Pretending (and a Recipe!)

It’s mid-October, according to the calendar. According to the weather, however…

It’s difficult to really get into feeling like it’s fall when it’s impossibly warm and muggy out, but the girls and I are doing our best.

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The persimmons are back, but I doubt we’ll get any before the squirrels take them all. I’ve also read that you’re supposed to leave them on the tree until after a good frost, but the idea of that right now is laughable.

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I’m hoping that it won’t still be crazy humid for Halloween. The older girls are old enough now to take Oona out trick-or-treating, and Jess and I plan to sit on the porch and hand out candy.  It’s be nice to not feel drenched in sweat the entire time!

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We also capped off a summer of very little egg-laying with an autumn of zero egg-laying. As tends to be the case, the last batch of straight-run chicks we got turned out to be all roosters. I let them free-range, because honestly? They’ll at least try to be protective, and I could stand to lose a few.

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Indoors, there’s been plenty of fall cooking and baking going on. Soups, stews, roasts, cakes, and cookies.

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I used my favorite cookie cutter to make Raven cookies – just regular butter cookies with black vanilla frosting and black sugar.I got mine a few years ago at King Arthur Flour, but it looks like you can still get them – or a reasonable facsimile –  on Amazon.

Sadly, I only got this one picture, and the next morning discovered that Pippa had gotten onto the counter, knocked the tupperware off and helped herself to every last one. Because of course.

The other thing we are addicted to is Susan’s Autumn Equinox Cake.

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It’s autumn in cake form!  The recipe was originally posted on the Juniper Moon Farm website, but as that is currently down, I’m re-posting it here:

Autumn Equinox Cake

Ingredients:

1 gallon apple cider

1 Cinnamon Stick

2 or 3 cloves

(Or if you buy Boiled Cider from King Arthur, you can skip these and skip the first step).

1/4 cup cinnamon sugar

1 box spice cake mix OR yellow cake mix plus 1/8 cup pumpkin pie spice

1 15 oz can pumpkin

4 eggs

1/3 cup melted butter or vegetable oil

1/3 cup greek yogurt

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 tsp kosher salt

Directions:

Pour the entire gallon of apple cider into a large pot and add the cinnamon stick and cloves. Bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer for the next hour or so. When the gallon of cider has reduced to about 2 cups, it’s done. The reduction will be syrupy, though it’ll be hard to tell until it’s cool. Remove the cinnamon stick and cloves.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bundt cake pan and “flour” it with the cinnamon sugar.

In a bowl or stand mixer, combine all of the remaining ingredients plus 1/4 of the boiled cider you just made. Mix slowly until combined, then turn to medium high for a minute or so.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake abut 50 minutes, or until done. (I start testing for doneness around 35 minutes – every oven is different!).

Remove from oven and place pan on cooling rack. Carefully pour another 1/4 cup boiled cider over the cake while it’s still hot. Wait 30 minutes for the cake to cool, and then very carefully remove it from the pan. Now pour another 1/4 cup cider over the top.

Serve with whipped cream!

 

 

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I’m Still Here!

I can’t believe I haven’t posted since July!

It’s been a challenging year. I was disappointed our mating season was a failure and we had no lambs, but insult was added to injury when I lost my beautiful ewe, Perivale, to a snake bite. Having sheep and goats is kind of a crazy thing to do, because once you finally work out that perfect formula of good grass, good parasite control, and a nice, healthy weight, you lose them to snakes. Or sheer stupidity (our goat, Basil, tragically got himself wedged under a large woodpile and his injuries and dehydration were too much to overcome).

The garden this year was also not the best I’ve had, but I did manage to get a decent amount of tomatoes and basil, along with volunteer pumpkins that grew in spots where the pigs had “deposited”seeds after eating pumpkins last year. The asparagus is looking great as well, and I can actually start harvesting it a bit next spring.

