Sweet Mountain Life

Gardening, Vegetarian Food and Life in the Mountains of Western North Carolina

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Rosewater is amazing! It smells wonderful, but the scent does fade away, for those that really don’t like to smell like a rose garden all day. The most wonderful thing about rosewater is it’s ability to balance the skin’s pH. It helps to control excess oil and has anti-inflammatory properties that are said to clear acne, dermatitis and eczema, as well as reduce redness of irritated skin.

Making rosewater from this most romantic flower is simple. You’ll want to make sure the rose petals you use have not been sprayed with insecticides or poisons of any kind. Collect fully opened roses, remove the petals and place in a bowl or pan large enough to hold them. From here, you may pour distilled or boiled water over them to cover. Place a lid over the bowl or pan and steep for 10 minutes, much like tea. Strain, avoiding squeezing the petals, and allow to cool. Pour into decorative bottles or mason jars and store in a cool, dark place.

I love to keep my rosewater in the refrigerator. It makes for a very refreshing toner in the summer.

There are so many wonderful flowers and plants growing wild. I hope that, as I I learn more about using these amazing treasures, I can share them all with you and encourage you to make your life a little more simple. ūüėČ

Until next time…


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The Mountain Comes Back to Life

It’s time to catch up and share some of what’s been happening on our mountain these last few months. But, first, a few photos and a little chit-chat on what’s happening right now!

I love Springtime! The buzzing, fluttering, croaking, chirping sounds that seem to rise up from the silence every morning to accompany new life, from seemingly nowhere, are the best alarm clock ever. The orchard is bursting with fruit this year! The wild berries are unbelievably full. It’s going to be a great year for cobblers, preserving and wine.

I caught a shot of the Scarlet Tanager, a bird I’ve never seen before, and the Hummingbirds have returned.

We now have chickens, adding 13 new babies to our little homestead, and we’re loving the new and interesting experiences having a flock of birds brings. Sometimes, quite interesting.

Rosewater! I tried my hand at rosewater. I love to keep it in the fridge, especially in the Summer. Rosewater tones the skin, helps with acne and more. It’s so refreshing after a bath or before bed. I’ll write a special post on how to make this simple scented water soon.


For now, I’m off to gather eggs and lettuce, collect a few herbs and see what the day brings. Here’s hoping you have a beautiful one!

Happy Homesteading,
Catherine and Michael


We’re Baaack!!

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I can’t believe I abandoned this blog earlier this year! After about a month, I was gone. Not to exercise or do great humanitarian work, but for sometimes small and ridiculous reasons. “I’ll do that tomorrow”. Oh yeah. I used that one a lot. “I’m too busy baking” and “I forgot to take the preparation photos” also worked.

The Honey!

The Honey!

10 lbs and one season later, the exercise excuse became a reality. Two months and 13 lbs. down, I still wasn’t writing. Summer passed and so did photo/blog opportunities. The bees did well, with one hive producing 8 gallons of honey its first year! Weeks of canning and pickling, as well as enjoying the fresh fruits and veggies of summer occupied my time.


Dandelion Wine

Dandelion Wine

Cherry Wine

Cherry Wine

Fall came with grapes and apples and so many wonderful smells. We found nut trees on the property. Michael made wine from every kind fruit we harvested, and some dandelion wine, too. He also made delicious apple cider and I made vinegar from the peels and cores. We put in a couple of new apple and pear trees and found more blackberry bushes.

Winter has just begun and it’s time to catch up. I do have a backlog of pictures…pics of gardens, sunrises, food, dogs and people to post! I am so grateful for every minute of every day that I get to spend on this mountain. Michael feels the same. Thank you for letting us share it with you.





The Forest

The Forest

Enjoy Life and Live Vegan!
(or whatever makes you happy ūüėČ )

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Early Morning Walk

Morning Walk

We woke up to a beautiful dusting of snow on the ground this morning! I’m like a kid when I hear the weatherman mention possible flurries. Michael finds this quite funny.

After restocking the fire, we headed out with the three pups tagging along. Oh, the things we would see if we could keep up with them, running up the mountain and through the steep ravines. I do believe that watching the ease with which they move motivates me to enjoy our outing even more.

There’s nothing that beats an early morning walk on the mountain, especially in the Winter. It always seems more peaceful. You can hear the winds coming forever and see them wave through the trees before they ever reach you. I still get excited by all of the little magical things I find in nature. Sometimes, it’s snow on fungus growing off an oak log. Sometimes, it’s watching Bella try to step onto the ice at the edge of the pond for a drink and watching her reaction as the ice cracks and disappears. It really doesn’t matter the season, there is ALWAYS beauty to be found.


It seems that a big part of the days is restocking wood for the fire. Michael’s “time to make the donuts” line is “time to cut and split the firewood”. Recently, he’s cut into some Hickory and found that Hickory is “really heavy”. He brought a truckload down to the house and had to carry a few loads up the stairs to be used in the living room fireplace. All that climbing and carrying can only be good for a person, right? ūüėČ


A roaring fire in the house always makes me think of warm comfort foods. My sister, Rebecca, posted a yummy looking Apple Pie Baked Oatmeal that I thought would be wonderful to wake up to. The recipe was easy to make and delicious. It has no added sugar…the apples and dates take care of that. But, everyone is not like me, and Michael would prefer his a little sweeter. A drizzle of maple syrup did the trick, and I would make the recipe the same next time.

