Tuesday at Rock Bottom Homestead

  • Getting together the Tuesday delivery. It’s a very windy, very cold one today. Hopefully these baguettes and oat breads and secret pickles will keep you all warm.
  • We’ve pushed pasta week a bit until I am more recovered. I am out of bed for half-days but barely up to speed (#don’tgetshingles). We’ll keep you posted.
  • Maple tapping has begun and the taps are just starting to flow. We put in 100 taps this year (25 up from last year), and we are considering doing a Birch sugaring right after Maple Season. Come on up for a day outside boiling, hiking, and maybe some sledding starting next weekend! (Give us a heads up and I’ll cook a warmy vat of something to keep you toasty in the sugar shack).
  • Pruning to be done soon – apple trees, blackberries, etc. Makes a great companion to the boiling season. Any gnarly wood goes right into the fire.
  • Glorious seed/tree/plant catalogs are coming in the mail making me drool out of our price range this year. But those pictures are pretty!
  • The chickens are still laying regularly; we picked a good batch this year, lay naturally right through the Winter. And we’re still at 15 gals (lost one to an amateur hawk last Fall), they seem to be holding up through the snow covered hill and crazy winds.
  • Soon seedlings will be making their way into our living room; we’ll pull the seedling shelves (fit with lights and heat mats) in here and start some flower and vegetable babies. I organized my hanging basket plants, perennials/annuals, and garden veg.

Spring countdown, technically 18 more days!

Duendesday: my little witch

Oh, my little burgeoning witch; to where or what direction will her witchy ways blossom? Will she be a Hedge or Folk Witch like me? A Forest Witch, a Kitchen Witch, a Faerie Witch? Somehow I see her (though I can’t tell her, she needs to feel it out on her own) as a Ceremonial or Spell Witch. Where I like the family care and nurturing modes of witchery, her witchcraft tends to focus on magickal spells/potions/elaborate ritual.

Ritual is good, if done in awareness and care (not habit and blind tradition) – it can really center one in the world and in their body (unfortunately, I have never been strong in ritual and I think that adds to my struggles). She needs a real practice and attention though – and this is where a little coven could do her good. Unfortunately, that is not the kind of space we are in, in the world these days. A solitary little witch she must be.

But I do think she feels the possibilities. I know, you must think us a little strange but witchery is just another way of being in the world that asserts attention to what is around us, a mindfulness, if you will, with practices that foster that mindfulness and compassion. We’re not sacrificing babies or dancing naked in the moonlight (the neighbors could see us, if we did – though if we didn’t have neighbors…ha!). We’re not Wiccan, or Pagan. We’re ‘Seasonal Practitioners’, and we feel the astrological pull so we focus on that.

After a hard day sledding and tapping maple trees, my little pea convinced her father to do a little witchy photo shoot. Isn’t she adorable?

What’s Happening Tuesday

The bread is baking, the bagels are boiling, the pickles and cheese and Apple-chi are being lined up on the counter. Invoices are printed, labels and stamps are applied. The cooler fills with fresh eggs.

The snow is heavy on the trees (and the car, and the steps, in the drive) but the roads are clear. The delivery route is determined. The delivery will be commuted with ‘No Such Thing as a Fish’ podcasts, likely music from The O’My’s, and smiling eyes.

Meanwhile, back at the homestead, I will be putting a hot compress on my infected eardrum/post-shingle-marred and numb/itchy face (some healing arrives, some new problems with it) and try and attend a small business planning meeting. The child will likely stay home today and tend to the chickens and play Legos Star Wars (yes, it is true; it is a new allowance for this Winter though soon ‘screen-free’ March will be upon us) while tending to my sick needs, she’s a caring peach. As soon as I am up to it, I need to pack up the studio for renovation (I’m hoping just a couple more days; I’ve been bedridden now almost a full 2 weeks and its driving me insane; I can’t really focus enough to read though I have caught up on my Jane Austen movies/series and was swept up in the documentary The Gardener).

Take it slow, take it easy – that’s what I tell myself, and what I will tell you. My Brezsnyscope tells me things will arrive as they will. I’m practicing my patience.

Monday’s Musing

I Remember California

I remember redwood trees,
bumper cars and wolverines
The ocean’s Trident submarines
Lemons, limes and tangerines
I remember this

I remember traffic jams
Motor boys and girls with tans
Nearly-was and almost-rans
I remember this
History is made
History is made to seem unfair

I recall that you were there
Golden smile and shining hair
I recall it wasn’t fair
Recollect it wasn’t fair
Remembering it wasn’t fair outside

Low ebb, high tide
The lowest ebb and highest tide
A symbol wave I must confide
I guess we took us for a ride
I guess it’s just a gesture

I remember this defense
Progress fails pacific sense
All those sweet conspiracies
I remember all these things

I remember traffic jams
Motor boys and girls with tans
Nearly-was and almost-rans
I remember this, this

Low ebb, high tide
The lowest ebb and highest tide
I guess we took us for a ride
I guess it’s just a gesture

