Things I Learned Alone On The Farm

Brandon-Blankenship Things I Learned Alone On the Farm

There is always something to do on a farm. Even when you fix everything that is broken, there is preventative maintenance to do: greasing equipment, treating wood handles, sharpening…. If you get all of the preventative maintenance done, there is always something that could be improved. Better soil, better fences, better drainage, better water, all of this makes a better farm.

Often, my mind joins my hands and is consumed in the work. Other times, the work itself (like driving a tractor) lends itself to watching things, to learning. Here are some of the things I learned alone on the farm:

  1. Honeybees are a living example of the Christian lifestyle. They work and work to have a surplus of the food stores they need to survive. Even when they give away 2/3 of what they make, they have plenty left for themselves.
  2. Thousands of honeybees work in perfect harmony with each other toward a common goal. Best as I can tell, excluding queen selection, they never argue in spite of making countless daily decisions that will determine their survival.
  3. Border collies work when they are hurt.
  4. On the farm, it is obvious that death in its full meaning is at work every day. Wood rots, metal rusts, moths destroy and the cute field mouse eats next season’s seeds.
  5. Life will force its way through rock.
  6. Left alone, the plants that I don’t (or can’t) eat will overtake the plants that I can eat.
  7. The honeybee makes honey for the survival of the honeybee colony. The beekeeper only manages surplus.
  8. A good file is more valuable than a new axe.
  9. A bucket of bolts and screws saves a bunch of trips to the hardware store.
  10. I can track the season by what is blooming.
  11. Good soil is better than the best fertilizer.
  12. This year’s potato harvest has to last until next year’s potato harvest.
  13. Acquaintances are indirectly proportionate to the work that needs to be done.
  14. Friends are directly proportionate to the work that needs to be done.

### Brandon Blankenship, On the farm.

Blankenship Farms Pottery

About the Artist, Donnalee Blankenship

Donnalee working on Blankenship Farms Pottery
Hand building an Alabama platter.

I grew up with creative parents, and admired my art teacher aunt, but had very few artistic opportunities in school. In fact, my small town high school had no art classes at all. I always loved photography, painting, drama, ventriloquism, and creativity in all forms.

In 2010, I signed up for a pottery wheel class at the Shelby County Arts Council in Columbiana, Alabama, and I was hooked. I took class after class as long as my schedule allowed. A few years later, I started taking classes at Tena Payne’s studio, Cahaba Clayworks in Leeds, Alabama. Most recently I’ve taken classes with Nelson Grice at Grice Art Studio.

Glazing Blankenship Farms Pottery
Painting on the glaze.

I continue looking for new classes and opportunities to learn new techniques and discover what clay can do.

My desire is to make beautiful and useful art. My dream is to study with potters all over the U.S. and abroad, and learn what works for them. My philosophy is to find adventure and joy in all that I do and share that with others.

About Blankenship Farms Pottery

Blankenship Farms Pottery Alabama Cheese Platters
Alabama Cheese Platters

Stoneware pottery is perfect for kitchen use. Bisque fired at cone 04 and glaze fired at cone 6, stoneware is durable and can be used in the oven or refrigerator. Lead-free glazes make it food safe. Most of my pottery is hand built or slab built. Occasionally, I work on my wheel skills and throw bowls, plates, and more.

Our pottery with melted glass should not be used with food. Pottery with metallic edging should not be microwaved. All pottery dishes are dishwasher safe, however, that will wear and tear on the pieces more than hand washing.

Blankenship Farms Pottery Oil Bottles or Soap Bottles
Alabama Oil or Soap Bottles

The majority of my clay and glazes come from Stone Mountain Clay and Glazes in Tucker, Georgia. I hope to one day process local Alabama clay and incorporate that into my pieces. It’s all a learning process.


Image credits: All the good looking, professional photos on this page were taken by the fabulous Heather Ponder of PonderHill Photography in Pelham, Alabama.  She is amazing. My photos are pretty obvious. :-/

Blankenship Farms Honey

Three Bottles Blankenship Farms Honey

Blankenship Farms Honey is made by honeybees in Shelby County, Alabama under the management of apiarist Brandon Blankenship.

