Duendesday Wednesday!

{life with a curious and crazy 10 yr old}

I told you all about her cardboard creations and then she goes and makes a spaceship for the cat, resplendent with buttons/levers/a handheld radio and a helmet – she shaped, designed, and painted it, also adding a plastic bag window (for both the ship and the helmet). Hilarious! Her and Daddy worked on the ‘Women in Science’ puzzle (based on the Rachel Ignotofsky book) and she was excited to be familiar with a couple of the scientists already and she’s been building a Solar Bot. She’s also been sewing chicken neck warmers (yet to be used) and a lot of ‘dancing’ with her new yoga ball. It’s a nonstop crazy party around here most days. She got to see Nana for some fun gifts (new jammies, twinkly lights for her new reading nook, winter boots and animal socks!). Her new favorite book is the comic Snapdragon by Kat Leyh. She continues to bake and help out in the kitchen, and loves to feed the chickens by hand and collect eggs (though the other day she wore her favorite leopard spotted fashion coat out to collect eggs; when there was only one she put it in her pocket and then promptly forgot about and went swinging on the swing – it unfortunately broke and filled her pocket with fresh yolk – possible lesson learned- ha!).

Happenings on Tuesday

Alas, there is not much ‘happening’ these days, which is good. When it happens, it is all a-flurry, but most of the time it is the kind of peace that we only dreamt about for years. Days of homemade Egg Nog Ice Cream and Apple Cake, afternoons of Popcorn and movies (the little one likes her sprouted popcorn with yeast and seaweed, and her movies singalong), and evenings of simply being together (Moroccan Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemons, anyone?). The world makes a joke of Sourdough starters and jigsaw puzzles but that is our life – ha!

For our lovely anniversary I made a handpainted homestead sign (I had to learn some new ‘old’ techniques to pull it off) which will go up by Summer Solstice (inclement weather and all). Until then our Winter and Spring ‘2-do’ list grows: order meatbirds and seeds, restructure the 2-season porch into a greenhouse, prune fruit trees, then it’s sugaring season (we made it through the year this past year with enough maple syrup – even with selling! this is a grand first for us!), and the growing of seedlings starts in there somewhere.

I think I have decided that we will have a Pumpkin patch, along with our perennial-forever veg like Rhubarb, Asparagus, and Jerusalem Sunchokes and it is likely I will still have a patch of Marfax beans, and vine beans (both Runner and True Cranberry – I like those beauties), and a small kitchen garden near the house (maybe with Potatoes in bags) but the garden is going to be primarily herbs and flowers this year. We’ve had some vegetative setbacks the last couple of years (the voles totally destroyed my potatoes this year, the early frost my tomatoes, the drought my corn, etc, etc, etc) and since we have so many amazing local CSA’s, I figured we could leave it to the more protected and professionals and I could try other things. It’s hard to let go of certain things (like the beans and potatoes, for me) but I’m excited to try some new directions!

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen – Josh is devising a magickal secret ‘Pickle Club’ (the members are not secret, necessarily, just the pickles) – more on that soon. And he is also designing more Bread specials (I see seedy things happening, gorgeous sandwich buns, and ancient dark grains – I really love me some dark rye). And I am getting my Herbal Tea collection together for you to keep you warm through the deep Winter: Wildflower Tea Blend to make you think of Sunshine, Moon Blend to help you through cycles, Purifying Blend to encourage New Year resolutions, Holistic Blend to soothe and treat stresses in the mind and body, and then single herb teas for more direct approaches – like Red Clover, Cleavers, Crimson Bee Balm, Rosehip, and many more – the list will come out soon for ordering.

And thank you to all who made our bumpy year smoother – this was a new venture for us in a very cataclysmic time and we’re grateful for your support. We couldn’t have done any of this without you. Thank you.

Monday’s Muse

“Love is an answer to the lack that lies at the heart of aliveness, but it does not compensate for that lack – it transforms it. Love transforms that lack into an excess that produces new contradictions; it is the luminous chasm and the ephemeral mass, freedom in impossibility, the always insufficient answer to the paradox of life: ‘vivacidad pura’ (Octavio Paz) – pure aliveness, experienced from inside the world” ~ Andreas Weber {from Matter & Desire, 2014}

Recipe Thursday: Apple Cake

Apples for love – a perfect cake for any occasion but this occasion happens to be our 24th Anniversary (yes, 24 – really!). We weren’t that young (but still pretty young) which makes us likely older than you thought we were, but we’ve had many lives. We’ve lived many places and have had many adventures (and many adventures to come!). This homestead life of ours is a relatively new endeavor though we have always gravitated to the fringes of sufficient systems – which is to say, we’ve always been a little weird.