At the end of the continent
At the edge of the continent
At the end of the continent
At the edge of the continent
~ Bill Berry / Peter Buck / Michael Mills / Michael Stipe

Recipe Thursday: Mushroom Cream Soup

It’s been a rough week. Sickness, weather, and for us, a redistribution of space and goals. But we are starting to feel a renewed vigor and dedication to ourselves, our community, and this crazy life we’ve chosen (crazy things I never thought I would do before we embarked on this hill: vaseline chicken combs for their safety and care, spread our hair around orchard gardens to keep out deer, pee on apple trees to increase the properties of uric acid, let alone make our own medicines/alcohols/cottage food business). We’re pretty into it; knee deep in maple-sugaring, cider-pressing, jam-making, seed-starting, and learning/caring about the natural world around us.

We weren’t ‘urban’ kids, though neither of us really grew up in households that dedicated themselves to homesteading, either. Pretty rural the both of us, and in homes that certainly did some of the things we do (canning, a bit of growing, some textiles) but as more of lifestyle leftovers from previous generations. We don’t have the kind of families that congregated and shared skills. And as young adults we gravitated toward new spaces – either city spaces or open spaces, not so much ‘home’ spaces. It took us time and experience to consider what that might look like.

We’re still discovering that – but are generally enjoying the ride. In designing our menu this week we realized that ‘soft foods’ were in order for my poor struggling body so it was a lot of things like Colcannon again (so good and full of potassium and B’s, and calcium from the greens and a little dairy), oatmeal (Josh’s is so good with diced apples, flax molasses and maple, and a little salted butter), and soup! The child has been telling us she desired Mushroom Cream Soup which confused us – she’s never been much of a soup eater (besides some Creamy Tomato with a Grilled Cheese) nor has she ever liked mushrooms – but she insisted, so they made it. It was scrumptious. And she liked it!

All Summer long we were able to try out all the lovely mushrooms from the Maine Mushroom Co. from our farmer’s market and now we are able to get some of their mixed packs from our local CSA. Gourmet mixes or more ‘wilder’ flavor mushrooms really do make the difference here (we make a pretty much weekly white pizza with fresh ricotta and mushrooms that is heavenly) with lots of nutritional punch and taste. See if you can find a grower near you – it’s so worth it. Enjoy.

Mushroom Cream Soup
Serves 6

Ingredients
4 tablespoons Butter
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Sweet or Yellow Onions diced
4 cloves Garlic minced
16 oz (we used 2 fancy boxes) fresh Mushrooms chopped (any-which-way-you-want)
2 tsp dried Thyme (or 2 tsp fresh Thyme leaves – or Sage, or Rosemary)
1/2 cup any dry red or white Wine (optional)
4 cups Broth or stock (Chicken/Beef/or Vegetable – even just a rich Onion would work)
Sea Salt & Black Cracked Pepper to taste
1 cup Heavy Cream or Half/Half (or light cream with a flour or cornstarch slurry, or even coconut milk for a dairy-free but creamy version)


Instructions
* Heat Butter and Oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until melted. Sauté onion for 2 to 3 minutes until softened. Cook garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute.
* Add half of the Mushrooms and herbs, cook for 5 minutes. Pour in Wine and allow to cook for 3 minutes.
* Add stock, mix again and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low-medium heat, season with salt, pepper and with a hand immersion blender (or in a regular blender, but be very very careful, it’s hot!) – blend until mostly smooth and thick – it is here you can thicken with a slurry if you feel you need to but keep in mind the cream will also thicken a bit (1:2 ratio of Cornstarch or Arrowroot or Cassava/Tapioca or even Flour to water, add to soup one ratio at a time, bring to a soft boil for 2 minutes, continue until desired thickness).
* Add other half of Mushrooms – cover and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, while occasionally stirring, until thickened.
* Reduce heat to low, stir in Cream or Coconut Milk. Allow to gently simmer (do not boil). Adjust salt and pepper to your taste. (Swirl a little Truffle Oil or Salt onto the top if you need the fancy-fancy, which I do like!).
* Serve warm with crusty bread (or in my soft food state – I put some small crustless chunks of bread in the bottom of the bowl).

Stay cozy.

Duendesday: a new day

{life with a curious and crazy 10 yr old}

There’s going to be a new sheriff around here, and it’s not going to be some sweet little sassy 10 yr old I know – ha! No, she’s a good girl but we need to reassess the way we do things. She’s at a new juncture that requires a little more attention and focus. All her schooling skills are good but as most of us remember fifth grade, it’s a big jump in mostly math and social studies.

I think both Josh and I are excited to delve into new (less redacted) history and geography lessons, science experiments, and general critical thinking skills. Which all require a dedicated effort on our part to make sure she’s getting the time and space to open up these new directions.

So, we’re tearing down and rebuilding the studio to make some good creative space for mostly both she and I. Her wonderful arty activities seem to spill all over the house, so maybe this will concentrate them more in a specific space – then the space we have for study/reading/games will be more available. It will also mean very restricted television (scheduled for family movie night and special occasions) which might be a shift for her – it’s been a long Winter for all.

