Saturday, December 28, 2013

this Christmas

We're having a delightfully simple and low-key holiday season with a lot of time in my favorite place - home. The babes and I are slowly falling into a restful winter rhythm, and I try my best to encourage enough sleeping and gentle activity. Winter is such a calming time for me. Everything here feels quiet and hushed. There is still plenty of chaos with mouths to feed, housework ever-in-progress, and the needs of so many breathing beings to tend to, but it's gentler somehow. Here are some highlights from our Christmastime:

I finished baby's pebble vest just in time for Christmas Eve mass! (no time for blocking, though)

There was no shortage of kitchen helpers in the cookie-making department this year.

Just in from morning chores and snuggling up for a nap - my favorite way to ease into the day. (And yes, my baby boy is wearing a pink bunny hat - my grandma made it for me when I was a newborn!)

I made my first goat's milk mozzarella using Leigh's recipe. This cheese is so fun to make, and it's amazing how the curds eventually become like taffy after kneading and heating! It is wonderful, and pizza is on the menu tomorrow.

In other goat news, Abby recovered from her bout with bloat, which did my heart such good! (a couple drenches with wheat germ oil, lots of rumen massaging, and some baking soda left out free-choice and she seems to be healthy again). I usually kind of freak out when one of the animals gets sick, and I spend so much time fretting about what might happen, but this time I had a peaceful feeling about the whole thing. I did my research calmly, said my usual prayer to St. Francis (the patron saint of animals) and just went with my gut (ha!). I think I'm just becoming more at ease with the natural cycles of life. There is one inexplicable thing that happened in the course of dealing with this issue that still has us a bit awe-struck - one night when Abby seemed to be at her worst and we began to contemplate interventions, we called the large animal vet to ask for some advice. We left a message for the on-call vet, and when she called us back she began the conversation with, "So I hear Abby is having some trouble?" We are certain we never told the receptionist the name of the goat (in fact, I was chastising my husband a bit for referring to her as "it") and we've never before spoken to this doctor. She was so kind and seemed to imply that things would be okay. An angel? A Christmas miracle? Call me crazy, but Oh Yes, I'm certain they do exist!

Grandparents miles away were visited, and I plan on spending the majority of the next month at home - no travel plans, big errands, or appointments pulling me away. I'm really looking forward to fluffing the nest a bit and hibernating for awhile. Anyone else out there feel the need to do the same thing in the depths of winter?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Vietnamese-style fried eggs

A simple breakfast, but also a bit festive-looking, don't you think?

1. Melt a Tablespoon or so of butter in a skillet
2. Add a bit of finely chopped onion, jalapeño, and red pepper 
3. Crack 6 or more eggs on top 
4. Cook 1 minute, or until eggs set a bit, then fold the eggs in half like you would a large omelette
5. Finish cooking to desired done-ness

We eat this with rice and some "nuoc mam," which is a fish sauce for dipping or drizzling on top

To Make the Nuoc Mam

In a jar, mix together:
5 Tablespoons fish sauce
5 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
10 Tablespoons water
10 teaspoons sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small Thai chili pepper, minced
(optional garnishes are green onion and shredded carrot)

You'll have extra, which stores for a long time in the refrigerator. Just give it a good shake before using.

Friday, December 13, 2013

(un)finished objects

Working on this doll blanket for my girl, and a pebble vest (pullover style, no buttons) for my boy

Still working on this blanket (oh my. Did I really start this back in April?)

I met a lovely neighbor a few months ago who keeps fiber goats and dyes her own yarn. She so kindly gifted me the shades of red skein on the left, which I plan to make into this children' shawl. And I have several skeins of this gorgeous gray yarn from Grace's shop, waiting to be turned into a baby sweater, maybe like this one. 
I have no idea when these knitted projects will actually be finished (certainly not by Christmas), but it's fun to share works-in-progress anyway! Almost everything I'm doing is happening at a deliberately slow pace these days. Whenever I leave our home, I feel an uneasy type of energy around - noisy, hurried, stressed - as most people seem to be rushing about here and there. It's hard not to get caught up in all that momentum toward completion (of what, exactly, I'm not sure). So, I'm making an effort to go slowly. Do less. Hurry less. Wait more. Celebrate in-completion. I'm feeling more peace in my days this way as I simplify more and more. We light our advent candles, wait to bring in a tree, and don't fret about buying the perfect gifts (opting to give books and homemade cookies instead). We're holding off in this season of excess, wanting more of only one thing - time together.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


