Wednesday, May 30, 2018

For Jani

I still can't quite believe that I'm never going to see you again.

I worry that someday I'll have trouble recalling the sound of your throaty chuckle.

Your heart and your spirit and your capacity to love were so immense. Where does that all go?

I've cried a lot and I've been thinking a lot these past few days. And I've concluded that it doesn't go anywhere. It is refracted, reflected, redirected by the people that you shared yourself with. And there were so many!

 








Your girls carry your light so brightly! So does Chet - though in his own grumpy-old-man style ;) - and everyone else you loved and who loved you.

I will miss your wit, your humor, your great big hugs. But most of all, that laugh. I was damn lucky to have known you. Love you to the moon and back, mamacita.

xoxo
Chelle


Monday, April 9, 2018

Long Time, No Post

The Farmhouse, circa January

Life continues to chug along here in the Hollow, though a few things have changed since my last few posts. The kids have grown - a lot! The eldest will be off to college in just 6 months (!) and the youngest is now in high school and badgering us to sign her up for drivers ed. They always tell you that it will go by fast, but... DANG! It really does seem like it was just the other day that the girls were just starting kindergarten. It's been a whirlwind, but it's been pretty awesome - most of the time.

At any rate - it is my goal to try to post more often and more regularly. Things have changed in our family and on our farm since I last posted on a semi-regular basis, and I will try to catch everything up in due time.

Thanks for hanging in there with me!
Chelle




Under the Influence of Books

Is it just me, or do you find yourself in a different sort of headspace while reading (or in the immediate hangover after reading) a really good, really immersive book?

My family has commented on how my everyday language changes a bit when I'm eyeball-deep in a book series based in someplace like Scotland or England. I'll start using words like knackered or kebbie-lebbie. It isn't an affectation. In fact, it's not a conscious thing at all. I guess I really just climb inside those books! I can only hope that the people around me find it at least as amusing or charming as they do weird or annoying.

Anyway - lately I've been reading Alice Waters' autobiography about her life and experiences leading up to the founding of Chez Panisse. I've also just finished reading a novel, "The Maid", based on the life of Joan of Arc. In other words - I've been Frenching it up.

My immersion seems to have manifested itself in the following ways - more bread and seafood in my menu planning, more flowers on the table (which could just as easily be attributed to the arrival of Spring), and wine with dinner. No linguistic changes this time, at least not that anyone has mentioned.

This nutty little quirk of mine is a small thing, but even so, I think it has value. I can live 1000 tiny lives. I try on things without always realizing that that is what I'm doing. It's sort of amazing to me that at 43 years old, I can still grow and evolve in the direction of whatever has my interest on a given day.

My life and my heart are full.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Bird Sigthings...and Disappearings(?)

This morning, my eldest monkey, who is in charge of keeping care of our flock of ducks and quail, asked me if I would mind taking care of her ducks for her this morning, which is a rather unusual request. Our conversation:

Kid: "Mom, can you let my ducks out of their house later?"

Me: "Of course. Why don't you just let them out now though?"

Kid: "I want to wait because I saw and heard a spotted owl come out of the woods and fly over the bog. It was so cool, Mom!"

Indeed, that does sound cool. We often hear, if not actually see, barred owls calling back and forth in our woods, but a spotted owl is rare.

If you grew up in the Pacific Northwest, then you are probably very familiar with the spotted owl as an enormous thorn in the side of the local logging industry. The owls were driven to near endangered status as a result of habitat loss from massive clear-cuts and harvesting of old-growth forests. When the US Fish and Wildlife Service put extreme restrictions on logging in order to help restore the spotted owl population, the logging industry was hit hard. Displaced, laid-off loggers were infuriated, countering with a macabre campaign to kill the owls and have done with it.


These and other catchy slogans were the logging industry's reply to the USFWS's 1991 court order to prohibit logging in national forests.

I digress, but the point I'm trying to underscore here is how extremely rare and magnificent a sight that a spotted owl, swooping low over our mist-covered bog, must have been for my kiddo to have beheld.

