Duendesday!

{a day to check in with an almost 10 yr old’s doings}

And what could be better than new chick day? Not much around here. 17 happy healthy little kooky chicks arrive in a little cozy box at the Post Office, ready for pick up at 6:30am (I’m sure they can’t stand to have them there long – peeping, peeping, peeping). Duende is over the moon (she loves little chick day!), it’s been awhile.

As they rest up under the red warm light, she is off preparing them a mud cake. I’m sure it will be decorated with yummy red clover flower and molded into a particularly pleasing shape. Later this week, we will make a real cake for Nana’s birthday (and work on her gift which is extra special and requires a lot of Duende’s beautiful handiwork). But right this minute it’s all about the chicks.

The new brooder Josh built is fantastic. It has pocket doors, lift latches, removable insulation, 2 rooms with an optional separator (we’ll get meat chicks in just a few weeks but hopefully the coop will be ready for our layer pullets by then). In another week, we’ll make a playpen for the chicks to be outside in some partial sunshine in the dirt and grass and D will be the babysitter (which she loves, for the first 10 minutes).

But for right now, it’s enough to love the little chicks for the small soft bit of life and fluff they are…

Tuesday on the Homestead

What’s Happening?

  • Seedlings are still on sale – available for your gardens: melons, Summer and Winter squashes, tomato seedlings are up, peppers, calendula, borage, cukes, marigolds but it’s official, the early cabbages bit the dust. Oh well, I’ll try again for succession cabbages.
  • New Summer Syrups – Lilac and Honeysuckle, and they are both certainly more potent and floral than the subtle violet and forsythia. Up next: wild strawberry!
  • Chicks should be here today or tomorrow. After a couple of delays, they will finally be here in all their cute and fluffiness. Now, all we need is a coop – ha!
  • New bean/Winter squash beds ready for planting. We’ve got to get those suckers in before they don’t have time to grow! But they are beautiful beds with lots of potential! (Thank you Josh!)
  • More rhubarb jam going up and another batch of seasonal foraged Kimchi going into the crock. Meanwhile, pickles abound with stuff coming in (early beets, radish, turnips, asparagus, carrot, scallion, etc) – thanks in part to our wonderful CSA from Farmer Kev (from them to us to you! sharing all around)
  • And if you get a chance, we thank you wholeheartedly in advance (please share) – we’re moving forward on some big dreams (and some desperate needs) for a community wood-fired oven (and upgraded in house oven for baking) with our new funding request for the: Rock Bottom Homestead Hearth

Be well, be safe, be sane, and productive!

Monday’s Muse

Before Summer Rain
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Suddenly, from all the green around you,
something-you don’t know what-has disappeared;
you feel it creeping closer to the window,
in total silence. From the nearby wood

you hear the urgent whistling of a plover,
reminding you of someone’s Saint Jerome:
so much solitude and passion come
from that one voice, whose fierce request the downpour

will grant. The walls, with their ancient portraits, glide
away from us, cautiously, as though
they weren’t supposed to hear what we are saying.

And reflected on the faded tapestries now;
the chill, uncertain sunlight of those long
childhood hours when you were so afraid.

strawberry

Recipe Thursday: Picnic!

Putting up was definitely a thing when I was little. Bushels of tomatoes became canned tomatoes and tomato sauce (we weren’t sophisticated enough to eat salsa or make pizza sauce – pizza, in fact, was really something we just had at school, in squares, with just cheese. We did not have pizza places and did not have a culture of pizza. I remember making pizza out of a box once because it was such an event!), baskets of green beans and yellow wax beans were ‘tipped’ and canned, beets and eggs were pickled together (right next to other gallon jars of pickled pig’s feet), we made some jam – mostly blackberry and if we were lucky to ‘pick your own’ strawberries once in a blue summer moon, then we could get strawberry jam. But other than that, our creativity was lacking.

Food was not ‘creative’ when I was young. Granted, I lived in a cake baker’s house so decorating was very creative (and hot buttered cake tops for breakfast – mmmm) but not food so much. My favorite meals were generally simple and fresh ones – just caught brook or rainbow trout with foraged sauteed mushrooms, homey venison stew, roast pheasant, catfish fry and corn on the cob – to be honest, most of our vegetables came in a store can. Once a month we would cross the state border to shop for real groceries (we had a small market in our town, and a moderate one in the big town 20 miles away, but in NY state we could go to the cake flour store and then go to the really big grocery store to get goods) – and it was the 70’s/early 80’s: processed food was resplendent. Bologna with cheese holes (hot dogs with ‘cheese’ in them), cheese puffs/balls, Velveeta and Kraft slices (man, our culture was obsessed with fake cheese foods, eh?), pop tarts, cream-filled cupcakes, Froot Loops/Fruity or Chocolatey Pebbles (oh, the crazy cereals – Cap’n Crunch, Lucky Charms, etc), cookies, chips, Kool-aid/Tang, Tab/Shasta ‘Pop’, Chef Boyardee Spaghettios, Chicken & Stars can soup, peanut butter with the jelly in it, Maple & Sugar Instant Oatmeal packets, it was ridiculous. Not to mention the candy and ice cream treats we could get at our own little market (Fat Frog Ice Cream treat anyone?). We lived in a country sort of paradise and ate all hunted/fished meats but when it came to almost everything else – it was junk.

