What’s the Hap?

Happenings at Rock Bottom Homestead these days is probably much like yours – trying to wrap our brains around what’s going on and what we can do to help.

What are we thinking/planning/on about?

  • Setting up bulk meet deliveries near you – I hear there’s a surge in baking these days but we’ve got you covered if you have other things to do (requests?). We have a ‘driver’ who is willing to make a trip or two to the Portland and Bangor area – which will really help alot.
  • Trying to figure out how to get a small caravan or tiny house up here to help those who want to escape the cities to quarantine – if you see anything let us know – we will build a composting toilet to function with it, and can rig it with water and maybe a generator for temporary electricity – we’re really just looking for a safe insulated structure to keep somebody (or somebody’s) safe and healthy. We may not have much but we have space and hospitality to share (and bread!).
  • A couple of new items we’ve been trying out, too, – like sourdough bagels (plain, sesame, and sea salt/ground pepper), flax and sesame seed crackers, and hamburger buns, and spicy kimchi. Soon there will be micro and wild greens!
  • And with that, I’m pushing for a Farmstand (there is nothing more that gives me glee and maybe even hope than an honor farmstand, I take advantage of them whenever I see them – last year we got wild plums, seedlings, fresh sandwich bread and butter, and then – there’s the dreamy wild blueberry pies we get at Grafton Notch when we go camping). As soon as the ground hardens a bit and the snow is finally gone…
  • The Layer Chickens are coming before we know it (not til June but we have nowhere to put them, so that still feels like soon) – so a coop plan is in the works.
  • An outside bread oven plan is in the works (though we have to dismantle the old coop to steal the site, first) and a smoker. (yes, you read that last bit right, we’re working on charcuterie and cheese…)
  • And speaking of seedlings – the babies are coming up nicely. We will have some for sale as we get closer to planting season – lots of nightshades: heirloom tomatoes, smaller rare/interesting eggplants, and peppers (bell and hot!), companion flowers, herbs, melons, pumpkins, we’ll see what else I get in this week (I’m running out of room!).
  • Made another plant/seed order yesterday of golden raspberries, strawberries, more flowers to go along with an order of potatoes, onions, white grapes, a couple more apple trees (Josh can’t help it – he gets excited – ha!), and dried beans (new beds for beans with espaliered grapes this year).
  • Today is all about redoing the electricity in the laundry room so J can put up some walls, making bone broth, and me helping students with papers and proposals. The Big D is making little cardboard dogs today and doing ‘math’ (she has such a better head for the latter than I do – that’s for sure!).

And thank you to the wonderful folk who take a country drive to pick up goods – it’s nice to see you, even from 3-6ft away. ❤

Monday Musings

I’m struggling with inspirational thinkings today – it doesn’t help that the weather here at Rock Bottom is very uninspiring – some sort of snow/rain/sleet is dropping in straight sheets from the sky and bouncing off the front steps. The sky the kind of grey that isn’t going to let up any time soon. There is a good reason our kitchen is a sunny buttery yellow – with all the lights on in there, it’s quite lovely and bright. The baker is happily baking away – trying out new kinds of bagels and breads and buns…some folks are going stir crazy and need to come pick up our fine goods – and for that I thank you all very warmly. I’m glad we can provide a little nutrition (both in body and in mind). Your generosity is what excites us to put all kinds of love into what we do.

So, I guess, through all that talk – what I find inspiring is your patience, your compassion, your perseverance, and your community. Thank you for helping us be inspired today.


Recipe Thursday: Creamy Beans & Barley en Brodo with Roasted Cauliflower

You just read that title twice, didn’t you, because it instantly sounds soooooo good. If you are on lockdown and need some magickal, relatively healthy, homey food – don’t fret. If you are out and about in the countryside (where here it is still pretty chilly), this will warm you up. If you are just looking to amp up your broth making skills and combo bowls, this is the ticket.