The reason that I suspect that the owl chose our farm for his morning fly-by is slightly less magical - breakfast.

The night preceding, we had a quail jailbreak of epic proportions. Someone didn't latch the door on the hutch and our quail decided to go on a walkabout. By the time the breach was noted, approximately three quarters of our flock were out and about, well distributed throughout our acreage. We literally beat the bushes and climbed through thickets and brambles to try to recapture as many as we could before dusk fell. Upon final head count, we were still 15-20 birds short. Somewhere in the hay field and bog, the little rogues bedded down for the night.

Enter the owl.

The Boggy Hollow breakfast buffet was just too tasty for him to pass up.

At least our loss was a gain for a critter that really needed the help. Not to mention, my kid got what is very possibly a once-in-a-lifetime bird sighting, in her own backyard no less.

So thanks, Mr. Owl, for choosing us for your dining needs. May I recommend a hearty dessert of Norway rat and field mouse?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Autumn in the Hollow

Fall has very belated and abruptly, finally fallen on Boggy Hollow. The garden is very nearly wrapped up for the year, though not put to bed yet, that being a ginormous task unto itself. 

The temperature gauge on my car's dashboard read 39 degrees at 7:00 this morning, so I guess I'd better make it a priority to harvest the last of my hoop-house pimento and jalapeƱo peppers this afternoon before Jack Frost gets them. We also have a few scraggling pumpkins left out there, but - being volunteer mystery mixes - they're all destined to be chicken and turkey food anyway, so their cosmetic condition is not quite so important. To be honest, I'll be relieved when everything is buttoned up for the season.

I've been keeping fairly good track of our garden's productivity this year, but, as always tends to happen, I slacken off as the growing season progresses. Back in March/April, if we brought in a quarter pound of snap peas, it was written up in the log straight away. Now? We'll weigh one pumpkin and just assume the the rest of roughly the same size weigh roughly the same thing, and scratch it in the journal (maybe) when/if I remember to.

But anyway - I was talking of embracing the falling of Fall. Apparently a switch flipped and now I'm in hardcore Cozy Mode. In the past few days, I've suddenly rediscovered my love of knitting and have had my food dehydrator running 24/7, trying to put up one last jar/bag of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, calendula, spearmint, chamomile... etc. You name it, I'm drying it out and squirreling it away.

A new addition to my squirrelin' repertoire this year - wild mushrooms. Bill and I have always loved foraging, but were extremely intimidated about the idea of venturing into the world of mushrooms, as there is basically no room for error in identification. After reading half a dozen mushroom-specific guides and psyching ourselves up, a friend finally talked us into giving mushroom hunting a try by giving us the directions to his 'never fail' spot for lobster mushies. It was a bust for us. We've gone on hunts for morels, chanterelles, chicken of the woods and lobster mushrooms, all with ZERO luck. How bizarre it was then, to finally positively i.d. a much sought-after edible, the King Bolete (aka Porcino) mushroom growing in our very own yard!

Teeny-Weeny Porcini!
A very good day's haul
And to think that these have been growing there for years and we never realized - d'oh!

Apparently, they usually wrap up their Autumn flush in November, so I don't know how many more of these lovelies that I'll get before they're gone for the year, so I've been furiously hunting/cleaning/processing/drying them these past few weeks, trying to them all in while the gettin's still good.

Besides knitting and fiddling with mushrooms, I've finally got my baking groove back! Today's bake - a triple batch of Gingerbread biscotti. I've made this recipe several times and it always goes over big with anyone who has tried it. The smell of this in the oven will kick you into Cozy Mode lickity-split!


Lightly sweet and satisfyingly crunchy, Gingerbread Biscotti.

