It’s been a bit since we’ve had anything happening that was worth talking about! It’s been a wonky Summer – tentative visitations and stepping gingerly out into the world. I feel a bit like Punxsutawney Phil, though I have to tell you, I think there may be 6 more weeks of Winter: I’m going back in. This year seems a lot harder than last year (and we should be so lucky for that).
So – what’s happening? Well, right now – Josh is at the virtual Kneading Conference sponsored by Maine Grains. The end of the conference generally finishes out at the Bread Fair at the Skowhegan – we’ve been going for years (not last year, obviously, and likely not again this year) and it’s a nice little fair. A couple of food trucks, some kid activities, a little bit of live music – and then a mall (that gets bigger every year) of bread like things to buy – everything from amazing handwoven baskets and art cards to small millers and farmers selling their own heritage wheats. There has generally been an ‘inside’ and an ‘outside’: many of the bread bakers (Borealis, and of course Maine Grains and their brilliant wares), and some well known Maine brands like Gryffon Ridge spices and Casco Bay Creamery (our favorite gals!), as well as more crafts like handsewn aprons, maple goods, carved spoons, etc. It’s a nice and easy day for us. I’m sad we probably won’t go this year – we’re just not ready for bigger people groups.
It is likely we will also miss the Cumberland County Fair and the much loved Common Ground Fair (sponsored by Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association/ MOFGA) this year. Last year there were many ways to participate because it wasn’t happening in person but so far, there aren’t any virtual workshops being advertised.
However, not all is lost for adventure – we are planning a small Harvest Party (hopefully with another deep-fried pig’s head, that was crazy, decadent, and amazing!) and since it’s looking to be a decent apple year (and blackberry, and grape!) we’ll pull out the wooden press for cidering. And a couple of weeks before that, a little camping trip with close (but not too physically close) friends at our favorite place: Grafton Notch Campground (Mo is awesome, the place is so clean and well kept and there are such nice quick trips for kids nearby).
And I was graciously invited to speak at the Good Life Center (the historic home of Scott & Helen Nearing) in Harborside, ME. It was a lovely gathering of about 15 or so folks who hauled their cookies way down in east to see me talk about ‘Bread Philosophy’. A lovely friend & her family put me up in her amazing art studio and we lunched with other friends in the area at their peacefully lush home – it was a weekend of rich conversation and much care. I’ll take more weekends like that, thank you.
“We are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time, in which the so-called present moment is felt as nothing but an infinitesimal hairline between an all-powerfully causative past and an absorbingly important future. We have no present. Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation. We do not realize that there never was, is, nor will be any other experience than present experience. We are therefore out of touch with reality. We confuse the world as talked about, described, and measured with the world which actually is. We are sick with a fascination for the useful tools of names and numbers, of symbols, signs, conceptions and ideas.”
“Paradoxical as it may seem, the purposeful life has no content, no point. It hurries on and on, and misses everything. Not hurrying, the purposeless life misses nothing, for it is only when there is no goal and no rush that the human senses are fully open to receive the world.”
“We have made a problem for ourselves by confusing the intelligible with the fixed. We think that making sense out of life is impossible unless the flow of events can somehow be fitted into a framework of rigid forms. To be meaningful, life must be understandable in terms of fixed ideas and laws, and these in turn must correspond to unchanging and eternal realities behind the shifting scene. But if this what “making sense out of life” means, we have set ourselves the impossible task of making fixity out of flux.” ~ thoughts by Alan Watts
As we get closer to someone’s birthday she’s getting more and more excited. It’s not a big year, necessarily (every year is a big year); it’s not a cycle year (we celebrate 7 yr cycles as major milestones). But it’s still a marvelous birthday! 11, can you imagine? Two weeks! She’s very excited to see Grammy & Poppi on their New England tour, too.
Duende is amazing. Her favorite activities are getting ice cream at our favorite river spot (herons and cormorants abound), rollerskating at the Mill Park, dust ‘fireworks’ or just playing in the mud (ask her about her ‘poop-a-matic’), and playing outside games like bocce, badminton, or volleyball. Today she is running through a sprinkler we got for just that purpose, and trying to keep the layer hens out of the brooder/chicken tractor full of meat pullets (because of their size, they still stay in the brooder, in the garage, at night and then we abut the brooder to the tractor for playpen time which leaves a big gap that the big chickens keep getting into just to eat chick crumbles). She’s a good chick sitter.
