Monday, April 30, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

spring rush


Each spring, usually after a good rain, we have some minor flooding due to the increase of water coming into the pond. It's a grand time, when the stream of water trickling into the pond is less a steam and more a river. We're not exactly sure where this water comes from, but sometimes the "spring rush," as we like to call it, coincides with the city opening up the dam on a nearby lake. Our western neighbor talks of his ponds being spring-fed, so perhaps part of ours is, too.

 Flooding in the goats' lower pasture: 

The first year we lived here, the flooding was not-so-minor, and we had ducks swimming in our driveway! 

Pretty pond scum:

Last year, I caught a fish in this area using just my hands. The raging water had swept it up over the bank and in-between some rocks. 


Typically, our neighbor to the east has a small, shallow pond from our overflow. Here you can see most of his field is covered with water today.


I love this time of year, when it feels like we're being given a clean slate. And you wouldn't believe just how fresh and clean and new everything smells! Ah, Spring!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

pizza bites from leftovers


Whenever I cook spaghetti, I tend to make a bit too much sauce. Do you do that, too? Perhaps this is because I'm afraid we won't have enough sauce for our noodles, which of course, would be tragic. And so, there is most certainly leftover sauce after a pasta dinner. One of my favorite things to do with these leftovers is make little pizza bites! They're a great snack or lunch the next day.


Ingredients:

Bread, sliced to a medium thickness (you can use dinner rolls, garlic bread, French bread, bagels...whatever you have on hand)

Extra virgin olive oil

Leftover pasta sauce (mine had mushrooms and ground beef mixed in)

A good amount of oregano

A small amount of sugar

Cheese, shredded (again whatever you have on hand - I used cheddar, which is delicious on pizza, wouldn't you know?)


Method:

1. Drizzle each piece of bread with olive oil.

2. Combine oregano and sugar with leftover pasta sauce (this makes it into pizza sauce).

3. Spread sauce on bread slices and top with cheese

4. Bake at 425 degrees F for about 5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and bread is toasted a bit.


As a kid, the thought of leftovers usually made my cringe a little. I have an entirely different view of them now, but usually try to transform them into something a little different, rather than just reheating the same meal. So far, it's working out, as baby seems none the wiser ;)

Monday, April 23, 2012

chicken with dumplings

Chicken with dumplings is such a soulful meal, and something I forgot about until recently when my inspiration for cooking with root vegetables and remaining winter food stores was running thin. Very thin. We're still waiting on those first spring crops of glorious fresh food. Soon, soon! But just when I thought I couldn't wait a minute longer, I remembered this recipe. That version seems so very involved and complicated, but it really needn't be. Here's my simplified way:


Chicken with Dumplings
~serves 4-6 

Ingredients:

For the soup:
3 Tablespoons butter
2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
3-4 celery stalks, including leafy tops, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
3 Tablespoons flour 
6-8 Cups good-quality, homemade chicken stock
1/4 Cup heavy cream 
About 1 to 1 1/2 pounds cooked and shredded chicken meat. Note: This can be all breast meat, all dark meat, whatever you prefer. You can use leftover meat from a roasted chicken or boil a couple breasts and use that, for example. 
  
For the dumplings: 
2 Cups organic all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 Cup buttermilk


Method:

1. In a large pot, saute the carrot, celery, garlic, and bay leaves in butter over medium heat for a few minutes, until the veggies are soft.

2. Add the flour, stir and cook for a couple minutes. (This is your thickener for the soup).

3. Gradually add the chicken stock, stirring well.

4. Continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, until the soup thickens to your liking.  

5. Stir in the heavy cream and shredded chicken.

6. Prepare the dumplings: Sift together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and buttermilk. Combine the wet into the dry, and mix lightly. The batter will be thick. Using two spoons or your hands (my preferred method), shape the dough into balls and drop them into the soup.

7. Cook the dumplings in the soup for 10-15 minutes, until they are firm and fluffy.

8. Garnish with fresh parsley or celery tops.    
  

This kind of cooking is forgiving, too. It doesn't mind intermittent stops and starts while you attend to more important matters. Nor is it problematic, I've found, if there is a baby occasionally hanging off your leg as you prepare it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

parties and (un)pleasantries

We're hosting a party here this weekend for my sweet new nephew - a traditional Vietnamese celebration in honor of his first month. So it was high time to get this place in order once again.