I love making parmesan chicken broth for this (especially in all the germ busting  concerns, I want all the goodness) but it is equally easy and very satisfying to make veggie broths (or just parm broths) for this meal, as well. I save all my parmesan ends and freeze them for just these moments. Everything in this dish can be suited to your cupboards – kale or broccoli for the cauliflower (or even sweet potato/winter squash, this is a good dish to use up any frozen kale or broccoli ends you might have stashed), the cream can be substituted for cashew milk/cream or coconut milk (or do without the creaminess, it will still be lovely), the barley for farro/spelt/wheatberries/wild or brown rice or even tortellini/egg noodle), and any beans that suit you – canned cannellini, chickpea, soldier beans, lentils (though I can’t picture kidney or black as much – but not impossible)…

A good parm broth is an amazing thing – this one is the ‘mother of all parm broths’, but I also just add parmesan to the broths I’m making and it adds an extra depth and deliciousness (just stir every now and again so it doesn’t glop up on the bottom and stick to the pan). My basic chicken broth is the standard go-to: it entails a couple of chicken carcasses (I save those up in the freezer, too) or even just last night’s leftover chicken into the pot with some garlic, onion, carrot, celery if you have it (all chopped roughly), thyme (dried or fresh), salt, chopped 1″ turmeric root (if you have it, or 1/4 tsp ground, or one small knob dried root) – add enough water to cover all, boil/simmer until reduced to a delicious gold – drain everything (pick the chicken meat off if any, add back to broth) and then add parmesan for this dish.

If making a vat of bone broth cook longer and a little ACV (one chicken = 2 Tbsp). I boil it for about 3 days, just leaving it on the stove and adding more water as needed, and any additional veg parts that come my way.

If doing veggie broth, I do about the same with the vegetables but change the turmeric to 1/8 tsp and add 1/8 tsp cumin, chili powder, 2 chopped tomatoes or 14oz can fire-roasted tomatoes, and a chopped potato (I find browning some vegetables like the onion/carrot can add nice depth as well, and using alcohol like beer or wine to deglaze for body), and for creaminess add some smashed roasted garlic. To increase a sense of creaminess with veg broth for this dish below, you can also puree half of the roasted cauliflower.

Note: If using storebought dried beans, soak overnight (unless lentils) – if they are your own dried beans they (like lentils) will need a preboil but not an overnight soak.

Creamy Beans & Barley en Brodo with Roasted Cauliflower

Serves 4-6

1 head of cauliflower (cut into 2″ florets and chunks)
1 cup dried beans (or 30oz canned/boxed/cooked) [today I am using our leftover motley of beans that we grew last year – True Cranberry Pole beans which are gorgeous, Marfax which I adore, and Tiger’s Eye which look like the Cranberry and Marfax were fooling around in the jar] See note above recipe regarding dry beans.
2 Med carrots, chopped
1 Med onion, chopped
1 cup dry hulled barley (farro/spelt/fregola/rice, etc)
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 (3-4″) parmesan ends without paper (scrape off wax or paper)
4 cups of broth (more to consistency preference, remember cream will also add liquid)
1/2 pint of cream (or 1 can coconut milk, etc)
a few sprigs of fresh or dried sage (or rosemary)
Salt & Pepper to taste
olive oil for drizzling after and for roasting cauliflower
can also sprinkle hot chili powder and sumac over top to serve for extra ZING!

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put cauliflower on sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle salt & pepper, toss to coat. Roast for about 40min, turning pan about halfway through (you can turn your cauli if you want, too, but we rarely do).

Meanwhile, on the stovetop, bring prepared beans to simmer in broth with parmesan (taste – when still firm but on their way) add onion/carrot/garlic/sage and barley. Continue to actively simmer; should take about 45 minutes further for both bean and barley to be tender). Check for consistency and add cream. Let simmer 5 minutes more.

It’s at this point your preferences come into play – if you like it thicker, cook a little longer before adding cream to reduce. If cream is already in and you want it thicker, puree a little of the cooked cauliflower. If you need it thinner, add more broth or water to loosen stew. Salt and Pepper to taste. We like our moderately thick with barley and beans with a little pooling of broth around it – like porridge (but that might depend on if J wants to dip bread in it, then you want more broth, for sure).

Add roasted cauliflower florets (yes, some will be meltingly deliciously carmelized and super tender, all the better), drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sumac and chili and ENJOY!



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

One might want to discount art from a 9-yr old as ‘child art’ or even just important to the parent’s but I think it is fascinating to see development in work that is learning without teaching. Not to say that learning some skills would not enhance or emphasize certain elements, but not everyone is interested in that kind of skill-building (it is not imperative, just another option), nor do I think children should be rushed into skill-building over developing imagination.

