Archive | July, 2012

Hay is for Horses…and Llamas

30 Jul

We helped hay yesterday – well, I should clarify, my husband helped hay yesterday. I put the kids to bed and road by bike out to the barn to watch for a few minutes. You need moral support for these types of things you know. Someone has to cheer you on.

It’s a funny thing, this farm life. While I sat there, watching bale after bale ride up into the hay loft, it struck me how living on a farm really forces you to live in the present as well as plan for the future. Harvesting and haying are both activities that need to be done at that specific point in time. If you wait a week or two, the berries will be gone, the hay will be wet and ruined and the veggies will be rotten. You very much need to act when the opportunity presents itself. On the other hand, you are also planning for the future – you are jamming those berries, storing that hay and canning or pickling those veggies for the colder months.

The cycle of the farm is so interesting to someone who could, for almost my entire life, just walk or drive to a store and buy whatever I needed at that time. Craving a strawberry crumble in February? No problem. Corn on the cob in April? Yeah, why not. But even more than being able to find any given food at any given time of year, I could also grab some paper for the printer or more crayons for the kids or shampoo for my hair. Now that we live 35 minutes from the nearest grocery store (although there is a fantastic little mini mart that has organic and local stuff just in Quilcene, but it doesn’t have everything you might need) we need to plan quite a bit ahead.

This feels a little more authentic – if you will allow me to use that word. It feels satisfying to live off your land (granted, I have done none of the work to make this land productive – so I am fully reaping all the benefits – I just harvest what I can and will do a lot of canning, jamming and such in the Fall) and in turn, it feels as though we are living within our means. Even if we can afford to shop, buy and acquire, not doing so feels really refreshing. In the city, I felt like I was spending money everyday even though it was mostly stuff we needed (what? we didn’t need new curtains or yet another summer dress? nonsense!). Now we do one big shopping trip a week and while I imagine that I am buying and spending similar amounts, it feels like less since it’s only once a week and not a few times a day. And yes, yes, yes I could have done this in the city as well but I am a weak weak person and the temptation to do it multiple times a day was just too much. The convenience of having all those stores and all those options at my fingertips whenever I so desired was just too much for me to resist.

So basically I suppose I am grateful for this forced break from my habits. It allows me to realize how distracting it was to run over to the co-op real quick for a few items, then across the street to see if anything leapt out at me for the kids and finally a swing by the thrift store “just to look” – all that activity really drained me by the end of the day. Or even having to haul the kids in the car to go to the zoo, the beach, the park…it was all adding to the already exhausting task of caring for two toddlers.

So that was my a-ha! moment of the week. I now deserve the rest of the week off. Thank you.

How to Peel a Carrot

29 Jul

Simple as that.

Clothing optional.

 

What’s Cooking

28 Jul

I have a variety of cookbooks but only five that I keep on constant rotation. I would like to share them with you.

First up is The Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef by Shauna James Ahern – fabulous book for those gluten-free and not. The stories really pull you in – this is actually a cookbook that you will want to sit and read cover to back before cooking. It just pulls you in and won’t let you go. The braised beans are an absolute must in our house – every week I make these. This book gets all lovey-dovey about local and seasonal foods which I am totally on board for.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter is actually quite divine. I am really loving almost every recipe in this book and have made quite a few of them staples in our house. Yes, she is perfect and looks way better in the kitchen than I do (where is the nagging toddler at her heels and bits of shredded kale on the floor? Tomato sauce all over the stovetop? No? Ok, fine) but the recipes are damn good too. Simple and good for you and super yummy.

Baking in my house is hands down due to this book by Jennifer Katzinger from the storied Flying Apron bakery in my old hood. Baking gluten-free is sometimes annoyingly difficult to assemble the 10 different flours you need to replicate good ol- fashioned white flour but this book uses primarily two different flours. TWO. And they are delicious, obviously. All my muffins, scones, cookies and pie crusts come form this book. The savory fares are also wonderful and simple. She has a new book out that I am eager to browse through as well.

The River Cottage series are unbeatable. They are the bibles of my kitchen. The Everyday River Cottage cookbook holds all my favorite basics – sauces, lunch staple, veggies, meat, fish, dessert etc…and some wow-your-guests-dishes as well. Like I said, it is my cookbook bible – where I go when I forget the ratios for pesto or how to roast a duck. Essential.

