American Gardeners have checked in! This may be the second day of spring, but winter still hasn’t gotten the message in most of the country. Still, garden planning and a bit of gardening is going on.

Tim, Ohio: I don’t dare plant before 4-15 but I have my plan set. I’m inter-planting onion rows with carrot rows as pest deterrence this year. I’m also knocking together pea troughs and the last of the raised beds now. Going to a “growing potatoes” class on Saturday.

Kathy, Massachusetts: Ice today. It’s a slushy, mushy mess. And if it doesn’t stop snowing soon, I may cry! (Kathy’s area has seen as much as 20+ inches of snow this winter.)

BG's seeds and markers

Lehman’s has many varieties of heirloom tomatoes for your garden! Check out the row tags BG made for her American Garden heirloom seeds.

BG, Indiana: I’m prepping things. I’m about 2 weeks behind with seeding out into the seedpods (flats), which will be addressed tonight.

I have made planting flags (row tags) for everything that is being started indoors.
The head lettuce was seeded outdoors directly into a bed that already had garlic planted and can be covered easily if the weather requires me to do so.

I’m thinking of weighing the harvest this year. I like to be organized! Must analyze plants! Must optimize garden capacity! Continue reading

What “Amish-Made” Really Means

What’s so great about Amish-made?

These beautiful 100% leather belts are handmade by an Amish family in Pennsylvania. They'll take you from the board room to the weekend with ease.

These beautiful 100% leather belts are handmade by an Amish family in Pennsylvania. They’ll take you from the board room to the weekend with ease.

Lehman’s, in Kidron, Ohio, is located in the heart of the largest Amish community in the world.

Many people think of Lancaster County in Pennsylvania when they think of large Amish communities, but Lancaster’s community of 30,000-35,000 is actually second in size to the approximately 40,000 Amish that live in southern Wayne and eastern Holmes County, Ohio. These Amish people are our neighbors, our friends, our customers and our vendors. Continue reading

A Thousand Things To Amuse Puzzle-Loving Folks!

Danielle Russel and her parents, Berta and Doug Lockhart evaluated two of our more challenging thousand piece puzzles this winter. Danielle and Doug work together and make all sorts of hand-forged iron items for Lehman’s at their forge and nearly-off-grid home in southern Ohio. Danielle is also planning to raise organic seedlings for sale this summer. Not yet 20, she’s won awards for her smithing, and is one of our newest bloggers here at Country Life. She’s also a big fan of sweets, especially sour gummy worms!

1,000 piece puzzle at Lehmans.com

Have a sweet time with our Candy Wrappers puzzle! In stock now at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, and at Lehmans.com.

Puzzle #1: Candy Wrappers
Wow! Talk about craving some candy… This puzzle gave off the same vibes as a cook book! If you know your candy (and boy do I!), you can find matches to each piece very easily. So maybe before you start the puzzle you should buy lots of candy to refresh your memory of wrapper colors… And it’s always more fun to have snacks during a puzzle!

We always start with the edges first because that just seems like the way every puzzle should start! Then we all (Papa, Mom and I) start working on putting together a section on our own, which we transfer into the edges. Continue reading

Molly Made Her First Maple Syrup!

Backyard Sugarin' Book

Want to know more about gathering sap and making syrup? Try Backyard Sugarin’ from Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

The Origin Story
I’m a self-employed stained glass artist, hippie, geek, freak, and hands-on type person.  I just bought a new-to-me house after years of apartment dwelling, and because it was a foreclosure, I had received a “you must fix immediately” list from my friendly neighborhood insurance company the minute I closed on my new abode.  The list was long and non-negotiable. But that list is inadvertently responsible for my lark into maple syrup making.

Item number 3 on their “Fix immediately” list was “tree trimming”, and in the midst of pruning a rather stately specimen, my partner and I noted that there was liquid coming from the pruned branches, similar to the amount one sees from a drippy faucet. Thank goodness for Google and smartphones, because we established within a few minutes that the tree in question was a sugar maple, and that another variety of maple was also on the property.  I read that any maple can produce sap for maple syrup, but that the sugar content varies by species.

Since I tend to find domesticity that results in stuff I can eat a rather cool concept given my self-employed artist status and hippie tree-hugging ways, I thought it would be nifty to try making maple syrup, especially if I could find the supplies to do it  around the house.  I mean, I can’t remember phone numbers for squat, but prices on food? Sheesh… I know how much maple syrup costs, and with the aforementioned (and expensive) list of “must fix immediately” decided that beyond the novelty of it, maple syrup making would be pretty cost-effective in terms of the time invested.  Continue reading

Hand-Crank Blender At Home On The Range

Hand-Cranked Blender

Mark depends on his hand-cranked blender for drinks, soups, batters and more. It’s available now at Lehmans.com.

Our wandering cowboy has checked in again! While he searches for the perfect cowpony, he’s keeping us apprised on how Lehman’s products work for him on the road. He’s found the Hand-Crank Blender “indispensible.”

The comfort of having a food blender 24/7 is a must for me.  Other than having a good cup of “cowboy coffee,” a fruit smoothie is one of life’s simple  pleasures.

Lehman’s hand crank blender has allowed me to make fruit drinks, milk shakes, prepare sauces for pasta and mix soup stock where ever I go. After field testing this item for Lehman’s I gave it a hundred per cent rating-plus!

In the year and a half I have used it, I have found it to be very durable and tough.  It has out-preformed my greatest expectations.
Continue reading

Our American Gardeners Get Going!

Heirloom seeds in packets from Lehmans.com.

Choose from a variety of heirloom seeds at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Last week, Country Life announced our American Gardens Project, where we sent a selection of heirloom seeds to gardeners all over the country. Each gardener has received his or her seeds, and is, as we say at Lehman’s, “starting their seedlings” in the race to harvest. We’ll track each one, and see how the various seeds do in gardens across the country.

Our Arizona gardener, Glynis, lives in the high desert, and has some big challenges to overcome. She shares her thoughts with us below. Our other gardeners, who are scattered through the South, East and Midwest, will have updates here soon. Continue reading

Country Cottons Are A True Mom-And-Pop Business

100% Cotton Kitchen Towels, Lehmans.com

Pete and Toni Hogan, outside the ‘manufacturing center’, autumn 2013.

Locust, North Carolina isn’t the biggest town on the map. You might not think there’s a whole lot going on there. You’d be wrong–because Pete and Toni Hogan’s three-car garage doesn’t hold cars–it holds a thriving business!

Pete ran Country Cottons from the spring of 2008 until the end of 2010, when he retired. “But folks kept after me, kept asking if we had anything left, if we could tell them where to find dishtowels that were 100% American,” he said when interviewed for Country Life last fall.

And so early in 2013, he and his wife picked the business back up, and now they’re busier than ever! Continue reading