That said, this kid has a very intriguing (to me) perspective. She is starting to have a visual vocabulary of her own, her style developing to suit her needs. Her characters right now have a very specific look to them that is consistent – her facial structure (the nose plane, the eyes, the lips manage a consistency even in profile) – and mostly right now she has people and cat people. Other characters sometimes appear, and still some abstract or nature elements but mostly people and cat people (there are 2 comic book volumes of  The Adventures Squigtor the Courageous and his cat princess Freya). I remember not so long ago none of her dogs had ears because she couldn’t figure out how to not cover their eyes with their ears, so she just left them off. She does a lot of profile portraits right now, too. I make no excuses for her narratives  – the ‘hold up’ scenes are obviously something she needed to situate, but in all of these images are specific decisions (like the fact that our cat has really subtle stripes, nearly unnoticeable but here they are, and I swear I thought Josh drew the hedgehog but no, the first portrait is her uncle, the second is the Mona Lisa, the superheroes are us with our super symbols – maybe, the last guy is a fly in a green sweater).

Her making is not relegated to just paper/pencil/paint though – she sews cat clothes (by hand and machine), soft jewelry, makes wire/bead jewelry and crowns, and as I’ve mentioned is a cardboard genius  (last week she made a chariot with working wheels and a driver to attach to a model horse, and reindeer antlers for the dog, and many tiny strange inventions made of random screws, string, cardboard, etc – boobytraps, I’m guessing).

Super charming (if you ask me).


Though the world is a little crazy – some have more time than they know what to do with and some have less, as they juggle (and worry) more. Yes, it’s true, our upheaval has been a little less but we’re no less worried (sometimes more from the panic and the increase in gun sales) and eeking out a living on your own is no small matter (or always easy, or sane, or as dependable as you may think). Even less so in a world when contact/delivery is suspended and we will not qualify for any assistance. We rely on your patronage (and friendship in many cases), generosity, and community – now more than ever. So, hopefully, we can figure out how to get the goods to you, how to create more avenues for communal activity, and how to take care of ourselves (all of us, no matter the circumstances, in whatever capacity we are able). Now is a great time for your input – what goods are you finding you would prefer to buy local, from us? And is a general meeting place/ market spot attractive for pick up?

So, what is new in this age of uncertainty? We’re pretty busy here, still mostly bread, seedlings, and maple (lovely variation over the boil time). There’s a delicious pink Kimchi calling you…The Spring snow last night paused any inklings we might have had to begin preparing gardens but that work is coming up fast. Many projekts on the house have been put on hold (due to finances and delivery suspensions for the supplies). We’re getting by learning about grafting techniques, medicinal barks and roots, and experimenting with things like bread recipes (maybe bagels!) and seed-starting tweaks. Chickens come early June (and still we have no coop!). We are considering submitting grant requests for natural ash-borer and longhorn beetle solutions for tree health (before the sugar maple becomes a dire victim). And we both kinda can’t wait for my school semester to be over so we can do a Spring fast.

We wish you health, safety, and sanity.

Monday’s Muse

by Jane Hirshfield

Almost the twenty-first century” —
how quickly the thought will grow dated,
even quaint.

Our hopes, our future,
will pass like the hopes and futures of others.

And all our anxieties and terrors,
nights of sleeplessness,
will appear then as they truly are —

Stumbling, delirious bees in the tea scent of jasmine.


Recipe Thursday: Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Dried Plums and Almonds

Happy Spring!

It’s not a sunny new Spring day here but it is Spring! Tonite will mark the even but ascendant time of the sun and sky – renewal, birth, cycles of new growth. And like all new babies, the earth needs tending to – nourishment, immune strengthening, and extra care. We’ve been ignoring the signs for a while, as a species and especially culture, and not that we are the world’s parents (that’s a little too anthropocentric for me, besides, it’s mutual, for sure – the plants and air and soil are as much a part of us, as they care for us, as well) but we should step up like we do for every other subjugated entity under existential threat.

With all that said (I can’t help it, it’s Spring – a freshness and attention to care seems key), we will celebrate this weekend with canning more luscious Maple Syrup, taking care of seedlings, decorating with paper flowers and colored eggs, and if it stops raining- a seasonal hike and maybe even some raking out the garden, family time with games/puzzles and maybe even a snuggly movie. We like to have some celebratory foods, too!

