Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Chili Saturday

Seven years ago when we moved to the farm we wanted to have a kind of welcome party and decided to make it a chili cook off.  Over the years it has developed into quite a party and something we look forward to hosting and attempting to make bigger and better each time.  This year's chili cook off was a wonderful event!  Each year we try to dial it in more, so that it becomes something very manageable, yet with some fresh new ideas.

This year was especially exciting because we had a blogger from The Boston Store come out to feature us in a little farm to table spread that they will be blogging early this fall.  So much fun, I cannot wait to see it!

Of course, I could not resist taking a few pictures of them taking pictures of us.  Hi Lisa! :)

Since just more than half of our 111 guest this year are kids we added a couple of new games to the standard  basketball, badminton (I had absolutely no idea it was spelled this way!), volleyball and trampoline.  We did a lawn painted twister game, and a space for giant Jenga.  Both of the new areas were well used, and fun to watch.

We had nine chilies and six pies this year and I have to say that all of the contenders out did themselves!  The winning chili was a chili verde and the winning pie was key lime.  Each of the winners got a couple of goodies to take home as well as bragging rights and the trophies (the stuffed pig and golden rolling pin in the first picture) for their event which they will sign and bring back next year.  I wonder what little touches we will add for the next one?  Stay tuned.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Foul Wrangling

Never a dull moment here on the farm.  In the last week we have lost two of our meat chickens to a predator.  We figured that it had to be coming in from the air, because our electric perimeter did not appear to have been broken.  Then the other night B found some very vocal blue-jays haranguing a very large owl.  Predator found.

It has been a number of years since we have had a predator problem with our chickens, and it seems that late summer and very early fall is the season for it.  When we allow birds to completely free range, they tend to roost high up in our pine trees.  When this witching time of year comes, they are used to getting up about 4:30 am or so when it is light and continue to do so, even if it does not really get light now until closer to 5:30 now.  This is the ideal time for Mr. or Mrs. Owl to swoop in.  Well this morning we went out and found that he had upped his game and taken one of our runner ducks, one of the few we were planning to keep for eggs.  Ugh!

We decided to re-locate them into an area where there were no trees within their perimeter that they could roost in, hopefully forcing them to go back into their very nice chicken tractor at night.  It was a bit of an ordeal to capture 24 chickens and 11 ducks, move the tractor, and then move the fencing, but we did it this afternoon and are quite happy with the new placement.  We can see them from our front porch now and it is fun to watch there antics.

Good thing we could see them because guess what happened last evening?  They jumped  up on the roof of the chicken tractor, then haphazardly flew to an adjacent pine branch and began their ascent into the tree!  We managed to capture all but three, who were far too high, and wouldn't budge even when shaking the branch.  Crafty little beasts.  It looks like round two today will involve clipping all of their wings...that ought to be fun!  Score one for the ducks!  They wrangle much better, herding right into the enclosure.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It Never Fails

It does seem the 'Murphy's Law' of it that multiple things happen at once.  This week we are preparing to host close to 100 people on the farm Saturday, and then pack as we are leaving on vacation 36 hours later.  Guess what?  It is also the week where it seems the garden is in a huge boom.  We picked 26 eggplant just yesterday.  So if packing, primping, and getting the kids ready for school (as they start the day after we get home) isn't enough.... we have tons of harvest to preserve for winter enjoyment!  I know, I know, first world problems.  It does give me a slight excuse for not posting here as regularly as I would like this week.   Please, if you have tried and true eggplant recipes, do share!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Good Morning August!

Well hello August!  It is hard to believe that you are here already and even harder to believe that I spied the first blush of color on the trees three days ago.  As you can see from the picture above, the trees are not the only things that are beginning to blush this first day of August.   The light is lower and more golden, and school starts in less than three weeks.  I cannot say that these are necessarily the dog days as we have had such a mild summer, yet it is crunch time.  We will spend our weekend knee deep in prep for our Seventh Annual Chili Cook-off, which is one week away, and the perfect event to kick off making the most of the end of summer.  Happy Weekend!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Magic of Herbs

I have enjoyed all of the River Cottage Handbooks that I own.  Each written on history, experience, and thoughts about the given topic.  I found myself quite enamoured with No. 10: Herbs.  How can you not be taken with a book whose opening paragraph is: "Herbs are beautiful, life-enhancing, seductive things.  Whether you see them primarily as plants or as ingredients, they are enticing.  I find it hard to believe that anyone could look at a lavender bush nodding in the sunshine or sniff a torn bay leaf and not experience, at the very lease, a flicker of pleasure."