Blankenship Farms Honey starts flowing early here. We start each day with a tablespoon of pure raw honey that has been dissolved in a glass of water with a squirt of lemon juice. We are convinced that it is the best way to satisfy an early morning thirst.

Blankenship  Farms honey is pure and raw – it is not filtered or heated above 105 degrees.

Our honey bee hives are free of pesticides, fungicides and plastic. Herbicides are not used in the apiary. When extracted from the honeycomb, our honey is screened (not filtered) and it is not blended with sugar syrup or high fructose corn syrup.

Blankenship Farms Honey and Exercise

Blankenship Farms Honey is a natural source of carbohydrates. Before exercising, consider eating pure honey for a carb load to burn off during a workout or sports. Stay hydrated and energized by adding honey to your bottled water.

For a protein enriched high carb snack, mix honey with peanut butter or light cream cheese for a fruit dip or sandwich.

Blankenship Farms Honey for Breakfast

If we have any kind of bread for breakfast it is topped with Blankenship Farms Honey. Buttered biscuits are a favorite. Each December, we have a limited release lemon-honey jelly. Winter goodness peaks with lemon-honey jelly smeared over a butter saturated biscuit.

However, we don’t have bread every morning. Many mornings we have fruit with a honey-syrup or honey-glaze. Our latest favorite is honey vanilla yogurt.

Blankenship Farms Honey for Lunch

On a hurried day, a peanut butter and honey sandwich is the way to go.

Most days, though, we end up with a salad of some kind. Greens of some type are available from our garden most nat honey month bfmonths of the year. We switch up what we mix with honey for a salad dressing: honey-balsamic vinaigrette, apple cider vinegar honey vinaigrette – the combinations never end.

Most days, though, we end up with a salad of some kind. Greens of some type are available from our garden most months of the year. We switch up what we mix with honey for a salad dressing: honey-balsamic vinaigrette, apple cider vinegar honey vinaigrette – the combinations never end.

When pears are in season we drizzle them with cinnamon-honey as a side dish.

Blankenship Farms Honey for Supper

Heat changes the nature and character of honey. We are often on a quest to find recipes for supper that include honey without having to cook the honey itself.

Often what we do is modify a recipe to add the honey after the cooking process is over. Consider these options:

  • Sweet and Salty Chicken
  • Honey Bourbon-Roasted Carrots
  • Honey-Soy Lacquered Ribs
  • Grilled and Salted Chicken (with Honey Drizzle)
  • Dinner Rolls (with Honey Butter)

Blankenship Farms Honey for Desert

Imagine an apple cake with ice cream and honey sauce.

Honey-candied pecans are a staple that can be eaten by themselves, used as an ice cream topping or worked into almost any desert.

Blankenship Farms Honey In the Kitchen

Use As Sugar Substitute: Honey is a little sweeter than sugar so you can substitute easily. For the first cup of sugar to a one-to-one substitution. Over one cup, use about 2/3-3/4 cup of honey for every cup of sugar.

Use as An Emulsifier: Honey acts as a binder and thickener for sauces, dressings, marinades and dips.

Use as A Humectant: Honey provides and retains moisture in a variety of dishes and can even extend the shelf life of baked goods.

Blankenship Farms Honey and Looking Better

Add a squeeze of honey to your moisturizer, shampoo or soap at home. Honey’s natural moisturizing properties can certainly make you look better. NOTE: We don’t guarantee that you will look good. If you were born ugly or somehow got ugly over the years, all you can hope for is to look better – a squeeze of Blankenship Farms Honey may just help with that.

Blankenship Farms Honey Helps You Sleep

If your sleep is interrupted by constant coughing (yours or someone else’s) here is a honey based cough syrup that may help you sleep.

Getting Some Blankenship Farms Honey

You can find Blankenship Farms Honey at Gifted in Pelham or at a retailer near you.

