Thursday, November 20, 2014

That Time of Year


I have been a bit absent of late.  I have snippets of posts running through my head but they just have not come together for me.  Possibly it is because like many areas of the country we have been in an unseasonable deep freeze, about six weeks early!  In fact we broke a record for coldest high on Monday that was last set in 1873.  Even though we had to scramble get some outdoor and animal tasks completed with the onset of this insane weather, last weekend was relaxing and a perfect way to begin my 43rd year.  I awoke to a pair of owls hooting gently to one another across the snow, and was treated to a lilac cast to the snow at sunset.


B's Charcuterie is coming along wonderfully.  As a treat, my breakfast included duck breast bacon.  The duck cures fairly quickly and is completely done.  The pancetta takes longer to cure, but we are at the point where we can taste it along the way now.  We had our first little taste yesterday morning and it is absolutely fantastic!  This is our second year doing a pancetta.  B made some adjustments in his recipe this year and all I can say is wow!


In fact, as a result of yesterdays tasting we have ordered half of a pig for the freezer that will arrive the second week in December.  Aside from the typical cuts of meat to just have a the ready, we will have plenty to further our charcuterie adventures.

We are racing around the rest of this week, dotting i's and crossing t's both here on the homestead and at work in order to head out to Kansas for Thanksgiving week.  This time of year things do seem to come fast and furious what with holiday parties, cookie exchanges, visiting guests, band concerts and holiday travel, to name a few.  I feel like I am at the top of a hill, ready to snowball into the new year.  Anybody else ready for the snowball of cheer ahead? :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ducks Crossing Roads & Cooking With Hay


Why did the ducks cross the road?  I have no bloody idea!  That was how we began our Sunday.  A kind lady driving up our drive early in the morning to let us know that she just shooed some ducks of the highway.  Sheesh.....these three have gotten curious since the bushes in the tree-row have shed their leaves!  Thus began our final push to winter preparations.  The ducks have now taken up residence in the barn with the egg layers, and no one seems the worse for wear.


The garlic is tucked in under layers of straw to overwinter as it prepares to push shoots up when the ground warms again.  The final leaf collection is complete and we cut town a veritable forest of golden asparagus fronds.  Finally, we harvested and preserved better than 75 leeks.  Whew!


After catching Tom Kerridge's cooking show last weekend we tried his Chicken Baked in Hay and Cider.  Cooking with hay filled the air with an earthy aroma, that smelled amazing.  The flavor was light, but penetrated the meat thoroughly and almost tasted like it had been steamed in tea leaves.  Though somewhat unconventional, we will surly do it again.  I think I may just research other unique cooking methods from days gone by.  Ducks crossing roads and cooking with hay....just a typical Fall weekend!






Thursday, November 6, 2014

Charcuterie


For some people creating something brings a great sense of peace and fulfillment.  Slowly expanding the farm over time is that way for us, especially when B can create something in its entirety that we have grown or raised on our own.


Last year was our first foray into charcuterie.  Charcuterie, originally a form of meat preservation
prior to refrigeration, is the process of preserving meats (primarily pork) to develop rich flavors. We got ourselves a pork belly and made our first pancetta.  We loved it and B has spent endless hours researching and learning how to expand this into more and more.


Doing things the natural way, letting the curing and fermenting processes evolve as they were meant to has become a focus for us.  Last week, using a slightly different recipe, we began another pancetta using a Berkshire Pork belly (This pork is the bomb, and the breed that we are looking to raise).  


As each year we expand, this year we are also curing three duck breast pancettas, homestead raised. The meat was absolutely beautiful after its initial sodium curing and after seasoning and rolling in cheese cloth it is now hanging in a temperature controlled area, soon to be incorporated into our holiday meals and beyond.


I would not be surprised if our natural food preservation techniques become an important expansion of our little smallholding as time goes on.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Season Ending Frost


After falling back last night we awoke to our first really hard frost.  Not just the light dusting of grey over the landscape that we have seen to date.  This was the thick snow like covering that comes with a damp twenty degree morning.