A couple new things, a few old things, mostly bread & roses & pickles:
Let’s address the ‘rose issue’ around here. When we moved in, there were new rose bushes lining the driveway in a railroad tie raised bed, and a few cultivated rose bushes here and there. We’re not ‘rose’ people, per se, as I prefer a more low-maintenance kind of flower and the culture of them is just too intense for me (likely same with peonies, or irises, etc) so we removed the raised bed and sold the roses. However, our entire property is peppered by wild country rose – a crazy invasive bush with tiny white rose flowers that open fully and last a week. When we find them, Josh tries to hack them back into “proper behavior” or we move them to the road front. I envisioned a Disney Sleeping Beauty hedge, very Maleficent – thorns, leaves, a wall of separation from the logging trucks and jacked up pick ups, etc. and it is turning out as I had imagined. It’s a lovely rose hedge – in flower right now – of mostly wild rose but occasionally interrupted by other random roses. It’s a fence, but not a fence.
But we are moving along – sales are ok, not great, but I really love some of our die hard customers. I feel like we are helping them to feed their families as much as they are helping to feed ours. It’s truly lovely. Josh is perfecting a new slicing loaf (like a white milk bread, but sourdough, I think) and we’re toying with some new flavors of stuff (like Cinnamon/Sugar crackers, and Egg bagels).
In that place of ok, let me hint at some interesting changes around here. It’s about time we pursued a more stable line of business so we’re building a plan that includes a commercial kitchen and possibly (simultaneously) mobility…we shall see how this plan works out (can you see my fingers tapping together like a mad villain?! yes!). Because if we want to be able to feed our family (or rather – house our family), we need to step up our game. Some things may change with that – there are some things that once we get licensed officially that we can no longer sell, very popular things, but we are trying to figure that out, too, so our people stay happy! (and thank you again for being so happy with us!)
With other new thoughts of new things, we might be adding a redesign of The Secret Pickle Club, as there is a bit of confusion right now how it works (you sign up and get a discounted jar of whatever pickles we choose) since Secret Pickle Club members are starting to talk to each other and are surprised that they get different pickles than others. Well, yes! We’re trying to introduce you to pickles you might not have tried before. It gives us feedback and cleans out small numbers of inventory, too. But what we might do is switch that up a bit so that all members get the same on any given week, and that a higher membership fee will grant you some extra special merch made just for the Pickle Club. Now, doesn’t that sound super fun?!
AND…we’ve put up a new pickle that might change our business structure. WOW! – that must be some pickle. We hope so, more coming on this new development soon. It might go really well with our other big changes! I’m excited, Josh is excited, Duende is super excited – and you will be excited too.
Anything else? Yes, well, put it on your calendar for July 18th at the Good Life Center, a lecture by me on how some pragmatic American thinkers add to and help get us out of the quicksand of ideologies. It’s an eco-aesthetic conversation about what I call Bread Philosophy. If you can haul your cookies up there, I look forward to seeing you! (If you want to give me a ride, all the better, let me know! ha!).
So, it’s not news to those who know but I’ve been pretty sick this past Spring (and off and on for many years – Lyme disease makes everything harder) and my healthcare team have decided I need some ‘deeper cleaning’ – clean out the lymph system, regulate the endocrine, boost my gut biome. My body likes to hang on to things until there is slow and uncomfortable damage. The first things to go were alcohol (oh, lovely cocktail hour), sugar of any additional kind (not fruits – they’re ok, they’re food!), dairy, and grains. The latter being particular hard since the majority of this house is in some sort of baking process. None for me.
It’s been 2 weeks and my body is certainly doing new things (some good, some bad but detoxifying is not always a pretty process, so say my itchy hives all over my body). What have we been eating? Well, frankly, a lot of clean meat and fruits and veggies. Nuts/seeds/tofu/eggs are all good. Beans and some fruit are occasional friends. I did buy a couple of grain-free crackers and tortillas just in case I go nutty and need to feel like I’m eating something ‘substantial’ once in a while (they are ok, not great but they do the job; most of the time I just learn how to eat in a new way). I’ve had problems going grain-free before (my neurotransmitters get wonky, I get moody/crazy/depressed, etc) so I’m trying to keep a good eye on my blood sugar so I can keep the crazy to a minimum.