We look pretty normal (well, relatively speaking) and I think we lead a pretty ‘normal’ life (almost too normal somedays) but I have little to compare it to – our small enclaves of artist, activist, academic, and appreciators of these things, this is a pretty normal life. But we know the truth – that behind this air of apparent sanity – we are freaks (esp Josh, maybe if you know me, you already think or know I’m weird but he fools you right up to the edge – ha!).

We got married because we thought it would be funny. It wasn’t really a secret, we just didn’t tell anyone. We thought it was the last thing anyone would think of either of us doing. We had only been really dating for about 6 months (I had been living in VT not even a year from NJ) and our ‘dating’ consisted of selling all of our possessions, buying a beat up car and driving from Vermont to New Orleans visiting everyone we knew down the East Coast. It took us a couple of months to get there – we tried to find a place to live but we had spent most of our money on the way (friends wired us money to come back North). We ran out of ideas to avoid Vermont but returned anyway to find a place to live and maybe some jobs. Then we got it in our heads to slip off to the Town Office of Shoreham, VT and persuade them to find a judge to marry us Christmas Eve morning. He was a very kind older man who left his family to give us a short but sweet ceremony (Judge Douglas; later his daughter would be my manager at a retail/gallery job) and then we went to buy dog food for our naughty Malamute/Lab mix who – while we were getting married was happily munching on my favorite blue hat.

I’m not sure about Josh’s direct observations but I know I became a person with him. I was just an idea before, but through all our trials and adventures somehow I became a budding practice, a real person. Believe it or not, I was even a terrible cook when we first met (mmm, crunchy rice casserole) and he was brimming with patience (something I have chipped away at over the years – ha!). But for us, it’s always been about love and happiness (thank you, Reverend Al Green) – if it didn’t fit those parameters, it was time to change. He is the space I call home. He is the place I call love.

May you enjoy all the love that enriches you.

Onto the cake – we’ve been making this cake for about 10 years now from Food52. It’s a bit of a staple (though sometimes I make a different ‘less flour’ version that is a little more dense and just as delicious. I’m definitely one of those people who loves the kind of rye/fig/olive oil/spice flavors in a cake. Renee Erickson makes a stunningly dreamy dark Molasses Spice Cake with pepper and orange zest that is an adventure in itself.) This cake makes a great coffee cake, mature birthday cake, or an everyday give-me-some-cake kind of deal. I prefer a Bundt pan for all cakes, it’s just my thing but a Tube (Angel Food) pan works great, too. The secret is the low and slow cooking.

Apples, love indeed.

Deep South Apple Cake

2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups cooking oil of your choice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 juice of a lemon
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3 cups peeled and chopped fresh apples
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans (optional)
2 eggs, well beaten

  • Preheat oven to 325F (160C) degrees. Grease a tube or Bundt pan and dust with flour.
  • Combine sugar, oil, vanilla extract, eggs, lemon juice, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Beat well.
  • Mix flour and baking soda then add to the first mixture and beat well.
  • Add apples and pecans, if using, and mix well.
  • Pour into prepared tube pan.
  • Bake 1 ½ hours, until golden on top. Let sit a few minutes, then unmold.
  • You can dust the top with a little Confectioner’s Sugar, if desired. This cake is great warm or cold (the next day is super delicious).
Ted, our crazy Wolf River Apple tree

Duendesday!

{life with a curious and crazy 10 yr old}

My little Solstice Faerie – she doesn’t want for much but there are a few things that make her happy – generally ways to interact with others; building kits, art supplies, games, and activities that are easily inclusive. Every now and again she’s jazzed about something particular that I can help out with (like a ‘Make your own Cookie Cutter’ kit, a U.S. Quarter collection map – great for learning geography and state facts and she likes the coin collection part or a yoga ball for her to bounce around on, stretch those crazy growing pains!). Though I am pretty sure she lost her marbles when she opened ‘Family Jammies’ – not something I would usually encourage but I knew it would be something that she would love, and boy did she! (Though I am pretty sure the cat took his off somewhere in the house and hid them – much to her upset, and the dog just puts up with it; his begging eyes – ha!).