Ask Retailer Blankenship Farms Honey


Image Credit: Thans to Lindsey Bieda for the use of her image Bubbles in Honey which is used under a Creative Commons License through flickr 17OCT2006

Groundhog Day aka Candlemas


February 2, Groundhog day, originated as a cross-quarter day which is the midpoint between a solstice and equinox. For the ancient Celts, cross-quarter days marked the beginning of each season, with the major two divisions being winter (Samhain), starting the dark half of the year, and summer (Beltane), starting the light half of the year.

Groundhog day acquired its English name, Candlemas,  from the candles lit that day in churches to celebrate the presentation of the Christ Child in the temple of Jerusalem.

It was not held as a good omen if the day itself was bright and sunny, for that betokened snow and frost to continue to the hiring of the laborers 6 weeks later on Lady Day.

If it was cloudy and dark, warmth and rain would thaw out the fields and have them ready for planting. Our Groundhog Day is a remote survivor of that belief.

Regardless, it is an imminent reminder that the countdown to spring (and the push to finish winter work) has started.


(c) Brandon L. Blankenship, Alabama Birmingham Hoover Pelham, Image Credit: Groundhog Kitty Terwolbeck CC flickr 24DEC2013


19th Annual Beekeeper Symposium

Dr. Jeff Harris (c)2014 Brandon Blankenship Alabama Birmingham Hoover Pelham

Our First Beekeeper Symposium

Anna and I attended the Alabama’s 19th Annual Beekeeper Symposium which was hosted by Auburn University.  Shelby County was well represented with two club members (George Baldwin and Jimmy Carmack) as presenters.  Also, the Shelby County club had a significant number of members as attendees.  We are blessed to have so much talent in our local club.

Our objective was to learn more about queen rearing and pure honey production.  We were able to attend presentations on The Small Hive Beetle, Colony Management, Methods to Insure High Quality Honey, Queen Management for the New Beekeeper and Developing & Using Nucleus Colonies.

One of the best aspects of the Symposium was how accessible the presenters, masters and other beekeepers were.

Anna and I were able to attend presentations on Responsibilities of the Alabama Beekeeper, Making Increases and Swarm Management, Methods to Insure High Quality Honey For Your Customers, Queen Management & Selection and Developing & Using Nucleus Colonies.


The Beemaster’s Prayer

Will there be bees in heavenly places

will there be bees?

Winging their way through the golden spaces

To fruitify the eternal trees

That yield their sweet life-giving store

Monty by month for ever more.

Will soft bee music haunt the stream

Whose waters shine with crystal glow

And will they come where lilies gleam

To skip the eternal nectar flow?

Lord though didst love our earthly places

Birds and flowers and shady trees-

Let there be Bees in heavenly places

Let there be Bees

-Author unknown


(c)2014 Brandon Blankenship Alabama Birmingham Hoover Pelham

Lemon Honey Jelly – Spring In A Jar

Lemon Honey Jelly 2014 0983 (c)2014 Brandon L. Blankenship Pelham Hoover Birmingham Attorney Lawyer

It’s spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you’ve got it, you want  —  oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! -Mark Twain

By mid to late January, I am tired of cold and wet (and sometimes dark) days.  In a break from our goal to make products in season, I make lemon honey jelly.  Honey is the only sweetener and no sugar is added.


Best on buttered biscuit and good on most bread (cornbread, muffins, sandwiches, etc.).  If you leave out the pectin, this recipe makes a natural syrup for sweetening drinks (like tea), or drizzling over oatmeal or vanilla bean ice cream.  Oven bake chicken using just about any dry rub.  Finish off on the grill for five minutes after you remove from oven and brush the jelly or syrup on.

Making It (Makes Two Pints)


  • 1 cup lemon juice (juice from 5-6 lemons)
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon zest
  • 2-1/2 cups honey
  • 3 tablespoons of pectin (see blog on making pectin)

Clean and zest lemons.  This number of lemons will make more than a tablespoon of zest, so if you make more than a tablespoon have a storage plan (dry it or freeze it).

Squeeze lemons for juice.  Squeeze through rough mesh to keep out seed and rind.  It is ok to have a little pulp and the juice does not need to clear.