Jessica's Piggy Cookies

On a final note, my daughter, Jessica, moved recently and wasn’t able to take the boar that had become a pet to her new home. That’s right…a wild boar. Sweetest, smartest animal ever! Knowing she couldn’t take her baby into her new neighborhood and knowing that he would be best left in his wild home, she left him behind with heavy heart. So…I made her some Piggy Cookies. I know they won’t really fill the void, but cookies from Mom never hurt! By the way, since I don’t use conventional food coloring, I boiled some cranberries and used the liquid to make the icing pink. Fun!

Enjoy Life and Live Vegan!
Catherine and Michael

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The last week or so has been great fun! Michael and our neighbor, Steve, set to work pruning the apple, plum, peach and cherry trees. The cold puts the trees into a dormant state that is perfect for trimming them back…way back. It always amazes me how much growth there is during¬†the Spring and Summer¬†and, therefore, how much must be trimmed away in the Winter. After this Friday’s snow passes, it will be time to trim the apricots and the larger cherry tree near the kitchen window.


Neighbor Steve also built some cool birdhouses and shared a few with us. Michael sealed the roofs and set to putting them in the trees.

Too cold and wet to play outside

249 Too cold and wet to play outside

The dogs have taken to staying inside, unless their “friends” venture out to play. They love to jump into the truck and ride up the mountain with Michael when he’s got wood to cut and split. Otherwise, they seem content to lay in front of the fire and wait until it’s necessary to take a trip outside. I agree…fire is my friend.



When temperatures are chilly, I tend to stay in the kitchen and cook. Nothing warms me up like a hot pot of stew, soup or sauce on the stove and cookies in the oven. Michael has no problem eating most of the goodies, so that saves me, at least a little. ūüėČ

Tonight,¬†dinner is¬†homemade spaghetti and sauce with vegan meatballs. I also had some sugar coated peanuts that we received for Christmas. We weren’t eating them, so I chopped them up and put them into a batch of chocolate chip cookies, cutting back the sugar a bit. The result was wonderful. And, no more sugar-coated peanuts!. (Planned on posting a pic of dinner on the plate, but couldn’t wait to eat it and forgot to grab the camera ūüėČ


Best of all, Michael made my end table!! I wanted a small end table to put beside the couch in the basement. What he did with a log from the woodpile was amazing. Be sure to take a look!

Enjoy Life and Live Vegan!
Catherine and Michael

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Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili to Ward Off the Cold


Looking at the weather report, I can’t help but crave a hot pot of chili. My favorite is Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili and it’s so easy. Use canned beans, tomatoes and pumpkin or your own from the garden. This chili can be put in the crock pot and simmered for hours or thrown together and served in 30 minutes. Great for unexpected company, too!

Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili

1 medium onion, chopped                                                          1 can (14 1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained

1 medium sweet yellow pepper. chopped                                   2 t. dried parsley

2 T. olive oil                                                                                 2 t. chili powder

3 garlic cloves, minced                                                                1 1/2 t. dried oregano

3 cups veggie broth                                                                     1 1/2 t. ground cumin

3 cans (15 oz. each) black beans, or combination                      1/2 t. salt

1 can (15 oz.) solid pack pumpkin or fresh pumpkin


In a large skillet, sauté the onion and yellow pepper in oil until tender. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Transfer to a 5 quart slow cooker; stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low 4-5 hours or cook until heated thru.

Yeild: 10 servings (2 1/2 quarts)


Enjoy Life and Live Vegan!
Catherine and Michael


My Thoughts on Bee Keeping

ImageThis was posted on FB by a friend this morning and it brought up a subject that Michael and I have discussed at length. As vegans, we try constantly to consider the consequences of our actions. . We are, by far, imperfect, but we try

My response to the post is below, as well. I’m curious as to how others feel, especially since our bee population is so compromised.


Cathy Hamilton I am vegan and am against any kind of animal cruelty. But, I know many beekeepers and I’ve never heard of these practices. The beekeepers I know would never kill their queen, rather protect her as much as possible to keep the hives running properly. They don’t have to clip wings, the other bees keep her there and happy. They certainly don’t artificially inseminate their queens. They always leave, at least, the top box of honey for the bees. My experience is only in watching the excellent care and love that beekeepers give their colonies. They love their bees the way they love their dogs and cats. These beekeepers aren’t large factory honey producers, but local keepers who sell to neighbors and local farmers markets. I can certainly believe that unnatural and unnecessary practices occur in factories and that should never be. As a vegan, I’m torn between the idea of “keeping” bees and the prospect of kindly and consciously protecting and helping to regrow the bee population. Our lives depend on it.


Enjoy Life and Live Vegan!
Catherine and Michael