Friday, March 28, 2014

Random 5 Friday


1.  Over the last several years we have had two deer that have made the orchard at the back of our property home.  It seems over this tough winter the group has expanded to five, with one very large one.  When we harvested our dried beans last Fall we had a great yield, but there was also a number of beans that never finished.  We learned a couple of years ago that if we leave our trellis' up over winter instead of trying to de-tangle the vines in the fall, that the vines come right off come spring.  This week, the hungry deer were scavenging the remaining pods off of the trellis.  Truly a complete use of all that the plant had to offer.

2.  Yes, I know we shouldn't encourage the deer.  Yet we seem to have a symbiotic relationship with them.  The garden can sometimes take a hit from their snacking early on, but we have never had complete devastation from them... knock wood, and they tend to come around less frequently come summer.  In fact, last summer they did stick around.  We always grow lots of Swiss chard, but last year we did not harvest any until the end of the season.  For whatever reason the deer came in regularly and ate that, only that.  Almost like it was our offering to them to share our land.  After all, Mother Nature does like balance.

3.  We are trying to settle on our infrastructure project for the farm this year.  I think this may be the year to build a large hoop house over one of our raised beds.  With our extended winter..snow as I speak, and the forecasts for the next month or so remain cooler than expected, we may have an abbreviated growing season this year, and it should be a good year for cool weather crops.  Putting the hoop house in may allow us a taste of summer if the overall weather doesn't support a long warm seasons growth....must have tomatoes for canning!

4.  Have you ever read a book and come across a sentence that was so beautiful or profound that you had to read it over and over?  I find that language is fascinating and what speaks to people can greatly vary, yet some words when strung together just right can speak to everyone.  This week American Scholar magazine came out with a list of the ten best sentences.  Take a look, and see if you are transported.

5. A week of anniversaries, as I'm sure you heard, March 24, 1984 was the date that the Breakfast Club served detention.  Wow, 30 years ago, feeling old yet?  Another 30th anniversary was honored in a fantastic way. Did any of you see Kevin Bacon re-enact his famous dance from Footloose on Jimmy Fallon?  The man has still got it, take a watch, it'll make you smile!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Roads We Take


As we hit mid week, the hump in the road, my mind swims with new ideas.  I file the early week agenda to the back of my thoughts.  The roads we take, we chose.  Though we may not always have a choice of the terrain, how we respond to it is ours.  Those are the things that allow us to grow and what inspires the roads we choose in the future.  What matters most is that in the rigor of the day we take a moment and recognize the beauty right in front of us.  Do not miss it, it is meant to re-focus us on what is truly important.  How have your roads been so far this week?

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Tastebuds Do The Seven Deadly Sins


Last night we celebrated this months theme; the seven deadly sins.  The seven deadly sins have roots going back centuries.  They have been inspiration for art, poetry and epic narratives.  They hearken back to the beginnings of Christianity and the deeds are described as the root of all sins.  So after hearing about a similar party across the ocean (thanks Julie!), we decided to let those sins be our dinner club muse.

The stage was set beautifully and also represented the sins in a spring-like way, since we are all aching for color (I suppose that sentiment alone could be envy, huh?)  The thoughtful centerpiece was comprised of gold for greed, dark orange for pride, blue for lust, red for wrath, orange for gluttony and light blue for sloth.  A perfect stage laid, without further ado, the seven deadly sins as prepared by the tastebuds:


Wrath
Spicy Bloody Mary's


Lust
Candied Maple Crusted Bacon Wrapped Asparagus Spears


Envy
Bitter Greens in Endive Boats Tossed in a Maple Dijon Dressing


Sloth
Slow Roast Hickory Smoked Brisket


Greed
Fried Curried Sweet Potato Balls


Pride
Spinach and Feta Pie


Gluttony
Sticky Toffee Date Cake with Bourbon Glaze


Redemption
Finally we topped off with a digestif  
a little lead in to our next meeting on Holy Saturday, a perfect contrast to our sins.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Serenade


 After another 30 hour marathon of syrup making B and I headed to bed while the kids caught up on a couple of recorded television shows.  I knew when they were done watching when I heard the piano.  Since Charles started lessons in January, I have not really needed to push him into practice.  Though he typically does not practice as much as I would like, in these beginning stages he very quickly masters and then bores of the lesson.  It is not just with piano, he has much the same understanding of his baritone as well.  What is wonderful is that his piano teacher is teaching him rhythms at the same time and he has a tremendous understanding of the theory of music even as a novice. 