This year we’re making a Moroccan Tagine with lamb and prunes (sorry – dried plums, they got an upgrade a few years ago), and homemade flatbreads. Maybe a lemon pound cake. Fresh green Spring salad. I’ve been in love with Morocco since I was young and always dreamed of going there. Early on when we lived in Burlington we were shopping in Montpelier at Rivendell Books (apparently since has merged with Bear Pond) and found the 1st Edition Couscous cookbook from the great Paula Wolfert (I’ve since come to adore, having a few of her cookbooks) – in the late 1960’s/early ’70’s she went all over Morocco to translate homecooking to English speaking cooks and modern (ish) techniques. She doesn’t go very far with the latter which I love – she is a lover of clay pot cooking around the world, too (me too!) and authentic ingredients. Many of our celebrations feature Moroccan dishes. We were very lucky and honored to be invited on a family vacation to Morocco for a month many many moons ago and it was glorious –  the hospitality, the food, the sites – amazing.

Welcome Spring –  let us all hope for care, connection, and growth!

Lamb Tagine with Prunes and Almonds (Serves 6-8)

3 – 3.5 lbs shoulder of lamb (or beef chuck), cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Pinch of pulverized saffron
Salt to taste, 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (separated into 2-1/4 tsp)
3 Tbsp grated onion
1 lb pitted prunes (Soak if needed for 20 min in cold water but most nowadays are soft)
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 cup toasted almonds

Can also add 4-5 sprigs cilantro (during initial casserole cooking period), 1 cup finely sliced onion (add after tagine has cooked an hour), and 4 Med tart Apples (quartered, cored, and sauteed with 1 Tbsp honey, a pinch of cinnamon, and 1 Tbsp butter until soft and glazed, decorate finished tagine) or substitute apples and prunes for 2 lbs fresh apricots (just heat in sauce at last minute).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, position rack in lower center of oven. Melt butter, mix with oil, saffron, S&P, ginger, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and grated onion. In cast iron or other heavy-bottom pan, brown meat gently to release aroma of spices. Add just enough water to cover, bring to a boil then transfer to tagine or dutch oven, cover and bake for an hour. Drain prunes (if needed to soak), add to meat with 3 Tbsp honey, remaining 1/4 tsp cinnamon, uncover and bake until prunes swell and sauce has reduced to 1 cup (add  more water if necessary to make it so).

To serve, arrange on serving dish (it is customary to eat directly from the same platter, using flatbreads or french bread to scoop tagine with the right hand from your own ‘zone’) scattering almonds and sesame seeds on top. Drizzle with remaining Tbsp honey.

Serve with simple and simply dressed (lemon vinaigrette) microgreen salad, maybe with thinly sliced red onion and preserved lemon rind. Enjoy!



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

I read somewhere the other day that ‘we need to come up with activities to keep the kids busy right now while they are not in school’ – hmmmm, I have my doubts about this kind of system that doesn’t allow or foster children to be their own little imaginative selves or that we need to somehow always ‘entertain’ them. Granted we are situated in a way that allows our child to be relatively feral.

I’m sure many of you are trying to juggle working from home and parenting full time which is a real struggle (I live that every day, I get it) and for those of you with multiple children, my heart goes out to you. Now is a good time to look at how we interact with each other and make sure we’re extra gentle – with our children, too. It’s hard to be growing and confused and then have your schedule dismantled. We might see a few days ‘down’ to readjust as a good thing – our adult slacking capabilities kick right in – like a mini vacation. But they don’t have that understanding quite yet – doing ‘nothing’ isn’t nearly as interesting to them. And that’s when the crazy can sometimes begin.

If possible, get them outside – where they can get fresh air, vitamin D, and be crazy. Here it’s Mud Season – and though that might not excite some of you – most of them love it. Mud is super sensory and is better than play-doh for making people, houses, monsters, mudgloos decorated with sticks and leaves – or fairy house building for Spring faeries with berries and milkweed fluff. Outdoor ball games, bike riding, a walk in the woods – mud tracking (though our woods still have snow), seeing if anybody is waking up, plant/tree identification. And yes, some of these activities require your attention but is that such a bad thing – with all the crazy, you could probably use a little play and fresh air, too.

Right now our inside play looks like Tinker crates (Kiwi sets – she made a ‘lava lamp’ this week), puzzles, games, baking and cooking, seed starting, and my favorite distraction for my child when I really need to focus – a bath. Give my kid some scissors, string, and cardboard and she remakes the world. A little paint and WOWZA – art everywhere; not such a bad thing. And every now and again, we need to all stop (as a family) whatever we are doing and have a dance party! It just has to happen, pretty much every day.

Stay sane people.