Sabine is officially retired as a guard dog. She was spooked by the fireworks on July 4 and ended up 3 miles away. I brought her inside  to recover from her adventure and she decided she was done with the great outdoors. Considering she’s 11, with the beginnings of arthritis in her hips, I decided she deserved a life of spoiling and luxury from here  on out. It does mean that currently I have no guardian for the flock, however, and I’m going to have to get that taken care of at some point, especially if I decide to breed and have lambs around. Given the choice, I’d get another llama. An Akbash would be nice, too!

However, now that fall is upon us, things are looking up. Neve is studying cosmetology at the local vocational school in addition to her regular studies. Emily is enrolled at the community college. And with that, I feel way older than I’d like! I’ve also been spending a crazy amount of time in the car, driving them to their various classes and appointments. Emily is working on her license, and that will be a relief.

Everyone has been knitting the last few weeks. I’ve finished a project that will be a Christmas gift and am mostly done with a second. The girls are working on scarves. I’ve made pesto ravioli and next week I’ll make pumpkin ravioli. Hopefully I’ll be better about making time for this space again from here on out; I’ve missed the writing!

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Happy 4th!

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It’s a pretty relaxed day of lounging around, swimming, and petting sheep today. I’ve spent some time watching the hummingbird moths all over the butterfly bush by the pool. They move so fast they’re hard to catch an image of!

Later we’ll head out to spend the evening with friends grilling food and playing games. The recipe for the flag cobbler can be found HERE.

Have a great holiday, everyone!

Happy Summer!

I can’t believe how long I’ve been going between posts. I have no real excuse, other than my life seems to be an endless stream of appointments for the kids coupled with hours of weeding the gardens (followed by removing dozens of ticks every night).

Thankfully, there’s something else that’s been endless recently: wild blackberries. Every year I’m astonished at how much more there are than the previous year. It’s also a time game, though. You have to pick them just at ripeness or risk losing them all to japanese beetles and birds. Since I don’t always have time to do anything with the bucketloads I’ve been picking, I’ve been letting the kids eat them all in one go. With the solstice, though, I decided something special needed to be done with them. So I made ice cream.

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I started by heating up the berries with some sugar and cinnamon on the stove and lightly mashing them to release some of the juice.

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While that was cooling, I used a Ben & Jerry’s recipe for the base. It basically entails whipping eggs with cream and sugar until fluffy. Super easy and quick.

Then the berries were added, and I poured as much as I could fit into the trusty Cuisinart ice cream maker.

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There was just enough left over to make popsicles.

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When the machine had finished churning, I froze the ice cream an additional few hours before serving.

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Success!

 

S|NO|wpocalypse ’17

We were so hoping for a snow day. They’d been calling for a foot or so for us, and everyone was out in force yesterday clearing the stores of eggs, milk, and bread (not to mention the liquor store).  I had no appointments or places to be the next couple days, and was prepared to give the kids a day off from school to play in the snow and enjoy our one and only day of winter.

We got 4 more Pekin ducklings a few days ago, and I  beefed up their bedding and made sure they were good and cozy and the heat lamp wouldn’t be affected by ice or snow.  We have gallons and gallons of kerosene in reserve for the heater, just in case. In short, we should’ve known.

This was our glorious snow storm:

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SO DISAPPOINTING.

It looks like winter has passed us by this year, and we may as well keep on our path to spring.

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So what do you do when you’ve lost out on your much-needed snowday?

First I put together dough for cinnamon bread and made a good strong cup of coffee.

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Then I worked on cutting some pieces for quilting.

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Of course, Widget wasn’t going to allow that to last without some “help”.

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I can’t resist him. I’ve put away the quilting supplies and moved on to transferring some of my seedlings out of the starter kit that Widget keeps sitting on and trying to eat the sprouts out of.

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It was a decidedly NOT snowday thing to do.  It did, however, make me happier about the impending spring and summer weather. I can’t wait for those  juicy tomatoes, fresh off the vine (if I can keep the deer out this year!).