After a couple of duets of heart and soul with his sister, he practiced his lesson.  When B went down to do a final check on our cooking sap, he said the kids were using the computer to play more full versions of the songs that he wanted to learn and then he was trying to key them out and utilize chords (which he is just beginning to learn).  When I came down this morning, the piano and kitchen were littered with printed pages of simple sheet music.  His favorite song thus far is Ode to Joy, and I see he seems to have taking a liking to Beethoven in general.  I would not trade this late night serenade and self directed learning for anything.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Random 5 Friday



1.  We had brunch at a friends house on Sunday.  What could be better than the shrieks of dads and kids participating in some good old fashioned play?!

2.  This week as been a little warmer and the sap has been flowing well.  It looks like we will have another batch of maybe 50 gallons to boil down tomorrow!

3.  Have you ever wondered about what your favorite ice cream says about you?  This is a fun little article.

4.  Here is a very thought provoking article about being too busy, and why we do it.  Shouldn't we all strive for this dream  “leisure . . . will be abundant, so that all can develop the life of the spirit, of reflection, of religion, of the arts, of the full realization of the good things of the world.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

5.  Speaking of dreams, today on the first full day of spring sixteen years ago, I married mine.

Won't you join us for:
 

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Bit O' The Green


This St. Patty's day we are thankful for our little onion sprouts giving us a glimpse of the green to come.  When the soil thaws, they will be separated and grow to be beautiful red onions, how can you resist a varietal called Cabernet?


As we look with eager eyes to the gardening season.....

May you have:
No frost on your spuds,
No worms on your cabbage.
May your goat give plenty of milk.
And if you inherit a donkey,
May she be in foal.
 as seen on Irish Central

A very Happy St. Patrick's Day to you and yours!  Sláinte

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sugar Sugar


As I mentioned here, we are attempting to collect sap and make our own maple syrup this year.  Yesterday after a week of intermittent temperatures and two good sap flow days that yielded 15 gallons of sap, we decided to cook down what we had collected so far.


Our method of choice was a large propane operated camp stove, which seemed to do the trick quite nicely.  Next time if the snow cover has subsided we may try doing this over a wood burning fire.


Would you expect anything less of a small animal veterinarian, than to have access to the perfect bulk sugaring device?  An unused stainless steel kennel from work was the perfect tool for the job.


As we collected sap during the week, we stored it in a couple of large buckets that we packed in snow.  I suspect by the time we get to cooking next weekend, our snow cover will be sparse, but the nighttime temperatures should continue to work in our favor.


So basically, you do nothing to the sap but cook it, and cook it, and cook it.  The sap is comprised of a great deal of water so your aim is to evaporate all of it off.


Once our volume had reduced from fifteen gallons to about three gallons, in this case seven hours, we poured it into a couple of large stock pots to finish in the house.


The indoor finishing process took an additional three and a half hours.  The sap begins to turn amber, reduce more dramatically, and most importantly taste like maple syrup.  What you are looking for is your syrup temperature to reach seven degrees above where water will boil in your location on that day.  So for us, the temperature we needed was 217 degrees.  You have to be very careful not to cook it over that temperature or you can scorch it.  Trust me, after this time investment, no one wants that to happen.


So at 1:30 am this morning after ten and a half hours of cooking our syrup was jarred and us put to bed.  We learned a few great things, this is truly an easy task, just time consuming and we need to start much earlier next time.  We yielded 4 pints from 15 gallons.  Based on what we ended up with our sugar concentration was  3%  which is what we would expect from sugar maples and so fantastic for the silver maples we are using.  With the weather appearing to be ideal this coming week, we are looking forward to how much we can collect for next weekend.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Random 5 Friday~ The Dells


We took a mid week excursion this week, to do something for the kids' split spring break.  For this week's random 5, I thought I would do a brief re-cap.

1.  Mid-week vacations, if you can do it, are the bomb.  They are almost half price, and when doing a theme park type of thing, much less crowded.

2.  In the thirteen years that we have lived in Wisconsin, we have never been to the Dells.  I know, I know, almost treason worthy.  Funny how life has moments of cross-over.  From the moment we walked into the Kalahari, I was transported back to our years living in Las Vegas.  The big, bold colors, attractions and a massive property, felt so familiar.  Such a throw back!

3.  I just finished reading a book called Joy for Beginners.  It was very enjoyable and I guess that you could say the theme of the book dealt with doing things outside of your comfort zone.  It must have been the lingering spirit of that book that lead me into doing a 3 story high ropes course yesterday, and quite successfully I might add.

