Wednesday, September 26, 2012

New Eating Schedule

After a great event for Eat Right Racine last night, of which Charles was a participant in the presentation, the kids came home more excited than ever about what they eat and what great fun varieties we can come up with for lunch.  So what better day than today to begin our no more snacking regimen in lieu of a homestead version of  le goûter. 

It went beautifully!  The kids loved their little satisfying treat and are not at all upset by the empty/former snack cupboard.  As for me, aside from a little planning ahead, like with any other meal, the time to put it together was minimal so totally doable for any family.  

Today they had blood orange slices drizzled in olive oil and topped with diced Kalamata olives.  A square of 60% cacao, and a little piece of baguette with butter and honey (because we're honey crazy right now).  They ate while sitting at the kitchen table and they were eager to talk about the food and brainstorm ideas for tomorrows goûter.  I would say that they savored every bite, well, except for Charles, who put the whole square of cacao in his mouth at once!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Watched Pot

We began with our chickens four years ago and it has been such a rewarding experience.  It was about this time, that I suddenly lost my ability to hard boil an egg.  After 20 some odd years of never having a problem,  every egg that I would hard boil the white would all but disintegrate when I tried to peel them.  Talk about frustration!  It took quite some time for me to realize that this was as a result of fresh eggs!  I ran a number of experiments to determine how old my eggs would have to be to mimic the pristine peels that I would get from store bought eggs.  My verdict?  Five weeks plus!  I have tried any number of remedies and variations in cooking methods to no avail.  This morning.....Eureka....  I found one that works, so I had to share!  As per usual, I placed my eggs into a pot of cold water, and brought them to a boil.  I let them boil for 5 minutes, then turned off the heat and let them sit for about 15 minutes, then ran cold water over them.  The main game changer?  I threw about a half-teaspoon of baking soda into the water at the start.  Here is a brief description of the science behind this, it all has to do with increasing the pH.  I am so glad that this little tip made it's way into my kitchen!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Paths and Bridges

 "Not all those who wander are lost."  J.R.R. Tolkien

we are always headed down a path
sometimes there are forks
they can occasionally be muddy
often they are flanked by wildflowers

once traveling down a path we may
find ourselves headed over a footbridge
a transition from old to new
season to season

our intentional wanderings
create the fabric of our experience
woven moment by moment
into the story we each create

Saturday, September 22, 2012


"Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all."
Stanley Horowitz

Happy Fall!
Autumnal Equinox 9:49 am CDT

Friday, September 21, 2012

Liquid Sunlight

What better way to prepare for the Autumnal Equinox tomorrow, than to bottle little bits of liquid sunlight. 

So far 21 pounds (~ 10 liters), and we may get one more pound.  Not too bad for a first season and harvesting only a box and a half!

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Panko crusted eggplant, zucchini, & green tomatoes w/ spicy tomato relish #gardenlove
Food is important to us.  I know, I know it's important to everyone.  But to us it is more than in the expected 'we need it to survive' kind of way.  A large component of our decision to move to the homestead was so that we could take a more active roll in growing our own food and teaching our kids about food sources and eating fresh local items.  It is a real challenge to change the food culture of a family, and it emerges a little more with every season.  I have read many books detailing different components of our food system, where it is headed, the most healthy ways to eat etc.  Everyone has their own take, but there are some very consistent underlying themes;  moderation, local, fresh, and slow food.

I just finished reading  French Kids Eat Everything and I devoured it in just a few days.  So compelling, and I think a must read if you have young children where you could utilize some of the simple ideas early on.  It has my head swimming.  Where to start?  As I have said before, when you make major changes it needs to be seen as a marathon, not a sprint.  I have such a hard time with this.  I see where I want the end result to be and then feel somewhat guilty if I can't get there as quickly as I think I should.  As my kids are older, I have a slightly different take away from this book.  Since we started our journey our kids have become well aware of what real food is.  Not processed, fresh and homemade (which, many times is much easier done than you would expect and for less money than pre-packaged processed items).  But in day to day life, hurried schedules between school and after school activities, we always have a supply of kids snacks for them to nosh on, on the fly.  These snacks tend to be the lessor of evils, healthier choices than much of what is available, but filler none the less.  The grazing mentality we tend to have as Americans, eating snacks or food on the go is simply thoughtless filler.  Something to fill the unsatisfied space that was left from a poorly eaten previous meal. 