I eat lots of kimchi with toasted nuts/seeds and a ‘dippy egg’. Salads with lots of different roasted and raw veggies. Sauteed greens or a side salad or just cucumber with everything. Nuts and fruit as snacks, veggies and hummus, apple and peanut butter, grain free crackers and tapenade, etc. Though we did manage to have Tacos the other day because the shells we get are already grain free (they are chia/cassava and delish), with avocado and cashew yogurt. I’m not a big substituter – I don’t eat ‘meat’ substitutes (though I eat tofu, I don’t consider it a meat substitute, just a food in itself, same with veggie burgers), so I won’t buy a lot of dairy subs either – though I do already drink Almond milk (I just don’t care to drink Cow’s milk) so yogurt was a nice addition. My child is upset for me – since her world revolves around cheese and ice cream.
Tonight we will have Venison Kofta with a fresh frilly lettuce that came in the CSA today, roasted sweet potato chunks with a Mediterranean lemon dressing and likely toasted pumpkin seeds. It covers all my needs, is exciting, and the other peeps will like it, too. In fact, the venison – the lettuce – and the sweet potatoes all came in the CSA today so it’s already here and ready to be made! I have a pantry of international spices and lemon juice always at hand. These are simple and sexy with a garlicky cucumber yogurt sauce (Laban) and my mint (that I threw under the willow tree) is finally coming up to accompany this. Summery, satisfying, and fulfills the rules. Perfect.
As usual, there are many substitutes (despite what I say above) that could be handled here – any kind of ground meat would work – and you don’t have to kebab them if you don’t want to – savory meatballs are just as lovely, any kind of yogurt, any kind of lettuce and if you don’t have sweet potatoes – roasted cauliflower (of any color) or winter squash or even golden beets would work great here. No mint? You could sub lemon balm or fresh oregano, even just fresh parsley (I wouldn’t recommend dried herbs here as they will not soften enough in the yogurt) or for foraged goods some fresh sorrel (of any kind) or baby dock though if adding these last 2, start small and taste often as they could overpower quickly if using lemon or sumac. In addition, you could add Preserved Lemons as a delectable addition to the salad portion, and Broad, Lima, or Fava Beans sauteed with Olive Oil and a little Sea Salt to add texture, protein, and variety.
15 wooden skewers (soaked in salted water for at least 1 hour) 1 lb ground Venison (I like the leanness for these kofta but any ground meat will do) 1 Med Onion, minced 2 large cloves Garlic, minced 1/2 bunch Parsley, finely chopped 1/4 tsp Allspice 1/2 tsp Paprika 1/2 tsp Black Pepper 1/2 tsp Cumin 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and then place cooling racks on top of the parchment paper (or use broiler pan). Set aside.
Prepare kofta kabobs – In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients until well combined – I find using your hands mixes things better than a spoon. (FYI – make sure your onion is finely diced, if it is too big then you may have difficulty pressing it on the skewer.)
Break off golf ball sized pieces of the mixture and press firmly around a wooden skewer that has been soaked in water. Lay the skewer on the cooling racks on the cookie sheet. Continue until all the meat has been used up. Bake at 350 until meat is cooked through – about 30 minutes, rotating at the half way point.
Serve hot with the garlic yogurt sauce, on top of lettuce greens with roasted veg and pepitas! The lemon dressing below just sparks up the greens a bit but you could just use the garlic yogurt sauce as dressing, too.
If you are making larger kabobs then you may want to finish them off under the broiler or on a grill to get those pretty blackened grill marks. Totally not necessary though. You can also cook these completely on the grill instead of in the oven.
Garlic Laban 1 cup Greek Yogurt, plain 1/2 cup Cucumber, peeled, seeded, finely diced (or grated, if they look too wet, drain them a bit in a colander or pat them with a paper towel) 2 cloves Garlic, minced (or Garlic Scapes/Wild Garlic/or Toum – garlic sauce) 1 tsp freshly squeezed Lemon Juice (or 1/2 tsp Sumac) 2 tsp Garden Mint (whatever you’ve got), minced 1/8 tsp Ancho pepper (or whatever a little hot spice pepper you like) 1/2 tsp Sweet Paprika 1/8 tsp Sea Salt drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly to combine. Garnish with more fresh mint, a drizzle of olive oil and serve. Can be stored for 2-3 days in the refrigerator. If the dip thins out too much with time, add extra yogurt and stir to re-thicken.
Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Roasted Sweet Potato: 2-3 Sweet Potato or Yams, cut into 2″ cubes 1/4 Olive Oil Sea Salt & Black Pepper, to taste 1/2 cup Pepitas (pumpkin seeds, hulled – green)
Lemon dressing: Juice of 1 ½ lemons (more to taste) 3 Tbsp chopped Parsley 1 tsp ground Cumin Pinch of Sea Salt ¾ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or Avocado Oil
Take the first 3 ingredients, blend and spread out on a sheet tray. If you have another rack, feel free to bake them with the kofta until the edges are caramelized a bit – in fact, I put my Sweet Potatoes in first and then worked on the Kofta. (If by the time the kofta come out, the sweet potatoes are not roasted enough, remove the kofta from the oven and turn up the temperature to 400 degrees to finish roasting the vegetable). When finished, set aside.
In a heavy-bottom sauté pan, toast Pepitas until they have changed color a bit (yellow or brown are very thoroughly toasted, try and have most of them not too dark, when I start hearing popping or see yellowing, I remove them from the heat – works best if you keep them moving while toasting). Set aside.
Prepare lettuce by briefly rinsing and shake or pat dry. Rip into edible bits. Set aside.
Combine all lemon dressing ingredients (if using), shake well until emulsified (a mason jar works great for this – make sure it’s sealed nicely). Toss with lettuce.
To build salad: Add dressed greens to plate, put sweet potato chunks all over, and sprinkle pepitas over top. Add Kofta and drizzle with Laban or serve on side.
This big thing did great for her 5th grade assessment – told her lovely (and patient) teacher about her snap circuit/bat box building/new garden/cooking classes/geography lessons (she and her father are doing a 500 piece on American Indian Tribes as we speak). They talked a little bit about finding some math-oriented games online and the teacher reminding me of the great lesson that if they want ‘more tv’ than you are willing to give, you could always let them watch it in Spanish (everything from Curious George to Ratatouille is avail in español)!
Our homeskool teacher is great – she has a couple of gals of her own so she knows all the tricks and tactics. She is very musically encouraging (makes her own guitars, etc) and runs the homeschool field trip group that we occasionally were able to take some adventures with (Boston Science Museum, Boston Aquarium, special rehearsal views of the yearly Portland ‘Nutcracker’, etc). She understands freeschooling and can assess fairly quickly the stages Duende is in. There was a bit of confusion at the end of our zoom assessment, as the internet was a little squirrely – so the teacher ‘didn’t say the words’ that D needed to hear. So I emailed her to make sure everything was all good and she sent back a special video congratulations to Duende saying, “Congratulations, you are now a 6th grader!” – yay!! Official. Another year solid for the state. Thank you, lovely teacher.
Recently, at a picnic event some friends were kind enough to compliment our little peach on her conversational skills, her unending (and unsolicited but kind) advice, and her hostess manners. They specifically mentioned that she is easy to talk to (unlike many children that are socialized only with their peers) and is very savvy. She’s a sweet soul – lately she’s worried about the nice older gentleman at the Transfer Station who calls her a little ‘angel’ (ha!). He’s a funny character who sometimes has one of his little pups with him, which she loves, too. And she’s so excited that a new family is moving in down the road (let’s all hope her dreams come true and it’s a kid she can play with…).
Her independence is high right now – lots of self directed baking, arting, she’s big on her chores lately (we changed the allowance structure so that most goes into her bank account but if she does her work well she gets some in cash, which she is enjoying spending on honeysticks and mango lassis at the Farmer’s Market), and building when Josh is also building (she’s been using the miter chop saw with Daddy, and her own hammer – thank you Uncle Cameron!). She’s really interested in skateboarding right now (she’s feeling good about her scooter and roller skate game lately) and swimming (we’ll have to find some good swimming holes this year).
Tonight for dinner she is tackling Thomas Keller’s Confit Biyaldi (the ratatouille from the movie)…she’s amazing.
11 is almost here! Looks like it’s going to be a good time.
Thick breezes blowing hot air around there – focusing on inside things where it’s a bit cooler. The child is making a lot of arty bits today at our new giant art table that Josh customized for us (paper roll on the end, shelves for her at one end with fancy organizing boxes, the same for me at the other end, thin pocket pencil drawers for us on either side and plenty of room under it for our stools and art carts – it’s really a dreamy table to go with our dreamy studio). I should be making student calls and finalizing the garden to-do list but instead I’m battling allergies and feeling off-kilter. I went for a wander in our overgrown (& what feels like a rainforest) lawn to see how the wild roses were blooming and found so much more. So many lovely birds right now outside my window at the feeder (right now a bright Mr. Cardinal having words with the Catbird that lives in a bush nearby) – and bees, and dragonflies, and butterflies – a Great Blue Heron just flew overhead!