Saturday, April 22, 2017

Once a Farmer...

As I ready for bed this evening, I hear the sound of chirpy, purry little voices in the greenhouse, right outside my kitchen window.

I have 20 geese, toulouse and french toulouse, 9 pekin ducks and 24 cornish cross chicks brooding away. They each have their little zone, with feed, shavings, water and warmth. The past two days I have herded the week old geese out to the yard, put them in behind my grapevines that grow outside the bakery window. Grass and weeds were about 8 or 9 inches tall. After a day of munching, the grass was down about 75%!!! And the goslings were purring in contentment, doing what they like to do best.

I bought the goslings to aid me in vineyard management. They love to eat grass. The vineyard I tend has plenty of grass and we choose to avoid chemicals. I am delighted beyond words as I see the adorable creatures go to town on grass eating.

It is a harsh, or perhaps I should say, a wonderful reality that these geese will eventually, at least most of them, become a sustainably, humanely raised source of protein for a family. I give them lots of space in their greenhouse bedroom. I gently and lovingly direct them to their weed eating day school, preparing them for vineyard work. All the weeds and grass I pull from the garden go to them for afternoon snacks. I will work to make them a home at the vineyard that will hopefully protect them from hungry predators. Well. Yes, I guess I am a predator.

I gratefully eat meat. Thankful, as I know that when I go without meat for awhile, I get so hungry. I have tried vegetarian lifestyle for a time, and it is quite hard. I gain weight. I am hungry all the time. When I eat small amounts of meat on a regular basis, I feel less ravenous.

What to do?

I have chosen to raise at least a portion of our meat. Letting these creatures, even in a suburban setting, live a life that is humane, with peace, good food and room to roam. Iknow there is a cost to the meat on my plate.

I like knowing that the vineyard will feed geese and ducks that will feed us. I like knowing that our meat will involve very little extra fuel, compared to feedlot beef or factory chicken. I like knowing that the grapes will be free of residues from gas weedeaters and poisonous herbicides and pesticides.

It feels right to me, anyway.

And having the farm thing going, here in the middle of our small town, feels like a gift.

Who would've thunk it? I was so sad when we left the farm. I thought that all that learning was going to go to waste when we moved to town.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Maundy Thursday, not exactly like other Maundy Thursdays in our past, but still quite relevant...

Maggie came home today.

She arrived an hour or so before bakery opened to customers. Tired girl, wishing for a nap after a super long drive, we hugged her hello and suggested she head to bed. I could barely stop to say hello, we were in the throes of bakery prep. The final loaves of italian were kneaded and formed and scored, thrown into the super hot oven with giant splashes of water to create a steam bath. I pureed the vegetarian stock and white bean soup with sage leaves and cream. Counted out the swiss chard pies. Stirred a buttery raspberry glaze for the spelt pound cakes.

Maggie put up her hair and joined Theo, Rose and I in the maelstrom that is bakery day.

I loved how she couldn't resist!

She glazed and topped the adorable poundcakes with raspberries. She bagged and stirred. Theo washed dishes and she and Rose jarred up soup and sourdough starter for waffle mixes. Nora did whatever I asked.

I put on a clean apron, grabbed the cream cheese, a stick of butter, a couple of organic oranges, some honey, and threw them all into the mixer.

Today I launched a new cake.

Sometimes I feel like a machine. I crank out all the favorite breads, never can bake enough, and end up exhausted, done in, content, grateful, but hungry to create.

Last night I scrounged and patched together one recipe and another, finally coming up with something that fit our operation.
A honey rye cake, made with orange juice, coconut oil, freshly milled rye flour, this and that. As soon as I licked the bowl I thought I might have a winner.

After it came out of the oven, I knew it.

We sold pretty much everything. We worked together hard, we worked together well. After the customers were gone and dishes cleaned up, I put out some pizza dough and the girls cooked it up. Some of their friends came over and after the pizza, they found some strawberries and needed to nosh a bit more. Maggie pulled out the leftover cream cheese frosting and we dipped in our strawberries.

