Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More than half baked

After all my complaining about the tomatoes being so slow to ripen this year,  it's finally happening.  Oh boy,  is it !  I think even the chickens are starting to be a little weary of tomatoes.  ( The chickens love-love-love tomatoes.  They get all the ones that are a little too far gone and when they see me bringing tomatoes to them,  they practically jump up and take them out of my hands ! )

Usually,  my standard method of preserving tomatoes is to give them a wash and put them in freezer bags.  That's pretty much it.  Sometimes,  if I'm feeling a little more energetic,  I'll blanch them and peel off the skins first.  I use them all winter in soups,  stews and sauces and it works just fine.  When I was at Juniper Moon Farm for Culinary Camp,  a few weeks back,  I learned another way to save some of that summer flavor.  Slow roasting is now my favorite method of "putting by" some of the tomato crop and adds a little variety to the ways of using them during the winter.  It is super easy and there's very little preparation involved.  Here's how Susan told us to do it - preheat the oven to 200 degrees and slice tomatoes in half, top to bottom.  Place on a foil lined sheet pan,  cut side up,  drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle on some salt and pepper and you can add herbs,  if you're feeling adventurous.  I used an Italian seasoning blend on this last batch.  Now stick the pan in the oven and walk away.....for hours.  Really !  The goal is to roast them until they collapse,  which for the Romas was about 5 hours.  Obviously,  a large meatier tomato is going to take longer.  When the tomatoes are done,  I let them cool down and then stick the whole pan in the freezer,  just long enough for the tomatoes to freeze solid.  Then,  I scoop them off the pan,  put them in freezer bags and mark the date on the bag.  That's it.  Simple - simple - simple.  Prepared this way,  they become sweet and intensely flavorful.  Besides my usual way of using preserved tomatoes,  I really like tossing these with some hot pasta and sprinkling with Parmesan cheese.  It makes for a super quick meal.

Back to those chickens,  I feel a little like the one with it's head cut off !  Besides dealing with a lot of gardening chores right now,  this is the third week that the painters have been here,  construction of the greenhouse is going on,  lambs are leaving the farm and we have a new Great Pyrenees that we are trying to acclimate to our farm.  ( more on that next time )  And,  wedding planning is kicking into high gear now, as we are almost 5 weeks away of the date !   I think I need a personal assistant to keep me focused and on task for the next month.  Any volunteers ?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Reform school

One of us needs to go to reform school.  Either she's going to stop chewing on everything she can get her mouth around or I'm going to become a neat and tidy person, who never leaves anything on the floor ( or tabletop or chair or sofa ).   No stacks of books.  No baskets of yarn.  No knitting projects.  No magazines.  No glasses of iced tea.

Want to place any bets on which one of us changes our ways? 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Getting things done

These are the newly finished beds.
We've had a little spell of nicer ( cooler than 90+ degrees ) weather lately and I've been able to tolerate working in the garden some.  While it hasn't been a banner year for produce from the garden,  we have had plenty of cucumber,  zucchini,  yellow squash and swiss chard.  The tomatoes are finally beginning to ripen.  I don't know what their problem is this year,  but they are ripening in slow motion.   Mike has gotten several more of the raised beds finished and I've begun planting a fall garden,  for the first time since we came to the farm.  It's so much more appealing to think about gardening in cool weather.  Why haven't I thought of that before?  This past weekend I planted broccoli,  brussel sprouts,  kohlrabi, spinach,  kale,  carrots,  celery, and several varieties of lettuce.   I was thinking as I planted,  if all went well,  I'd be harvesting some of those for Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Holly is not impressed with any of this activity.
We've been very focused on preparations for Mike's son's wedding here at the farm and it's now less than seven weeks away.   Amazing how motivated you can get to clean out the garage,  barn ( as much as possible when there are all those animals living there ),  garden shed,  and more,  when you start thinking about all those people who will be here looking at how we live.   I think it's probably a good thing to have a major event here at the farm every 5 or so years,  just to keep us on our toes!

Sorry for the lack of posting lately.  When there is too much activity going on around me,  I find it difficult to settle my brain and focus.  I'm hopeful I'll get back on track this week. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

That didn't take long

 First, it was like this.  A foggy, peaceful morning.  Animals quietly grazing and me barely awake.

        Then, not long after 7 am, there was this.

 Then, the main water line was dug into and at 3 pm, we still have no water.  Sigh....

Monday, August 15, 2011

What's going on around here ?

What's going on around here is not much.......and a lot.  There has been very little knitting going on lately.  It's not that it's been too hot. I don't believe that stuff about not knitting in the summer because of the heat.  That's what air conditioning is made for, in my opinion.  It's been a matter of time.  Tending puny lambs, mowing and gardening seem to have taken up most of my time.

