Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Sweet January Thaw


Though I enjoy the cocooning in of winter time, I have to admit that the forty degree temperatures and sunshine today were welcome.  It felt somewhat like early spring, with that itching to walk the property, begin farm projects, and throw the windows open (at least for a short time), all of which we did.


We cleaned up the chicken coop, began curing 17 pounds of pork, and decided to more thoroughly inspect the hives.  We have one hive going gang busters and we fed it with a generous amount of fondant to sate it until the nectar flow.  Sadly, our other two hives were dead.  They were honey bound, we had a very late nectar flow last year and they were storing honey until quite late, with not enough time to get it to the appropriate location so that they would have enough space to winter over.


We had not collected honey in 2013 or 2014.  In 2013 we wanted to leave the honey stores to them for feeding through winter, and were thankful we had.  Despite the polar vortices's, they all survived because of the honey stores to their spring feeding.  We had hoped for a similar result this season, but that was not entirely the case, therefore we have had an unexpected January honey harvest this weekend which yielded 25 lbs of the lightest, most beautiful honey from the first hive, and the second and somewhat larger hive is straining now.  A lovely gift from our hard working pollinators.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Grandpa's Voice


The last several days have been filled with hurried plans, remembrances, reunion, laughter and love.  Though I sit here tonight with tears once again pricking my eyes, I remind myself that a vivid, bold, and very long life indeed should be bringing tears of joy rather than sadness.  I suppose I am especially nostalgic as grandpa was my last living grandparent, so an important part of my life is now silent.

The time in California was peppered with little gifts from grandpa....  the above Sunrise for one.  The valuable time with my brother and his family which drew us that much closer.  The early morning song of an owl the morning of his funeral that both B and I heard and smiled at his goodbye to us.

I am thankful that I saw grandpa a few weeks ago at Christmas, his last words and sentiments to me were on a repeat in my head the entire flight home.  My brother Billy and I were asked to say a few words of remembrance at the grave site.  I hardly remember doing it now, and am not sure how coherent I was with the sobs that I could hardly choke down.  This was what I hope that I relayed.

Grandpa's voice was so special to me for many reasons.  The timber of his speech was a sound that I have never heard from anyone else, and I can still hear vividly in my mind.  Whether it be his effusive smiles and laughter, always ready to say 'cheese, cheese, cheese' while posing for a picture, or the immense experience that he could draw from for his amazing stories, or his no-nonsense advice, Grandpa's voice will stay with me forever.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sacred Spaces



As I mentioned before I began a two week course with some of my blog friends posing the question "who am I now?" I have kept the daily challenges in a handwritten journal, something that I haven't done since I was a child. When I began blogging almost seven years ago this became my writing space, my journal.   I find putting pen to paper strangely meditative and quite foreign since I do most everything on the computer.  I have carried the little book with me since last Monday and it has become a place to paste and draw things and jot down in colorful ink ideas generated from the daily prompts.

Yesterday's prompt was about tending to your space, creating a small space of your own that reminds you of what is important.  As I pondered this question, I realized that I already have several such spaces in my house, filled with little trinkets, tokens or memories of things that are important to us.  I re-arrange them periodically to keep them fresh in both memory and location. 

As we began the new year, B and I were talking about things that we wanted to accomplish with the homestead.  One of our goals this year is to bring this feeling upstairs.  I have no idea why really, maybe because the downstairs is the heartbeat, the hearth, and we spend most of our time there, but our bedroom is fairly plain having left the walls white, and most of the artwork leaning against the walls instead of hung.  The kids rooms are all painted and decorated to their tastes, and while we have a great space it just has never been a huge priority with all of the other farm tasks.  This year we are going to change that, and bring some of that feeling of sacredness to our upstairs space to enjoy.  

So when it comes to having that sacred space I feel like we really have several,  including this one where I write now, all having their own special ways of reminding us what is important.

Chilled to the Bone


Last week we were in the midst of extremely cold days, so much so the kids were out of school both Thursday and Friday.  So what does one do when you can not be outside, and whatever light there is on grey days you do not appreciate because you have all of the curtains pulled shut to help stave off the cold that is radiating from the windows?  Well, I fill the house with flickering light from oil lamps that have not been brought out since we moved 14 years ago, and tried my hand at making a warming bone broth.