We oohed. We aahed. We licked fingers. We said, omg, this is so good. The girls lauded me and praised me and ate more and basically made me feel like a rock star.

We envisioned a future storefront bakery, an adorable space, big glass windows, Mom's artwork decorating the walls. Breads,
omelets, soups, and Orangey Spicey Little Honey Rye cake on the menu, with a pot of that cream cheesey taste of heaven on hand for people who need a little something.

I felt so much joy and love in that tired moment with my girls. Such a sensuous moment. The taste, the texture, the sound of laughter, the flour covered surfaces and sound of the oven in the background.

Truly could not think of a single other thing I would need to make me happy right now.

Oh, and for the record, I had better write down the recipe off the batter stained back of an envelope, in case I should wish to replicate it someday.

Orangey Spicey, Little Honey Cake (Girls tell me I should not add rye to the name because people think they don't like rye, and if they just taste and see, they will love the cake for sure and slowly get over their aversion and prejudicial bent regarding rye, that humble and lovely grain...)

4 c freshly milled rye flour
3 tsp alum. free baking pdr
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt i use redmonds real
1 1/2 -2 TBS cinnamon
1 tbsp powdered ginger (I think to really gild the lily I should mince fresh ginger to add to the dried, maybe a knob the size of a thumb?)
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 c sucanat
1 c organic coconut oil (the refined is okay, butter good also, but extra virgin, with the smell of coconut is worth the expense)
1 c honey, raw, if you can get it
2-3 eggs depending on size
3 tsp vanilla
2 tsp orange extract
1 c freshly juiced oj if you have oranges in season, or good juice from the store. but fresh, with some pulp super good
1/2 c yogurt
1/2 c milk
zest of two oranges

Mix the dry, mix the wet. Beat the wet ingredients until beautifully creamy, gently stir in the dry. To tell you the truth, I add the dry ingredients minus the flour, beat it all well, and then add the flour. Hate to use two bowls, I do enough dishes.

Grease and flour pans, or use muffin tin liners. With this recipe I made six mini bundt cakes, a tin of cup cakes, and a pretty mold pan for our family.

350 until the middle is just set.

Most Amazing Cream Cheese Spread Ever (AKA orangey cream cheesey goodness)

16oz good cream cheese
1 stick butter
juice of half an orange
1/2 tsp orange extract
zest of 1 orange
1/4 c sucanat
1/4 c honey or to taste (the cake is sweet, we don't make this very sweet, but it is fairly easy to taste and test as you go, adjusting. Better to add bit by bit. )
Beat and beat and beat until completely and beautifully whipped. This makes plenty for cakes and leftover to stash in a pint jar in the fridge for late night snacks. Using strawberries. Or fingers. Above cake, baked into layers, frosted with this spread, topped with lovely, edible, in season flowers, might just be one of the best things ever.

I grated nutmeg and more orange zest over our little frosted cakes and they looked so pretty. More importantly, they tasted great. And while not exactly low cal, they were filled with real food. Eggs from the free range chickens, wonderful yogurt, good fats for the brain, and not a single chemical or weird additive in sight.

PS
This recipe is not double tested, could include typos, might not work with your oven. But if you know how to bake a cake, I bet you could make it work. If you wish, you could halve the sweetener, add applesauce to take the place of some of the fat. It is def. not low carb. PLenty of room for improv...

After being a bit bored with my baking, it was fun to whip up a keeper that brought sighs of delight to my daughters. Love my job. Love my kids. Pretty grateful.



Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A record, or Yes, I believe in the resurrection...in all manner of flavors.

Yesterday a friend dropped off two large bunches of asparagus crowns. Jersey Giants.

I tried asparagus last year but neglected to water the crowns sufficiently. They died.

I dug a couple of trenches this morning. Amended the soil. Watered the new crowns in. Promised to be more faithful.
As I tended the other garden beds, harvested some fertilizer (aka chicken manure), watered the new fig tree and the blackberry vines that survived, I wistfully caressed the raspberry canes I planted last year. A friend gave them to me. A variety that thrives well here in our town. I placed them in a shady area of the yard, acid soil, and then neglected to water them all winter long.