I look around our kitchen this morning – the island is piled with fresh bread and bagels (and the starter crock), sourdough cracker bags, a pitcher of fresh baby leeks from the local Farmer’s Market (which was an encouraging experience), last night’s projekt of canned fresh rhubarb jam, pickled cukes/asparagus/fiddleheads, and the setting fresh ricotta (soon to be jarred up, and then I can pull out the new Kimchi batch to jar up, as well). The substrate bag of Lion’s Mane Mushroom. The bone broth on the backburner. It’s a homestead cornucopia.

And right then and there I realize – it’s picnic for dinner tonite. Fresh ricotta and sourdough baguette (with a little rhubarb jam), pickles, baby radishes with butter, pea shoot and violet salad with medium-boiled local eggs…we can sit up on the hill and survey the zooming and amazing flights of the dragonflies and swifts saving us from the mosquitoes.

It seems easy here to forget about the troubles in the world – we are not immune. We are not worry-free. We aren’t hiding. We all need to hold tight to the moments that make us sane, where we have a moment of safety or at least a moment to be able to reflect on what safety and sanity mean. We are working hard – to make this life meaningful, to make this world (what little bit we are a part of) functional and sustainable. We have little to offer you – our hospitality, our space, our food, our love, our lives, but it’s freely given. We (so far) have that ability – to work in service of the world, of each other, in the ways we are able. It’s all any of us can and should do…

Be safe. Be alert. Be responsive. Be caring. Be well.

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Duendesday

{a day to check in with a 9 yr old’s doings}

Any good birthday ideas? She’s feeling the pinch – she wants this year to be a big year (aren’t they all? but yes, 10, though not a cycle-year, is still a big year) and because she can’t have a party we’re hoping to make it as exciting as she might want…but how to pull it off? We were thinking a bunny, and had one in the works – it all seemed like a done deal: an already housetrained tiny lionhead bunny, we were ready to start building a little indoor pen for her room, it was even named Louise (which seemed like a sign – like Kate DiCamillo’s chicken story that has always been a favorite) but the woman was iffy on finally parting with it and the more we thought about it, it seemed like another mouth to feed and chore to negotiate. And we’re kind of thinking a treehouse – but that takes materials and time (the former which we don’t have/can’t quite afford and the latter we have little of, too), and we’re also considering maybe a real fish tank (10 gal, couple fish, a castle?)…any further thoughts? She’s too young for a tattoo (ha! joking – really joking).

She’s not a ‘stuff’ kid. Don’t get me wrong, she’s got plenty of stuff – too much stuff (how do they accumulate all this stuff? We rarely buy her anything) but even with the toys she has, she barely plays with them. She still plays often with her blocks (bought at a yard sale before she was born) and Lincoln Logs (generally with trails for matchbox cars, corrals for a collection of plastic animals, or marble runs) and once in a blue moon has a ‘stuffy’ party but mainly she’s outside making mud cakes or stick forts, swinging on the swing, riding her bike. She’s an events kid that has no events right now.

Last year we found her a great dresser but the previous owners had painted it inside and out – so much so that the drawers would not open or slide. So Josh stripped the rails and the inside and with that, the front of the drawers. She recently painted it to her own liking and we rearranged her room (celebrated with a lovely tea party), and now I will move all her clothes up a size in the transition from the baby closet/dresser to a big kid dresser (this little baby closet/dresser was my brother’s when he was little -with all his little suits and ties that he liked to wear, then hung around for awhile finally used again by my sis-in-law for her three kids, and then back to us again for Duende – it has quite the little history!). So many clothes – and to be honest, besides a dress here or there, or as a gift, we’ve never bought her clothes, all have come from family or friends or free from the swap shack. It has been such a gift to have the hand-me-down-faeries take good care of us.

Ah, well, if you think of something good – pass it on, we need all the help we can get! I hope any of your birthdays that come and go are good ones – full of inventive surprises and a little bit of happiness. ❤

Happenings: Seedling Sale!!