4.  Boys will be boys in an arcade, but mom reigned supreme on the basketball shoot out, being the only one to make it to the bonus round.


5.  A location with a huge waterpark, theme park and bowling ally to name a few of the activities leaves very tired kids.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tapped


Several years ago we bought taps online so that we could collect sap and make maple syrup.  This year, with the help of some friends, we are making our first attempt.  This week began with a few days in the 40's (though as it turned out only one of them sunny), so on Sunday B tapped eight trees on our property.  Most of our trees are of the silver maple variety, so not the preferred hard wood, but our research has shown, that we can still get a nice product from the trees.


By Monday morning a few of them were flowing freely.  So far we have collected about a gallon of sap, and our weather is briefly turning cooler again.  It looks like, over the weekend and next week will be the perfect weather for a nice flow. 


With rain expected yesterday afternoon and evening, B rigged some tubing from the taps into lids for the buckets, so that we could keep the water out of them.  So far it has worked pretty slick.  With 35 mile per hour winds overnight, I am anxious to get outside and see if all of our buckets are still attached to the trees.


The most surprising thing is how water like and lightly sweet the sap flowing from the tree is.  I am also struck once again how easy this process is, at least so far.  We will see how it progresses when it comes to cooking time.  More soon.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Random 5 Friday

we have a little stone garden turtle that sits next to our cold frame, look who I found peaking out as I was shoveling the walk earlier this week.

1.  We had another five inches of snow this week, but it looks like we are headed for a real thaw over the next week with daytime temps hitting the mid to upper 30's!

2.  I can not wait until next year when the kids are at the same school.  Right now their breaks are on different schedules which puts a real crimp in trying to plan any fun family travel.  Charles' spring break is next weeks and Sidney's over Easter, so not even close.  We will be taking a long weekend next weekend and packing a weeks worth of fun into it.  Exhausting?  Probably, worth it definitely! :)

3.  We seeded all of our onions in our basement greenhouse last weekend, as of this morning I am on sprout watch.  It is down right crazy how excited that I get seeing those first babies poke through the soil!



4.  I always like to cook traditional dishes around any holiday or festivity.  On Tuesday I made a traditional gumbo for Mardi Gras.  We used to cook Cajun food regularly, on those weekends when I would spend the afternoon watching Justin Wilson and Paul Prudhomme on PBS but it has been years.  It was so tasty, and the kids did not even mind the kick of spice from the andouille.

as found on the paintedpear via pinterest

5.  Who else is ready to throw their windows wide open and let in the Spring air?  I may even try to do it later next week, near 40 is a heat wave, right?  I came across the above graphic last night and had to laugh, oh so true!

 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

TEDx


As I sip my coffee before my morning carpool, the snow is once again falling.  My thoughts have been consumed with the food movement even more than usual after Saturday's viewing party. TEDx Manhattan, 'Changing the Way We Eat' left me at once invigorated and overwhelmed.  Virginia Clarke's talk in part illustrated previous social movements and the number of years they took to build, make social and legislative headway and then finally go into a homeostasis.  This calmed my natural instinct of wanting things done right now, a quite exhausting characteristic of mine, again breathing my husbands mantra 'it is a marathon not a sprint.'  The food movement is enjoying exciting expansion and bridging through individual social organizations collaborating, much the concept that I discussed here.

One of my favorite speakers was Matthew Moore, a fourth generation farmer and artist, of Urban Plough.  He is the creator of the Digital Farm Collective and their phenomenal living library.  A resource that is being used in many venues, including grocery stores, to educate people on where their food comes from.  This particular clip was the one he showed during his talk.  It was hypnotic. I absolutely loved how the plant took on the characteristic of breathing as you watch the time of the lifecycle.  Please watch.



Of course when you attend an event such as this, it seems that everything that I have read in the following days dovetailed nicely into my thoughts.

Check out what $5 worth of food can get you around the world...OTHER than a fast food value menu. 

Oh, my this would be fun!

Off topic, but did you see this crazy story?  Wow!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

PRAH-leens


I have so many thoughts and so much energy floating around after the TEDx Manhattan yesterday, that I need a few days to process it all and perhaps include some thoughts with my Good Food is Culturally Authentic writing for the Blog Camp Goes to MIT class. 

What to do on a Sunday in early March following a snow when it is a balmy 8 degrees outside? 

Spring clean
bring out the Easter tree and spring decorations
buy a far too expensive bouquet of tulips
paint your nails bright orange
and, make Pralines

After all it is Fat Tuesday in a couple of days!

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