Maybe it is just us, but as we walk around nightly in our garden, or our yard, we constantly brush up against the greenery, pinch a plant between our fingers and sniff to identify it.  Wild lemon balm, lambs quarter, catnip.  After reading this book I am more enchanted than ever with herbs.  As vital in cooking as salt and stimulating multiple senses, herbs can fix a state of mind.  When harvesting lavender a few weeks ago, my whole home smelled of the woody floral beauty that was drying.  I began to utilize it in recipes and found a whole new appreciation for it.   I ran out immediately to Milaegers to fill in our herb plantings and bought up multiple varieties of sage, and I am currently on the hunt for a bay tree that I can overwinter indoors.

This evening as I snapped the flower head off of a dill plant for a cucumber salad, I smelled the intoxicating aroma on my hands.  The oils released into the air and linger.  Smell is such an important sense that can immediately calm a mood or send you to a different place.  Herbs are magic, and I am only just beginning to realize how to use each individual to it's fullest.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Growing Fast

The last seven weeks has just flown!   Mr. Emerson has tripled in size and personality.  His herding instinct is strong.  He is incredibly smart, wily, and is growing so lanky that he can be quite clumsy.

Training is coming along well, though at times frustrating, after all he is a puppy.  However, his responses are much more consistent and rapid.

Best of all, Xander has come around and fully engages with him.  Sometimes to his chagrin, starting something and wanting to be done far before the energetic newcomer.  We are just thankful he's still around to be annoyed.

Monday, July 28, 2014

That Light

Last night as I went out to put the animals down and take a last leisurely walk around the garden I was struck by that light.  The light typically symbolic to me of the coming fall.  It is hard to believe that it feels like we are approaching that time of year already.  Maybe it was how long and hard our winter was, or how cool the summer has been, or the fact that school starts in a mere 3 weeks or maybe that our handful of warm days end abruptly in crisp air.

It is dark much earlier and the last hour or so of light is golden and coming from a much lower angle. Can you see the glitter-like shimmer in the tree on the left?  That was no camera trick, simply how the light looked last night.  I am not complaining in the least.  I would not mind the next four months consisting of these beautiful evenings after days that sun kiss the garden leading toward a long harvest.

Weekend Projects, Better Known as Cans of Worms

Have you ever started a project, quite out of the blue, spent half of the day on it and then it is just not quite right?  That was how my Saturday morning went.  B was working, so I decided to attempt re-organization of our entry.  I bought an additional piece of furniture (since returned), moved/hid our device charging area, and thoroughly cleaned everything only to be unsatisfied with the result.

Once B got home we made a couple of more adjustments and he suggested one of those big bench hall trees.  After looking at the furniture already in our room, I could not picture another large piece.  Then he suggested hanging a giant hall tree on the wall.  Better yet, let's make one from old scrap material in the barn!

What we are left with is a cool old weathered door, gently cleaned, varnished and affixed with several large hooks that were in various areas of the barn.  B even fashioned a way to securely attach it to the wall staying true to the picture rail that is already there, and it is sturdy enough that he could hang from the door and it will not budge (not just a figure of speech, he hung from the door).

Moral of the story; a little moving of furniture, creativity, $35 and a lot of elbow grease and we have a cool piece that makes the whole room feel like brand new.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Choc Tox

No one is immune, even our family.  All it takes is an 85 degree house (the ac is out) with a tired child who fell asleep before eating their handful of tasty dark chocolate chips.  Fast forward 7 hours and we were left with one desperately sick farm poodle.

We are very fortunate that B is so gifted at his profession.  Even with his gifts, the severe reaction this sassy farm poodle had was the worst that he had seen in his 20 year career.

Severe vomiting, tremors, rapid heart rate, increase then decrease in body temperature and difficulty maintaining blood pressure were the symptoms varying in severity that over the course of yesterday left us questioning at times if he was going to recover.  It appears that our tough farm poodle has made it through the worst.  Though a bit of recovery is ahead for him, we are so happy that he and his big farm poodle ego are still with us.   Moral of the story;  Choc Tox (chocolate toxicity) is no joke, even very small amounts especially in a smaller dog can be devastating and each patient may react differently to the volume ingested.  Please excuse me, I'm headed to hug a poodle.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Our Daughters

Our daughters.  Smart, creative, imaginative, old souls.  For months they have dreamt about getting their attire in place and spending their summer weekends at the Renaissance Faire.

Though, the season passes may be in next years reality, hopefully we will get another chance this summer, and this weekend was one to remember.  Spending a beautiful day; half of it getting the perfect peasant chic dialed in.

So proud of my girl, getting into perfect Ren Faire character as she yelled "Lady Rebecca" through the store to be fitted with her bodice. (very against type I assure you, yet the glee in her face when she broke free to do it was priceless)!

Then to top off the glow of the day at the faire, an overnight with her kindred spirit.  Followed by a day planning for a photo shoot.

Look what lovely young wenches ladies, our daughters are turning out to be.

These photos were taken by my good friend Nicole.  An amazing job capturing the beautiful spirit of our daughters.  xo


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