As I walked around the property, picking up petrified deer bones long abandoned by the dogs, and tossing dead mice to the back field for the coyotes and crows, it occurred to me how completely normal these things have become. They're just part of the landscape here, and I don't so much as flinch at these sights, the way I may have a few years ago. 


But, we're having people over. Normal people, who might be a little aghast at their children unearthing muskrat carcasses and pig's feet while playing in the sandbox (which is where Aki likes to bury his treasures until they're ripe). I'm sure the children would find this fascinating, but we really don't want to scare off all the adults, now do we? 


The more I live this farming-type life, the more distanced I feel from normalcy in an average-everyday-working-woman sense. While others are doing sophisticated things like meeting co-workers for drinks, I'm in the chicken coop with a flashlight slathering salve on a rooster's butt. And the strange thing is, I really don't find it all that weird. Such are my now common sensibilities.


Well, so much for the pleasantries. When the uninitiated arrive, I'll just hope I didn't miss a spot. Which is why I will distract the guests with these pretty bouquets I made for the party using flowers and herbs from around the farm. This certainly makes up for all the not-so-pretty bits of my unabashedly dirty and borderline offensive life, yes?

Monday, April 16, 2012

springtime knitting

It's officially "Springtime in the Rockies," as we like to say. This means that a warm 75 degree morning becomes an overcast lunchtime rain storm, which then turns into a hail/snow mix as the sun sets on a 35 degree drop in temperature come nightfall. Yes, that is precisely what happened here this weekend.


It's not safe to pack up the woolens and bring out the shorts just yet. They often co-exist this time of year. And with that reality, I began work on some layering type knits for baby. This is her Tea Party Top, knitted in a worsted weight, hand-dyed wool that I thought so beautifully compliments the spring blooms outside right now.


It was a nice and easy knit, lending itself to being picked up and put down at a moment's notice, which suits life well these days.


A perfect little top for exploring indoors, and out. 


Are you enjoying some springtime craftiness (and perhaps a little crazy weather), too?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

growing strong

Just thought it might be fun to give you a short update on some various indoor growing things:


The leaning tomato seedlings are looking beautiful. Time to rotate their tray.


I planted some parsley and celery seeds in old tomato cans awhile back, and they're growing strong.

 

 The ginger has sprouted!


The potted Vietnamese basil is thriving, as are both sweet potato experiments. 


My onions are leggy. I've never grown them from seed, so I'm not sure if they are supposed to look this way or not.

It's so refreshing to see all this green! around the house. Happy Weekend to you!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

blueberries in a big blue pot


This rather ridiculously huge blue pot was left by the previous owners, and I've now found a way to put it to good use! Blueberries really dislike our heavy clay, alkaline soil here, even when amended with equally ridiculous amounts of peat moss or other acidifiers. What to do, since I can't stop myself from buying 2-for–1 bushes at the nursery, dreaming of growing my own?

I'm hoping I have success growing them in pots, as suggested by this article. I'm using mostly peat moss and a little compost, and just went ahead and potted both bushes together, since they will need each other for the bees to pollinate them (and who knows if there's even another blueberry bush for miles around!) The varieties are Jersey and Blue crop. Fingers crossed that we may someday have homegrown blueberries - just a handful for fresh eating or enough for a good batch of blueberry pancakes would make me oh.so.happy.

Monday, April 9, 2012

a new berry patch

It seems we've entered the plant or prepare-to-plant something every day stage! (Which will all-too-soon be followed by the weed every day, multiple times a day stage.) This weekend was a beautiful, slower-paced one, and I found a pocket of time to plant some bushes in the area we're turning into a little berry patch. 


So far, we have a couple young golden raspberry plants, and a blackberry that spent winter in the house since it didn't get planted last fall before all that early snow hit. We already have some wonderfully established red raspberry plants in the garden area (they grow amazingly well in Colorado), so this spot gives us a chance to have a bit more variety. I'm using the fence as a natural trellis, and the blackberry cane already seems at home here. We may even get some fruit from those second-year canes!
 

It doesn't look like much now, but all of our work here starts small. In a few years time, I can imagine a brambling blackberry covering the fence and hanging full of fruit, bees happily buzzing about. We'll have a homemade picnic table and a couple benches nearby for summer snacking outdoors. The raspberries will grow a bit wild-like, their runner canes shooting up from the grass. Can you see it, too?  

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