Everyone else's raspberry canes have been leafed out for a couple weeks. Mine were dry and dead as could be. I began to water them a couple of weeks ago, hope is the last to die. I felt remorse, regret and disappointment in myself.

Imagine my delight this morning when I noticed tiny little specks of green, brand new baby leaves!

They are alive!!!

Yesterday I stuck some eggplants into their new home. Daddy and Mom came over to get a bucket of our special homegrown fertilizer. We walked the garden, as is our custom. Jalapenos have blossoms. Two of the six tomato plants have babies, almost the size of a ping pong ball, pale green and firm. Japanese pickling cucumbers have sprouted out third and fourth leaves. The first green beans, provider, are bushy and near blooming. The pole beans are poking their heads out of the ground in the front.
Arugula must not be appealing to the little birds in our neighborhood, I have a terrific stand coming on. As for the tatsoi,
spinach and chard, well. Planted more yesterday, hope the little birds have other things to tempt them this go around. Cilantro, marigolds, zinnias, oh my, they are coming up everywhere. So are the leeks. Pomegranates have lovely blooms making my mouth water for special summertime drinks to go with the baby limes that are bursting forth on the lime tree, happy to be back outside.

Last night Nora and I took Mom and Dad out to dinner to celebrate their 53rd wedding anniversary. They have defied the odds.
On many levels. They told us all sorts of stories, we laughed, we ate delicious food, we smiled, we remembered. I count myself blessed on many levels. All levels, really. I remember when Philip and I married, he was 33, I was 25. When things got hard, we reminded ourselves how much we wished to pass on to our kids the legacy my parents and grandparents passed on to me.
We would have passed our 25th past December, only made it to 18th when he died.

I have grieved innumerable things since he died. But last night I realized that my kids get to witness this legacy of long life love as we share stories, memories, as they see the way my parents love each other even now. Not perfectly, as in conflict, trouble free, but perfectly secure and sound. I am grateful. Their move to Alpine makes this so much more possible. I pray that they will know friendships and love, whatever flavor, that will stick around, and when things seem dead, they won't be too quick to give up. There just might be green leaves about to sprout if they just get a few nice long drinks of water...

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Gentle Reminders

After a long day taking care of boring accounting and quarterly sales tax for the bakery, I prepared our family dinner. After we finished up, Nora began to tackle the dishes and asked if I were going to go out for my evening walk.

I paused, it was eight pm, I wanted to crawl into bed and read a book.

She gently suggested that if I were to stay home, it would be very easy to get out of the habit of evening fresh air and exercise.

Grr.

I agreed and headed out the door.

The cooler evening air and gentle breeze greeted me kindly. The pink, rosy wash over the mountains soothed my spirit. The sound of the peepers in the draw on the edge of the golf course made me think of the farm. The sound of baseball bats and kids at practice and the sight of couples walking their dogs made me grateful to be a part of a community.

I breathed in. I breathed out. I felt the cool air as it came into my nose. I smelled all sorts of living smells as the wildflowers are popping out here and there. The sight of a bounding deer made me feel alive. As I neared the end of my two mile circuit I saw the giant moon ascend over Hancock Hill. She was so lovely, I gasped. I had forgotten!

How lucky I am to have these kids who make my world better.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Wind

Occasionally wind blows in and likes our town so much she decides to stick around for a day or two.

I realize she is an important guest. Yes, I do not take her cooling breezes and gifts of weather change for granted.

But geez. How temperamental. She moans, she howls, she pounds my windows and slams my doors.

She blows off a few roofs, knocks down a fence or two, and basically has this way of seeing all sorts of our vulnerable spots. Not just seeing them, to take us aside, discreetly let us know where we might need to focus a bit of work. No. It is as if she takes some delight in exposing those tasks we need to work on, saying, you have procrastinated long enough, gal. Get to it! Fix that roof! Fix that fence! Don't leave pots laying around!

Noisy, brash. Leaving behind a cloud of dust hanging in the air, as we pause and notice the silence and begin to untangle our hair from her stay.