The warm weather crops are long since gone, leaving us with cold tolerant flower sprouts, leeks, and kale.  Yet even those plants were heavy with the fatigue of this frost.


This will surly test the hardiness of the four different varieties of sage that we planted.  Two of which are supposed to be perennial in our environment, we. shall. see.


Our full row of lavender has turned into a beautiful hedge such as you might find in an English garden.  It was truly magical to see it encased in ice crystals this morning, just as the sun was rising to melt this early winter landscape.  Probably most striking were the trees.  I have spent hours in each of the two last Fall seasons on windy days trying to capture a leaf in flight.  It has been a very frustrating experience.  This morning I learned that after a really hard frost, those few leaves that remain simply give up their fight and rain off of the handful of trees that have held tight to them.  They do not land soundlessly as you might expect, they land on the frozen ground with a faint tap, a beautiful wake-up for all of the senses this morning.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Samhain


This day of cold blustery winds will be stripping the trees bare of their remaining foliage.  The origins of our current day all hallows eve are deeply rooted in Celtic belief. Today, as we light candles in windows and in jack-o-lanterns, we mark the end of our harvest and beginning of the darker months. The sounds of  laughter and running shuffles through leaves will fill the air as children of all ages run from home to home performing in their costumes for a treat.  When we return we will warm ourselves with a shared meal, hot apple cider, spiced wine and apple cake.  As the kids settle in to count their cache, the adults will be thankful for glowing warmth in the darkness a bountiful harvest and remembering those who came before.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

#tbt First House

circa 1995, halloween right after we bought our first house in Las Vegas.  Carrying on my families tradition of carving the giant pumpkin, this beauty drove back from CA with us in the back seat of our car.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gotta Love Fall Weekends

What a difference a few days makes!  We had a beautiful weekend, temperatures reaching 70 made it perfect for being outside and working diligently on the fall cleanup.  It was a weekend of:

fallen branch collecting

pancetta starting

volleyball playing

hamburger grilling


compost moving

leaf jumping

and pudgy pie making

Thankfully we got a big chunk of the work done last weekend, as this weekends highs are predicted to be in the low 40's, and windy with the possibility of a few wet snow showers!  Gotta love these late fall weekends!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Eyeing B & W

Last week I was tagged in a black and white photography challenge on facebook.  For five days I posted a black and white photo and tagged another photography friend to do the same each day.  I really enjoyed the exercise and how my wall filled with amazing photos taken by friends.  I have always enjoyed black and white photography, but amid trying to capture all of the brilliant fall colors, I had not thought about it recently. As I have spent the last several days eyeing the world around me through a black and white lens, I was reminded of how striking the light and depth of field are in b & w.  I realized that I need a challenge once in a while, a tangible reason to get out of the daily routine and re-invigorate my eye, such fun!






Friday, October 24, 2014

Work and Relaxation


With slightly warmer temps and no rain in the forecast, our weekend is looking to be bathed in golden autumn sun.  After a hectic, unexpected, exhausting week, this weekend is welcomed with open arms.  I am hoping for a mixture of work and relaxation as we put the outdoors of the farm to bed.

We cleared the front porch this afternoon, vacuumed the runners and nestled them into the attic until next year.  It looks so bare and unexpectedly spacious, yet rather inviting in this beautiful soft light, a perfect spot to sit and read for a while.  See?  Work an relaxation.

What are your weekend plans?  Whatever they are, be sure you get out and enjoy the weather.  My mantra with the kids has been, get out there and enjoy it, there are not many more days like this left!

::check out julie's post on architecture, great minds think alike, and were obviously awed by the cityscape of our times in New York!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

#tbt Football


#tbt circa 2011, papa teaching Charles the fundamentals of the game.......I think it's about time that Charles taught papa the finer details of the other football! :)

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