It's been a windy, kinda snowy, cold day... But at least sunset looks cheery!
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
|The house from the front yard at 6:45 this evening.|
Well, we don't really have a curb. But there's a spot at the end of the gravel driveway, just past the culvert, next to the road, where we leave our trash and recycling cans to get picked up. I walked out there without a flashlight, although it was 6:30 and already dark. Stepping out into the blustery, rainy, and still rather warm evening, I was surprised by how dark it was. In the distance, to the south, I could see the lights of the towns of Casey and Greenup reflected in the clouds above. Otherwise, nothing but blackness. Perhaps my eyes hadn't adjusted to the dark, having just stepped out of the fairly bright (and full of music from the record player) kitchen, but it was dark. I stumbled a bit walking down the driveway pulling the trash can along behind me, but that may have been my own clumsiness. By now I know the slight westward curve of the driveway, and can feel it with my feet. But still, without stars, it is dark here. I've often mentioned the stars, and how amazing they are here in the country. But I don't think I've really talked about the dark. And how thorough it is here. It's something rather unnerving, really. As a guy who grew up in cities, I never really knew what dark was. When we first arrived, we were amazed -- nearly blown over -- by the stars. But it's on cloudy and windy nights like tonight that I know what night is. When I turned around, I could see the lights from the house. In real life, they appear much brighter than my camera was able to capture. The house looks warm, and festive, even though beyond the lights, no sound other than the howling wind and the mad windchimes could be heard. And over the house's shoulder, the lights of Charleston, glowing in the sky. So tonight, it's dark.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
|Kerouac & Happy frolicking in the snow.|
|Okra & Cosmos in the snow.|
|The fog came in waves across the empty fields.|
I've been reading a book called "Growing a Farmer" by Kurt Timmermeister. He's a man who owned and operated restaurants for many years in Seattle before becoming a farmer full time. He has a small dairy and makes and sells his cheeses. He also raises hogs and chickens for food, and keeps a garden as well. While I do imagine making my own cheeses some day, the aspect of his life that really excites me are the weekly dinners he offers on his farm. Every Sunday (I'm not sure if it's just during the growing season or not), he opens up his kitchen for a meal made entirely from food from his farm: honey, meat, dairy and vegetables. This is something I've talked about with friends, and if it's possible to do, would be something I would love taking on sometime. One of the great things I am being reminded about in this book is that the transition to farming is not done overnight. It took him ten years from the time when he bought the run-down farm on Vashon Island, working on the farm on his rare days off from his restaurant until the time he was able to make a living from his land.
|If you look closely in the shade, you can see it's frosty.|
As I said, in some ways, I don't know how the week disappeared. Weather-wise, it was a week all over the place. It snowed, it rained, it thundered, we had fog and some of the fog froze to the ground. It was warm and it was cold. The crocus are still blooming, and have been joined by even more of their yellow friends. The birds have been particularly enjoyable this week. Flocks of crows in the empty corn fields, cardinals and finches and woodpeckers at the bird feeder. The ominous shadow of a buzzard over the house...
Hopefully a week won't pass until my next post. And hopefully I'll have made progress toward getting ready for this year's garden.
Monday, February 13, 2012
Sunday, February 12, 2012
|The first crocus of the season.|
But then, as I was trying to figure out what Kerouac was so interested in near the barn door, I noticed something surprising: the first crocus flowers blooming in front of the barn. Three of them, actually. Tiny, precious, yellow flowers. Growing right there, among leaves and the debris of the sunflowers. Their little yellow faces poking up into the sunshine, huddled against their sharp, green leaves. I knew I'd seen crocus leaves poking up in front of the house, but they all seemed a little paused by the sudden arrival of winter's winds. Hopefully they'll resume their growth when warmth returns. But here near the barn it must be a little warmer, at least underneath the leaves, etc. Despite the cold and the snow lying nearby, these flowers are steadfastly growing, whispering "spring..."
