Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Everything Happens for a Reason

" Sometimes people come in to your life and you know right away that they were meant to serve some sort of purpose, teach you a lesson or help you figure out who you are or who you want to become. You never know who these people may be but when you look eyes with them, you know that every moment that you are with them, they will affect your life in some profound way. And sometimes things happen to you at the time that may seem horrible, painful, or unfair, but in reflection you realize that without overcoming those obstacles you would have never realized your potential strength, will power or heart."

Wish I could say the above words are my writings but rather I borrowed them from here because it best summarizes this a little something I'm about to share with you all.

My farmer friend calls this cow an "African Attusa" not sure on the spelling and I was unable to locate anything on the www. This is his pride and joy but will be leaving his farm this week because he cannot afford to keep. He says they are sacred in Africa.

It all started in the summer of 08'. A predator killed one of our ducks and I stopped by his house to see if he had a duck to sell as a companion for the sole duck I had left.

I never ended up getting a duck there but we ran into one another a few times in between. In the summer of 09' he studded out his boar so we could breed our sows. We did not get many piglets in was a great experience.

He stopped by frequently checking on their progress during and after their pregnancies and we visited frequently with questions and concerns seeing how this was our first time.

Then this last December, as posted here I started making and delivering food to them on a weekly basis. Each time I went over we chatted farming and a lot about his medical issues.
LONG story short those weekly visits turned into bi-weekly, every other day and currently twice daily. I have now committed to taking him to his appointments as he really needs someone there to communicate his needs and advocate for what is right. After his last round of chemotherapy he became very ill and was admitted to critical care.He was discharged this past Saturday and I brought him home. We surprised his wife, it was awesome! I was privileged to witness them reunite. Every day he reminds of how grateful he is for the simple things: cooking his wife breakfast, watching the news with her,and just being able to sit around and chat with her.
We just returned from a doctors appointment and he has another in the morning followed by another and another and another. Regardless I'm in it for the long haul. Just thankful to have this old man in my life! My grandfather passed a few years back and this man fills that void in my life. I am also thankful for Maine Man who steps in when I'm at work. Lastly, I am thankful that my children have been a part of this evolving relationship.
P.S. All these pictures were taken at his farm.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Best Potato Leek Soup

Over the years I have heard of leeks but I had yet to try them. I considered asking Maine Man to plant some but I thought it may be a good idea to give them a try first.
I googled "Best potato Leek Soup" and I came across this recipe at Pinch My Salt's blog.
It is a MUST try! I will be making a crock full for Tuesday's celebration at work for Doctor's day per request of my co-workers that sampled this SACRED soup.

I encourage you to peak over at her blog. There is a story behind this recipe, it was her late mother's. She also has a photo tutorial that walks you through all the steps. For whatever reason I put my camera up after sauteing the onions & leeks. This is the ingredients as posted on Pinch My Salt. I will write my modifications below.
3 Tablespoons of butter
3 leeks, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
6-8 russet potatoes, thinly sliced 3 1/2 cups chicken broth (or enough to barely cover potatoes)
1 cup of heavy cream
salt and ground pepper to taste
1. Melt butter, add onions and leeks. Cook until limp and just slightly brown.
2. Add potatoes and broth. Cook until potatoes are tender. Mash potatoes until desired consistency.
3. Add heavy cream, salt & pepper. Cook on low for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
So here is what I did for modifications:
*I did not use russet potatoes, used what I used what I had on hand
* I used homemade chicken broth rather than store bought. I have been making broth since 2008. I refuse to buy it in the store when it can be made for virtually nothing and there is NO doubt that it is better for you.
*For dairy I used nearly 2 cups. Instead of heavy cream I used half half & half and half whole milk. That is what I had in the fridge and the substitution saved on calories.
* After sauteing the onions & leeks I put them aside in a bowl rather then cooking with the potatoes. I think it preserved it's crispy nature. I did mash the potatoes but left them chunky.
I do not know about you but I prefer chunks to puree. I'll have my share of puree when I'm in "the home". ;)
Flower Girl is big on soups. Actually that girl will eat just about ANYTHING! She said this was "the best soup you've ever made" and "make sure you write down the recipe." So here it is FG!
p.s. MM liked it too!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