She got some good books this Solstice – Botanicum (which is beautiful, I highly recommend that series of natural ecology books), a fun craft book and a couple of Dover coloring books – National Parks, and Native American Dwellings, from Grammy & Poppi. And then from us some reading books: Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter by classic author Astrid Lindgren, Moorchild by Eloise McGraw, and Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones which she giggles about every time she looks at the back (the chickens are wearing pants!). She’s converted her little closet in the eaves into a ‘reading room’ with twinkly lights so we got her a ‘stuffy bag’ which is basically a bean bag shell that you can fill with blankets or stuffies, etc (I got her a down comforter base to start with) so she has a cozy seat in there.

Nana was great to get this little imp new awesome snowpants, winter gloves, and Bog boots (to go with a lovely brand new coat I got at the swap shack for her last year), paired up with the new sweater, hat with bells, and mittens from Grammy, this kid is ready for snow!

This all should keep her busy for awhile. Happy Duendesday!

Tuesday Happenings

It is Crazyland around here these days – but mostly in a good way. We are getting ready to build a better pantry for our homestead stores (and put up some more Pickled Carrot Spears – who knew they were going to be so popular! Yay!). The baker is back up and running and the breads are so lovely, the bagels are delicious, the crackers have some fun new flavors, and we finally have some eggs to sell. We’re playing with some new labelling (we don’t want to be too fancy – we are Rock Bottom, after all…).

It was a wonderful Solstice weekend – lots of family celebration together; we trade some small gifts and handmade goods (my child painted me the most wonderful Mamalisa painting with exotic animals and fancy new techniques), eat yummy treats (we make up a big bread board with our Fresh Ricotta, some various pickles, cheeses, roasted eggplant, fresh tomatoes/cucumbers, olives, Pesto – stuff like that which we’ve named ‘Harold’), and watch White Christmas with Bing, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen, singing all the songs together. We’ve been making treats for both us and customers – felt ornaments for us and a new feather/olive vine wreath, and some special surprises for our peeps. Duende was ecstatic this year when I bought matching pajamas for the whole family (especially the pets), and got her a yoga ball – such a funny kid. We loaded up on winter board games, too – we love family game night.

We get our tree from our back lot – I love the sweet airy sparseness of the white pine and since Josh hates them (as a tree, apparently – who could hate a tree? Though not as much as he hates the wild cherry – as it encourages tent caterpillars that decimate our apple trees) so that is the tree we choose as a Solstice tree. And over the years we’ve made many ornaments and have a few family treasures to decorate with – I made a tree skirt out of the old curtains that the seamstress who lived here before us left behind (a lovely gold brocade that was a bit much for me as a curtain but make a lovely tree skirt). When I finally get to do the tree to my liking, it will probably just be dried orange slices, maybe some stringed popcorn but until then, the child loves the rainbow and blinking lights, the salt-dough hearts, the paper origami stars, and felted gingerbread people ornaments we save from year to year.

We wish you a lovely season and wonderful holidays!

Monday’s Solstice Musing

Call her moonchild
Dancing in the shallows of a river
Lonely moonchild
Dreaming in the shadow
Of the willow.

Talking to the trees of the
Cobweb strange
Sleeping on the steps of a fountain
Waving silver wands to the
Night-birds song
Waiting for the sun on the mountain.

She’s a moonchild
Gathering the flowers in a garden.
Lovely moonchild
Drifting in the echoes of the hours.

Sailing on the wind
In a milk white gown
Dropping circle stones on a sun dial
Playing hide and seek
With the ghosts of dawn
Waiting for a smile from a sun child.
~ Fripp/Giles/Lake/McDonald/Sinfield

Recipe Thursday: Sauces for Pasta Fantasies

This week at Rock Bottom Homestead, we are making lots of lovely pasta. Red Beet Farfalle, Basil Fettuccine, Sourdough Saffron Tagliatelle, Golden Beet/Sweet Potato Gnocchi, and our homestead classic – Ricotta Gnudi. All made with our free-range deep gorgeous eggs, King Arthur flour, local herbs and vegetables, homemade/local milk ricotta, and some of our own sourdough starter ‘Doris’.

It’s a tall order, to be sure, but with the breadmaker out of commission for a bit, it’s fun to have something else happening around here. I had more fantasies but he talked me down off the Olympian heights to reality. But even if you are using your own homemade pasta or even standard pasta – some fancy but simple sauces are not out of range. I hear holiday-eve pasta is a thing or maybe should be for its ease and simple sexiness.