As related in this book, the French have a single planned snacking time a day, and there is no snacking done in between.   If you are hungry, then you will much appreciate the meal that is next coming for you to savor.  Breakfast, Lunch, a 4 pm goûter (mini meal)  and then dinner, in France normally 730-8pm.  For many in North America, this may seem very difficult in the timing.  For our family this structure can work.  Most nights we do not eat supper until around 7pm.  That is three hours after school is over, so plenty of time for a healthy and satisfying 'goûter' to tide everyone over.  This is where we will begin this phase of our food journey, goodbye free range snacking!

We are living in a fast food culture, where food is a means to an end and to many an inconvenience in the day.  Eat food, quickly so that we can move on to the next commitment.  It has lead to eating excessively large portions of low nutrition, highly processed foods that are meant to fill the space.  Food culture in many other countries is a family culture.  It is the time of day to be revered, family time, time to savor the abundance around us.  This lifestyle is not just for the wealthy or food snobs, it is for everyone.  Taking a few moments to put a meal together (enjoying that process as ritual), then sitting down and stopping the fast pace around us to focus on one another.  This slowing down in and of itself will begin to reduce the volume of our consumption.  Slowly eating a meal and enjoying it while engaged in conversation allows our bodies to catch up with what we are putting in and we will recognize being satisfied by the meal sooner, versus gobbling up a ton of food quickly then feeling horribly over full afterwards. 

A few years ago we began a dinner club that I have talked about here a number of times.  The premise is cooking food together as a group, having the kids with us, and enjoying the pleasures of slow food.  As I was finishing the book, I realized that more of our meals should have the care and process that our dinner club takes in it's meals. 

One of the statements in the book struck me.  It was (loosely), that North America is young, it is creating itself and hasn't had the time to develop a true food culture as many European countries have.  What type of culture do we want to create?  Recent reports published by the CDC and the American Journal of Preventive Medicine indicate that obesity rates in the United States will continue to soar to as much as 44% by 2030 nation-wide and in 13 states as high as 60%!  What do we want to pass on to the generations that follow about food, health and family?  All change starts at home, with the individual.  My plan is to continue to implement and grow how our family addresses the importance of a food culture.  It's impact on our health, as well as how it enriches our family.  We will experience déguster, the art of savoring our food, but as importantly, the experience of doing so.  Who knows, maybe it will be catching and we can slowly start to shape our countries food culture into a more positive one.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Harvesting Honey ~ Part One

The weekend was absolutely beautiful.  We were able to spend some time in the garden and preserving food.  Late last week, as we would go in and out of the garden, we were welcomed by a fragrant odor.  Honey!  Yes, depending on the wind direction, we could actually smell the hives!  Such a cool thing.  Then, upon one of our evening inspections of them we noticed that the hives were kicking out the drones, a sure sign of these busy bees' winter preparations.  We decided it was time to harvest the largest hive, and check the wild swarm to see if we could harvest the half starter box we put them in with in July.

So we started small.  First, B checked to see if there was any comb in the bottom box of the smaller hive.  There was comb in that box and a mixture of brood and capped honey in the box above, with a full box of honey to feed them for the winter, we were set to harvest the half sized box on top. 

We used liberal amounts of smoke, and overall, the bees were very calm during the whole process. 

When separating the two boxes there was some extra comb that pulled apart.  B has heard that using something like a piano wire to slide between the two boxes before removing will minimize this effect.  Something for us to try next time.

So we set the harvested boxes of honey aside so that the remaining bees in the boxes could find their way home.  The disruption sent many bees to the hive entrances to fan, so that those separated could return.

B then removed the chunks of cone that came apart and put them into a bowl.  This little bit of comb gave us about 1/2 a bottle of honey in addition to tons to snack on the rest of the evening with all the kids.

This is a shot of the half box.  We put the two boxes into a large Tupperware container overnight, weighted down, but with an escape route for the bees.  This morning, we moved that Tupperware to a shaded area of our porch and hopefully the remaining bees will vacate during the day today.

We have ordered what we need to complete extracting the honey from the comb, so that will be a task in the next week or so.  We estimate about 30 pounds of honey.  Not too bad from a first season, and with only 1 1/2 boxes harvested!  The third hive, we left alone.  We added a new queen to it about 6 weeks ago and there is now active brood.  They have one box full of honey but have not yet ventured into the second box.  We will leave them to regenerate their numbers and will hopefully start the spring with three hives, two of which will most likely need to be split!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I Just Like The Way He Sees Things

photo taken by Sidney

When I picked Charles up at school today we had our usual conversation.  Me:  How was school?  Charles: The Usual.  Me:  What did you do?  Charles: Nothing, watched a movie.  Me:  Really, the second week of school?  What was it about?  Charles:  Some artists.  I could see this conversation was not going anywhere, but then I remembered that in the fourth grade, their first enrichment project involved being assigned an artist and doing a bio and presentation around him/her. 