The lambs are sooo much better.  After their first round of Levamisole, they bounced back quickly and are eating and gaining weight again.  They look really good now, which is a big relief.  The mowing has slowed down considerably because we have had very little rain.  We seem to be in the magic dry spot right now because there are farms just down the road from us with lush green grass.  Thankfully, the temperature has cooled down and the humidity is much, much lower this week.  So, for however long it lasts, we're enjoying it.
( The basket was in the chair to keep her out of it.  Now what do I do ? )
 Part of the activity here at the farm is from the crew of men descending on us in the next few days.  As I write this, the painters are pressure washing the outside of the house, top to bottom,  and will start painting tomorrow.   I'm expecting them to be around for at least three weeks.   By around I mean everywhere.....inside and  out, every day.....for three weeks!  ( Ack ! )   Add to that,  our builder will be here building a greenhouse (yay for that )......for three weeks, at the very least.  This frenzy of activity is partly because of the impending wedding of Mike's son.  We are less than eight weeks away and counting.  This swarm of men will be challenging for me because I'm not accustomed to having anyone around here during the week days.  It's just me and my animals.  I rarely even leave the farm during the week.  Right now,  I'm more grateful than ever to have my studio for escape.   It looks like the Bun and I will be spending lots of quality time together.

( Nap-time ) 

So, back to the knitting.  While I have many projects on the needles,  these little slippers are about the only thing I've finished in weeks.  I stumbled upon them on Ravelry ( you know,  that black hole that's so easy to fall down ) and thought,  if there are that many knitters making them, they must be good.  They are fun to knit and if you spend some time on Ravelry looking at all the different versions, you can tell they are easy to reinterpret to suit your own personal style.  I think mine are calling out for some little knitted flowers,  ala Kristin Nicholas.

p.s.  Those of you wondering why there are no lambs, chickens, cats and peafowl on the lamb-cam right now---we are off-the-air for a little while.  We will be switching servers soon and then be back up and running.  Honestly, you're not missing much at the moment.  The lambs are only coming in at night to eat grain and then I'm making them go back outside.  Next up on the to-do list is using Mike's new Bobcat to clean out the barn and put down new gravel.  ( And, I'm very excited about that.  What does that tell you about me ? ) 

Monday, August 8, 2011

 Where have I been, you say ?  Oh, I'm so glad you asked.  I've been to Juniper Moon ........ Juniper Moon Farm, that is.  Some time ago,  I decided I needed a little break from all that goes on here in the heat of summer.  Just a weekend would do the trick.  When I saw that Susan had posted that she was having several different kinds of weekend camps for grown-ups,  the one most appealing to me was the Culinary Camp and I signed up.  As the date drew closer,  I began to wonder whether I should have committed to something that required me to drive 8 hours each way and be gone from Thursday through Sunday.  Mike was a pretty good sport about having to take on my chores while I was gone.  He bravely took my list of instructions for feeding routines and bunny exercise sessions. 

( that's not yarn - it's homemade pasta ! )
I've been reading the Juniper Moon Farm blog for several years now and have admired ( and marveled at ) Susan's energy and resourcefulness.  She started the very first yarn CSA in America and does an unbelievable job of keeping her share-holders up to date and involved in the goings-on at the farm.  Besides learning to make pasta from scratch,  I was interested in seeing her farm operation and how things worked with a CSA.  Susan is just as upbeat and enthusiastic in person,  as she seems on her blog.

Susan is a Culinary Institute of America graduate and she knows her stuff.  I don't know when I've ever seen and tasted so much good cooking in such a short time.  We made bolognese sauce,  fresh pasta  ( spaghetti and ravioli ),  homemade pizza on the grill,  brined and roasted pork loin,  glazed salmon,  a delish little olive oil cake,  no-knead bread,  yogurt,  goat cheese ice cream,  slow-roasted tomatoes  and more that I can't even remember right now.   ( and once again,  that would be the "Royal We".  Susan did the lion's share of the cooking )  When I left Virginia yesterday afternoon,  I felt like I might never need to eat again ! 

( left to right - Pam,  Monica,  Susan and Zac )
Getting to know Susan,  just a little bit,  was a treat and watching her farm helpers,  Caroline and Zac,  in action made me wish for a pair just like them to bring home to Tanglewood Farm.  I also got to witness the historic event of the "first milking of Bertie and Samantha".  ( I'll confess now that it made me wish for a milk goat of my own to help me through lambing next spring.  Bottle babies thrive on goat's milk. )  Many, many years ago,  I had a Nubian milk goat who helped me raise an orphan foal and an orphan llama.  I was not the only culinary camper at the farm this past weekend.  I also had the pleasure of getting to know Pam and her niece,  Monica.  They were such fun and easy to be with and I hope to see them and spend time with them again.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Time to grow up, kid.

I caught this scene just a few days ago and didn't realize what was apparently going on.  I think poor baby (no name, yet--waiting to see whether it's a boy or girl) was being told to "grow up and stop following  me around all the time".  Harsh!  Just a few days later,  Mrs. Dandy was hanging out with Mr. Dandy and if baby came anywhere close,  she chased him/her away.  So sad.  He/she is a little lost,  wandering around the barn all alone.  I'm hoping he/she will pick a chicken friend or maybe a lamb friend to hang out with.  I suspect Mrs. Dandy's behavior means she's going back on the nest.  Really, we'd just as soon she didn't.  We don't need anymore peafowl here and do you know how difficult it is to get your friends to take home one or two baby peafowl  ( hello there, Sara and Saint Tim ) ?