His big sister loves to "dress him up"
And he obliges her
With big grins
And belly laughs all the while
Pure and simple joy, this baby of ours
Through and through 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

around the (frigid) farm

It is cold! So, so cold. The kind of lingering cold that makes me fret about my first year pullets in our un-heated barn and our goat who just happened to come down with a small cold right before the freeze and our ageing pup with bad hips and a blind eye and the fact that we don't yet have a woodstove in this house in case the power company fails us. Whew. I'm not exactly sure why, but tiny troubles certainly seem to magnify when the days are shorter, don't they?

The following are pre-Thanksgiving photos. Were I to take a picture today, things would look much more bleak! Or perhaps that's just my current attitude talking ;)

Two garden beds were amended with compost and planted out with garlic on All Hallows' Eve, as is fast becoming tradition here. I mulched these beds with leaves, which were promptly blown away by our strong westerly winds. I admit I mulched with a thicker layer of leaves a second time (which also completely blew away) before coming to my senses and laying down heavy straw like I did last year.

We're continuing to milk Spring a bit through the winter, and I'm getting better at making chèvre with each batch. I mixed a little salt, honey, and sun-dried tomatoes in my most recent version, and I think it's the best yet!

We also had a bit of a farming milestone here, as I was able to sell one of our harvested turkeys for someone else's Thanksgiving table! A real-deal customer! And how gratifying that there do exist in my real life people seeking out local, humanely raised meat.

We're drawing inward to home much more as this season progresses, and I'm finding that balance is an illusion while caring for my little nursling and my big girl and also trying to manage the rest of my daily work. For the first time ever, I have two unfinished knitting projects in my basket, with a third about to be cast on. I've always finished one thing before beginning another, but somehow this is not the easier path these days, when I'm short on time and need shorter (and shorter!) rows to work. 

I'm letting that advent candle burn just a bit longer tonight.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

in my autumn kitchen {with gratitude}

It's funny how when you lose nearly an entire garden, you are suddenly aware of the abundance you actually have. I've already used up more than half of my winter food stores, (and, yes, it's not even winter yet!) but I've made quite a few almost-completely-homegrown meals lately - oh how I love that! It's also funny that something as ordinary as this (and necessary as far as our ancestors were concerned) is somehow elusive and complicated in these modern times.

Here's a look at my kitchen goings-on, and some simple dishes that have graced our table over the past couple weeks:

Before the frost, I picked a bouquet of celery, parsley, and the last of the carrots for our first real cold weather staple - chicken with dumplings, but made this time with turkey and goat's milk. That was promptly followed by another favorite here - curry turkey (based off curry chicken, but again with goat's milk in place of the coconut milk and sour cream) using carrots and onion from the garden. And the lemon even came from my little potted lemon tree!

I made my first ever homegrown kimchee, right down to the garlic and ginger.

I've been making a weekly stock for soups (our favorites being of the Vietnamese variety), using most and squirreling away some for the freezer in preparation for Thanksgiving. 

I have a big pot of lemongrass awaiting harvest and a small jar of crystallized honey, a beautiful gift from our beekeeper, and by far the best I've ever tasted. While the chickens take their annual cold weather rest, duck eggs are still in abundance, and we had enough recently to bring over to our local fire department.

How truly fortunate I feel to have such good food to eat and to share.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

the finer things

Sometimes I feel like eating a decadent breakfast, and the stars align just so, and I'm able to spend more than 10 minutes at a time in the kitchen preparing something luxurious to eat.

I recently had just that kind of morning. So, crab cake (or in our case, leftover white fish and salmon from dinners earlier in the week) benedict it was! The only thing missing was a nicely toasted and buttered English muffin, but there was no time for baking - best to get on with the eating part anyway.

The beauty of them won over my little girl, who pointed to the prettiest one on the platter and asked if she could have it. I was thrilled, and immediately thought of how I could boast about my 2 year old's refined palate. Which is to say that she took one bite, declared it, "kinda yucky," and proceeded to eat the entire plate of bacon instead. So be it. More for me until she comes to her senses!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

autumn air

There was an urgent feeling of preparation in the air today. We went about the day in a flurry of winterization activity. I harvested the last of the herbs for drying and the remaining Chinese cabbage, mustard greens, and carrots from my little kitchen garden patch near the house. All that remained salvageable from the flooded main garden were some onions and basil. Everything else was completely destroyed, but I've accepted that and am counting my blessings regardless.