So I engaged him about the project that I was certain he was beginning, and then he began to chatter away.  He was originally assigned Klaus, whom he didn't care for at all.  I guess that a few of the kids who had a strong opinion could change out with the surplus artists that had not been drawn.  He got Rembrandt.  Oh, I said, that's a good one!  Charles:  He's ok.  He's really pretty boring.  Me:  Well who did you want?  I wanted Van Gough.  He is so cool.  He is just like me, I just like the way he sees things!  That's my boy!

I asked if anyone else switched artists.  Yes, Steven did, he got one (I think maybe Rubens) that did mostly naked girls, it's so nasty, why would the teacher even give that one out!

Ha!  This whole conversation just made me smile on this rainy fall afternoon!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Bit by bit, day by day, the fall light returns.

Nothing stops me in my tracks better than having my breath taken away by this light.  Thankfully, it happens almost daily beginning now until we reach the darker days of winter.  It is natures little reminder to me to stop, take a deep breath, exhale and enjoy each moment.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Checking Off the Bucket List

This weekend was a tournament weekend for soccer and the location was about an hour away.  Saturday wasn't a big deal, there was only one game.  But Sunday, Charles had a game at 7 am and another at 4 pm (with warm ups beginning 45 minutes prior).  So we decided to see what we could do in the area versus spend the day driving back and forth.  We haven not spent much time in the different burgs North of us, and we hoped to get in some apple picking, lunch and then just see what was to see.  The apple picking was immediately discounted when we got up there.  Due to the extreme warmth early, followed by a single late frost, the apple harvest this year is very limited, so there was no pick your own available. 

We began to look around at some other options.  First, we found a park that has the last covered bridge in Wisconsin.  It was a lovely old bridge, and had a beautiful park to walk around.  We saw a Blue Heron and the kids enjoyed exploring. 

As I looked at the map, I saw the Cedarburg Bog State Natural Area, so we thought we'd check it out.  We found a hiking/boating entrance and walked up the trail.  It was wet and muddy, but that was to be expected after the rain we had last night, and well, it's a bog!  As we got further up the trail the ground got squishy and further yet, it got almost bouncy.  Then we hit a 300 or so foot stretch leading up to the swamp that was simply amazing.  Have you ever walked or run on a trampoline??  Well that was the sensation of the earth under us, and as we walked up the path, we could see it ripple away from us!  Truly an incredible experience, and one to check off the bucket list, not even knowing it should have been there.  B and I discussed this at length as we all walked back toward the car.

We then took a scenic drive several miles further until we reached the Riveredge Creek State Nature Preserve.  We hiked there for a while before heading back into Cedarburg for lunch and some window shopping.  Not too shabby a way to use a day!  It was completely unstructured and unplanned and we were able to do some fun and unexpected things.

Last night before bed, Charles said...'that's one I'm adding to my bucket list', I asked what?  He said; 'being Dr. Who and seeing earth from space.'  Perfect end to the day, I can't wait to hear more of what's on his newly forming bucket list!

Friday, September 7, 2012

My Three Sons

I had just finished my tomato post and was walking past this plant.  I received this plant as a gift from a dear friend when my grandmother passed away six months ago.  As I went passed it this morning, it struck to me that it is doing quite well and has produced three babies.  Much like the three sons that my grandmother has.  I think, maybe, she's saying hello.  Dad, Dick, John...I thought you'd like to know.

Canning Tomatoes

 As you can see, our garlic did amazingly well this year! 

I have always thought of harvest in general, and tomato harvest specifically, and a race to get it all preserved.  We would get a ton of ripe tomatoes and dedicate an entire day or a whole weekend to processing everything.  Maybe that is because it is always a race against the clock here in the North to get enough ripe tomatoes at once to make that all happen.