We are no strangers to making our own stock from leftover bones, but I have been intrigued by all of the chatter about the health benefits of bone broth.  After our little bout of illnesses over the holidays, and since we were relatively home bound, it seemed as good a time as any to try it out so that I can master my own recipe.  The first thing that I did was purchase about 3 lbs of soup bones from the grocery store.  I think for my next round, I will get them from our local butcher, but I was limiting the number of trips and times to be outside last week.  I then tossed them on a rimmed cookie sheet in a little olive oil with roughly chopped carrots and a large onion.  I then put them in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes turning them part way through.  This created all of those lovely brown bits that we so love in cooking adding another dimension of flavor.


Then comes the easy part.  Toss the contents of the cookie sheet in your crockpot with two ribs of celery, also roughly chopped, and 4 whole cloves of garlic (I smashed mine).  Then just cover with water and let the whole thing cook on low for 24-48 hours.  Check it periodically and skim off any foam that rises to the top.  I just went 24 hours.


Finally, strain the broth, let cool, skim the fat, and refrigerate.  It is ready to go.  You can simply use it for health benefits and sip a small cup daily or add it in as a rich base in recipes.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Enveloped


A cold beauty has enveloped us over the last several days inspiring lots of soups, board games and movies.  Then, just as the deep freeze set in, the kids break ended and they headed back to school yesterday.  Though this bout is not quite as cold as the polar plunge we had this time last year, it is still plenty cold with temperatures in the single digits to well below zero and frightening wind chills.

Much like the queen annes lace above, we have folded ourselves in the house and drawn the curtains to repel the cold.


I read this article today in the New York Times, oh I must make some bone broth!


I finally finished the Outlander series!  After almost 7300 pages I so enjoyed it and am now looking at my ever growing to read list.


I began to wholeheartedly embrace this idea in Shauna Niequists post several months ago.  Something to really think about.  Why wait for special occasions?


This first full week of the new year I have also began a journalling exploration along with some bloggy friends.   Two days in and I am eager to see where it leads.


Stay warm!!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Sous Vide

Over the last year B has immersed himself in researching a method of cooking called Sous Vide.  The more he researched, the more enthusiastic he became and the less subtle the hints came as Christmas was approaching ;)


It is quite a phenomenal form of cooking and we now find that we want to try it when preparing every meal!  We are using an immersion wand that goes into your cooking pot filled with water (up to 6 quarts).  You simply set the device to what you want the internal temperature of your finished dish and turn it on.  The wand continuously heats and circulates the water and is exceptionally quiet.


You then vacuum seal (or airtight seal in a zip lock) whatever protein that you would like to cook with any spices you would like to add to it.  Then depending on the size and type of protein let it cook.  For steaks or pork chops a couple to a few hours, we have done duck eggs and fish for about an hour each.  B did a whole prime rib on Christmas day and it went for 12 hours.  You cannot overcook as the temperature is set.  So for a prime rib that we wanted medium rare it was that from end to end with no burnt ends.


Once it comes out if you a looking for a char on you meat you can quickly sear in a fry pan or on the grill.  The best parts?  It takes up zero stove top or oven space as the pot can simply sit on your counter, which frees up other cooking surfaces. Perhaps even better, the total clean up is dumping the water and tossing the bag!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Rituals


Another year has flown by and it was a good one.  As the dawn broke over 2015, I found myself with a few quiet moments to ease into the day and reflect on the coming year.  Elizabeth Gilbert posted on her Facebook page about New Years rituals.  Like her, the New Years Eve thing, though fun when we have done it, has never really been our main focus.  Over 20 years ago, B and I began to research different traditional foods and rituals from various cultures and the meanings behind them.  We experimented with many of them looking for the perfect fit.  Ms. Gilbert listed several ritualistic things that she has done with her family on January first.  That day when everything is new, a clean slate to begin again.  These ranged from creating intentions for the year ahead to writing down something from the previous year that you were going to let go of.


About five years ago we began hosting a New Years Day brunch for our Tastebuds group.  I realized this morning, as I pondered different ideas to incorporate into this years brunch, that this is our ritual.  Our nearest and dearest come together to break bread that we prepare as a group. We laugh, cook, drink, moderate squabbles among our ever growing and changing children, and this year we all, children and adults alike, assembled Lego Minifigs at the supper table.


In years past I have picked a word, a mantra so to speak to guide the year.  This year I do not think that I will be choosing a word to guide the whole year, more something to just to get me started down the path and help me remember priorities that may have gotten a bit blurred over time.  Refocus.

A Happiest of 2015 to you all!

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