With My Head in the Clouds

ImageThe fog is creeping in and around the tall Yellow Poplars out back with the same stealth approach as the cat coming down the path from the barn.. It’s an inside day. The forest is fading away in a cloud. Lately nature has been doing a little two step dance of sorts around here. There’s been a day for hard and heavy outside chores followed by a day that gives permission to stay in and do comforting things. Things such as bake and sort through drawers to find the missing put asides and get around to it later bits and pieces of living. Today is that sort of day. Daylight is diffused through the mist but not so much for the need to use lights.This pleases me. I don’t like artificial light during the day. It seems irksome and redundant. So this is a day to wander around with my head in the clouds. I’m surrendering to it and taking my cues from my surroundings. There are still the outside chicken and goat and alpaca chores that will take me out to do the rounds a little later. I’m going to pick up some lichen and twigs and things to bring in and use for subjects in a drawing that has been wandering through my thoughts. It’s blessedly peaceful here today and if I had something to say or someone to talk to I think I feel inclined to whisper..

Sharing a couple my favorite cold weather recipes

Well, actually that is not exactly right.  The first recipe is an anytime type of thing. The second falls more into the category of cold weather fare.


I love pizza. There is a fine place for pizza actually down the road about  seven miles. Not bad when it’s not icy. It’s called Crooked Road Café and not only do they have great pizza but they serve Greek specialties as well. I would highly recommend  giving them a try. I am sure you won’t be disappointed.  Mostly they are open on the weekend, so that is yet another reason why I like to make my own. I can have it when ever I want it any way I want it, and also for breakfast.

Here are the ingredients: .  A cup of warm water, a teaspoon and a half of active dry yeast, a tablespoon of honey, 2 1/2  or 3 cups of flour to which a half teaspoon of salt has been added. I like to use artisan bread flour which I can find at the local (forty minutes from here) Mennonite store called Miller’s . They are very nice folk and always friendly and helpful. Any flour will do  but I think bread flour is the best and if I ever am in a pinch and need  flour other than my favorite, I use King Arthur’ s unbleached flour.

So anyway, put the water in a medium-sized bowl, add the yeast and the honey. let that sit a bit to dissolve and then give it a little gentle swish with a  study wire whisk, sort of mix it up. To this add the flour and salt mixture, pretty much all at once. Leave about half a cup to add if you need it stiffen it up some. You know, dough can be finicky depending on the humidity, how hot the room is and all that. When the dough is stiff enough so it holds together, state mixing it with your hands and form a ball right in the bowl. knead that for about two or three minutes, not too long and transfer it to a bowl which you have coated with a little olive oil. Now find a warm place and let that sit for about an hour or until it doubles in size.

This recipe can make two 12 inch pizza crusts or you can use it for a couple of calzones or four personal size pizzas or calzones. So, now separate that dough anyway you want and roll it out nice and thin. To assure my pizza crust is crispy, I dust the pan on which it will cook with corn meal. this technique allows a little air between the cooking dough/crust and the pan. that’s why it doesn’t get soggy. I often roll my pizza on a flexible cutting board or a piece of parchment paper and transfer it onto the pan by simply flopping it on and gently peeling the parchment paper or flexible cutting board off.
Now you come to the topping. This can be anything! Traditional red pizza sauce is easy to make and find, or you can let your imagination be your guide. Recently I made a pesto pizza topped with mozzarella, Monterey jack, parmesan cheese and diced tomatoes. I made a second companion to that with a little olive oil on the crust, sprinkled with dry oregano and basil from the garden. I topped it with the same cheese combo and an onion that I had sliced in circles and a bit of spicy sausage that needed doing with. Bake the pizza in an oven that has previously been heated to 400 degrees for about fifteen minutes and there you go!

This second recipe is for Kale Soup. The traditional Kale Soup I grew up with has as a featured ingredient a Portuguese sausage called Linguica and I hope I spelled that right, as it is not in spellcheck. Anyway, I can’t find it in any of the stores around here so I recently used Andouille and that worked out pretty well, not the same but good. Now to the basics. Take about twelve cups of water and put that in a large stock pot. To this add a nice large onion, diced up small and three good-sized potatoes, also diced small. Add a 15 1/2 can of black eyes peas, or the equivalent of frozen black eyed peas. If you have all the time in the world you can use dried beans also. I often do this and begin by soaking them over night, and making more to keep on hand to have at another meal. So now you add in a whole mess of chopped up kale, easily four or six cups, as this is going to cook down. Now add the sausage, and some salt and bring that all up to a boil. Bring the heat under it down to a simmer and just let it cook until everything is tender, maybe 45 minutes to an hour. I like to let my soup cool and then heat it up again to serve. Seems to me, these hardy soups improve over a day or so and this recipe will make a nice amount of soup so maybe there will be left overs. I like it served with crusty bread buttered and put under the broiler with a little parmesan cheese.
Well, this is what will. be cooking up here on the farm sometime later in the week. If you try it let me know what you think.

A Single Woman’s Adventures and Mishaps While Farming in the Forest.

Happy December 1st!  Just another 20 days and winter will officially arrive! I love winter. I love the” all snuggled in” feeling I get sitting in front of the wood stove. Usually I have three dogs and a cat in close company. I love the  beauty of the forest in it’s bare and occasional bleak austerity. The  Black Locust and Yellow Poplar are standing naked. Some are wearing their beautiful crowns a hundred feet in the sky. I love the white pines that stand sheltering me from the wind coming up occasionally from the south west. Those were planted some long  time ago by a dear soul since departed. I get the impression they were set to mark the side of an old cart road barely, discernible these days.

Here some simple lessons I seemed to have forgotten since the last of the previous season’s freezing rain, ice and snow season and just had the opportunity to remember last week during those three wet and freezing days we had up here on Spoon Mountain Farm.

Work harder and more when the sun shines. Do the heavy work early in the day. Take breaks before you have reached your last gasp. The work will still need to be done twenty minutes from the time you feel you are about to drop. Have something warm to drink and sit down for a few minutes, but not on anything too comfortable.  Take hot water out to melt a hole in the layer of ice in the  goat’s and Alpaca’s frozen water buckets. That way you can stick  your finger in the hole and remove the inch or so of ice that has formed during the night. Get waterproof gloves. Pay attention to were the sun shines longest during the day. When ever possible, put your buckets where they will get  the most sun.  This means paying attention to where the sun is because it moves and a couple of weeks can make a difference.  The buckets will take longer to freeze up again if the sun is on them. Do not kick the rubber buckets. It only hurts your foot. Keep the water you are pouring into the bucket well away from your boots. Pouring cold water into your boot is not any kind of fun to walk around with while doing the rest of the chores. Make more trips with lighter buckets. You’ll last longer at the chores and feel better at the end of the day. The same goes for hauling the hay. Give everything fresh water every day. Make sure the chickens have some bedding to keep them warm even though they prefer to roost. Try to keep drafts out of the coop. Very cold water is no where as uncomfortable as freezing water when you mistakenly pour it into your boot while transferring drinking water for the livestock from the bucket you are hauling to the bucket they’ll be drinking from. Carry your jack knife and cell phone religiously in the snow, and ice. Buy a pair of YakTraks . Attach them to a pair of sturdy boots and wear them every time you go out. They will tear up a good pair of boots if you are always taking them on and off.  Lastly. Indulge your self without reprisal when it comes to making delicious food with more calories than you generally would eat in warmer weather. Recipes to follow in my next entry.