This year they began ripening right on time, between the warm weather, and our pick of a couple of determinant types we are having volumes ripen, but staggered slightly to more an every other day time frame.  It has been a refreshing change to be canning a batch each night for a couple of hours, instead of the marathon to get them all done at once.  Trust me it is much more relaxed!  I have found that two cookie sheets of quartered Roma tomatoes will produce four quarts.  So far we have eight quarts done and another four that we made into sauce right away for consumption.  To give you a comparison, in the entire of last season (albeit a cool one) we had a total of six quarts of ripe roasted tomatoes; then of course 150 pounds that we processed into green tomato relish and sauce.  I must say that I am enthusiastic to be able to stock up and at this much more relaxed pace, it is the perfect way to settle into Fall!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ahead of the Curve

What to do on a final long weekend of summer that we have no plans??  Yes, that's what I said, nothing, I think a first all summer long.  Once in a while when we begin farm tasks we will have a single, super productive day, that makes us wonder how we could have gotten that all done.  Well this non-committed weekend was four full days of just that!

It is now only September fourth, and I feel like we are well on our way to having our Fall farm prep not only under control, but in several areas complete.  Many of the chores that we got done, we are normally still struggling with come November and the turn to colder weather.  It was hot and muggy, but we got the chicken coop mucked out and B expanded and got everything incorporated into the compost area.  A large portion, our biggest yet, will be ready to top dress all of the beds later this fall when we put them to sleep for winter.  All we need are the fall leaves and we will have next years compost well under way! 

We harvested about a quarter of the tomatoes and they are finishing a final ripening on the porch table to be processed and canned this week in the evenings.  While B was turning compost, I closed down the front porch, just leaving our fall items and the table.  As you can see we are set for all of the fall loveliness.  The honey collecting supplies, mums, decorative gourds, and egg collection baskets, and oh that fall light is starting to appear!

If you noticed something in the background of the last shot, it is the new raised kitchen herb bed.  we got it finished this weekend and will be planting herbs and spinach in it in the next week.  Now we can transplant what we want from the former herb garden and work on the foundation of the greenhouse. We decided that if we completed the foundation of the greenhouse this fall along with all of the other harvest and garden wrap up chores, that we would work on the structure itself this winter in the barn and hopefully have it up February/March (depending on this year's snowfall).

Finally, we removed all of the overgrown hedges from around the front of the house.  It's amazing how much larger that made the house look!  The next step is weed barrier and bark all the way around the porch.  Then next spring we will divide our hostas and plant them strategically around the porch.


So, I'd say that we are well into prepping for fall, and I am very excited that we are running ahead of the curve this year... I wonder what else we'll get accomplished?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

August In Review

It is September first and it is hard to believe that I am now looking back at the Summer.  After a hot couple of days, it is a crisp morning, which gives the hint of Fall, my favorite time.  Over the next couple of months, I hope that my photos will be full of vibrant color.  Rumor has it that the drought conditions will accentuate the colors this year.  We shall see.  What I have seen so far, is many trees just dropping brown leaves, but I hope as we move into the cooler months to come that the changes will make for lovely photos of my favorite time of year.  This is a glimpse of our August.

August in Review

1. 8/1/12 Pumpkin Blushing, 2. 8/2/12 Fresh garden pesto and tomato pizzas, 3. 8/3/12 The red face of a hard workin' soccer player #latergram, 4. 8/4/12 Capture, 5. 8/5/12 Beach treasures, 6. 8/6/12 'Wisconsin Weeps' May our hearts find some peace as we struggle with the whys of this senseless tragedy. Prayers to the Sikh community., 7. 8/7/12 Baby Acorns, 8. 8/10/12 Bush Lake Beach, 9. 8/13/12 Eggplant hearts in nature, 10. 8/15/12 Souffle a'la Julia in honor of her 100 th, 11. 8/8/12 Turkey Meatballs, 12. 8/9/12 Pumpkin!, 13. 8/11/12 Conference, 14. 8/12/12 Organic Breakfast, 15. 8/14/12 Morning Beam, 16. 8/16/12 1st Tomatoes, 17. 8/17/12 Lilacs & Pumpkins, 18. 8/19/12 Storm Clouds Building, 19. 8/20/12 Patient boy at work with mama :), 20. 8/25/12 Foraged 15+ lbs of elderberries for this year's batch of wine!, 21. 8/18/12 Teamwork Fire Building, 22. 8/22/12 Camping View, 23. 8/23/12 Good Morning, 24. 8/24/12 Final Scout Morning, 25. 8/21/12 Garden Flourish, 26. 8/26/12 Ren. Faire in the Rain, 27. 8/27/12 Golden, 28. 8/28/12 Baby Cones, 29. 8/28/12 Caramelized garden carrots, 30. 8/30/12 Blue Moon, 31. 8/31/12 Pretty little weed32. Not available33. Not available34. Not available35. Not available36. Not available Created with fd's Flickr Toys


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