This morning, she woke up and decided she needed a Cheetah in her life – so she made a little guy/painted him up and mounted him with his own tree in a doorway…and I like that about her, but it can become a little crazy – ha! Some other recent projekts include painting up the little cat house she built out of wood last Fall as a club for him now called ‘The Pig Hut’, working on a lovely little paint-by-numbers which is really quite challenging and coming out great, and her chicken care. Then she had a new puppy and made him a sweet snuggly basket, and I came down to a foil mobile of stars/hearts/disco balls.

Next week begins tree-tapping and pruning which she loves to help Josh with, and then seedlings and baskets with which she’s excited to help me for Spring.

It’s a wonderful time for change.

Tuesday Happens

There is truly a cruel streak in the weather lately – not just here, but all over. We know why and how and all that, but it doesn’t make it less disconcerting. But here, we expected a good snowstorm (which I enjoy, it’s insulating, beautiful, fun, and since it is Winter here, it is the way it should be!) and instead we got some cruddy icy mess that is certainly not enjoyable.

I say this from my sick-bed, as I have Shingles (which is also a cruel mistress – very painful, horrifically ugly, and can be worrisome). And though I may come out of it alright, it is a moment to consider the silent stresses that eke out when we are not watching as closely. It is certainly a moment to heal and reassess. It is also a moment to be grateful for this time and care. Do try and take care of yourself and hold close your sanity, your safety, your ability to be generous, as well – It’s likely you do more than you think you do, and are more than you think you are.

Meanwhile, delivery is shifted for a day, the weather is like that. Shifting our regular schedule a bit and with so many dedicated cracker addicts, this special of the month is highly desired (who knew that the solution to our sourdough discard would end up being a very welcome and popular addition to our goods – and with that demand, we now have to store large amounts of starter to compensate – ha!, but man, they are good…).

Soon (after I am well again), I will offer the Wellness line (recipes are very satisfactory) and we are considering some more ‘prepared-food’ lines such as frozen pasta sauces and soups – any feedback on what you might like to see would be great! We stocked many ‘in-season’ vegetables from last summer that will reawaken your mid-Winter taste-buds.

May your health be strong and your weather gentle.

Monday’s Muse

Earth, You Have Returned to Me

BY ELAINE EQUI

Can you imagine waking up
every morning on a different planet,
each with its own gravity?

Slogging, wobbling,
wavering. Atilt
and out-of-sync
with all that moves
and doesn’t.

Through years of trial
and mostly error
did I study this unsteady way — 

changing pills, adjusting the dosage,
never settling.

A long time we were separate,
O Earth,
but now you have returned to me.

Special Update

Hello Hello. I wanted to update you on some very special happenings at Rock Bottom Homestead.

Recently we have implemented a giving program where 5% of our gross income from the bakery/goods go to the Augusta (Maine) Food Bank. For example, even though this last month was a relatively slow month for us, we were able to offer $75. for January. According to the information on the Food Bank website, every dollar offers 4 meals.

This seems like an incredible boost to our local assistance and increasing food security for many Mainers (also as New Englanders, and Americans, in general). This is so important to us as we foster community care and try to offer what little we can.

We also already try to buy as local as possible for the ingredients in the goods we make. If we are unable to do so, we focus on other quality aspects such as organic (for some goods this is a primary importance, i.e. sugar, most vegetation), fair trade/co-operative, Non-GMO, and responsibly sourced (in a perfect world, all these come together as often as possible). We currently support 2 local CSA’s (Farmer Kev’s – who works closely with the Gardiner Food Co-op and the Andrews Farm) and work with a local distributor who also has great considerations that match ours. For our home use, we also shop primarily at our local family grocery (which more and more also matches our concerns/focus) and the Augusta Farmer’s Market. You can find our bread and bagels at the lovely Olde Haven Farmstore, as well.

Even our seeds and trees are chosen with local and responsible care. Though we primarily buy from Fedco and are joining their Patronage Dividend program, we are also members of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (though we also support Pinetree Seeds, Johnny’s Seeds, and High Mowing Seeds (VT), and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (MO)). Our soil additions are Coast of Maine (or homemade), and our flours for baking come from King Arthur Flour and Maine Grains. And we are always looking for new and fruitful connections akin to our goals.

Our homestead ability to share outside of the RBH goods has also been able to grow. Part of our New Year ability and focus was to choose a cause we each felt strongly about to contribute to (monthly). Josh’s charitable contribution goes toward Native American Rights Fund which preserves, protects, and promotes Native American liberties. Duende is very concerned about long-term body and specifically breast health and supports the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. And I focus on the Family Violence Project for our local area in Maine, adding to that the Grow a Row initiative by Deb Soule from Avena Botanicals which connects calendula growers with domestic violence survivors for healing support.

It’s a very special year for us, and we are so happy to be able to get to the point where we can give back in a way that we feel is both personal and community-oriented. We share this great success with you because you have helped to make this all possible. Thank you for your continued support.