In a larger than four quart, combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, honey, and pectin, and stir well.  Once the mixture reaches a rolling boil, stir for four minutes while you constantly stir.

Ladle into sterilized jars and seal.

After sealed, place in a canner and boil for six minutes (don’t start the clock until the boil starts).  Pull from canner and rack until cool.

Check seal and eat.




(c) 2014 Brandon Blankenship Birmingham Hoover Pelham Birmingham

One Honorable Mention Muscadine

One Lone Muscadine (c)2014 Brandon L. Blankenship Pelham Hoover Birmingham Attorney Lawyer

This year, our entire muscadine crop consisted of one grape.  All the pruning, all the composting, all the watering and … one grape.  We overlooked one thing:  ph.  The vine won’t fruit if the soil is too acidic.  This year we will start applying granular lime in the winter and we will apply hydrated lime during the growing season.

(c)2013 Brandon Blankenship

October Farm Schedule

Oct2013 Peppers Crop
The work schedule in cooler months makes Spring and Summer work pleasurable. For me, this schedule starts when the night temperatures drop into the 50s. In most of Alabama, Ryegrass (Lolium) will germinate once night temperatures are consistently in the 50s. If you are not in Alabama, wait for a 20 degree temperature spread from day to night. Over seeding with Ryegrass keeps our grass green through the cooler months and the deer keep it mowed for us.

This also starts the most successful time of year for transplanting trees and bushes. Winter vegetable plantings should be in by now.

This is also a good time for preventative equipment maintenance. Consider:

Replace oil, fuel and air filters.
Change and properly dispose of used oil.
Check fluid levels and add when necessary.
Inspect or replace spark plugs (and adjust gap).
Lube grease fittings.
Where possible, hand turn bearings and spindles and replace when necessary.
Check belts and replace where necessary.
Check blades and sharpen or replace as necessary.
Check tire pressure (do this after every major temperature change).
Replace broken items discovered during these inspections.
Add items from your unique user manuals.

Pauper Pear Jelly 2013


Each year our compost gets better and better because as we do more canning, the fruit and vegetable scraps are dumped in the compost. These scraps break down into dark rich soil. While Mom was visiting recently, she offhandedly mentioned that when she was growing up they would cook the peels down to get the juice out of them. I grew up around canning, but apparently missed a lot. In part, I took Mom to mean that we were not well off enough to throw out perfectly good food. So, I gave it a try.

Since we were making pear jam and pear honey, I decided to cook down the peels and the cores and give a try to Pauper Pear Jelly. Here is the recipe:

Put the scraps from pealing pears in a large pot. Add two cups of water, bring the water to a boil and then turn the heat back, cover and let it simmer. Once the fruit pulp has cooked down, pour the liquid off, let cool and strain. Repeat the strain or filter the liquid until it has the clarity you want. For a jelly, it should be clear. For jam, preservative, etc., it can have more pulp. Discard the cooked down pulp (that is, everything left over) into the compost.

For the jelly:

5 cups juice
7 cups sugar
2 pouches Certo pectin

In another pot (large enough to hold 11 cups or more), pour in juice and bring to a rolling boil. You can add water if you are short on juice. I prefer to add apple juice (which naturally contains pectin or white grape juice which is naturally sweet).

Add sugar one cup at the time and stir until a rolling boil returns. Repeat until all the sugar is added.

At this point, turn the heat back to a simmer and skim any foam or white film that rises to the top. Some people add a little butter to stop the foaming. I prefer not to do this as I am uncertain of the impact it has on shelf life. Also, I want my ingredient list as short as possible.

Return to a rolling boil and add the pectin. Bring back to a rolling boil and let the boil roll for at least one minute. Turn off heat and skim the foam off again.

Ladle quickly into prepared jars and follow canning instructions.

Wait 24 hours, bake some buttered biscuits and heap some Pauper Pear Jelly on the biscuit. Enjoy!

Note: You may be tempted to cut back on the pectin because you are dealing with pears. Don’t. Since we are effectively steaming the pear juice out of the peal and core, the juice is weaker.