This Friday and Saturday (June 5 and 6, roughly 10am – 6pm) at the Homestead we are setting out seedlings for sale. It can be a no contact- country drive – side of the road sale – for you. Or you can let us know you are coming and we can set aside some goodies. But we will be setting up seedling tables in the drive (you can park on the side of the road or across the street at the abandoned house or at Fuller’s Market) and honor jars. We’ll be milling about doing outside work if you have questions but also, feel free to roam the property and check out the work we’ve been doing – get some fresh air, take a hike on our wooded path, as well. PLANTS AND BABY CHICKS!! See? Now you want to come right up and hang out 6 ft away from us around the fire pit – ha! – CORRECTION: alas, we’ve been informed that our baby chicks will not come until next week. But we’d still love to see you!

Seedlings will be in varied pots with varied prices depending on their age/size/root needs (some roots don’t like a lot of disturbance) – cukes, summer squash, winter squash, melons, peppers, some tomatoes (a few heirlooms had to be restarted), herbs, flowers, etc. There will also be seed collections for sale (let me know if you specifically want anything, otherwise I will just have a smattering of options) including the new Succession Seed Collection (resplendent with beets, carrots, peas, kale, etc for late Summer planting to give you another boost into Fall).

Otherwise, we’ve been putting up some seasonal favorites – soon to be for sale (some we’ll sell now and some we’ll make you wait until Winter, to make sure you get some nutrition then, too) – like Rhubarb Jam, Fiddlehead Pickles, Foraged Kimchi (with milkweed, violet leaf, yellow dock, red clover, dandelion, and wild lettuce stalk), Honeysuckle, Dandelion, and Lilac jelly and syrups, and making some ‘later date’ aged bits like cheddar cheese. We’ve also been building some new beds, cleaning up old beds, and making general improvements. It’s quite lovely up here lately.

We hope you are well, and safe, and sane – and we hope to see you later this week (email us directly or leave a comment below for direction or address information). Happy Growing!

Monday Musings

Respiration
BY JAMAAL MAY
A lot of it lives in the trachea, you know.
But not so much that you won’t need more muscle:
the diaphragm, a fist clenching at the bottom.
Inhale. So many of us are breathless,
you know, like me
kneeling to collect the pottery shards
of a house plant my elbow has nudged
into oblivion. What if I sigh,
and the black earth beneath me scatters
like insects running from my breath?
Am I a god then? Am I insane
because I worry about the disassembling of earth
regularly? I walk more softly now

into gardens or up the steps of old houses
with impatiens stuffed in their window boxes.
When it’s you standing there with a letter
or voice or face full of solemn news,
will you hold your breath before you knock?

sunset

Special Seedling Edition, #2!

More seedlings are out and about! Some took off like crazy, others are still getting their groove on but many are ready. You should be getting ready at this point to get these babies in your windows, coldframes, greenhouses and gardens (I’m running out of room – ha!). Contact us directly: rockbottommaine@gmail.com to be added to the order form to get your seedlings and plants.

All of our seeds are responsibly sourced, many organic or in the 1-2 Fedco range (never more than 3), and grown with Coast of Maine organic potting or seedling soil. All of our seedlings have moved on to their ‘true leaves’ and are partially hardened. I try to give you the correct names of the particular seed so you can look it up further if you like, but please don’t hesitate to ask questions about plant care, vegetable size or taste, companion planting, etc, either in the comments below or use the email above.

Seedlings are bigger and heartier now in 3″ Jiffy pots or 4.5″ plastic pots (depending on their root needs): $3.00
Right now we have tons of Winter Squash ready to go: Jarrahdale, Acorn, Kabocha, Spaghetti, Delicata, Wee Be Mini Pumpkins, Aunt Ruby’s German Green Heirloom Tomatoes, Vernissage Black Cherry Tomatoes, Lemon Cucumbers, National Pickling Cucumbers, Orange Bell Peppers, Chocolate Mini Bell Peppers, Summer Squashes: Pattypan, Bennings Green Tint, Lemon Yellow, Zucchini, Tondo Scuro (like 8 ball), Celery, Melons: Blacktail Watermelon, Honey White Honeydew, Cream of Saskatchewan (yellow) Watermelon, Flowers/Herbs: Borage, Black Prince Snapdragons, Black Hollyhock, Johnny Jump Ups, Marigolds, and Calendula (Resina)

Plantlings are in 1/2 gallon pots: $6.00
Currently we have Aunt Ruby’s German Green Heirloom Tomatoes, Vernissage (black/red striped) Cherry Tomatoes, Zucchini and Tondo Scuro (8ball), Pattypan Squash, Acorn and Jarrahdale Winter Squash, Wee Be Little Pumpkin, Cream of Saskatchewan (yellow) Watermelon and White Honey Honeydew Melon (both in pots of 3), Lemon Balm, Hyssop, are all available in big pots.

