Thursday, September 29, 2016

I'm going long on the kitchen garden

We had a garden this year. A ramshackle, tattered, beautiful, unkempt garden. With a one-year-old, a three-year-old, a puppy, and too many other life projects to count, planting a garden was symbolic. I ordered $128 of seed in less than 15 minutes, a record for me. I usually plan for months. I planted things weeks after their frost tolerances. I weeded maybe three times. I watered about half as much as I should have. A huge percentage of our produce got infested with aphids, and ended up feeding the pigs. And I'm still glad we did it.

Things I swear I'm gonna grow next year. This is a so-I-don't-forget list.

A - because I can't believe how much they cost at market
B - because I can't seem to find a volume discount that makes it reasonable to put anything up
C - because it's harvest season, and I can't find any zucchini. Wtf. People leave that shit on doorsteps in the dark just to get rid of it.

Here's the list.

This year's garden. Don't be fooled by the shovel.
It's just marking some dog poop I haven't cleaned up yet.
  • Every old-fashioned flower
  • A medicine cabinet full of herbs
  • A kitchen full of herbs
  • So much basil 
  • So much mint
  • Zucchini for days
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Garlic. A whole field of garlic.
  • Eggplant
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Every winter squash
  • Turnips
  • Pumpkins
  • Carrots 
  • Fennel
  • Tomatoes by the acre. A whole damn garden for tomato sauce.
  • Beets 
  • Sunflowers. Lots of them.
  • Dill
  • Cucumbers
  • Every kind of bean

Saturday, January 24, 2015

My first (failed) mozzarella

That's not really what mozz is supposed to look like. Hmm.

Not everything works the first time

I followed the directions, I swear. Ricki Carroll writes good recipes, and she won't steer you wrong. But, some things just don't work the first time. I learned a few things.

ONE: Organic Valley gallons are sold as pasteurized. But I'm betting they are actually ultra-pasteurized, because of this:

The curd is supposed to look like custard. Not ricotta.
TWO: I used apple cider vinegar instead of citric acid powder. This has never caused problems in making whey ricotta, and it shouldn't (theoretically) in making mozzarella either. But I did stray from the recipe.

THREE: I kept going anyway. It works ok on a pizza, as long as you are willing to break out the cheese grater.

The resulting cheese is firm and dry. It didn't stretch the way I think mozzarella is supposed to. I never achieved "smooth and satiny" although I got it to stretch at least well enough that the curds didn't break.

Next time I'll try just plain milk from Country Fresh or something. No fancy organics. Sigh. At least making cheese from conventional milk will cost less than buying the cheese itself.

Yield: 13.8 oz plus some terrible ricotta from the whey (runny and too acidic)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Calendar notes - September 2014

9/2 - seeded and grated 9 c (about 3 lbs) of zucchini from one big guy.  Froze 6 c for later
9/2 - got 9 eggs from Steve and Sarah
9/2 - broke into the sauerkraut. It still smells pretty strong but tastes delicious
9/3 - made grandma's zucchini bread recipe from the remaining 3 c shredded zucchini. 2 loaves,  1 for freezing
9/4 - bought another gallon of milk from Turja's
9/4 - activated my new Viili yogurt starter
9/5 - made a quart of raw milk yogurt and a quart of pasturized yogurt
9/6 - taste test. Definitely like the pasturized better.  The raw one is grainy and kind of gamey.
9/9 - the fruit flies are out in force
9/10 - made a new batch of pizza crust for the freezer. Spent the morning at the beach and went back in the afternoon.  Maria swam.
9/10 - yesterday may have been the last day of summer
9/11 -Kevin did harvest at bare Knuckle. Brought home 2 lbs of leeks, 6 egg plants, a qt of potatoes, two tomatoes, and 6 squash
9/12 - one qt of yogurt, started the kefir grains
9/13 - jw lost his grandpa. Saw him at the St ambrosia party.
9/14 - made sandwich bread, following a note to myself, split into 2 pans (2 1# loaves). Used the first kefir activation milk and some raw yogurt.
9/14 - made potato leek soup

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Calendar notes - August 2014

I have a shorter and shorter memory these days.
I missed the best mulberries at the end of July.
I missed the best black raspberries at the beginning of August.
I missed the raspberries at the end of July and beginning of August.
8/8 - the tart cherry harvest is in full swing, sweets have been here for a couple of weeks
8/11 - first tomato off the patio plant, looks like the heirlooms are coming in
8/15 - the blueberries are in, and I need to go pick in honor (sign on Fowlerville road for the old, more tart varieties, near the abandoned fields at sleeping bear, which are already picked over, according to Jeff)
8/16 - harvested rose hips at Dan and Nikki's
8/16 - sumac is ready for harvest
8/16 - 2 quarts of kefir and 1 pint of creme fraiche from the milk we got from John and Charity
8/16 - it seems as though the cherry harvest is slowing down, noticed fewer trucks on the road
8/17 - made rose hip wine, need to pick again after frost for batch #2
8/17 - first crock of sauerkraut
8/19 - picked 4 qt of blueberries in about 40 min at baatz upick, cut short by rain. Nice small berries, good eating, and even better cooking. $2.80/qt, and they measure very generously.
8/22 - froze almost all the berries we picked - 3 full quart bags, plus some for eating
8/28 - the Himalayan blackberries are starting to ripen. Not ready for really picking yet, but got a few to feed Maria
8/31 - discovered a good walk along the Newman(?) easement for picking blackberries. They're still not quite ready to pick, but it's a sunny edge and the fruit is more plentiful here. Need to come back next week.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Zucchini soup

Based on one that my Mom makes, which I think is Uncle Bob's recipe.