I did make the kids do their schoolwork today, as well. They didn’t mind, since there was no snow outside to frolic in. Plus they were all gathered around the table once the cinnamon bread came out of the oven.

I’ll be making a giant batch of Bolognese sauce and knitting more hats the rest of the day while I resign myself that winter is pretty well done.

Someone better tell my hens it’s time to start laying some eggs!

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Solstice

“And so the Shortest Day came and the year died

And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world

Came people singing, dancing,

To drive the dark away.

They lighted candles in the winter trees;

They hung their homes with evergreen;

They burned beseeching fires all night long

To keep the year alive.

And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake

They shouted, reveling.

Through all the frosty ages you can hear them

Echoing behind us – listen!

All the long echoes, sing the same delight,

This Shortest Day,

As promise wakens in the sleeping land:

They carol, feast, give thanks,

And dearly love their friends,

And hope for peace.

And now so do we, here, now.

This year and every year.”

 

Susan Cooper

 

It’s the Winter Solstice, once again. Slowly but surely the light will come back now, as we round the year and tilt toward summer again.  But first, winter is upon us (though it remains relatively warm here, and aggravatingly snow-free). It felt fitting to spend the day baking cookies and enjoying each other’s company. In the late afternoon I took my usual walk around the pastures and found my center among the natural world.  This is my favorite time of year for walking in the woods and bringing treats to the sheep. Though low, the stream is full of tiny minnows. The dried-up weeds and vines and fallen trees become like hedgerows, teeming with birds. You’d be forgiven for thinking there was a huge animal crashing about out there, the birds are so plentiful and noisy. It’s hard to get pictures of them; I haven’t got a zoom lens and they fly off in huge clouds of winds and chirping if I get too close.

I can see now that the small, wild holly trees are thriving, and I’m hoping I can transplant them at some point to a better location. I also found the remains of a skunk in the back pasture, who I assume was killed by one of the many hawks we see out there every day. We’d been smelling the pervasive scent rather strongly back in October, but never found the source.

After dinner the girls and I bundled into the car and we set off for our yearly viewing of Christmas lights. It seemed fitting on the night of the Solstice to celebrate the colorful lights people have on their homes.

Happy Solstice, all. May your days be long and bright, and your nights warm and cheerful.

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Cats and Drinks

This weekend I had the house to myself while Paul and the girls were visiting family in New York.  Maddie came down and we went and had lunch with our friend Kim before heading to our friend Heather’s bridal shower.  We made candle centerpieces for the wedding while the host served us hot buttered rum. Um…Heather? I’m gonna need that recipe. 😀

When I wasn’t cleaning or spinning wool, or snuggling kitties (had them ALLLL to myself!) I was making some yummies for holiday consumption.

First was a pineapple-infused mandarin vodka for book club.

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I got a large mason jar from Michael’s – big enough to hold 750ml of vodka – and chopped up some fresh pineapple. I covered it with a whole bottle of Absolut Mandarin, and it gets to sit for two weeks now. I can’t wait!

The second thing I knew I needed to make is Alton Brown’s Eggnog. This one will sit for a month or so – or until after Thanksgiving anyway.

The only change I made was accidental – I left out the rum.

BUT.

I taste-tested before bottling it (it made a little more than 2 quarts) and it was delicious. I can tell after aging for a bit that it will be transcendent. I may have to buy some more bottles and make more!

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Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised; you really can’t go wrong with Alton Brown!

Now that we find ourselves so close to Turkey Day I encourage you to try the eggnog if that’s up your alley. I’ll be poring over my recipes and planning and shopping for the big meal the nest few days.  Although we don’t have anyone coming (or at least, no one’s mentioned anything yet) I’ll still make a mountain of food. We gots to have our leftovers, yo!

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“Did someone say turkey?”

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“Mmmmmmmmm turkey!”