One Lucky Bunny

Our newest addition to Achorn Farm. Meet Willow formerly know as "a meat rabbit". Last fall a few rabbits escaped and rather then capture we let them free range outside and in the barn for the remainder of the season through winter. Maine Man thought there were only males so there was not worries until we found this sweet thing along with a few others in the barn. Something, MOST likely one of these pesky cats pulled them from their nest. They were hypothermic and a few of them were all staved up. Willow was the SOLE survivor and now has become a pet residing IN my house. Hmmmm, our philosophy has come to not keep anything that doesn't serve a purpose. I usually say if we can't eat it we don't want it but occasionally something wins you over. Willow's purpose is for loving, snuggling, and her poo will be good for the garden. That works, right?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Simply Delicious

This past summer I won a pair of apple bakers at local fundraiser. Last night I dusted them off and put them to use for the first time. Approx 45 minutes @ 350 degrees. Flower Girl LOVED it and Country Boy passed it to me. Too bad for him and GOOD for me!
Local, organic apples drizzled with maple syrup & cinnamon.
Simply Delicious!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It's getting HOT in here!

There is nothing like the feeling that you get when you step into the greenhouse. Warmth, brightness, moisture and the smell of earth. LOVE it!

Maine Man made a raised bed on one side of the greenhouse. In the raised bed he planted bok choy, spinach, swiss chard, carrots, beets, kale, onions, and lettuce. This week we plan to place an extra cover over the crops at night with the predicted drop in temperatures.

Cocoa has been creating lots of fertilizer for the gardens. It will not be long before he is out to pasture. After MUCH shopping around MM picked up and electric fence. Thanks to his frugal ways he saved over $100. I forsee the assembly of that as a future post.

Although garlic is typically started in the fall MM planted a few cloves in the greenhouse last month. They seem to be doing as well as the garlic in the back garden . Looking forward to July's harvest.

Anyone cook with Bok Choy before? This is a first time planting and will be a my first time cooking and eating it.

Peas, yum!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Baby Chicks

Back in February Country Boy & I filled his incubator with eggs.

Just as we read, 21 days later... March 13th they began to make their way into the world.

10 days after we put them in the incubator we candled all 41 of them, 6 were not fertile. I was unable to capture this experience in photos but I did get it on video. Let's just say it was AWESOME. You could see those little buggers just floating around in the shell. We were all rather excited by our findings.

19 out of the 35 fertile eggs hatched. Some of the chicks died and some just never made their way out of their shells.

What we've learned, what we will do differently next time around?
  • Be sure that there is water in the base of the humidifier at ALL times.
  • Don't even peel the eggs a little to help the chicks get out. We did a little because it is just tempting. I do not think it helps and do think it can contribute to their demise. They will come out when they are ready and if they don't, it wasn't meant to be.

Country boy sold 10 today and has 9 left. I doubt they will be here but another day or two. Chicks go fast this time of year. Duck eggs our next experiment. They will be going in tonight.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

As the Garden Grows, so does the Gardener

Maine Man had an early start at planting this season. For seedlings so far he has started: kale, tomato, peppers, lettuce, onions, cabbage, beets, and broccoli.

In the morning we walk tray after tray out to the greenhouse and at night it all comes back in the house. Maybe next year we will have a wood stove out there.

MM reached deep into his squeaky pockets and paid a whopping $6.00 for tomato seed at Johnny's. Have I ever mentioned before how frugal (tight) he is? It was a painful experience for him but they are especially suited for the greenhouse.

In the back right of the greenhouse he has planted some peas. Next will be onions. The greenhouse has reached near 90's on the warmer days.
Can you guess what is hatching today here on the homestead? You'll just have to come on back to see some great pictures in my next post.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pumpkin Custard

Attempting to use up some frozen pumpkin I came across this tasty recipe. Then I made it for a second time the same week. It comes from Taste of Home. I will definitely make it again and again get the point!
I didn't have custard cups so I used the above dish. I didn't even cook it in a water bath as the directions said and it still came out good.

Next time I may attempt to make it with milk to lighten the calorie load. If I had a milking cow almost all the ingredients would have originated from the farm. I did use duck eggs in this recipe as I am starting to use in all my baked goodies. Not sure exactly what it is about them but they just seem to make things fluffier and tastier.