Lastly, Taste Eat Heal by Thomas Yarema, Daniel Rhoda and Johnny Brannigan. This is an Ayurvedic cookbook which I try to base most of my meals on when summer is over and fresh produce is harder to come by. It is chock full of hearty, yummy meals that really get me through the winter. I studied Ayurveda and have been captured by it ever since…it is truly a life-changing way of looking at food. This book explains all the background behind Ayurveda and how each dish will or will not benefit you.

And there you have it. My top five favs. My go-to mainstays. The reason we eat great meals…most days.

Photo credits: First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth

The House at Maya Corner

27 Jul

Today we woke up to drizzle. Seems to be the story of the summer – a handful of blazing hot days followed by a day of light drizzle or full on rain then back to sun. It is actually fine by me. You don’t have to water your garden that way. Plus it gives your skin a little break from the rockin’ tan it is acquiring.

So we headed out, in full rain gear, to waaaaaay back at the far end of the horse pasture and set out onto the trails that my parents have created through the woods. Beautiful trails – I have been walking them in the morning, just me, alone with my thoughts, which is a highly rare affair these days. The trails are actually wide enough and groomed enough to fit our rugged double stroller through, so stroll we did (I am so over carrying around a 22 pound toddler whilst nagging a 40 pound toddler to hurry it up). We found a really magical little spot on the creek – tons of river rocks, logs to climb over and under, little pockets where the water pools up and you can catch a glimpse of the little salmon fry swimming about. We played at this spot for a long while before continuing on in search of huckleberry bushes.

Maya aptly named this spot The House at Maya Corner (gee, I wonder where she got that name!) and quickly reassured It that she would be back soon. It was a pretty enchanting experience actually. I sat there by the creek watching these kids so deep in play in nature and thought, now this is exactly why I wanted to live out here for a little while. Kids are so very happy in this environment. Anyone who has read Last Child in the Woods would contend the more nature time your kids get, the better. And I have to agree. Watching my daughter create her own little world under tree limbs and over creek beds and witnessing my son utterly mesmerized by the rippling water and all of its gifts, is a moment I would love to recreate over and over again. It was peaceful. It was engaging. It was simply captivating. Slowing down and taking a breath of fresh air was good for my soul as well – even if it was interrupted occasionally for mosquito swatting.

Having access to this wonderland every day is going to be so fun.

We finished off the walk with a full-on slip and fall into the second creek (Maya was not too keen on that part – I literally was pouring water out of her boots) and a salamander spotting. I think the salamander saved us from a little meltdown – thank you little guy.

And for lunch, another recipe share:

Asian Kale (from Flying Apron’s Gluten-Free & Vegan Baking Book)
Serves 4-6

1 bunch kale, ribs removed, thinly slices
2 small carrots, peeled and julienned
1 red bell pepper, diced (I skipped this one)
2 tablespoons gomaiso (this is  REALLY important – do not skip adding this traditional Asian sesame salt – it is what really makes this salad pop. But if you must, as I had to today, just toss in some sesame seeds)

Dressing
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh gingerroot
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive ol
2 tablespoons tamari (I used soy sauce)
1 4/4 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (skipped this as well)

(I also added a bit of red miso – it was quite tasty)

Combine the kale, carrots, and bell pepper in a large salad bowl.

Prepare the dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients as listed and mix well.

Pour dressing over the kale salad mixture and toss. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes in the fridge. The longer it marinates, the stronger the flavors will be. Add in pumpkin seeds and gomasio before serving, toss  and serve.

 

 

The Beginner

26 Jul

Gnats.

Nasty little buggers.

I found this out the hard way. A naive farmer I may be for wearing shorts and a t-shirt to pick raspberries at dusk. Yes, I was constantly swatting at what I thought were mosquitos but those darn little insects that I thought were harmless fruit flies were the real biting monsters.

My neck and shoulders illustrate my pain. Big, nasty bumps. Even behind my ears. And they itch like crazy…and not just for an afternoon like those kind mosquitos. No, these have itched now for an entire week. I don’t even want to talk about their physical longevity.