Gingerbread Biscotti 
Recipe courtesy of ShugarySweets.com
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Yield: 12 large biscotti
Crunchy Gingerbread Biscotti is easy to make and delicious too. Have your coffee ready!
Ingredients
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 cube Dorot crushed ginger (or 1 tsp), thawed*
  • 2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sparkling white sugar
  • 4 oz vanilla candy coating, melted
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar until combined. Add in eggs and molasses. Beat in spices, flour, and baking powder.
  3. On a parchment paper lined baking sheet, shape dough into a 12x4 inch rectangle, patting evenly. Sprinkle with sparkling white sugar. Bake for 22-25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes. Slice biscotti into 12, one inch wide slices. Arrange biscotti onto sides, separating them on the baking sheet. Return to oven and bake an additional 6 minutes. Remove and turn them to opposite side, bake another 6 minutes.
  4. Remove biscotti and cool completely.
  5. Once cooled, dip bottom of biscotti in melted vanilla candy coating. Set back on parchment paper until set, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container. ENJOY.
Notes
For the crushed ginger, thaw on counter while getting ingredients and baking sheet ready. OR, place in a small glass bowl and microwave for 5-10 seconds.
*I (Michelle) actually used fresh grated ginger instead, as that is what I had on-hand.

Happy fall, y'all! :)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Tale of Two Roos: The Superhero Edition

Major drama in the chicken yard a few nights past - Spiderman vs Batman (seriously). Batman is our mellow old black Cochin roo (pictured below) and Spiderman is our newest roo, who seems determined to climb the pecking order by any means necessary, up to and including the beating-down of his brother birds.
Our sweet Batty-boy

Why on earth would you have two roos? you say. Actually, we have four roosters! Darth Vader (a Black-laced Red Wyandotte/Australorp mix) is the king of the chicken yard, followed by the sweet and humble Batman, and lastly, Godzilla, a young Cuckoo Marans. Everyone got along just fine until Spiderman entered the mix.

Spiderman came along with four hand-me-down hennies that were gifted to us. Being that we'd had multiple roos already who managed to live relatively drama-free, we thought we'd attempt to gently work Spiderman into the mix. We're a few weeks in, and thought that things were progressing slowly but well in the right direction, until the other night.

When it was time to lock the chickens up for the night, Scarlet came upon a rattled, bloodied Batman cowering in a corner of the coop, not willing or able to hop up to his usual roost. He wasn't badly hurt - just his comb - but it was enough to get our attention. At that time, however, we didn't know who had done the damage - a fellow roo or an incompetent predator. The answer came the next morning, when Scarlet interrupted Spiderman trying it on again with poor Batty. Scarlet shooed Spiderman away and closed Batman up in the coop for his own safety, until we could figure out our game plan for restoring peace to the chicken yard.

Having got his little butt whooped twice in less than 24 hours, Batman was pretty traumatized, though, thankfully, not seriously hurt. We set him and his main laydie, Louise, up in a extra large pet carrier inside the coop.

It has been my experience that injured/shocked/recovering critters - especially poultry - feel better, heal better and plain-ol' survive better if they have a buddy with them during their convalescence. I also decided to keep the "private room" as it were in the coop and around the other birds (but out of reach of would-be attackers) to further lessen the trauma of the change. Two days later, Batman & Weezer are right as rain and back in the mix with the rest of the flock. Spiderman was swiftly removed to freezer camp, and all was made right again in the Yard.

The End

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Flower Under-Powered: A Tale of Woe

The poppy seed harvest (such as it is) is now in, and the results are underwhelming, to say the least.

The borage took over the pollinator/botanical beds this year and squeezed out all but 4 poppy plants. I should have knocked the borage back a peg - or five - but just didn't have the heart to do it since our honeybees LOVE the stuff.

Our pollinator bed - borage, poppies, calendula and bachelor buttons.

It's a trade off, I guess.

Sorry, Ukrainian Grammies. I wanted to attempt makivynk this Christmas with all homegrown poppy seeds, but it was not to be. While the recipe calls for a staggering three cups(!) of poppy seeds, I managed to grow just a scant half cup this year.


I *might* be able to eek a lemon poppy seed loaf or two out of this, with a dash leftover to throw in a batch of soap (poppy seeds are the best exfoliants ever), but the makivynk - she will have to wait a while longer.

On the plus side, other Ukrainian favorites grew well this year - beets, cabbage, tomatillos... ok, well pretty much just beets and cabbage. Borshch and holubtsi for everyone!