Maria ate three bowls of this without pause, and there was enough left for four adults to eat with salad and grilled cheese for dinner.

-1/2 yellow onion, sauteed over medium heat in olive oil/butter mix until softened
-Add 1 clove fresh minced garlic
-Thyme, oregano, marjoram, salt
-Add 3 small red potatoes, diced into bite-sized pieces, peel on
-Add 3 zucchini, quartered and sliced
-Cover and let sweat until potatoes soften and zucchini begins to cook, stirring occasionally
-Add 24 oz homemade chicken stock and bring to a boil
-Reduce heat to low and simmer until vegetables are cooked through
-Off heat, stir in about 2/3 c whole milk
-Puree in blender and return to pot to heat through, salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Taking the leap, part 2: The Catalyst

By the time we're forty

The plan was to step out as soon as we could realistically afford it, but we didn't have any urgent timing. We were content to give ourselves seven, eight, nine years of saving money and living as natural a life as we could along the way.

We were living simply, below our means, and saving. We were learning to be self-sufficient. We thrived on old things that could be repaired. We learned old-timey skills, and practiced them every chance we got.

We drank a lot of cider. We read a lot of books and websites from other dreamers.

Or sooner. Pregnancy changed the timing.

We were almost five years into that plan when I became pregnant. I thought we had three or four years to go. With a baby on the way, we shifted our perspective. It was remarkably easy. The plan didn't change, the timeline was just accelerated.

By the time the baby is one, or two...

After our sweet Maria was born, all wide-eyed and curious, we began to accept this new timing as truth. A given.

Maternity leave passed so quickly, and I was not ready to return to a demanding, challenging job. In the nine months since I went back to work, I really have tried to make everything fit, even knowing it is a temporary fit.

My over-engaged, over-commited, uber-responsible, unbalanced self has always been unable to juggle job and life, really. And now, more divided mentally and emotionally than ever before, I know in my heart I can't keep doing this. I can never be as present or as ready or as patient or as organized or as energized or as thoughtful as I wish I could. It has become abundantly clear that being a professional, and being the human I want to be, just don't work together.

Life is too short to live like this.

On the heels of the hardest winter in recent memory (snow days and sick days have already used up the vacation time I usually hoard for the precious months of summer), it is time to make a decision. I am no longer willing to make the compromises I face every day, unlatching my snoobing baby so that I can go into the office and write marketing copy and help solve client problems. The world of commerce and industry mean little to me these days.

I admire and respect those people out there who do it all with grace. I no longer want to be one of them.

I want a life, not a livelihood.

I am ready to take the risk of leaving this all behind to try my hand (heart) at something different. I am ready to hold hands, hold my breath, and jump. I think we can create something that doesn't rely on commerce and layers of removal from the real business of life. I think we can dig in and come out self-sufficient on the other side.

And so, right at the end of Maria's spring break, I broke the news to my colleagues and friends. There is no going back now. (It's exhilarating, and a bit unsettling).

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Taking the leap: The Prequel


I daydream. I yearn, I scheme, I wonder. I make a lot of lists. (I'm not kidding, my journal has been a series of lists, schedules and budgets for almost 10 years now. That's kind of sad.)

Listmaking is the best therapy I've had. 

It's a way to make my dreams tangible. A sort of promise that I am actually going to do something. For some reason, writing it down makes it more real.

I've thoroughly explored all the options, created endless scenarios, put income and debt and everything in between up to the light. I've imagined thousands of lives that I'll never try out for real.

All this time, I've led a satisfying, but divided, life. 

Weekends and vacations spent gardening, cooking, living up north, or on the water, and then late on Sunday night, pulling in the driveway, rushing through some chores, and the next morning scrambling to get to work on time. Drawing deep to find a way to connect, to care, to be present for my colleagues, my clients, my work. If it was a less divided life... if I were a different person than I am... it would have been a fine life.


I have a photo of myself that Kevin took, the very first time we were on the farm. We didn't own the property. I wasn't even sure we were walking the property we'd seen for sale online. I didn't know that I was really, seriously looking.

When I saw that photo, I saw it through the filter of time. As if I was elderly, looking back, and remembering the first time I walked that path. It was a powerful and emotional sensation. It was the moment the land chose me.