I had a moment today to sit in the sun and watch the bees, appearing just as purposeful and busy as I. They seemed drawn to the little yellow flowers on the cabbage, likely the only cultivated plant still flowering on the whole property. The beekeeper came recently and thinks we're in danger of losing the hive this winter - the bottom box was likely flooded, and he couldn't find a queen or any brood. I asked if they could reproduce and get their numbers up before the cold comes, and he answered, "Yes, if they choose to." That gave me a lot of peace, that simple phrase. And I've been contemplating it a lot these days. If they choose to. There is so much I wish I had control over - I struggle quite a lot with it, to be honest. Wanting to help, to fix, to save, to change the outcome. But in the end, most decisions are not mine to make. As much as I want to live as though I am the one orchestrating events in my life, most of the time things are just happening around me. Or, in times of hardship, they often feel like they're happening to me. How much more content I could be if I would embrace the fact that I am a part of the whole, with only my own choices to make - how freeing to let go of the burden of decision for others, and how arrogant I felt to realize that I wouldn't necessarily make the right choice anyway. If they choose to....

I still left all the flowering stalks standing tall for the bees, though, just in case they need them.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The 500 Year Flood

Taken at the very early stages of the flooding
We had to leave our farm, but we are back now. We are all together and safe. All of the animals are alive and well except for the loss of one sweet banty hen. Our house is intact and remains un-flooded. There's a massive river running through the middle of our property, but we are so grateful that it wasn't worse (and so sad for those not so fortunate). Much fence-mending and cleaning up is ahead of us. I'm still processing the events of the past 72 hours, but I've been very much reminded of what's truly important in life. Indeed, that life itself is precious beyond measure. And that home is not really a place or a house - which in the end is just another possession - being home is truly being with your dearest loves.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

this girl

She is my constant companion and helper, wanting to do everything I'm doing and trying to "do it all by me-self." She pulls her chair up to the kitchen counter, standing tall on it to see what I'm doing, or to help wash dishes, or get utensils to set the table. She usually sports a mouth that needs to be wiped, her clothing is optional and sometimes inside out. She's serious and silly at the same time; Easy and challenging at the same time, too. (Notice the sling she fashioned for her baby doll - yes, that's my bra she's using).     

She got her first haircut from mommy, and is very pleased not to have those stragalies itching her neck anymore. She loves her brother so very much, and baby boy is an absolute angel whose smile just melts all our hearts each and every time (and he smiles a lot, this sweet one).

She loves bugs of all sorts - worms, butterflies,"roll-roll-poles" (roly-poly bugs) and even the "waspies." We found an inchworm on a garden squash, whose antics fascinated us all. He was given a little pea pod and some water and kept as our pet for the day. I'm thinking of creating a homemade poster, kind of like these old ones, documenting all the bugs she takes interest in lately.

Oh, these days! Have you ever heard the song Take My Breath Away from Eva Cassidy? There's a line about love being like a child, "sometimes gentle and sometimes wild." Which is so often how I think of these days at home with my (big) baby girl and my newborn son. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

small harvests and good food

My neglected garden is producing tiny amounts of this and that. Which is just perfect for the tiny pockets of time I have to harvest and cook these days. And we have a wonderfully bountiful amount of chicken, eggs, and goat's milk flowing into the kitchen!

Here's a smattering of recent kitchen treats:

A hash made with rainbow chard, onions, and potatoes
Same hash put into a breakfast strata with homemade bread, eggs, goat's milk, mushrooms, and farmer's cheese  

 Homegrown chicken and a rainbow of potatoes ready for roasting
Refrigerator pickles
Goat's milk ice cream, based on this recipe and using this no-machine method. It is SO GOOD, I can no longer eat store bought. This has forever ruined me.

We hosted a big family get together here a couple weekends ago, and a good portion of the food came from our own efforts. Curry chicken with homegrown chicken and potatoes, shish kebabs with garden veggies, our fresh garlic put into every sauce and marinade, our eggs...oh it made me so proud! It's a dream I have, really, to host a family gathering where everything served was produced right here on our land. In fact, I would feed the entire neighborhood that way if I could. Maybe someday I will.
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