Seed Packets are also still available – $6.00 for a whole gardens worth of seeds, see our earlier post on the Garden combinations (subject to availability and substitutable only by us) – Free Seed Gift with every Seed Packet purchase! And a new Succession planting packet is available (ask for details).

And keep your eye out for companion marigolds, more heirloom tomatoes and yellow cherry tomatoes, eggplants of different colors and sizes, phlox, herbs such as oregano/marjoram/thyme/cilantro/basil and more of the above as they get to readiness.

Happy Planting and Growing!

Recipe Thursday: Rhabarberkuchen

Translated: Rhubarb Cake!!

But it’s more exciting if you take it into consideration of the German ‘kuchen’ time, which is essentially high tea or afternoon cake and coffee.

Many years ago now, my lovely friend Vanessa took me as her date to a wedding in Germany for her International Exchange friend that she met in Brazil. The bride housed us with an older couple (friends enough with the family) who spoke English in Buchen, Schleswig-Holstein (near the home of Gunter Grass, not far from Hamburg where we spent a couple of days, and easy to train to Lubeck, ‘marzipan capital’ where we visited) and they loved us. They stole us from the wedding party and stodgy garden parties to tour us around – we went and saw a giant canal bridge with an elevator, to a checkpoint between ‘East’ and ‘West’ Germany, we went to ‘an’ oldest pub in Europe (how many of those, are there? ha!) – they were lovely, we had such a good time. One day, we went to the stunning tiny town of Molln to shop around (and rub the foot of the statue of Till Eulenspiegel, notorious medieval trickster) and happened to be there during this miraculous time of day – around 3pm. Time for cake!

Huddled into the upstairs of a cafe easily built around the time of the trickster, black beams hung low around the stone work – we each ordered rich cake and coffee or tea and relaxed. Easily the best civilized tradition ever…this cake would be perfect for that kind of moment but is also super delicious for breakfast or dessert, or dinner, or snack…

Enjoy Kuchen-time!

Rhabarberkuchen

Serves 9

1/2 cup Half & Half (or mix of heavy cream and water/milk/whey) or Buttermilk
1 tsp Lemon (unless using buttermilk or lemoned whey)
1 stick unsalted Butter, room temperature (if salted, use less salt in recipe)
1 cup Cane Sugar (plus 2-3 tsp more for sprinkling on top)
1 Large Egg, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
2 cups All-Purpose Flour (leaving out 1 Tbsp to toss with rhubarb)
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
2 cups thinly chopped Rhubarb (fresh or frozen)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×9 baking dish. Add lemon to half & half and set aside (unless using lemoned whey in the mix or buttermilk). Toss rhubarb with 1 Tbsp flour and set aside. In another bowl, whisk remaining flour, baking powder, and salt, set  aside.

Cream the soft butter and sugar in a stand mixer, or with electric beaters, until fluffy and pale yellow. Beat in the egg and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as necessary.

Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl and blend in. Add all of the half and half, and blend in. Finally, add the rest of the flour and blend just until combined, don’t over mix. Fold in the rhubarb. Note: the batter is on the thick side, like cookie dough -no worries though – the cake is light.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top evenly with a little sugar. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until the cake is turning golden and a toothpick in the center comes out without wet batter clinging to it (moist crumbs are fine).

Let cool a bit before cutting into 9 squares (this is delicious warm or cool). Serve with Maple Whipped Cream!

Maple Whipped Cream

In a stand mixer or with beaters, whip 2 cups (1 pint) heavy or whipping cream, adding 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup (or fine cane sugar with 1 tsp Vanilla) until just stiff and whipped (be careful not to overwhip or it will separate and turn to butter). Voila!

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Duendesday

{a day to check in with a 9 yr old’s doings}

Hot lazy days right now, for an almost 10-year-old. Sure, she has a list of chores she likes shirk – like watering plants, hanging (or taking down) the laundry on the line, the dishwasher, the cat box…but they all get done eventually. But the activity lately is all in La Petite Jardin (the little garden under the big Silver Maple tree) – with her swing and the hammock and climbing rope.

Early on, when we first hung her swing (that was Josh’s 5th Birthday present for her) they called her play area ‘Colonial Flippity’ – it had a sign and everything. Now we are building the bed beside it into an herb garden and the other side will be the extension of the grape fence with a new arbor (I can only imagine that means sledding trails are going to be even better this Winter!).

LPJ (as we like to call that space) has nice cooling shade and is surrounded by honeysuckle, forsythia, and growing lilac…it’s truly a lovely place to be in the Summer. Swing away my little peach, swing away!