Now I look like a night ninja when picking berries after dinner – boots, jeans, hooded sweatshirt with a scarf wrapped over my face just below the nose line. They cannot scare me off. I will win, my friends, I will win.

Raspberry Sorbet from Saveur

1 1⁄2 cups sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 lb. fresh raspberries (about 5 cups)
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1. In a 2-quart saucepan, bring 2 cups water and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve. Reduce heat to low and simmer, without stirring, to make a syrup, for 5 minutes.

2. Pour the syrup into a medium bowl, stir in vanilla extract, and transfer to the freezer to let chill for 15 minutes.

3. Purée 1 lb. of the raspberries (about 4 cups) with the syrup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Scrape the purée through a fine sieve into a bowl; discard the seeds. Stir lemon juice into the raspberry purée and pour it into a 2-quart ice cream maker. Freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions until almost set but still a little slushy, about 25 minutes.

4. Add remaining raspberries (about 1 cup) and continue freezing in the ice cream maker for about 5 minutes. Transfer the sorbet to a plastic container and freeze until completely set, about 1 hour.

MAKES ABOUT 5 CUPS

 

 

The Grocery Getter

25 Jul

I was that mom. The other day in the store. The one you sort of grimace at when you see her, trying to balance groceries and two kids with little tuffs of hair sticking out the sides of her once kept bun. The one who looks a little disheveled, bleary, annoyed…with a hint of defeat in her eyes.

I almost just gave in to the chaos. I was one step away from an adult tantrum in aisle 7.

But pride is an amazing thing. It really holds you together in the end. I kept hearing my more polished self screaming, “Don’t do it! It is a slippery slope! The grocery store meltdown is the first step to all-day-every-day-yoga-pants-wearing-I-don’t-give-a-flying-fuck-anymore momhood. Stop while you still have a trace of dignity left!”

So despite a very squirmy pint-sized toddler and a demanding slightly older toddler, I prevailed.

I may or may not have downed some chocolate covered goodies on the drive back home…you know, to reward my more composed self.

 

The New Digs

24 Jul

I would like to share some photos of our new home on the farm. Just a few snapshots.

The best aspect of this place so far is the space. Oodles of space. I am beginning to wonder if this may spoil me for life. We live on 112 acres and it is hard to describe how vast and private it feels. You cannot see any neighbors – the properties to the north are all pasture land, to the east and west are woods and to the south is land placed in conservation – meadows, creeks and more pasture. We basically live in our own little universe.

My kids are taking full advantage. They just wander all day long and I don’t have to worry about much – just need to supervise when they go near the creeks or pond. Sebastien generally stays close and I like to keep an eye on him at all times but Maya is all over the place. I may be naive to let a 3 year old climb a tree on her own – but I figure if she falls, I will hear her and there is nothing I would have been able to do for her if I were standing right there anyhow.

More so though, the space let’s me breath. I think the space is more beneficial to me as a parent than it is to them as children. I can pick raspberries for an hour while the two of them scamper about, too ingrained in their own play and exploration to bother me every 3 minutes. I can actually get something done. Start and finish a project. While picking raspberries may seem trivial, it is a monumental accomplishment when your primary job is really to watch and entertain your children.

There are also certain elements that I thought I would miss about our old house but, in fact, I actually enjoy. For instance, we don’t have a dishwasher here so instead of letting your dishes pile up by the sink, you need to wash them right away. This seems inconvenient but you end up spending little amounts of time throughout the day at the sink with a clean kitchen to show for it, instead of a good chunk of time at one part of the day whilst looking at your dishes all day. We also chose not to have wi-fi in the main house, just in the office. Again, I thought this would be hugely inconvenient, but it has proven to be a blessing. It regulates our online time to a few concentrated times a day instead of constantly checking our devices, surfing the internet or what have you. It was something that I was conscious about in the old house but was such an incredibly hard habit to break.

Alas, so far the country is treating us right. Granted, it is summer and we can play outside from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep. I may be singing a far different tune come November. Until then, we will profiter to the max.