These are pantry staples for us – or handy to get from easy to ship sources these days. A couple recipe blogs back there is a quick Carbonara recipe, too – to add to your repertoire or whip up (or purchase from us) a good pesto. Here – roasted garlic and parmesan, frozen roasted tomatoes with herbs, browned butter with nuts, a quick cream sauce, a mushroom/onion toss, all make fantastic options to top some pasta. Adding shrimp or scallops or bits of chicken or butter/cannellini beans to any of these recipes boost the protein and all sauces do best with a bit of reserved pasta water to thin if needed. Enjoy!

Roasted Garlic
Serves 6
1 Large head of Garlic
1 cup of Olive Oil
1/4 tsp Coarse Sea Salt
1/8 tsp Cracked Black Pepper
1/2 shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sheer top of garlic bulb off, keeping all the cloves intact to the bulb but exposing them a bit. Put in small oven proof dish and cover with Olive Oil. Bake uncovered for about 30 min until soft and the top edges of the bulb crispy gold.

Remove bulb carefully from the oil to cool (save oil), pull apart carefully and either squeeze out the soft garlic or peel and squash with a fork. Mix with some of the roasted Olive Oil until desired thickness – toss with pasta, add Sea Salt & Fresh Cracked Pepper to taste, garnish with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan – enjoy!

Roasted Tomato
Serves 6
If you can get fresh tomatoes – this is great to get together in late Summer with various Heirlooms and freeze for later or just do it up when you can, also great with Eggplant (treat just like the Tomatoes, or do both!):
6-8 Medium-Large Tomatoes (or equivalent), cut into thick slices
2-3 Large Garlic Cloves, peeled and halved
2-3 sprigs of Herbs – Sage, Thyme, or Rosemary work best, dried or fresh
2-3 Tbsp Olive Oil
Coarse Salt & Fresh Cracked Black Pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Lay Tomato slices on sheet pan in a single layer. Toss Garlic and Herbs, drizzle Olive Oil over everything. Sprinkle with Sea Salt & Black Pepper and roast slow until the Tomatoes caramelize around the edges. (If frozen, heat over Medium heat then proceed from here). Chop roughly and toss with cooked pasta. Add more Olive Oil if necessary to coat pasta. Add shredded Parmesan if desired.

Brown Butter/Walnut/Sage
Serves 6
1/2 cup chopped raw Walnuts (or Pecans)
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) Butter, cut into chunks
16 small-medium Sage leaves (if using dry, add after the butter cooks)
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
Sea Salt & Black Pepper
Grated or Shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano, if desired

In a very large skillet, toast the chopped walnuts over moderate heat, tossing, until golden and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.

Add the butter to the skillet and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sage leaves and cook for 20 seconds, then stir in the lemon juice. Add cooked pasta and cook for 1 minute, tossing gently. Season with salt and transfer the pasta to plates. Sprinkle the toasted walnuts on top and serve, passing grated Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table.

Vikalinka’s Pasta Cream Sauce
Serves 6
2 cups double cream/heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese freshly grated
salt to taste
1/2 cup of reserved pasta water

Heat the cream in a pan over low heat but do not let it boil. Take it off the heat and whisk in the grated Parmesan cheese until melted and smooth. Taste the sauce and add the salt as needed. (Salt is an important ingredient here, so do not skip it.)
To dress the pasta with the cream sauce, add the pasta directly to the pan with the sauce and gently shake the pan to coat the pasta with the sauce. Add up to ⅓ cup of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce. Serve immediately.

Bacon Wild Mushroom Onion Toss
Serves 6
5-6oz Bacon (1/2 package), cut into lardons
1 Med-Large Vidalia or 3-4 Shallots, sliced
16oz Wild or Gourmet Mushroom (or a mix of Wild and Baby Bella), sliced
4 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Olive Oil (or Truffle Oil, if you are lucky enough to have any!)
1 tsp Dried Thyme
Sea Salt & Fresh Cracked Black Pepper, to taste

In a heavy bottom skillet, saute Bacon lardons slowly – when halfway cooked, add sliced Onion, and saute until just translucent. Add Mushrooms and 2 Tbsp butter. Saute all together (if dry, add a little olive oil), until Mushrooms are fragrant, Onions are caramelizing, and Bacon are tasty nuggets. Add Thyme, S&P to taste. Use the last of the Butter and Olive Oil to ‘sauce it up’ to your desired thickness. Toss with pasta.

Happy Pasta Week!