1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
2 eggs
1 cup half-and-half cream
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Whipped cream and ground cinnamon, optional

In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients; beat until smooth. Pour into four greased 10-oz. custard cups.
Place in a 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan; pour hot water around cups to a depth of 1 in. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 20 minutes.
For topping, combine the brown sugar, pecans and butter. Sprinkle over custard. Bake 30-35 minutes longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve warm or chilled; top with whipped cream and cinnamon if desired. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: 4 servings.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Liquid Gold

Last Sunday (2/7) we tapped a few trees here on the farm. We put out 9 taps to be exact. Earlier then most years but a week or two later then some locals. Some Mainers tapped early with great success due to the UNUSUAL warm weather. In my 35 years I can honestly say I do not EVER remember a winter quite like this. Last year we tapped the 3rd weekend in March, it was our first time ever.
In the past we collected sap in 1 gallon water jugs. This year we upgraded to 5 gallon buckets and tubing. Much more efficient!

Maine Man even dared to hand over the power tools. I'm a little hard on equipment!

And the sap started dripping. Flower Girl said "It looks just like water."
It does......and I have a cute tale to go with that. A local farmer told me this story last week. His friend collects his sap, pours it in a pot and goes on to finish his chores. A while later his wife gets home, sees the "water boiling" and adds some macaroni. The man comes in and sees his sap isn't on the stove and says "hey where's my sap?" She starts laughing as they both realized what she had done. He said the macaroni was good, " a little sweeter than usual."
In addition to the maple trees we tapped 2 birch trees. I had read about it a few times before and thought it would be fun to try something new. MM was a bit skeptical but he went along with my madness once again. See why I love him so!
What I didn't read or know is that is takes more than double the quantity to transform the sap to syrup. It takes approximately 100 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of birch syrup. For maple syrup it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup . In Alaska birch syrup is considered a delicacy, know I see why!

Lets just say this will be the first and last time we do that. This past weekend I boiled down 3 gallons which equaled approx 3-4 ounces. Not quite worth the effort but it was fun to try. MM described it as a "sweet, nutty" flavor "almost like the smell of a fresh cut birch tree." I thought is smelled like cotton candy, tasted sweet but a little bitter. I'd much prefer the maple that simmered over an open fire for 10 hours. It was extremely windy the day I boiled it down. I'd hate to even count the times I stoked the fire. Tonight the sap is simmering on the top of our wood stove. Thanks for the idea Joe & Maryanne. We will see what it brings come morning.

Although it is MUCH more labor intensive there are many benefits for boiling over an open fire:
  • the AMAZING smoky flavor that enhances the syrup
  • a good reason to clear the rock walls of branches
  • the effort and exercise you get from gathering wood
  • a reason to be outside in the fresh air all day with your loved ones
  • lots of ash to add to the gardens
    The view of the back of the farm as we return with a load of wood.


A little random but....I came across this picture the other day and I had to post. I miss these little munchkins but I LOVE the little people they have become!

Friday, March 5, 2010

New Addition

On Thursday morning Cocoa arrived. He is a mix breed Angus/Jersey/Holstein. He was gifted to us by our old man farmer friend as a "token of appreciation." He comes from and was delivered by one of his farmer friends. We plan to get one more to keep him company and we will eventually gift to some dear friends that have done a lot for our family.

I'm still stuck on getting a Dexter and MM is now talking about getting a Hereford. Who knows what we will end up with. We will wait a little bit until we get a better set up.(fencing up) He is looking a bit skinny in back/hip region. Not sure if it the breed or if he needs to be wormed.... maybe a little of both. I plan to deworm him regardless. Maine Man brushed him good and cleaned him up. For now he is in the barn but before long he will be out to pasture.

I'm thinking I could get REALLY attached to that little man. He has the BIGGEST eyelashes and BIG beautiful eyes. This will be WAY more challenging then raising chickens, turkeys, rabbits, ducks and pigs for or own consumption!

Country Boy has NEARLY convinced be that we need a milking cow, "something we can keep, something we won't kill". He definitely has me thinking but I am not sure if Momma wants to add to her chore list as MM may not go along with this endeavor.

The first time I heard him Moo I told MM "Our farm is finally a farm!" This has been a long time coming.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sometimes Nothing is the Right thing To Do

THANKS for all your comments on my last post! I really enjoyed reading them. Although there was lots of great rename suggestions I've decided to just leave things be. Especially where some of my long time followers where the biggest opponents.

On to business......THE WINNER OF THE DRAWING is Joanna @ BooneDocksWilcox
So Joanna send me your e-mail address and I will get your address and send you some Maine goodies! Any special requests?

Up next: tapping the trees, a tasty recipe, and "the cow" he will be here in the morning! Woooo hoooooo!