 

 

Pressing Cider and Raising Kids with Finnriver Farm

18 Jul

Living on a farm is the ultimate dream, am I right? Ok, maybe it’s not for everyone, but I urge you to find someone who has not, even for one nanosecond, fantasized about farm life. Farms bring dinner to the table people! What is not to like about that? Today, I am thrilled to share with you a couple who did decide to live on a farm and in doing so, created a thriving business.

Crystie and Keith live on a farm, with their two sons, that boasts berries upon berries, veggies, fruit trees and also honey bees, layer and meat chickens, and, sometimes, cows, pigs, sheep or goats. Now this is a full-fledged working farm my friends. But the best part about it? It is home to Finnriver Cider! For someone who doesn’t drink a fair amount of beer, cider is my go-to beverage of choice for BBQs, boat rides, camping…you get the idea. I love me some cider. Finnriver makes some of the best ciders I have tasted and its local (to me at least) to boot. Here I am excited to share with you some insight as to how one runs a farm, a cidery and a business all while raising two young boys. Enjoy!

Q: Please introduce your family and where you live.

Our family includes parents Keith and Crystie Kisler and boys River (9) and Coulter (4).  We live on a 33 acre organic farm called Finnriver in the Chimacum Valley on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula.  River was named both for Keith’s love of wild rivers and my sense of how birthing him carried me into the ‘flow’ of something much larger than myself.  Our farm was named “Finnirver” when River was a toddler, in honor of him and our then partners’ son Finn.  And Coulter was named for the ‘coulter blade’, which cuts the sod in front of the plough.  After he was born, we realized that Keith and I feel in love living on Old Coulterville Road.  At Finnriver, we live with a community of farmers who grow mixed berries and vegetables and raise chickens, goats, pigs and ducks for meat and eggs.  We also have a small-scale craft Cidery where we ferment hard ciders and fruit wines.

Q: How did you decide to live in the country and specifically on a farm?

Keith was raised on a farm family in eastern Washington (he was 4th generation born to the farm and his nephew, the 5th generation is now farming there) that was very connected to their place and their livelihood on the land. I, on the other hand, moved a lot as a child and lived in some major metropolitan areas, New York City, LA, Phoenix, San Francisco…Keith and I met working in Yosemite National Park in California doing environmental education with kids as we hiked up and down the Sierra Nevada mountains.  After we fell in love, we began to explore what kind of life we hoped to have together.  We wanted to continue the work of helping to re-connect people and nature and, in considering Keith’s farm background, we realized that people eat “nature” three times a day.  You don’t have to go into the wilderness to discover ‘the environment.’  We consume earth, air, water and light with each meal!  We began to dream of our own farm and ways to build community on the land.

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The Bounty Behind Our Cottage

16 Jul

One of the many benefits of living on a farm is fresh produce at your fingertips. Today we spent some hours harvesting for our meals – for dinner we had a salad of romaine lettuce, roasted beets with cilantro, sauteed snap peas and carrots and fresh white king salmon caught this morning. No joke.

Literally everything we ate was from our garden here (or caught out at sea just down the road) – save the olive oil and salt.

It’s crazy good, folks, crazy good.

And then, just to send it over the top, I made raspberry sorbet. Yes, yes, from raspberries I picked today. (The little helper above didn’t do much of picking, more along the lines of eating and eating and eating.)

 

We Made It

16 Jul

So, here we are. In the country.

As I was packing up the last of the little stuff in our city house, I couldn’t help but take some time to walk through every room and reminisce. Nick and I spent countless hours tearing this house down and building it back up again. I birthed both my children in these rooms. First walks, first words…my first home. We are not selling it but I have a feeling we will not be coming back here any time soon. I wonder if Maya will even remember it, Sebastien certainly won’t.

In all the work to pack up and move out, it is easy to glide over the fact that we are leaving the city. WTF? What are we doing!?!? It probably won’t truly sink in for a few more weeks, as we unpack, organize and finally settle in to our new life. It’s a crazy change but one I think we are up for and will lead us to more adventures. It will definitely settle the debate on whether or not we want to leave the city life or take up a new one on an island or a small mountain town east of here.

So good morning Monday. Here’s to a new week!

(I’ll post some pictures of our new abode later this week and another Family Profile coming your way too!)

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