Stepping inside, excited to show the pictures to Rich, I was hit by one of the best scents I know: bread rising. Our bread supply is getting low, and every time I've purchased bread at the grocery store I've felt a like a failure. I just think I should be making bread rather than buying it. I know that Rich does enjoy a soft white loaf, made without high fructose corn syrup. And I admit I enjoy it as well. But really, homemade bread can't be beat. The crispness of the crust. The variety of flavors achieved by changing up the few ingredients that go into bread. The simple pleasure of making something so nutritious, so delicious, so wholesome out of nearly nothing. This morning I was excited to try a new bread recipe. It called for whey, which is something one doesn't normally have around. But I made homemade ricotta (again, something I'll never buy again having made it once) on Friday, and saved the whey, which is the by-product of bringing milk and buttermilk nearly to a boil, letting it curdle, and draining it through cheesecloth. The solids get caught by the cheesecloth, allowed to drain for twenty minutes, salted and voila! ricotta. They liquid that passed through the cheesecloth is whey, and contains much of the lactose, minerals and vitamins, as well as much of the calcium. This sweet watery liquid can be used in baking as a fuller substitute for water. The recipe I used this morning called for 3 1/2 cups of whey, mixed with yeast, whole wheat and unbleached flour, and salt. Simply stirred together and scooped into greased bread pans to rise for a few hours underneath damp towels, then baked. Right now the breads are rising on the kitchen table. The book calls for two hours of rising, but I may give it bit longer as our kitchen is rather cool, at 55 degrees. Both of these recipes are from "Make the Bread, Buy The Butter", a book that has quickly become indispensable in my kitchen. The premise of Jennifer Reese's book is that she wanted to determine whether it is better to buy or make certain things around the kitchen. Her comparisons are based on quality, ease, and price. Definitely check out this book.
|Bread Loaves & the book from which their recipes came.|
Five years ago, when I first started to make bread regularly, I was terrified of messing up bread. I thought it magical how four basic ingredients could turn into such delicious bread. When I lived in Europe, bakeries were wonderful places that I visited nearly every day. In Greece, it wasn't nearly impossible to buy what most Americans think of as bread: pre-packaged, enriched, and long-lasting. In fact, bread, by law, had to be sold the day it was baked, or the day after (at half price), and not after that. So most Greeks, as most humans do throughout the world, eat only fresh bread. And it's so delicious. Returning to the United States, I returned to a land without real bread. It was possible to buy it, and I did, on occasion. Baguettes or a French loaf, spending $1.50 for a baguette, or up to six bucks for a fancier loaf. Making bread is not only cheaper, it's so much more satisfying. I find it relaxing. Stirring the yeast into the warm water, watching it come alive, as it starts to foam. Stirring flour into the yeast mixture, adding salt, then kneading until smooth. I'm always surprised by the warmth of bread as I knead it. It's transformation from separate ingredients into a smooth, warm whole. Watching it rise, as its aroma begins to fill the room. And then the incomparable scent of baking bread. And the taste, oh the taste! I am already thinking about cutting off a heal of this warm bread this afternoon and tasting its warm & nutty goodness.
Dark now, and nearly time for a cocktail to welcome the end of another great day in the country. Rich & I did some work around the house. I did so laundry, spent time outside with the dogs, enjoying the silence of the afternoon. And every time we stepped back into the house, we were awash in the scent of that baking bread. And it is delicious. The larger loaf had to go back into the oven for a few more minutes, because the center of the loaf was a little too doughy. But the bread is delicious, with a crisp but not-too-firm crust, and a soft and perfectly-dense interior. This was a bread that required no kneading, so it was really simple to make. I knew I'd have trouble with the rise because the house is so cool, but I let the loaves rise in the oven. I would turn it up to 200 degrees for about ten minutes, and then turn the oven off and put the loaves inside to rise. It took two extra hours, and still the one loaf could have used more... but they'll be equally delicious. I like the look of these loaves, with their little mountainous peaks. I'm looking forward to eating them this week. I imagine a spicy tuna salad or chicken salad...
Alright, good night. Thank you for reading!
Monday, February 6, 2012
Friday, February 3, 2012
|The house, from the road to the west.|
Today I did place my first order for the 2012 garden... yellow potatoes. Had a special deal, so I'll be getting them free, so it was a hard price to beat. In the coming weeks, I'll be placing more orders, with the hope of getting seeds started by the start of March. Today, while buying vodka at the drug store, I talked to a woman who's daughter (or daughter-in-law) runs one of the CSA's here in town. She was saying they've been harvesting spinach and lettuce from the hoop houses... and it made me think that next year I'd really like to be telling ya'll about the fresh spinach and lettuce this time of year... I know that every season I'm going to learn more, and every season there will be more challenges. How exciting is that?
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
|Our road, 8:30 a.m.|